§ The Economic Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Edward du Cann)
I beg to move, in page 2, line 15, after "person" to insert:not exempted from the operation of this subsection".
§ The Chairman
With this Amendment, it would be convenient for the Committee to discuss the Amendments in page 2, line 19, in page 2, line 34, in page 3, line 7, and in page 3, line 32, at end add:(11) Nothing in this section shall apply to a travelling showman who provides facilities for gaming at a pleasure fair solely by the provision of amusements with prizes in accordance with section 49(1)(b) of the Betting, Gaming and Lotteries Act, 1963.
§ Mr. Ellis Smith (Stoke-on-Trent, South)
On a point of order, Sir William. Would you be good enough to signify which Amendments are to be called? I have been in the Lobby, but there is no indication there in the Chairman's list.
§ The Chairman
I am sorry to have to inform the hon. Member that his Amendment, in page 3, line 32, at end add:(11) Information shall be obtained on—is out of order as going beyond the scope of the Clause.
- (a) the total amount of finance received by association football clubs affiliated with the Football League;
- (b) the total amount of finance made or taken out of the game by others not engaged in the games or their administration;
- (c) the use made by those not engaged in the game of the Football League fixtures;
- (d) the effect of a Betting Levy on the use made of the Football League fixtures.
§ Mr. Ellis Smith
Further to that point of order, Sir William. I know that 1159 Standing Orders, which I mean to observe, prevent a Member from asking why an Amendment is not being called, but they also provide that he can ask the Chair to give a reasoned explanation. I am doing that now for the guidance of hon. Members when we discuss the Question, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill". Before you make the statement for which I have asked, may I emphasise that Clause 2 is headed "Information as to gaming", which covers the Amendment in which I am specially interested.
§ Mr. du Cann
Your Ruling, Sir William, that we should discuss the Amendments you have named with this one is, I am sure, most convenient for the Committee. I hope, however, that you will not immediately rule me out of order if I refer to what I believe to be the first appearance on the Opposition Front Bench of the hon. Member for Grimsby (Mr. Crosland). I know that it would be the wish of the House that I should congratulate him on that distinction, and to say how much we all enjoyed his speech, to which we shall pay strict attention—as we always do to anything he says.
The purpose of this Amendment is to follow through my right hon. Friend's announcement in the Budget speech, when he said:… I propose that the Customs and Excise should compile a register of all gaming institutions, including in this those often very profitable machines known as one-arm bandits."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 3rd April, 1963; Vol. 675, c. 466.]My hon. Friend the Financial Secretary went into the matter in slightly more detail in his speech on the Second Reading of the Finance Bill.
Perhaps the most important of the four Amendments in my right hon. Friend's name is the Amendment in page 3, line 7, which is to insert a new subsection (7). Its purpose is to provide that Treasury orders may be made excluding certain forms of gaming—and perhaps in this context I can put "gaming" in inverted commas—from the fact-finding inquiry foreshadowed by my right hon. Friend. As my hon. Friend the Financial Secretary has explained, 1160 there is a great range of activities which come under the generic description of "gaming" and my right hon. Friend does not feel that it would be appropriate to have a comprehensive inquiry into these.
The convenient way of excluding certain gaming activities of the kind we have in mind is by reference to a Section of the Betting, Gaming and Lotteries Act, 1963. As the Committee will know, that Act is a consolidation Measure, a re-enactment of the 1960 Act. In following that Act, we are really looking to the particular promotions of gaming, which seems to us to be the point.
The principle by which certain forms of gaming will be excluded will commend itself. I hope, to the Committee. It is that we should distinguish between, on the one hand, what I may call "high-power" gaming, which may offer the opportunity to win substantial sums, on which we require comprehensive information, and, on the other, a wide range of very mild amusements for which the social legislation lays down the conditions under which they may be conducted. This common theme appears from the particular exclusions we have in mind, and I would mention the Sections of the 1963 Act and the sort of things they cover. In fact, I will more or less list the kind of amusements that we have in mind.
There is the gaming on cribbage and dominoes in public houses, on which Parliament specially allowed small stakes under Section 35 of that Act. It was the clear wish of the House that cribbage and dominoes as played in public houses should be included in the provisions of that Act. Then there is the gaming under Section 37—typically the single whist drive, organised on behalf of a church, in which the limits of stakes and prizes are strictly laid down and in which the proceeds go to other than private gain.
It is easy for the Committee to imagine many other activities which fall under this definition. There is the single game of bingo, for example, in the village hall, on behalf of the Red Cross or the local Conservative Party, or the Labour Party, or, if it has such things, on behalf of the Liberal Party which, as usual, is not now represented in the Chamber.
§ Mr. du Cann
In the third category are amusements with prizes which, in regard to Section 48, which deals with non-commercial entertainments such as bazaars and fetes, have already been mentioned by my hon. Friend the Financial Secretary.
These are typically the side-shows which may be gaming and contain an element of chance, but which are allowed freely, provided that the "gaming" is not the sole or main inducement to people to attend, and provided that the proceeds go to purposes other than private gain. Examples are "roll-them-down" penny stalls at a fete organised on behalf of institutions which are entirely reputable; and again I exclude the Liberal Party, which has still not appeared. It would be quite wrong, in our judgment, to include these in the comprehensive inquiry. These and similar items were defined very closely in Section 43(3) and I do not imagine that it is necessary for me to rehearse that definition now.
My right hon. Friend proposes to add to the exclusions similar amusements with prizes when there is a commercial interest in them. We can do this by reference to Section 49 of the Act, because when the House of Commons allowed these forms of gaming it did so under strict conditions which safeguarded the social interest. We think it appropriate to take the view that this category of gaming falls very much on the side of mild gaming rather than high powered gaming.
The Section applies to the amusements with prizes offered by travelling showmen, which must be incidental to the swings and roundabouts and the rest. If I may interpolate here, I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Portsmouth, Langstone (Mr. Stevens) will already feel that the idea which he had in mind in putting down an Amendment is fully met. It was our intention to meet the point which he so properly drew to our attention. I hope that he will feel further that it would be inappropriate to specify in the Bill one single category which it is proposed to exclude, and I hope that that judgment may lead him to take a particular course very shortly.
1162 We have in mind that the Amendment which we are moving, to give this exempting power in due course, will deal both with amusements which are found on fixed premises such as seaside piers, arcades, clubs and public houses, and the more mobile type in which my hon. Friend the Member for Langstone is more particularly interested. I am sure that this is correct, for unless one is very determined one does not make or ruin the family fortune at the pin-table. My right hon. Friend feels that all such amusements with prizes under Sections 48 and 49 of the Act may be properly excluded from the inquiry.
Finally, there are the amusement machines of Section 50 of the 1963 Act, which offer nothing more amusing than the return of one's coin or the opportunity to play the machine again. I think that my hon. Friend the Financial Secretary was a little hard on these machines when we were discussing the Finance Bill on Second Reading. Personally, I always found great pleasure in "shooting the cats" offered for our aim on seaside piers and other places. These exclusions are conveniently self-contained while the effect of them, taken together, is to cut down the scope of the inquiry to organised gaming as one commonly thinks of it, that is to all casino-type gaming, to card-gaming clubs, to organised bingo, for example, as played in cinemas and dance halls, and to the gaming machines which, under conditions, are allowed in clubs only and which offer, comparatively speaking, significant money prizes.
I do not want to make too much of this point, but I should make it clear that this is a fact-finding inquiry and not a determination to tax. In particular, while I have the opportunity, I should like to comment on a point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Withington (Sir R. Cary) on Second Reading, when he inquired whether Premium Bonds would be included in these inquiries. The answer is "No". They are not a form of gaming and are not included.
As for timing, soon after the Royal Assent, the regulations will be made and will be subject to negative Resolution, which I hope the Committee will think is appropriate for a matter of this kind. 1163 The review of gaming proper is a necessary preliminary to the consideration of a comprehensive approach to the taxation of gambling to which my right hon. Friend particularly referred. This will be begun by registration of the promoters and the distribution of questionnaires according to the nature and type of promotion.
§ Sir G. Nabarro
Before my hon. Friend leaves the question of timing, he will recall that my hon. Friend the Member for Southend, East (Sir S. McAdden) and myself raised this matter of a comprehensive gambling tax powerfully and with a good deal of Treasury sympathy. The previous Chancellor of the Exchequer sympathised in 1962, though I am not sure about this one. The Chancellor then said that he wanted to go into the matter thoroughly. Another year has now elapsed. This year, instead of positive proposals, we have this suggestion for a general inquiry and the registration of gaming establishments.
Could my hon. Friend say what length of time he thinks it will take to get this legislation carried out? Will he give an undertaking today that the Treasury will get on with the framework of proposed legislation for a comprehensive gambling and gaming tax—both of them, I remind my hon. Friend—in preparation for the Finance Bill of 1964 and not await registration being completed before my right hon. Friend starts to frame the legislation, because by that means we shall be in 1970 or later before we get anything done in this important matter?
§ Mr. du Cann
My hon. Friend has made several points, all of them completely fair. First, he asked specifically whether his views had the sympathy of my right hon. Friend. I assure him that he always has the sympathy of all of us at the Treasury.
§ Mr. du Cann
Lest my words should be misunderstood, I go further and say that there is not one of us who does not have great respect for my hon. Friend's views, which are always well and closely argued.
1164 Coming to the more important point which my hon. Friend made, I should make it entirely clear to him and the Committee that the review which my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Wirral (Mr. Selwyn Lloyd) fore-shadowed was carried out. During the course of it, it became clear to us that we required further information. It is in order to obtain this information that we are now asking the Committee not only to give us these Amendments but, in due course, to give us the Clause.
My hon. Friend asks me to give a categorical assurance that no time will be wasted in the matter. I cannot say to him categorically that a tax of any particular kind will or will not be imposed on gaming or betting or on any part of it. It would be wrong for me to do that during our discussions on the Clause. On the other hand, I think it fair to point out that the remarks of my right hon. Friend during his Budget speech were entirely clear.
A Royal Commission has reported that gambling in general is probably a fair subject for taxation. My right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer indicated very clearly during his Budget speech that he shares that view. What I regard as vital to remember is this. I dare say that it might have been possible to have introduced a tax in this Budget. On the other hand, had that been done, it would have been done on the basis of incomplete information. My right hon. Friend spoke of the experience of my right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill) some years ago.
What is most important of all is that, if we are to have taxes on various forms of gaming or betting, the taxes must be effective. This is the consideration which we have had predominantly in mind. My hon. Friend is perfectly fair in expressing impatience. On the other hand, if I may "pull his leg" a little, I think that he is always very good at pushing at doors which are slightly ajar. I make no complaint about that, but I am sure that he would sooner have, as I and my right hon. Friend would sooner have, a tax which is a good tax because it is based on the fullest information rather than a tax which is not properly thought 1165 out and, therefore, not fully effective and which may even have undesirable social consequences.
I pass now to subsection (8) of the Amendment in page 3 line 7. The Clause requires persons who provide gaming to notify the Commissioners of Customs and Excise within a specified period. Any person who provides gaming in the year ended July, 1963, must give notification by the end of August, 1963, that is, within one month, although I imagine that many of those who think that they will have to give us this information will probably be actively preparing it at this moment. Any person providing gaming for the first time in the year ending July, 1964, must give notification within one month.
As at present drafted, the Clause would automatically make it an offence for a person to fail to comply with these requirements, whatever the reason for the failure. The Amendment would give some discretion in the matter to the Commissioners of Customs and Excise by allowing them to extend the periods where they were satisfied that there were good reasons for so doing.
I suppose that this point reflects, in a sense, on the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Kidderminster (Sir G. Nabarro). He emphasised the need for speed. We are fully aware of that, for there is much information to be collected, to be sifted and to be digested before the moment of decision comes. On the other hand, it would be very easy to imagine circumstances, particularly local circumstances, in which those responsible for producing the information might, for one innocent reason or another, fail to give it within the specified time. If this should happen, it would be inappropriate that we should, willy-nilly, make criminals of them all.
I hope, therefore, that the Committee will regard all these proposals as rational and fair. The Amendments give the Treasury power by statutory instrument to exempt sundry closely defined forms of mild gaming from the full effect of Clause 2. Again, I use the term "gaming" in inverted commas, for it is certainly our intention to be reasonable.
§ Mr. Geoffrey Stevens (Portsmouth, Langstone)
I need hardly say that I should not have put on the Notice Paper 1166 my modest Amendment to add a new subsection (11) had I not been reasonably confident, first, that the Government would accept it and, secondly, that the draftsmanship was impeccable.
The hon. Member for Gloucester (Mr. Diamond) will, no doubt, recall my somewhat unusual skill and foresight in these matters. I must say, however, that when I tabled this modest Amendment of three lines, the object of which is simply to exclude travelling showmen from the operation of Clause 2, I never thought that the Government, when they saw it, would blow it up into a whole series of Amendments, one of which contains not only two subsections but two paragraphs within one of the subsections. I really did start something, and I had no idea that I should do that.
My hon. Friend the Economic Secretary says that, since the greater includes the less, I should accept his assurance that travelling showmen will be included within the mass of organisations or persons of one sort and another whose activities will be excluded. I have had some of this before. In this country we do not govern by Ministerial decree. Later, perhaps, I will tell my hon. Friend, elsewhere, what I am thinking of. [HON. MEMBERS: "Where?"] In any of the other places which we like to think of, some of them more attractive than others, particularly when one is not discussing the London Government Bill.
I have in mind an occasion when a Minister gave a categorical undertaking, but, after the appropriate Section of the Finance Act had been put into practice by the Board of Inland Revenue, it was pointed out that the Inland Revenue had to be guided by what was in the Act and not by what the Minister had said.
I find myself in some difficulty here, therefore. This series of Amendments does not of itself specify the types of undertaking to be excluded from the operation of Clause 2. The Amendment in page 3, line 7, to insert new subsections (7) and (8), empowers the Treasury to make regulations, but that is all. If my hon. Friend will give a categorical assurance that one of the orders to be made by the Treasury will clearly exclude travelling showmen from the operation of Clause 2, then I shall willingly refrain from moving my Amendment.
§ Mr. Bellenger
Does the Economic Secretary think that the penalties under subsection (7) for withholding information are sufficient? As I understand, the total penalty would be £100 plus £3,650 for a full year, that is, £10 per day. Many of these places must be making considerably more profit than that.
§ 5.0 p.m.
§ Mr. W. R. Rees-Davies (Isle of Thanet)
I intervene because I think that I may be able to contribute usefully on the manner in which the Government may be able to obtain the information they want without causing undue difficulty. My observations may, perhaps, be of use not so much to the Government Front Bench as to their administrators. Then I shall take up a point which arises from what has been said by my hon. Friend the Member for Portsmouth, Langstone (Mr. Stevens).
First, it should be clearly understood that in a fact-finding inquiry into gaming it is of the essence to be able to go to the source from whence the information can come. I agree that that is not possible to get the necessary information by trying to follow travelling showmen round the fairgrounds of the United Kingdom. It is well known to many of us that it is possible to get all the information that we want in this connection from the Showmen's Guild and its excellent staff, but what has not been mentioned is that one can get information about all the amusement parks from the admirable secretary of the Amusement Caterers' Association, who, together with his staff, will be able to provide all the information which the Treasury wants as it affects those who are the subject of permits under what was the Betting and Gaming Act, 1960, and which is now the consolidated Measure of 1963.
What is, perhaps, more important is that the Treasury can obtain everything that it needs as regards amusement trades from the Amusement Trades Association. Therefore, I wonder whether it is necessary to go individually to members of the amusement caterers who are allowed to have a permit by a local authority under the Betting and Gaming Act with regard to exemption. I think that it is possible to get the information that the Treasury would want with regard to all the manufact- 1168 urers from the Amusement Trades Association. So that information on what I might call the one-armed bandit side—that is, information on the operations in amusement parks and within the Showmen's Guild—is easily obtainable from the trade associations.
The matter is not so easy when we come to gaming clubs. The right hon. Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Bellenger) is quite right in saying that these fines will be needed in order to get information about the more uneasy "joints" of the East End gaming clubs—
§ Mr. Rees-Davies
Wait for it—but they will not be needed to obtain information with regard to the West End ones. The information should be easily and readily available without very much difficulty because all these institutions are advised by solicitors and accountants.
The task when it comes to bingo is not very difficult, because here the excellent assistance of the Mecca organisation and other organisations of that kind is available. We should be careful that we do not use a sledge hammer to crack a nut when it comes to information. Once one has taken the general powers, there should be no difficulty.
The question which I wish to ask with regard to the Amendment in page 3, line 7, which I am delighted to see, is whether it is wide enough? It deals with only two matters. First, it states what shall be exempted from the Clause, which, as I say, might be an association or a church fete, and, secondly, it extends the time where necessary. Subsection (4) says that the Commissioners shall havesuch information as to the provision or intended provision by him of facilities for gaming, the premises and nature of the gaming concerned and"—these are the important words—other matters as the Commissioners may by notice in writing require.This takes me back to my old law days, because that is not ejusdem generis with the rest of the provision. It entitles the Commissioners to obtain literally any other information that they may require on other matters. It is true that it has to be in connection with gaming under subsection (1), but that is all. This is a very wide provision.
1169 If it is not intended to amend this provision, may we have a categorical assurance from the Minister that a questionnaire will be drawn up which we can see in order to ensure that the Commissioners do not probe wider than they should be allowed to probe. Alternatively, I suggest that the Government should incorporate in another place the nature of the questionnaire in a Statutory Instrument. I say this not because I do not trust the Government in this respect—I do—but because I do not trust the Treasury for the future in the event of the return to power of the Opposition.
I am blunt about this. If, in the future, I find myself sitting on the benches opposite, and some estimable hon. Members opposite are sitting on these benches, I shall be the first to say, "But how can you possibly have in a Statute words like 'other matters' and allow the Commissioners to probe in any direction that they wish?" and the hon. Member for Sowerby (Mr. Houghton) will say, "You never said anything about that last year or the year before." I therefore say, as the Opposition should have said, that the provision is drawn too wide.
I appreciate that it has not been easy for my hon. Friend the Economic Secretary or for the Chancellor of the Exchequer and his advisers to get this completely novel matter ready in time, but, equally, it has not been easy for us to deal with starred Amendments on matters of this kind at a moment's notice.
§ Mr. Niall MacDermot (Derby, North)
I support what the hon. Member for the Isle of Thanet (Mr. Rees-Davies) said about the wideness of the words "other matters" in subsection (4). I do not support the arguments which he adduced in favour of what he was saying, but it occurred to me when I was reading the subsection that this wording was very wide. Perhaps the Government will consider amending it to make it a little narrower at a later stage of the Bill.
My primary purpose in speaking is to ask whether the Government can make clear exactly what is the scope of the forms of gaming which they have in mind to exclude from the inquiry under the powers which they are seeking in the Amendment. The Economic Secretary was very forthcoming in explaining precisely what the Government had in mind, 1170 but he did so in relation to Sections of the 1963 Act. I confess that I am not familiar with that consolidating Measure as a lawyer and have not a copy of it before me. What I should particularly like to ask is whether the Government propose to exclude all those forms of gambling which would have been covered under the old Small Lotteries and Gaming Act, or whether their purpose is narrower than that.
The Economic Secretary spoke, for example, of the single whist drive on behalf of a church, or perhaps a political party or the Red Cross. We know that there is a great deal of small gaming which is authorised under the Small Lotteries and Gaming Act in support of a large variety of charitable organisations and some political ones. But these are all non-profit-making bodies. They indulge in small gaming and not the large gaming in which the hon. Gentleman said that the Government were interested.
I think that I am right in saying that returns have to be filed with the local authority of gaming done under the Small Lotteries and Gaming Act. These returns are open to inspection and, therefore, the Treasury could obtain such general information as it wanted. It would he a great burden on the people trying to run these small lotteries if they had to make extensive returns to the Treasury in respect of matters which, in effect, they have to return already in another form to the local authority. Equally, under the pre-war legislation, there was an authorised form of gaming covering, I think, entertainments, fêtes, bazaars and similar activities. Would all these be excluded from the inquiries which the Treasury proposes to make under the Clause?
§ Mr. John Diamond (Gloucester)
It will be a relief, Sir Herbert, to hear that the reason for my rising is not to ask you to accept a Motion to report Progress and ask leave to sit again until such time as the Liberal Party should appear to take part in our debates. I think that despite the anxiety that the Economic Secretary expressed, we might still be able to help the Government sufficiently by ourselves.
Talking about anxiety, I hope that I may remove the anxiety which the hon. Member for the Isle of Thanet (Mr. Rees-Davies) expressed. His anxiety was 1171 that he did not wish these powers to vest in a Government which was not his own Government. He said that in a short time ahead would come the anxious time when we should be sitting on that side of the House and he would be sitting on this side. Having regard to the election figures of the Isle of Thanet, I wish to remove any anxiety from the hon. Member whatsoever.
As to the Amendment itself, let me say straight away that the experience and the pleasure that I have had in listening to the Economic Secretary on other matters proves to me that when he is not able to make a perfect case for an Amendment it must be a jolly bad Amendment. The case that he made today was far from perfect.
The first thing that one notices about the series of Amendments is that they are all starred. It is a very curious situation for a series of important Amendments to have been put down only yesterday on a matter which was the subject of a Government statement as long ago as the Second Reading of the Finance Bill. These are not last moment thoughts on the part of the Government. Perhaps they could not make up their minds whether the Amendments should go down or should not go down, or whether the Amendments were needed or were not needed, or whether the Amendments would be helpful at all.
That is the position in which we find ourselves. These Amendments do not help in any substantial way in removing the muddle that is already there. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Derby, North (Mr. MacDermot) went to the heart of the matter when he said that he had not with him the 1963 consolidated gaming Act, and he was not, therefore, able to understand fully the references of the Financial Secretary. I hope that I may be able to help him, and, perhaps the Economic Secretary, by referring to the definiton of gaming which we find in the Act, because these Amendments bear precisely on this point. "Gaming" is defined in Section 55 as:the playing of a game of chance for winnings in money or money's worth.If one wants to know what that means, one has to refer to four more definitions. A "game of chance includes"—it does not say what a game of chance is but merely what it includes— 1172a game of chance and skill combined and a pretended game of chance or of chance and skill combined, but does not include any athletic game or sport"."Winnings" are defined—again not what it means, but what it includes—asincludes winnings of any kind and any reference to the amount or to the payment of winnings shall be construed accordingly".That again does not help us very much. The definition of "Money"—it does not tell us what money is, and I should not have thought that that was impossible of definition by the Economic Secretary to the Treasury—'money' includes a cheque, banknote, postal order or money order".So far all that we are told is that this Clause has effect with regard to information as to gaming, and gaming is defined by reference to three or four other definitions, each of which is not a definition but defines such activities as are included. Before we get to the Amendment itself, we do not know precisely what is intended to be covered by gaming, or at least not with sufficient precision. The argument which has been going on behind the scenes—we can only guess at the argument; it has not been fully disclosed who is arguing with who—with one side winning at the last minute and putting down this series of Amendments, does not help us at all to clear up this matter.
We are still left with considerable doubts as to what is intended to be covered. The Economic Secretary tried to help us as much as he could. He said that what was intended to remain in the Clause was high-powered gaming and what was intended to be excluded was mild gaming. I do not think that this would appeal to any of my legal friends as a sufficiently accurate definition of what is intended: for high-powered gaming one has to make a return of information, but for mild gaming one does not. I am sure that the Economic Secretary knows where he intends to draw the line, but others of us do not. The hon. Member for Portsmouth, Lang-stone (Mr. Stevens) does not. He said quite properly that he was not prepared to withdraw his Amendment because he did not know whether the Economic Secretary was right in saying that it was not necessary for the Amendment 1173 to be down, and that it would be covered by the Regulations which the Government were to bring in. The hon. Member for Langstone does not know; we do not know. Why do not the Government, when seeking information, define what information they want? When they have decided on a Clause, why do they at the last minute alter the whole tenor of the Clause? If the hon. Gentleman will look at the Clause, so far as I can see he did not need to bother with these Amendments at all. Subsection (4) says:Any person required to give a notification … shall within such time and in such form as the Commissioners may require furnish the Commissioners with such information … as the Commissioners may by notice in writing require.Let us assume that a series of persons are involved in what the hon. Gentleman so accurately and with such charming precision calls "mild gaming". Let us assume that a number of mild gamers give the information that they are engaged in mild gaming. The Commissioners then say to themselves, "We do not require any information from these mild gamers; we are not going to send them a form saying what they have to give to us." Why cannot it be left at that? There is nothing wrong with the procedure as laid down in the Bill. Why this further complication of these last-minute thoughts incorporated in these Amendments?
While on this topic, I want once more to object to the Government's method of legislation by regulations to be brought in at some future time, leaving the House to rely on an almost off-the-cuff recital by the Minister of the sort of thing which the Government had in mind to bring in by regulations. If the Government feel that it is really necessary to define more closely than the Bill does which information is to be sought and which is not, they ought to say so in the Bill. It ought not to be left to future regulations as to which there will be the usual negative procedure so that we shall not have an opportunity of debating them in any detail. They ought not to leave it to this kind of method to say which are included and which are not. We are left with the clear feeling that the Government, in their usual muddle on these 1174 matters, have not thought out clearly what information they want and what information they do not want.
As I have had to be fairly critical of the Government's Amendments, I want it to be understood that neither I nor my right hon. and hon. Friends are critical of the Government's desire to seek information. We share the Government's view that it is wise to seek information, very broadly. This does not mean, any more than the Government say it means at present, that we are expressing any view, nor could we at the moment express any view, as to the use to which the information should be put. But I am authorised to say that on this side of the Committee we do not believe in putting a lot of people to the trouble of producing a lot of information unless it is thought possible that the information may be interesting and even valuable. It is implicit in seeking any information that we have at the back of our minds the possibility—I put it no more than that—that use may be made of the information in the course of time.
The Economic Secretary referred to the Royal Commission. It is clear that a number of people of a variety of political views are interested in the amount of money which is being spent in gaming and gambling of one kind and another and are interested in inquiring and finding out whether the unfortunate example—I hesitate to refer to it in view of the pleasant occurrence during the course of Question Time today—of the tax on gambling which had to be withdrawn during the period of a certain Chancellor of the Exchequer means that for all time it will not be possible to have a tax, not precisely of that kind, but somewhat of that kind.
We share the Government's view that it is worth while getting this information, but we regret that the Government, in a muddle, having made up their mind in a last-minute dash before the post went last night to get something on the Order Paper, have given hon. Members on both sides of the Committee an inadequate opportunity of knowing their intentions. They have compelled us to listen to the usual recital by the Economic Secretary about the sort of things which the Government might do later under Statutory 1175 Order if they feel so disposed. But, in all the circumstances, we do not propose to vote against the Amendment.
§ Sir G. Nabarro
It seems to me that all these lengthy Amendments, and particularly that in line 7, must depend on the Treasury's interpretation in lines 16 and 17 of Clause 2(2) of what are "private premises" and what is a "domestic occasion". If we are to seek information about gaming and gambling generally but to exclude those two considerations, which the Clause evidently seeks to exclude, we ought to know exactly what the Treasury mean by "private premises" and "domestic occasion". I am doubtful about what is meant by "domestic premises". Does it mean just a house, or a public house, or a club? No doubt distinguished lawyers could tell me.
§ Sir G. Nabarro
I hope that the hon. and learned Gentleman, who has encyclopaedic knowledge of these matters, will give the Committee the benefit of his advice later, gratuitously. Unless we are given these definitions it will be difficult for us to comprehend exactly what is the scope of the inquiries to be conducted under the Amendments.
§ Mr. Eric Fletcher (Islington, East)
Does not the hon. Gentleman agree that the Attorney-General ought to be here to give us this information?
§ Sir G. Nabarro
The learned Attorney-General should come into our deliberations on the Motion, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill". In the meantime, I have implicit confidence in my hon. Friend the Economic Secretary to deal with the Committee properly in the matter.
§ Mr. du Cann
I will certainly do my best to reply shortly to the various points which have been made. If the hon. Member for Islington, East (Mr. Fletcher) would like me to go on longer than I had originally proposed, I will certainly do so. I have no wish to be discourteous to the Committee or to any hon. Member, and I am ready to give all the information which is in my possession. I simply thought that the 1176 sense of the Committee was clear. The hon. Member for Gloucester (Mr. Diamond) was good enough to say that although he objects to the details of what we are doing, and to us generally, and to our ox and our ass and everything that is ours, nonetheless he is willing, on the whole and somewhat reluctantly, to let us have the Amendments. That being so, I thought that we could move on, and I did not wish to delay the Committee. But I have no wish to refuse to give any information which it lies in my power to give, and I will do my best, as always, to oblige the hon. Member for Islington, East.
First, I will reply to the entirely appropriate complaint made by my hon. Friend the Member for the Isle of Thanet (Mr. Rees-Davies), the hon. and learned Member for Derby, North (Mr. MacDermot) and the hon. Member for Gloucester about the fact that we are discussing starred Amendments and that the Committee has not been given better notice of what we had in mind. I have already apologised to several hon. Members personally for this. I have no wish to make any kind of excuse. The fault is entirely mine. I must take responsibility for it. I have apologised to certain individual hon. Members, and I quite willingly and somewhat ashamedly apologise to the Committee in general. If the Committee has been inconvenienced, I am extremely sorry. That was not our intention. The Amendments were perhaps fore-shadowed in the speech made by my hon. Friend the Financial Secretary, who went into the matter with some care, but that does not answer the point which has rightly been made, and I acknowledge it.
I turn to the question asked, clearly, as always, by my hon. Friend the Member for Portsmouth, Langstone (Mr. Stevens), who rightly said that he was somewhat shy of assurances and also rightly said that he would not be put off by politeness. It is a good rule never to take one's payment in politeness. The trouble is that so many of us are obliged to do so. I wish to give him nothing of the sort this evening, nor do I wish to be anything but categorical in replying to him. I thought that I had been categorical in what I originally said, but if I was not sufficiently categorical I say 1177 again, as clearly as I can, that the categories which he has in mind—and I am clear about them because they are closely defined—will be excluded from the provisions of the Clause and that that will most certainly happen by Treasury Order. I hope that that perhaps answers his question.
The right hon. Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Bellenger) rightly drew attention to the adequacy or otherwise of the penalties. I can assure him that we gave the matter substantial thought and were of the opinion that these penalties were adequate. I appreciate that there are practical difficulties. We are dealing, perhaps exceptionally, with certain rather curious forms of enterprise. None the less, bearing all that in mind, we are clear that the penalties will be adequate and we do not expect any difficulties on that score. But, as I tried to bring out when moving the Amendment—and in part this is a reply to a remark by the hon. Member for Gloucester—we were concerned to see that there was proper discretion not to make criminals of those who are innocent in the matter.
Can I put it in simple terms? Supposing the trustees of the village hall of the village in my constituency in which I hope shortly to be living, which is called Samford Arundel, and of which, I suppose, not an hon. Member has heard, trespassed inadvertently; I am sure that it is not the wish of any hon. Member to make criminals of them. However, we believe that for those who deliberately transgress and withhold information which Parliament in its wisdom thinks it desirable that the Treasury and the Commissioners of Customs and Excise should have, there should be a penalty strong enough. We have thought about this a great deal, and I hope that hon. Members will be satisfied with what I have said.
I now turn to what was said by my hon. Friend the Member for the Isle of Thanet. We in this Committee all know how wise he is in these matters, for we remember his interventions in earlier debates on this subject. We will bear in mind the generality of his earlier remarks. As for his comment about line 30 of Clause 2(4), ejusdem generis was one of the few subjects which I imperfectly understood when 1178 I studied law, and I feel that I understood the purport of my hon. Friend's remarks. I hope that he will be reassured by the assurance he got, perhaps a little ahead of time, from the hon. Member for Gloucester. Whether he is or not, I can assure him—and he asked me the specific question—that it is proposed to have a questionnaire and that I shall make myself responsible for seeing that it is made available for the information of hon. Members.
It is not proposed to pry into a lot of matters for other than fiscal reasons when they are not the concern of the Treasury. The questionnaire will be closely designed for the specific job of obtaining the sort of information which it is necessary for us to have in deciding whether it is appropriate and possible to tax the gaming institutions, and that is all.
§ Mr. Bellenger
Will it be in statutory form so that hon. Members can take appropriate action if that is thought necessary?
§ Mr. du Cann
No. It will not be in statutory form, but I will see that the information is available to the House before the Statutory Instrument is laid so that there can be an opportunity for discussing it. I hope that that will meet the wishes and convenience of hon. Members.
I now turn to the point made by the hon. and learned Member for Derby, North. If he will forgive my saying so, he seemed to be a little confused about our purpose. Again, to take up what the hon. Member for Gloucester said, I appreciate that to talk about high-powered gaming on the one hand and mild gaming on the other is very inexact, and I am certain that a lawyer as distinguished as the hon. and learned Member for Derby, North would not be satisfied with generalities of that kind.
However, I attempted to define, I thought fairly closely, what is intended to be covered under the general umbrella of both those heads, and from whet I understood of the hon. and learned Gentleman's questions I can give him the clear assurance that the arrangements which he had in mind, mainly of charitable or non-profit making undertakings in the commercial sense, would certainly 1179 be excluded and would be cove[...]d by the Order. I think that I can fully reassure him that he need not be anxious about that.
He asked about lotteries especially. The legal position now is that large lotteries in general are illegal in the United Kingdom whilst small lotteries, covering the sort of cases he had in mind at bingo sessions or whist drives and so on, which are charitable or non-profit making in the commercial sense, are perfectly legal. It is not our intention to make any inquiry into them. That does not seem to be necessary, although it would be easy enough to obtain the information, as he pointed out, if we felt that we needed it.
I say again that the whole object of the exercise is to get information—and I am grateful to the hon. Member for Gloucester for saying that he thought that this was right and appropriate—about the important gaming establishments where the prizes are large, the commercial bingo institutions, the places where chemin de fer and cards are played for stakes which are far beyond anything which one would find in any fairground or village hall or local institution. It is about the activities of such people that we want information.
I come finally to the sundry points made by the hon. Member for Gloucester. The main answer to the gravamen of his complaint that we were asking for these Amendments unnecessarily is that we were advised very much to the contrary. We thought that it would be quite wrong to bother innocent small people unnecessarily, particularly when there would obviously be difficulty about collecting the information.
If it is right that we should be concerned primarily to obtain information about the largest operators, I hope that he will agree with us that it is appropriate specifically to do something to exclude those who are concerned with the milder forms of gaming. This is the point which we wanted to achieve. That is the advice we had, and I am satisfied that this is the appropriate method of proceeding.
My hon. Friend the Member for Kidderminster (Sir G. Nabarro) asked me to be more specific when I spoke of private premises and domestic occasions. I can certainly give him what advice I 1180 can without charging a fee, as I am not a lawyer, as the Committee is well aware. I think that the passage in the Bill concerned means exactly what it says. Perhaps I can illustrate it by saying that if my hon. Friend the Member for Kidderminster received an invitation from me, or from anybody else—"Come to our private house and have a game of poker or chemin de fer, or roulette or anything else"—and if the only other persons present were personal friends of his or mine, that is obviously the kind of matter envisaged.
§ Sir G. Nabarro
But supposing, Sir Herbert, that you were a particularly generous friend and you invited me to do this forty or fifty times a year and you turned your front parlour into a gaming saloon and quite privately took a fee for the purpose of inviting your guests. [Laughter.] I am not fooling about, Sir Herbert. I am not a gambler myself, but I know these establishments. I am talking about the precedent which is created by a person using the atmosphere of private benevolence for the establishment of a gaming establishment.
§ Sir G. Nabarro
It is not commercial. It is within the atmosphere of a private establishment. I am complaining of only two words—"private" before "premises" and "domestic" before "occasion". I hope that before the Bill leaves the House of Commons we shall have a precise definition of what is meant by those two words and removal of uncertainty about the phrasing "private premises" and "domestic occasion". Does it mean that one has to fulfil both those desiderata, or one or the other? [HON. MEMBERS: "Both."] I am not at all sure. There must be a precise definition of "private" and "domestic".
§ Mr. du Cann
I know my hon. Friend's anxieties, but he rose to interrupt me before I had had the opportunity entirely to complete the explanation which I was endeavouring to give him. What I had said so far was by way of example. If I went to his house, or he came to my house, and there was no one else present but our mutual friends and we played cards or any other of these games, that would obviously be an occasion which 1181 would be within the terms of the Clause. By "private premises" I mean the ordinary home and by "domestic" we mean "domestic" in the English definition, that is, as opposed to commercial. My hon. Friend the Member for Kidderminster inquired what would be the case if I invited him and other people to my house fifty times a year. The same consideration would apply if I asked him to my house three times a year and charged a fee. That would make it a commercial occasion, and it would not be the sort of instance envisaged under this Clause.
It is a plain matter of fact in every case, and as to the question whether or not the words "private premises" and "on a domestic occasion" are mutually inclusive or mutually exclusive, the fact is that they are mutually inclusive. They have to run together. I assure my hon. Friend that what is meant by those seven words together is, as I began by saying and slightly upset him by so doing, exactly what they are intended to mean if one construes them in English. I know that this is sometimes difficult to do in legislation, but I think that the meaning is plain.
§ Mr. Archie Manuel (Central Ayrshire)
I do not think that this is as clear as the hon. Gentleman is trying to make out. I am in sympathy with what he is trying to attain, but is it not a question of circumstance and not one of fact? The hon. Gentleman talked about private homes. If a man invited his friends to gamble in a converted stable which was not within the four walls of his home but still in the grounds of his property, would that circumstance alter the hon. Gentleman's view? I think that circumstances come into this as well as actual facts.
§ Mr. du Cann
I agree that circumstances come into this, and, of course, when I am talking about a private home I include the gardens, or the summer house at the end of the lawn, or whatever it may be.
The truth of the matter is that the Committee has a real anxiety to make certain that nobody should wriggle out of the provisions of this Clause. I appreciate that, and I see that a number of hon. Members agree with what I have said. I assure the Committee that we 1182 have no intention of allowing anybody to wriggle out of these provisions, and we feel that the Clause as drafted is appropriate for this purpose.
Finally, I turn to the last point made by the hon. Member for Gloucester. He thought that perhaps there were some objections to the methods that we had adopted of going about this. He thought it would be better if the whole provision were incorporated into the Bill. I think there is a point in that, but I should like to explain why it is thought that this is the appropriate method.
It will be within the knowledge of the Committee in general, even if the majority of us are not experts, that one of the problems is that we are here dealing with a very flexible and developing situation. The position has changed considerably over the last two or three years, and it may well be that it will change still further. If, therefore, we were to stick inflexibly to the rigid provisions of an Act of Parliament we might find ourselves in difficulty in varying at short notice the definition of what we wanted to examine and what we did not want to examine.
As my hon. Friend the Member for Kidderminster pointed out, we have, perhaps, taken a long time to get to the position where we are collecting all the information that we want. It would be a tragedy—and I am sure that my hon. Friend will agree with this—if there were to be further delays which we could avoid. In other words, we think it proper to have a flexible approach to this question of information gathering. We think that the method we suggest will give us a better opportunity of being flexible than we would have if we were to be specific in the Bill. This was not a matter of hazard or last-minute argument. There has been no last-minute argument in the Treasury. This has been carefully thought out, and we believe that we have the right method.
Having given those explanations, and I am grateful to the hon. Member for Gloucester for having defined the Opposition's attitude to the whole matter, and for having said that they think it right to seek information, I hope that the Committee will now be able to agree to accept these Amendments.
§ Mr. Stevens
Before my hon. Friend sits down, may I ask whether he has 1183 noticed that we now have two Members of the Liberal Party with us? Would he therefore care to start the debate all over again for their benefit?
§ Mr. Donald Wade (Huddersfield, West)
On a point of order. As I have been here throughout the debate—[Interruption.]
§ 5.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Ede (South Shields)
In view of the Economic Secretary's speech, it would be churlish to do other than say that one appreciates the attitude he has adopted towards bringing this matter before the Committee by means of starred Amendments. Until I opened the Notice Paper today and saw these starred Amendments, I had no idea that this subject was likely to arise in the form it has in the course of our discussions today. I can think of several hon. Members on both sides of the Committee who, when we have discussed these small gaming and lotteries Bills on Fridays in private Members' time, have taken an active part in the discussions, and I am certain that they would have been here this afternoon had they had the slightest inkling that this subject was to be raised.
We are dealing with social customs on which varied and strong views are held by many members of the community and by some Members of the House who are not here this afternoon but who, I am certain, would have been here had they known this topic would be discussed. I hope that as we go through this matter, whether it be in Committee on this Bill or on the regulations and Statutory Instruments to which the hon. Gentleman referred, he will realise that these strong feelings are held and appreciate that it would be very bad indeed for the standing of the House if it were thought that this kind of matter had been rushed through in a way which prevented people who held strong feelings on the subject from taking part in the discussions.
My views have been accurately and adequately expressed by my hon. Friend 1184 the Member for Gloucester (Mr. Diamond). I do not think one can pretend that gaming does not take place, and I cannot help thinking that most people consider that if it takes place we should know as much about it as possible and that we should do what we can to prevent the high-powered gaming about which the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Sir G. Nabarro) spoke. I do not participate in that kind of thing myself. A modest bet on Epsom Downs is the extent to which I anger my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas), but there is a feeling that some people not very wise in the ways of this world are introduced into high-powered gaming.
§ Mr. Manuel
This point intrigues me, but would not my right hon. Friend agree that what would be considered high-powered gaming in one social group would not be so considered in another?
§ Mr. Ede
Certainly, but I was thinking of what would be regarded as high-powered gaming in any social group. If there is a fat pigeon strutting about who is worth plucking, this is precisely the sort of inquiry which the hon. Member for Kidderminster intimated he thought would be excused under the Bill. He thought that there would be no inquiry into the way in which that person was lured into a position in which the plucking could take place.
It is a pity that we have got off rather on the wrong foot because we are discussing starred Amendments. I regard the remarks made by the Economic Secretary as being an admirable apology to the Committee as a whole, and to any individual Members who may be concerned. He is to be congratulated on having the courage to make those remarks. I hope that they will not unduly prejudice discussions on this matter from now onwards.
I know that gaming takes place, and I know that some people are robbed in the course of it. I wish the Government well in their efforts to secure as much information as they can, so that we can arrange, first, that private premises and domestic occasions shall be exempt from the operations of the Bill, according to my definition of those words—and whether mine is the same as that attached to them by the hon. Member 1185 for Kidderminster does not matter at the moment—and that, secondly, as a result of the information obtained we may be in a position, with knowledge to consider how far these activities should be regarded as suitable objects for taxation.
§ Mr. Fletcher
I am in full agreement with what my right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) has just said. I intervene only because I was provoked into doing so by the Economic Secretary, who referred to me in his opening remarks. I did not take undue offence at what he said, although I thought that it was quite unnecessary for him to refer in the terms that he did to my hon. Friend the Member for Gloucester (Mr. Diamond) and his ox and his ass. It seemed to me that the frivolity with which he opened his speech was quite unworthy of the subject that we are now discussing.
I agree that it places the Committee in a very difficult position to have to discuss the matter by way of starred Amendments. But this is merely symptomatic of the general incompetence and ineptitude of the Government in their conduct of legislation and Government affairs generally. What disturbed me even more was the difficulty of ascertaining the philosophy of the Government in respect of gaming in general.
We have heard about high-powered gaming and its opposite, which is either low-powered or mild gaming. I am in sympathy with the objects of the Clause, which seeks to enable the Government to obtain as much information as they can in order to deal with the subject of gaming, but I cannot help reflecting that it is a little odd that they should have come to this conclusion so belatedly. My right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields will remember that when we were discussing the Betting and Gaming Act we tried to persuade the Government of the desirability of introducing Clauses into that Measure which would have required bookmakers and those who conduct betting shops, and so on, to produce reports so that the Government could have full knowledge of the profits made by those who engage in that form of gaming.
I hope that before we agree to the Clause we shall have further elucidation from the Economic Secretary as to 1186 what is intended by the Amendment in page 3, line 7, which exempts gaming, in certain circumstances, from the provisions of the Clause. If the object of the Government is to obtain all the information they can to enable them to decide what taxation is appropriate, why should they draw any limits as to that information? It may be that when they have the necessary information they will decide that certain forms of gaming should be taxed and others should be exempt.
I am reminded of the fact that the Financial Secretary, in introducing the Second Reading of the Bill, said that he thought thatgaming which is promoted in aid of bazaars and fetes, and other good causes, in which the gaming is incidental to the main purpose and in which any proceeds go to other than private gain."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 6th May, 1963; Vol. 677, c. 39.]would not be the proper subject for taxation. I am in sympathy with that general observation, but where do we draw the line? If the object of the Clause is basically to obtain information and not merely to introduce a basis for taxation, the more information the Government can get the better.
I do not dissent from the general objects of the Clause, but I feel that a good deal of elucidation is required. I sympathise with what was said by the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Sir G. Nabarro). What exactly is meant by the words "private premises"? Let us take the example of a club where gaming takes place. Is such a club private premises? [HON. MEMBERS "No."] Why not? Some clubs regard themselves as private premises. Surely the Economic Secretary will not say that a club is not private premises.
How do we distinguish between private premises and public premises. Is a club to which only its members are permitted entrance now to be regarded as public premises, although members of the public are not admitted? Hitherto, in other legislation, a private club has been regarded as private premises, in the same way as a private dwelling-house.
These matters require a good deal of elucidation. It is most unfortunate that the Economic Secretary should have to introduce an Amendment of this kind 1187 at such a late stage, without giving the Committee a chance to examine it, and leaving us in such confusion about it.
§ Mr. du Cann
I must correct something that my hon. Friend has just said. He has suggested that I expressed the view that it would be appropriate for mild gaming not to be taxed. I did not express that view. I said that we did not require information about the mild form of gaming, but that we wanted it about high-powered gaming. I was careful, as were the hon. Member for Gloucester (Mr. Diamond) and other hon. Members, to avoid any reference to future intentions in respect of taxation.
§ Mr. Gower
I cannot understand why his solicitude extends to such a degree that he does not want those who engage in mild gaming even to be questioned. I could understand it if he said that he did not want the mild form to be taxed, but I cannot understand why people who indulge in it should not be questioned. The questionnaire will not be elaborate. It will not be something that they cannot answer. I would have thought that the Clause as it stood originally was quite adequate. My hon. Friend is introducing a great deal of complication into a matter which should be simple.
§ 6.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Manuel
I wish to ask one or two questions of the Economic Secretary. Hon. Members on this side of the Committee are anxious to assist the hon. Gentleman to reach the port for which he is steering. But we wish there to be no misunderstanding, or for the results to be that many lawyers will gain lucrative business from the operation of the provisions in this Clause. The term "high-powered gaming" is wide. I do not know whether the Economic Secretary has a proper definition of gaming, but I take it that practically any form of lottery would be covered.
§ Mr. Rees-Davies
If the hon. Gentleman looks at the 1963 Act, he will find a definition there. It does not include every form of gambling or the lotteries to which he is referring. Still less does it include betting. There is a statutory definition.
§ Mr. Manuel
I pay tribute to the knowledge of the hon. Member for the Isle of Thanet (Mr. Rees-Davies). He will be aware, if he has listened as I have to the debate, that we have talked about excluding certain small lotteries. That was said by the Economic Secretary and I prefer to await the hon. Gentleman's reply to my questions.
I wonder into what category the Premium Bond lottery falls into in this connection. That is a high-powered lottery. I do not know from what premises it operates. I should imagine that they are business premises of some kind. But the activities of "Ernie" are, I should imagine, very high-powered. Considerable gain ensues to a few people, but many consider that it is too much of a lottery for them to get any return on the money invested. These are the kind of questions which people in the street will be asking and to which we should be seeking answers.
Sir Stephen MacAdden (Southend, East)
It is a little unfortunate that this matter should be discussed in the form of a starred Amendment. It is not something which has come upon the Treasury overnight. In the discussions on the Finance Bill of 1962 I raised this question with the support of my hon. Friend the Member for Kidderminster (Sir G. Nabarro) and it is rather a shame that a matter of such importance should be raised at this late stage in the form of a starred Amendment.
Last year, the Treasury admitted that the present form of taxation on gambling was inequitable and unfair and it was said that something should be done about it. Twelve months have gone by and now we have this starred Amendment which, I hope, will lead in due time to a satisfactory result. It is said that there is more joy among the angels in Heaven over one sinner that repenteth than over the ninety and nine just people who sin not. If the Treasury has at last come to the conclusion that the present form of taxation is inequitable, 1189 and proposes to do something about it, let us be thankful for this belated conversion and wish well to the Clause which will give effect to that.
§ Mr. du Cann
It may be supposed, as the debate has gone on for a considerable time, that that is a matter which is tiresome for a Treasury Minister. I would say that it is nothing of the sort. I agree with the right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede), who said that this is a matter of great importance, and it is, therefore, appropiate that the Committee should look at it with concern.
Many hon. Members have spoken, but we still have not had an intervention—I do not wish to provoke one—from the Liberal Party. The hon. Member for Huddersfield, West (Mr. Wade) entered the Chamber at 5.38 p.m. precisely and has not been present for anything like the whole of the debate.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Shields said that to come to an important decision with knowledge gained—
§ Mr. du Cann
I think, Sir Herbert, that you will not wish me to pursue the matter too far. I dare say that the purposes for which the hon. Member for Huddersfield, West (Mr. Wade) absented himself from the Chamber were perfectly honourable. No one would suggest otherwise, but the fact is, and a number of comments have been made about it, that a member of the Liberal Party was not present. No fewer than three such comments were made and never denied, and they were factually accurate.
I was saying that the right hon. Member for South Shields said "with knowledge gained". That is the point and is what we are anxious to establish. I think that that is the answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Barry (Mr. Gower) and, to some extent, to the hon. Member for Islington, East (Mr. Fletcher). My hon. Friend was saying 1190 that we should not make exemptions, but I think it appropriate that exemptions should be made.
My hon. Friend should think about the consequences of what he has said. If we do not make exemptions, we should be asking many people for information which we do not need. My hon. Friend should think about his own constituency—a very pleasant place—and the kind of mild gaming, as I defined it earlier, which goes on there. Does he wish that the proprietor of every village hall should be chased by Customs and Excise to give information? I am sure that is not appropriate and that upon reconsideration my hon. Friend would recognise it. It would be quite wrong for us to waste time in getting that sort of information.
The hon. Member for Central Ayrshire (Mr. Manuel) asked about the types of people from whom we desired to get information. I defined them, but I will willingly do so again, if it will assist the hon. Gentleman. They include those concerned with casino-type gaming and card gaming clubs; organised bingo—for example, in cinemas and dance halls—and the gaming machines which, under certain conditions are allowed in clubs, and in connection with which significant money prizes are offered. It is those types of enterprises about which we want to get information, and I am extremely grateful to those hon. Members who have said that it is appropriate to obtain that sort of information.
I hope that we may now proceed with the Bill.
§ Amendment agreed to.
Further Amendments made: In page 2, Line 19, after "person", insert:
not exempted from the operation of this subsection".
In page 2, line 34, after "premises", insert:
and are not being provided in such circumstances that the person providing them is exempted from the operation of subsection (3) of this section".
In page 3, line 7, at end insert:
(7) The Treasury may by order made by statutory instrument direct that persons providing facilities for gaming who provide them only in such circumstances (whether related to the kind of gaming, the place or occasion at or on which the facilities are provided, or any other consideration) as may be prescribed
by the order shall be exempted from the operation of subsections (2) and (3), or subsection (3), of this section; and—
Any order under this subsection shall be subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of either House of Parliament.
(8) The Commissioners, if satisfied in any case that there is good reason why anything required to be done by or under the foregoing provisions of this section cannot be, or was not, done within the time limited by or under those provisions, shall extend the time by such period as appears to them to be required.—[Mr. du Cann.]
§ Question proposed, That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill.
§ Mr. Ellis Smith
Early in life I learned that if one proposes to undertake a task, it should be done in a big way. If we meant business about this, we should have approached the matter in a big way. A number of hon. Members have put down Amendments which did not come within the scope of the Clause. But it was quite clear that the proposals in the Clause provide an adequate basis to enable hon. Members to raise the points they had in mind. This raises the big issue of sport and betting. Practically every country in the world spends millions of pounds on sport and leisure pursuits and on keeping the people fit.
It is disgraceful that this country should be spending a mere pittance—
§ Mr. Rees-Davies
On a point of Order. Surely the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South (Mr. Ellis Smith) is miles from the point of the Clause. Is it not in order, on the Question before the Committee, to discuss only the matter of a fact-finding inquiry into gambling?
I have a great deal of sympathy with the point the hon. Member wishes to raise and I hope that he will raise it at the right time and in the right place. I realise that he wishes to discuss the question of football, pursuant to an Amendment which was ruled to be outside the scope of the Clause and which was, therefore, not called. He proposes, I believe, to go into the matter of whether or not there should be differences from 1192 the point of view of football pools. I respectfully submit that this is outside the scope of the Question.
I hope, further, that the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South will realise that many hon. Members want to speak on topics which are within the terms of order.
§ The Temporary Chairman (Sir Herbert Butcher)
The hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South (Mr. Ellis Smith) was, in my view, entirely in order in what he had said up to the point at which the hon. Member for the Isle of Thanet (Mr. Rees-Davies) interrupted him on a point of order. However, I think that he was at the point when he was getting very close to the edge and when it might have been my duty to call him to order.
§ Mr. Ellis Smith
Thank you for your Ruling, Sir Herbert. I will bear in mind what you have said. I have in mind the Ruling and explanation given by the Chairman, who was good enough to give me his advice.
I have had only an elementary school education. I am not trained in legal matters, but I have taken a long interest in Parliamentary proceedings. I take second place to no one in understanding what is and what is not in order in our proceedings in Committee. I rise tonight to say that in this country it has been left to Association football practically to finance the whole of sport and the people's leisure.
§ The Temporary Chairman
Order. As was quite properly pointed out by the hon. Member for the Isle of Thanet (Mr. Rees-Davies), the Clause deals merely with the gathering of information.
§ Mr. Ellis Smith
If you will listen to what I have to say, Sir Herbert, you will see that I intend to provide evidence on gaming to show what should be included in the inquiry, and that it should be of a comprehensive nature. I have in mind the remarks made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer both in his Budget speech and in comments he made on Second Reading of the Bill.
There has been a great deal of uneasiness in the country about the proposed inquiry. This afternoon, the Economic Secretary has relieved a great deal of that uneasiness by his definite 1193 statement and his reference to the application of legislation to this subject once the inquiry has been concluded. There is bound to be some uneasiness over, for example—and I would like to Treasury Ministers to listen to the evidence I shall provide—what may still happen. The Economic Secretary went a long way towards making it clear beyond any doubt what is to happen in the future and what would be regarded as private premises.
I accept what he said, but it may be possible for someone to erect a tent or marquee in a garden. In addition, I know that some clubs are run for development purposes for the straightforward playing of Association football. In many of the football divisions—and there can be no doubt about the correctness or honesty of the men who are running these clubs the clubs could not keep going by the financial income they derive from the gates. The result is that they have to depend—
§ 6.15 p.m.
§ The Temporary Chairman
Order. The hon. Member has been trying to tread a very narrow path, but is now over the edge, I am afraid.
§ Mr. Ellis Smith
I was going to show, Sir Herbert, how it is necessary to take into account for special treatment some gaming that takes place outside the sort of premises I have mentioned. This type of gaming should not be construed as other forms of gaming—
§ The Temporary Chairman
Order. I know exactly what the hon. Member wants to do and I would like him to do it anywhere else except on the Question, "That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill".
§ Mr. Rees-Davies
If it will assist the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South (Mr. Ellis Smith) to do what he wants to do, I will try to help him. I will put down a new Clause.
§ Mr. Ellis Smith
If the hon. Member for the Isle of Thanet (Mr. Rees-Davies) meant what he said at the beginning of that last intervention I will accept his offer in the manner in which I should. But if his offer was made in any other form, then I will deal with it accordingly. We are in the House of Commons, where we are able to act accordingly. Mr. Speaker has on several occasions called 1194 for some cut and thrust in our debates. I thank the hon. Member for the Isle of Thanet for his offer and would remind him that a good record in life needs no defence. We will leave that at that for now.
I was saying that the Clause provides for the holding of an inquiry and I was pointing out certain places and certain types of gaming that should be specially considered, for the danger is that, owing to the evolution of sporting activities in this country, the Clause may be used in such a way that it will have a worsening effect on the incomes of some sporting activities which should not be so adversely affected. Before the inquiry takes place the sort of evidence I have with me should be put on record and—
§ Mr. Michael Foot (Ebbw Vale)
On a point of order. Was not my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South (Mr. Ellis Smith) continuing his speech?
§ The Temporary Chairman
I thought that he had given way to enable the hon. Member for Barry (Mr. Gower) to intervene.
§ The Temporary Chairman
Order. I would remind hon. Members that we are in Committee and that there is no limitation on the number of times that an hon. Member may address the Committee.
§ Mr. Ellis Smith
If I may say so, Sir Herbert, the hon. Member for Barry (Mr. Gower) should contain himself. I am not going to ride two horses at once, like some hon. Members occasionally do, although realise that I am walking the tightrope.
1195 I have been saying that I have certain evidence with me that should be on the record. The hon. Member for Barry should contain himself until I have completed my remarks. I must bring this evidence before the Committee before we part with the Clause, which has now been amended. I urge hon. Members to remember that starred Amendments are being accepted and that this imposes a greater responsibility on us because many more of my hon. Friends would have been present tonight had they known that the proposed inquiry will take place on the basis of what the Economic Secretary has told us. As a result of these starred Amendments the whole thing has been sprung on the Committee.
Let me make clear, to be fair to the Economic Secretary, that I think he was most generous in his explanation and apology. When a man is big enough to do it in that way we ought to accept it. He was very generous, so anything I say now is not to be taken as a criticism of the Economic Secretary, but I must emphasise to the Chair and to hon. Members who do not agree with me that this imposes upon us a greater responsibility than ever to watch these matters before parting with this Clause.
I have said that this proposal could have a serious effect on sporting activity. I have evidence to show that this inquiry of a comprehensive nature could affect some legitimate activities which legally can be considered as gaming, but which in the generally accepted sense are not gaming because they form part of a comprehensive way of raising funds to keep a sport going. Association football is the main source of this income. It is providing millions of pounds for activities in this country and a very small percentage—
§ The Temporary Chairman
The hon. Member is now trying to debate on the Question, "That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill", an Amendment which earlier had been ruled out of order by the Chair.
§ Mr. Ellis Smith
I accept that Ruling, as I must if we are to make progress.
I am trying to provide evidence, seeing that that has been ruled out of order, to show that the points I am making should be considered before legislation 1196 is prepared. If that is not done some sections of the sporting public will be unfairly dealt with. The legislation will be applied to them as a result of the inquiry. I ask that all this should be included in the inquiry. I am reinforced in that desire of the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Economic Secretary, who have repeatedly said that they want a comprehensive inquiry. That means an all-inclusive inquiry. That is why I want to get this on the record before we part with the Clause.
I hope that as a result of this brief discussion contributions to the debate will be made by many of my hon. Friends. This is a Committee in which everyone can take a part. No one has any special rights, no matter what is arranged behind closed doors. This is a democratic institution. I hope that the Clause will be fully discussed and debated on the lines on which I have started, so that we may do the right thing for those who provide the biggest proportion of finance for sport in this country. We must be on our guard to see that any future legislation which is prepared as a result of this inquiry shall not have a detrimental effect on the people for whom we are trying to speak.
§ Mr. Rees-Davies
I want to come to the point that is contained in the heart of this matter in the Clause. This is to be a fact-finding expedition by a number of people, a body of administrators who, if I may be allowed to say so, are not necessarily people with knowledge—certainly not intimate knowledge—of the matters into which they will inquire.
The reason why it has been necessary to have this quite novel approach by the Treasury by a Clause of this kind is that in the ordinary way it is not the task of officials of the Customs and Excise to find out about the details and technique of organisation in the betting and gaming industry. If they are to obtain information and that information is to be with a view to proposed legislation by way of new taxation, it is necessary that they should know on what principles and for what purposes they are collecting that information. I want to apply my mind, because this is the only opportunity, to what principles they should have in mind in considering this matter.
1197 First, this is the purpose of the patience, the restraint and the wisdom which has been shown by the Chancellor in refusing to be bulldozed into some form of legislation until he is properly and effectively informed about it. I wish that one could say the same about other Chancellors on many occasions in our history. My right hon. Friend and those assisting him are very much to be commended for not plunging headlong into legislation which would have been completely fatuous if introduced this year without the relevant information before him. Incidentally, part of the information about football and betting can be obtained.
Here are the principles. There has to be parity of principle in taxation over the whole field of betting and gaming, of gambling as a whole in all its fields. The second principle is that whatever proposed taxation there may be must be easy of collection. If a fortune is to be spent in trying to collect it it will not be worth while. People will find some very surprising results. The Press has been quite wrong about the immense figures suggested in respect of gaming because the Press has concerned itself only with turnover and not with the reality of money spent on gaming, still less that on betting.
Thirdly, it must be a tax which is reasonably incapable of evasion. That will provide considerable difficulties both in the gaming and betting fields. Fourthly, it must be politically desirable. I do not mean party political. It is true that one can heavily tax out of existence the shillings of ordinary working men and women. Fifthly, it must be reasonably acceptable both to the industry and to those who engage in betting and gaming. If those principles are considered—
§ Mr. Rees-Davies
I do not want to be interrupted at this stage because I want to develop my argument, for it takes some thinking out.
It will have been realised by all who have had to apply their minds to this matter that, broadly speaking, there are two classes of possible tax. At an early stage it will be necessary for the Chancellor to give some guide to his adminis- 1198 trators in this regard. There is what I call the licensing type of tax and there is what has been called the turnover tax. This is not the moment to give reasons why a turnover tax is quite impossible to be introduced. I do not propose to go into the argument—
§ Mr. M. Foot
The hon. Member for Isle of Thanet (Mr. Rees-Davies) interrupted my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South (Mr. Ellis Smith), who was dealing with a somewhat narrower point, but the hon. Member for Isle of Thanet is now going on to describe a general taxation system which he would like to see introduced. Would not that be a matter for a future Budget?
§ The Temporary Chairman
If the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. M. Foot) will look at Clause 2 he will see that subsection (1) providesto what extent it is expedient to impose taxation in respect of gaming.I understood that the remarks of the hon. Member for Isle of Thanet (Mr. Rees-Davies) were a somewhat lengthy preamble to discussing that part of the Clause.
§ 6.30 p.m.
§ Mr. J. T. Price (Westhoughton)
I wish that you would assist the Committee a little more, Sir Herbert, in reading the full extent of the Clause. Subsection (1) states thatThe following provisions of this section shall have effect to provide information for determining whether, and in what manner and to what extent, it is expedient to impose taxation in respect of gaming.With respect, that is quite different from the later words which you have taken out of context, because the principle of the Clause is to provide information. I suggest, therefore, that the hon. Member is out of order.
§ Mr. Rees-Davies
I am sorry that the hon. Member did not take in what I said earlier, that to obtain information about anything it is, perhaps, desirable to know what one wants to obtain information about. If it is to be about taxation, one would want to know the principles which should be set down for generally broad consideration in introducing it.
§ Mr. Manuel
On a point of order. You have just come into the Chair, Sir Robert, but when my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South (Mr. Ellis Smith) was speaking on this point, he was pulled up three times by the previous occupant of the Chair, because when talking about gaming in connection with football he was ruled out of order. We are now getting a long introduction to a lot of methods of gaming about which we should have information. If the aspect which my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South was raising was ruled out of order, I think that what is being said now should also be ruled out of order.
§ Mr. Fletcher
Further to that point of order, Sir Robert. May we have your ruling whether it is in order on the Question "That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill" to have a wide discussion, which, I gather, was ruled out when my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South (Mr. Ellis Smith) spoke as to the principles on which gaming should be taxed?
Remarks on the Question, "That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill", should be directed chiefly to information, and by way of illustration to the purpose for which the information is required, reference to taxation proposals such as the hon. Member for the Isle of Thanet (Mr. Rees-Davies) has made is in order. The merits cannot, however, be developed.
§ Mr. Rees-Davies
To save the time of the Committee being wasted by repeated interruptions on points of order, I will leave that aspect, Sir Robert, and pass straight to the heart of the matter on the precise question of the aspect of gaming.
The first question which arises on sub-section (1) is that the Government are asking for information in respect of betting. That immediately prompts the inquiry: why not for betting? The answer is, presumably, that the Government have sufficient information. I agree with that if that has been the reply which they have given themselves, save 1200 only that they clearly do not have a sufficient knowledge of the bookmaking industry when they consider the betting side of it. They can, however, obtain that information without the need to pass an Act of Parliament to get it. Therefore, I share the view that the only part of subsection (1) which is necessary is to cover the aspect of gaming.
As I said in part earlier on an Amendment—which was in a fairly narrow argument—when one is dealing with gaming as it is statutorily defined, and as I interrupted an hon. Member to say, there are four classes with which one is concerned to obtain information which may not be readily available. It is in those four fields only that there might be a potential liability to tax.
There is, first, bingo, which is sub-divided into two classes, the large commercial operator and the small village hall. The Government have rightly indicated that they are not concerned with fetes and things of that kind. That is one field. As to the facts, this is a quid pro quo. Some people assume that when the examination has taken place, it is obvious that it will be fruitful for taxation. To balance that, I am merely saying that I would not suggest that that conclusion should automatically be reached. It is certainly not my conclusion after having had the opportunity of seeing it thoroughly in that field.
The next aspect is what might be called the amusement caterers, Showmen's Guild aspect. Those are the people who, by permission under the Betting and Gaming Act, operate in a fairly small compass. Anybody who thinks that very much taxation will be obtained out of members generally of the Showmen's Guild had better think again. It is not a very fruitful source. They are not people of great wealth. There is not likely to be a big turnover there. Nor is it likely to be so in the case of the Amusement Caterers' Association and its members, although there may be some.
In any event, the matter can be looked into. The information can be obtained from those people and from their organisation with ease. These are the small men of business who have carried on an important part of our tourist industry for a long time. Certainly, they would give the information readily. I do 1201 not suppose that there would be difficulty in obtaining it.
The third category is that of what I call the casino club. Here again, one has to be careful, because in considering the matter the Government do not want to be bothered with bridge or whist clubs and that kind of thing. They are concerned about chemin de fer. The House of Commons is apt to be a little bit like the newspapers. We seek the publicity, we seek the sensational and they are seen to assume that the country is nothing but one gigantic Crockford's. There is only one Crockford's, not a hundred. There are very few gaming clubs which operate to any substantial profit. Perhaps in the country as a whole there are no more than twenty.
§ Mr. Rees-Davies
I object very strongly to the hon. Member's interruption. I object to being called anything. I ask the hon. Member to rise and withdraw that remark immediately. I challenge him straight away to say anything like that outside the House of Commons. If he does he will know exactly what has hit him.
I say categorically—and the hon. Member can prove me wrong if he likes—that there are not more than about two dozen clubs being run on a proprietary basis which are making a substantial profit. If the hon. Member likes to be able to disprove that, I will be perfectly willing to look into it, but the assumption that thousands of clubs are giving a large profit is entirely wrong. I very much dispute what the hon. Member suggests and he knows it.
§ Mr. J. T. Price
On a point of order. The hon. Member has challenged me to substantiate something which I have said or to withdraw it. Hon. Members know me sufficiently well to know that I respond if challenged. I have no wish to be unfair to the hon. Member or to anybody else, on either side, on any occasion. If the hon. Member feels that I have been unfair to him in saying that he was talking rubbish, he must take that rap because he is being most provocative in saying that not more than twenty of these large-scale gambling casinos exist in 1202 this country, when everybody knows they do.
§ Mr. Rees-Davies
Whether the hon. Gentleman likes to pay me a backhanded tribute elsewhere is neither here nor there. I repeat that the general impression that there is a very large number of people successfully operating in any aspect of gambling is inaccurate.
I have said that the third category is the casino club. Having obtained that information, which the Government will have the power to do, the House of Commons and the Chancellor of the Exchequer should then have all the information about gaming. Do they need it in any other field? Clearly, they do not need it for greyhound racing. They have it. They do not need it on horse racing, because they have it already either through the Betting Levy Board, or, if they have not got it through the Betting Levy Board, they have it through the number of betting office licences. Therefore, the Revenue already has a fair amount of information.
Only one other point really arises, and that is under subsection (2). The point is whether the expressionon private premises and on a domestic occasionmeans what it says—that is, that only personal gaming by private people in their own homes is excluded. I personally think that this is admirably drawn. I think that it means what it says, that this is for people engaging in their domestic life in private gaming. I do not think that it is necessary to amend it, although I say so with all deference to those who have to advise the Government on the legal aspects. It should be borne in mind that to engage in gaming and make a profit a club has to be set up under what was Section 16 of the Betting and Gaming Act, 1960, If that is done, the proprietors are then entitled to make a charge for the gaming and impose an annual subscription. Consequently, the 1203 fly-by-night parties—the people who ran illegal gaming at night—have gone because they have set up gaming clubs instead.
Therefore, under this one will be able to see not only how many gaming clubs there are and have a register of all of them but, what is much more to the point, one should be able to see whether those gaming clubs are operated at any substantial profit which in the out-turn would bring forth any worthwhile revenue. I am sorry that my hon. Friend the Member for Kidderminster (Sir G. Nabarro) is not here. The Committee will remember that on Second Reading and on other occasions my hon. Friend criticised my right hon. Friend the Chancellor for not having taken action on a turnover tax in betting. My answer to my hon. Friend is that it would have been wholly wrong to do so, because to have introduced a betting tax upon the betting community would have been very inequitable unless it had been done upon the gaming community as well.
It may be—I know not; I shall not express a view—that when the Chancellor considers the whole matter he will find that there is no worth-while revenue to be obtained from gaming. He may find that there is some revenue to be obtained from only one small section of betting activities. Then he may have to come to the House of Commons and say, "I still want to go on with some form of betting tax". The House might well give him leave to do that if he could explain that taken as a whole he was not being inequitable, if there was not a worth-while revenue to be obtained from a certain section.
After all, we are concerned with the fiscal aspect. My right hon. Friend was absolutely right to resist the blandishments of my hon. Friend the Member for Kidderminster to introduce a tax on any aspect of gambling without having all the facts before him. We owe my right hon. Friend and those who advised him a debt for not giving us ill-conceived legislation in connection with this great industry. The industry is of immense importance to tourism. Although, in due course, it may well be right to tax it, it is clearly right that those concerned with taxation should take some trouble to educate themselves in this rather complex and difficult subject.
§ 6.45 p.m,
§ Mr. E. C. Redhead (Walthamstow, West)
I do not wish at this stage to discuss the question whether it is expedient to introduce a tax on gaming, or, indeed, the ultimate form any such tax might take. That is a premature exercise, because I think that it has been universally agreed in the Committee, with all the shades of differences there have been, that there is a justifiable case for an inquiry and investigation.
I do not think that the Committee should part with the Clause believing that it fulfils its purpose, unless we can secure further assurances from the Economic Secretary about its implementation. Notwithstanding the Amendments which have been made, I am doubtful about the efficacy of the Clause to achieve the purpose which I understand the Chancellor has in mind. In this, I am principally concerned with what I conceive to be the administrative problem. It is all very well for the Committee to say, in a general way, that it is right and proper to have an inquiry of this character and charge a Government Department to undertake it. I think that we ought to consider whether the machinery that exists is adequate for the purpose for which the Clause is designed.
I appreciate the attractiveness of the proposition of a tax on gaming to any Chancellor of the Exchequer, particularly when he has been fortified by the expression of view of a Royal Commission. It is a very attractive possibility as a source of additional revenue, particularly as so much of the expenditure on betting can be regarded as anti-social or, if not anti-social, not achieving any discernible social purpose and it would certainly not involve any hardship if a tax were imposed.
Some forms of gambling are already taxed. Others are not. The whole subject is riddled with inequity. Nevertheless the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Economic Secretary will appreciate that it will be exceedingly difficult to administer taxation here. The Economic Secretary himself used the words that here we are thinking of dealing with some very curious enterprises. In the light of past experience—the very tentative experience we have had in betting duties—the statement that we are dealing with very curious enterprises is 1205 perhaps a modest one. I can understand the Chancellor's desire for information, and I applaud his approach of seeking this before precipitately rushing into legislation for taxing further things before he has reached a firm decision as to whether, in what manner and to what extent it would be expedient to apply a gaming tax.
It is obvious from what the Economic Secretary said that he has been warned by the Board of Customs and Excise of the very unhappy experience of the earlier betting duty, which broke down because it proved to be administratively unworkable. I do not think that anything is more disastrous for any Government Department than to be charged with some responsibility which, in practice, it is unable to carry out. For this reason, it is abundantly necessary that a mistake—because undoubtedly there was a mistake earlier—should not be repeated. It is not good for the morale and prestige of the Department that it should seem to break down, when it is not due to the fault of the Department itself but to the weakness and lack of perception of the Legislature which charges it with the responsibility.
While I offer no objection in principle to the Chancellor's objectives, that does not connote any firm commitment on our side about any proposal that might evolve from the inquiry. We would wish to see the form and extent of any firm proposal before finally committing ourselves to it.
I am, however, doubtful, about the effectiveness of this Clause, as amended, to obtain effective basic information for guidance. In the nature of things, it has to be appreciated that the interests involved here are bound to be resistant to the very idea of an eventual tax on their operations. Bearing that in mind, and that these are some very curious enterprises, we need not expect very willing co-operation in providing the information that we need to come ultimately to a sound decision.
The exemptions which the Economic Secretary, in his earlier Amendment, clearly foreshadowed, offer further grounds for possibilities of dispute and dubiety in trying to implement this inquiry. The very flexibility which the 1206 hon. Gentleman claims to have introduced into the Clause is itself calculated to enhance the difficulties of the officers of Customs and Excise who will be charged with this responsibility. The Clause requires that persons who provide facilities for gaming shall notify the Commissioners of that fact, and it is perfectly true that subsection (7) specifies penalties for failure to comply—and they are quite heavy penalties, which one of my hon. Friends thought might have been made even heavier.
It is all very well to put this in statutory form, but what sort of publicity is to be used to make known this new statutory obligation? I ask that because, when one is imposing a tax in a clearly-defined, well-established and wholly reputable realm—Purchase Tax, for example—the Department concerned knows where to direct its publicity in order to make traders aware of their obligations. Here the Department starts with no basic information at all. It has to rely upon those concerned learning through the ordinary means of Press publicity, and the like, that they have these responsibilities. I am not sure where the Department will direct its publicity in order to make known to those who will be subject to these provisions that they have these new statutory obligations.
It is clear that the Treasury has apprehensions about the possibility of a lack of co-operation in this regard, because subsection (5) gives power to an officer of the Department to enter premises where he has reason to suspect that gaming facilities are provided but have not been notified. That is a precautionary measure so that, where those who have this new obligation do not comply voluntarily with its requirements, there may follow an investigation of this kind. Again, I would ask: where is the Customs and Excise officer to obtain the information that would justify him making entry upon these premises?
The hon. Member for the Isle of Thanet (Mr. Rees-Davies) said that there are certain quarters—largely those which will come within the ambit of the exemptions in the Economic Secretary's Amendment—where the information is readily obtainable from reputable organisations, but those will be very largely now outside the scope of the inquiry. We are dealing with some intangible and, 1207 perhaps, less reputable organisations when we think in terms of the high-powered gaming to which the Economic Secretary has now confined the purpose of the Clause.
Furthermore, in all seriousness I ask: is the Chancellor satisfied that the complement of officers of Customs and Excise—already, let me remind him, very severely overloaded with their normal work—adequate to undertake this fact-finding operation? Further, are they sufficiently well equipped to undertake the kind of inquiries that will apparently be necessary in this connection? In general, they have here no basic experience upon which they can rely to obtain the necessary information.
It seems to me that the Department will have to rely not so much on the ordinary Customs and Excise officers, who already have their hands rather full, but to an increasing extent—if the information to be extracted is to be worth anything at all—upon the investigation branch of that Department to carry out much of the probe, involving, as I suspect it will, a good deal of the detective work for which that special investigation branch is renowned. Here, again, it is important to remember that the investigation branch is itself already understaffed, and inadequate to deal with other types of tax evasions and frauds.
It is not so long ago that the Public Accounts Committee severely criticised the Department for its failure to catch up with some rather large Purchase Tax evasions in jewellery and other commodities—
§ Mr. Rees-Davies
Would not the hon. Gentleman agree that the officers will have the assistance of the police and, if there is gaming, there must be premises? If the police tell the officers where the premises of the club are, is it not quite easy for them to be able to enforce this? It will be a matter of bricks and mortar—will not that make it much easier for them?
§ Mr. Redhead
Many of the enterprises with which we are concerned in this Clause will be as shy to reveal their activities to the police as to the Customs and Excise. Therefore, while I would welcome the co-operation of the police, and expect it, I am not certain that that co-operation will necessarily ferret out all the information requisite for the inquiry. 1208 I was making the point that the special investigation branch, the aid of which will have to be invoked, is already understaffed, and not able to cope adequately with the work of tax evasion already existing—especially over Purchase Tax. It is not appropriate to press that matter now, but I may have something more to say about it later.
If, as I apprehend, the information obtained by the implementation of the Clause should prove to be sparse and inadequate, we have to ask how any sound and effective decision on the imposition of a tax can be reached. If a decision is reached, and if proposals are brought before the House based on inadequate information, any duty imposed is likely to founder. It is likely to encounter administrative problems that can, in the end, only bring the law into disrepute.
I plead with the Economic Secretary and the Chancellor not to rush into this matter, however attractive it may be. If it should prove that this information is not satisfactory as a basis of sound decision, I beg the right hon. Gentleman not to rush into a decision which might, in the end, prove thoroughly disastrous from every point of view. There must be assurances of adequate machinery to undertake the inquiry, otherwise we shall either have half-baked and ineffective proposals or be confronted with what the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Sir G. Nabarro) feels to be an interminable delay.
Notwithstanding everything that has been said, I hope that the Economic Secretary can give assurances that the Department will be—if it is not at present, as I suspect it is not—adequately fortified, and that the officers who have to do the job will be provided with adequate opportunity to fulfil the purposes of the Clause.
§ 7.0 p.m.
§ Mr. W. A. Wilkins (Bristol, South)
As the debate has proceeded it has become more and more apparent that the limited scope of the Clause is to be regretted. It was my intention earlier simply to ask a question of your predecessor in the Chair, Sir Robert, and also a question of the Economic Secretary to the Treasury, but the observations of the hon. Member for the Isle of Thanet (Mr. Rees-Davies), who did his utmost to try 1209 to prevent my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South (Mr. Ellis Smith) from making what appeared to us quite valid points, seemed to indicate that my hon. Friend was probably in order, on the assumption that the interpretation of Clause 2(2) was correct.
§ Mr. Ellis Smith
I thank my hon. Friend. The subsequent proceedings have proved that I was in order.
§ Mr. Wilkins
The hon. Member for the Isle of Thanet said that there should be parity of principle over the whole field of gaming and gambling. He then went on to refer to the bookmaking industry. He said that many of us did not understand the importance of that industry in this connection. He was attaching this interpretation to subsection (2) and was referring to bookmakers.
I wanted to ask the Financial Secretary whether the Treasury had not received representations towards the end of last year from the Football Association asking it to consider certain aspects of the betting industry in relation to football. We all know full well that thousands of private bookmakers and certainly the pool betting organisations make millions of pounds out of football. I would class football as a pretty big industry and it seems to me quite reasonable that the Football League and the Football Association should ask the Treasury to inquire into the money that is made out of football.
I interpret the Clause as meaning that the Treasury is anxious to know the sources of gaming and gambling which should provide revenue for the Exchequer. If the Treasury asks for this, is it not fair to ask the Treasury to look at football and inquire whether there are not people who are taking a mighty big rake-off from that industry who ought to be making a far bigger contribution to the Exchequer?
This is the simple point which I believe my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South wanted to make. I submit that it was a fair point. I do not question the Ruling by the Chair. I think that the scope of the Clause has been revealed only as a result of a speech by the hon. Member for the Isle of Thanet, who was so critical of my hon. Friend. Therefore, if it is not possible for us to develop a case along these 1210 lines on behalf of the Football League and the Football Association, would you advise us, Sir Robert, whether we would be in order to put down a Clause which would embody this requirement?
There seems to be some doubt whether a new Clause is practicable, although the hon. Member for the Isle of Thanet, in trying to close down my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South, suggested that it was possible and said that he would help my hon. Friend to draft it. We should like to know whether there is any other means whereby we can raise this case in Committee, assuming that it is not embraced within Clause 2(2).
I think that if the hon. Member put down a new Clause it would be the best way to deal with the matter, though, of course, I am not saying that necessarily the Chair would select it, or that it would be in order.
§ Mr. M. Foot
After having listened to the whole debate I should like to add a few words. Some very curious contradictory reasons for supporting the Clause were given by hon. Members. The hon. Member for the Isle of Thanet (Mr. Rees-Davies) is supporting it, because he thinks that the Chancellor is not being bulldozed into hasty action in imposing a betting and gaming tax, whereas the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Sir G. Nabarro) and the hon. Member for Southend, East (Sir S. McAdden) supported it because they think that it is a hasty process for introducing a system of betting tax. My hon. Friend the Member for Walthamstow, West (Mr. Redhead) supports it because he does not think that it works, and my hon. Friend the Member for Gloucester (Mr. Diamond) supports it because he does not understand it. These seem to be an extraordinary conglomeration of reasons for supporting the Clause.
It all goes to prove how the Government have gone about the proposition in the most confused manner. I believe that this is why my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South (Mr. Ellis Smith) was put in difficulties. He, like the rest of us, thought that what the Government were proposing was to have an examination made so that they could discover the facts, in order that the 1211 Government might eventually decide on whether or not there should be a general betting tax. It has been said that we have information on some aspects of betting and gambling and, therefore, we do not need it in this connection. But there are other aspects of betting and gambling which have been left out of account. These, as my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South illustrated, include forms of gambling which are associated with far the most popular sport in the country.
I would have thought that the Government would have taken that into account. Instead of that, the matter is dealt with not only by a Clause which is supported for all these contradictory reasons, but by a Clause which has had to be amended at the last moment by means of starred Amendments introduced by the Government. The Economic Secretary said that he was sorry that he had to introduce the starred Amendments. Nobody could have apologised more gracefully than the hon. Gentleman. He has received showers of congratulations on all sides. Indeed, his most brilliant Parliamentary triumph so far is the error which he has made in introducing an Amendment in the wrong style. He has been more flatteringly received on this occasion than on any previous occasion that I can recall and, therefore, I would advise him to do it again; but he has not explained to us why it happened.
The hon. Gentleman has not told us how this unholy mess occurred. He is very gallant. He says, "It is all my fault. No civil servant assisted me in this unholy botch I made of it. There I was slaving away in the Treasury and all by myself I managed to achieve such a result that we could only discuss the major part of the Clause when I had introduced these starred Amendments at the last moment." Nobody, of course, believes the hon. Gentleman, even when he says it so charmingly. If he had really explained what had happened he would have further vindicated my hon. Friends who say that the Clause is probably unworkable.
The Government woke up to the fact that it was unworkable and, therefore, they put down Amendments in the belief that they would make it workable in this way and solve the problem in this style, 1212 but, as far as I can see, they have not solved it. This is a quite novel procedure for investigation in Finance Bill procedure. As the hon. Member for the Isle of Thanet has said, a Finance Bill should be concerned with taxes to be imposed, money to be raised, and general financial arrangements. This kind of inquiry should have been carried out separately. If it had been done separately the Economic Secretary would have escaped the advantageous embarrassment he had about his starred Amendments, and my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South would have been able to introduce into that same inquiry the absolutely cognate matter which he has introduced in the debate, and as a result we would not have had this separation.
Now, on the high authority of the Chair, we are told that it may be possible for my hon. Friend to put down a new Clause to deal with the very important matter which he has raised. I accept the authority of the Chair, but I do not know quite how such a new Clause would work. Would it set up a further and different form of inquiry to examine football finances? It ought to be done quite separately.
What the Government should have done, if they wanted more information, was to have another inquiry. They have had so many that perhaps they thought that they would get away with it by pretending that they were doing something else. But all they were doing was setting up a kind of Royal Commission by the back door. They do not like saying that they will have another inquiry, so they dress it up like a provision in the Finance Bill, but the more one looks at it the less does it look like a provision in the Finance Bill. I see that the Economic Secretary again very graciously nods. He agrees with everything I say. If he goes on like this, he will never get his Bill.
§ Mr. du Cann
I was nodding not so much in agreement with everything said by the hon. Gentleman as to indicate that I both followed his argument and was interested in it.
§ Mr. Foot
We shall have to be very discriminating about the hon. Gentleman's nods in future. We shall have to interpret them as we have to interpret his speeches.
1213 It is perfectly valid to point out that the Government should have dealt with the matter in an entirely different way. I hate to say it, but there was a good deal in what the hon. Member for the Isle of Thanet said. I do not believe that the Government will be able to raise huge sums of money by taxing gambling. There is not a tremendous amount to be got from it. It is a very attractive proposition, of course, to impose taxes which do not hurt, which deviate from the old principle that to tax and to please is not given to men or to Governments. I do not think that it will work. In any case, the Government have wasted a good deal of their time and of the time of the Committee by introducing their proposal in this way.
In the operation of the Clause, even assuming that there are enough people available to operate it, there will be endless disputes about what is in and what is out. As I listened to the earlier debates, I was reminded of the famous occasion when Mr. W. C. Fields, in a town in the wild West, was sitting down with three or four companions whom he had just picked up to play a game of cards. They said to him, "Is this a game of chance?", to which he replied, "Not the way I play it". I suggest that the Government will have much the same great difficulties in operating this ridiculous Clause.
§ Mr. A. E. Hunter (Feltham)
I intervene briefly because, in company with my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South (Mr. Ellis Smith), I put my name to the Amendment in page 3, line 32, at the end to add a new subsection (11) dealing with Association Football. The Amendment was ruled out of order because it could not come within the terms of the Clause. I support what my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South has said. Everyone knows his great interest in Association Football his great love of the game, and the fact that, among football supporters, like my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, South (Mr. Wilkins), he is one of our national figures in this national sport.
The Economic Secretary, the Financial Secretary and the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who have been here during the debate, know our feelings about 1214 football being left out of the inquiry. My hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, South said that the Football League had asked for an inquiry. I hope very much that the Economic Secretary will press upon the Chancellor the need for the Football League to be included within the terms of the inquiry.
§ Mr. Tam Dalyell (West Lothian)
My hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. M. Foot) emphasised that what we want is information, particularly information about the relationship between the money which is got from football pools and the plight of many third and fourth division football clubs today. I mention just a few names from North of the Border—East Stirling, Queen of the South, Raith Rovers, Stirling Albion, Third Lanark. All these clubs are in financial difficulty.
Is it not a matter of justice that, some-how, through redistributive taxation, they should be helped if there is to be an inquiry into the whole system of gaming? They provide the very foundation without which there could not be any football pools at all.
§ 7.15 p.m.
§ Mr. du Cann
Before I come to the subject matter of the Clause as a whole and attempt to answer the points which have been made, I shall deal with one specific question which was asked. The hon. Member for Bristol, South (Mr. Wilkins) asked—I am sorry that I was not in the Chamber for about five minutes at the time when he did so—whether the Football League had asked the Treasury about money made out of betting on football. I understand that the answer is "No", but I shall say a little more on the subject of football in a few minutes.
§ Mr. Wilkins
My advice is that a draft document was submitted to the Treasury, on the advice, so I believe—I am not sure—of the Chancellor's predecessor.
§ Mr. Ellis Smith
I have a copy of the document sent to the Treasury, asking for an investigation of the kind we have requested. Moreover, the right hon. and learned Member for Wirral (Mr. Selwyn Lloyd) was good enough to receive a deputation of representatives of the League. He considered their representations and passed them on to the noble Lord in another place who is in charge 1215 of sport, and the matter is now being considered. My hon. Friend is quite right. These representations have been made.
§ Mr. du Cann
I have no wish to quarrel with hon. Members on this point. If I am in some way misled, that is a great pity. I shall certainly pay attention to what has been said and look at the matter again. Perhaps we are attempting to deal with two different matters. I was attempting to answer a local inquiry which the hon. Gentleman made. I am aware that a good deal of water has passed under the bridge, and I was aware of the deputation. I was referring to the specific question which I thought I was asked, but I shall say a little more about it later.
I shall now say something about the desirability of a tax in principle. It is plain that gambling in general, including both betting and gaming, has long been recognised as, in principle, a suitable subject for taxation. This was acknowledged by the hon. Member for Walthamstow, East in his speech. The hon. Gentleman referred to the Report of the Royal Commission which, in 1949–51, considered the law and practice relating to gambling. Its comments are worth noting:… we see no reason, … on social grounds, why the State should not secure revenue from expenditure on gambling. Indeed, we think it in principle reasonable that all commercial forms of gamblingI underline the word "commercial"—should make a contribution … It is not, however, within our province to express any opinion whether it is desirable on fiscal grounds.This points to the difficult question about which there has been so much comment already in the debate. That view suggested by the Royal Commission is, in fact, very widely held, and I think that it would be fair to say that it is acknowledged even by the industry itself. It has gained very much in strength due to the growth of, and the publicity given to, the industry as a whole and to betting in shops and gaming in clubs in particular. In passing, I think it fair to say that some of the publicity has been slightly exaggerated, but that there is public anxiety on this subject there is no doubt whatever. That there is a wish among 1216 members of the public that, if practicable, we should find a method of taxing gambling is, I think, incontrovertible.
§ Mr. Houghton
The hon. Gentleman will know that a good deal of public anxiety on this matter is on moral and social grounds, not by any means only on fiscal grounds.
§ Mr. du Cann
That is a perfectly proper comment, and I entirely agree. The Government recognise the strength of this feeling, which has a moral and social aspect as well as a fiscal.
I remind the Committee of what my right hon. Friend said in his Budget speech:There is a growing feeling, which I share, that gambling is a form of expenditure which should contribute towards the rising cost of social and other Government expenditure.I go out of my way to make that quotation in reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Kidderminster (Sir G. Nabarro) who said that perhaps there was some doubt about my right hon. Friends' sincerity in this matter [HON. MEMBERS: "Where is the hon. Gentleman?"] My hon. Friend was good enough to explain to me that he could not be here later this evening.
We most certainly recognise the difficulties. My right hon. Friend referred to them in his Budget speech when he said, again in c. 465:… there are great practical difficulties involved in establishing a form of taxation in the field of gambling which can be properly enforced."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 3rd April, 1963; Vol. 675, c. 465.]None the less, a preliminary review which had been continuing over a period of time indicated certain possibilities, although attended with serious risks. Under the authority of my right hon. Friend, a full scale examination was decided on. This was announced by a Whitten Answer in the OFFICIAL REPORT for 11th December, 1962, to my hon. Friend the Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Lagden).
Since we are dealing with information, it is appropriate that I should put the Committee in a position to know precisely what has happened. We have accepted the view of the Royal Commission. It was thought appropriate to have a review. It was announced in the House that a review would take place, and it has taken place. A series 1217 of talks were held with a number of national bodies, some of which have been referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for the Isle of Thanet (Mr. Rees-Davies). They were fully representative of the nationally organised betting interests.
This particularly hears on a point raised by the hon. Member for Walthamstow, East—I beg the hon. Gentleman's pardon; I should have referred to Walthamstow, Went. I ought to know. East is east and west is west, and that is very much the case in Walthamstow. I remember the hon. Gentleman so well from the old days.
The hon. Gentleman wondered whether the Customs authorities were in a position to get all the information on this matter that they should have. I think that certain doubts—very polite and, in a sense, flattering doubts—were cast on their abilities by my hon. Friend the Member for the Isle of Thanet because he said that Customs officials are probably the sort of people who would be unlikely to be familiar with the detail of this matter. But they have made inquiries, so far as they were able to do—and fairly exhaustive inquiries they were—in the Republic of Ireland, Germany, Italy and Austria. The point that I am trying to make is this. We decided on the review, and it has taken place. It has already been fairly exhaustive both in the United Kingdom and elsewhere. We have already collated a very great deal of information, particularly on betting, but we think that it is in respect of gaming that it is appropriate to take these further powers.
The hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South (Mr. Ellis Smith), supported by the hon. Members for Feltham (Mr. Hunter) and Bristol, South, made the point that our inquiries should be as wide as possible. I hope that we shall have a full discussion on the points which I know the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South has so much in mind and so much at heart. I hope that that answers the point made by the hon. Member for Bristol, South. But, whether we have that discussion or not, I assure hon. Members that we shall certainly pay very strict attention to what they had in mind. I realise that the remarks of the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South were necessarily shortened, but that will not 1218 prevent us from paying attention to his views. I appreciate that the point which he raised has the support of the hon. Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell).
We already had a great deal of information, but it became apparent as the review proceeded—and it was perhaps obvious from the beginning—that gaming as a medium for raising revenue was certainly a vastly different proposition from betting. It is far more complicated and more difficult to define and is a rapidly developing and inconstant field. The Committee was good enough to recognise that in our earlier discussions.
We were therefore faced with this situation. Before one even reaches the stage of being able to make a proper review of gaming as a medium for taxation, one must, I hope the Committee will think rightly, take the preliminary step of requiring it to reveal itself. I listened to speeches on the Budget by hon. Members who said, "Let us tax gaming". I have particularly in mind my hon. Friend the Member for Kidderminster. That is a very easy thing to say. but an essential pre-requisite of action is to establish beyond doubt with what and with whom we are dealing.
I am very grateful for what the hon. Member for Walthamstow, West said on this point, with all his experience—experience, I need hardly add, of a game-keeping kind. He said how appalling and dreadful it would be if the loyal, devoted and conscientious officers of the Department of Customs and Excise, a very ancient and honourable Department in which so many important historical figures have served, were given a responsibility which they were unable to fulfil. That is entirely true. That would be thoroughly unfair. The hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. M. Foot) and my hon. Friend the Member for the Isle of Thanet had this point in mind. We were asked, by inference largely, whether we were determined enough. Most assuredly we are. It is because we are determined to have a sensible, sound and fair scheme that we are so anxious to get the information which we must have on which to base a comprehensive system of taxation.
§ Mr. Manuel
When the Economic Secretary says that he wants a comprehensive system and that he will take 1219 advice from all sorts of bodies, may I ask whether gambling on the Stock Exchange will come into it?
§ Mr. du Cann
Speculation in securities of any kind, whether Stock Exchange securities, or commodities, or buying land, do not come into this review. This is an entirely separate subject. There are arguments for and against speculation in making a comprehensive and effective market. We had substantial discussion on this point when dealing with the speculative gains tax some time ago. I suggest that a discussion on those lines is not appropriate to the gaming which we are discussing this evening.
I agree with the hon. Member for Walthamstow, West that it is very important that there should be proper publicity in this matter. It is more than likely that serious operators in this field—I think of the names which immediately spring to mind—will be conscious of everything said in our debates and of every action which we have taken. I agree, however, that the need for publicity goes further than that. It would have been extraordinarily difficult if the Committee had not been good enough to allow us to take out of the inquiry some of the milder forms of gambling to get the information over to those people. We are all agreed on that. On the other hand, I am confident that the expertise of the Customs and Excise can be relied on to give publicity in the various ways open to them in this matter and to get it home to those in the fixed premises from which they operate. They have the experience and knowledge, particularly local knowledge, of 10,000 local offices on which to rely. That is a most important point.
The more one looks at the subject of gaming, the more the difficulties become apparent. I do not want to go into detail on the various types of gambling. Nor would it be appropriate at this stage to discuss precisely the criteria for taxation or to discuss the types of tax which we might have. The point on which we are endeavouring to reach agreement is that the object of the Clause is to provide the legal cover under which the Customs and Excise can compile the gaming register proposed by my right hon. Friend in his Budget speech.
1220 As far as I can see, the only limitation on the effectiveness of that might be if the Customs authorities are not sufficiently well equipped with staff. I assure the hon. Member for Walthamstow, West that we anticipate no difficulty on that score. Should there be difficulties, they will be attended to. I say again that we are determined in this matter and that we must have the information.
The compilation of this register, as I hope I may have indicated in what I have already said, is in effect only one feature of the continuing review of the whole field of gambling as the subject for taxation. What action may follow from the review it is not possible at this stage to say. What I am arguing is that it is essential to have the facts.
I understand that the hon. Member for Walthamstow, West made it plain that the Opposition will want to examine in detail any proposals that might or might not flow from this investigation. I quite understand that, and I think that virtually the hon. Member for Gloucester made the same point earlier.
In discussing the Amendments which the Committee have already been good enough to accept, I have attempted to describe some of the types of gaming which it is proposed to exclude from the immediate requirements of registration. I also described the types of gaming that we are anxious to include in the inquiry, and I assume that the Committee will not wish me to go over that ground again. I should say, however, that the revenue effect of the Clause is nil.
I hope the Committee will feel that the undertakings given by my hon. Friend the Financial Secretary during the debates on last year's Finance Bill when he said that we should certainly wish to consider a review of gambling is being honourably fulfilled. It is our intention to fulfil them. We are giving serious consideration to the possibility of a tax on gambling in general and we feel, and I hope that the Committee may feel, that it is essential for us to be better informed in this highly-complex field of gaming especially.
We have a great deal of information, and we want to add to it. I entirely agree with the hon. Member for Waltham-stow, West that it would be a tragedy 1221 if any taxation enterprise in this field went off, so to speak, at half cock and was unsuccessful. No one would gain and the country certainly would be extremely disappointed.
I want to refer to a point made by the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale. He adduced a most interesting argument to the effect that some people are supporting the Clause because they hope that it will show a tax of gambling to be impossible. Other people, he suggested, are supporting it because it is perhaps the first step towards the tax. Whichever of those two views is true, certainly I would think that both sections of opinion in so far as they exist—and I believe the latter to be infinitely more important and numerous than the former—have probably agreed that in order to reach their goal it must be right to have the facts. This Clause will give us the power to obtain the information that we need, and I confidently invite the Committee to approve it.
§ Mr. Wilkins
Before we leave this Clause, I ought to say that I appreciate the receptive and sympathetic way in which our suggestions or proposals have been received by the Economic Secretary and the Treasury Bench. May I ask him, when he has eventually tracked down this eight-page memorandum which we know has been submitted at some time or another, to consider either meeting us to consider whether we write into the Report stage of the Bill an Amendment, or consider amending the Clause on Report stage, so that it would embrace the inquiry into pools betting and associated matters?
§ Mr. du Cann
I think the position is that we probably already have all the information we require in relation to the matters which the hon. Gentleman has in mind. This Clause is concerned with further information on the subject of gaming. I must try again to clear up the misunderstanding that we have had. As I understand it, the hon. Gentleman asked the specific question, at a moment when I was not in the Chamber, whether or not we at the Treasury had been asked a particular question. So far as I could recall, the answer was "No" and I was so advised. I am aware of the memorandum. I know that it was submitted to the Treasury, and I shall certainly have 1222 a fresh look at this as soon as opportunity offers. I am very ready to undertake that.
I would not undertake to amend this Clause which is specifically designed to obtain information on gaming and for that purpose alone. If we require information on the points that the hon. Gentleman and his colleagues have in mind, we shall certainly get it in other ways. I shall see that that point is checked and given attention.
§ Mr. Diamond
I feel, as the Economic Secretary said, that we have had a very full, useful and valuable debate, and I think that everyone in the Committee feels that it was appropriate that a debate should take place on this Clause and that it should be wholly examined.
I must say that the hon. Gentleman has been as courteous as ever. My hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. M. Foot) was quite wrong in saying that the Economic Secretary exceeded himself in courtesy. The Economic Secretary is always courteous when he is making a botch of things. He is always perfectly courteous, and it is wrong to single out this one occasion.
The hon. Gentleman has given us a great deal of very valuable information. I am glad that he made particularly clear this point, in view of everything that has been said, that, although this Clause enables the Government to get information about gaming, what is in the Government's mind is precisely what the Financial Secretary said was in the Government's mind on Second Reading:The purpose is to help with the review that is being made of the possibility of introducing this over a wide field of betting and gaming."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 6th May, 1963; Vol. 677, c, 38.]As the Economic Secretary has made absolutely clear, betting information is available or means of obtaining it are there. What is not available is information and means of obtaining it concerning gaming, and that is the purpose of this Clause. It is right that my hon. Friend's anxiety should be removed immediately, that it is not within contemplation by the Government that gaming and betting are both subjects for consideration so far as taxation is concerned.
The Economic Secretary looks rather surprised. I thought that I was underlining what he had said, namely, that 1223 on both these fields information is being gathered, on betting it is being gathered without the assistance of this Clause, and on gaming the assistance of this Clause is necessary for it to be adequately covered and when the whole of that information is available everyone will look at it, the whole of it and not only the part that relates to gaming.
This has been a most interesting debate and to hon. Members on this side of the Committee the interest has been not only to take part in it, but to listen to the answers given by the Economic Secretary. I hope that he was not at all put off by the fact that throughout his speech he had the support of two back benchers, one of them his P.P.S. and the other an hon. Gentleman who was fast asleep.
We thought this an important matter and that the Government ought to be assisted by our deliberations and the contribution which we had to make to the debate. We have done this and we think that the Government ought now to have the Clause.
§ Question put and agreed to.
§ Clause, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.