§ PROVISION FOR A NATIONAL LOTTERY
§ 7.1 p.m.
§ Mr. John M. Temple (City of Chester)
I beg to move Amendment No. 11, in page 46, line 11, leave out Clause 50.
Perhaps I have never felt a greater sense of responsibility in this House than I feel this evening, when I move to leave out what The Times, in its leader of 29th June, described as that "curious Clause" under which the Chancellor of the Exchequer seeks powers to divert to the Consolidated Fund any sums made available to him through a national lottery.
The Government have a knack of doing things at the wrong time and in the the wrong way and, in this case, the wrong thing as well. I say "the wrong time" because this Finance Bill has been only partially discussed. It seems amazing that we are spending valuable time when we should be discussing details of how revenue is raised and distributed on a discussion of this nature. I say "in the 1157 wrong way" because I have always understood in Parliament that the right place and the right time to debate principles is on the Second Reading of a Bill.
Therefore, this debate is to take a decision largely in a vacuum. Any undertakings which may be given tonight by the Treasury Bench cannot in any way tie future Chancellors of the Exchequer. Therefore, our discussions will be relatively valueless, although I know that there is a great deal of interest in the discussion on the Clause concerning a national lottery.
Tognight, I shall not speak on behalf of any sectional interest. I am a frequent speaker on behalf of local authorities, I have in the past spoken for the Churches and I have also spoken on betting matters. Tonight, however, anything which I say will be entirely my own responsibility and I shall have no regard whatever to any sectional interests.
Although I should like to be extravagant in my language, I shall endeavour to curb my extravagance and put my arguments in moderate terms. I am glad to see that the Chancellor of the Exchequer is present. The very thought of a State lottery nauseates me, having seen the tatty advertisements for State lotteries in other countries. The last thing that I would wish to do would be to encourage a vast increase in betting. When we discussed the principal legislation on betting and gaming some years ago, so that I could satisfy myself that it was necessary in the interests of the police that betting should be controlled, I went over to the Republic of Ireland and I saw betting shops for myself. With reluctance I voted for them, because it was a method of introducing control. As a result of the introduction of betting shops, however, there has been a vast increase in betting in this country in recent years.
Loose thinking might lead hon. Members, on both sides, to think that a national lottery would be on the lines of assistance to their own particular charities. I believe that a great many hon. Members may vote for the Clause simply because they think that it will help their own pet research project, hospitals, or, possibly, even the sport in which they are interested. Make no mistake about it, however. The object 1158 of the Clause is perfectly clear. Any revenues which come in will go into the Consolidated Fund. Some revenues may go in various directions subsequently as directed under a Bill which is to be brought in later.
I suggest that this national lottery will be extraordinarily bad business for the Treasury. It is very largely on economic grounds, to say nothing of the moral objections, that I will ask for the rejection of the Clause. It is rather nonsense to bring in Finance Bill experts on both sides this evening when there is so much more intricate legislation to be discussed.
I would like to deploy the general case as I see it against a national lottery. I shall be brief, because I know of the tremendous interest in the subject on both sides. On Second Reading of the Finance Bill, the Chancellor of the Exchequer said that the Clause wouldenable hon. Members to decide the case in principle for or against a national lottery." —[OFFICIAL REPORT, 24th April, 1968; Vol. 763, c. 265.]I have already said that the right place to decide the principle is in a Bill where one can see exactly where the proceeds of the lottery will go. The principle which has been accepted previously by the House in any connection with a national lottery is that any funds accruing as a result of profits on the lottery should go to specific and specified causes. That is a quite different situation from that which faces the House today.
The Chancellor was wise enough to give us his thinking on the subject during his Budget statement on 19th March, when he said that his idea was that part of the profit should go into general revenue and part to desirable objects. I can, however, say from experience, having studied local government finance fairly deeply, that the history of assigned or hypothecated revenues is a very bad one. They have always been taken over by the Government. Assigned revenues were got rid of as long ago as 1907. All hon. Members know what happened to the Road Fund. It was first raided, then it disintegrated, again into the hands of the then Chancellor of the Exchequer.
Therefore, I have absolutely no confidence that whatever undertakings are given by the Treasury Bench, as the years roll on that these revenues will 1159 not be grasped by successive Chancellors of the Exchequer. This is, indeed, a very bad moment in time for the House of Commons to be discussing a national lottery. When our country is regarded as the banking centre of the world, even the mere consideration of raising revenue through a national lottery appals me when I think of the £ at its present record low level.
To turn to the situation overseas as I see it, many hon. Members will have travelled, as I have done, in foreign countries and seen the very tatty posters in post offices, on kiosks and attached to all kinds of other what I might call public places. Just fancy the "Plushy prize of the Prime Minister" being advertised. It is usually the "special prize" of the President of a certain republic. But, thank heavens, our present Prime Minister is not yet president of this country. Just imagine the situation of the "Prize of the Prime Minister". I regard it as rather degrading, whoever is Prime Minister at any particular time.
That is applicable especially to the present Prime Minister, who described the proposal of one of my right hon. Friends with regard to Premium Bonds, which was a very modest one, as a "squalid raffle". Presumably, the Prime Minister is behind these proposals. They are Finance Bill proposals in the name of the Chancellor of the Exchequer and, presumably, are backed by the Prime Minister. However, those were the views of the right hon. Gentleman comparatively recently.
I want to make it clear that I am not narrow-minded on these matters. The House will know that, I am sure. I am got against small lotteries for specific causes, nor am I against a local authority lottery if the local authority concerned can promote a Private Bill and get it through Parliament, which is no mean task. In the same way, I hope that other opponents of the scheme will not be narrow-minded in their approach.
I want now to deploy the general economic case against a national lottery, as I see it. It is a very powerful one. Does the Chancellor of the Exchequer claim that a national lottery will attract money from other forms of gambling, or 1160 does he claim that it will attract fresh money? If he claims that it will attract money from other forms of gambling, he will have to satisfy the House that the Revenue will do better out of a national lottery than it does out of the taxing of gambling at present. I think that it is unwise for the right hon. Gentleman to seek to go into the gambling business. He does very well out of the duties on betting and gaming. Would he seek to go into the beer business, because he is getting good revenue from wines and spirits? I hope not.
If I may give the House one or two rough figures, the betting and gaming duties are estimated in the current year to be likely to bring in about £100 million, so I was informed by the Chancellor of the Exchequer the other day in answer to a Parliamentary Question. Of that sum, £58 million is attributed to the general betting duty and the duties on gaming and gaming machines, and £42 million will come from the pool betting duty.
On the other hand, if the Chancellor claims that there will be a vast increase in gambling in the country as a result of the promotion of a national lottery, I am dead against any increase being directly promoted by the Government.
I would, however, claim a certain amount of knowledge of gambling types, and I can give the House a categorical assurance that those who bet on horse and dog racing and on gaming machines will not be interested in taking tickets in a national lottery. The people who will take part in a national lottery are likely to be those who at present spend quite small sums week by week on football pools. At present, the football pools are a magnificent investment for the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The revenue costs him almost nothing to collect. He is getting a duty of 33⅓ per cent., and he does not have to promote any organisation of his own. In addition, the Postmaster-General receives a considerable revenue. It is estimated that the Post Office gets £16 million per annum in respect of postage in connection with pools, and it gets £7 million in the form of poundage. If a national lottery attracted half the money which at present goes to the pools, the Post Office would lose £12 million per annum, and the 1161 Chancellor of the Exchequer would lose approximately £20 million per annum in betting duty.
Taking averages of the possibilities of prize money, expenses and revenue deriving from a national lottery, the Chancellor might get £20 million on the basis of what would be transferred from the football pools. However, I reckon that the expenses of running a national lottery would be of the order of 20 per cent., prizes would take 50 per cent., leaving about 30 per cent. to go into the Consolidated Fund. If there is not to be any additional profit—indeed, there may be a loss—why does the right hon. Gentleman seek to promote a national lottery, with a whole new organisation, when this country is surfeited with organisations of various sorts?
I am glad to see the Financial Secretary in his place. Normally, he is very frank in his statements from the Treasury Bench, and we appreciate his frankness. On 2nd February last, he gave his thinking on the matter and indicated some of the countries who now run national lotteries. He said:They include Belgium, Ceylon, Costa Rica, Ethiopia, Spain, Gibraltar, Greece, Israel, Portugal, Turkey, Japan, Norway, Rhodesia. Austria, West Germany and Cyprus.My comment would be that those are hardly in the first division in the world.
As regards the expense ratio, again the Financial Secretary was frank. He said that it ranged from 3 per cent. to 40 per cent. [have taken my figure from France's experience, where a national lottery has been run for many years. The expense ratio there is 18 per cent., and that is why I base ours on something of the order of 20 per cent.
Turning to how much money might be raised, again I quote the Financial Secretary, who gave an indication of the scale of the revenue which might be collected. I can assure hon. Members that it is no Pandora's box. He said:… in Belgium it produces £3 million a year, Sweden, £11 million, Spain £29 million, the Irish Republic £3½ million, Norway £23 million, Australia £8½ million, France £15 million a year.He went on:Thus, anyone who supposes that a significant contribution to the economic problems of the country will result from a lottery would, 1162 of course, be considerably overstating the case."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 2nd February, 1968; Vol. 757, c. 1767.]Any hon. Member certainly would be. The amount of money will be very small, and about as much as the Tobacco Duty brings in in a week. In fact, I believe that the Italian lottery has lost about £60 million during the last few years.
That is the rough economic case which I deploy against the proposal, taking into account the experiences of other countries. In addition, there are anxieties among certain communities in this country. My right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition has received a letter from Chev. George V. Lepre, who is leader of the Lancashire Maltese Community. Like other national communities in the country, its members are very interested in supporting their own national lotteries and they hope that the Chancellor will be able to give a firm undertaking that, if his proposals are carried, there will be no discrimination against other national lotteries, sales of whose tickets are made here.
Mr. Speaker, bearing in mind your plea for brevity, I would sum up by saying that, without a very substantial increase in gambling, I can see no extra revenue going to the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Judging by the exchanges which we have had, I think that the Chancellor will be loath to lose any of the present revenue. In other words, everything points to the possibility of a great increase in gambling being encouraged by the Government, which will put an additional strain on their incomes policy.
I am a justice of the peace and, though I have not sat recently, I have seen in court on frequent occasions that gambling is one cause of the heads of families getting into trouble. There has recently been a vast increase in gambling, and I would be horrified if I thought that the State intended to go into the business and encouraged the heads of families to gamble even more than they do at the moment, thereby bringing ruin and despair to their families.
Speaking from personal experience, it is clear that sophisticated gamblers will have nothing to do with a national lottery when 50 per cent. of the ticket money is taken in expenses and revenue taxes. They would regard it as an extraordinarily 1163 bad bet. Where will the money come from?
§ Mr. Joseph Hiley (Pudsey)
My views on gambling are probably the same as those of my hon. Friend. But does he not think that it might be a good idea to nationalise gambling, because if it went the same way as the other nationalised industries it would mean that there would be a diminution in the amount of gambling?
§ Mr. Temple
That is a point of view. I am not in favour of the State going into the gambling business.
All this additional gambling on a national lottery will come from the least-well-off members of our society. Already, those people have their incomes very much under pressure, and I should feel very sad if the House tended to give any encouragement to such gamblers to invest more in gambling than they are investing at present.
I am not against small lotteries, nor am I against lotteries where the good cause concerned can be clearly identified, whether it be a charity or a sporting event. But let us not advertise that our country has sunk so low that our Treasury has to go into the gambling business.
§ Mr. James Tinn (Cleveland)
I will try to follow that injunction, Mr. Speaker, but since we are following through the arguments which we put forward to a rather smaller House when I introduced my Bill on 2nd February, I feel it necessary, to some extent at least, to follow the same point of view and perhaps to try to take up one or two of what, with all respect to him, I thought were the more glaring inconsistencies in the speech of the hon. Member for the City of Chester (Mr. Temple).
I want to make it clear that I have never challenged hon. Members who oppose the idea of a national lottery on moral grounds. I respect their convictions and I believe that it would be inappropriate in the course of a short debate to try to influence them against those convictions. I do not disregard them. But those who hold those convictions need to ask themselves two questions: 1164 First, if they oppose a national lottery ought they not to advocate the abolition of all forms of gambling? If not, it seems to me wholly unreasonable for them to oppose a particular extension of gambling which would at least have the merit of serving a useful public purpose. Some hon. Members have indicated how small the extension would be.
Secondly, I want to deal with the point of view often repeated by the hon. Member for Worcestershire, South (Sir G. Nabarro), who opposes not gambling as such but State participation in lotteries on principle. I pay tribute to his consistency, for he opposed Premium Bonds on the same ground and, therefore, he is entitled to take that point of view. But I ask other hon. Members who did not oppose Premium Bonds, and who, in fact, participate in that scheme, whether in all logic they can oppose this extension of a principle which Parliament appears already to have accepted.
Nor do I challenge those who, like the hon. Member for Wycombe (Mr. John Hall) and my hon. Friend the Member for York (Mr. Alexander W. Lyon), are concerned at the prospect of possibly helping to encourage an easy-come-easy-go materialism. I respect that point of view, too. But I put it to them that unless they are advocating a total abolition of the enormous gambling industry in this country, have they a right to oppose, and can they justify to themselves opposing, this extension of it which I believe would bring much more public good than any marginal increase in the betting tax.
No doubt all hon. Members over recent weeks have received a considerable flow of correspondence on this subject. But I remind them that the lobby against the idea of a national lottery is very efficiently and effectively organised and that there is no corresponding lobby organised to propagate the idea. I put that point in the hope that hon. Members will bear it in mind when weighing the correspondence which they have received, because opinion polls of the last 20 years, including some very recent polls, have shown a great majority of public opinion, from 75 per cent. to 85 per cent., in favour of the idea of a national lottery.
We also need to look very seriously at the concern of those who fear that such a lottery would increase the total amount 1165 of gambling. I want to give a frank answer to that question. I believe that it would increase it. A certain number of people who ordinarily do not go to the betting shops, or to the gaming houses, would, if the scheme were properly promoted, be induced to buy one or two tickets a week. But to suppose that such a marginal increase would create a new and growing social evil is to lose a sense of perspective and grossly to exaggerate. Much the greater part of the business accruing to a national lottery would come from existing forms of gambling, perhaps particularly from football pools. It has been suggested that sophisticated gamblers would not be interested in a national lottery, but at least those who support football pools would be able to judge for themselves which was the better bet.
May I put a point to the Chancellor of the Exchequer or the Financial Secretary. If such a lottery were to be developed, I hope, and I think that most hon. Members share my hope, that the administration and the central office would be sited in a development area to help to remedy any marginally adverse effect which there might be on employment because of the successful competition which I envisage with the football pools.
I draw hon. Members' attention to the proposals in the minds of 50 or so local authorities, led by the Greater London Council and by Edinburgh, to promote local authority lotteries. It might well be that a properly organised national lottery would be a safeguard against a proliferation of local lotteries which might have certain harmful aspects because of the competition which there would be in sales methods if various great cities were endeavouring to promote their own lotteries, none of them perhaps doing very well but all of them possibly driven to indulge in sales promotion methods which we should not welcome.
May I. turn to other arguments of principle against a national lottery, the first rather powerful. It is that in any mature society the purposes which I have in mind for a national lottery to benefit, such as; medical research, should be served entirely from the national Exchequer as a matter of deliberate choice and not as a matter of chance.
1166 7.30 p.m.
We would all take that view if we had an ideal State. However, society is not organised in that way and until it reaches that stage of maturity—it is hypocritical to pretend that it has; neither the taxpayer nor the Health Service contributor is yet prepared to fork out sufficient money to ensure that all these public services are provided—this argument cannot hold water. As long as there are genuine public needs being unfulfilled by the national Exchequer, we are not entitled to stand pat on this argument. Perhaps one day a mature society will determine its priorities and make a national lottery unnecessary.
In any event, in the sort of national lottery I envisage, the allocations of profits accruing to the Exchequer would be subject to the same rational criteria as one presumes are applied to the general fund of taxation. Is this quite so rational when we are stocking up nuclear bombs at a rate far faster than we will ever use them? I must not be led astry, but I had to put that question.
It is argued that a national lottery would present an uncertain revenue. Although that is true, is it truer than any other sort of tax? The Treasury's estimated yield from betting tax has generally exceeded expectation and nobody can dispute the fact that there would be a net increase in the funds available for public purposes as a result of a national lottery.
One of the oddest arguments against a national lottery is that it would amount to a system of voluntary taxation. I admit that it would, but is there anything wrong with that? When we go to the dentist we do not insist on having our teeth extracted without anaesthetic. If we can have some extra money taken from our pockets a little more painlessly, is there anything wrong with that? It might be argued that doing it the hard way—paying taxes in the conventional sense—builds character. That may be so. But it plays the devil with one's temper.
It is said that the appeal of a national lottery is directed more towards those with lower incomes, so that their contribution would not merely be a voluntary form of taxation but would be regressive. There is something in that argument, but 1167 I ask hon. Members who adduce it, including the hon. Member for the City of Chester, to consider the other side of the coin, which is the sort of people who, I think, they have in mind and the fact that they are already, for social and psychological reasons into which we need not delve, betting to the limit, either by way of football pools or local betting shops.
I believe that they will simply transfer their bets to the national lottery, which will probably give them better odds as well as the knowledge that when they lose their money it is going to a more useful purpose than into a private individual's pocket, with a small proportion going to the Treasury.
I was surprised to learn that the Chairman of the National Savings Movement had come out forthrightly, at the movement's recent conference, against the idea of a national lottery. Since the whole movement, which is an important part of the economy and which serves us so well, depends to a considerable extent on the principle of gambling, it seemed that he was not being altogether disinterested in taking that view.
I remind the hon. Member for Worcestershire, South that taxation on gambling brought in £70 million last year and that the State would be doing a Pontius Pilate act if it disclaimed all responsibility for gambling at a time when its coffers are being extended by that amount.
It is sometimes argued that a national lottery is a costly way of raising funds, and those who adduce this argument quote foreign lotteries. Unless one is extremely selective in one's choice, the facts do not bear them out. The most expensive is the Maltese lottery, which costs 29 per cent. to collect. Many hon. Members have expressed concern about that country's lottery and have urged that we should do nothing which might harm its development. Only one inconsistency in their argument is their desire to do nothing here that might harm the lottery in Malta.
We must, at the same time, consider the least expensive lotteries, such as the one in Norway, which costs 1.5 per cent. to collect, and the one in Sweden, the total cost of which, including commission, is 2 per cent. Lest I be accused of 1168 selecting my examples, I remind hon. Members that only two of the 19 lotteries quoted in the excellent Report of the Churches Council on Gambling cost more than 20 per cent. to collect.
Several hon. Members have questioned why we need to go to the trouble of organising a lottery when we could simply increase the betting tax. On the face of it, this is an attractive argument, but presumably the Chancellor already imposes by way of betting taxes as much as he thinks the market can bear. I suggest, therefore, that he can be relied on to increase it if he feels that the yield could be increased without the deterrent effect of the tax going too far.
As I say, this is a tempting argument, but we must bear in mind that it is the ordinary small punter who, in the long run, must pay when the betting tax is increased, because not always does the bookie suffer. A national lottery would not preclude my right hon. Friend from raising the betting tax. Indeed, the two are not necessarily exclusive and I therefore see no reason why we should turn down an additional source of revenue.
I hope that the Financial Secretary will give clear intentions about the proportion of the funds raised through a national lottery to be devoted to the general fund. I say that because many hon. Members who would support my proposal are not prepared to support Clause 50 because they believe that all the net profits will go to the Consolidated Fund. This fear deters many people from supporting this concept and I hope that my hon. Friend will repeat the assurances which he has given to me.
On the contrary, other hon. Members will argue—
§ The Financial Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Harold Lever)
Let me clear up this point straight away. The Clause is drafted with this reference to the Consolidated Fund exclusively to bring the Clause within the ambit of the Finance Bill. It has no relation whatever to the ultimate destination of the lottery funds themselves.
§ Mr. Tinn
I welcome that assurance. I only wish that all hon. Members were present to hear it, because I think that the confusion may have led some hon. Members to stay away who would otherwise have supported the idea.
The argument that the money should go to the general fund of taxation has an appeal as a matter of logic—I concede that. The proposition is that the moneys should then be distributed amongst the public needs as assessed by the Treasury and the Government. There are two powerful arguments against that view. First, the public resistance to high taxation and the higher contributions for the National Health Service will always mean, I think, that there will be around the existing area of State responsibility a penumbra—an area—of unfulfilled things; of things that ought to be done, but cannot be done because the community is not prepared to pay for them. A national lottery would enable inroads to be made there, and medical research would be prominent in this respect.
Secondly, a national lottery is a form of voluntary taxation depending on public appeal, and one would be rather out of touch with the public if one fancied that there was a great drawing power in the idea of pouring money into the Exchequer. That idea does not have the appeal that my hon. Friend may imagine it has.
Assuming, as I hope, that the principle is accepted, I should like the Financial Secretary and the Chancellor of the Exchequer to keep a genuinely open mind on one point on which they indicated that they disagreed when the provisions of my Bill were being discussed. That point is control of a national lottery, if it were set up. They preferred—demanded, rather; insisted upon—much tighter Treasury control, and dismissed the idea of an independent board.
I find it difficult to understand how the Treasury could organise and operate on a large scale a commercial venture like this, and distinguish on the disbursements side between the conflicting claims of research, and so on, as at present set up. I ask them to consider this point again. After all, the question of Parlia- 1170 mentary accountability and Treasury control will be taken care of in the Bill that will be produced if this Clause is agreed to this evening.
I appeal to the Chancellor of the Exchequer and to the Financial Secretary with all the earnestness I can muster to keep not only an open mind, but a very sympathetic attitude to the particular purpose I envisage as No. 1 priority for the profits, or a very large proportion of them, of such a lottery—medical research. A tremendous amount is waiting to be done. Facilities at some of the great London hospitals are totally inadequate. This is a heavy responsibility on us all. A national lottery would go at least some way towards helping us to meet that responsibility.
§ Mr. Speaker
Again I would remind the House that many hon. Members wish to be called. If speeches are not reasonably brief, many hon. Members will be disappointed.
§ 7.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Graham Page (Crosby)
When I first looked at the Bill I thought that the House was in some dilemma in having to decide whether to vote for a national lottery or no lottery at all. Many hon. and right hon. Gentlemen believe that a sweepstake run by a responsible and experienced concern and devoting a percentage of the proceeds to medical research could and would bring a very great benefit to the country. But, as my hon. Friend the Member for City of Chester (Mr. Temple) said, they can see no advantage in a lottery which may be run by civil servants and the proceeds of which may be swallowed up in general revenue.
I therefore looked again at the Clause, and I found that the first two lines read:If, with a view to raising money to be paid into the Consolidated Fund, arrangements are made …There is nothing in the Clause to say that the gross proceeds are to be paid into the Consolidated Fund, and if any Government like to administer it so that a part of the proceeds are paid into the Consolidated Fund that is entirely in accordance with the Clause.
Again, there is nothing in the Clause to prevent the sale of the right to run a 1171 national sweepstake and to pay the purchase money from that sale into the Consolidated Fund. That would be exactly in the contemplation of the Clause, because it would be an arrangement… with a view to raising money to be paid into the Consolidated Fund …Having used the word "sweepstake", may I make a distinction between a lottery and a sweepstake. A lottery, as I understand it, has direct connection between the drawing of numbers and the winning of prizes, whereas a sweepstake is something where an exciting sporting event intervenes between the drawing of a ticket and the winning of a prize. Again, I see nothing in the Clause to prevent a national sweepstake being run instead of merely a national lottery.
That distinction is important from the point of view of the success or otherwise of a venture of this sort. A sweepstake provides an opportunity for publicity, for excitement and interest, and for the stimulation of the public to subscribe, whereas a lottery is just pure gambling, which is not so attractive to many people. As has been shown by lotteries which have been run in overseas countries, a lottery palls after a time, whereas a sweepstake sustains interest.
It follows that if one is having a national sweepstake on a great sporting event, at least part of the proceeds should be devoted to the improvement of that event: the improvement of the ground on which the event may be played or run, the improvement of the players, whether they be human or animal, and generally devoting some of the proceeds to the improvement of that sport.
§ Mr. Paul B. Rose (Manchester, Blackley)
Would not the hon. Member agree that this would be an excellent way of assisting amateur sports clubs, many of which are at present labouring under the twin burdens of gaming tax and S.E.T.?
§ Mr. Page
The hon. Member must be telepathic. I was about to say that the full benefit should not go only to the one event but that a small proportion should be allowed for general recreational purposes, and sporting events in general.
If we assume, for example, that two sweepstakes a year could produce between £30 million and £50 million in the 1172 year—and I do not think that I am exaggerating the figure when I take comparisons with other countries—quite a small percentage would suffice to improve the sporting event on which the sweepstake was held and to support general recreational facilities—
§ Mr. Page
I cannot estimate accurately. I can only take the sort of figures which occur in other countries. I would think that £50 million gross was probably the right figure for, say, the first year. It might build up to something more substantial later.
The difference between lottery and sweepstake is an important factor to which the Government should give consideration if they are setting up arrangements for this sort of venture. Interest and enjoyment would be sustained by a sweepstake on an event such as the Grand National, Wimbledon, the Test series, or even the lone yachtsmen in a race round the world.
Secondly, people are concerned when they pay for tickets in a lottery or a sweepstake not only about the prize money, not only about the event, but also about the destination of their money and the cause to which they are contributing. A recent Gallup Poll showed that 8 out of 10 people were in favour of a national sweepstake which would provide money for medical and surgical research. I am sure that the poll would have shown different results if the public had been asked to give their views about contributing towards general taxation—a mere drop in the ocean of general taxation.
The majority of people draw a very clear distinction between charitable gambling and non-charitable gambling. If someone came up to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, in the street and asked you to buy a raffle ticket for one of those ghastly cushions, you would hesitate to do so. However, if you are approached to buy a ticket for such a cushion at a church bazaar or other charitable organisation, you would subscribe readily. Your hope to heaven that you will not win the cushion, but you subscribe because it is a good cause.
§ Mr. Gwilym Roberts (Bedfordshire, South)
Does not the hon. Gentleman admit that there is not statistical evidence to suggest that 8 out of 10 would not support a sweepstake, whatever its purpose might be? The millions who invest on the pools each week during the winter season—this is certainly not for charity— seem to suggest that people would invest irrespective of the eventual destination of the money.
§ Mr. Page
I am not using statistics. I am using common sense. I have had to deal with raffles and the sort of gambling which I call charitable gambling. The Churches' Council draws a, great distinction between non-charitable and charitable gambling when it says that £1,000 million a year is spent on non-charitable gambling. Many reputable organisations have passed formal resolutions at their annual general meetings in support of a national sweepstake on a good sporting event, providing that the proceeds go to medical research. I cite the National Union of Townswomen's Guilds, the National Federation of Business and Professional Women's Clubs, the National Association of Leagues of Hospital Friends, and many ordinary people in unions, such as the Amalgamated Society of Woodworkers.
The success of sweepstakes in countries which base them on an event and on a good cause has been proved. The hospital sweep in Eire has raised £68 million for Irish hospitals since the sweepstake started. Two-thirds of that money has been contributed from this country. I was rather shocked when my hon. Friend the Member for the City of Chester asked the Government to give an undertaking to protect our subsidies to Malta. Why should we go on subsidising Malta through a lottery and be denied the right to contribute that sort of money to our own hospitals, which are crying out for contributions to research? It may be said that the funds for research should be provided out of ordinary revenue and that hospitals should not have to rely on gambling. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I am not so sure about that. Research is a long-term business. Research itself is something of a gamble. It is right that the State should be cautious about investing money in research work. Frequently research fails.
1174 Anyhow, however strongly one holds the view that all medical research should be supported' out of ordinary revenue, one is living in cloud-cuckoo-land if one thinks that enough money will ever be contributed by any Government to meet the needs of medical research. Some extraordinary kind of revenue and some extraordinary ear-marking of revenue is needed to meet that now. Hospital endowment funds are dwindling. I understand that they are shortly to be taken over by the Government. What prospects are there for us to prevent the brain drain by continuing the sort of research that teaching hospitals are doing now if their endowment funds are taken from them and if no other source of revenue is provided?
§ Mr. Frank Hooley (Sheffield, Heeley)
Is not the hon. Gentleman equally living in cloud-cuckoo-land if he supposes that once the Treasury gets its hands on this sort of revenue it will devote it to medical research?
§ Mr. Page
I am coming to that point. I think there is a solution to it. I am precluded from referring to a good many pages of print which appear as an Amendment on the Notice Paper. I will refer the hon. Gentleman to them privately.
I want to make a third point about the criteria for operating a lottery or a sweepstake. Under the Clause it could be operated either by civil servants in a Government Department or by a private organisation on sale to it by the Government of the right to do so. I would not want to set up some new bureaucracy conducting a national sweepstake where there is existing machinery which could run it efficiently. We do not want the dead hand of nationalisation upon such a live venture as a sweepstake. If—I repeat "if"—a national lottery run by the Treasury were a success, the result might be to take some money away from the pools, and the fear then is that there might be some unemployment on Merseyside. I say "if a national lottery were a success". I cannot think it would be if it were run in a nationalised form.
§ Mr. J. T. Price (Westhoughton)
I want to ask the hon. Gentleman, who is conducting his argument with considerable force and vehemence, who will run 1175 the national lottery. I am in a different position than he is, because I am opposed to it. He has referred to it as a national lottery. Who in the name of God is to run it except the Government? It cannot be farmed out to somebody else.
§ Mr. Page
I am flattered by the hon. Gentleman; I have made my points and my argument so clearly that he has anticipated my very next sentence. This is where I come to the machinery which I would wish to be established for operating a national sweepstake. If the pools were permitted under licence to run a national sweepstake, this would give stability to employment on Mersey-side. At the moment the pools have to dismiss their employees during the summer months. If they were permitted on tender to pay the Government a sum which would be paid into the Consolidated Fund, in accordance with the Clause, to run a national sweepstake, this would give stability of employment in the pools concerns on Merseyside. There is nothing in the Clause to prevent the seetting-up of the form of national sweepstake which I am convinced is the only form which would be acceptable to the public, namely, that an authority, such as the I.T.A. or other supervisory authority of that sort, should be appointed. It would put the project out to private tender, the tenderer receiving 20 per cent. to 25 per cent. of the proceeds of the lottery and standing the whole expense of it—
§ Mr. Page
—his profit being limited to 5 per cent. of the proceeds, and the remainder of the proceeds going as to 35 per cent. or 40 per cent. in prizes and as to 35 to 40 per cent. to medical, surgical and hospital research work to be allotted by the authority—not by the Treasury, but by the authority set up for this specific purpose, to consider how to allot the proceeds to the best form of research. As I read Clause 50 there is nothing to prevent that being done.
This is the proposition I put before the House. Because I believe the proposition is in accordance with Clause 50, because I believe a vote against Clause 50 would be taken by the public as a vote against 1176 all forms of national sweepstake or national lottery, even though the Government gave an undertaking that some of the proceeds would be devoted to medical research, and might make the public think that we have voted against all sweepstakes which might help medical research. It would be tragic if we did not take this opportunity to provide this help for medical research and hospital improvement.
§ 8.0 p.m.
§ Mr. James A. Dunn (Liverpool, Kirkdale)
The hon. Member for Crosby (Mr. Graham Page) made an interesting proposition for supporting either a sweepstake or a lottery when he referred to some of the problems affecting Mersey-side. One thing he perhaps overlooked was that in the original intentions for a sweepstake or lottery proposed by the hon. Member, and taken up my my hon. Friend the Member for Cleveland (Mr. Tinn), money should be raised for charity. From what I have heard this evening it would appear that some of my hon. Friends would accept that a Chancellor of a Labour Government is more benign and generous than a Chancellor from the Opposition party. Let me make perfectly clear that I treat them with equal distrust when they get hold of money and are about to allocate it.
§ Sir G. Nabarro
No, I do not mean withdraw that remark. I mean that the Financial Secretary should withdraw.
§ Mr. Dunn
Unless we keep a rigid control on how the money is allocated under such schemes as proposed by Clause 50, I am afraid that what the hon. Member for Crosby has said will not happen, will not happen. The hon. Member mentioned sporting events suchas the Wimbledon Tournament. I heard of a Merseyside cricket club getting money for a new toilet facility on its own ground. This was not a facility for the rest of the community. The Treasury would be sending out grant aid from funds provided under Clause 50 which should be allocated on merit alone and not used for such purposes.
Once we allow Governments to raise revenue in this way there would be no 1177 saying how they would finish. Examples, not very good ones, were given by the hon. Member for the City of Chester (Mr. Temple), who asked why the State should not go into the beer trade. But the State is in beer. There are State breweries which are very prosperous. Once the Government intervene in the gambling industry they must be prepared to accept the criticisms which are often justly made of the industry from time to time.
I am not, in principle, against gambling. I gamble myself. I have a little flutter on the pools. I must be a gambler, because I stood in the General Election to get here. It was a gamble in 1964 and it might be a gamble at some subsequent date. That is a gamble I am willing to take. I generally take the view that while there was a possibility or arranging a Private Member's Bill acceptable to this House for a national lottery or form of lottery or sweepstake, to raise money for charity, it would have had an attraction for people all over the country because they would have been making a donation to the charity and no one would worry that much whether he won or not.
As soon as the State intervenes, however, everyone wants his pound of flesh. The hon. Member for Worcestershire, South (Sir G. Nabarro) would probably want not only his pound, but his ounce. When the Treasury was running a gamble I would want exact accountability and to know exactly the percentage rate of the prizes. I should be continually asking Questions about what concessions were given to the sellers of tickets and what commission they were paid. I should want to know how it affected unemployment in my constituency because on Merseyside large numbers of our constituents are employed by the two largest pools firms. In my constituency, over 1,000 are employed by those two firms.
Naturally, with a constituency interest, I would ask these Questions. If we followed the suggestion made by the hon. Member for Crosby, and fanned this out to an independent agency, I should ask the Financial Secretary those Questions, but he would say, "I cannot answer. You must direct the question to the newly-appointed board." Perhaps there are too many boards at the moment without accountability to this House. I admire the work done by a local pools firm, but if it 1178 participated in a national board it might not be so forthcoming with information about its performance. That is a fear I have about a national board.
Under the Bill proposed by my hon. Friend the Member for Cleveland, we could have had a number of people who do a lot of work on behalf of charity acting as trustees and advisers, making appeals in the same way as they do now. I have raised money for charity; I raised £1,000 in one night. I cajoled and begged and dragged money out of people for charity and they did not object. But if I said that the Treasury would provide £2,000 if they provided £1,000 for a charitable function, they would not want to know me, for once the Treasury got the money no one would know where it had gone. The Treasury may allocate certain resources to certain funds, but it would be usurping the responsibilities of those who should be attracting those funds.
My hon. Friend the Member for Cleveland said that a national opinion poll showed quite clearly that the people would accept a national lottery. I say nothing in contravention of that, but I offer a challenge to him to go to the country and ask: does the nation wish to have a national lottery whose funds should go to the Revenue for purposes which the Treasury should decide? I doubt whether he would get 2 per cent. to support him.
§ Mr. H. P. G. Channon (Southend, West)
The debate has shown that those of us who have enthusiastically favoured a national lottery from the early stage are beginning to have grave doubts about the scheme put forward by the Government. My vote tonight will be governed largely by what the Government say will be the method of controlling the national lottery we are discussing. Although I am in favour of the principle of a national lottery or sweepstake—I prefer the idea of my hon. Friend the Member for Crosby (Mr. Graham Page)—I am not in favour of a national lottery whereby the revenue goes into the Consolidated Fund and the Treasury decides how it shall be allocated in future.
My enthusiasm for a national lottery is waning for other reasons. It has been argued persuasively by several hon. Members that there might be a net loss to the Revenue rather than a net gain. I 1179 hope that the House will be given the Government's view and impression on this and other arguments. We are in some difficulty tonight in that we are asked to buy a pig in a poke and we do not really know what is proposed. The Financial Secretary must give us more information.
I should in certain circumstances favour a national lottery. I think that it is probably worth voting for the Clause. I look upon this as, in a sense, a Second Reading debate on a national lottery scheme, although I have grave doubts about the details. The sort of national lottery which I should like to see in this country is one raising large sums of money and run by an independent board—that has high priority—the independent board allocating funds for different causes and charities. Medical and surgical research would obviously have high priority, but it need not be the only consideration. Other charities might be able to put a case to the board. In different years, different charities might benefit, or there might be a scheme under which it would not be different charities benefiting each year but the board would allocate certain proportions of its funds to different charities in different years.
I should be in favour of that idea if there were an independent board allocating the money. I do not want the Treasury to allocate it. In the case of arts charities, for example, I should not want the Arts Council to allocate the funds. I think of this as a new form of patronage which would be able to disburse funds to deserving charities in this country.
If the Government's idea is that the moneys would be paid into a fund run by a Treasury-controlled board which would put a certain proportion into general expenditure and pay another proportion to deserving charities, charities which the Treasury thought deserving, that is a non-starter for me. We must have a clear answer from the Government about it.
§ Sir G. Nabarro
When my hon. Friend talks about an independent board, does he envisage the board as independent of Parliament?
§ Mr. Channon
No. It would not be independent of Parliament, but it should 1180 not be run by the Treasury or a Government Department. There would have to be some procedure whereby Parliament had a say in ensuring that the lottery was run in an honourable, honest and efficient manner. However, these are details which could be worked out along the lines suggested by my hon. Friend the Member for Crosby. It could, to use the rather inelegant phrase, be farmed out to a private firm or organisation to run, or it could be run in some other way. For my part, I should not mind about that.
§ Sir G. Nabarro
All these are impeccable sentiments which, I am sure, would be supported in all parts of the House, but what concerns me is the extent to which Parliament would control the apportionment of funds. I should want to know whether I could get as much in South Worcestershire as my hon. Friend could get in Southend, East.
§ Mr. Channon
Perhaps my hon. Friend will agree that we might have a Select Committee—he might be the chairman of it—or we could take any one of innumerable methods which could be devised. I hope that my hon. Friend, who is opposed to the idea of a national lottery in principle, will at least agree with me that, if one could devise a system generally suitable for a national lottery along the lines I have suggested, it should be possible to work out the details in a manner which would satisfy even him.
However, I suspect that the Government are putting forward a scheme which is unlikely to be acceptable to many hon. Members, even those who are in favour of a national lottery. A scheme under which the Treasury would be the arbiter and under which a large proportion of the funds raised went into the Consolidated Fund—or any variations on such a scheme—would not be acceptable. Therefore, before I decide to vote on Clause 50 tonight, I shall want a clear answer from the Financial Secretary about the Government's intentions. Is it intended that there should be a board controlled by the Treasury, that board making the allocations, or is it the idea that the board would be completely independent? Second, what proportion of the funds would go to charities and what proportion into the Consolidated Fund?
1181 If we have a favourable answer on those matters, I may vote for the Clause. Otherwise, I shall be tempted to vote against it.
§ 8.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Harold Lever
Mr. Speaker invited hon. Members to let him know their position so that an opponent of the Clause might be followed by a supporter. It seemed to me appropriate, having heard neither opponent nor supporter but an open-minded and reasonable approach to the Clause, that it would be suitable if the House heard an equally open-minded and reasonable approach. I thought, therefore, that it would be for the general convenience if I rose at this moment.
We have no Government view on whether we should or should not have a national lottery. Hence the free vote. The Government think that the House should have an opportunity to express its opinion on the subject so that, if it expressed an opinion in favour of a national lottery, that opinion could have a further opportunity to find expression in the form of a Bill. It does not follow, because the Government give the House this opportunity, that they are in favour of a national lottery. It is a matter for every hon. Member to decide according to his own judgment, conscience and wisdom.
§ Mr. Dunn
My hon. Friend the Member for Cleveland (Mr. Tinn) introduced a Private Member's Bill on the subject. During the proceedings on that Bill, the representative of the Treasury—perhaps it was my hon. Friend the Financial Secretary—suggested that it was a matter which should be taken up by the Treasury and brought within a Finance Bill. How does my hon. Friend reconcile that view with his present statement?
§ Mr. Lever
There is nothing which the House likes less than hon. Members reading back their own speeches. I try to avoid doing it, although I often have them read back at me by others. In the proceedings on his Bill, I told my hon. Friend the Member for Cleveland (Mr. Tinn) that the Government would be interested to see what view, the House took on it. However, I thought and the Government thought that it would not be right to take the view, if the House expressed a decided majority view on the 1182 Private Member's Bill, with all its special provisions, that that should be interpreted as an expression of the general will of the House on the question of a national lottery. I imagine that my hon. Friend would be grateful to the Government for taking that view.
Our view was that, after the opinion of the House expressed on my hon. Friend's Private Member's Bill, we should, in a more general way and not tied down in the specific fashion indicated in my hon. Friend's Bill, introduce a Clause in the Finance Bill which would give the House an opportunity to decide in a broad context what it felt about a national lottery as such.
I hope that no one will be misled by the wording of the Clause into supposing that anything else is at issue to-night. All that is at issue tonight is whether, in a general way, hon. Members favour the notion of a national lottery. The Clause was drawn in this fashion so as to bring it within the ambit of the Finance Bill, but even as drawn, as the hon. Member for Crosby (Mr. Graham Page) pointed out, it is merely a form of words which would not inhibit the Government, in drafting a Bill, as to the ultimate destination of the proceeds of the lottery.
The wording of the Clause is such that, in any case, the terms on which the lottery would be conducted would depend upon a Bill which would have to come before the House independently of the Clause. I hope that no hon. Member supposes that, if the Clause becomes law, it will authorise a lottery in this country. It would do nothing of the kind. There would still have to be an entirely separate Bill which would have to be approved by the House, in which all the conditions and terms on which a national lottery was to be organised would have to be set out. We could approve, amend or reject it as we wished.
§ Sir S. McAdden
I accept the hon. Gentleman's good faith, but he gave an undertaking on a previous occasion to give the House an opportunity of deciding on a free vote what it thought of the principle of a national lottery, but it was not necessary, to debate that principle, to insert a Clause in the Finance Bill. Does not inserting such a Clause more 1183 or less pledge the Government in favour of it?
§ Mr. Lever
Inserting a Clause in the Finance Bill in fulfilment of that undertaking leaves any right hon. or hon. Member on the Government benches free to vote according to his conscience. It is not one of those matters like the Prices and Incomes Bill, where we are all driven into one Lobby. This is a serious issue, but of a type that should be left to the free discretion of all hon. Members. The fact that it is embodied in the Bill need give nobody the impression that the Government are urging individual members of the Government to go into the same Lobby. Some members of the Government, like myself, happen to be in favour of the Clause, but others will no doubt vote against it if they are so minded.
It should be plain to everybody, first, that it is an absolutely free vote, and, second, that the passing of the Clause commits the House to nothing except a general indication of sympathy for the concept of a national lottery. It does not exclude any degree of hypothecation that the House may see fit to impose in a subsequent Bill, which would be absolutely necessary before any lottery could be undertaken. It does not exclude any particular organisation of the national lottery. Provided that the House expressed a general wish that there should be a national lottery, by passing the Clause, it could be run by the Board of Trade, the Treasury, an independent board, or farmed out, as has been suggested.
§ Mr. J. T. Price
In his usual bland fashion, my hon. Friend is trying to get away from the main issue. The Clause would be a very valuable paving provision in the Government's possession if it were embodied in the Bill as a result of tonight's deliberations. It is no use saying that it is only an abstract point to get a sort of straw ballot. I do not accept that. It is an attempt to change policy by proxy.
§ Mr. Harold Lever
My hon. Friend is quite wrong. A national lottery will be no more in being if the Clause is passed than if it had not been put before the House. We believe that it is a convenient vehicle for the House to 1184 express a general view. Before anything can be done to give effect to that view in detail, so that a national lottery could operate, we should have to introduce an entirely separate Bill which would go through all the normal stages of a Bill— Second Reading, Committee, and Third Reading—and go to the House of Lords.
§ Mr. Abse
Since my hon. Friend is apparently leaving open the question of where the funds will go, and since some of us believe that Socialism is the language of priorities and that the House should determine where money collected should go, are we to understand that the Government would go so far that they would allow a Bill to go through with hypothecation as part of its principle?
§ Mr. Lever
That would have to depend on the terms of the Bill and what the House thought when it came before it.
I hope that no hon. Member will think that I am guilty of discourtesy if I do not give way again. I should be discourteous to the House if I gave way at this point, more particularly since if hon. Members wait many of their questions will be answered.
The House should be entirely clear that we are voting in a general way to give guidance to the Government as to whether it is worth while bringing a Bill before the House that would institute a national lottery. The Clause seemed a convenient and economic means of achieving that end.
§ Mr. Lever
1 may as well save the energy of hon. Members on both sides of the House now by asking them to retain their places, because I do not intend to give way before completing my speech. Then, if any hon. Member wishes to put a question to me in the familiar form by saying, "Before the hon. Gentleman sits down, …", after I have sat down I shall be very happy to do my best to meet their request.
1185 Having disposed of the point that the House would give no licence to start a national lottery by passing the Clause, I wish to make my second point that the view of my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer is that if there is to be a national lottery in all probability it must be a State monopoly. That would have to be decided in a later Bill, assuming that the Clause is passed. My right hon. Friend feels that it would not be desirable to have a great number of competing lotteries, because then we might be open to the charge that we were inaugurating high-pressure salesmanship and encouraging gambling and the like. [An HON. MEMBER: "That is what my hon. Friend is doing."] I am not sure whether my hon. Friend means that I am engaging in high-pressure salesmanship at present.
The question before the House is whether it wishes in principle to have a national lottery. I am giving hon. Members the guidance that my right hon. Friend's view is that if there is to be one it should be a State monopoly.
The second question that has troubled some hon. Members concerns the revenue that might be lost to the State, while some hon. Members seem to be troubled that the State might have too much revenue from it. My right hon. Friend's view is that the right course would be to exact a pools betting duty on the lottery, just as such a duty applies to the pools promoters. It is absolutely right that in setting up a national lottery the State should not, in effect, establish unfair competition with very large existing organisations which are subjected to a 33⅓ per cent. pools betting duty.
Another reason that the duty will have to apply is that it is thought that some people may transfer part of their allegiance—and their cash—from the pools to the national lottery, and if the national lottery were not subjected to the same rate of duty there would be a net loss to the Revenue. Once the Treasury has had its normal pools betting duty that will be an end to the Revenue's claim, in all probability, although I do not want to give a firm commitment. That would be a matter for the House when the Bill is before it.
For the two reasons I have given, the view now is that the pools betting duty should apply to a national lottery as to 1186 any form of pools betting. After all, the pool promoters contribute a great deal. In the Bill we are constantly talking about the geese that lay the golden eggs. I give an assurance that we are very closely concerned with the expectation of life of this goose and, therefore, shall protect it in the manner that I have indicated.
Who would run the lottery? The House may find it useful if we dispel some of the fantasies that chase around in some hon. Members' heads. The Chancellor's view is that it would probably be best to entrust the day-to-day administration of the lottery to a national lottery board. This will have the function of running the lottery and deciding its management in a semi-independent manner. It would not be subjected to the directions of the Treasury, and it would decide what was to be done with such funds as it might hypothecate for general charitable purposes.
I cannot tonight go into the details of hypothecation. My hon. Friend the Member for Cleveland asked for an assurance that we should be sympathetic to it. The Chancellor has expressed himself unambiguously as being sympathetic to the notion of hypothecation. In view of what has been heard in the House tonight, if the Clause is passed and a lotteries Bill is brought in, I cannot imagine that 'my right hon. Friend would disregard the widespread view that there ought to be a measure of hypothecation. But it would be done not by the Treasury, I assure the hon. Member for Southend, East (Sir S. McAdden), but by the national lottery board, and the board would be advised by an independent and carefully set-up commission of a kind that we could all agree upon, which would try to find the most appropriate expressions of the hypothecation.
The kind of things that immediately come to mind are sports and the arts, and there are many other very worthy causes for which there is never enough money and the State, in the nature of things, never provides enough money, and these things always welcome some additional support.
I hope that hon. Members who are ready to pounce on the Bill as something from which the Treasury will gain will 1187 bear in mind that the main Treasury interest is to ensure that if there is a lottery we get the same rate of duty as from pools, and that we do not exclude the concept of hypothecation and have not the smallest desire to control the direction of the hypothecation. Indeed, it would be embarrassing and improper for the Treasury to take upon itself the invidious task of judging between sports grounds and other objects. It must be done by an independent and reputable advisory commission.
I have now dealt with hypothecation, and I hope that what I have said is to the satisfaction of those who are interested in the subject.
If hon. Members want to think in terms of how much the lottery may raise, I have already given some indication and told the House that, in France, Government receipts in 1967 were £70 million, in Spain £41 million, and in Italy £36 million. In some of the smaller countries Governments did not do so well. It will not do to say that only second-league countries operate lotteries. It is a little difficult to speak of Japan, France, West Germany, Greece, Denmark, Belgium, Norway, Italy and Turkey as second league countries. One cannot brush them aside and say that they are second-rate countries.
Each hon. Member is entitled to his own view on the lottery and whether we should have one. That is a matter for hon. Members. It seems to me a little difficult to see that the lottery, if instituted, will contain any of the dangers that some hon. Members felt were likely, such as a great increase in gambling. The hon. Member for the City of Chester (Mr. Temple) talked about people ruining their lives by gambling. I hardly think that there will be great numbers of suicides lying around with torn-up lottery tickets by the pistols which took them out of the world. I must be honest and say that I have not studied the fatal statistics of lottery ticket buyers in other countries. However, this is a matter for hon. Members to vote upon.
Although I am speaking from the Dispatch Box I now speak as an individual, and not as a member of the Government, and in this capacity I say that I shall vote for the Clause. I have found myself very much in line with the mind of the hon. 1188 Member for Southend, East. We are not buying a pig in a poke. The House will still have to decide in every detail the kind of pig that we are to have before it gets into our pockets.
I think that the problems of the indepedent board and the fears about Treasury dictation have been adequately dealt with, and I hope that the hon. Member for Southend, East and I may be, in comradely fashion, in the Lobby together. Speaking as an individual Member, I hope that the House will defeat the Amendment and approve the Clause so as to enable the House to examine in detail the prospects of a national lottery.
§ Mr. John Tilney (Liverpool, Wavertree)
Will the hon. Gentleman make certain that he does not take away the employment of people on Merseyside and give it to the board? He has not said where the board will be established and how it can avoid duplication of the overheads.
§ Mr. J. J. Mendelson (Henistone)
My hon. Friend should not be so lighthearted about people committing suicide. He must be aware that many people, including a considerable number of working people, lose all their wages on Friday evenings. He should not try to ride off on statistics of suicides. The charge against him is that, in general, he is encouraging gambling and lowering the standards of the nation.
§ Mr. Iain Macleod (Enfield, West)
Like the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, I speak for myself. There is no party issue in this. There is no Whip on this side and I am sure that there is none on the Government side. To many people, 1189 this is a moral issue and one must respect that view, but I do not see it in that light. The Government are involved in the betting taxation and in premium bonds, and many hon. Members know, from their constituency experience, of clubs, to which they may be attached for political, sporting, charitable or social reasons, which are largely kept going by one-armed bandits from which the Chancellor rightly takes a rake-off. I cannot feel, therefore, that it is a matter on which it: is necessarily improper for the Government to intervene in this way.
This sort of proposal has had many parents, the most recent of these being the hon. Member for Cleveland (Mr. Tinn). But in considering an alternative Budget last year—I emphasise that it was last year because of the second of the only two points I want to make—in an article in The Financial Times of 6th April, 1967—and it has been echoed on both sides of the House—I wrote:I turn to a purely personal proposal. … I have always remembered when first, as Minister of Health, I began to go round some of our greatest hospitals being amazed at the excellence of the work and (all too often) the squalor of the surroundings. There have been of course hospital building programmes but there is an enormous amount to be done. It would be pleasant if the State could find all the money needed but every Minister of Health of both political parties knows this to be a pipe dream. I would prefer that money for new hospitals should come from a National Lottery rather than it should not come at all.It follows that I am in agreement with Amendment No. 176, which would provide for the money to be devoted to the building or equipment of hospitals and which stands in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Scarborough and Whitby (Mr. Michael Shaw) but which has not been selected.
§ Mr. Hooley
How would the right hon. Gentleman ensure the existence of supplementary funds for medical research and so on? Would not this proposal result in a diminution of the normal funds because the Treasury would obviously take account of the additional source of revenue for hospital building?
§ Mr. Macleod
That is obviously the point I am just about to come to. It is a genuine one. One asks whether hypothecation is possible or whether it is an illusion. That is really the point 1190 which the hon. Gentleman is on. We all know the fate of the Road Fund, although it is true that, in quite a number of countries, funds from the taxation of the motorists are used particularly for the provision of roads. Once or twice in recent Budgets we have seen what could be called a notional form of hypothecating revenue. The previous Chancellor of the Exchequer, for example, matched, at any rate in his sums, the option mortgage scheme and some of his proposals relating to betting tax, and the present Chancellor put forward a proposal for family allowances which he proposed at the time, although he has wisely dropped the idea, to match by removing the first three days of sickness and unemployment benefit.
I have little doubt that it can be done, although the danger is that to which the hon. Member for Sheffield, Heeley (Mr. Hooley) has referred—that whatever precautions one takes and however carefully one draws up the scheme for a board, the Treasury will cut down its appropriation by something like the amount by which the board would increase it. This is a problem, but I do not believe that it is insuperable. In terms of what I wrote a year ago, to those who have seen, as I have seen, tarpaulins going on the work of Health Service hospitals because the 5th of April is coming and the money has run out, although not in all circumstances in every year, this is important as a first point, and one cannot be unsympathetic to the idea.
I make the second point briefly. The Chancellor would be wrong to go ahead with this Clause in this year. The report of the debate will look a little odd tomorrow morning. We are not debating the Guillotine, nor who is responsible for it, but at least it will look odd that this of all Clauses in the Finance Bill, some of which have not been discussed, should be singled out for preferential treatment by the House of Commons.
It very often happens—and I hope that the Chancellor will pay attention to this—that at a time of weakness in sterling, something which in other circumstances can be quite appropriate can have psychologically exectly the wrong effect. I give the instance of the loan in the autumn of last year from the Swiss banks. We all know what the reason behind that was. It was to show that 1191 those banks and this country had confidence in the £, had confidence that it would not be devalued and were prepared to put money in it. But people read that, and in my view rightly and, as events turned out, rightly, exactly the other way round, because they thought that it was very odd that we should be spending our time asking for, or, anyway, accepting, such a very small loan.
That is why the only other point which I want to put to the Chancellor is this. This proposal is still part of the Budget. As the Financial Secretary has told us, it would need another Bill in due course. We know that sterling at the moment is rocking somewhere along in the bottom and that War Loan is about 45¼. In those circumstances, it would show that the House of Commons had a lack of gravitas to pass a Clause of this nature after a special debate at this time.
I have said enough to show that, partly because of my own experience, I am by no means unsympathetic to the idea, provided that we know exactly where the money is going and provided that we know, in the instance I have given, that it would be going towards hospital building programmes. But we have had no such assurance, probably rightly, from the Financial Secretary. Secondly, nobody can be happy about the outline he has given of what is in the Chancellor's mind. I cannot help putting it to the Chancellor that this debate, unthinkingly, may well do a lot of harm. I therefore hope that he will take the Clause away and that he will be defeated on it tonight. It may well be that in calmer days an opportunity to put forward something of this nature will arise, but it would be wholly wrong for the House of Commons to pass this new Clause tonight, and I hope that we will not do so.
§ 8.45 p.m.
§ Miss Margaret Herbison (Lanarkshire, North)
I wish to oppose this Clause as strongly as I can, with no "ifs" or "buts". There have been so many "ifs" and "buts" in speeches this evening. The Financial Secretary tried to describe to us what the Government line was—that if the majority wishes, the Government would bring in a Bill making possible a national lottery. That is the wishy- 1192 washiest form of government that I have ever come across. The Government must have some ideas on this. If they are opposed to a national lottery we would never have found this Clause in the Bill. It seems that the intervention of the Minister, far from helping us, has made it more difficult for some of us.
There were some of us, when we were on the benches opposite, who opposed Premium Bonds very strongly. In the debate on the Queen's Speech I said, and I think that this will be the first time that I have ever repeated a speech that I have made:… the Chancellor of the Exchequer made a spectacle of himself when he stood in Trafalgar Square peddling what many of us call raffle tickets."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 12th November, 1956; Vol. 560, c. 610.]For a Labour Chancellor to be even thinking in terms of a national lottery, is a sorry spectacle, and one that makes me very sad. The Government are pandering to a deep-seated malaise, the kind of philosophy that we sometimes describe as "I'm all right Jack", or that which is typified by a desire to get rich by any means but hard work. That seems to be a very wrong thing for our Government to do at this time of serious economic and financial difficulties. It is a philosophy of selfishness, one which we criticised so often when in Opposition, one that was fed and nurtured by almost everything the Tory Government did during those 13 years.
There was always an appeal to the lowest instincts in our people. Having gone through all those years, our Government are faced with this deep-seated malaise. I had always believed that there was a wide gulf between such a philosophy demonstrated during those years and that for which this Labour movement of ours has always stood. Gambling has become almost a social curse. I am opposing this Clause not on religious grounds, although I could do so, but on what I would call moral and ethical grounds. I have always believed that the Socialist movement, from its inception, was based on moral and ethical principles. If that is the case, through our Government saying quite clearly that should a majority vote for this they are ready to bring in a national lottery, we are departing very greatly from those principles on which our movement was 1193 based. My training in this movement taught me that if one was a Socialist one was not a taker; one must always be ready to give. This is the very opposite. We are being asked to support a national lottery.
§ Mr. Peter Mahon (Preston, South)
Does not my right hon. Friend think that the idea that if we do not have a national lottery we shall not get the hospitals and roads which we need so desperately is repugnant to all of us?
§ Miss Herbison
I was coming to that point, but before doing so I wish to give one or two reasons why I consider gambling to be a social curse.
There has been reference to the number of people who lose their wages gambling at weekends. We all know that far too much money is spent on bingo by people who cannot afford to spend it. In the homes of those people there is sometimes great hardship. I see people passing my home going to bingo centres, and I give myself a shake and say to myself that I should not be over-critical of them because for me a night with a good book or with good music is what I require. But, then, I was lucky in my village in having the chance of a good education and a great deal to fall back on. Because of that, I cannot be over-critical when I see women going to bingo centres. But we must remember that so often money is spent which should not be spent in bingo centres. The same thing applies to many other forms of gambling.
§ Mr. Harold Lever
My right hon. Friend is aware that it is not the Government's intention to bring in national bingo and that the hon. Member for the City of Chester (Mr. Temple), who moved the rejection of the Clause, said that he had voted for betting shops but resented a national lottery.
§ Miss Herbison
I know only too well that it is not the Government's intention to introduce national bingo. I was dealing with gambling generally and its hold on people. If the Government introduce a national lottery, they are, in effect, saying that there is nothing wrong with extensive gambling and that it is all right to gamble.
I heard the intervention of my hon. Friend the Member for Cleveland (Mr. Tinn), who is in favour of a national 1194 lottery. I respect his wishes. I accept that if the Government do not introduce a national lottery it will do nothing to curb gambling. On the other hand, I take great exception to the Labour Government giving the seal of respectability to gambling in general.
§ Mr. Tinn
But can my right hon. Friend square in her conscience the uncomfortable fact that we as a nation are not prepared to find through taxation and other means all the money needed for research and hospitals with the fact that she is prepared to deny this additional means of helping to provide for some of these things?
§ Miss Herbison
I do not have to square that fact at all. The things which have been said tonight are a shocking indictment of our country. The right hon. Member for Enfield, West (Mr. Iain Macleod) said that if we do not have a national lottery we must put tarpaulins over hospitals until after 5th April. We have been told that if we do not have a national lottery the medical research which is so essential will not be carried out. What an indictment of a supposedly civilised and Christian people that the only way we will get our hospitals or our medical research is by sinking to get the money from gambling from a national lottery.
I know that Chancellors of the Exchequer are faced with great difficulty. I do not think that anybody on this side of the House knows more forcibly than I do the difficulties with which the Government are faced. Again, however, if Governments feel that we need the hospitals and the medical research, they should have the guts to say to our people that they will get it in the only fair way possible, and that is by taxation. The suggestion that people want more money to jingle in their pockets and to do what they like with it rather than accept their responsibilities is a philosophy which I do not accept.
Here we are, a country faced with great economic and financial difficulties, a country that will overcome those difficulties—as the Government are continually telling our people—only if every one of us is willing, in whatever job we do, to give the very best that is in us to raise production. Is not that the appeal which 1195 should again be going out from the Government instead of the appeal of getting rich quick for a few people and a great many people spending more than they can possibly afford to spend?
I should like to see the Government, when they have the time—because our economic and financial problems are the biggest problems at the present time— undertaking some thorough research into why we have so much gambling and trying to find other ways and means of catching the interest of our people, to give them something much more worthwhile than in their lives than attending bingo centres. For all these reasons, I oppose, the Clause as strongly as I can.
§ Sir S. McAdden
I think that hon. Members on all sides, no matter what views they hold on this question, will have been deeply moved by the speech of the right hon. Lady the Member for Lanarkshire, North (Miss Herbison). I congratulate her on the way she expressed herself and the views she holds, which I largely share.
It must, however, be remembered that the supporters of a national lottery have garnered their strength in many fields. They have gone round appealing for medical research for blind babies and pleading their case that the money cannot be raised in any other way than by a national lottery. That is bunkum, and it is time that this House said so. It is possible to produce a public opinion poll which gives a particular figure provided that the poll happens to put the question in a certain way. Public opinion polls of that kind do not influence me.
We are told by the Financial Secretary that it is necessary for the Clause to be inserted in the Finance Bill, of all Bills, so that the House can express an opinion on this matter. That is bunkum, too. If the Treasury or the Government wanted to obtain an expression of the opinion of the House on the question of a national lottery, they could do what I challenged them to do in Committee— that is, to produce their proposals, to explain what kind of lottery it would be, how often it would be held, what the prizes were to be and how much would go to charity and how much to the State.
I argued all those things in Committee on an earlier Bill. Instead of resorting 1196 to the challenge on which House would have been able to come to a clear decision—in other words, instead of introducing clear-cut proposals setting out the various things which I have mentioned— we have this vague Clause in the Finance Bill thatIf, with a view to raising money to be paid into the Consolidated Fund, arrangements are made …a national lottery shall be permitted.
Then we have the Financial Secretary, knowing that the House would wish to be informed of the Government's ideas, giving us the thinking of the Chancellor on the matter. I am not interested in what the Chancellor thinks. I am interested in what he proposes. He is asking the House to give him carte blanche to introduce any kind of national lottery that he likes. This House is to have no control of the distribution of any funds which are raised by it.
We are told that it is necessary to put this Clause into the Finance Bill. It is not necessary at all. The subject of a national lottery is nothing new. It was discussed by the Royal Commission on Betting, Lotteries and Gaming, 1949-1951, which, in the course of its Report, had something to say about the principles of gambling legislation. Its conclusions were:In the first place, if the State undertakes the provision of gambling facilities with the object, among others, of securing revenue, it is very difficult to avoid giving the impression that the State has an interest in stimulating gambling.That is quite clear.
The Report goes on:Secondly, the provision of gambling facilities is in no sense an essential service, and is in our view inappropriate for inclusion within the sphere of the State's activities.I agree entirely, and, at a time when a Budget has been introduced which bears heavily on all sections of the community, when we have one of the most complex Finance Bills ever, and when we cannot afford time to discuss some of the more complex legislation in the Finance Bill, I cannot understand why it is necessary to insert the Clause into the Bill and to devote to it a maximum of four hours and 20 minutes of discussion on the principle of a State lottery. In the eyes of the world, the Government present us as a country which has not got its priorities right.
1197 Let me make my position quite clear. I am all in favour of the State using its powers to levy taxation upon such gambling as exists at present and to take away from those who indulge in these unproductive enterprises the opportunity of getting funds which the State can use more properly. That is quite different from the State embarking upon a gambling venture of its own.
At this point, I want to correct a wrong impression that I may have given last Friday, following which I received a number of calls from representatives of the Press. I said that it is perfectly proper, in my view, for the State to tax gambling, but not to start a venture of its own. I went on to say that I thought that the State should tax the earnings of prostitutes, but should not open State brothels. I want to make it clear that I am in no way in favour of prostitution. I hope that that is sufficient to correct the impression which appears to have beeen gained by some gossip writers in the national Press.
The Press has not got the basic facts right. A paper which I read regularly, the Daily Express, said at the end of its leading article on Saturday morning that we ought to establish a national lottery to help the needy and the sick. However, that is not what is proposed. We are not being asked to vote on the principle of a national lottery for that purpose. What we are discussing is the setting up of a lottery the proceeds of which will go into the Consolidated Fund.
We have had soothing words from the Financial Secretary, who has told us, "Do not worry about this. We will have a Board which will sort it all out and, if there is anything left over after the 33⅓per cent. has gone to the Treasury, the Board will decide how to distribute it." That is not good enough, and it is an impertinence for such a proposal to be put before us without the clearest information which this House ought to have before it is asked to come to a decision.
Obviously, some members of the Government think that a national lottery is necessary, otherwise it would not be in the Finance Bill. In that case, why did they not produce their proposals in such a form that we were capable of reaching an accurate judgment of them?
1198 Mr. Speaker, I know that many hon. Members wish to contribute to the debate, so I will not labour the point unduly. I emphasise that there is all the difference in the world between the State taxing activities like gambling and the State starting a gambling venture of its own. If the State is to start a gambling venture of its own, it must be for the purpose of encouraging gambling. It can be for no other reason. It cannot be for the purpose of raising revenue from the existing expenditure on gambling because the existing expenditure on gambling is already taxed, and, at the rate of 33⅓ per cent. on football pools, is producing about £40 million a year.
The only purpose of this legislation can be to encourage more and more gambling. I hope that the House will throw out the Clause neck and crop.
§ Mr. David Weitzman (Stoke Newington and Hackney, North)
After some of the recent speeches, I cannot help feeling that we have been listening to a highly emotional outburst. I ask the House to approach the matter in a realistic fashion.
Many comments have been made about the Chancellor daring to put the Clause into the Bill and about time being wasted in this way. Let us consider what happened. On 2nd February my hon. Friend the Member for Cleveland (Mr. Tinn) introduced a Bill which was given a Second Reading by a proportionately high vote. That Bill was sent to Committee. It was obviously the will of the House that it should be sent to Committee and that it had to be dealt with.
The Government took the view that they could not agree with the mechanics of the Bill. They adopted what seems to be a very reasonable and sensible attitude to it. They said that the House had pronounced in favour of a Bill dealing with a national lottery and had supported the idea that a national lottery should be instituted in order to achieve certain purposes charitable and otherwise. That had been done on a Friday when a considerable number of hon. Members had not attended.
§ Mr. Weitzman
A number did not attend, and it was their own fault that they did not attend. The House on that occasion expressed a view and the Government, in my view, rightly, said,"The House having expressed itself in favour of the principle, let us test it with a free vote."
A number of hon. Members opposite and some of my hon. Friends have raised objections that there is a difference —that the Bill introduced by my hon. Friend the Member for Cleveland dealt with its charitable objects and that this Clause does not. With all respect, that criticism is unrealistic. It has been explained to the House that if we want to test opinion in a Finance Bill it is impossible to do other than introduce a Clause in this way and in an innocuous form. My hon. Friend the Financial Secretary explained in detail what will follow. If the House agrees with the principle of a national lottery, the matter does not end there. There will be a Bill which will set out the constitution of a board and the objects for which the national lottery will be arranged, and there will then be an opportunity for every hon. Member to discuss the national lottery, to go into it in detail, to seek to amend the proposal and to vote against it if he wishes. What can be wrong about that?
§ Sir S. McAdden
I am sure that the hon. Member will turn his mind to the question why it was necessary for the opinion of the House to be tested on the Finance Bill.
§ Mr. Weitzman
I have explained. I hoped that the hon. Member was listening to what I said. I have endeavoured to explain in words each of four simple letters. It is simple logic. It satisfies me logically, and I had hoped that it would satisfy the hon. Member. I hope that it is appreciated by hon. Members on both sides of the House and that it satisfies them. In my view the Government have acted properly, and the objection to the fact that the Clause does not contain a specific reference to charity or to any other object is not valid.
I listened with interest to the fine, emotional speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Lanarkshire, North (Miss Herbison), in which she spoke in high moral terms of the ideals of the Labour 1200 Party. But I urge her and others to be realistic because it is too easy to be hypocritical about this matter. Indeed, I regard a lot of the opposition to this proposal as being sheer hypocrisy. It is all very well for hon. Members to be indignant and to say that gambling is wrong and should be morally condemned. If we could start afresh, and say, "There is no gambling in Britain. We will not have gambling because it is morally wrong", we might be able to do something about it. But we have gambling, on a large scale, and Governments have agreed over the years that they should try to enforce a system so that gambling is kept within bounds.
We should never forget that the State takes an active part in gambling; for example, by way of Premium Bonds. Although we might say that the capital of Premium Bonds is always at the disposal of the investor and that he is merely losing the interest which he might otherwise earn, we must remember that the Premium Bond investor is prepared to gamble because he is forgoing the interest that he might otherwise earn. There is heavy taxation with regard to casinos, racing and gaming machines. The State is already heavily committed. It is no good adopting a high moral attitude about what we in the Labour Party or any other party might do to condemn gambling because it is immoral. The State is not only taking an active part in gaming but is also taking its share of the proceeds.
Rightly or wrongly, Englishmen like to gamble and that instinct will not be suppressed by legislation. Try as we may, we will not completely suppress it and if we try to legislate to do so we will only drive it underground and encourage criminal activities. Nor should hon. Members talk about what happens in countries which belong to the "second league" because most of them, like France and Belgium, are well respected and have national lotteries with no ill effects.
I see no reason why the State, which takes its share of gambling proceeds, should not conduct a national lottery so that it benefits from the money that is gambled in this way. The Financial Secretary referred to 33 per cent., and that figure will answer many of the criticisms about the amount of money which 1201 the State might lose from its taxation of football pools and so on. As the State takes its share of gambling, it is ridiculous to talk about the deleterious effect that a national lottery might have. If people buy 6d. or Is. tickets in a national lottery, I cannot see how that will drive them to suicide or tremendously increase the amount of the wage packet devoted to gambling. It might be a good deal better if my hon. Friends dealt more critically with the gaming that goes; on at the betting shops and not with what I think is rather an innocuous form of gaming—a national lottery.
I beg my hon. Friends to be realistic. Do not let us adopt this high moral tone, but rather recognise that we are living in a practical world. As we have this gaming going on, the State ought to get the benefit of it—it should not be left to private individuals, I hope that the House will take a realistic view of the Clause, and support the principle of a national lottery.
§ 9.15 p.m.
§ Mr. W. H. K. Baker (Banff)
I should like first, humbly to congratulate the right hon. Lady the Member for Lanarkshire, North (Miss Herbison) on what she said, because I agree wholly with at least nine-tenths of it. I believe that where the Conservative Party started to go wrong was when it introduced Premium Bonds, and that it went from bad to worse when it introduced legalised bingo, and the rest. That view I hold most sincerely.
Very little remark has been made about the position of the churches in the context of the Clause, and I should like to quote the Deliverance which was agreed to by the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland in May of this year. It reads:The General Assembly believe that public lotteries as a means of providing social amenities are both harmful and wasteful and call upon Church members to oppose proposals for introducing these and urge national and civic representatives to resist pressures in this direction.In an article in the Daily Telegraph today, Mr. Colin Coote suggests that we should have more Church militancy; that there should be less Church acquiescence. He takes to task various Church leaders for not taking a more positive lead in 1202 what I consider to be the very grave moral issue that I believe we now face. I do not, of course, claim to be a Church leader, by I feel that it is right that the House should know what the people in Scotland are thinking. The right hon. Lady put the case cogently, but I would take it a little further to the Church of Scotland, because the presbyteries of the churches, having discussed it in kirk session and then at the General Assembly, have come out forthrightly against the proposal.
In its Report to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, the Social and Moral Welfare Board had this to say:Were an intelligent and high-principled Scottish citizen of an earlier age to come back among us, it is safe to say he would be shaken much more by the change in moral climate and behaviour patterns than by the wonders of space flight, television and nuclear power.After enumerating many of the moral things that this person would have found wrong, the Board speaks of:… gambling of every sort flourishing on a colossal scale, and increasingly with State approval and participation …It is State approval and participation that we who are opposed to this Clause wish to wipe out.
At present, again as the right hon. Lady said, we are being urged to think rationally about the real wealth of our nation; we are being urged to sacrifice, and we are being urged to work harder. We are told by the Government that there is a sense of justice between citizen and citizen. Some of us might disagree on political terms with that, but in moral terms we are absolutely at one.
At such a time it is incredible that such proposals should come before the House. I go further. When dubious proposals like this are put forward—this must be a dubious proposal, if the conscience of the Chancellor and of the Government is so clouded that we have to have a free vote on it—it is a sign of decadence in the nation. We cannot afford to go any further down the slippery slope than we have already gone. This is not justice based on worth. It is an artificially manufactured form of chance.
The hon. Member for Cleveland (Mr. Tinn) said that the odds were more favourable in a national lottery than in many other forms of gambling. The odds are more in favour of a richer person if he 1203 can buy more tickets. The poorer person will pay relatively more from his income than will the rich.
There is always the moral sanction of the Churches. The Churches throughout the nation have come down heavily against a national lottery. I do not think that a national lottery will increase the spiritual or economic health of the nation. It is bound to have a cumulative effect, as the hon. Member for Liverpool, Kirk-dale (Mr. Dunn) said. I consider that it would have an adverse effect on the charities, which are at present dependent on voluntary support for their welfare. If any Government, whether it is the present Government or any other, were to go further, harder and quicker to encourage savings, there would be no need for this sort of thing.
In conclusion, I ask the Government three brief questions. First, to what extent will more civil servants be involved in setting up whatever form of control board there is to be? Secondly, if the proposals are to be put into force, can we have an undertaking that the headquarters of whatever board or authority it is will not be situated in London? Finally, if a Bill is brought in to give effect to it, should the Clause be approved, will there be a free vote in the House?
§ Mr. Gwilym Roberts
I find myself somewhat out of harmony with some of my right hon. and hon. Friends, with whom I usually agree on basic moral principles. Up to now our discussion has been on rather too high a moral plane. There have been suggestions that great moral principles are involved. We have been talking about the Clause as though we were talking in a void, as though gambling was not already an essential part of the whole structure of our society, in which the Stock Exchange, the Government and everybody else is already involved.
In these circumstances, instead of the Socialist Utopia which some of us may reach at some stage or other, in the short term we must apply ourselves to the task of trying to make gambling make some contribution, not only to private profit, but also to the public purse. My support for the Clause is based purely and simply on the fact that I believe that by the use of a State lottery the Government could 1204 ensure that they got a bigger cut from gambling than they do at present.
I am not in the least happy about some of the arguments put forward in favour of this proposal by some of my hon. Friends, nor by the Financial Secretary. This talk of hypothecation is quite alien to this side of the House. I agree entirely that our party can never believe that any hospital or welfare service should have to depend on some doubtful premise of this type. This idea of hypothecation is completely out.
I am also very unhappy about the lack of information about the intention of the Government. After the speech of the Financial Secretary I am worse in the mire than I was at the beginning. What we have been asked to do—this is the terrible thing—is to give virtually a blank cheque to the Treasury; and we do not even know when and if the Treasury will cash the cheque, even assuming that there is a vote of nine to one or four to one in favour of maintaining the Clause. We do not know that the Treasury then would act.
What is far worse is that we do not even know, when the Treasury decides to act, what form the action will take. We are not told what is envisaged, whether it is to be a weekly lottery or a monthly lottery. We are not told whether it is to be a large prize lottery or a small prize lottery. There are very essential differences. We should consider the essential difference of the variation of these two types of lottery. If we have a large prize lottery it will not achieve the aims which I hope to see achieved. The money for that lottery would come from football pools and from some of the big money bets in racing, from the Tote, and so forth. If, on the other hand, it was a small prize lottery the money would be attracted from other charitable causes, from football pools and even local Labour parties' efforts. It is essential to know exactly the form that this cheque will take and who is to make the payment.
I am not basically against gambling, [Interruption.] The hon. Member for Worcestershire, South (Sir G. Nabarro) may be surprised about that. If I believed that this would substantially increase gambling, particularly the worst forms of gambling, I would be opposed 1205 to it. It has been suggested that gambling leads to the breakdown of homes and to people spending all their earnings in the betting shop. It is true that gambling causes a host of difficulties, but that is not the type of gambling we are concerned with this evening. [An Hon. Member: "How does the hon. Member know?"] The type we are concerned with is small stake gambling.
§ Mr. Peter M. Jackson (The High Peak)
My hon. Friend has been saying that we do not know what the proposals are, yet he has the impertinence to say that we are dealing with the smaller type of gambling. Only a few moments ago he said that we did not know what type it was.
§ Mr. Roberts
I accept that, but if we look at the parallel of national lotteries we see it is clear that if we run a lottery on any scale it must be run with very small stakes. We cannot have a lottery with £1 or 30s. stakes or anything like that if it is to have a general appeal. A lottery with general appeal must have stakes of 2s. or 3s. That being so, such a lottery would not lead to a man putting his head in the gas oven, as might be the result of his putting £2 or £3—or sometimes more in some working-class families—on the horses every week.
From that point of view, therefore, a lottery would not give support to the worst forms of gambling. Indeed, I should welcome a provision to limit the number of tickets which an individual could take up, being very much opposed to an extension of the individual's share in gambling.
This proposal, therefore, would not tend to accentuate the worst forms of gambling. All one could hope for from Clause 50 would be the transfer of some of the money spent on football pools and in other ways into a national lottery. The intention expressed by my hon. Friend the Financial Secretary, that it would be subject to the same percentage taxation as the football pools, means that the Treasury cannot lose on the idea.
§ Mr. Roberts
It could lose only if the total invested on football pools plus the lottery were reduced. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman would be delighted if that were so and the total of gambling were reduced.
§ Mr. Roberts
I doubt that there would be a substantial loss in the postal services. The net effect of this proposal would not be a substantial increase in the amount of gambling. I believe that there would be a movement away from the worst forms of gambling, the large stake gambling, towards small stake gambling.
The only reason why I support this rather nebulous Clause is that, in my view, if we do not support it we shall, in effect, be accepting the existing alternative, namely, private enterprise gambling. On the other hand, by accepting the Clause we shall at least say, "Let the money come to the public purse instead of going into private coffers". I am totally opposed to any idea of hypothecation. I tell my hon. Friend the Financial Secretary now that if, or when, the Treasury in its wisdom decides to bring in a Bill, and that Bill in any way involves what I should regard as non-Socialist hypothecation, I shall oppose it.
For the present, however, because 1 regard the Clause as giving an opportunity for a worth-while transfer of funds from the private to the public purse, I am prepared to support it.
§ Mr. Speaker
Again I remind the House that many hon. Members wish to speak. For the past hour, hon. Members have responded to my appeal for brief speeches.
§ Mr. Tilney
The hon. Member for Bedfordshire, South (Mr. Gwilym Roberts) claimed that he was a realist. He wants a bigger cut from gambling. I hope to show that there would be the danger of a smaller cut and that the Treasury would probably lose by having a national lottery.
The hon. Gentleman complained—and I agree with him—about the lack of information from the Financial Secretary. He talked of a blank cheque. Having 1207 listened to the Financial Secretary telling us that the Government approach this question with an open mind and without a settled view, I am reminded of the South Sea Bubble prospectus for an enterprise the particulars of which would be announced later. That seems to be the Government's attitude, save that, having said that, the Financial Secretary went on to say that the Chancellor has made up his mind that it would be a State lottery and he could not stand the idea of a great number of competing lotteries.
I cannot understand why one should not have regional lotteries or lotteries managed by great local authorities such as the Greater London Council or many of the smaller local authorities, lotteries in which there would be some regional feeling and a wish to have something done locally. He did not explain why it should have to be a State lottery.
The right hon. Gentleman said that the Chancellor had made up his mind that a pools betting duty similar to that on the pools should be applied to the national lottery, and added that there would be a national lottery board. Therefore, the Government have given quite a lot of thought to this. They are not really approaching the matter with an open mind. I agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, West (Mr. Iain Macleod) that this is a thoroughly bad time in the country's economic history to have a debate of this kind, when so many other Clauses in the Bill have not been properly discussed.
The Government may think at first sight that it would be pleasant to tap some unused money and do something worth-while with it, using for that end the innate selfishness of men and women who wish to get a very large prize for doing very little, selfishness to which the right hon. Member for Lanarkshire, North (Miss Herbison) referred to in a most moving speech. But how much money is there to spare? Not much is now kept under the mattress, what with inflation and the spending spree earlier this year—
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. The hon. Gentleman must not tempt himself to go outside the terms of the Amendment.
§ Mr. Tilney
I understand that, Mr. Speaker, but I was trying to argue that 1208 the money which the Government hope to tap will have to come either from other forms of savings media like the Premium Bonds, or, more likely, from the football pools, which very much affect employment on Merseyside. I understand those who think that one should try to catch the heart strings of many people with a small amount of money who might say, "Rather than put my money in the savings bank or work out what pools combination will win, I must go in for this great lottery that will do so much good for us all." But, as far as I can see, no particular hospital will be helped and no local enterprise will be helped. We do not know what charities are in the list for a bonanza from the Government.
§ Mr. Tilney
There has usually been an argument—certainly there was in February—from many of those talking about a national lottery that good causes and charities would be helped. My argument is that all that the Government are now saying is that the proceeds must all be for the Consolidated Fund. Whoever wanted to do anything for the Consolidated Fund that could be avoided? Very few people know about it, except that it is an amorphous mass rising or falling rather like a gasometer. It cannot have any appeal to the public. It is unwept, unhonoured, and, although we talk about it from time to time, largely and rightly unsung.
If the money is to come from somewhere the main place is the pools. Last year they produced £30 million revenue, and next year it will be £40 million, at a cost of £2,500. Pools betting duty must be the cheapest tax in the world, and it is largely provided by people on Mersey-side. I have here particulars of the employment. I believe that there are 2,000 in Glasgow and 1,000 in Cardiff, but no fewer than 14,759 people on Merseyside whose jobs depend on the pools. Of these, 8,665 are in Liverpool alone. In Bootle—I do not see the hon. Member for Bootle (Mr. Simon Mahon) present—there are no fewer than 1,897. It is extremely interestinig that in Huyton there are no fewer than 1,774.
§ Mr. Eric Ogden (Liverpool, West Derby)
Will the hon. Gentleman not agree that it is interesting that the number of pools employees who live in the constituency of the hon. Member for Crosby (Mr. Graham Page), who opposes the proposal, is only 119?
I was going to mention that, but I am grateful to the hon. Member for doing so. He has a larger number of pools employees in his constituency than I have.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will not pursue any more constituency figures tonight.
§ Mr. Graham Page
Since I have been referred to, and figures have been quoted, did not my hon. Friend hear me say in my speech that I had a proposition to put—and I put it in my speech—for stability of employment for the pools employees during the summer, and that my scheme for a national sweepstake would provide that stability?
§ Mr. Tilney
It is my scheme, too, but only if the House decides to pass the Clause.
I remind the right hon. Member for Huyton (Mr. Harold Wilson), whose Government has been referred to as that of Lord North, that 1774 was when Lord North was in charge of affairs. It is interesting to see that the Dictionary of National Biography says that he remained in office on a course which it is impossible to justify.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. If Lord North ran a lottery he would be in order at the moment, but I am not at all sure whether he did.
§ Mr. Tilney
Finally, I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Crosby (Mr. Graham Page) that if we have to have a national lottery we should let those who are experienced in running the pools run it. They have all the expertise. There are also the overheads; if they run it we shall not have duplication of overheads.
§ 9.45 p.m.
§ Mr. J. T. Price
It would be a sorry day for the country and the House if every hon. Member who rose to speak in a debate of this kind had to make 1210 an apology first for raising ethical or moral considerations.
This proposition has been cynically put forward, I am sorry to say, by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Stoke Newington and Hackney, North (Mr. Weitzman), who is not at the moment in his place, but I warned him that I should refer to what he said if I were fortunate enough to catch Mr. Speaker's eye.
I have taken part in a number of debates in the House over the years when the question of gambling has been involved, going back to the early debates, for example, on the Betting and Lotteries Bill, when I was one of a very small minority group who had the temerity to approach the Measure as a moral and ethical question, and we got very small change out of our advocacy in those days.
Nevertheless, we have a situation today in which every responsible observer of the social scene is aware of the fact that the country is suffering grave social disabilities because of the persistent growth of the gambling habit and its permeation of all aspects of society.
I should never be so foolish as to imagine that the House by legislation could abolish gambling. That would be asking for too much. It would be impracticable. But what my hon. and learned Friend said a few moments ago was that because gambling has become so universally popular in all its manifestations, the House ought to shut its eyes to the social and moral consequences of that development and do nothing about it except help it increase.
This, of course, is a case of the Government, quite improperly in my view, allowing the Finance Bill to be used for the purpose of flying a kite. The proposition has been put, quite honourably, by its sponsors in the form of private Bills on earlier occasions. They have advocated the creation of a State lottery to provide finance for hospitals and other deserving charities. There is nothing new in this proposal, therefore. What is new is that the Government have decided to use the machinery of the Finance Bill to set out a paving Motion which would allow them to bring in further legislation.
I oppose this strongly for a number of reasons, largely moral and ethical but 1211 some of which are good economic reasons as well. I am an old member of the Labour Party. I was bred in the old Socialist philosophy and tradition of people no longer with us, people who did not believe that something for nothing was a good social objective, who condemned the philosophy of "get rich quick whether you are going to make any useful contribution to the welfare of society or not". We condemned that root and branch as an evil philosophy which should be condemned, and I am saddened to have heard one or two of my hon. Friends, who really should know better, becoming so sophistical in their attitude as to say that the moral question does not matter.
They have quoted the welfare services. They have referred to the hospitals and research centres which are needed. I remind them that, less than 20 years ago, most of our hospitals were entirely dependent upon charity for their work. The National Health Service is less than 20 years old. There are many deficiencies in our hospitals. There are many things we would like to provide in increasing facilities for the worthy people running them. But nevertheless our hospitals provide an infinitely better service to their patients and to the country than they ever did when dependent on charity.
What kind of a philosophy for a modern State is it which asks us, when we have gone away from the old philosophy of charity for our hospitals, to go back and rely on gambling to shelter the Government and the State from the responsibility of providing finance for these institutions? I condemn that philosophy, reasonably, I hope, and without undue passion. I do not want to get worked up about it, although I am strongly tempted to, having had to listen to palpable heresies poured into my left "lughole" such as that which I heard from my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Stoke Newington and Hackney, North, who is sitting smiling very wisely at me from a recumbent position.
You will remember, Mr. Speaker, that it was Ignatius Loyola who founded the great society called the Society of Jesus. I hope that no Roman Catholic will be offended by what I am going to say. The Society of Jesus was founded on the 1212 philosophy that, if there was a good end in sight at the end of the road, any means were legitimate to achieve it—that the end justified the means.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. If the hon. Gentleman develops it much further we must have a debate on it. We do not want that now, however. We are discussing the question of a national lottery.
§ Mr. Price
I am much obliged. We will get back to lotteries, which is where I was going.
The only argument of substance in favour of this national lottery has been that good would result, that it would provide financial support for hospitals. I deny that a desirable end can be achieved by foul or doubtful means. Ultimately, the things which happen in between destroy the good end.
Other hon. Members have criticised the Clause on different grounds. For example, there have been constituency arguments. It has been said that a State lottery would be in competition with Littlewoods and other pools promoters. As crude a constituency point as that has been made. If hundreds of thousands of people are employed in completely unproductive work churning out millions of forms and accountancy books every week to cater for this gambling which everybody seems to like—and many of my constituents will not like my saying this in the House tonight, but I am not concerned, because I want to say what I believe to be true. It is wrong constantly to dangle before our citizens who are engaged in gambling to the extent of at least £1,000 million a year the prospect of having a lucky strike which will cancel out all the need for hard productive work for this dear country of ours, the hope that they will strike a rich vein of gold by a lucky throw of the dice or by a lottery. This concept should be condemned and I hope that I have condemned it with due moderation.
I appeal to all those within hearing of my voice, including some of those who 1213 are lurking in the Lobby, to vote against the Clause so that a little sense can return to our counsels about gambling.
§ Mr. Paul Dean (Somerset, North)
The hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. J. T. Price) said that this was a moral issue. I agree. To a large extent it is a moral issue, but it is also a practical issue involving economic and financial considerations. I hope that those hon. Members who intend to vote against the Clause will not claim that they are the people who are moral and that those of us who are to vote for it are immoral.
I do not propose to develop this argument overmuch, but it is noteworthy that lotteries of various forms were accepted in our country in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries at a time when the moral law, as laid down by the Churches, was a great deal stronger than now. Those who have spoken against the Clause have tended to read too much into what it actually says. The Clause says:If … arrangements are made in such manner as Parliament may hereafter determine …In other words, all we are now doing is to have a Second Reading to a Second Reading which will follow later if a Bill is introduced. There will be plenty of time to discuss the details and, one hopes, to influence this or the succeeding Government before legislation is formulated.
I do not suggest that I like all the suggestions which the Financial Secretary put forward about the way in which the mind of the Government is moving. I intend to vote for the Clause, because I want the principle of lotteries to be reestablished in our country because of the value which they can do to good and, above all, to charitable causes.
If they are to be successful they must be for specific purposes, which have a charitable content, and to which people are likely to give generously and freely. Equally, and this comes to the practical economic arguments, they must, as far as possible, be directed to causes which will help to reduce the taxpayers' burden. It is for these reasons that I believe hospital building is the most appropriate subject for a lottery, either national or, as I would prefer, local, operated by the local hospital board or the local authority.
§ Sir Arthur Vere Harvey (Macclesfield)
Would my hon. Friend explain how any money derived from this form of lottery will find its way into building new hospitals? Has he taken into account that this country owes tens of thousands of pounds overseas to foreign bankers? What will they think about this debate when we are in such a state?
§ Mr. Dean
That is a fair point, and I assure my hon. Friend that I will deal with it in the course of my speech. Before I do so I want to say that I accept the weight of the argument which hon. Members have put forward, from both sides, that the proceeds of a lottery going into the general revenue will not be a successful move. I accept that entirely. Again, the Clause does not say that. It is merely enabling, leaving the details to be dealt with later.
Why do I mention hospital building? Because here is a specific purpose, a worthy cause, and if we can combine pride in the local hospital with the natural desire of people to have a flutter, there could be a source of great financial strength. It may be said that the State ought to provide the money, and that these alternative sources should not be needed. The State does not provide the money. The hon. Member for Westhoughton spoke about the dependence of hospitals before the war on charitable contributions. We are now spending substantially less, in real terms, on hospital building than we did before the war. There is some significance in the fact that in those days we did, to some extent, tap the local charitable effort for local institutions, whereas now we do so in a very marginal way. At present we rely very substantially on taxation, and under the present hospital building arrangements we are well down the league table.
It is significant that in the two countries in which I have studied lotteries in operation where they are used for hospital building purposes—the Irish Republic and Australia—they are spending a substantially higher proportion of their national wealth on hospital building than we are.
§ Mr. Michael Shaw (Scarborough and Whitby)
As I understand my hon. Friend's argument, curiously enough I 1215 support his objectives 100 per cent. It seems that he is supporting the principle of a lottery on a very narrow front indeed. Surely the logic of that is that he cannot be in favour of this Clause, but only in favour of a specific Bill that may be brought in later.
§ Mr. Dean
I am trying to speak briefly, and I have taken only one aspect to illustrate the theme that I am putting forward. The answer I would give to my hon. Friend is that in this one area, and I will not stray outside it, there are three answers to this problem. The first is to increase taxation still more in order to build more hospitals. The second is to accept an inadequate rate of building, which is the present position. The third is to look for alternative sources of additional revenue. I reject, and I hope that all my hon. Friends would reject, the first possibility of higher taxation.
§ It being Ten o'clock, the debate stood adjourned.