HC Deb 21 June 1974 vol 875 cc855-76

11.15 a.m.

The Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Dr. Shirley Summerskill)

I beg to move Amendment No. 1, in page 1, line 12, leave out 'a local lottery or'.

This is purely a drafting amendment to improve the grammar.

Amendment agreed to.

Dr. Summerskill

I beg to move Amendment No. 2, in line 14, after 'not', insert: ', subject to the following provisions of this section,'. This is a paving amendment, looking ahead to the introduction of a power to increase the figure in line 16 by regulations.

Amendment agreed to.

The Minister of State, Department of the Environment (Mr. Charles R. Morris)

I beg to move Amendment No. 3, in line 14, leave out from 'the' to 'or' in line 16 and insert: 'aggregate of the rateable values of the hereditaments (within the meaning of the General Rate Act 1967) in their area (including any hereditament which, by virtue of any enactment any body is to be treated as occupying in that area). This is merely a drafting amendment.

Amendment agreed to.

Mr. Graham Page (Crosby)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Before embarking upon more substantial amendments, may I draw attention to Amendment No. 5 and apologise for the fact that the introductory words to it are not very helpful or accurate. May I ask for an oral amendment to be made to the introductory words so that the amendment reads: Page 1, line 16 after 'less' insert …."? As we shall be grouping amendments Nos. 5, 6 and 7, I think that it will make for ease of debate on those grouped amendments if that oral amendment is made.

Incidentally we have a Notice Paper dated yesterday which has on it a number of starred amendments. You will realise, Mr. Speaker, that they are not really starred.

Dr. Summerskill

Are not we about to deal with Amendment No. 4?

Mr. Speaker

We are, but I think that the right hon. Member for Crosby (Mr. Page) wanted to give notice of the oral amendment to Amendment No. 5, to which I imagine there will be no objection.

We shall now deal with Amendment No. 4.

Dr. Summerskill

I beg to move Amendment No. 4, in line 16, leave out '£6,000,000' and insert '£500,000'.

The effect of the amendment would be to prohibit the total turnover of lotteries promoted by a single local authority exceeding £500,000 in any one year. This would mean that monthly lotteries, as envisaged by the Bill, would be limited to some £40,000 worth of tickets instead of £5,000,000 under the Bill.

The amendment was criticised in Committee as a unwarrantable interference with the autonomy of local authorities and as an attempt to emasculate the Bill. It is, however, the Government's view that a restriction of this kind, linked with the restrictions proposed in a later amendment are essential in the interests of the public, of local authorities promoting lotteries, and of other good causes seeking to raise funds through similar schemes.

Lotteries cannot be considered in isolation, or as similar to other administrative functions exercised by local authorities. They are a form of gambling and must be considered in the context of the whole of the gambling law.

The broad philosophy of that law today is that it should interfere with the freedom of the individual to gamble as little as possible, but that it should impose firm controls on those who promote gambling commercially so as to ensure their fitness, to prevent fraud and abuse, and to prevent excessive stimulation of gambling.

These objectives have been translated into a number of controls. I will give the House a few examples from other branches of the law. There are controls for betting and gaming and licensing systems for them. There are controls for casinos. These are reinforced by confining casinos to certain gaming areas where the population warrants such facilities.

There are controls for bingo which are reinforced by provisions which limit the prize money. There is also strict control of prizes, which is illustrated again in provisions controlling machines in gambling.

However, despite all that, the strictest controls are on lotteries. These are not permitted for any commercial purpose whatsoever. Private lotteries are lawful, and lotteries conducted at entertainments as a means of fund raising for good causes are permitted. The provision most widely taken advantage of is one which permits societies set up for charitable, sporting or other disinterested purposes, to run small public lotteries, subject to a number of conditions, the most important of which are limits of £750 on turnover, £100 on single prizes and 5p on the price of tickets. The society must register with the local authority, and it is understood that tens of thousands of small societies are registered for this purpose and run lotteries under these provisions within these limits.

The only area where control of this kind has not been imposed has been the football pools. The result has been the creation of a near monopoly in which one firm, capable of offering individual prizes in excess of £600,000, dominates the market at the expense of any competitor, including those schemes organised to benefit sport and charity.

I have given this account of other features of the gambling law primarily to illustrate the importance of provisions in various spheres designed to limit the scale of various forms of gambling. They also illustrate the way the various limits, both on scale and in other respects, operate to prevent any stimulation of the total volume of gambling and unrestricted competition which would be bound to lead to such competition. The gambling market is strictly regulated, and ordinary market forces have been substantially modified.

It was against this background that the interdepartmental working party's report envisaged that lotteries for good causes might be permitted at two levels: a national level with maximum prizes of £25,000 or £75,000 compared with the £100,000 proposed for the football pools; and a lower tier of small public lotteries with the existing limits substantially raised to correct the erosion of inflation. Because the working party estimated that there is a limited elasticity in the market, and to safeguard the public from endless badgering to buy tickets and from the cost of stultifying competition, it recommended that the national schemes should be subjected to strict disciplines likely to reduce the eligible promoters to a score or so. Even then it envisaged that a curb would have to be imposed on the football pools to release the necessary funds.

All the evidence and experience suggests that lotteries must be limited either in scale or in number, but this Bill does neither. The existence of tens of thousands of small public lotteries within the limits of the present law has given rise to no public mischief. In the case of the pools, however, including those schemes saved by the Pool Competitions Act 1971, about a score of separate enterprises operating on a large national scale find the competition as much as the market will bear, and three or four of the 1971 Act schemes have already dropped out.

The Government believe that if it is to be open to local authorities to promote lotteries it should be open to local authorities at all levels. But this involves numbers far greater than the market could possibly bear if the scale is unlimited. The Government's conclusion, therefore, is that if this measure is not to be either stillborn or seriously prejudicial to the chances of charity and sport, the scale of lotteries permitted must be restricted to the level envisaged by the amendment.

The turnover limit proposed in the Bill could be reached only by the very largest authorities. It involves a monthly sale of 2 million tickets of 25p. This figure might be reached in London, but in few, if any, other areas. To reach this limit the most vigorous promotion would be needed, coupled with the appeal of very large prizes. The figure in the Bill amounts effectively to no limit at all and would unleash unrestricted competition between authorities, which would be likely to create considerable public nuisance, to result in many schemes actually making a loss, and to expectations aroused in the public being disappointed. Last but not least, at the same time serious prejudice might be caused to the sources of revenue on which many charities and sporting clubs depend.

The larger authorities, to whose finances lotteries would make proportionately less difference, would be able to promote schemes with greater appeal and so draw off the funds from the smaller authorities. It is quite clear that if a reasonable opportunity is to be offered to the smaller authorities and if charity and sport are not to be permanently prejudiced, the Bill must fix a very much lower turnover limit that smaller authorities may have some prospect of reaching.

The figure proposed by the Government is very much larger than is at present permitted to sport and charity and is justifiable only on the assumption that the existing limits will be raised in the very near future. Even so, the amendment proposes a limit which is considered to be as high as could reasonably be fixed at this stage in the light of existing experience. It is, however, recognised that inflation will affect all figures fixed statutorily in this way. Accordingly, the next Government amendment provides power for the figure fixed to be increased.

The Bill proposes a scheme from which all local authorities may derive some benefit. If, however, it is tailored to the supposed potential of London and one or two other large authorities, its effects are likely to be largely self-defeating. For these reasons, it is, in the Government's view, essential that the limit on turnover should be cut down in the way proposed.

Mr. Graham Page

The amendment is an effort to restore an amendment proposed by the hon. Lady in Committee, which, after a full debate, was defeated. I recognise that the Government may be getting a little peevish about the defeats that they have suffered in the last few days. However, I hope that they will not take their peevishness out on this modest Bill.

There is already considerable restriction on local authorities on the amount of the proceeds of any lotteries over one year which they promote. The House will see that the restriction is that the proceeds in any one year shall not exceed 10 per cent. of the rateable value of the property in the local authority's area. Therefore, out of the 457 counties and districts, the limit of £6 million would apply only to 34 counties—about two-thirds of the shire counties—the five major districts of Liverpool, Manchester, Sheffield, Birmingham and Leeds, the Greater London Council, three London boroughs and the City of London. All the others of the 457 districts would be restricted to very much below the £6 million figure in the Bill.

11.30 a.m.

Looking at the average of the rateable values of districts throughout the country one finds that the figure is about £10 million, with many well below £5 million, so we are not talking throughout the country of lotteries of £6 million. In general, we are talking about lotteries of about £1 million a year in many of the districts, and the responsible counties should be permitted to raise their figure.

The idea of imposing a limit of £6 million is that the larger authorities should be able to run lotteries, monthly if they wish—a lottery with proceeds of £500,000 a month or £1 million bi-monthly. I am sure that if we restrict the proceeds of lotteries to the figure which the Government propose the Bill will be stillborn, as the hon. Lady said. It will be stillborn if we accept the amendment, but it will be a flourishing, bonny baby for local authorities and local authority revenue if we allow them a little liberty to raise the sort of money that will be a relief to the rates. The whole purpose of the lotteries is to give some relief to the rates, not to oblige local authorities every time they want to undertake a welfare or amenity project to have to put a further burden on ratepayers.

Dr. Summerskill

It is misleading to try to put the Bill over as a measure that will provide relief for ratepayers. It could be an additional source of revenue to local authorities, but I do not think we ought to let the public believe that the Bill will relieve them of any rates.

Mr. Page

I do not see the difference between relief of rates and an additional source of revenue to local authorities. Let us consider what local authorities were doing for a couple of years during the previous Government's tenure of office. Operation Eyesore in all cost £39 million, spread over about 18 months. We had to cease that because of a reduction in general public expenditure. If, by means of these lotteries, local authorities could raise £20 million a year—a modest sum compared with a total of £5,500 million local government expenditure—it would be possible to restore the whole of Operation Eyesore. The public would be pleased to do that, not by a further burden on individual ratepayers but by making a contribution to it. After all, nearly everybody is willing to contribute to a lottery. I have never known anyone complain about buying a lottery ticket, certainly not in the way that people complain about increases in rates.

The hon. Lady made a point about competition with existing lotteries run by charities, churches and sporting clubs. I hope that as a result of the departmental working party on lotteries the limits on those clubs are bound to be increased in due course when the Home Office can get round to introducing legislation based on the report.

There is a distinction to be made between putting a restriction on those lotteries and what is proposed here. Here we are dealing with a lottery run by the elected representatives of the people, and surely we can trust them to decide upon the amount for which they will promote a lottery within this restricted limit of £6 million a year, or 10 per cent. of rateable value. That is a substantial limit on the discretion of local authorities, and it ill-becomes any member of the Government to propose that we should put further restrictions on the discretion of local authorities.

I had the opportunity of conducting through the House the Local Government Bill for the reform of local government. Throughout the proceedings the then Opposition pressed for greater freedom for local authorities, yet here we have many of those hon. Members trying to impose further controls upon local authorities. The proposed controls are adequate, and we shall come later to Clause 4, which gives the Secretary of State considerable veto powers if a local authority is overstepping the mark in running these lotteries.

I am certain that local authority lotteries will not compete to any substantial extent with those run by charitable, church and sporting clubs, all of which have their loyal supporters. Football club supporters will not turn away from football bingo, but will continue to support their football team. Those who support church and charitable lotteries will not turn away from them and buy tickets in the local authority lottery. I cannot see that any competition will arise on that score.

Local authorities are given a heavy responsibility to provide for amenity and culture, and to provide for the disabled and the chronically sick. I am sure that many of them will use these lotteries to finance projects for the disabled and for amenity and culture, and to that extent they will assist the charitable concerns.

What is more, I believe that local authorities will turn to charitable societies, such as the Spastics Society, for advice in promoting lotteries to alleviate difficulties and distress among the disabled and chronically sick. I am sure that these lotteries will be used for that purpose in conjunction with the charitable societies. I therefore see great advantage to the societies through the Bill.

I must resist the amendment. If it is accepted, it will impose such a restriction that there will not be relief for the rates which the Bill is intended to provide.

Mr. Michael Spicer (Worcestershire, South)

I was a little disappointed to hear the Minister say that the Bill would not provide some relief to the rates. If the amendment were accepted the Minister's statement would be true, because the Bill would not then provide very much relief.

It is also true that this modest Bill will not substantially affect the crisis in local government revenue. My constituency is very much aware of this crisis, which we shall be debating at length next week. We have reached the stage at which there is a real possibility of ratepayers refusing to pay the rates.

There are four ways in which one could do something about the situation. First, one could transfer expenditure incurred locally to the national level. Secondly, one could increase the rate support grant. Thirdly, one could cut local expenditure. Fourthly, one could introduce measures to increase the revenue of local authorities.

I am not saying that the Bill will substantially increase local revenue. We shall next week have an opportunity to discuss other measures that will affect substantially the amount or revenue that can be collected locally, but I believe that in its unamended form the Bill will make a useful contribution to local authority finance. That point was made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Crosby (Mr. Page).

I do not follow the argument about the iniquities of gambling. I thought that you, Mr. Speaker, had knocked that argument on the head when, in a previous incarnation, I believe, you introduced the Premium Bond concept which subsequent Chancellors of the Exchequer have not been particularly chary about increasing. Unamended, the Bill will make a modest contribution to the problem. Amended, it certainly will not do so.

Mr. Michael English (Nottingham, West)

I welcome the Bill, which is a good Socialist measure. I see no reason why the proceeds of lotteries should go only to private persons or organisations. I welcome a Bill which will enable public and democratically-elected organisations to tap the same source of funds.

However, I see no harm in the amendment. It is not unusual in Britain to introduce something in a small way and see how it goes; then, as perhaps in this case, the limit can be raised if the idea is successful. If there is a Division I shall therefore vote for the amendment.

The discussion seems to have been primarily on the nature and virtues of the idea itself. I have long given up hope of central Government ever doing anything effective about local authority finance. I have long thought that the right hon. Member for Crosby (Mr. Page) was a good Minister in the last Government; had there been more like him, we might not have won the last election. I welcome the fact that he is now in a position, on the back benches, where he can really do something. It is a pity that successive Governments have not introduced legislation to deal with the appalling situation of local authority finance. I disagree with the Minister for that reason. She says that this proposal will not assist the rates, by which I take it that she means that it will not bring the rates down, because local authority expenditure is going up——

Dr. Summerskill indicated assent.

Mr. English

Since that is what she means, I accept it.

However, like all representatives of central Government, my hon. Friend seemed not to be terribly happy about giving local authorities additional sources of finance. The present situation is ludicrous. People actually think that their rates pay for local authority services. They do no such thing. The overwhelming bulk of local authority services has to be paid for by the Exchequer, from taxation, but the rates are blamed, although they are a minor part of the revenue. The revenue allowed by the central Government is quite insufficient to cover local authority expenditure. They are permanent borrowers, which is of great benefit no doubt to those who lend the money in the City of London, but hardly to the individual citizen who pays two, three, four or five times over every time a local authority builds a house or a school.

I am sure that the right hon. Member for Crosby does not believe that this Bill will be more than a drop in the ocean, but at least someone somewhere is tackling the problem. I shall vote for the amendment, and I shall certainly vote for the Bill.

Mr. Hugh Fraser (Stafford and Stone)

I hope that the Minister will reconsider her proposal. The House sees this Bill as an amelioration—little more—of the present situation, in which there is a growing revolt against rates. In my constituency, there was a meeting at Trentham, of representatives from all over the country, which suggested that the rates should not be paid. This Bill would make a valuable contribution, since it could produce between £20 million and £100 million. It may not be more than a drop in the ocean, but it would be a drop on the parched lips of ratepayers starving in a desert of maladministration, and it would be well received.

I do not want to make too much of a political point, but the Minister's attitude is far less practical than that of my right hon. Friend the Member for Crosby (Mr. Page) in terms of controlling the size of these funds. It is a typical Socialist approach to seek the report of an interdepartmental committee. I have very little respect for such committees, especially when they deal with things like gambling. When such a committee sees gambling as an inflexible matter with no elasticity, I advise it to look at the accounts of Joe Coral and other bookmakers, or even the reports of the Church Assembly, which will show that gambling expenditure has nearly doubled in the last eight or nine months because of inflation.

11.45 a.m.

The Minister should also consult some of the Latin-American embassies in London. She will find there, too, evidence of great flexibility, by which many things are paid for by lotteries in a period of hyper-inflation. The whole of the excellent hospital service in Caracas is due wholly to a weekly tierce on the horse races on Sunday. The scope for putting the gambling instinct to good use is enormous. That is where I fundamentally disagree with the attitude of Labour Members. If there is to be gambling, let it be directed in the right direction—in this instance, to help this Bill and see that the money is put to good use to relieve the ratepayer.

Mr. Stephen Ross (Isle of Wight)

I have supported the Bill from the outset, not because I love lotteries—it is a pity that we have to resort to that method—but because local government is facing a breakdown because of acute shortage of finance. Rates are too high, and the public are in a militant mood. Rightly, they will not accept any supplementary surcharges. The squeeze on local authorities is getting worse, and I believe that next month they will be facing the facts of life when they have to pay even higher market rates for the money they borrow—anything from 13 per cent. to 16 per cent. This can only lead to a further cut-back in worthwhile schemes, putting some of our services in real jeopardy.

Already, as the Minister will know—because the Department must be getting representations—the reserves of local authorities are running out. My own authority set aside about £1 million in balances which was thought to be sufficient. Practically all that will now be extinguished by massive inflation. I am receiving representations, in common with all hon. Members, I am sure, from my local authority, which is alarmed at the way things are going.

The limit of £500,000 under the amendment will mean that many large authorities will not be interested in promoting a lottery. The costs of the promotion, the staffing and the very prices will make sure that the scheme is stillborn. Many worthwhile schemes, like recreational facilities—which are in short supply in many areas—the renovation of buildings of character, which could help our present housing problems, and even projects like old people's homes will not get off the ground. They will all be put back ad infinitum.

I shall therefore vote against the amendment. I am sorry that it has been reintroduced after it was so crushingly defeated in Committee.

Mr. Cyril D. Townsend (Bexleyheath)

I strongly oppose the amendment. The Minister misled the House when she said that the Bill would not help solve the rates problem. Of course it will not sweep it away, but it will ease it considerably in certain areas. I have long favoured the idea of a lottery. When the last administration carried out their wide-ranging reform of local government they made a great mistake in not going further in reforming its finances. I believe that this is a belated chance of moving in the right direction. I hope that we shall have sweepstakes—and a poll tax, I believe, would be of help. Clearly, local government needs new and more buoyant sources of local revenue, and this is one small way in which the House can help today.

I shall not go into the problems of the cities, but the desperate shortage of capital for major projects means that authorities such as the GLC are bound to use what resources they have now to put money into long-term plans and to be skimpy when it comes to the arts and sport. The GLC has a good record in protecting the arts, with over £2 million a year allocated. Surely such a sum could be found by the GLC and other local authorities running their own lotteries. It is very rare that both sides of the GLC agree on anything, but it so happens that they have for some time agreed on the idea of the GLC's having its own lottery. The House should take note when such agreement is reached.

I worked for two years for the Hong Kong Government. Anyone who has visited that colony knows what success it has had with its sweepstake. Hong Kong has very good hospitals, equipped with extremely modern operating theatres. The money for these theatres is supplied by sweepstakes.

You, Mr. Speaker, have been accused of introducing Premium Bonds. Only a short while ago I read of the problems of Mr. Harold Macmillan when he introduced them. One has only to remember the Chancellor's remarks earlier this year to appreciate how public opinion has changed, and how the present Government have recognised that public opinion on this issue has changed. I believe that the proposals of my right hon. Friend the Member for Crosby (Mr. Page), if unamended, will do much to attract people away from foreign sweepstakes, which are operated here illegally, and away from the bookies and the betting shops. If the Minister has her way she will hamstring the Bill. I hope that the House will oppose her amendment.

Sir Brandon Rhys Williams (Kensington)

I should start by declaring an interest, in that 10 or more years ago was employed by the Spastics Society in its fund-raising activities. I have received a long communication from the society about the Bill but that, I regret to say, has not motivated my intervention today, because I have not had time to read it. My secretary is one of the refugees from the explosion in the annexe to Westminster Hall and she has been unable to produce the document for me. What I shall say has not been put into my head by my former employers. However, I thought it only right to say that I had that connection. So far as I recall the general tenor of the papers that I was sent by the society, it was that the society felt acute anxiety about the effect that the Bill might have.

It is right to deal in a fairly wide-ranging way with the purpose of the Bill when considering this amendment, because it is such a major amendment that it could almost be called a wrecking amendment. I do not think that the Minister's purpose is to destroy the Bill totally. Inevitably, however, if the Government amendment is passed, it will take away the object of the Bill, which is to give some relief to ratepayers. As that is obviously the intention of my right hon. Friend the Member for Crosby (Mr. Page), this is a matter which the House should consider at some length.

I have such high admiration for my right hon. Friend that I was delighted by the tribute that was paid to him from the Government benches just now. It is only with great trepidation and caution that I am seeking to intervene in opposition to one of his proposals. However, I gave considerable thought to the matter before deciding to speak today.

I have made the point in the House, and, indeed, many times outside it, that it is quite obvious that something must be done urgently about the problem of the burden of the rates. Put in a nutshell, the fact is that local authorities are obliged to compete with the depreciation of the currency and the general pressure on them to expand their activities. But their source of revenue, in so far as it derives from the ratepayers, is not buoyant, because many ratepayers are not able to expand their incomes to keep pace with inflation. Therefore, rates have to bear particularly hard on those living on small incomes, particularly on small fixed incomes.

In Kensington we have so many of such people that certainly it should be my business to try to encourage the House to do everything it can to secure a complete reconstruction of the finances of local authorities. My right hon. Friend the Member for Crosby is addressing himself to the same problem, and I fully share his anxiety. But I do not believe that palliatives will make any serious difference.

This morning my right hon. Friend mentioned—I think that my note of the figures is accurate—that the total of local authority expenditure is now £5,500 million. That is a staggering figure. There are many people who would like it to be much greater when they think of all the things that local authorities might or, indeed, should be doing. It has also been said—I think that my right hon. Friend agreed—that if the Bill were passed unamended it might permit local authorities to raise, outside the rates, between £20 million and £100 million. Even if that figure were an under-estimate and the figure was twice the highest figure £200 million it would be only a small contribution towards the £5,500 million. My right hon. Friend must agree that the House will not be relieved of its obligation to find an entirely new way of dealing with the problem of rates if this measure is passed.

Because of our enthusiasm to get something done to relieve ratepayers, it would not be right for us to rush into passing a measure the side effects of which have not, perhaps, been fully appreciated in the House. No doubt this matter was fully discussed in Committee, but the House should give long consideration to it before hastening to encourage local authorities to go into the business of raising money by exploiting the public's gambling instinct.

I have only a little to say on that matter. I should not like my right hon. Friend to think that I was trying to use the clock to defeat his Bill. Therefore, I shall make my points as quickly as possible. I do not believe that back benchers should try to defeat each other's Bills by the use of procedural devices.

What may have been the ruination of my career in Parliament is the fact that I was once taught the rhyme: Dare to be a Daniel, Dare to stand alone; Dare to have a purpose true, Dare to make it known. One of my purposes in seeking election to the House was to obtain the total reconstruction of the cash relationship between the individual and the State, in all its forms. Local authority expenditure comes high on the list. I do not know whether I am the only Member who thinks it shocking and scandalous that local authorities might be encouraged to exploit the gambling instinct as a regular source of revenue.

One does not want to take too hard a line on this matter. If a local authority had a particular objective on one occasion for which it wanted to raise a modest sum, there might be a controversy if the rates were devoted to it. Where many people living in the local authority's area were disposed to see funds from the local authority being used on, perhaps, a once-for-all basis, it might not be scandalous or shocking for the local authority to organise a lottery when there would be a great deal of general sympathy with the objective, but, as I read the Bill, my right hon. Friend envisages the organisation of lotteries as a regular source of income; not merely for specific stated objectives but as a year-in, year-out way of raising money for local authorities.

12 noon.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Crosby dealt briefly with the question of competition with charities. If he were right in thinking that there would be no competition with charities, and that this extra £20 million or £100 million could be received by local authorities without taking anything from the Spastics Society and other bodies—not always of a charitable nature—which raise money by the exploitation of the gambling instinct, he would simply be diverting money into gambling in addition to what goes into it now.

If, on the other hand, the total amount of money people put into lotteries and gambling of all kinds were to remain the same, but local authorities were to derive £20 million to £100 million from it, those other bodies would receive that much less. Those other bodies might be football pools. If that were where the money came from I do not think that many people would be too deeply distressed, but if bodies such as the Spastics Society, which depend largely on the organisation of regular lotteries, were to have to part with anything like £20 million or £100 million every year, the Bill would indeed have disastrous side effects.

I hope that by making these remarks I shall not be thought to have delayed the Bill unduly or to have damaged the worthy objective of hon. Members on both sides who want to get something done about the burden of rates and get it done quickly. However, I believe that the arguments presented by the hon. Lady in moving the amendment were substantially right, although I do not commit myself to supporting all that she said. If there is a Division, I shall be bound to go into the Lobby in support of her amendment.

Question accordingly negatived.

Mr. Leslie Spriggs (St. Helens)

Gambling in Britain has reached an all-time high. Every day, including Saturdays and Sundays, in most towns and cities there are queues waiting to enter one-time cinemas which have been turned into bingo halls. I do not object to people pleasing themselves what they do with their money and their lives, within reason, but we must consider carefully what the hon. Member for Kensington (Sir B. Rhys Williams) said. Lotteries are the wrong way to raise money for local government purposes. Local authorities need more money, but there are other ways of raising it.

I appeal to my hon. Friend the Minister not to withdraw the Government amendment. On this occasion it would go well with the public if the feeling of the House were to be tested. Hon. Members on both sides of the House will want to consider this proposal, perhaps in greater detail, at a later stage.

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The House divided: Ayes 41, Noes 49.

Division No. 49.] AYES [12.4 p.m
Atkins, Ronald (Preston, N.) Huckfield, Leslie Pendry, Tom
Bidwell, Sydney Jeger, Mrs. Lena Perry, Ernest G.
Bishop, E. S. Lyon, Alexander W. (York) Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon
Brown, Ronald (H'kney, S.&Sh'ditch) Lyons, Edward (Bradford, W.) Richardson, Miss Jo
Clark, A. K. M. (Plymouth, Sutton) MacFarquhar, Roderick Sandelson, Neville
Cocks, Michael Magee, Bryan Shaw, Arnold (Redbridge, Ilford, S.)
Cox, Thomas Marshall, Dr. Edmund (Goole) Sheldon, Robert (Ashton-under-Lyne)
Davidson, Arthur Mason, Rt. Hn, Roy Spriggs, Leslie
Edwards, Robert (W'hampton, S.E.) Melish, Rt. Hn. Robert Stewart, Donald (Western Isles)
English, Michael Mikardo, Ian Summerskiil. Hn. Dr. Shirley
Faulds, Andrew Millan, Bruce Whitehead, Phillip
Flannery, Martin Morris, Charles P. (Openshaw)
Graham, Ted Newens, Stanley (Harlow) TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Grimond, Rt. Hn. J. Parker, John (Dagenham) Mr. Ivor Clemitson and
Harrison, Walter (Wakefield) Peart, Rt. Hn. Fred Mr. Ian Wrigglesworth.
Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead) Jenkin, Rt.Hn.P. (R'dgeW'std&W'fd) Rodgers, Sir John (Sevenoaks)
Atkins, Rt.Hn.Humphrey (Spelthorne) Johnson Smith, G. (E. Grinstead) Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)
Baker, Kenneth Jones, Arthur (Daventry) St. John-Stevas, Norman
Balniel, Rt. Hn. Lord Kirk, Peter Shaw, Michael (Scarborough)
Buck, Antony Knight, Mrs. Jill Sims, Roger
Chalker, Mrs. Lynda Lawson, Nigel (Blaby) Spicer, Michael (Worcestershire, S.)
Channon, Paul MacGregor, John Temple-Morris, Peter
Cope, John Made), David Thomas, Rt. Hn. P. (B'net, H'dn S.)
Durant, Tony Mayhew, Patrick(RoyalT'bridgeWells) Townsend, C. D.
Eyre, Reginald Miller, Hal (B'grove & R'ditch) Walker, Rt. Hn. Peter (Worcester)
Fraser, Rt.Hn.Hugh (St'fford&Stone) Morgan-Giles, Rear-Adm. Wiggin, Jerry
Gilmour, Rt.Hn.Ian (Ch'sh'&Amsh'm) Page, Rt. Hn. Graham (Crosby) Winterton, Nicholas
Grylls, Michael Parkinson, Cecil (Hertfordshire, S.) Wor[...]ley. Sir Marcus
Gurden, Harold Prior, Rt. Hn. James
Hannam, John Pym. Rt. Hn. Francis TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Havers, Sir Michael Renton, Rt.Hn.SirDavid (H't'gd'ns're) Mr. Victor Goodhew and
Heseltine, Michael Ridsdale. Julian Mr. Paul Hawkins.
Hunt, John Rippon, Rt. Hn. Geoffrey
Mr. Speaker

The next amendment is No. 5, with which it will be convenient to discuss Amendments Nos. 6, 7 and 29.

Mr. Graham Page

Having regard to the result of the Division, I do not wish to move Amendment No. 5, Mr. Speaker, if you will be good enough to call the hon. Lady the Under-Secretary of State to move Amendment No. 6.

Mr. Speaker

Will the right hon. Gentleman clarify the position of Amendments Nos. 7 and 29? Are they to be discussed?

Mr. Page

I do not wish to move Amendments Nos. 5 or 7, or the new Schedule, which is Amendment No. 29 on the Amendment Paper. I am prepared for the debate to take place on Amendment No. 6.

Dr. Summerskill

I beg to move Amendment No. 6, in page 1, line 16, leave out from 'less' to end of line 19 and insert: '() The Secretary of State may by regulations made by statutory instrument—

  1. (a) substitute a greater sum for that specified above; and
  2. (b) prescribe provisions to be included in any scheme under this section.
() The regulations may in particular, but without prejudice to the generality of the foregoing subsection, limit the amount or value of prizes in a local lottery and the price at which tickets or chances may be sold'. The effect of this amendment is to give the Home Secretary power to prescribe by regulations the contents of the schemes which will regulate local authority lotteries. In addition, the power will include power to increase the turnover limit prescribed in the Bill. Very little thought has been given to the conduct of lotteries by local authorities because it is a new concept. Some precedent exists in the provisions which regulate the small public lotteries which societies may promote for charitable, sporting or other disinterested purposes. Ideally, the rules of such lotteries ought to be determined by Parliament and set out in the statute itself, as happens in all the rest of the gambling legislation. There has not, however, been sufficient time for consultation to determine what those rules should be, and there is no alternative, therefore, but to leave this to be dealt with by subordinate legislation.

It has to be remembered that the whole of the gambling law, and in particular the conditions under which organisations or societies—whether established for profit or for good causes—may profit out of the conduct of gambling, is part of the criminal law. The criminal law sets out clear conditions which are applicable to all, the breach of which involves a penal sanction. This Bill exempts local authority lotteries from the whole of that part of the law.

The argument of the promoters is that local authorities should be left a virtually free hand to write those parts of the criminal law which apply to their own activities in this field, with power to change it from time to time at their own desire. This is an unprecedented proposal and is objectionable on basic constitutional grounds. The question is not one of making differential provision such as for pensioners' bus fares as between different local authorities, which was the analogy quoted in Committee, but one of a dispensation from the provisions of the criminal law.

12.15 p.m.

It is not simply a question of conferring a function on local authorities to run lotteries as they like, the manner of the exercise of which may and should be left to their discretion. The function in question involves an activity which, when conducted by any other organisation, which may be a national charity of the highest repute, is subject to strict controls which are imposed in the public interest.

Other forms of lawful gambling are subject to supervision in various ways. In Committee it was recognised that similar arrangements should apply to local authority lotteries, and the Government amendment was accepted which brought them within the jurisdiction of the Gaming Board. Unless adequate power exists to prescribe the content of local authority schemes, however, that control becomes unworkable and illusory.

I should tell the House that since the proceedings in Committee—perhaps the right hon. Member for Crosby (Mr. Page) will note this point—Sir Stanley Raymond, the Chairman of the Gaming Board, has represented to the Home Secretary that unless the Bill is amended as proposed in this amendment the board's job will become impossible. Part of the board's function under Clause 4 would be to determine whether a local authority's lottery had been conducted in accordance with its own scheme. If the local authority had virtually unfettered power to write its own rules and to change them from time to time, this scrutiny could do no more than bring to notice undesirable features with no power to take action to end them.

Administratively, however, the board's job would become impossibly complex. Instead of one common scheme, thousands of variations would exist, the rules of different tiers of authorities might differ within the same area, and the task of verifying whether the appropriate set of rules had been observed would become impossibly burdensome. The Gaming Board has a staff of only about 30 inspectors, and a slightly larger clerical headquarters staff, and could not practicably fulfil this rôle.

The matters to which the rules will relate will be of considerable importance. Provision will be required to ensure that common rules apply to advertising restrictions, to restrictions on sales to minors, to restrictions on points of sale and similar matters. Finally, if authorities which have the strongest market are to be prevented from unfair competition with weaker authorities a common limit on the level and amounts of prizes will be essential together with limits on the price of tickets.

This amendment is not an attempt by the Government to retain an unwarranted control over the autonomy of local authorities; it goes to a matter of fundamental constitutional importance. If the rules of these lotteries are not to be written in the statute itself, it is imperative that Parliament should have a late opportunity, by means of a statuory instrument, of satisfying itself as to the content of those rules and that they adequately safeguard the public interest on the matters in question. If this amendment is rejected, serious consideration will have to be given to the feasibility of the rôle of the Gaming Board under the Bill and to the wider constitutional objections described and to alternative ways of overcoming these in the course of the Bill's progress in another place.

Mr. Graham Page

I had hoped that the Government could allow the local authorities greater freedom than the clause will now allow, but I do not think that the hon. Lady's view of it as a matter of fundamental constitutional importance really applies. I believe that the Secretary of State, the local authorities and the Gaming Board can get together to make the proper regulations, and I hope that, to facilitate progress with the Bill, the House will accept the Government's amendment. For that reason, as I have said, I propose not to move my Amendment No. 7, nor to urge the House to accept the schedule, which appears as Amendment No. 29.

Dr. Summerskill

I am most grateful to the right hon. Gentleman.

Amendment agreed to.

Mr. Speaker

We come now to Amendment No. 8.

Mr. Page

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. All the remaining amendments from No. 8 to No. 28 either have already been discussed or are purely drafting or tidying-up amendments. In the circumstances, if the hon. Lady agrees, I should be quite happy to have them taken en bloc.

Dr. Summerskill

I agree, Mr. Speaker.

Amendments made:

No. 8, in page 1, line 19, at end insert— '() A statutory instrument made under this section shall be subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of either House of Parliament'.

No. 9, in page 1, line 19, at end insert— '()I It shall be the duty of the Secretary of State before making regulations under this section to consult—

  1. (a) the Gaming Board for Great Britain, and
  2. (b) such associations of local authorities as appear to him to be concerned'.

No. 10, in page 1, line 19, at end insert— '() A scheme made under this section may be varied or revoked by a subsequent scheme so made'.

No. 11, in page 1, line 23, leave out 'Revenue' and insert 'Lotteries'.

No. 12, in page 2, line 6, leave out 'Revenue' and insert 'Lotteries'.[Dr. Summerskill.]

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