HC Deb 30 April 1975 vol 891 cc629-40

11.0 p.m.

Dr. Summerskill

I beg to move Amendment No. 6, in age 3, line 25, leave out 'purposes' and insert 'purpose'.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

With it we shall also take Government Amendments Nos. 9, 10, 12, 13 and 15 to 24 inclusive and Amendment No. 8, in page 3, line 32 at beginning insert: to determine a specific object for which they are to promote a local lottery, and then".

Dr. Summerskill

We undertook following discussion of the clause in Committee to look at its wording with particular reference to the repeated use of the word "purposes" in various places. The Government amendments would have the effect of drawing a clearer distinction between the purposes for which a local authority may promote a lottery and the purposes for which a particular lottery is promoted. It is the latter of which the local authority must give notice under subsection (2).

The amendments achieve this aim by introducing the expression "object of the lottery" as meaning the particular purpose or purposes for which the particular lottery is promoted, and that expression is substituted where appropriate throughout the clause: The opening words of the clause will therefore now read A local authority may promote a local lottery for any purpose for which they have the power to incure expenditure under any enactment", so that the clause as a whole will serve to point the distinction between the very wide statutory powers and functions of the local authority on the one hand and the limited object of the particular lottery on the other.

Mr. Alison

I wish to speak to Amendment No. 8 which appears in the name of my right hon. and hon. Friends and myself. We wish to thank the Minister for her group of amendments and for the fact that she listened to the debate in Committee and came forward with the refining phraseology which will make clear this distinction between the general purposes and specific objects of lotteries.

My amendment serves merely to embellish and perhaps refine still further the phraseology in the Bill. The wording of it was provided by the representations made to hon. Members on both sides by the Churches Council on Gambling and the effect is to add a touch of additional logic to a logical progression of the duties of a local authority under the clause. As a result subsection (2)(a) would start with the words It shall be the duty of a local authority … to determine a specific object for which they are to promote a local lottery, and then to give it publicity.

It seems reasonable to spell out in the Bill not only the logical step of a local authority having to determine quite clearly the specific object, not just a general purpose—and here we take the Minister's point—and reach a clear, determinate conclusion about the specific object of a specific lottery, giving the name of it, but thereafter taking the second logical step of publicising it.

This is a refinement which in no way complicates the Bill, but spells out in the context of the Minister's changes the necessity for a local authority to be quite clear for itself about the object of the lottery, thereby to determine and specify it and to give it publicity.

The amendment goes much in the same direction as the Government amendment. I hope that gives a nod in the direction of the Churches Council on Gambling, which is an important and enlightened body in these matters, the Minister will consider accepting the amendment.

Mr. Albert Roberts

A local authority could do what the hon. Member for Barkston Ash (Mr. Alison) suggests, in any case. If a local authority wishes to sell tickets in a lottery and make a success of it, it will publicise the lottery as much as possible, particularly if it is something that appeals to the public. If I had anything to do with such a lottery I would make sure that it had a good purpose so that the public would buy the tickets.

Mr. Rees-Davies

What the Minister has done goes a bit further than has been suggested, I am glad to say. The essence of the matter we were concerned with in Committee was two-fold. The first point was that these lotteries have a variety of purposes and the second was that there was no obligation to state the object of the lottery. We all recognised that it was immensely desirable that people should know what was the object of a lottery. They should know that they are putting up money for a local sports ground, a local arts society, a new parish hall or whatever.

It stands to reason that they might want to know the area involved. This particularly applies in the great conurbations of the Midlands and the North where hon. Members might be prepared to subscribe to a lottery in one constituency but not to one held in another constituency. I am glad to see that in Amendment No. 13 it is said: 'object' means the particular purpose or purposes for which a local authority promote a local lottery. I am also pleased to learn that the objective will be carefully and clearly laid down.

I find that particularly attractive and important because I was basically arguing that the objectives which local authorities should pursue should not concern the general rate fund but should be to do with the cultural-amenity aspects. I did not succeed in that argument but it was a concomitant part of the argument, and most pertinent to it, that we should be quite sure what was the objective of each local lottery. I am glad that the hon. Lady has been able to find a way in which to make the necessary change.

Dr. Summerskill

I must point out to the hon. Member for Barkston Ash (Mr. Alison) that Clause 4 (2) (a) is concerned to ensure that people buying tickets in a local lottery know the object of the lottery, whereas Clause 4 (1) is concerned with the purpose under statute for which a local authority may promote a local lottery. Amendment No. 8 would attempt to run together a local authority's duty both to decide the object of a local lottery and to publicise that object. The amendment is unnecessary.

In any case, it uses the expression "specific object". These words, taken with the definition of "object" which has been introduced by Amendment No. 13, would make no sense in the Bill. Amendment No. 8 would be unnecessary and confusing if taken together with Amendment No. 13.

Amendment agreed to.

Mr. Graham Page

I beg to move Amendment No. 7, in page 3, line 30, at end insert 'and further including the purpose or purposes of a society or societies as described in subsection (2) of section 1 of this Act, the funds of which are to a substantial extent expended or utilised (or to be expended or utilised) within the district of the local authority in question'.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

With this we can discuss the following amendments:

Amendment No. 11, in page 3, line 35, after 'chances', insert 'and in that publicity to name any society to which a share of the proceeds will be allocated'. and Amendment No. 14, in line 38, at end insert— 'Providing only that not less than one-half thereof is applied for the purpose or purposes of a society or societies as specified in subsection (1) of this section, and as selected at the local authority's discretion'.

Mr. Page

The words in Amendment No. 7 are an addition to subsection (1) of Clause 4 which sets out the purpose for which a local authority may promote a local lottery. The purpose is described as including those powers of a local authority given it by the statute mentioned in the clause.

The amendment would add further power— including the purpose or purposes of a society or societies as described in subsection (2) of section 1 of this Act, the funds of which are to a substantial extent expended or utilised (or to be expended or utilised) within the district of the local authority in question". The underlying purpose of the amendments is that a local authority should be entitled to promote a lottery for the purposes of a society operating within its district—a cultural society, an athletic society or whatever it may be.

In 99 cases out of 100 the purposes of such a society would be within the powers of the local authority to assist and finance. I want to go further. It will be within the recollection of the House that I had the honour to present a Bill to the House in an earlier Parliament which had a Second Reading and a Third Reading and which went to another place. That Bill dealt only with local authority lotteries. There was concern lest, if local authorities were permitted to promote local lotteries, there might be overpowering competition with societies which already had the power to promote small lotteries. Very wisely, the Government in their Bill have included power for the societies to run lotteries on a level with the local authorities.

There is no doubt that the local authorities will have the edge on a society in running a lottery. Local authorities have greater resources with which to run lotteries. They may hog the market against the smaller societies which wish to run lotteries for their own purposes.

The purpose of the three amendments is to secure that the local authorities devote a certain part of the proceeds of their lotteries to the purposes of a society or societies in their district, whether it be a local society operating only in that district or the branch of a national society situated in the district of the local authority.

In this respect I do not think that the local authority would be going outside the normal functions of a local authority in supporting sports or cultural activities in its district. If the House were to accept the amendments, it would allay the societies' fears that local authorities will encroach on even the present activities of societies in raising money by means of lotteries. Under the Bill as it stands the societies would have exactly the same legal rights and be subject to the same legal limits as local authorities. They would be able to run lotteries in the same way as local authorities would be able to run them. There is a fear that local authorities, because of their greater resources, would be much more efficient at it and would swamp the societies' desire to raise money for their own purposes.

That difficulty would be solved if we obliged the local authorities to devote a certain part—in Amendment No. 14 I have put one-half—of the proceeds to societies operating in their district. This would be of great assistance to the societies throughout the land which look to lotteries to raise funds.

I mentioned Amendment No. 7 being an addition to Clause 4(1). Amendment No. 11 requires the local authority to name the society which the lottery is assisting. That amendment could stand on its own without the other two. If a local authority is assisting a society in a lottery it is promoting, it would be wise for that fact to be mentioned plainly as it would attract the public to buy tickets. Amendment No. 14 sets an obligation on the local authority to devote 50 per cent.

of the proceeds of each lottery to the objects of societies within its area.

11.15 p.m.

Mr. Ogden

Some hon. Members opposed those parts of the Bill which gave powers to local authorities for the promotion of local lotteries because they were afraid that local authority lotteries would be a threat to society lotteries. Some hon. Members opposed the idea of local authorities indulging in lotteries at all, as I did, but there was a second voice which said that the running of lotteries by local authorities would pose a threat to lotteries run by charities and voluntary societies. There were two threads—the rights of societies and the new rights for local authorities.

In earlier debates it was said that local lotteries organised by local authorities were not a threat to charities and that the two types of lottery were separate. It was argued that the two types should have equal rights. Now, the right hon. Member for Crosby (Mr. Page) says that local authority lotteries may be a threat and in so doing he confirms the fears of those of us who thought that was so.

If the amendment is accepted, instead of two types of lotteries—charity and sports club lotteries and local authority lotteries—there will be a third tier of lotteries organised by local government for the purpose of charities or sports clubs. This will cause confusion. Who will decide which charity is to benefit? Will it be the local authority? Would it not be better not to allow local authority lotteries if they pose a threat to society lotteries, as the amendment suggests they do? Having created the difficulty, the right hon. Gentleman is trying to remove part of it. It would have been better if it had not been created in the first place.

Mr. Clemitson

Clause 4(1) is widely drawn. A local authority can raise money through a lottery for any purpose. It was said originally that the raising of money through lotteries was not to be a substitute for a proper system of local taxation, yet Clause 4 enables a local authority to raise money for any purpose on which it can spend money. If I understand the amendment correctly, it pushes the bounds even further to include purposes for which societies in the neighbourhood exist.

On 22nd April I sought leave to introduce the Local Government (Enabling) Bill, the purpose of which is to encourage local authorities in trading and commercial activities, which is a much more sensible proposal because the local authority would be able to provide useful services to the citizens and also be able to earn money, rather than raising it through gambling. Yet the provision was opposed by Opposition Members and went to a Division.

It seems ironical that this amendment displays a desire to push out the boundaries in using money from gambling in the form of lotteries but when we suggest that the power of local authorities should be increased to do something that is worthy and worth while, we find there is opposition to such a move.

Mr. John Farr (Harborough)

I shall not raise all the points which were raised on this matter in Committee, but I merely wish to point out that there were some Opposition Members who made it clear that they regretted the participation of local authorities in the lottery business in any way whatever. These points were made at length in Committee, but invariably were voted down.

I do not see that the efforts of my right hon. Friend the Member for Crosby (Mr. Page) in this group of amendments improve the situation in any way whatever. I believe that the Bill is bad because it permits local authorities to concentrate a good deal of their scarce manpower and resources on promoting lotteries, which I do not regard as either needed or desirable in Great Britain. But at least the provisions set out the matter fairly clearly since in Clause 4(2)(a) and (b) specific requirements are laid on local authorities to promote lotteries.

Again, I do not see that my right hon. Friend improves matters by stating in Amendment No. 14: Providing only that not less than one-half thereof is applied for the purpose or purposes of a society or societies …". I prefer paragraph (b) as it is. It clearly states that the local authority must apply money accruing from a local lottery only to purposes specified under paragraph (a) above. Therefore, I repeat that my right hon. Friend's amendments do not improve a bad Bill, but make it rather worse.

Mr. James Lamond (Oldham, East)

The right hon. Member for Crosby (Mr. Page) mentioned the resources which local authorities would have behind them to promote lotteries and suggested that the resources available to voluntary organisations did not compare with, and certainly could not compete with, the resources that would be available to local authorities.

I find it difficult to understand what he means because the resources which matter in the context of the ceiling on lottery tickets are those at the point of sale. A voluntary organisation has the same resources to order the printing of tickets as does any local authority. Presumably, a voluntary organisation sells tickets through voluntary salesmen or saleswomen. Some local authorities will probably be forced to pay some sort of commission on sales to encourage people to sell tickets. I object to the institutionalising of gambling in that way, but I do not object to tennis clubs trying to raise money from their members.

Contrary to what the right hon. Member for Crosby has said, the resources available to a voluntary organisation are greater than those available to a local authority, because those who do this work for the former will at least have the motive of assisting the organisation and will work voluntarily, but some sort of payment will have to be made by the local authorities to those who sell tickets, and so those proceeds will be smaller.

Mr. Alison

I want to defend my right hon. Friend the Member for Crosby (Mr. Page) and to support his amendments. The House owes my right hon. Friend a debt of gratitude for having himself basically constructed the Bill, which the Government took over. As he rightly said, he took it through practically every stage before the end of the last Parliament caused it to founder and the present Government to take it over.

My right hon. Friend was right to limit his original Bill to local authorities. I do not share the view of the hon. Member for Liverpool, West Derby (Mr. Ogden) that there is anything wrong in principle in public authorities using gambling as a basis for raising money. After all, the principle of the premium bond has long been established and accepted by Governments of both parties. [Interruption.] If the hon. Member for Luton, East (Mr. Clemitson) will sit still for a moment, I shall give way to him.

The principle has been long established. The potential interest is the gambling element. It is exactly the same as an ordinary purchase of a premium bond. If there is to be a net outflow of £800 million on gambling as a result of the British gambling instinct, it is much better that public authorities should step in and divert some of it from Littlewoods and others` into potential public services.

But it is the hon. Lady's Government who have attempted to change the fundamental basis of my right hon. Friend's original and logical proposal that this should be a local authority lotteries Bill, the local authority counterpart of the premium bond. They have done so by introducing the voluntary societies. Our objection is that the hon. Lady has put a sharp limit on the scale of the permitted prizes offered by local authorities. The hon. and learned Member for Hackney, North and Stoke Newington (Mr. Weitzman) will know what I am talking about.

The GLC has made it plain that it believes in the value of local lotteries, but regards the level set by the Bill as ludicrous. It says that big authorities will not go in for lotteries for the permitted uses, that they may be of use to the small authorities, but that they will be the direct competitors of the voluntary societies. It is therefore only rational in the context of what the Government have done that some attempt should be made, if local authorities are to be disadvantaged by the fact that most local authority lotteries will be at their level, that is, on a rather small scale, on the hon. Lady's own principle of bringing in the voluntary societies to allow local authorities automatically to cream off a certain percentage for local charities, local voluntary organisations, local football clubs and so on. There is no difficulty about determining which they shall be. Local authorities, particularly their social service departments, are always having to work out which local voluntary organisations are in special need of support and yet locally effective and active. It can be decided on a straightforward administrative ad hoc basis.

My right hon. Friend's amendments strengthen and underpin the very principle that the hon. Lady has introduced —that it is valuable to associate voluntary organisations. Without these amendments, the Bill will disadvantage voluntary societies and for that reason the amendments should be accepted. I promised to give way to the hon. Member.

Mr. Clemitson

I am grateful to the hon. Member. I intended to comment on his peculiar doctrine that longevity confers rightness.

Mr. Alison

If the hon. Gentleman is referring to the premium bond principle—I do not know whether that is the longevity that he has in mind—I have found nothing objectionable or wrong in the principle of premium bonds, and nor have many other hon. Members on either side of the House.

11.30 p.m.

Dr. Summerskill

I appreciate that since he first started taking an interest in the subject of lotteries the right hon. Member for Crosby (Mr. Page) has moved very far towards sympathy with the voluntary societies, and he shows this in his amendment. Fundamentally, however, it is more satisfactory, as the Bill proposes, both to local authorities and to societies, that the administrative arrangements for raising money by lotteries, whether for local authorities or for societies, should be separate.

Local authorities that were reluctant to promote lotteries to help societies in their area could be subjected to a great deal of pressure to do so. As one of my hon. Friends has pointed out, local authorities could be placed in an invidious position, wondering whether to respond to pressures from individual societies, some of which might be better at lobbying than others, and wondering whether, if they responded to pressures, to which one they should respond. There would be jealousy between individual societies as to which one was chosen by a local authority for a particular lottery and they would be vying with each other.

The Government have no evidence to suggest that societies generally want the arrangement proposed by the right hon. Gentleman, which I think would restrict within the financial limits laid down in our Bill the help that an individual local authority or society could derive from a lottery. I also remind the House that it is already possible under the Bill for a local authority to apply lottery proceeds for the benefit of voluntary organisations, ones which the authority can assist under its statutory powers. There would be objection to further arrangements of the type proposed in the amendment. As I say, however, it is already possible under the Bill for a local authority to apply its lottery proceeds to voluntary organisations in certain circumstances.

Amendment negatived.

Amendments made: No. 9, in page 3, line 32, leave out 'purposes for which they are promoting' and insert 'object of'.

No. 10, in page 3, line 34, leave out 'them' and insert' it'.

No. 12, in page 3, leave out line 38 and insert

'the object of the lottery'.

No. 13, in page 3, line 38, at end insert—

'( ) In this section "object" means the particular purpose or purposes for which a local authority promote a local lottery'.

No. 15, in page 3, line 42, leave out 'purposes specified in relation to that lottery under subsection (2)(a) above' and insert 'object of the lottery'.

No. 16, in page 4, line 3, leave out 'specified purposes' and insert 'object of the lottery'.

No. 17, in line 4, leave out 'have' and insert 'has'.

No. 18, in line 6, leave out 'specified purposes provide' and insert 'object provides'.

No. 19, in line 12, leave out 'specified purposes were' and insert 'object was'.

No. 20, in line 13, leave out 'they were' and insert 'the object was'.

No. 21, in line 18, leave out 'specified purposes' and insert 'object'.

No. 22, in line 18, leave out 'have' and insert 'has'.

No. 23, in line 19, leave out 'they were' and insert 'it was'.

No. 24, in line 26, leave out 'the specified purposes' and insert 'its object'.—[Dr. Summerskill.]

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