HC Deb 30 April 1975 vol 891 cc672-8
Mr. Alison

I beg to move Amendment No. 47, in page 7, line 37, at end insert 'including provision for the promotion of joint lotteries, by local authorities amongst themselves, by societies amongst themselves, or between local authorities and societies'.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

With it we shall also discuss the following amendments:

No. 48, in page 7, line 43, at end insert

'and the means, including the use of postal services, appropriate for the effecting of such sales'.

No. 49, in page 8, line 2, at end insert

'including the method of door-to-door visitation or canvassing to effect such sales'.

No. 50, in page 8, line 7, leave out 'may' and insert 'and the object thereof must'.

Mr. Alison

We come now to the regulation-making section of the Bill. There are three regulations where we should like additional powers to be taken because they could be valuable. The first is in Amendment No. 47. Because it is set in the context of making regulations, there is no need to be too specific or to spell out all the precise mechanical details of how it would be effected.

We believe that there should be provision for joint lotteries. We are referring here to the situation which might affect, for example, the Greater London Council and the other authorities in the metropolis. Instead of each running a separate lottery, each having to produce a separate canvass, the organisation, promotion, printing, sales and all the other administrative functions which a single lottery would require, they should be given the power, if necessary by order or regulation, to agree that one of them on behalf of all the others should provide the servicing and that the others should merely contribute while enjoying the right to a proportionate share in the selling and in the total prizes. Therefore, if it were a minimum-term lottery operated jointly by four authorities, the lottery would be four times £20,000 which would mean a ceiling of £80,000, and the prizes could be proportionate to that amount. The yield would be distributed among the four contributing or cooperating authorities.

The sole benefit would be that expenses as a proportion of yield or turnover would be very much lower, efficiency would be maximised and there would be co-operation instead of competition. It might be possible to have joint lotteries along these lines as the Bill stands. If not, the amendment should be accepted. It should also be possible to have lotteries operated jointly by local authorities, by societies or by a combination of each.

1.15 a.m.

Amendment No. 48 refers to the use of the postal services. It may be appropriate on occasions for the Minister to lay down by regulation that local authorities should, or should not, make use of the rate demand notice by sending notice of lotteries with the demand. It is important that the postal aspect of lotteries should be mentioned in the regulation-making powers. It may be, for example, that door-to-door canvassing will become so intolerable that it will be necessary to have a collateral power under regulations to direct local authority promotional lotteries through the postal services.

That leads on to Amendment No. 49 where specific reference is made to the likelihood of door-to-door canvassing. We do not take a decision one way or another on the effect of this. We simply think that the Minister should have the regulation-making power to intervene, to permit canvassing or to scale it down. The last amendment is No. 50 which tightens things up to lend some emphasis to the Bill. These are steps which ought to be considered and we hope that the Minister will accept the amendments.

Mr. Clemitson

The hon. Member for Barkston Ash (Mr. Alison) is trying to sell us this idea on the grounds of efficiency. saying that if we have a consortium of local authorities the administrative costs will be reduced. What would also happen is that the total turnover allowed would be increased, along with the total prize money. This is yet another of a series of amendments aimed at increasing the size of the lotteries and therefore of the prize money and consequently the incentive for people to gamble.

Mr. Alison

The hon. Member has missed the point, as he missed it earlier when he referred to the £25,000. We specifically said that annual or quarterly lotteries should have a maximum prize of £6,500. His point was mistaken then and it is equally mistaken now. All we are providing for is that the administration should be done by one authority but the prize money should be divisible into the proportion of the number of authorities involved. The prize money might be £8,000. If four local authorities took part they would each have the proportion as it is in the Bill. There would be no scaling-up.

Mr. Rees-Davies

I want to deal with the circumstances under which the tickets may be sold, dealt with in Amendment No. 49, which covers door-to-door canvassing to effect such sales. It is one of the matters which must be considered by the Minister with a view to restriction. These regulations will be laid before the House subject to negative resolution. When will they be laid'? We were told that we might have an opportunity of considering them and being consulted about these restrictions before Report. That has not happened. I would like the Minister's assurance that we shall have the opportunity to consider these matters

The question of the sale of tickets is of fundamental importance and has not been referred to very much except in a short speech I made in Committee. If many of the 8,600 local authorities conduct 52 lotteries a year, the question how the tickets are to be sold is fundamental. The method will vary according to the object of the lottery.

The interdepartmental committee went wrong in one respect, for I believe that it would be wrong for a specially selected team, working on overtime, to go knocking on doors attempting to sell tickets. That would soon become unpop0ular. I do not think that people would like it.

The Government must face up squarely to what local authorities must be entitled to do. They must be entitled to sell through kiosks—for example, tobacconists' kiosks. They must clearly be entitled to send tickets to local golf clubs and other clubs. If they are fortunate enough to have a racecourse situated in their district, they must be entitled to send tickets to the local racecourse, where perhaps there could be a sponsored race.

The manner in which the tickets can be sold needs careful consideration. The hon. Lady has not considered an amendment which was discussed in Committee as to how a local authority will pay people who sell tickets and whether sellers are to be entitled to free tickets in lieu of money.

I hope that the hon. Lady will give an assurance that, if the amendment is not to be added to the Bill, every word of it will be taken into account and that we shall be able to know that the Government do not propose door-to-door canvassing by local authority members or officials but will find another way of proceeding.

Dr. Summerskill

As regards Amendments Nos. 48 and 49, I am aware of the concern about these aspects of the regulations—postal services and what is called in the amendment "visitation". I thought that was seeing ghosts. It is canvassing as we generally know it. I shall be laying in the Library a consultative document about regulations. I assure hon. Members that I will consider both these propositions with a view to introducing an amendment in the other House to extend the regulation-making power on these matters, if that is likely to be of value.

Amendment No. 47 purports to confer power to make provision for the promotion of joint lotteries by means of regulations. To make provision for joint lotteries, I am advised, the whole Bill would have to be revised and some means would have to be found for dividing the net proceeds amongst the interested parties. This is not something which could possibly be done by regulations.

Since the Committee, I have considered whether it would be advisable to enable joint lotteries to be held, but I can see great difficulty in overcoming the problems of the separate responsibility of authorities and the division of the proceeds. Furthermore, if the intention were that the permitted turnover should be multiplied proportionately to the number of participating authorities, no assurance could be given that such joint lotteries would be exempt from pool betting duty. I have established that since the Committee stage, and it might be of interest to those who think that a joint lottery would be economically worth while. There would be only limited advantages from joint lotteries which would not offset the undoubted difficulties which would arise.

Mr. Graham Page

I am puzzled by the hon. Lady's reference to pool betting duty. I cannot see why this should apply in any different way if there is a joint lottery from the way in which it applies to single lotteries.

In rejecting any regulation or amendment to the Bill to provide for joint lotteries, the hon. Lady must leave the Bill as it stands, and it contains no prohibition of joint lotteries. Is she saying that it would be illegal to run a joint lottery? If so, it would be a simple matter for the 30 or so London boroughs wishing to hold a Festival of Britain to run concurrent lotteries and to keep 30 or so separate funds, which seems a nonsense, when they could join together and have a reasonable joint lottery. I am still puzzled whether the Bill authorises joint lotteries and, if it does, why the relief from betting duty applies to joint lotteries and not to others.

Amendment No. 50 alters paragraph (e) so that it reads as follows: the manner in which a lottery and the object thereof must be advertised; We debated this point on an earlier clause, and to a great extent the hon. Lady met the points raised in Committee by using "object" instead of "purpose" throughout the earlier clauses. There fore, my view is that she should take power to make regulations providing that the object must be advertised. It does not necessarily follow if she has power to make a regulation about the manner in which a lottery is advertised that the regulation need say for what object the lottery is being held. It is of the utmost importance that the public should be well informed of the object of every lottery.

Dr. Summerskill

The effect of Clause 10(3)(e) is to enable the Secretary of State to impose, by regulations, requirements and restrictions as to the manner in which a lottery may be advertised. The effect of Amendment No. 50 would be to turn this on its head, so that regulations could be made under the power only so as to impose requirements and restrictions as to the manner in which a lottery and its object must be advertised.

There will be many lotteries under the Bill, particularly those of the smallest societies, which will not be advertised at all. There are lotteries running at present which are not, and do not have to be, advertised. Generally speaking, provided the requirements of the Bill are met as to bringing to the attention of purchasers of tickets the object of the lottery, in the case of a local authority, and the name of the society and the promoter, in the case of a society's lottery, then the less advertising the better, since the very purpose of advertising is to stimulate demand, often at the expense of one's competitors.

The Bill already makes it necessary for the purchaser of a ticket to be aware of the object of the lottery, whereas the amendment makes it obligatory for a local authority to advertise, which would not necessary be desirable.

On the question of pool betting duty, I can only say that the Treasury have advised us that they cannot assure us that joint lotteries run within higher limits would be exempt from pool betting duty. I will let the right hon. Gentleman know the answer to his question about the general position of joint lotteries.

1.30 a.m.

Mr. Graham Page

I understand from the Minister that joint lotteries are permissible but that if they take place the Treasury will come down on those concerned with increased pool duty.

Dr. Summerskill

We are advised by the Treasury that if the amendment makes joint lotteries for higher limits permissible, these lotteries would not necessarily—I cannot be 100 per cent. certain of this—be exempt from pool betting duty.

Mr. Alison

That is not quite the point my right hon. Friend—and I earlier—dealt with. We were asking whether joint lotteries as such, whatever the penalty in tax terms for promoting them, are permissible under the Bill as it stands.

Dr. Summerskill

No. Under the Bill as it stands they are not.

Amendment negatived.

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