HC Deb 30 April 1975 vol 891 cc643-72
Mr. Graham Page

I beg to move Amendment No. 33, in page 6, leave out lines 18 and 19.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

With this, it will be convenient to consider the following amendments:

No. 34, in line 20, at end insert:

'promoted by a parish council, or in Wales, a community council'.

No. 37, to leave out lines 29 and 30.

No. 38, in line 31, at end insert:

'promoted by a parish council or in Wales, a community council'.

No. 41, in page 7, line 5, at end insert:

  1. '(11) (a) The total value of the tickets or chances sold in all society's lotteries promoted in a year by the same society shall not exceed a sum equal to the gross income of the society during its preceding financial year or £5,000,000 whichever is the less.
  2. 644
  3. (b) No prize in a society's lottery shall exceed one-fifth of the total value of the tickets or chances sold or £25,000 whichever is the less'.

No. 42, in line 5, at end insert:

  1. '(11) (a) The total value of the tickets or chances sold in all local lotteries promoted in a year by the same local authority ether than a parish council, or, in Wales, a community council, shall not exceed a sum equal to one-tenth of the aggregate of the rateable value 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 treated as occupying in that area) or £5,000,000 whichever is the less.
  2. (b) No prize in a local lottery promoted by a local authority other than a parish council, or in Wales, a community council, shall exceed £25,000.'

No. 43, in line 8, at end insert:

  1. '(12)(a) The total value of the tickets or chances sold in all local lotteries promoted in any year by the same local authority, other than a parish council, or, in Wales, a community council, shall not exceed £5,000,000: and
  2. (b) No prize in a lottery promoted by a local authority other than a parish council, or, in Wales, a community council, shall exceed £50,000.'.
Mr. Graham Page

I shall endeavour to explain how these several amendments fall into a group with very much a single purpose.

Subsections (6) and (8) of Clause 9 restrict the prize money and the total proceeds in all lotteries to the figures set out in subsections (7) and (9). They refer to all lotteries.

Amendments Nos. 33, 34, 37 and 38 would make those restrictive limits apply not to all lotteries but only to lotteries run by parish councils and community councils in Wales. Those four amendments restrict the limits to the small authorities.

Amendments Nos. 41, 42 and 43 propose new limits for lotteries run by the larger local authorities—the counties and districts—and for societies' lotteries. Amendment No. 41 limits societies lotteries to a figure of the gross income of the preceding year or £5 million and brings the societies' lotteries up to a substantial figure for which it is worth running a lottery. It restricts the prize money to one-fifth of the proceeds or £25,000. These figures are not terms of art, of course. They correspond with the limits placed on local authority lotteries in the following amendments.

Amendment No. 43 is quite straightforward and imposes clear and specific limits on the total proceeds of lotteries run by a local authority during a year and a specific limit on the highest prize money.

Amendment No. 42 has certain refinements in setting those limits. Instead of setting a high limit for all local authorities, be they districts or counties, it seeks to set a limit by reference to the rateable value of the authority, with a final limit of £5 million relating to the lotteries run in one year. Here, we have something fundamentally different from the provisions of the Bill. The limits of the Bill apply only to lotteries run by the small local authorities, and then new, substantial limits for both the societies and the local authorities which are counties or districts.

There has been severe criticism from the local authority associations and from specific local authorities of the limits proposed in the Bill.

11.45 p.m.

Today I received a letter from the Association of District Councils which is very much on the point of the amendment. The writer, Mr. Rhodes, the secretary of the ADC, says: I am pleased to see amendments in your name to Clause 9 of the Lotteries Bill. As you know, the ADC is firmly in favour of district councils having the power to promote local lotteries and their evidence to the Layfield Committee of Inquiry into local government finance advocates a discretion for local authorities to raise funds by this means for specific purposes; e.g., a new sports centre. I will not quote the whole letter. Skipping a paragraph, Mr. Rhodes continues: We were extremely disappointed that your Local Lotteries Bill has been withdrawn in favour of the Government's Bill and although the Association is pleased to see that provision has been made in that Bill for local authorities to promote lotteries, we much regret that the Government's proposals limit turnover from weekly lotteries to a maximum of about £½ million per annum. Pausing there, the association is quoting the total which can be obtained over a year if weekly lotteries are run. The figure is £520,000 and the association quotes the figure of approximately £500,000.

The writer proceeds: If, as is likely to be the case, the lottery was monthly or quarterly, the turnover might be in the region of £¼ million or £160,000 respectively. The limitations can, at best, be appropriate to the smallest authorities, and most district councils will just not find it worthwhile to promote lotteries on this small scale. The Association would like, therefore, to see Clause 9 of the Bill amended, as you argued in Committee, to provide a substantially higher turnover than at present proposed. Although the Secretary of State has power to vary these limits under Clause 11(1)(b) it is important, in the Association's view, that the limits should be pitched at a far more realistic level in the Bill itself. We therefore warmly welcome your amendments and hope you will be able to give this issue a further airing on Report. I apologise to the House if the airing has been to quote at length this letter from the Association of District Councils, but it shows that the representative body of district councils supports the kind of amendment that I am arguing. If we have decided that the Bill should be supported by both the Government and the Opposition, apart from some who feel that it is wrong for local authorities to run lotteries at all, the Government should ensure that it is made acceptable to those who will have to work it—the district councils in particular.

The county councils may choose to run lotteries, but I feel that the district councils will be able to please their own public by seeing that money is raised in this manner, which is the least hurtful to people, for local purposes. Such purposes might not be realised if councils had to rely entirely on the general rates. Therefore, I call in support the Association of District Councils in moving the amendment for extending the limits on local authorities proposed in the Bill.

Mr. Albert Roberts

It is not a question whether one's knowledge of gambling is more profound than someone else's. The Bill is being promoted by the Government, and if we are in for a penny we might as well be in for a pound.

The great disadvantage of the Bill is that there is no flexibility. It would have been better to have debated the report on gambling before being presented with the Bill, but it is here now, it is a fait accompli, and we have to deal with it.

Let us consider the position of a local authorty dealing with, say, 4 million people. My constituency comes under the umbrella of the West Yorkshire Metropolitan County, as does that of the hon. Member for Barkston Ash (Mr. Alison). My local authority is Labour controlled, and it has been telling me that it wants something better than the Bill provides—something into which it can get its teeth. It does not want to play about with a few thousand pounds. It wants to play about with £2 million. Whether we like it or not that is the authority's opinion, and it has been agreed to by the appropriate committee.

Montreal and Australia have made millions of pounds through lotteries, and I should have thought that something could be done to make the scheme worth while. A local authority which is responsible for 4 million people could make it worth its while to do the job of running a lottery. My authority wants to get its teeth into something substantial, and unless there is a change I can see some of the large local authorities not taking part in running lotteries. I think I heard someone say that that would be very wise, but I remember when premium bonds were introduced. I was a member of the Opposition then and we opposed the scheme, but they are with us now, and, as the hon. Member for Barkston Ash said, they are a form of gambling.

Whatever may be the feelings of the Churches about gambling, if the scheme proposed in the Bill helps to cream off some of the £800 million that it is said is spent on private gambling and get it used to provide recreation facilities and other amenities, that will be a good thing, The Irish Hospitals Sweepstake has raised more than £100 million, and that is a considerable sum of money. I have been briefed by my, local authority, and I know that it wants something more than is provided by the Bill as it stands.

I have a feeling that my hon. Friend the Minister will not give way on this, but her area comes under the umbrella of the West Yorkshire Metropolitan County and I can tell her that it wants to see some changes in the Bill. I do not know whether changes can be made, but it would have been better if we had debated the report on gambling and then been presented with a new Bill. However, we have this Bill before us. I had to say in Committee and I am now passing on my opinion and that of my local authority.

Mr. John Evans (Newton)

I support the request to the Minister to accept the amendment. There is nothing in the Bill to force a local authority to run a lottery. It will be for each authority to decide what it wants to do, but we must recognise that local authorities differ tremendously, and therefore we should provide flexibility for them.

I do not gamble, and I never have done so, but I do not oppose gambling in principle. I respect the views of some of my hon. Friends but there is nothing that Parliament can do to prevent gambling. If there is to be gambling, let the local authorities and the State enjoy some of the benefits. I support the suggestion about the nationalisation of the football pools, which would be a start on tackling the real issue.

The Bill has given credence to the idea of local lotteries, so local authorities should be given power to operate them in the way they think best. Some local authorities govern the lives of millions of people. The responsible men and women elected to them should have the freedom to run lotteries which will benefit their people. In many ways they have more responsibility than Members of Parliament, certainly than back benchers. I am satisfied that they can run their affairs diligently. I beg my hon. Friend to accept the amendments, which would give local authorities the freedom that I should like them to have.

Mr. Rees-Davies

In December 1974, in a search for alternative sources of revenue, this was said: Apart from some possible new local taxes, there are undoubtedly some subsidiary sources of revenue which could ease the problems of financing local services without imposing involuntary burdens on the general public. One purely voluntary source of revenue for local authorities would be local lotteries. In some overseas countries, municipalities gain substantial financial benefits from public lotteries. They could only make a small contribution to financing the range of services provided by local authorities in Britain, but no source of revenue which is virtually painless should be ignored. We propose that local authorities should be empowered by national legislation to organise lotteries if they so wished. If there were strong local objections on religious or other grounds, then any authority would be free to refrain from so doing. It might be considered helpful to the success of a lottery if its proceeds were declared to be geared to a particular public service to which the public felt especially well disposed. However, any pretence that one particular part of a local authority's general revenue is earmarked for one particular item of expenditure is a little unreal. That is the admirable statement of evidence given to the Layfield Committee by none other than the Labour Party Policy Group, and for once I endorse every word of it.

We have heard recently that decisions of that group or of party conferences should bind the whole country and that money should be forthcoming to carry out those objectives. Since the group's views coincide with those of the Opposition, there seems to be a large measure of agreement, particularly in view of the somnolence of the Liberal Party, which is not represented here tonight. Neither, in fact, are the Scottish National Party, Plaid Cymru or the Ulster Unionists. It would be interesting to know their views on this issue.

12 midnight

Throughout the proceedings on the Bill I have referred to the good inter-departmental report on lotteries large and small, chaired by Mr. Witney and set up by a Conservative Home Secretary—[Interruption.] With the arrival of the hon. Member for the Isle of Wight (Mr. Ross) the Liberal Party has awoken once again. We have never debated that report. I hope that the Minister will press for us to have an opportunity to debate that report and to consider lotteries and those other subjects, such as pools competitions, spot-the-ball competitions and others, which should be debated by the House.

The amendments seek to enlarge the scope of the Bill. We all know that none of the large local authorities will gain any benefit from the Bill. Some of the small societies—the football societies, athletic societies and cultural societies—the parish councils, and possibly some of the smaller district councils, will be able to use it to some degree. But those bodies that we feel should have fair and proper consideration—the large local authorities and the large national sporting bodies, such as the Olympic Association, the Football League and the MCC, will get no advantage from the Bill. What is needed is an undertaking from the Government that they will carry out what they said would be their aim, but not their pledge, that next year they would introduce a measure dealing with the position of large lotteries and taking into account the position of the pools.

I think that I should be out of order if I went too deeply into the question of the pools. I envisage that, with the arrival of the large lotteries and the use of the pools promoters and their staff as agents to enable those large lotteries to begin, there may well be a substantial effect on the big pools. They need not be nationalised, but at some stage the whole question of the moral principle lying behind the operation of large-scale lotteries will have to be considered by the House, which will have to consider, if it wants large lotteries, whether the money is to be diffused generally.

At present a large measure of revenue is provided for the Treasury. The large lotteries will clearly have to be the subject of normal taxation, even if the benefit is to go largely to the local authorities and societies. But we want to draw the line between the large lottery, which is in a separate part from the small lotteries, and the small local society lotteries, to ensure that the latter are not taxed.

That is the scope of the matter. The efforts of my right hon. and hon. Friends to enlarge this general scope are intended to hold the fort, to enable the matter to be further considered by the Government.

Let us be frank about it. The Home Office is not proud of the Bill. The hon. Lady is not proud of it. Nobody here is proud of it. There is some reason for not being proud of it. The Bill was introduced, rightly or wrongly, to try to replace the Bill of my right hon. Friend the Member for Crosby (Mr. Page). It is difficult to cope with him. He is a very able Member, and he produced a very good Bill. It might not have been as good as one could make it, as he would be the first to concede, but it was a good stop-gap until the whole matter could be comprehensively dealt with. It has been taken over. The Minister has had to try to deal with it. I said in Committee and have said again since to the Minister that I had hoped the Bill would not have been brought forward in the circumstances of tonight.

My hope was that the Government would defer consideration of the Bill until July so that they could bring forward comprehensive amendments in a separate batch of provisions which could then have been passed. This would have avoided the necessity of further legislation next year. However, that is always a matter for the Government to decide and they decided not to adopt the more sensible course.

They have decided to push ahead, not only late at night, but after a week in which we have had three most important Second Readings and at a time when the House is half empty, as the Government knew it would be, so that it is impossible to put on a whip.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Gentleman, but he is getting a little wide of the amendment when he strays on to the question of earlier business.

Mr. Rees-Davies

I had to put the matter into perspective, Mr. Deputy Speaker. We are seeking by amendment on Report substantially to increase the limits, and the country is entitled to know why the Opposition want to take that course. We do not want to do it in isolation in respect of the Bill, but because we recognise that this is what the working party itself and hon. Members in all parts of the House want to do.

Because of the time this Bill has come on and in view of the difficulty of getting a whip we are in the position of having to do what the Government want. We are, however, entitled to seek a firm undertaking from them that next year they will bring in legislation to deal with this matter in a much wider context, and that in the autumn or at some other suitable time they will give the House a chance to debate the whole of the wider aspects, of which these amendments form an integral part.

Mr. Clemitson

Tributes have been paid to the skill of the right hon. Member for Crosby (Mr. Page), but no mention has been made of his incredible luck. I am not one to dissent from the judgments on his skill, but his luck should have been referred to. It has been said that the Bill was brought in to pre-empt the right hon. Genleman's Bill, and no one has dissented from that view. It is strange that a Labour Government should in effect take over a Bill brought in by an Opposition Member when plenty of good Bills have been introduced by Labour Members, none of which the Government seem prepared to take over.

We have heard about the creaming-off argument from my hon. Friend the Member for Normanton (Mr. Roberts) and my hon. Friend the Member for Newton (Mr. Evans). That argument has been dealt with repeatedly in the course of our debates about lotteries. Unfortunately our debate on Second Reading was restricted to little more than an hour. I do not want to talk about the creaming-off argument at length, but I wish to raise the question of where the revenue will be creamed off from—from which worthy causes. Or should the revenue be creamed off from commercial gambling interests, in which case these lotteries will be in competition with those interests? Since commercial interests tend to offer prizes running into six figures the clear logic is that the local authority lotteries will grow and grow.

We suspect that far from gambling being transferred from one form to another the total amount will increase. Whatever moral stance we may take on the issue there are few hon. Members who, after examining the figures, would say that it was desirable that the total amount of gambling should increase beyond its present astronomical proportions.

The hon. and learned Member for Thanet, West (Mr. Rees-Davies) talked about extra sources of revenue for local government and quoted various ways in which such revenue might be raised. I revert to the question of local authorities being engaged in trading and commercial activities. This seems to be a much more constructive way of raising money, or earning money, than by obtaining it through encouraging gambling.

The questions are: how is the money to be raised by local authorities, and how is it to be disbursed? The criterion we should apply to the raising of money is the ability of people to pay. What is our criticism of the rating system? It is one that is coming increasingly from Tory Members, too. It is that it is unfair and not closely geared to ability to pay. We are demanding a system of local taxation much more closely geared to that ability.

What sense can it make to introduce a measure permitting local authorities to raise money when it has nothing to do with people's ability to pay, but is encouraging them to gamble?

Mr. John Evans

Will my hon. Friend accept that while people's ability to pay is involved there is another important point, namely people's willingness to pay? I do not gamble, but there are thousands of people who want to do so. Provided that is so it is reasonable that local authorities or the State should have the right to participate in this way.

Mr. Clemitson

I accept the point about willingness to pay, to a degree. There are a great number of people who gamble involuntarily. We should not encourage more people to move into the category of compulsive gamblers.

As Socialists we often talk about a desirable goal being the redistribution of wealth according to need. Yet here we are proposing to enable local authorities to disburse considerable sums of money in prizes according to the principle of luck. We rightly criticise inherited wealth and want to tax it. Our criticism is that such wealth is based purely on luck. Here we are proposing to disburse large sums of money according to the same principle. Where is the logic of that? Tory Members not only want to approve the principle of prizes, they want to increase them.

On each of these grounds I oppose any attempt to extend the bounds of the Bill and the amount of money to be received by means of lotteries and the extent of the prizes. It is wrong in principle and in practice for local authorities to raise money by means of lotteries. We must devise a fair and just system of local taxation.

12.15 a.m.

Mr. Ogden

I wonder if the right hon. Member for Crosby (Mr. Page) will give the House some information about Amendment No. 41— The total value of the tickets or chances sold in all society's lotteries promoted in a year by the same society shall not exceed a sum equal to the gross income of the society during its preceding financial year or £5,000,000". Why is it £5 million? If this sum is related to some societies, which societies are they? Why is not the amount £10 million?

Mr. Graham Page

The figure is related to the figure for local authorities. The major local authorities such as the Greater London Council wished the figure to be £6 million. We suggested £5 million instead. As local authorities are to be subject to that limit, I thought it right that societies should be subject to the same limit if they are big enough. In this category might fall the national societies such as the Spastics Society.

Mr. Ogden

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman. The figure was decided upon as a result of a deal done between two parties. Someone suggested £6 million. The right hon. Gentleman said "No. Let us round it off and make it £5 million". It was related to the local authority figure. In practice it has no relation to the experience of any society or charity, whether national or local. It is not related to the turnover of any society or group of societies. It is an arbitrary figure related to the sum which is to apply for local authorities.

Mr. Graham Page

One must make one's own judgment. It was my judgment that £5 million is the right figure.

Mr. Ogden

So the right hon. Gentleman cannot say if there are national societies engaged in charitable work which have an annual income of £5 million or if that is the average of the national societies. The figure has no relation to any existing charitable institution or organisation. The figure is chosen because of its local authority implications, not because of its charitable implications.

I contrast the sum of £5 million with the title that the right hon. Gentleman chose for his Bill, namely, the Local Lotteries Bill. Those who have argued for this Bill or for the right hon. Gentleman's Bill have asserted that, even if one did not like the Bill, it was a small Bill and was limited to small authorities. The argument was that if it did good it did little good and if it did harm it did little harm.

Now we are up to the figure of £5 million. Apparently some of my hon. Friends and local district councils are converted to the slogan "Big is beautiful". It does not matter whether something is right or wrong. The sum of £5 million is not a matter of no consequence. We have moved from a small matter to a matter of some consequence.

I agree with the hon. and learned Member for Thanet, West (Mr. Rees-Davies) that we are taking the subject of gambling and lotteries piecemeal.

Mr. Hector Monro (Dumfries)

Having had strong reservations about the Bill at the outset, and having voted against it on Second Reading, I now want it to be made better. The hon. Member for Liverpool, West Derby (Mr. Ogden) contrasted the large and small amounts of prize money turnover. My view is that the prize money turnover is too small. If the Bill is to be of any use it is better for it to err on the side of a large figure rather than a small one.

The Safety of Snorts Grounds Bill has been lying derelict since the election in February 1974. Rumour has it that when the safety code for sports grounds is brought in either the Home Office or the Department for the Environment will argue that the Bill which we are discussing now will provide the opportunity to raise money for the improvement of sports grounds. We all know the cost of building operations today, and the cost of minimal improvements to large sports grounds used by First or Second Division clubs in England and premier clubs in Scotland would be substantial. The money which the Bill permits to be raised by lotteries is nowhere near adequate to enable such improvements to be made.

It would be unwise for the hon. Lady or the Minister who is responsible for sport to argue that the Lotteries Bill will prove to be a salvation for sports clubs. It certainly is not. For the hon. Lady to acept the amendment would be a step in the right direction, and that is why I support it.

Mr. James Lamond

I was surprised, not to say disappointed, when I heard my hon. Friend the Member for Newton (Mr. Evans) support the amendment. He has given on occasions an excellent Socialist analysis of other subjects, and I find it extraordinary that he should support gambling. He used his well-known persuasiveness in deploying two arguments that might have brought me round to his viewpoint. He said, first, that we must give more freedom to local authorities and, secondly, that we must extend nationalisation to include football pools. Those are two arguments which would be likely to persuade me to change my mind, but my abhorrence of the principle of gambling being supported and encouraged by local authorities is too great even to be swayed by those two considerations.

The hon. and learned Member for Thanet, West (Mr. Rees-Davies) and my hon. Friend the Member for Normanton (Mr. Roberts) referred to premium bonds. They argued that, because premium bonds had been introduced and supported, by some logic which escapes me, we should support the further extension of gambling. The logic of the argument is that those of us who object to the Bill should let these provisions go through without objection. That adds further to the fear that in two years' time when a similar measure is introduced to extend the scope of gambling, somebody will say "But we have allowed premium bonds and lotteries in local authorities —therefore, we have no moral right to object now". That is how one goes down the slippery slope.

We shall no doubt be told that this Bill will open the way to small prizes only, and that nobody will be harmed by its provisions. But let us imagine that next year, or the following year, amending legislation is introduced suggesting a prize of perhaps £5 million. We may be told that there is a provision in the present legislation which allows the Secretary of State to change the limits.

Mr. Albert Roberts

The great danger when people go into gambling clubs—and I know of people who have lost fortunes overnight—is that they stay in those clubs, not for an hour or so, but for 24 hours. However, if one buys a ticket, there is that limit on the gambling. I, like my hon. Friend, am opposed to any spread of gambling, but I believe that we should enable local authorities and sports organisations to benefit from these provisions. Let us be honest and face up to the situation.

Mr. Lamond

What my hon. Friend just said should reinforce his objections to gambling, and therefore he should not support the amendments which are before us. My hon. Friend is seeking to say that gambling is a natural instinct and there is nothing at all we can do about it. There is the implication that we should not positively try to discourage it but positively seek to encourage it. By the same token one might say, "In this acquisitive society there is a natural tendency to steal," We do not want to make it easier to steal, but it is a trend we want to try to correct.

I find it sad that a Labour Government have introduced this Bill, especially at present when we are so short of parliamentary time and when the time we have had could have been spent on more laudable objects. How often have we been told by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House that there is no time left for Parliament to consider legislation on a particular subject—yet we have had before us a Bill which we cannot even find in Labour's manifesto.

Mr. Rooker

A point which was in the Labour Party's manifesto and which should be debated in this House, since so far we have had no time to debate it, is the question of the declaration of Members' interests. What is bringing this House into disrepute is that we spend hours discussing a piece of legislation on lotteries, and yet we cannot discuss other more important matters.

Mr. Lamond

I thank my hon. Friend for reinforcing my point. I strongly object to this amendment. Furthermore, I object to the principle behind the Bill, and certainly object to any extensions in regard to the amount of money involved.

One or two hon. Members have said that we should take advantage of this comparatively painless method of extracting money. My theory is that people who are poor tend to gamble more than do those who are well-off. There are exceptions, but in the main, what drives people to gamble is the hope of solving their financial troubles by some sort of win. That is what happens in bingo halls. That is why bingo halls are full of working-class wives. That is my theory, having been to bingo halls to see what happens, and others with the same experience support me. They are looking for a way out of their financial troubles. Yet they are the least able to pay extra money towards local authority services.

My advice to my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary is not only to resist the amendment, but, on behalf of the Government, to withdraw the Bill to make room for a measure that is much more worth while and that will have far greater support from our supporters in the country.

12.30 a.m.

Mr. Stephen Ross (Isle of Wight)

I apologise to the right hon. Member for Crosby (Mr. Page) for not being here when he moved his amendment. I was outside the Chamber and I missed the timing. As he knows, I have supported him since he first introduced his Bill. We have heard these arguments time after time.

Does the hon. Member for Luton, East (Mr. Clemitson) support his own party's evidence to the Layfield Committee? That evidence suggested that local authorities should be able to run lotteries. That was said by the Labour Party in evidence on the reform of the rating system. If the hon. Member dissociates himself from it, he should say so.

Mr. Clemitson

I dissociate myself from it. I fought two elections last year, in February and in October, on manifestos that the Labour Party adopted for those elections. In neither of those manifestos and in neither of the Queen's Speeches that I have heard since coming to the House has there been one mention of introducing a Bill to enable local authorities to run lotteries. Therefore, I am not at all committed to supporting the Bill.

Mr. Ross

It is interesting to hear that. I am certain that the Government introduced the Bill because the right hon. Member's Bill went practically completely through largely with the support of Labour Members. The fact that they are not here to support him tonight is something of a disappointment and may have something to do with the lateness of the hour.

I imagine that in Luton there are plenty of sports grounds and swimming pools. I am sorry that Luton Town is dropping down into the Second Division and will no doubt need a lottery to get back up again, although a well-known comedian supports the team financially.

But there are many rural areas that desperately want to be able to provide sporting facilities, swimming pools and so on. I have repeated ad nauseam the experience of my own constituency where we do not even have a heated indoor swimming pool. We have managed to raise £20,000 through lotteries and hard work. Nobody lost a great deal of money and nobody went over the edge and nobody has gone drinking. That sum of £20,000 was raised over 10 years, but now it is just about enough to meet the cost of the architect's fees.

As has been said, the cost of providing these facilities has soared and the cost of providing a sports centre now approaches £1 million. An indoor swimming pool such as we want, not of Olympic standard, costs about £750,000. Of course the figures in the Bill are therefore totally inadequate. That is why I thought the right hon. Member for Crosby was right originally. He suggested the figure of £5 million in the original Bill. At one time he was prepared to reduce it, but we dissuaded him and our view was carried in Committee with the help of Labour Members.

We have heard a great deal of righteousness about people who go to bingo. They go there not hoping for a big win, but to enjoy themselves, because they like bingo. They do not go expecting to make a great fortune.

Mr. James Lamond

Does the hon. Member think that they would go if there were no money prizes?

Mr. Ross

It is only a minor consideration. It is ridiculous to suggest otherwise. To talk in that sense is to go back to the last century.

I am disappointed by the Government. The evidence from the local authorities to the Layfield Committee was that if the lotteries were made worth while, they would run them. It would be a good idea for money to go to costly projects such as sports grounds, extra facilities for youth clubs, and the disaster fund that we so badly need.

I remember vividly that disastrous air crash in which half the women of a Somerset village were wiped out over- night. If we could raise disaster fund money by a lottery, would not that be worth while? If it is suggested that we can put these things on the rates, we are not likely to do it for another 10 years, even if then. Let us give people encouragement to do things for themselves.

scribe to a disaster fund from making a straight financial contribution. If the hon. Member's constituents are desperately in need—that was the word he used—of swimming pools and so on, does it not flow from that that they would

Mr. James Lamond

There is no suggestion that a disaster fund must either be raised by a lottery or be subscribed by the local council. There is nothing to prevent anyone who wishes to sub-be prepared to make the proper financial contribution to obtain these things without having to be encouraged by the promise of something for nothing from a lottery?

Mr. Ross

We have responsible local authorities. As I happened to serve on one for seven years, I can perhaps recall that twice we were on the point of signing a contract for a swimming pool but we came up against a financial crisis, when the Government asked local authorities to cut back. We obeyed those instructions. We were not one of the authorities which ignored Government requests and had a spending spree. We are law-abiding and we play the game, and therefore we have lost out. Hence the chance to do something has been denied us because of the niggardliness of the Government. It is ridiculous to have to wait for another Bill in a year's time. I beg the Government to accept the amendment.

Mr. Edwin Wainwright (Dearne Valley)

I am surprised at some of my hon. Friends who appear to be of the opinion that no lotteries take place. Of course they take place. If my hon. Friends wanted to stop them taking place throughout the country, I could understand their attitude tonight. Our people have an innate spirit of gambling, whether we like it or not. How are we to control it? Shall we allow those who want to derive benefit from that innate spirit of theirs to gamble?

When we talk about gambling, what do we mean? If people buy a 5p ticket in the hope of winning £5,000, is that gambling? There is no such thing as gambling on that sort of money. It is something quite different.

If we want to prevent our people entirely from what is termed gambling, let us stop all lotteries, all the pools and everything. Let us stop all our religious organisations from taking advantage of our people. They sometimes make a contribution to a wonderful effort.

Mr. Rooker

Come to the point.

Mr. Wainwright

I am coming to it. My hon. Friend need not interject.

When it comes to increasing the amount of money from £1,500 to £3,000, what does that mean? It has been announced this week that someone has won £500,000 on the pools. We are not talking about anything like that. But nobody says that we should stop the pools—at least, I have not heard it said tonight. If my hon. Friends said that, I would back them 100 per cent. We must expound what we believe. The people of this country do not buy tickets just for the sake of winning. They do so to make a contribution—[Interruption.]

Mr. Deputy Speaker

I must remind the hon. Member that he is speaking to an amendment which has not yet been reached. With respect to the hon. Member, he is also going a little wide of Amendment No. 33.

Mr. Wainwright

I beg your pardon, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The noise being made by my hon. Friends prevented me from making my point.

It is sought to increase the figure of £1,500 to £3,000, which is puerile.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

That is the point which I made before. The hon. Member is speaking to Amendment No. 35, which we have not yet reached. We are dealing with Amendment No. 33.

Mr. Wainwright

I beg your pardon, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I am looking to the future. I believe that it is time for us to control gambling, not for the benefit of individuals but for the benefit of society as a whole. The sooner we do that the better.

Mr. Alison

In supporting the amendment I do not wish to be drawn by the hon. Member for Oldham, East (Mr. Lamond) and the hon. Member for Luton, East (Mr. Clemitson) into the great philosophical question of whether gambling is right or wrong, and whether the Conservative Government were right or wrong to introduce premium bonds. Those are two fundamental points. In this country we have premium bonds. The principle of a national lottery to raise funds for the national exchequer is now established and has a respectable pedigree. My right hon. Friend acted logically in this context to try to extend the scope of the fund raising, by the same methods, from national to local government. In doing so he put reasonable limits on the ceiling figures commensurate with the modern size of local government.

The Bill accepts the principle that local government should be able to raise money by lotteries in the same way as the Government. The imbalance in the treatment of local government and the Government is scandalous. The maximum premium bond prize is £50,000. The Greater London Council which has charge, in local government terms, of one-seventh of the population of England, Scotland and Wales, amounting to 7 million souls, is entitled, as its share of the principle of running lotteries, to offer a maximum prize of £2,000 or £1,500, compared with the first prize of £50,000 offered by the national lottery. It is ludicrous.

The Under-Secretary of State said that she would introduce another Bill in one year's time. She is trying to torpedo the principle.

Dr. Summerskill

indicated dissent.

Mr. Alison

I withdraw my remark. I put words into the hon. Lady's mouth which she does not accept. However, the Government have said that the introduction of bigger lotteries is best done by means of a separate Bill. Let us leave the matter there.

The Bill sets out to torpedo the principle of local lotteries by allowing this difference between what the national premium bond lottery and local lotteries can do. The Greater London Council must run one local lottery per week to produce £500,000. That is derisory, and it has said so.

The hon. Member for Normanton (Mr. Roberts) spoke eloquently on behalf of Yorkshire, especially the West Yorkshire Metropolitan Council. I suspect that if the Under-Secretary looks round she will see some frowning Yorkshire faces. She finds one facing her. The hon. Member for Normanton and the hon. Member for Newton (Mr. Evans) are frowning. I am not certain of the position of the hon. Member for Dearne Valley (Mr. Wainwright).

Mr. Edwin Wainwright

Although I have admired the hon. Member for Barkston Ash (Mr. Alison) on previous occasions, I now find it disgraceful that he should speak about lotteries and prizes, whereas the Conservative Government, during their five years in office, never dreamed of introducing such a Bill.

Mr. Alison

My right hon. Friend the Member for Crosby (Mr. Page) had his Bill, and it had made considerable progress, with the assistance of a number of his right hon. and hon. Friends.

If he were able to speak, I am sure that the hon. Member for Pontefract and Castleford (Mr. Harper) would also support the amendment on behalf of the West Yorkshire Metropolitan Council. The hon. Lady must take careful note of the feelings on this matter of hon. Members representing Yorkshire constituencies.

In the light of this extended debate, in which the majority of hon. Members on both sides of the House have been in favour of the amendment, I hone that the other place will take careful note of the views which have been expressed to night and will make appropriate amendments on which we shall be able to vote when they come back to this House.

12.45 a.m.

Dr. Summerskill

In case any hon. Member has forgotten the objectives of these amendments, I remind him that they would raise the limits on turnover and prizes to £5 million and £25,000 respectively for both societies' and local authority lotteries other than those run by parish or community councils. Under the Bill, the limits are £520,000 and £2,000 respectively. The Government do not accept that lotteries on the scale permitted by the amendments would be desirable.

Mr. John Evans

Is my hon. Friend saying tha the Government accept that local authorities have the right to run lotteries with small prizes but not with big prizes? If she is, is not that utterly ludicrous? Surely we must accept the principle that local authorities should be empowered to run lotteries and that the prizes should be fixed by them—not simply that they should be able to run lotteries with prizes which are infinitesimal.

Dr. Summerskill

My hon. Friend is arguing like my hon. Friend the Member for Normanton (Mr. Roberts): in for a penny, in for a pound. I shall try to show why I think that that should not be the philosophy behind the Bill.

This Bill is not only about West Yorkshire and the Greater London Council. I happen to live in the GLC area, and I represent the Halifax constituency, in West Yorkshire. But I am aware that there are other considerations which we must think of in the Bill.

I must remind right hon. and hon. Members that the Bill is largely concerned with societies, which have received hardly a mention in this debate but which are a very important consideration in the Bill. The amendment would not accord parity of treatment to societies and local authorities in all respects.

Mr. Alison

We have already tried to make provision for the societies. My right hon. Friend the Member for Crosby moved amendments which would have creamed off a third of the take of the big authorities' lotteries.

Dr. Summerskill

But that amendment was not accepted. These amendments would put a society in a more restricted position than under the Bill, where any eligible society could promote lotteries with a total turnover in any one year of up to £520,000 and give single prizes of up to £1,000. The amendments would restrict the annual turnover to a society's gross income during the preceding financial year, which obviously in many cases would be far below £520,000, and the prize would be limited to one-fifth of that gross income, which might prevent a society offering a prize of as much as £1,000.

I remind the House that the Bill will involve competition between the larger authorities like West Yorkshire and the GLC—about which we have heard so much—the medium size authorities, the smaller ones and the societies. All these bodies would compete with each other. On the scale proposed, I suggest that the lotteries would cease to be local. They would go outside their own areas. The bigger the scale of lotteries, the more competition there is, and the wider the area the organisers would have to cover in order to try to compete with each other.

Mr. Graham Page

This is a big debating point—that the societies would not be able to raise as much as under the Bill. If the hon. Lady wants to increase the amount in the amendment, I am willing that that should happen. I have given the large national societies a limit of £5 million. Does the hon. Lady agree to that? If not, let us have something else in the Bill.

Dr. Summerskill

I have always said —and I think that the right hon. Gentleman accepts this—that there should be parity of opportunity between authorities and societies. With the enormous scale now being proposed, we would have authorities competing with each other and with societies in an effort to get money from different areas, not just their own.

Control by the Gaming Board, which is not mentioned in the amendment, would be infinitely more difficult. Sir Stanley Raymond, the chairman of the Gaming Board, has told the Home Office that these amendments, if passed tonight, would create a chaotic situation of overlapping lotteries, and it would be impossible for the Gaming Board to control it in a proper manner. The right hon. Member for Crosby (Mr. Page) and other hon. Gentleman should bear that conclusion in mind before pressing the amendment.

Mr. Rees-Davies

In that case, when the matter comes to be considered in another place, will what we said earlier about overloading the Gaming Board be considered? I can well believe that there may be criticism if we make this change. But at some stage we shall have to consider large lotteries. I am sure that the hon. Lady will deal with that matter shortly. When we consider the whole question of the Gaming Board's function, the question of decreasing the amount of work that the Board has to do will have to be reviewed.

Dr. Summerskill

I will come to the subject of large lotteries later. I support my hon. Friend the Member for Luton, East (Mr. Clemitson) who said that once we increase the scale here it will automatically cause a massive increase in gambling expenditure. Local lotteries would be competing against those of societies on a very large scale, with the result—as the Gaming Board predicts—that competition throughout the country would be greatly increased and would tend to get out of hand. The small societies would suffer and go to the wall. The Greater London Council and West Yorkshire would benefit from these amendments. The small societies, which would not be able to stand up to the competition of the big authorities, would be the hardest hit.

I certainly note what was said about large lotteries. I will ask the Leader of the House about facilities for a debate on large lotteries. I agree that it is a complex and controversial subject, which could not be covered in this Bill—it would need to be debated separately.

We have received word that many sports clubs welcome the Bill and feel that it will be of great help to them. The Football League clubs have estimated that they will get an additional income of £2 million a year from lotteries which they could operate under the Bill.

I ask the House, bearing in mind that the Bill is about not only large authorities, but also medium-sized authorities and local societies, to reject the amendment.

Amendment negatived.

Mr. Alison

I beg to move Amendment No. 35, in page 6, line 26, leave out '£1,500' and insert '£3,000'.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

With this we are to take the following amendments:

No. 36, in page 6, line 27, leave out '£2,000' and insert '£6,500'.

No. 39, in line 36, leave out '£20,000' and insert '£42,000'.

No. 40, in line 37, leave out '£40,000' and insert '£130,000'.

Mr. Alison

These amendments become all the more relevant after the rejection of the higher level of lotteries as proposed in the last two amendments and they seek to rectify an illogical anomaly in subsection (9).

Lotteries are split into three categories—the short-term lottery which can be held weekly, the medium-term lottery which can take place up to 12 times a year, and the other lottery which can be held four times a year.

The sums provided for each category of lottery are such that the largest sum can be raised by the short-term lottery. If there are 52 weekly lotteries at the rate of £10,000 per lottery, the total sum is £500,000. With the medium-term lottery, of which there can be 12 a year, a limit of £20,000 multiplied by 12 produces only £240,000, which is half the sum that can be raised by weekly lotteries. The maximum level for the quarterly lottery is £40,000, with the result that only £160,000 can be raised in a year.

It seems ludicrous that there should be a built-in incentive for both societies and local authorities to have the maximum number of lotteries to raise the maximum permissible sum. There will be an incentive for local authorities and societies to peddle around week after week canvassing, knocking on doors, worrying people and using postal services—this may or may not be a good thing—to secure the maximum yield which the Bill permits.

The purpose of the amendments is simple. We have altered the figures so that whichever kind of lottery is used—short-term, medium-term or quarterly—there is still the same potential total yield. This seems likely to be an incentive to use the medium-term rather than the short-term lotteries, or the quarterly lottery which will be the most satisfactory of all.

In order to remain in step logically with the new scale for medium-and long-term lotteries we have altered the maximum prizes pro rata to correspond with the original proposals for the prizes as a proportion of the total yield of each lottery.

The wording of the amendment and the calculations of the figures may not be perfect, but I hope that the hon. Lady will, nevertheless, take the point that there is no sense in having a built-in incentive in yield terms to go for the smallest lottery. If the amendments are imperfect, and if the hon. Lady says that the other place can make the necessary adjustments to produce uniformity and constancy, I shall be happy to withdraw the amendment, but something needs to be done on the lines of what we propose.

Dr. Summerskill

These amendments would increase the maximum permitted prizes and levels of turnover for medium-and long-term lotteries beyond the scale which is acceptable. I spoke about the question of scale on the previous amendment.

The maximum single prize for a lottery held at intervals of three months or more would be £6,500, and the maximum permitted turnover £130,000. This would mean that a society or local authority could promote a quarterly lottery with the same turnover as the aggregate of 13 weekly lotteries each with a turnover of £10,000. The scheme of the Bill is that if a society or local authority chooses to promote lotteries not more frequently than monthly, a turnover of more than £10,000 is permitted. But the turnover does not increase proportionately. A prize of £6,500 and a turnover of £130,000 are quite out of keeping with the philosophy of the Bill.

1.00 a.m.

Mr. Graham Page

What an extraordinary philosophy. What is the philosophy of the Bill which encourages local authorities or societies to hold lotteries weekly rather than quarterly, six-monthly or annually? It will not appeal to certain districts to have people canvassing them for lotteries every week. It will appeal to them to have a larger lottery, perhaps quarterly. Has the Minister no faith in the ability of local authorities to run their lotteries?

If they run them weekly, the hon Lady says that they may raise over £500,000 a year, but if they run them quarterly it must be only half that sum. What is the logic of that? We are not arguing the last amendment again. This is within the hon. Lady's limits: we are only asking her to be consistent. If the lotteries are to be able to raise £500,000 a year let it be weekly, monthly, quarterly, six-monthly or annually. Let us, for Heaven's sake, be logical.

Mr. Rees-Davies

The Minister has spoken of the "suffocation" of the Gaming Board by the papers produced week after week by the weekly schemes.

There is every ground for encouraging local authorities to hold lotteries quarterly or biennially rather than weekly. We were always worried about the idea of having them weekly, on grounds of control and regulation—whether door-to-door canvassing should be allowed, whether people would be irritated by weekly canvassing, and so on. If anything, the hon. Lady should have allowed quarterly lotteries to raise £500,000 and kept the lower figure for the weekly lotteries.

Mr. Clemitson

It ill behoves the right hon. Member for Crosby (Mr. Page) to talk about lack of faith in local authorities, when he spoke so vehemently the other week against local authorities being involved in trading and commercial activities.

Mr. Graham Page

I only complained about their being given the right to run funerals and taxis.

Mr. Clemitson

I fail to see the logic of that. We were talking about having faith in local authorities—whether to run lotteries or to provide funeral services. The two activities, on reflection, that seem to call for similar skills.

I can see some logic in saying that the total turnover should be the same in each case, but surely the same logic does not necessarily apply to the amount of prize money. If we extended this logic even further, we could think in terms of an annual lottery, when presumably the maximum prize would become £25,000. When we get into that sort of realm in talking about the dispersal of large sums of money by pure luck, I am completely opposed to the principle.

Amendment negatived.

Dr. Summerskill

I beg to move Amendment No. 44, in page 7, line 20, leave out '5' and insert '15'.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

With this amendment we are to take Government Amendment No. 45.

Dr. Summerskill

The first of these amendments will raise from 5 per cent. to 15 per cent. in the case of lotteries with a turnover exceeding £5,000 the maximum percentage of turnover which may be appropriated for expenses without the authorisation of the Gaming Board.

An amendment designed to raise this expenses limit to 15 per cent. was tabled in Committee by the hon. Member for Harborough (Mr. Farr). The amendment was withdrawn on the Government's assurance that they would later introduce an amendment proposing what seemed to be the most appropriate percentage higher than 5 per cent. I am satisfied that to increase this to a level of 15 per cent. would retain a safeguard against excessive expenditure and at the same time eliminate the necessity for any application to the Gaming Board, as regards expenses, save in exceptional cases.

The second amendment is purely drafting, and has no purpose but to simplify the language of the Bill in relation to the powers of the Gaming Board to authorise a larger percentage than 15 per cent. for expenses in the case of a particular lottery.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendment made: No. 45, in page 7, line 21, leave out from 'percentage' to end of line 28 and insert ', not exceeding 30 per cent., as the Board may authorise in the case of a particular lottery'.—[Dr. Summerskill.]

Mr. Graham Page

I beg to move Amendment No. 46, in page 7, line 28, at end insert— '(15) Where the costs incurred by any local authority in promoting any local lottery exceed the proceeds thereof the excess costs shall be a charge on the general rate income of that local authority but so far as such costs do not so exceed the said proceeds but do exceed the proportion of such proceeds which by virtue of the foregoing provisions of this section may appropriate on account of expenses the excess costs shall be a charge upon the said proceeds'. The Bill is the worst lottery I have ever taken part in. I have not drawn a winning ticket the whole evening. Perhaps I have drawn one now, because I cannot see how the Minister can refuse an amendment of this sort, which deals with something she has left out of the Bill. I gather that one of my hon. Friends wants to know what are the odds.

I think that the odds are pretty fair.

The hon. Lady has talked about the limit of expenses which can be set against the proceeds of a lottery. If those expenses are exceeded, who is to bear the excess?

I have not tried to deal with societies in the amendment. I suppose that if the promoter of the lottery exceeds the expenses limit he will have to bear the excess personally. But what about the ratepayers of the local authority? If the expenses exceed the limit in the Bill, will they have to pay from the general fund of rates? That would seem very unfair.

I believe that the right thing to do is to say that the excess comes out of the proceeds. If the local authority fails to keep within the limit on expenses, it seems unfair that it should be the general ratepayers and not the lottery fund that bear the cost.

We go on to the deal with the unfortunate position when the lottery fails and the expenses exceed the proceeds. Who pays then? It must be the general ratepayers. The lottery is being run by their elected councillors, responsible to the ratepayers. I have tried to solve the problem by a logical and simple amendment saying that if the limit in the Bill is exceeded in expenses in local authority lotteries the money comes out of the lottery fund until the expenses exceed the whole of the proceeds, and that the excess is then borne by the general rate fund.

If the drafting is not correct, no doubt it can be corrected in another place. But we have not heard what the solution is to be if no such amendment is made.

Dr. Summerskill

I am advised that where the costs of a local authority lottery exceed the proceeds, the excess costs shall be charged to the general rate fund of that authority. Should these unfortunate circumstances ever obtain, and should an authority have made no alternative provision, such as insurance, the general financial requirements of local government legislation are such as to make the general rate fund liable.

If the right hon. Gentleman would like chapter and verse I would refer him to Section 148 and 150 of the Local Government Act 1972. It does, therefore, seem that his amendment is unnecessary.

Mr. Graham Page

Is there any risk of the councillors themselves being surcharged if the expenses go over the limit of the Bill? If there is no provision in the Bill to cover that point, there seems to be some danger of a surcharge being made on the councillors for exceeding the limit set down in this legislation.

Dr. Summerskill

My information is that any excess shall, in any circumstances, be a charge upon the general rate fund and not upon the councillors.

Amendment negatived.

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