HC Deb 04 August 1976 vol 916 cc1819-37

8.26 p.m.

Mr. R. Graham Page (Crosby)

On Second Reading of the Consolidated Fund (Appropriation) Bill I wish to raise the subject of the Government's failure to bring into operation the Lotteries Act 1975.

This Act received the Royal Assent no fewer than 363 days ago and the Government have not yet brought its main parts into operation. Therefore, just under a year has passed during which local authorities could have been financing works beneficial to their citizens out of the proceeds of lotteries, charitable societies could have been devoting money to the good causes for which they are established, and sports clubs, both amateur and professional, could have been meeting their difficult days of financing by some funds out of lotteries. Indeed, a considerable amount of money could have been prevented from going overseas into lotteries abroad, in Eire, Malta and other places, which is really a drain on the funds that could go into good causes in this country.

The end of the Government's delaying tactics is not in sight. I deliberately and advisedly use the phrase "delaying tactics". I am well aware that the Home Office never liked this Act. The Government Bill which became the Lotteries Act in 1975 was a Bill that took over a Private Member's Bill that I had introduced, and I think that the Government felt that they were forced into it by the popularity of the subject. They never really had their hearts in it themselves.

However, at any rate, the Lotteries Act 1975 contains a provision in Section 18 that the Secretary of State shall not make an order appointing a day for bringing the Act into force until he has made regulations under Section 10…which provide for their coming into operation on that day. Regulations so providing shall not be made unless a draft of them has been approved by resolution of each House of Parliament. Section 10(2) states that The Secretary of State may by regulations make such provision with respect to the promotion of society's lotteries or local lotteries as he may consider necessary or expedient. Then, according to subsection (5), It shall be the duty of the Secretary of State before making any regulations under this section to consult— (a) the Board; —that is, the Gaming Board— and (b) such associations of local authorities as appear to him to be concerned. The Secretary of State has seen fit—I do not complain about this—to take wider consultations than merely consulting either the Gaming Board or the local authority associations. What I do complain about is the time it has taken the Government to produce the consultative document upon which these consultations can take place. As I said, the Act received the Royal Assent nearly a year ago, at the beginning of August 1975, yet it was not until May 1976–10 months later—that the Government sent out the consultative document to start the consultations.

The consultative document says that its purpose is to set out the thinking of the Government on the content of regulations to be made under section 10 of the Act…". Until those regulations are made, the Act cannot come into effect, yet the Government's process of thought was in motion for 10 months before they issued the document, and, of course, we do not know how long the consultations will continue.

I think it utterly disgraceful that there should be the delay in bringing into operation an Act that has received the approval of both Houses and Royal Assent. There was no need to wait all this time before starting the consultations that are to lead up to the regulations. I presume from all this that the regulations will not come before the House for another six months or so. How much longer are we to wait? I should have thought it could all be done in the remainder of 1975, after the Act receives Royal Assent.

Let us consider the three groups concerned—the local authorities, the charities and the sports clubs. If the Act had been brought into operation within a reasonable time—I think that a reasonable time would have been by the end of 1975—the local authorities would have known what moneys they could raise during the year 1976–77 and could have made adjustments to their expenditure and the amount that they had to call for from the ratepayers or expect from the rate support grant. This applies particularly to seaside resorts and to historic towns, where it would have been of great benefit to run lotteries while visitors were in the towns. They have been deprived of this for the whole of this summer. On a monthly lottery any town could have raised £120,000, and on a weekly lottery the figure could have been £250,000.

The local authorities could have started improvements to their sports grounds, as well as environmental works such as we used to see in Operation Eyesore. All these things could have been of benefit to their citizens during this period if the Act had been brought into operation. I know that many authorities think that the amount they are allowed to raise by way of lotteries is so paltry that it is not worth running these lotteries and setting up the administration for them, but other local authorities, particularly the smaller ones, are anxious to operate the Act. They would have done so right away, at the beginning of this year, if the Act had been in operation.

Next, there are the charities. Many of them would have wished to run substantial sweepstakes on the Classic races during the spring and summer, but, instead, as I have said, much of the money spent on this sort of fun, which people enjoy, has gone overseas, to Eire and Malta and other countries which sell their tickets here. However illegal it may be to send the money out of the country, we have to recognise that it happens and that the money does go out of the country.

It is a great pity that these charities have been unable to raise the money by lotteries under the Act for the worthy causes for which they stand. So far as I can see they are likely to be unable to do so for the rest of this year and, possibly, for the whole of the winter. As for the churches, in particular, if any of their administrators have read the consultative document they will have been astonished by the threatened abolition of what is known as the bingo sealed card. I shall come back to that in a moment when dealing with the consultative document.

I take next the position of sports clubs, both amateur and professional. I have been given the calculation that the Football League clubs alone have been deprived of £5 million which they could have raised had the Act been in operation during last season, and the same applies this year, too, because it now appears that clubs will not be able to use the Act during the coming season. Apart from the Football League clubs, there are the thousands of lesser clubs which like to rely on the lager lotteries that they could operate under the Act, as opposed to the small lotteries that they run at present.

This is a time when sports clubs, and especially professional clubs, are confronted with legislation that will impose on them considerable expenditure in making their grounds and stadiums safe and in arranging more policing of the crowds—in particular, the rough crowds—at their matches. If we require the profession clubs to make their grounds safe and to prevent hooliganism at their matches, they will have to raise money in other ways, apart from tickets at the gate. They rely on lotteries. We must face that. Indeed, I imagine that there are many professional football clubs which would not be in the League were it not for the lotteries that they can run at present, and, with inflation as it is today, the limits on the present lotteries are insufficient to keep them going much longer. The letters that I have received show that they have been horrified by the consultative document. I share their horror. It seemed to me that the document was calculated to kill the provisions of the Act.

Before turning to the consultative document in detail, I shall put two questions to the Under-Secretary of State. My hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, North (Mr. Grist) has passed to me a letter concerning taxation received from the Glamorgan County Cricket Club. I understood from the Lotteries Act 1975 that the proceeds of lotteries conducted under the Act were not subject to betting tax, yet somebody has frightened the Glamorgan County Cricket Club in writing in these terms: It is monstrous that competitions promoted for sport and other good causes should pay pool betting duty at 33½ per cent., in line with commercial operations. A sliding scale has been suggested, and the betting duty would become operable where the gross take exceeded £10,000. We are not directly affected by this at present, but others are, and since they help us in many ways we should at least voice a single opinion. I do not know what is referred to there, but I was under the impression that, according to a schedule to the 1975 Act, the proceeds of lotteries conducted in accordance with the Act would be free from taxation. Plainly, this anxiety is frightening clubs off making their arrangements to run lotteries under the Act when it comes into operation.

The consultative document forecasts the regulations, or at least outlines what the Government have in mind regarding the proposed regulations, and I want to know whether the regulations will apply to small lotteries as well as to what I call the larger lotteries to be allowed under the Act. No distinction is made in the consultative document, and this has had a serious effect on those clubs which have been endeavouring to arrange to take advantage of the Act when it comes into force. They already run the smaller lotteries, which are subject to elaborate provisions under the 1963 Act.

It is true that the 1975 Act increases the figure of allowable proceeds from any one lottery from £750 to £5,000, but are all the lotteries to be subject to these regulations? For example, if they are weekly lotteries, must the total be kept down to 52 a year, whether the lotteries are large or small? If the regulations are to apply to small lotteries, so that the small lotteries have not only the restrictions imposed on them by the 1963 Act but also the restrictions which will be imposed by regulations under the 1975 Act, the result will be a reduction in income for many of these clubs.

I turn now to the consultative document, which I have acquired from the Library. The House is never consulted about consultative documents. They are sent out to all and sundry. Unless I had been fortunate in a debate of this sort, I suppose that the document would never have come before the House. We should eventually have been presented with thefait accompli of the regulations.

Mr. Farr

Does my right hon. Friend not also agree that as he, in particular, was a very illuminating member of the Standing Committee that considered the Lotteries Act 1975—I served on the same Committee, in a rather more humble capacity—it would have been an obvious thing to send us and all the other members of the Committee a copy of the document?

Mr. Page

It is always embarrassing to receive, from one's own local authority, from churches and charities in the vicinity and from football clubs that one may visit every Saturday, letters saying that a consultative document is a terrible thing when one does not have a clue what they are talking about. They imagine that their Member of Parliament knows all about it.

We might have been consulted on this. Had we not had a debate of this sort, I suppose that we should never have had an opportunity to comment on it. I propose to comment on it now, because the document has frightened certainly the football clubs, the charities and the local authorities into whose hands it has fallen. They say that, although it is only a consultative document, if it represents the Government's thinking, what is the use of their preparing to run lotteries when the restrictions will be so severe?

I appreciate that the Government's policy is not to stimulate gambling. The consultative document says that there should be no undue stimulation of gambling. The document makes it dead certain that there will be no stimulation of gambling, whether due or undue. It goes on to say that The public must be safeguarded against harassment. I agree, but the document goes much further than that.

On page 4 is set out a list of places in which tickets in a lottery may not be sold. They may not be sold by street sellers. I have no objection to that—nor, I think, do any of those who run lotteries, whether football clubs or churches. They may not be sold by vending machines. I cannot see how a vending machine would either stimulate gambling or harass the public; certainly not the latter. It is perhaps the most pleasant way of selling lottery tickets. After all, the tickets cannot cost more than 25p. The tickets must not be sold in casinos, licensed betting offices, bingo halls, amusement arcades and pleasure fairs. Where gambling already takes place, will the sale of lottery tickets at 25p a time stimulate gambling? Tickets may not be sold by post, except in response to an application. I agree with that. People do not like getting unsolicited lottery tickets through the post.

Paragraph 11 provides that the sale of tickets in certain circumstances would be subject to certain specified conditions. The first of these is that in shops and public houses the sale of tickets by the proprietor or his employees to customers would be prohibited. I suppose that whoever wrote the consultative document has never taken part in the lotteries that are so common among professional and amateur football clubs. Many clubs are based on the local public house or on shops. Many sports grounds are set up particularly for the employees of shops. Who will be harassed by the sight of a book of tickets on the counter of the shop or the pub? That is normal practice, and no trouble has ever occurred from the sale of lottery tickets in that way.

Strangely enough, according to the next paragraph, door-to-door selling is to be allowed. Door-to-door selling is much more of a harassment than is the sale of tickets across the counter of a shop or pub. Charities are able to carry out door-to-door selling without causing offence, and if the selling is subject to the House Collection Act I do not see why it should not be done. It is strange that door-to-door selling is not thought by whoever drew up the document to be harassing, whereas the sale of tickets in shops and public houses is regarded as harassing. I am advised by professional football clubs that if the provision goes into the regulations in that form, it will kill their finances. They cannot run lotteries without having that degree of freedom in the sale of tickets.

The next paragraph says that the sale of lottery tickets will not be prohibited on the premises of the lottery-promoting society. That is not of much help. The local authority is to be allowed to sell tickets in any of its local offices. In our debates on the Lotteries Bill the Under-Secretary of State stressed that there should be absolute fairness between local authorities and societies. There is no fairness here. The society is permitted to sell tickets only at its own premises, whereas the local authority can sell them at all its offices and at public libraries in its area.

We are told that kiosks can be set up especially for the sale of tickets. That will not help the charity, because of the cost involved in setting up kiosks and paying rates, although it may help the local authority. Again, there will be unfairness between the local authority and the society—an unfairness which, according to what she said previously, I am sure that hon. Lady does not want.

The clubs rely heavily on advertising. They are to be permitted to use newspaper advertising but not to distribute advertising material to anyone other than members of the society. What is the use of that? It is unreasonable to impose that restriction on clubs and still expect them to make any finance out of running their lotteries.

Although clubs are to be allowed to engage in newspaper advertising, they are not to be permitted to advertise on radio or television. I do not suppose that many clubs would want to advertise on national radio or television, but advertising of this sort would be useful and valuable on local radio and television.

I have said already that there seems to be unfairness in the respective treatment of societies and local authorities. The rules that are to apply to local authorities are extremely farcical. Tickets must not be sold in a local authority lottery to any elected members of the council. Tickets must not be sold to a chief executive. Tickets must not be sold to chief officers of the authority and heads of main services. They must not be sold in the department of the chief officer. They must not be sold to other employees of the authority who sell or distribute tickets for the lottery. They must not be sold to other employees engaged in the management of the lottery fund. I think that we could trust local authority servants not to cheat if they are buying tickets for their own local lottery.

I come to the really difficult point that many clubs find about the consultative document. It is one to which it is not easy to find a solution. I refer to the bingo sealed card, and particularly to unsold tickets. In these regulations the Government wish to insert a provision to the effect that there should be a check on the fact that all tickets are sold, and that no unsold tickets go into the draw. That is all right if one is envisaging the tombola-type draw, if all the tickets are going into a hat or drum. However, the public have become used to the instant ticket—the sealed ticket, which they open on the spot and see whether they have won something. If we are to say that that type of lottery can be operated no longer, the present clubs—particularly football clubs—will have great difficulty in organising any lottery that will bring them a reasonable return.

I am sure that the hon. Lady will agree—I believe that the clubs have put this to her—that the clubs have provided a solution to this problem. Many of them are running such a scheme at present. When the ticket is opened by the purchaser, if he finds that he has a winning line or that the whole card is "house", he sends the card in. He must claim within 14 days or within whatever the stipulated period is. The cards are then checked. If all the offered money is not taken up by the cards that are sent in by way of claim, the remainder of the money is redistributed among those who have sent them in, or it goes on bonus cards in some form. At any rate, it can be ensured that all the money offered in the lottery goes out to all those who have bought tickets, and that none of it returns to the promoters.

There is no reason why a provision to that effect should not be included in the regulations, in place of the regulation set out in the consultative document. This is what has frightened the professional clubs. I ask the hon. Lady to accept the solutions that are offered by the football clubs and other organisations that use the bingo club. Many churches use the bingo clubs.

They have the solution and I am sure that legislation on that basis could be reasonably applied. I ask the Minister to announce quickly that it will be accepted, and I hope that she will give an assurance that she will meet the objectives that I have described. I hope that she will say that the problem will be met by regulations, in accordance with the practice that is already well-known to the public and is operated well in small lotteries. The hon. Lady must put the regulations before the House without delay so that the Act may come into operation.

The delay has caused the loss of millions of pounds—I am not exaggerating—to charities, sports clubs and local authorities—money that might have been put to good purpose during the 12 months since the Act received Royal Assent. I hope that the Government will now retrieve the position by putting regulations before the House as soon as possible.

8.57 p.m.

Mr. Dan Jones (Burnley)

Since the Bill is of a non-partisan character, I almost entirely support the views of my colleague the right hon. Member for Crosby (Mr. Page). Perhaps he was unkind to some extent, not in stating that there has been a delay but in emphasising it to such a degree. I have met my hon. Friend the Minister on a number of occasions and discussed the Bill, particularly its application to soccer. I must interrupt myself to say that, since the right hon. Member for Crosby covered the subject in such detail and with great expertise, I shall not repeat those features of the argument except in their relation to soccer.

Soccer clubs provide an almost therapeutic form of entertainment which is good in comparison with that which is frequently provided by television, and the clubs should be treated with more consideration. About 86 per cent. of the 92 clubs in the four divisions of the English League are in debit to the banks. In other words, if the banks were to foreclose they would be in serious trouble and in danger of bankruptcy. That is serious.

In my early days I was a player of some kind, with a damned sight more energy than ability, and I have watched the game for over 50 years. Despite the small percentage of hooliganism, the game provides the nation with something which is substantial and important.

The right hon. Gentleman carefully analysed the consultative document. I think that it will be amended. In my presence, my hon. Friend the Minister has told a number of commercial managers of professional clubs that the document was meant only for consultative purposes, that there was never any intention that it should be put into statute form and that she was anxious to receive suggested amendments.

The commercial managers are responsible for providing the money without which their clubs would become bankrupt. That must be borne in mind at all times when we consider the soccer clubs. They should be given parity with local authorities otherwise the local authorities will have advantages and the clubs will find it difficult to collect the money that is needed to keep going.

I agree with the right hon. Gentleman's observations about newsagents and public houses. I do not think that there can be any form of harassment of people who go into those places. After the game, the lads, and sometimes the lasses, go into the pubs to discuss the game. They often go there for discussions when the list of players chosen is published. It is right that they should make their contribution to the economics of the club in this harmless way, and I see no harassment of any kind.

I have been subjected to door-to-door collecting in Burnley for a number of years. No one has ever complained to me about it. If there had been any harassment, people certainly would have complained. I receive many varied complaints, including complaints about matters far less difficult than harassment. I must support the right hon. Gentleman when he says that there is hardly any harassment.

Advertising is a powerful factor. The soccer clubs should not be denied the opportunity enjoyed by other people who provide possibly less of a service to the community. They should be given equal rights in that direction. I appeal to my hon. Friend to be as generous as she can be in her ultimate recommendation to the House.

My own club of Burnley has probably the best coaching side in the country. Professional soccer managers send their sons there to be trained. The club has managed for year on what are, on average the lowest gates in the country for a club of that status. During the time I have been there, the team has been to Wembley once and has won the League championship. This is an achievement in sport, yet it has done this on an average gate of about 24,000. It is impossible to maintain a club of that standard on such support.

There are other clubs in the county of Lancashire—Blackburn, Bolton, Bury, Oldham and Preston—which are all in the same position. These are the clubs which gave birth to the Football League many years ago. Are we prepared to see clubs of this character go out of the game simply because of the lack of money? Let us not imagine that this is not impossible. A few years ago one of the founder members—Accrington—went out on that basis. Naturally, the other clubs think that they might suffer the same fate. I do not think that there is another club in the country which protects its spectators in the way that the Burnley club does. The police shepherd the spectators from the bus or railway station to the football ground and back. There are sections in the ground for both sets of supporters. This has cost a considerable amount of money, but there is less trouble at Burnley than at any other club in the country. We never have any trouble. It cannot be simply because it is Burnley, because clubs from all over the country play there. It cannot be a coincidence. It must be because of the preparations we make.

Yet all this costs money, and those regulations have been imposed on the club, quite fairly, by Home Office direction. The Government are under an obligation to the clubs. The clubs are not asking for one penny from the Government. They are simply asking that facilities be provided so that they can earn their living in a lottery or gambling market. The right hon. Member for Crosby pointed out that much lottery money has left the country.

I ask the Minister to support a sport which is making a reasonable and civilised contribution to entertainment. I know that it is thought that, because a limited number of youthful thugs have created havoc in certain main shopping centres on the way to or from the grounds, the game has changed in character. It has not. Certain elements of youth have changed. I have already given an example of how we deal with that situation in Burnley. If we can do it, surely other clubs in the main centres of the country can do the same. They need more finance.

We do not have much time. If the Regulations are not approved in the period from mid-October to mid-November, there will be great danger for all who are interested in this subject. It will be some time into 1977 before we can get matters going again. I hope that in the three weeks or so that will be left to us when we return after the recess my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House can arrange matters so that we can finalise things before the next Session begins. The people who are interested in soccer expect and deserve this. It will do the country much good.

9.11 p.m.

Mr. John Farr (Harborough)

Like a number of hon. Members, I have grave reservations about the way in which the Lotteries Act 1975 is being implemented by the Government. I also have reservations about the contents of the consultative document. I have received a number of letters on the subject, which have been sufficient to prompt me to write to the Home Office. Further, I have an interest in the subject, in that my right hon. Friend the Member for Crosby (Mr. Page) and I were both members of the Committee that considered this Act. We had diametrically opposed views, as I recollect it, but we have both maintained a fairly keen interest in the subject.

The three points that have come to me through my constituents who are affected by the Act can be put as follows: they have seen the consultative document issued by the Home Office, upon which consultations concluded at the end of June, and they are universally incensed at the suggestion that the proprietor or employees of public houses, in particular, and of shops, should be prohibited from selling lottery tickets. The proposed Regulation 11(1), with which my right hon. Friend the Member for Crosby dealt effectively, deals with this. As my right hon. Friend said, and as the Minister can find out by going into the first pub she finds in Victoria Street, lottery tickets are offered for sale at public houses. They are left on the counter and the proprietor or the publican sells the tickets on behalf of the deserving cause.

This practice has been in operation for many years. If it is suggested that this form of sale should be prohibited, not only will it cause the greatest distress; I can say with absolute assurance that it is something that never crossed the minds of any of us who were members of the Standing Committee that considered the Act.

I wish to refer to the powers of local authorities who promote lotteries to advertise their competitions by the distribution of advertisements to all residents within their areas. City football clubs and county cricket clubs have pointed out to me that it is unfair to them and to the small lotteries which they are seeking to promote, and on which so many of them depend for survival today, that their clubs' advertising of lotteries is restricted to members only whereas local authorities can promote lotteries by advertisement to all residents within their areas. This is weighting the balance very heavily in favour of the local authority, in a way that members of the Standing Committee did not envisage at the time. I do not, therefore, believe that the proposed regulation is a fair interpretation of the intentions behind the Lotteries Act 1975.

My next point, although not the most serious one, is causing very grave concern to the promoters of small lotteries. It is a point for which I cannot find an explanation. On my first two points, relating to the sale of tickets to shops and public houses, and the advertising of lotteries, there may be room for a certain amount of debate, but I do not think that there is any room for debate on this third point. The consultative document, containing the proposed regulations, has obviously accidentally misinterpreted the Lotteries Act in regard to the percentage of the proceeds allowable as expenses.

The Under-Secretary of State will recall that Section 9(13) of the Lotteries Act 1975 provided that where the whole proceeds of the lottery do not exceed £5,000, 25 per cent. of the proceeds—and, where the whole proceeds exceed £5,000, 15 per cent. of the proceeds—may be deducted in respect of expenses. But in the consultative document no mention whatsoever is made of the 25 per cent. figure at which Parliament arrived in the Lotteries Act 1975.

The relevant part of the consultative document is paragraph 9, which states quite clearly that Where the amount of the proceeds of lotteries held under the scheme to be appropriated on account of expenses exceeds 15 per cent. of those proceeds, the promoter shall furnish the Board with any information they require relating to expenses incurred in respect of that lottery. That, in my view, is not an interpretation of the 1975 Act. As I said, the 1975 Act allowed for 25 per cent. of the proceeds in a lottery not exceeding £5,000, yet the proposed regulations recommend 15 per cent., and if this figure is exceeded the promoter of the lottery may have to send details to the lottery for examination by a gaming board.

Those are the three points which most concern me and a number of my constituents. Probably the third of them is the most important. I echo what my right hon. Friend the Member for Crosby said. There has already been a grievous delay, which has cost many millions of pounds.

Will the hon. Lady, in reply—page 2, paragraph 8, of the consultative document—tell us whether she has yet entered into consultations with the Gaming Board and the local authority associations, into which, in the document, she said she must enter before the relevant regulations are completed and prepared ready to place before the House?

9.20 p.m.

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

I am grateful to the right hon. Member for Crosby (Mr. Page) for raising the matter of the implementation of the Lotteries Act 1975, and I welcome his continued interest in lottery legislation.

The Lotteries Act received the Royal Assent on 7th August 1975. On 25th August a commencement order was made bringing into operation on 5th September several sections of the Act—in particular, Section 13, which increased the permitted financial limits on certain lotteries promoted by societies for charitable, sporting or other purposes. Our intention in making the commencement order was to enable these bodies to avail themselves, at the earliest possible date, of the increased financial limits permitted under the Act.

The limit on total turnover of a lottery was raised from £750 to £5,000. The maximum value of a single prize was raised from £100 to £1,000. The maximum price of a ticket or a chance was raised from 5p to 25p. The maximum percentage of the proceeds that may be appropriated on account of expenses was raised from 10 per cent, to 25 per cent. I think that the right hon. Gentleman will agree that these changes, which have been in operation for the past 11 months, have provided a valuable opportunity for the charities and sporting clubs to augment their finances from lotteries.

The remaining provisions of the Act, which will permit the promotion of lotteries on a still larger scale and, for the first time, the promotion of lotteries by local authorities, cannot be brought into operation until parliamentary approval has been given to the regulations to be made under Section 10. As the right hon. Gentleman pointed out, the Act requires the Secretary of State to consult the Gaming Board for Great Britain and local authority associations before making regulations under that section.

However, during discussion in Standing Committee on the Lotteries Bill it became clear that hon. Members were particularly concerned about two matters: first, that the existing society lotteries should not be swamped by local authority lotteries and, secondly, that the public should not be harassed by aggressive selling of lottery tickets. The use of kiosks, door-to-door selling of tickets and the use of shops for selling tickets were among matters touched upon, but which required fuller discussion, and it was clearly right to give those who would be closely affected by the content of the regulations an opportunity to convey their views to the Government.

At the end of the discussion in Committee, on 20th March, I said: The regulations would be drawn up after consulation. It is important that all these matters should be aired and that the feelings of the public, local authorities, the societies and the Committee should be made known. When the regulations are drawn up, the Committee's views…will be taken into account."—[Official Report, Standing Committee B, 20th March 1975; c. 173.] Consequently, the consultative document was issued on 18th May and comments were invited by the end of June. I greatly regret the delay in issuing the consultative document, but reject the right hon. Gentleman's suggestion that that was a delaying tactic. I wished to make quicker progress.

Apart from the many details that had to be considered for inclusion in the document, I should explain that the small group of officials in the Home Office who are concerned with this work are also responsible for all the other matters that come under the heading of gambling, for example, the arrangements for the establishment of the Royal Commission on Gambling, the preparation of material for debates on horseracing in both Houses, and matters relating to the Tote and the Horserace Betting Levy Board, including a disagreement between the board and the bookmakers on the amount of the levy, which had to be determined by the Home Secretary.

These and other matters placed an exceptionally heavy load on the staff concerned in the winter of 1975–76. While it may not excuse the delay, it provides an explanation for it. This is a detailed document and attention to detail in it is vital.

Where lottery legislation is involved—in this case, an extension of the number of lotteries—the regulations are as important as the Act itself. There were interdepartmental discussions before the document, which was prepared with the greatest possible care, was finalised.

Mr. Dan Jones

Before my hon. Friend leaves the time-scale aspect—will she agree to have consultations with the Leader of the House with a view to ensuring that this move is made in the short three-week recess before the new Session in October or November?

Dr. Summerskill

I was going to refer to the time scale at the end of my speech, when I made a final summing-up of the situation. The consultative document covered a considerable range of issues, including proposals for the distribution of lottery tickets, advertising material, and the allocation of sales outlets.

It was evident from the debates in Standing Committee that hon. Members wanted the public to be protected from harassment in the promotion of lotteries, and the consultative document reflected that wish. In response to the document the Home Office received representations from more than 200 hon. Members and more than 250 organisations. That was a massive response, and it revealed clearly the desirability of publishing a consultative document that was distributed to major sporting and charity organizations and licensed victuallers. All these opinions are being carefully considered before the regulations are drafted and submitted to Parliament for approval. I have received deputations, and I have listened extremely carefully to the most valuable opinions made in this debate, because, as my hon. Friend the Member for Burnley (Mr. Jones) has reminded the House, this is, by definition, a document of consultation.

I intend that the regulations will be drawn in a less restrictive manner than that proposed in the document. As a result of the evidence that I have received, I am aware of the strong feeling that the sale of tickets in public houses and shops does not amount to harassment. Furthermore, these sales are essential for the success of lotteries, on which sporting interests very much rely.

I was asked three specific questions. First, on the issue of small lotteries, the regulations will apply to all lotteries promoted under the 1975 Act. When the Act is fully in operation, Section 45 of the Betting, Gaming and Lotteries Act 1963 will be repealed, so that lotteries will not be subject to two sets of restrictions; they will all be subject to regulations under the 1975 Act.

Secondly, lotteries conducted under the 1975 Act will be free of taxation. There is no foundation for the fears of the Glamorgan County Cricket Club that a sliding scale of taxation will be applied to it.

The hon. Member for Harborough (Mr. Farr) asked about the limits on expenses. These are laid down in the Act and will remain unaffected by regulations. The paragraph that he was referring to dealt with furnishing the board with any information that it might require relating to expenses.

I fully appreciate the great importance, for the societies that are fundamentally dependent on the proceeds of lotteries, of getting the regulations right. Local authority lotteries will be a new feature of our society and the detailed conditions under which they should operate require careful consideration. As I made clear during the Bill's passage through the House, we intend that neither societies nor local authorities should have any discriminatory advantage in the conduct of lotteries, and I have noted the remarks of the right hon. Member for Crosby in this connection.

It is important that these matters should be fully discussed. As I have said in the House before, it is better to get the right regulations than to hurry and get bad or inadequate ones. However, I share the wish of the House to see lotteries come fully into operation as soon as possible.

I note my hon. Friend's plea that I should consult the Leader of the House, and I shall certainly do that during the recess. I intend to see that regulations to be made under Section 10 are drafted and submitted to Parliament for approval early next Session.

Mr. Graham Page

Before the Minister sits down, may I say that I accept her expression of regret about the delay, and in those circumstances I withdraw any implication in my speech that the delay was deliberate. We thank her for the answer to the debate.