§ [SECOND READING.]
§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
§ LORD DAVEY
My Lords, this Bill has been prepared to carry into effect the recommendations contained in the Report of the Select Committee which was appointed two years ago on the Motion of my right rev. friend the Bishop of Hereford. The reference to that Committee was—Toinquire into the increasing of public betting amongst all classes, and whether any legislative measures are possible and expedient for checking the abuses occasioned thereby.The Committee, after hearing much evidence, were of opinion that betting is generally prevalent in the United Kingdom, and that the practice of betting has 869 increased considerably of late years, especially amongst the working classes, whilst, on the other hand, the habit of making large bets, which used atone time to be the fashion amongst owners and breeders of horses, has greatly diminished. Betting (they say) is not confined to horse racing, but is also prevalent at athletic meetings and football matches. I think your Lordships, particularly those of you who are acquainted with the large manufacturing towns in the North of England, will agree with the Committee that betting has become much more prevalent in recent years, especially amongst the working classes. It is not only the men, but the women and children also who are addicted to this practice, and they bet upon everything which is capable of being betted upon. I remember being told, when I was connected with a north-country town, a story which impressed me very much. There was a temporary slackness of work and a good deal of distress in the town. A relief fund was started by the Mayor, and an office opened. I cannot personally vouch for the statement, but I was told that a woman who had applied at the office and received half-a-crown was known to have gone straight off and put it on a horse.
I am not going to waste your Lordships' time by stale platitudes on the demoralisation caused by the habit of betting when carried to excess, and when it becomes the occupation of a man's life, nor will I expatiate on the way in which the habit saps the energy of a man for regular industry or legitimate work. What is a much more serious consequence, and a matter which should engage the attention of the Legislature, is that the habit of betting, to the extent to which it now prevails, has been the fruitful parent of crime. Evidence was given before the Committee that the thefts which sometimes come to light committed by Post Office clerks and letter carriers, were in most cases directly traceable to their having indulged in betting. The principal point which was made before us was the increase in the crime of embezzlement. The evidence on that was really remarkable. Mr. Horace Smith, a metropolitan police magistrate of fourteen years experience, on being asked what his opinion 870 was about the increase of crime in general during that period, said—My impression would be—of course, my experience is limited to certain areas—that crime has decreased generally very much, and particularly crimes of violence and drunkenness; but, on the other hand, that crimes of fraud and embezzlement are on the increase.In answer to a further question he said—Where the crime is one of embezzlement, or fraud akin to embezzlement, after the case is over, not as part of the case, but after the case is over, I almost invariably find that betting has been at the bottom of the crime.And he expressed the opinion that practically nine-tenths of the crimes of embezzlement were either directly or indirectly traceable to that source. That evidence was confirmed by another metropolitan police magistrate—Sir Albert de Rutzen, who has had twenty-five years experience in that capacity—and by other witnesses from various parts of the country.
The most prevalent and the most mischievous form of betting is street betting. The smaller class of bookmakers who haunt the streets will take money from whoever they can; they waylay workmen as they enter and leave the factories, and it is said that, when the workmen are away from home, they even go from door to door of the workmen's houses, and persuade, incite, and induce the women to make bets with them. They have also been known to take coppers from children in the streets, and one case was mentioned of a child of apparently not more than six years of age being seen to give his copper to a well-known member of the bookmaking fraternity. I do not want to weary your Lordships by reading much of the evidence which was given before the Committee, but I should like to call attention to the evidence of one witness. He was asked to confine himself to what he had actually seen, and he told the Committee that on 5th June last year he took the opportunity of going to St. Giles-in-the-Fields, Bloomsbury, accompanied by a retired bookmaker. He noticed a young bookmaker, of about twenty-five years of age, take coppers from a boy of apparently twelve years of age. Then he noticed two more boys, who may have been fourteen or fifteen years of age, hand him coppers, and he spoke of having 871 seen various small sums of this kind received. But in case that evidence should be thought to come from a suspected source—it was the evidence of Mr. Hawke, the Secretary of the Anti-Gambling League—I have the unimpeachable testimony of Mr. Spruce, who is himself a bookmaker and betting agent, that street betting has very much increased within the last ten years, and he expressed the opinion that it will still further increase. Colonel Fludyer, Chairman of Tattersall's Committee, said, in his evidence before the Committee—Although I have very little to do with street betting, yet I know that in all the great towns it goes on, and, letting alone its demoralising effect on the labouring classes, I look upon it as a public nuisance which should be suppressed.Mr. Peacock, Chief Constable of Manchester, spoke of street betting being carried on amongst artisans, and especially by young men and lads; and Mr. Shannon, superintendent of the Lambeth Division of Police, gave evidence upon the prevalence of street betting in his area. He said—Of course, it is a working-class neighbourhood, and a great number of bookmakers use that district. They place themselves in busy thoroughfares between 1 and 2—thoroughfares that the workmen pass through—or outside large factories during the same hours, and bet to a very extensive nature. We have received many complaints of this street betting—for instance, a wife complains of her husband spending all her money, and her children starving; a mother complains of her son, and we had one complaint where the schoolmaster complained of his children being late at school through being employed by their parents to go and back horses with the bookmaker, who stood close to the school.It is said that these children do not bet themselves but are sent by their parents to put the money on; but it appears to me to be equally bad whether the children bet themselves or whether they are used as messengers for their parents for the purpose of making bets. We do not allow children to fetch their parents' beer from the public house, and I think it is equally demoralising and equally shocking that children of the tender age I have described should be allowed to become the intermediaries for carrying on this system of betting. Mr. Robert Knight, a magistrate of the City and County of Newcastle, stated that—Betting generally is largely on the increase; especially is this noticeable amongst 872 young men and women. Between the hours of 11.55 and 3.15 a bookmaker was recently seen to take 236 bets from men, women, and children in South Shields. This was sworn to in Court by a policeman.Similar evidence was given by magistrates and superintendents of police in Glasgow. Street betting is at present unlawful; but all the magistrates and police officers who gave evidence before the Committee agreed that the penalties to which people who carry on the trade of a bookmaker in the streets are exposed, are utterly insufficient and altogether inadequate to check the practice. The way in which street betting is at present hit is by means of by-laws, of which there are two classes. One class of by-laws is made under the Municipal Act and treats the offence as one of obstruction. This offence, however, requires the assemblage of three persons, and betting is generally confined to two. There is another kind of by-law—it is now being largely introduced—which treats betting as an offence per se. But I believe there is no case in which a larger penalty than £10 can be imposed for street betting, and in most cases it is only a fine of £5 that can be imposed. The bookmakers make very light of a penalty of £5; they pay it cheerfully and go on their way rejoicing. Mr. Horace Smith, whose evidence I have already referred to, said—At present it is almost a farce fining these gentlemen £5. They simply bow and smile and pay the £5 and go away with the rest of the money in their pocket and begin again. It is absolutely futile and produces, in my opinion, a very bad impression. The law is simply derided and made fun of by these persons.He then mentioned the case of one bookmaker who offered him £5 for the poor box in addition to his £5 fine. Mr. Shannon, the Lambeth Police Superintendent, mentioned a case in which a man had been fined the maximum penalty of £5 sixteen times in one year and on three days successively. It is perfectly clear that at present the means of stopping what the law treats as an offence are utterly inadequate and ineffectual, and calculated to bring the law into contempt.
The Legislature, I think, must do one of two things. Either it must treat street betting as no offence at all, or, if it is to be considered an offence, some effectual means must be taken to prevent its recurrence. It appears to me that there is a very strong case indeed for 873 legislation. The operation of the Bill extends to—Any person exercising the business of a bookmaker or betting agent by betting or offering to bet with other persons, or inciting other persons to bet with him, or receiving money or other valuable things as consideration for any bet, or paying or settling any bets in any street or other public place, or any place to which the public have unrestricted access.The penalties proposed by the Bill are those recommended by the Committee, and which were recommended by a very experienced police magistrate, who is now dead, Sir Franklin Lushington—a fine of £10 for the first offence, £20 for the second offence, and £50 or imprisonment for six months without the option of a fine for a third offence, on indictment, or a fine of £30 or three months imprisonment without the option of a fine, on summary conviction. I am not prepared to say that even those penalties will be found sufficient, but this I regard as an honest, and, I think, a moderate attempt to provide an effectual remedy for what the law now treats as an offence, although the existing penalties are found insufficient for the purpose of preventing it. I ought to say, with regard to Clause 4, that it is carefully confined to any person carrying on the business of betting, and it is not open to a criticism which was suggested to me, that two friends walking along the street might be overheard by a policeman to make a bet with each other and be run in for that offence. It is not that which is aimed at, nor do I think that such a contingency could by any possibility arise under this clause if the Bill passes into law.
There is another clause relating to this, to which I ought to call your Lordships' attention. I refer to the clause rendering persons who are guilty of this offence in the streets, liable to be arrested at once—instead of being merely summoned to appear before the magistrate—and liable to be searched. That was very strongly recommended by the witnesses who gave evidence before the Committee, and it is recommended in the Report of the Committee. I am aware that some exception has been taken to the expression in that clause that any person so offending "shall be deemed to be a rogue and a vagabond" within the meaning of the Act of George 874 IV. The expression has been introduced for the purpose of bringing in the power of search and arrest under the Vagrant Act, and it follows closely the precedent of the Vagrant Act Amendment Act, 1873, by which any persons betting or wagering by means of any "instrument" in the streets is brought under the Vagrant Act. The whole effect of the clause is to put the person who is plying the trade of a bookmaker in a public street in the same position as the man who is gaming or getting people to bet or wager with him by means of "instruments." The whole effect of the clause is to put the two in the same category. It introduces no new principle, but merely applies an old principle to a new case. I think it is a sound criticism that the words "or any place to which the public have unrestricted access" are too vague. I have failed myself to give a satisfactory construction to them; and in Committee, if the Bill is read a second time, I shall ask your Lordships to omit them, or, if any noble Lord places an Amendment on the Paper to that effect, I will accept it. The words "street or other public place" are intended to meat cases like those of the London parks, or the public gardens which one frequently sees in provincial towns, and which are not, strictly speaking, streets, but which for this purpose are equally public places, and it is thought that the section should be extended to them. I do not myself think that the words "or other public place" are of any extreme importance, although if they are omitted it might lead to an evasion by the offence being committed in a public place which was not technically a street. But that is quite open to reconsideration so far as I am concerned in Committee, and if your Lordships pass the Second Reading I shall be prepared to consider on its merits any suggestion of this kind which may be made.
Your Lordships are probably aware that all street betting takes place at what are called starting prices; that is to say, when a man backs a horse and pays his shilling or half-a-crown to the bookmaker, the bookmaker does not lay any particular odds against the horse, the agreement being that the bet shall be at the odds which are quoted in a particular newspaper, as the price at which the horse 875 stood at the time when the race commenced. I believe all street betting invariably takes place on that footing. Several witnesses who appeared before the Committee, and some gentlemen who have been kind enough to send me criticisms on the Bill during the short time that it has been before your Lordships, have said "Why not abolish the publication of starting prices? If you did that you would stop street betting." What the Committee thought, and I entirely agreed with them, was that, in the first place, it would be rather a strong measure to prohibit newspapers from publishing what is, in fact, intelligence of some interest to a great many people besides the betting fraternity. And, in the second place, we were a little sceptical, even if the publication were prohibited, as to whether it would stop street betting altogether. Some people were of opinion that men would still bet in that manner, but that there would not be the same security against disputes, and perhaps dishonesty, as there is by reference to the starting prices as published in particular newspapers. I think that is sufficient answer to the criticism that has been urged upon that head. Another alternative proposal is one of a very far-reaching character, and it is that bookmakers should be licensed. There is, of course, a great deal to be said for that, because if you license people who carry on this business you can impose conditions and prohibit their carrying on their trade in the public streets, and it would be possible to revoke their licences if they infringed this condition. I assume that what is meant is, not a mere fiscal licence which anybody could obtain on payment of a fee, but a licence which is granted by some body who are able and willing to investigate the character of the licencee and to grant the licences only to persons who can stand the test of an examination into their antecedents. The members of the Committee who had had experience of the Jockey Club were all agreed that it would be impossible for the Jockey Club to undertake such a duty, and that there is no other body in England who could do so. That duty would have to be undertaken by a Department of the State. I think there would be a very strong objection amongst a large number 876 of people to that mode of licensing the business of betting. Moreover, if persons were licensed by a State Department to carry on that particular business, it would be impossible to retain the present law that money lost on a bet or wager is irrecoverable by action. It would be ridiculous to licence a person to carry on a trade, and then say he was not to recover by action debts which became due to him in connection with that trade, and that he was not to be sued if he became indebted to his customers.
The third proposal is one of which the noble Lord opposite, Lord Newton, is, I believe, a strong advocate—it is the adoption of the pari mutuel system, which is conducted by the State in France. Under this system the money is deposited at an office. You name the horse which you wish to back for a particular race and receive a ticket, and all the money which is received, subject to certain deductions, on that race is then divided between those who back the winner. It is, in fact, the same kind of business as is carried on by the sporting newspapers on the coupon system. I believe—and this, perhaps, would make it attractive to the Chancellor of the Exchequer—that a large profit is derived from the conduct of the pari mutuel system in France. Offices are opened in various places, and on every race course. Part of the profit goes to charity, a part to providing prizes at the various races, and a part remains to the State. The pari mutuel system is also known in India, but I am informed that there it is carried on by the proprietors of the racecourses, and in that case the profit made is devoted to paying the expenses of the races, providing prizes, and so forth. I think there is a good deal to be said for the pari mutuel system, but it is questionable whether it would tend to decrease betting. A great objection to its adoption by the State in this country is that it would be the maintenance by the State of a form of gambling, and I feel tolerably confident that in the present state of public opinion it could not be successfully carried on, for the same sort of objections would be made to the adoption in this country of the pari mutuel system as were made to the holding of lotteries by the State as a means of raising 877 revenue. The remaining part of the Bill relates to Amendments of the Acts of 1853 and 1874, but if these sections give rise to a good deal of misunderstanding, I think I ought to apologise to your Lordships for the Bill being drawn in a way in which its effect cannot be seen from merely reading the clauses, because the sections to which I am about to refer are sections amending or explaining particular sections in those Acts. It would, of course, be much better if every Bill could explain on the face of it, its own meaning; if, when you wished to amend an Act, you could reprint that Act with the Amendments which you wish to make, so that every one reading the Bill could understand it. But, unhappily, one cannot always do that, and I think it would be rather unusual for a private Member to venture to consolidate previous legislation. Your Lordships will, therefore, perhaps forgive me if, before mentioning the proposed Amendments, I explain very shortly the effect of the existing Acts.
The chief Act is the Act of 1853, which is called a Betting Act, but strictly it is a Betting House Act. It does not prohibit betting; it does not, as I understand it, even prohibit the trade of a professional bookmaker or betting agent. What it does is to make it unlawful for people to keep a betting house or advertise a betting house. By Section 3 of the Act of 1853 any man who owns, occupies, or uses a house, office or place for the purpose of betting with persons resorting thereto is liable to penalties. Your Lordships will observe that that section only applies to betting houses in this country and aims only at betting "with persons resorting thereto." It has been held, and it is the accepted construction of the Act, that "persons resorting thereto" means persons physically walking into the house, office, or place, and does not include persons corresponding either by telegram or by letter with the office. This Bill proposes to amend Section 3 to make the words "resorting thereto" include "applying by the agency of another person, by letter, telegram, or other means of correspondence." I cannot help thinking that that must be right, because it seems to me ridiculous to suggest that an 878 office into which people may walk and make their bets is a nuisance, and the keeping of it a misdemeanour, when a similar office, into which people do not walk to make their bets, but make them by letter or other means of correspondence, is not a nuisance. If it be right as a matter of public policy, as it has been for the last fifty years, that an office shall not be kept for the purpose of betting with persons who walk into it, it must be equally contrary to public policy to keep such an office for the purpose of betting with persons who make their bets by telegraph or by letter. It is utterly illogical to make any such distinction, and it is therefore proposed that the section should be amended in the way I have mentioned. I need scarcely say that this in no way affects betting by telegram or letter or otherwise with any member of the ring on a racecourse. It does not touch that in the least.
The seventh section of the Act deals with the question of advertising betting houses, but it applies only to betting houses in this country. It is therefore not illegal at present to advertise betting houses abroad or to invite persons to send their money to a house situated abroad. That, of course, is well known, and it has resulted, particularly of late years, in the keepers of betting houses carrying on their business abroad and advertising them here as carried on abroad. The favourite place appears to be Middelburg, in Holland, but they also have offices at Rotterdam and Boulogne, and they can advertise safely their offices at either of these places and invite people to send their betting correspondence there. It is now, under the system of money orders, just as easy to send money to the Continent as it was to send it to Manchester. The Act is therefore evaded by the simple process of opening an office across the Channel. It was thought that that should be corrected, and therefore it is proposed to amend the seventh section of the Act of 1853 by extending it to betting houses kept outside the United Kingdom as well as to those inside. This is done by inserting in the section the words "or without." It was found to be the case that newspapers carrying on the coupon system transferred their business across 879 the Channel when they found themselves liable to the penalty imposed by the Betting Act of 1853. One newspaper, known as "Sporting Luck," immediately transferred its energies to Middelburg, and people were invited to fill up the coupons and send them with the required fee to Middelburg. They carried on this business with impunity. The only effect of the Amendment proposed in this Bill is to make the Act of 1853 more efficient for the purpose for which it was intended, and to supplement it in parts where, after an experience of fifty years, it is found to be defective and capable of being easily evaded.
There is one other point connected with advertisements which I want to mention. It was very strongly pressed upon the Committee that they should prohibit all advertisements of tipsters, of people who profess to give tips on coming races, and I believe my noble friend Lord Durham took some interest in that question. That recommendation is not embodied in the present Bill, and I will explain why. In the first place, if you mean by an advertisement of a tipster an advertisement stating the place where you may obtain information and advice on payment of a small fee for the purpose of making bets, it appears to me that that is already prohibited by the amending Acts of 1874, which, I may add, extends both to the United Kingdom and abroad; but if you mean by a tipster's advertisement a prophecy that a certain horse will win and a recommendation to put your money on a certain horse for a particular race, it seems to me extremely difficult to draw any section which would not hit genuine comments on the prospects of horses in particular races, and, of course, one would not—it would be impossible if one would—desire to prohibit that form of newspaper comment and intelligence. It is a perfectly legitimate thing to discuss the prospects of different horses in a race, although it may be a very dangerous and mischievous thing to pretend to give special information which you have not got. I can only say that if this Bill is allowed a Second Reading, and 880 any of your Lordships desire to amend it by providing for the prohibition of the tipster's advertisements, so far as I am concerned I shall be perfectly ready to consider any such Amendment upon its merits.
Your Lordships are aware of the case recently decided in this House on the Act of 1853, known as the Kempton Park Case. That decision was to this effect, that a person using a house, office, or place and so forth, meant the person using in the sense of having some sort of occupation, and therefore it was held that betting men in the ring at Kempton Park were not using it in the sense of the Act, because they did not have any greater rights in the ring in which they carried on their business than the rest of the public who paid the necessary admission fee. That is the right construction of the Act. Whatever learned judges may have said to the contrary, and whatever noble and learned Lords in this House may have said, it has now been determined by your Lordships' House to be the correct construction of the Act, and that decision is final. This Bill does not in any way attempt to touch that decision; it does not impugn it or impeach it in the slightest degree. The racecourse and the ring are left exactly as they are now, but, my Lords, there were certain consequences probably unforeseen at the time of the Kempton Park Case, which have thrown confusion into the administration of the Act. It is found that, consistently with the principle on which the Kempton Park case was decided, you cannot now summon professional betting men who carry on their business in public houses. Previous to that decision there were a large number of cases in which it was held that it was an offence under the Act of 1853 for men to use public houses for the purpose of carrying on their betting business. We had evidence before the Committee to show that it is impossible now to prevent persons carrying on this trade in a public-house, which used to be considered forbidden by the Act. There has been only one case in which a man was summoned for carrying on his trade in a public-house, 881 and that was a case in which the publican had assigned a particular seat in the bar for the use of the bookmaker, so that he might, in some sense, be said to be an occupier of that seat while he was there.
The other point is with regard to athletic meetings—football and cricket matches, and the like. It used to be held that the ground used for these purposes constituted a place within the Act, and a person using it for the purpose of carrying on the business of betting might be convicted, although he was in no sense an occupier. This cannot any longer be considered the law, and we were told that the police are now powerless in this matter. The Bill proposes that owners of grounds in which sports are carried on, should be enabled to put up a notice to the effect that betting is prohibited within the area, or some part thereof, and, in that case, any person holding himself out as ready to bet will be guilty of an offence, and incur the same penalty as if he had been found betting in the streets. That is the best way the Committee could find of dealing with it. The matter will then rest with the owners and proprietors of grounds. If they wish betting to take place all over the ground, they need not put up any notice; but, if they wish that no betting should take place, or to confine it to a particular ring or enclosure, they can do so. It leaves it to the proprietor, but it enables the police, if the proprietor prohibits betting, to interfere, whereas your Lordships know how difficult it is for a proprietor of grounds of that kind who has admitted a person on payment of a fee to eject him. The proposal in this Bill will enable the police to interfere and to carry out the wishes of the proprietor. Clause 6 of the Bill extends the operation of Lord Herschell's Act with regard to money received from infants for a bet. That was recommended by the Committee, but, personally, I am rather doubtful about it. Lord Herschell's Act seemed to me to deal with rather a different matter, and the penalty imposed by that Act is extremely heavy. It will be for the consideration of your Lordships, if the Bill is read a second time, whether that clause should be retained.
882 I venture to say that this is a very modest Bill. The noble Duke opposite, who was kind enough to give evidence before the Committee, need not be afraid that it will interfere in any way with sport. People who really take an interest in sport and bet on the merits of the horses on the racecourse, will not be in any way interfered with by this Bill. The chief merit of this Bill seems to me to be that it introduces no new principle whatever, but goes upon the lines of existing legislation. With regard to street betting, it increases the penalties where the present penalties have been found insufficient, and the other clauses amend existing legislation which has been on the Statute-book for upwards of fifty years. I regret to find that my noble friend Lord Durham has given notice of a Motion to reject the Bill, and I am surprised that my noble friend should take such a course after presiding over the deliberations of the Committee, in which position his knowledge and experience were of so much assistance. I cannot understand my noble friend's act in attempting to slay this Bill, for he was the chief author of the Report upon which the Bill is founded. I am perfectly aware that there are some recommendations in the Report that he did not acquiesce in. I think there were only two in which he was in a minority. I would seriously ask my noble friend whether he does not think it would be better to allow this Bill to be read a second time and then bring forward, by Amendment in Committee, those points on which he disagrees and desires some alteration. The only point on which I find from the proceedings that he divided the Committee was on paragraph seventeen of his draft Report, which recommended a modification of the pari mutuel system for adoption. I need scarcely say that your Lordships will be perfectly ready to consider any Amendment my noble friend may put down for the purpose of introducing that into the Bill. The questions in dispute are mere matters of detail, and need in no way endanger the existence of the measure. I am afraid I have detained your Lordships an unconscionably long time, but I found it extremely difficult to explain the provisions of the Bill and the alternative proposals which have been made, without 883 occupying your attention for a considerable time. I apologise for detaining you at such length, and hope your Lordships will not punish me for my long speech by rejecting the Bill.
§ Moved, that the Bill be now read 2a.—(Lord Davey.)
§ THE EARL OF DURHAM
My Lords, I rise to move that this Bill be read a second time this day six months. My noble and learned friend commenced his speech by saying that people would bet on anything. I have no doubt he gained that experience on a voyage I had the pleasure of making with him to India a few months ago. I never heard any protest from the noble Lord on that occasion against betting on the run of the ship and other matters; but when I came back to England I was astonished to find this Bill promoted by my noble friend, and was reminded of Horace—Cœlum non animum mutant qui trans mare currunt. The noble Lord has referred to my position as Chairman of the Betting Committee, and he informed you that this Bill was founded on our Report. I beg to point out that the Report as submitted to your Lordships, and which I, as Chairman, was ordered to present to the House, differs very much from the draft Report which I had the honour of submitting to my colleagues, and that on almost every provision in the Bill which my noble friend has introduced, I opposed those suggestions and divided. I could quote one test division. It was on paragraph 11 of the Report. It was proposed by the Lord Bishop of Hereford to leave out paragraph 11 and insert the following new paragraph—The Committee are convinced that it is impossible altogether to suppress betting, but they feel that the inducements and temptations held out by professional betting men ought to be diminished as far as possible, and they believe that they would be greatly lessened by such measures as would restrict professional betting to the places in which the different kinds of sport are being carried on.There voted "contents"—Viscount Cobham, Earl of Aberdeen, Viscount Peel, Lord Bishop of Hereford. (4); and there voted "not-contents" also 4, viz., Earl of Derby, Earl of Harewood, Earl of Durham and Lord Newton. The numbers being equal it was resolved in the negative. Four noble Lords voted against restricting betting practically to 884 racecourses, and the whole gist of my noble friend's Bill to-night is for that purpose. I cannot understand how the noble Lords who voted with me on that occasion can support this Bill. I admit—I am very sorry that it is so—that there is a craze for betting at the present time, especially among the working-classes, but I recognise also that there is in what is called "smart society" a craze for the game of "bridge," and I am averse to legislation for the prevention of either of these non-criminal offences. This Bill transforms what is only a human instinct into a crime, and it is impracticable in its working.
My noble friend discussed a good many irrelevant matters, if he will allow me to say so, such as the pari mutuel system and licensing bookmakers, with which the Bill has nothing to do, but he never pointed out how the clauses of the Bill are to be carried into effect if passed into law. I could quote witnesses who would prove, I think, to your satisfaction that this Bill is impracticable. We had various curious witnesses before the Betting Committee. My noble friend has quoted the evidence of one or two of them, and I cannot say that in considering the Report which I presented to the Committee I paid much attention to them. But I would quote to the House the class of evidence with which we wasted our time and the Government's stationery. I do not see my noble friend the Earl of Aberdeen in his place, but we had one well-meaning witness who described himself as the founder and secretary of a Young Men's Christian Association. My noble friend (Lord Aberdeen) with a look of chastened satisfaction, proceeded to put this witness through his examination. He elicited no facts whatever about betting itself, but the final question put was—Have you ever known any case of gambling which has resulted in disaster?The witness replied—That is so.He mentioned that there had been demonstrations at some of the centres of the Young Men's Christian Association against betting, and that whilst these demonstrations were on he received a very sad letter from some young fellow in Colney Hatch. He said that a large 885 number of men in that place were brought there by one or other of the three special forms of evil they were seeking to put down. The writer said—The worst thing about it is that though they have been brought in here by these evils they continue them while here,referring more especially to betting. This witness was asked by Lord Newton whether the letter he was referring to came from a lunatic, and he replied,Yes, in a time of sanity.Another witness announced himself as a "retired professional backer." My noble friend is kind enough to say that I have some experience of the turf and of racing matters, but I had the greatest difficulty in making out what a retired professional backer was. I was so interested in this witness that I asked some of those much maligned bookmakers if they had ever heard of him and they said—Oh, yes, he used to bet once upon a time under an alias, but his brain having become somewhat weak, he has taken to religion and found salvation by joining the Anti-Gambling League.They also said—When he is enjoying times of sanity he again has a bet.This gentleman, having confessed he had not been on the racecourse and had had nothing to do with racing for many years, proceeded to inform the Committee of the iniquities committed by bookmakers. Nearly every horse which ran on the turf was, according to this gentleman, poisoned. He declared, for instance, that he was present in the club on the occasion of Orme's poisoning. Lord Newton again came to the rescue, and naturally asked the question—He was not poisoned in the club, was he?My noble friend has said very little about the clauses in this Bill, which deliberately alter the Act of 1853. I am not old enough to remember what occurred before 1853, but it is obvious that in those days a certain class of betting and gambling houses existed which had become a public nuisance because people resorted to them. They went there for the purpose of betting or gambling, and very likely created a disturbance 886 in those houses, thereby causing them to become disorderly houses, and it was for the purpose of suppressing them that the Act of 1853 was passed. My noble friend said that it was an anomaly that persons should be prevented under the Act of 1853 from physically resorting to a club for the purpose of betting, and yet be allowed to communicate and make bets by other means. What my noble friend did not do was to tell us how such communications are to be stopped.
§ LORD DAVEY
People sending telegrams and letters and so forth are not prohibited from sending them under this Bill. The effect of the clause is to make the person who occupies the betting house which receives orders by telephone, telegram, or in any other way liable to penalties. There is no penalty on the person who sends the message.
§ THE EARL OF DURHAM
That is my point. Under this Bill any house which is inhabited by a bookmaker who receives betting messages from other persons would become a house within the Act, and the noble Lord says that the persons who send these messages are not committing a crime, but the man who receives them is. I do not think any Post master-General would agree that letters should be intercepted, that there should be any tampering with the work of the Post Office. My noble friend quoted Mr. Hawke. I should like to read to the House the answer given by that witness to questions put to him by Viscount Peel—You say in this instance of advertising tips the Post Office, to use your own words, do a very large business?—Yes.Do I understand you to seriously suggest as a remedy that the Government of the day should authorise the Postmaster-General to open letters which are sealed or fastened, because you have reason to suspect that those letters contain advertising tips? Do you think that is a practicable remedy?—I did not mention that proposal in connection with tipsters. Our suggestion has only gone so far as where, as in the case of, say, Stoddart and one or two others, the Post Office receives tens of thousands of registered letters—they are not always registered, but a great number of them are registered—addressed to persons whom they know, or could have no difficulty it finding out, are betting agents. In that case our suggestion was that they should have the right, which should be confined to the 887 Postmaster-General and his chief assistants in Scotland and Ireland, to detain the letters, and ask one or two of the parties for an explanation of the remittances if they were addressed to a betting house.But they would have to open them first, would they not?—They would have to open one or two of them.Do you not think that would create a pretty good stir in the country?—That was the opinion of the legislator under whose notice it came.I am glad there is one anonymous legislator who understands the temper of the public. I have quoted the irresponsible opinion of Mr. Hawke, the Secretary of the Anti-Gambling League. I should like now to quote the opinion of two officers of the Post Office. Mr. J. C. Lamb, C.B., Second Secretary to the Post Office, came on behalf of the Post Office and volunteered to give us any information. He was asked—Can you state generally what is the attitude of your Department with reference to receiving telegrams?He replied—It is simply that of a servant of the public whose duty it is to carry out the wishes of Parliament. We think those wishes are indicated in the preamble of the Telegraph Act of 1868, which authorised the Postmaster-General to acquire and work the telegraph system of the country. The preamble makes it clear that it was in the interest of the public generally, as well as of merchants and traders, that the telegraph system was to be acquired, and unless the Department receives directions to the contrary, it must assume that 'public generally' includes those who attend race meetings.The next question asked was—If Parliament directed the Post Office to make a distinction between betting telegrams and other telegrams, would it be possible to carry out such a direction?And the witness replied—It would be possible to withdraw facilities from racecourses, but the withdrawal would affect other messages besides betting messages, and in many cases it would throw such a pressure on the neighbouring post office as to interfere with the ordinary telegraph business of the town. I do not think that at the Post Office a distinction could be made between one kind of message and another. There would be a risk of serious public inconvenience and injury through the refusal or questioning of telegrams which might appear to relate to betting but which had some other object altogether. I may add that if a censorship were instituted, it would be easy for senders of betting messages to resort to a secret code and so defeat the censorship.I do not know whether a secret code would defeat the object of my noble friend's clause or not, but another Post 888 Office witness was still stronger in his evidence. Sir Robert Hunter, solicitor to the Post Office, said—The Postmaster-General has no power whatever over any closed letter of any kind. His business is to deliver letters with proper despatch. He is expressly prohibited by law from either opening a letter or detaining it, and, further, the Postmaster-General would strongly deprecate any alteration of the law in this respect.He was asked whether the same law with regard to lotteries applied to letters relating to betting, and he replied—No, it does not. The Betting Act of 1874 makes it an offence to send a letter or telegram relating to certain betting arrangements, but it has been held that the operation of that Act is confined to such bets as are mentioned in the earlier Act of 1853, that is, to bets which are made in a house or place kept for betting by persons physically resorting thereto.Sir Robert Hunter added that telegrams sent in relation to betting did not relate to that particular kind of betting which was made illegal by the Betting Acts. This witness was asked by the Bishop of Hereford—Do you say, with regard to telegrams addressed to an infant, that, under the Act, they would be stopped by the Office if it were feasible; but that, as a matter of fact, the distinction is too fine.His reply was—Quite so, there is nothing on a telegram to indicate whether the addressee is an infant or not.The Solicitor to the Post Office went so far as to say that if a telegram were addressed to a boy at Eton, Harrow, or Rugby, the Post Office would not be justified in inferring from the address that the receiver was an infant, and yet Lord Davey proposes a section which cannot be carried into effect unless by means of the Post Office. There is only one other means, viz., the employment of informers, and I look upon that as un-English, although, according to the Act of 1853 which this Bill amends, half the penalties go to the informer. There is no necessity for increasing the powers of the Act of 1853. My noble friend quoted two well-known London magistrates in defence of his argument that street betting had very largely increased, and he also quoted their opinion upon betting in general. I should like to give the opinion of Sir Albert de Rutzen and Mr. Horace 889 Smith on the question of betting houses, which I think is more relevant to the Bill than street betting. Sir Albert de Rutzen was asked whether he could tell the Committee anything about betting houses, and he replied—I think that at the present time the law is quite sufficient to deal with that matter. I think the law is sufficiently strong for all purposes required.He was asked—You mean the law with regard to betting houses?And he replied—Yes.The Bishop of Hereford asked—You think the law sufficient if carefully administered and carried out?And the witness replied—Yes.Mr. Horace Smith, who was asked about betting houses and gaming houses, said—There I agree with Sir Albert. I think the law is strong enough. It would be desirable if it were simplified and, of course, made clear.I cannot see that my noble friend's Bill simplifies it. Mr. Smith continued—That would be a very desirable thing to do because there are Gaming Houses Acts and Betting Houses Acts and Amending Acts, and there is a difficulty of definition of the Act as to what is a 'place' or what is not, and so on. It would be desirable, no doubt, to simplify it, but I do not there complain that the Acts are not strong enough, or that our powers as magistrates are not strong enough.I agree that street betting is a nuisance; so is football in the streets and many other pursuits. Mr. Smith's opinion on betting was this—Betting and horse racing is legal. As I say, there is nothing wrong about it in itself, or criminal, or anything of that sort.My noble friend, however, rather tried to make your Lordships imagine that betting is an offence under the Act of 1853.
§ THE EARL OF DURHAM
But the noble and learned Lord now wishes to make it one, and to turn into a crime what is only a natural instinct. As to Clause 2, I do not know whether it goes beyond extending the provisions 890 of the Betting Act of 1853, to places outside the United Kingdom. As to Clause 3, I can give no personal opinion upon the legal aspect of the wording of this clause; but I see no objection to further endeavouring to prevent advertisements with respect to betting. No one who has the welfare of the people at heart wishes that betting should be advertised or encouraged. What is aimed at could undoubtedly be done by a slight amendment of the Act of 1853. But Clause 4 is a most objectionable and pernicious clause. It is really an omnibus clause. My noble friend includes in the clause a provision that any person betting in a place to which the public have unrestricted access should be punished, and yet in the marginal reference to this clause it is described as "Betting in a street, etc." This clause would really include Epsom Downs, Doncaster, the Town Moor and the Knavesmire at York. My noble friend now offers to eliminate those words. That would not make his clause quite so offensive, but it is still so very drastic and hard on people who are fond of racing, and occasionally have a bet, that I see no reason for withdrawing my opposition. Subsection 2 of Clause 4 is really most offensive. I remember my noble friend Lord Derby, during our consideration of the Report, particularly objecting to and having a division upon the question of summary arrest and search. He thought it too drastic and quite uncalled for, and I voted with him; but of course we were in a minority. A man may have on his person a betting-book in which he has not inscribed a bet for six months, yet if arrested in the street it would be used against him. It is most offensive and un-English that a man should be liable to summary arrest and search in the street, and to be treated as a rogue and a vagabond, because he has spent what is really his own money in his own way. No one can possibly object to betting by children being stopped. That is reasonable, but it hardly requires a new Betting Act. With regard to the proposal in the 6th Clause, I cannot see that it is necessary that this should be put in a Betting Act at all. In my opinion it should be an Amendment to 891 Lord Herschell's Act of 1892. My noble friend made a slight mistake when he said he could not quite understand why this paragraph had been put into the Report. I must remind him that he moved it himself. The remaining sections of the Bill are merely corollaries.
I would ask your Lordships to consider who are the promoters of this Bill. What public demand has there been for this Bill? I do not know whether any petitions have been presented to the House, or whether my noble friend has received letters from Colney Hatch in support of it. It is a drastic, a very offensive, and a needless Bill. Who are its promoters? It is the offspring of a body of faddists who call themselves the Anti-Gambling League, and whose sponsors are my noble friend and the right rev. Prelate the Bishop of Hereford. I think that of all the most strange species of the human race the faddist is the strangest; he is a cross between a fanatical Pharisee and a lunatic. This Bill is a typical example of the methods of faddists, which are most vexatious and tyrannical. They expect the British public to accept as a new principle that a man may not spend his own money in his own way. You cannot stop at this Bill. Sumptuary laws would logically follow. The fact is, these people think they have a mission in this world to point out to the rest of mankind the straight and narrow way to Heaven, and they consider that in order to save their own souls they are justified in mortifying other people's flesh. I am glad to see that the right rev. Prelate is not supported by many other right rev. Prelates. It is all very well for the Bishops to use the great power which the Education Act gives them to educate the children of the country, and to point out to them the folly and waste of time and money that are involved in betting, but I hope they will not come down to this House to exercise their votes in restricting the free amusements of a free people. The effect of the Bill if passed would be that not a single artisan when he went home from his daily toil, would be allowed to bet a shilling with a local bookmaker; not a miner on coming up from the grimy coalpit would be able to bet a 892 shilling in a public house, or public place, and not a soldier serving his country abroad would be able to send a trifle home to be put on a horse; and neither a Government official at his office, nor an employee at a railway station must send a message by agent, letter, telegram, or telephone to a betting club.
§ LORD DAVEY
All that the Bill seeks to do is to prevent a person keeping a house or an office for the purpose of receiving bets. The Bill will not stop betting. All it aims at doing is to stop betting in the streets.
§ THE EARL OF DURHAM
It takes two to make a bet, and as long as people will bet, as long as there is any demand for bookmakers, bookmakers will exist. This Bill would seriously interfere with the amusements of the working classes and intensify the monotony of their lives; and in the name of common sense, of common justice, and of common sympathy with your fellow-countrymen, I ask your Lordships to reject it.
§ THE EARL OF HAREWOOD
My Lords, I should not have ventured to obtrude any opinions of my own if I had not made up my mind to second the rejection of this Bill. It is the very last subject on which I should wish to address your Lordships, and I only do so because it was pointed out to me that having sat on the Committee, on the unanimous Report of which this Bill is supposed to be based, I should do wrong if I did not give my reasons for voting against it. My noble friend Lord Durham has already told you that although this Bill is supposed to be based on the unanimous Report of the Committee which sat to consider the question, it is not really based on a unanimous Report. There were many clauses in the Report to which I and my noble friend strongly objected, and up to the last day on which the Committee sat, not knowing the forms of your Lordships House, I was under the impression that it would be open to any Member of the Committee to present a minority Report. When I found that was not the case I was obliged to acquiesce in the Report. But that does not prevent me stating that I did not agree with all the clauses 893 in the Report. The noble and learned Lord has explained, possibly to the satisfaction of your Lordships, but not to my satisfaction, some of the clauses in this Bill which I consider vague and obnoxious to the general public. I will freely own that I think there is much that is good in this Bill. I do not share the opinion of my noble friend that the Bill was not necessary at all, or that no Bill of any sort on this subject is necessary, but I think a better and wiser Bill might have been drafted. I do not think that this Bill is one for the Second Reading of which I can vote. When I came to look over the clauses I found that there were two or three of them with which I could not possibly agree, and those comprise nearly half the Bill and are precisely the clauses which I have since been led to suppose were most obnoxious to the public. For instance, the hon. and learned Lord attempts to define the word "resort." I think he has singularly failed. The word remains to my simple understanding as vague as it was before this Bill was drafted. I do not now see how the noble and learned Lord proposes to stop betting by telegraph, letter, or telephone without annulling the regulations of the Post Office which forbid the officials instituting a system of espionage.
§ LORD DAVEY
I do not propose that this Bill should stop it in any way whatever. All that the Bill will do is to prevent a person keeping a house or office for the purpose of receiving bets.
§ THE EARL OF HAREWOOD
Then I do not know what the noble and learned Lord has brought in his Bill for, if it does not stop betting in some form or other. Acts of Parliament when once passed sometimes bear a very wide interpretation. I, of course, bow to the vast legal experience of the noble and learned Lord, but it seems to me it will be within his experience and that of your Lordships, that Acts of Parliament have constantly been stretched when put into operation. I think this would be a dangerous clause to pass, and one which would bear a different interpretation from that which the noble Lord desires. The next provision in the Bill to which I principally objected was the sentence which the noble and learned Lord has expressed his willingness to withdraw, referring to a place to which the 894 public have unrestricted access; but he has left "public place" in. I am perhaps putting an extreme case, but I tremble to think of what the consequences might be, supposing for instance, in a public place certain of your Lordships might be found making a bet. I have known noble Lords to frequent the hills at Epsom and make small bets there. They would be at once subject to arrest. The provision with regard to rogues and vagabonds is most offensive to the general public, and I do not think it would have the slightest chance of passing either your Lordships' House or the other House. There is a very significant paragraph in Clause 4 referring to "any books, cards, papers, and other articles connected with such betting." I am sometimes to be found on a public racecourse, and I always have a race card in one pocket and sometimes a betting book in the other. I tremble to think what would happen if I were found in those circumstances, or what might happen to my noble friend, Lord Rosebery, who has achieved the highest distinction both on the racecourse and in politics, who might some day, when walking from Epsom racecourse to his residence close by, be subject to arrest and search, and committed as a rogue and vagabond, because he had a race card in one pocket and a betting book in another. Even the noble Duke the Leader of the House might find himself in such a position. It is true I am putting extreme cases, and I hope that the noble and learned Lord and the right rev. Prelate will not think that I am approaching this subject with undue levity. It is not my intention to do so, but there are cases in which a reductio ad absurdum is the most convincing argument. Of the clauses of this Bill relating to street betting and to betting with infants I most heartily and thoroughly approve, and if this Bill could have been drafted without the obnoxious clauses to which I have referred, clauses which I think in the long run will be impossible to enforce, I should have no hesitation in voting for the Second Reading. But, as it is, I have endeavoured to lay before your Lordships the reasons which prevent me from voting for the Second Reading.
§ Amendment moved, to leave out "now" and add at the end of the Motion "this day six months."—(The Earl of Durham.)895
THE LORD BISHOP OF HEREFORD
My Lords, I rise in the hope of saying a word or two in support of this Bill which may possibly induce some of your Lordships to give your support to the Second Reading. I desire to remind your Lordships that it is the Second Reading that we are debating at this moment, and I cannot but feel that a good many of the objections which have been raised are objections of a kind which would come more naturally at the Committee stage. Before I proceed further, I would venture to say one word in reply to a remark made by Lord Durham in the course of his speech this evening. The noble Earl said that the Bishop of Hereford had very few Bishops to support him on this occasion. I think it due to the Bishops that I should answer that statement. I am not always in agreement with every Member on this Bench, but I venture to say that on this occasion—and His Grace the Archbishop of Canterbury will bear me out—there is not a single Bishop who is a Member of this House who would not, had he been able to be present to-night, have voted for the Second Reading of this Bill. Your Lordships are aware that the Second Reading was put down for last Thursday. For reasons of convenience the date was changed, but I think it is right that it should be stated that at least a dozen Bishops who are not able to be here to-day would have been in their places to support the Second Reading had it been taken last Thursday. Bishops have duties which compel them to be in their dioceses in accordance with engagements, and, unfortunately for us, the change of date has had this effect—that the Bishops who had arranged to be present on Thursday are prevented by engagements from being here to-day. I am surprised at the attitude which the noble Earl who presided over the Committee has taken with regard to this question. I cannot but feel, when I look through the Bill, and remember the points in it on which we are agreed, and remember also that the noble Earl presented the Report to the House without any Minority Report.
§ THE EARL OF DURHAM
It was impossible to present a Minority Report, otherwise I should certainly have done so.
THE LORD BISHOP OF HEREFORD
At any rate I think I can show that the noble Earl agreed with a very large proportion of the clauses of this Bill, and therefore I cannot but feel that he has put himself in the position of that famous heathen deity who devoured his own offspring. I feel that a very simple answer to the arguments of the noble Earl may be found if we glance at the clauses of the Bill. The real meaning of the Bill has been to some extent obscured by the production of irrelevant evidence. If we look through the Bill we find that, as a matter of fact, it contains eight propositions. The first of these propositions is the one to which the noble Earl has taken strong objection—that contained in Clause 1. I will refer to that presently. The next proposition simply amounts to this, that, it being illegal to keep a betting house in the United Kingdom, it shall be made equally illegal to have an office for doing business or receiving money on behalf of a betting house situated outside. I venture to think that every one of your Lordships will agree with that. The third proposition simply declares that inasmuch as it is now illegal to advertise a betting house in the United Kingdom it should be equally illegal to advertise a betting house situated outside. On that, again, I venture to think there can hardly be two opinions. Then we come to the fourth proposition in the Bill, which has reference to street betting, and, so far as I can remember, the noble Earl was strongly in favour of the Resolution with regard to street betting. Then we come to a clause which proposes to give to the police the right of arrest and search. The police would be given the right, if they saw a bookmaker plying his trade in the street, to arrest and search him. On that there may be two opinions; but the next proposal is simply this, that it should be made specially penal to bet with an infant who is under sixteen years of age. Then we come to the proposal with reference to proprietors or persons having control of places of sport. There again I take it there is general agreement, shared in, I think, by the noble 897 Earl, that it is only reasonable that those persons who own or control a place of sport should be free to prohibit the bookmaker from pursuing his trade in the area under their control. As things stand at present, owners and managers of these grounds cannot prevent bookmakers from being a nuisance all over the field. There are many persons interested in English sport who desire to see it conducted without being made an instrument of the betting trade, and I trust we are all pretty well agreed with regard to that section of the Bill Then there remains only one other proposal in the Bill, which is to extend Lord Herschell's Act with regard to infants so as to include ready money betting as well as the sending of circulars.
When I look through the eight propositions contained in the Bill, I find that the noble Earl himself agrees with six of them; that is to say, that with three-fourths of the Bill he is, I believe, in complete accord, and yet he moves the rejection of the measure on Second Reading. In my humble opinion that is hardly a reason able course to adopt. I think, on the other hand, that it is perfectly reasonable that we should ask your Lordships, who probably agree in the main with these six proposals, to give your support to the Second Reading, and let us discuss the two remaining propositions in Committee. That, it seems to me, although I speak with due deference, would be the reasonable and natural course, and, if I may venture to say so, the sportsmanlike course. If I may be permitted I should like to revert for one moment to the clause to which the noble Earl specially objects—the; clause dealing with "resort." As the law stands at present this is the state of the case. A bookmaker, a man in the betting trade, may keep a betting house in St. James's Street, and if any one of your Lordships walks into that house to make a bet in person the keeper of that house breaks the law, but if you sit in your club and send a letter or a telegram to him he does not break the law. If the law is to remain in that condition I say it is to remain in a condition of absurdity. That state of the law cannot commend itself to the common 898 sense of the people at large. If it is your intention to stop the betting house in reality then you must be prepared either to support the Amendment suggested by the noble Lord opposite or to propose some other Amendment which will have the same effect. I confess that, if the law is to remain in that condition, for myself I should feel it difficult to speak of it with any respect; and I do not believe it can commend itself to your Lordships' judgment as reasonable and right that this absurd inconsistency should be allowed to remain. I think the noble Earl has entirely misconceived the effect of the Bill.
The Bill will in no way interfere with the liberty of any one of your Lordships, or any other person, who makes bets. What it will do is this. It will continue the process which in years gone by has been wisely undertaken of putting a check on the trade of belting men. I have no doubt that it would put a check on the trade, but probably nothing like the check which the trade, in a state of panic, is inclined to suppose. As I was on my way to the House this afternoon I received a printed extract from, I presume, one of the organs of the betting trade. This extract, sets forth that if this Bill is allowed to pass there will be all sorts of serious consequences. We are told that horse racing will become extinct, that over 1,000,000 people will be thrown out of employment, and that as they are a class of persons who do not easily adapt themselves to other occupations all sorts of terrible results will ensue. Not content with this, it is further stated that all the racecourse companies will become bankrupt, and so on; and it would seem as if a great disaster is to fall on the English people if this modest Bill is allowed to pass. But the statement winds up with this remarkable sentence—With one object of the Bill all reputable men must be in sympathy—the annihilation of the irresponsible tipster.So you see how inconsistent these arguments against the Bill are. The Bill is based absolutely and entirely on the Report of the Committee; it does not even include all the recommendations in the Report Nearly every reputable, newspaper has declared in favour of the 899 Report. Judges on the Bench one after another have com in ended it, and magistrates in all directions have spoken in favour of it. Only on Saturday morning received unsolicited a list of seventy-three Boards of Guardians who have lately passed resolutions in its favour. I venture to think that possibly your Lordships are not quite aware of the extent and the intensity of public feeling with regard to this curse. What is this betting trade? It is a purely parasitic trade. It serves no good purpose in the political organism. And just as your Lordships, every one of you, as sportsmen, desire to keep your sport healthy, and are very careful to keep all unwholesome and noxious parasites from your stables and kennels, so, as English citizens, you should help in this modest endeavour to check the growth of this parasite in our English society. All that this Bill does is to put a reasonable check on a trade which is exercising such a wide and mischievous influence on English life. I do not know how far your Lordships have read the evidence which was presented to us. Some quotations have been given, but I would suggest to any noble Lord who has not read it, that he should peruse the evidence given by large employers We had one large employer of labour from Leeds who employs 1,000 engineering men. He is a sportsman and a breeder of horses himself, and he told us that he would not engage any betting man to any post in his service. We had a remarkable witness in a member of the working classes from Newcastle-on-Tyne who has been made a Justice of the Peace, and whose evidence I would wish that every Member of this House should read. But no evidence is needed. We all know the curse of which this trade is the instrument. If we are sincere in our desire to do something for the good of the people I cannot but feel that we should be ready to help forward this kind of social legislation which has done, by universal consent, so much good in times past. I have alluded to the Leeds employer. I might speak of another employer—His Majesty's Government. A good deal was made by the noble Earl of the evidence produced from the Post Office. If your Lordships look at the evidence you will find that no official in the Post Office, from top to 900 bottom, is allowed to bet, or if he does it is at the risk of his office. I think that is an excellent rule. I hope your Lordships will at any rate go so far as to give this Bill a Second Reading, and then in Committee the clauses can be modified, or, if necessary, rejected. Indeed, I should be grateful if the Bill could become law with only those clauses in it on which we are all agreed.
§ LORD NEWTON
My Lords, the interpretation which has been placed on this Bill by previous speakers is of an extremely contradictory character. But one thing I think everybody will recognise is that this is a Bill which is obviously directed against bookmakers and bookmaking. I gather that the noble Lord who moved the Second Reading has no objection to betting per se; he would be quite prepared to bet, say, with me or with the right rev. Prelate, always providing he saw a chance of winning and was likely to get his money. The objection of the noble and learned Lord is to the intermediary. One of the main objects of the Bill is to restrict betting to places where the sports themselves are carried on, and for that reason my noble friend Lord Durham is no doubt justified in describing the measure as, in a sense, a piece of class legislation. Personally, I do not take the serious objection to the Bill which has been taken by the two noble Lords who have moved and seconded its rejection. For myself I am disposed to criticise the Bill because it does not go far enough. It appears to me, if I may say so, that it is a piecemeal measure and is quite inadequate to deal with the alleged gigantic evils with regard to betting. The only form of betting and gambling which merits any consideration at all is gambling upon races, because betting which takes place on sports can be indulged in between the parties, and there is no necessity for any intermediary. Therefore, any legislation should be confined to betting on racing and racing only. I think that any impartial person who reads the evidence and the Report of the Committee must come to the conclusion that the Report is a confession that betting cannot be stopped. It is declared that "betting is not a crime in itself;" and if I were a bookmaker I should take these words as my device. If this is so, if betting cannot be stopped, 901 and if it is not a crime, what is the obvious conclusion? That betting should be recognised, regulated, and restricted within reasonable limits. That is where the real difference of opinion arose between the Members who formed the Committee. One section showed itself in favour of recognising betting by the introduction of the system which prevails almost everywhere, except in England, under which the Government appropriates a proportion of the money invested in betting and devotes it to useful objects. A proposal in this direction was defeated by only one vote. If the pari mutuel system were ever adopted we should at once obtain the advantages which are claimed under this Bill and a great deal more besides. Betting would practically be confined to the racecourse itself; fraud would be put an end to; people would be obliged to bet with ready money, and therefore would not find themselves in the difficulties in which they are constantly placed through being able to bet on credit. An orderly and methodical system would be substituted for the pandemonium which now prevails, and finally a large sum would be available for useful purposes.
In France, where there is less racing than in the United Kingdom, the 2 per cent. which is deducted by the State for charitable purposes reached £180,000, and the 1 per cent. which is deducted for the encouragement of horse breeding reached the sum of over £90,000. It is perfectly clear that a very much larger sum could be obtained here if we had the courage to adopt this system; and in view of the fact that Governments are perpetually looking for fresh sources of income such a proposal ought not to be entirely despised. But I should like to go further still. There is one class in this country, and one class only so far as I know in the whole world, who are literally clamouring to be taxed. These are the bookmakers, and personally I should like to oblige them very much; and I should be inclined to oblige them to such an extent that their numbers would be materially reduced. The only possible objection to such a course is that such recognition would mean an encouragement of the vice. It is our habit to represent that the refusal of 902 State recognition—in other words, the refusal to look plain facts in the face—conduces in some mysterious way to the advancement of national morality. But by the Report betting has been put upon the same footing as drinking. Neither is a crime in itself. Now I would like to know, with regard to State recognition, if any human being before he gets drunk or drinks a glass of beer, pauses to consider whether the State recognises the drink traffic; and does anybody seriously believe that any human being who does not bet now, will be induced to bet because the State exacts some small profit from betting transactions or levies a tax on bookmakers? I am unable to see any objection to controlling a national amusement, which leads to much trouble, by moans of taxation, and considering the well-known fact, corroborated by the noble Duke the Leader of the House, that racing cannot exist without betting, I must confess that it is a matter of surprise to me that the reform I have indicated has not been adopted long ago by the Jockey Club, who practically have complete control of racing in this country. Instead of this, the Jockey Club chooses to ignore betting altogether. The members of the Jockey Club sit aloft, like the gods of Epicurus, and they wish it to be understood that the betting shouts with which we are familiar, are expressions which convey absolutely nothing to their mind and with which they have no concern. This is a somewhat illogical attitude on their part, and although it is with great diffidence that I venture to criticise such an august body I venture to think that if they had exercised their great powers somewhat earlier, such legislation as we are considering at the present moment would have been entirely unnecessary. I am afraid I have committed an offence which is not altogether unknown in this Assembly—namely, that of discussing a matter which is not before the House. I admit that the major portion of my speech has been devoted to matters not contained in the Bill. Personally, I regret it. I think they ought to have been included. I rose with the object, in the first place, of pointing out the fundamentally different standpoint from which the two sections of the Committee regarded the question of betting, and also to take the opportunity of pointing out 903 that if the alleged gigantic evils of betting are to be satisfactorily dealt with they must be dealt with by a bolder and more comprehensive measure than this.
§ LORD TWEEDMOUTH
My Lords, I feel somewhat nervous at entering on a discussion which seems to have been one of a family character, for up to the present five noble Lords have addressed the House, all of whom were members of the Committee who dealt with this subject. Two have spoken against the Second Reading, and three in favour. So far as I can gather from the opinions expressed by those noble Lords, there is a general consensus of opinion that something should be done to grapple with the betting evil. I need not go to the Report of the Committee. I will refer simply to the draft Report prepared by Lord Durham, which lays down as strongly as the accepted Report that the question of street betting is one that calls for legislative interference, and ought to be dealt with, as it is productive of the greatest possible harm to the working classes. The great central feature of the Bill is the checking of street betting, and I would appeal to my noble friend Lord Durham and to your Lordships to take this vote on the Second Reading as a vote in favour of doing something to diminish the evils of street betting. I think it can be shown that all the other proposals in the Bill are subsidiary to that great object which is to be found in Clause 4. For my own part, I frankly admit that I would not myself vote for the Bill if it involved support of the first two clauses, and if the Bill goes into Committee, as I hope it will, I shall be found among those opposing those two clauses. The Lord Bishop of Hereford, representing the high-water mark of strenuous support of the Bill, said he would be willing to accept the omission of these clauses. It seems to me that the supporters of the Bill have shown themselves in the utmost degree conciliatory. They have asked you to accept the proposition that half a loaf is better than no bread, and that if the House is not willing to accept the whole of the provisions of the Bill as they stand, let the House accept those provisions 904 which it does agree with. They say to the chief opponent of the Bill, Lord Durham, on whose draft Report the Bill hangs—
§ THE EARL OF DURHAM
I protest. The Bill does not represent my views, and I defy the noble lord to prove his statement.
§ LORD TWEEDMOUTH
If the noble Lord challenges me, I will prove it. I will quote the noble Earl's draft Report—the Report before it had been altered by his friends on the Committee. In his draft Report the noble Earl states—18. It has been proved conclusively to the Committee that the practice of betting in the streets has increased very much of late years, and is the cause of most of the evils arising from betting amongst the working classes.The fact that bookmakers can ply their trade in the open street, and lie in wait to catch working men in their dinner hour outside factories and workshops in order to induce them to bet, is undoubtedly a great source of evil.19. Evidence has also been brought before the Committee to show that street bookmakers bet not only with men, but also with women and children.20. At the present time such offences can be dealt with as 'obstruction' under various local Acts or under particular by-laws in each town, the penalty in either case being inadequate to cheek the practice.21. When a street bookmaker is convicted twenty-five times in four years and is able to pay 137l. 8s. in fines and costs (to take a typical example of many cases which have been brought to the notice of the Committee), it is obvious that the profits of his calling must be very great, and that the penalties provided by the law to restrain his trade are not sufficiently strong.22. The Committee, therefore, recommend that, in view of the acknowledged evils of this form of betting, there should be further legislation, enabling magistrates to send bookmakers to prison without the option of a fine for the first offence, who have been convicted of betting in the streets with women or boys or girls, or otherwise inducing them to bet.The Committee further recommend that bookmakers convicted of belting in the streets with men should be liable to a line of 10l. for the first offence, 20l. for the second offence, and that for any subsequent offence it should be within the discretion of the magistrate either to impose a fine of not more than 50l. or to send the bookmaker to prison without the option of a fine.Those are the words of the noble Earl in his draft Report, and I contend that on the paragraphs I have read may be founded the whole case for this Bill.
§ LORD TWEEDMOUTH
That is the way it is accepted by its chief promoters. The right rev. Prelate says he is content to withdraw those provisions with which the noble Earl does not agree. It appears to me that the offer made by the promoters of the Bill is an extremely generous one, and I hope your Lordships will assent to the Second Reading.
§ THE EARL OF DERBY
My Lords, I do not often trespass on your Lordships' house, but this is one of the occasions on which I do not feel free to give a silent vote. I cannot refrain from the remark that the noble Lord who has just sat down seemed to be unduly hard on my noble friend opposite, in citing the paragraphs contained in the draft Report as paragraphs to every one of which the noble Earl himself assented. The draft represented the general view of the Committee, based upon the evidence, and it was perfectly free for us as members of the Committee to take what line we chose upon the various provisions as they came under discussion. Passing that by, however, I think it would undoubtedly have been better, if, differing on some points from the majority Report, we had stated our dissent more plainly; but in the circumstances I do not feel justified in opposing the Second Reading. By rejecting the Second Reading the House would take up the unenviable position of preventing any amending legislation on the lines recommended by the Committee. I am not prepared to take such a course. I desire to see the Bill go to the Committee stage and receive a full discussion, holding myself free to vote for further Amendment or the rejection of the Bill on the Third Reading stage. I hope your Lordships will give the Bill a Second Reading on that understanding.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR (The EARL OF HALSBURY)
I confess that it is with the greatest reluctance that I ask your Lordships not to follow such a course as that recommended by Lord Derby, and not to introduce a new and dangerous system into your proceedings. It is said the Bill proceeds on the principle of abolishing 906 street betting; and against that practice there is much to be said, for it comes within the ordinary description of a nuisance. If it were confined to this object I would have some hesitation in voting against the Bill; but it is not so confined, and the authors of the Bill have not the courage of their opinions. If they mean to make betting an offence to be visited with penalties, why do they not bring in a Bill to prohibit betting? It is an extremely awkward thing to impose a number of penalties with ludicrous conundrums for His Majesty's Judges to solve, because the framers of the Bill will not say what they mean. If betting is to be made an offence, why not say so? The authors of the Bill have not the courage to say what they really mean; and the House is asked to go into legislation not dealing with the substance of a subject, getting rid of the responsibility for dealing with the substance, and going about the edge of it without touching it. Whether betting is right or wrong is a question I will not discuss. I will only say that betting is not the only form of gambling, and if we are going to make it an offence for any person to do something ancillary to betting, which is not an offence, treating him as a rogue, then we are embarking upon a very objectionable species of legislation; and I shall unhesitatingly vote against the Second Reading of such a Bill. I protest against the idea that after discussion among the Members of a divided Committee the House should give a Second Reading to a Bill on the understanding that two-thirds of it should be struck out, the remainder being that upon which they could agree. Why not bring in a Bill for the abolition of street betting that could be supported on different grounds? Street betting is a public nuisance, and, there is general agreement, should be put down. I shall vote against the Bill, and I hope your Lordships will not give any countenance to the new system of passing the Second Reading though two-thirds of the Bill will be thrown out.
§ EARL SPENCER
I rise to say a few words on what has just fallen from the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack. The course which the noble and learned 907 Lord condemned is by no means extraordinary, and I rather think that His Majesty's Government have followed it in the other House, treating the Second Reading as acceptance of principle, yet agreeing to strike out large portions of the Bill. The principle of the Bill is that it is necessary to check the grave evils of betting among certain classes of persons who cannot afford it, and to diminish the temptations to the practice. That is the general principle; and I am convinced that the evils are great, and that betting has been the cause of sadness and ruin to many families. The Bill proposes to modify and reduce the temptations to betting. There are those who desire that no person should be allowed to get any drink. Your Lordships would not go so far as that; but many are in favour of some check in the great temptations there are to persons to indulge in drink. Why not apply the same principle to this question"? Here is an admitted evil. Why should we not attempt to modify the temptations offered to people to bet, without attempting to say that betting is criminal? I contend that the proper course would be—and I strongly and earnestly urge your Lordships
§ to follow it—to read the Bill a second time and to take out in Committee the clauses to which you object.
§ THE EARL OF FEVERSHAM
There is one principle in this Bill which I cannot support. I object to the Bill because it would enact one law for the rich and another for the poor. That is a vicious principle indeed. The rich man may carry on his betting within the enclosure, but the poor man doing the same outside the enclosure, would be liable to arrest by the police. I agree with the objection urged by the Lord Chancellor that to pass the Second Reading of a Bill when you propose to omit some of the most important clauses of it, is not consistent with the practice of Parliament and may lead to great confusion and irregularities. I shall therefore support the Amendment of my noble friend opposite.
§ On question, whether the word ("now") shall stand part of the Motion,
§ Their Lordships divided:—Contents, 39; Not-Contents, 48.907
|Canterbury, L. Abp.||Gloucester, L. Bp.||Leigh, L.|
|Hereford, L. Bp.||Lyveden, L.|
|London, L. Bp.||Monkswell, L.|
|Northampton, M.||Monteagle of Brandon, L.|
|Ashcombe, L.||Reay, L.|
|Carlisle, E.||Barnard, L.||Ribblesdale, L.|
|Carrington, E.||Brassey, L.||Robertson, L.|
|Derby, E.||Braye, L.||St. Levan, L.|
|Jersey, E.||Clifford of Chudleigh, L.||Silchester, L. [E. Longford.]|
|Morley, E.||Davey, L. [Teller.]||Suffield, L.|
|Russell, E.||de Ros, L.||Tweedmouth, L.|
|Spencer, E.||Denman, L.||Wandsworth, L.|
|Westmeath, E.||Farrer, L.||Welby, L.|
|Hawkesbury, L.||Zouche of Haryngworth, L.|
|Cobham, V. [Teller.]||Herries, L.|
|Halsbury, E. (L. Chancellor.)||Innes, E. (D. Roxburghe.)||Hay, L. (E. Kinnoul.)|
|Devonshire, D. (L. President.)||Stanhope, E.||Heneage, L.|
|Strafford, E.||Manners of Haddon, L. (M. Granby.)|
|Abercorn, M. (D. Abercorn.)||Vane, E. (M. Londonderry.)|
|Cholmondeley, M.||Waldegrave, E.||Meldrum, L. (M. Huntly.)|
|Pembroke and Montgomery, E. (L. Steward.)||Monckton, L. (V. Galway.)|
|Churchill, V.||Oranmore and Browne, L.|
|Clarendon, E. (L. Chamberlain.)||Falmouth, V.||Penrhyn, L.|
|Abingdon, E.||Hutchinson, V. (E. Donoughmore.)||Rossmore, L.|
|Albemarle, E.||Rothschild, L.|
|Bathurst, E.||Ridley, V.||St. Oswald, L.|
|Carnarvon, E.||Saltoun, L.|
|Cawdor, E.||Abinger, L.||Sefton, L. (E. Sefton)|
|Durham, E. [Teller.]||Brougham and Vaux, L.||Sherborne, L.|
|Ellesmere, E.||Crawshaw, L.||Southampton, L.|
|Feversham, E.||Farquhar, L.||Wemyss, L. (E. Wemyss.)|
|Harewood, E. [Teller.]||Fermanagh, L. (E. Erne.)||Wenlock, L.|
|Howe, E.||Harris, L.||Wolverton, L.|