§ [SECOND READING.]
§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
§ LORD NEWTON
My Lords, this is a Bill of extremely modest character which has already passed twice through this House and has attracted and excited an enormous amount of attention and abuse which was not in the least warranted by its intrinsic importance. And as I have been frequently denounced for various iniquities, such as desiring to plough up Epsom Downs and Newmarket Heath, to destroy the liberty of the subject, to throw thousands of my industrious fellow citizens out of employment, and to ruin the horse breeding industry in Ireland, I think it is just as well to explain that I am not really responsible for the proposals included in this Bill. I never have set myself up either as a constructive or a destructive genius. All that I have done is to appropriate the ideas of other people, and in this particular case I appropriated the suggestions unanimously arrived at by a Committee appointed to consider the whole betting question, which was presided over by my noble friend Lord Durham, and of which such well-known supporters of the Turf as Lord Harewood and the late Lord Derby were members; and therefore it would be just as appropriate to make the same charges against them as have been made against me.
This Committee of which I have spoken found that the tremendous spread of betting 451 throughout the country, which nobody denies, was due in large measure to the great facilities afforded by the Press and the inducements to betting offered by bookmakers' and tipsters' circulars and advertisements. Now all this talk about interfering with the liberty of the subject and destroying the horse-breeding industry in Ireland, and the rest of it—all these fulminations, put into plain English, merely amounted to this, that if the Bill passed the sporting newspapers would be deprived of advertisements and would consequently lose a certain amount of money. That may be a deplorable thing from their own point of view, but it seems to me desirable that we should preserve some sort of sense of proportion. But the sporting papers succeeded by their lamentations in attracting the support of influential personages, and when I brought this Bill forward last year an Amendment was moved by my noble friend Lord Derby, who is one of the recognised pillars of the Turf, providing that bookmakers should be allowed to advertise. I resisted that Amendment, and I resisted it successfully. My noble friend was defeated, and the Bill left this House and went down to the House of Commons.
When the Bill reached the House of Commons, in common with many other measures of a meritorious description, it was blocked, and it perished in the general "massacre of the innocents" which attends all Parliamentary sessions. This incident confirmed me in the belief which I have long entertained—namely, that the most influential class in this country consists of prominent people who own racehorses. If any young man who desired to carve out a career for himself in this country came to me and asked how he could exercise the greatest influence upon his fellow-countrymen, I should have no hesitation at all in the advice I should give him. I should say "Buy a few horses, and if you can succeed in winning a few races you will at once become a most important personage; if you condescended to take any interest in anything else—politics, or whatever it may be—people will listen with the greatest deference to your opinion; you will exert enormous influence, and altogether you will be a very important personage." I do not think I am exaggerating when I express the opinion that Lord Rosebery, for instance, owes a great deal of the 452 high position and influence which he always has enjoyed to the fact that he withstood the assaults directed by the Nonconformist conscience, and, in spite of their determined opposition, actually won four or five Derbys.
§ LORD NEWTON
I go further. I do not mind making the assertion that if Mr. Balfour had been the owner of a few selling-platers he would not have been driven from the Leadership of the Unionist Party. And I add this. I firmly and honestly believe that there is no institution which is so highly venerated in this country as the Jockey Club. That being the case, it is perfectly obvious that a Bill confronted with opposition of this nature stands a very poor chance of success, because if persons in the position of my noble friend Lord Derby and other Peers who are recognised authorities and supporters of the Turf—such as Lord Durham, Lord Lonsdale, and other noblemen who have circularised this House—take this action other people follow their example, and there is no difficulty whatsoever in successfully opposing a measure of this kind when it reaches the House of Commons. I may add, parenthetically, that there is no trouble whatever at the present day in defeating any measure in the House of Commons which is not brought in by the Government. It does not require any intellectual exertion at all. All you have to do is to say, "I object"; and I am not sure that even so much as that is necessary. I believe a Bill can be mechanically opposed for all time successfully by merely raising your hat. That was the result of the opposition of my noble friend and his allies last year. 453 My noble friend does not like this allusion to him. I consider it a very high tribute to his influence, not only here but elsewhere.
Being confronted with this position, I have to adopt one of two courses—either incur the same risk as I did last year, or endeavour to pass the Bill in a mutilated form which will commend itself to my noble friend. With this latter object I have adapted my Bill as far as it is possible to his views. The intention of the Bill is that bookmakers shall be allowed to advertise their names and places of business; that they shall be allowed to send to their clients what are known as "books of rules"; and, finally, that the person whom I should describe as the official tipster attached to a newspaper shall be allowed to exercise his calling without interference—and if my Bill does not fulfil these conditions and if the wording is defective, I am prepared to meet my noble friend's wishes so far as I can, as long as the main principles of the Bill are not infringed. But I am bound to say that I am not in the least converted by the views of my noble friend Lord Derby and his friends. I decline to admit that, as is so often contended, the mere fact of a bookmaker advertising in a newspaper is a definite proof that he is a trustworthy person to deal with. I regret very much that my noble friend Lord Faber is not present this evening. I believe, as a matter of fact, he is attending a race meeting. I regret his absence all the more because my noble friend is one of the most respectable members of this House and owns a highly respectable organ, the Yorkshire Post. He has always declined to be bound by any rule made here or elsewhere, and if my noble friend were present I should like to ask him whether he would guarantee to me that if I made a bet with anybody who advertises in the columns of his newspaper I should be paid supposing that I won. I do not entertain any expectation that he would do anything of the sort. As a matter of fact, if I were about to bet I should not have recourse to one of the persons whose names occur most frequently in the columns of the sporting Press. I should go to my noble friend Lord Derby and ask him to recommend a safe person with whom to bet, and, failing him, I should go to one of the other noble Lords. Neither, I confess, do I see 454 the necessity for allowing the existence of what are termed "books of rules." They may be essential, but, so far as I remember, in the days when I used to bet I never received any books of rules at all. I was called upon to pay when I lost, and that was the termination of the whole business. My butcher, for instance, does not send me a book of rules. He sends me in a bill, and I do not see why a bookmaker should be placed in a different position from that of any other tradesman.
Having made these very generous concessions to my noble friend, I trust that he will now do his best to enable the Bill to pass, and that it may perhaps be accepted as an agreed Bill. I never thought very highly of the Bill at any time; I never imagined that it was going to work miracles, and I anticipate rather less from it now than I did formerly. It is, as a matter of fact, an extremely incomplete measure. It does not, for instance, touch perhaps the most mischievous feature of all—that is to say, those agencies established abroad, which I believe are largely fraudulent, which advertise lotteries purporting to be supervised by Labour officials and conducted by people who are moved on from one country to another. They have been moved on from France to Belgium, and from Belgium to Holland, and they now carry on business in Switzerland, and eventually they will no doubt find themselves established in Albania or in Afghanistan; and these people are only able to carry on their business by virtue of the assistance afforded them by the Post Office. Nothing is more illustrative of our hypocrisy as a nation than that while we are everywhere constantly denouncing the so-called evils of gambling, here is the Post Office putting every facility in the way of people who want to gamble or bet or do anything else.
In spite of this being an incomplete and unsatisfactory measure, I submit that it will be of some value. It will, at all events, stop the circulars which everybody denounces; it will put an end finally to those persons who are known as "tipsters"; and it will prevent bookmakers from approaching anybody unless they have already been invited to do so. In conclusion, I should like to say this. Personally I look upon this Bill as something in the nature of a debt of honour 455 which is owed by the sporting community to the persons who have consistently denounced the excessive spirit of gambling in this country. We have on various occasions seen Bills brought forward by occupants of the Episcopal Benches opposite. The Bishop of Hereford, for instance, has on several occasions brought in Bills to deal with this particular evil. Those Bills have always met with a blank refusal and rejection; but at the same time those noble Lords who are to some extent responsible for the methods under which racing is conducted in this country have always admitted that there are certain evils which require to be dealt with. One of them is dealt with under this Bill, and it seems to me to be dealt with in a singularly mild form. I therefore call upon my noble friend Lord Derby and his associates to do their best to support me in getting this Bill passed during the present session. I am bound to add that, if they do not give me their support and if we fail for the third time, it will then be necessary to reconsider our course of action and perhaps to bring in a Bill which may not be received with absolute favour by my noble friends. I beg to move.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.— (Lord Newton.)
§ THE EARL OF DERBY
My Lords, the noble Lord has appealed to me to give support, as far as I can, on behalf of the sporting community to the Bill which he has now brought in. Last year I felt it my duty, on their behalf, to oppose the Bill and to move certain Amendments which the noble Lord was not willing to accept. This year I am glad to say he has thought better of the course he took last year, or rather Mr. Hawke has. I have had nothing to do with the drafting of the new Bill any more than I believe the noble Lord himself has. It has been prepared and dealt with by others, and the noble Lord is only their spokesman on this occasion. I do not think there is the slightest necessity for me to go into the speech which the noble Lord has made. If I may say so, it was evidently prepared in the belief that there would be opposition to the Bill, but that opposition is not forthcoming. As far as I am concerned, I am perfectly prepared to give the Bill my own support and to do all that I possibly can to secure its being passed into law.
456 But certain Amendments, which I may say have been agreed upon, are necessary, not in any way to alter the principle of the Bill, but to make certain clauses that are a little ambiguous at present quite clear. Under the Bill bookmakers would not be allowed to circularise their clients, but it might be thought that the clause gave them power to circularise people other than their clients. Words will have to be put in to make it perfectly clear that all circulars from bookmakers will be stopped. Another Amendment will be necessary to make it quite clear that the ordinary newspaper, which in connection with other news puts in a racing column with tips at the end of it, does not come under the Bill. The noble Lord has said that, though this Bill is not as good as he would like to have it, still it is of some use. I agree with him that it will be of some use, and as it now stands, if the agreed upon Amendments are inserted, I shall be very happy to support it. And incidentally it has given us an opportunity of hearing the noble Lord make a speech full of jokes and with a certain amount of inaccurate racing intelligence.
§ THE PAYMASTER-GENERAL (LORD STRACHIE)
My Lords, on the last occasion on which this Bill was before the House I was able, on behalf of the Home Office, to offer a blessing to it, and on this occasion I am glad to say that I can do the same, although the Bill has been considerably altered. But I should like to ask the noble Lord in charge of the Bill a question as regards its title. It seems to me that the title as it now stands is in contradiction to Clause 1. As the House will see, the title makes it illegal for a bookmaker as well as a tipster to write, print, publish, or circulate advertisements; while, on the other hand, Clause 1 makes it only illegal for a bookmaker to circulate "printed matter" to his clients. That seems to me contradictory and to require alteration. It also occurs to me that it would be undesirable to use the words "to his clients," because he then could circulate advertisements of his business to the public at large who are not his clients and whom he hoped to obtain as his clients; but that point has been already alluded to by Lord Derby as one of the matters to be covered by Amendments which he proposes to move in Committee. It is necessary also to add some further words to the word "printed." As 457 the Bill stands, it would be illegal for a bookmaker to circulate "printed" matter, but it would be quite legal for him to send out written or typewritten circulars, which would not be covered by the provisions of Clause 1 as they at present stand. Then, again, it seems to me that the clause as altered makes rather a difficulty as regards the bookmaker. The new part which has been inserted after the word "elsewhere" runs—and any bookmaker who, in pursuit of his business, circulates to his clients any printed matter other than the usual rules setting forth the terms on which he transacts such business, whether such business is carried on in the United Kingdom or elsewhere.Those words have been put into Clause 1. Then the clause proceeds—or who causes or procures any of those things to be done, or assists therein, shall be liable.The latter provision, owing to the insertion of the previous words here, would 458 seem to apply to the bookmaker only and not to the tipster. Perhaps the noble Lord in charge of the Bill will look into these points between now and the Committee stage, and see whether it is not necessary to make the alterations I have suggested. I do not wish to criticise the Bill in any hostile spirit. I am only making these suggestions in order to avoid difficulties when the Bill gets down to another place. I feel that the Bill ought to leave this House in such a perfect form as to be not capable of any objections being taken elsewhere on the ground that it is not in proper drafting.
§ On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House on Tuesday next.
§ House adjourned at five minutes before Five o'clock, till To-morrow, half-past Ten o'clock.