§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
LORD HAMILTON OF DALZELL
My Lords, it may be well that I should explain to your Lordships why it is that this Bill, which was in the hands of a Minister during the last stages of its passage through the other House, is to-day presented to your Lordships by a private member. The explanation is a very simple one. Last autumn a promise was given on behalf of the Government that facilities would be accorded to a Private Member's Bill dealing with this matter if such a course became necessary. The necessity did arise and, on behalf of all of us who are interested in the Bill, I wish to express our deep gratitude for the full and generous manner in which that promise was kept. I never doubted that that promise would be kept and consequently I have never despaired of the chances of this Bill, even during the long and weary hours of obstruction which it encountered in another place. Now that the Bill has reached the calmer waters of your Lordships' House, I understand it is not considered that the same degree of help is necessary, but I hope and believe that we may still count on the benevolence and good will of His Majesty's Ministers here.
The primary object of this Bill is so to amend the law in regard to betting as to allow of the setting up of the pari-mutuel or the totalisator on racecourses in this country, and also to allow persons who are responsible for the conduct of race meetings to regulate and control the conditions under which bookmakers may carry on business on their courses. Neither of these things is possible under the law as it now stands and racing has suffered severely in consequence. Yet there is no law on the Statute Book which was ever passed by Parliament with the deliberate intention of preventing either of these things being done. But there are, at least, two Acts which have that effect under decisions which have been given in the Courts. The Vagrancy Act of 1868 has been held to forbid the use of the totalisator or pari-mutuel, although neither of these systems of betting was even thought of when that Act was 1308 passed. The Betting Act of 1853, by a series of decisions given in the Courts culminating in that which was given in this House in the Kempton Park case, also prevents the setting up of the totalisator and has established the absurd and anomalous conditions which attach to betting on racecourses at the present moment.
I know, of course, that the intentions of Parliament are not taken into consideration when the Courts are interpreting Acts. The printed word rightly has to speak for itself. But when we are considering a proposal to alter the law it is certainly interesting, and I think it is fair to the framers of that law, that we should endeavour to ascertain what their intentions really were. That is of particular interest in the case of the Betting Act of 1853, and it happens to be very easy to do, because in all the volumes of the OFFICIAL REPORT—some half-dozen—dealing with the proceedings of Parliament for that year only two speeches bearing on this subject are recorded. In passing one may perhaps be allowed to drop a tear of pity for the fate of the individuals who, when the Bill we are now considering in its turn comes up for revision, will have to wade through all the speeches which have been delivered on this subject in another place.
If I may, I will tell your Lordships what those two speeches were. On February 11, 1853, a Question was put by Sir James Duke, who asked whether the Government intended to introduce any measure on the subject of betting houses. Your Lordships may be aware that during the second quarter of last century betting houses had sprung up in great numbers in all the large towns. In London Panton Street and its neighbourhood were notorious for containing a large number of these houses. In those days the public were not at all well served in the matter of racing intelligence, and I have been told by men who lived in those days that it was no uncommon thing for people to be induced to go on backing a horse for a great race for months after it was dead or incurably lame.
The culminating effect of these things was that by the year 1853 it was generally agreed that these houses, as carried on, constituted a public scandal, and in answer to the Question to which 1309 I have referred the Home Secretary, Lord Palmerston, said:that he feared that a great deal of evil had been produced by betting houses … but he confessed that he had not yet satisfied his own mind as to any practicable measure that would accomplish the purpose in view, without going beyond the object that was sought to be attained.This is a very interesting confession in view of the interpretation that was subsequently put upon the Bill that was introduced later in the same Session. The only other recorded speech is that which was delivered by the Attorney-General, Sir Alexander Cockburn, in asking leave to introduce the Bill. If I may be allowed to do so I will quote a part of that speech to your Lordships. I am reading from page 87 of Volume 129 of the Parliamentary Debates (Third Series):—THE ATTORNEY-GENERAL said he would now beg to move for leave to bring in a Bill for the suppression of betting houses, and in doing so he considered it was not necessary for him to make any lengthened statement on the subject, as the evils which had arisen from the introduction of these establishments were perfectly notorious and acknowledged upon all hands. The difficulty, however, which arose in legislating upon this subject was to be found in the disinclination which was felt against interfering with that description of betting which had so long existed at Tattersall's and elsewhere in connection with the great national sport of horse racing. But these establishments assumed a totally different aspect. A new form of betting was introduced which had been productive of the greatest evils. The course now was to open a house and for the owner to hold himself forth as ready to bet with all comers, contrary to the usages which had prevailed at such places as Tattersall's where individuals betted with each other, but no one there kept a gaming table, or, in other words, held a bag against all comers. The object then of this Bill was to suppress these houses without interfering with the legitimate species of betting to which he had referred.I think it is clear from the quotation that I have made that both Lord Palmerston and Sir Alexander Cockburn stated quite definitely that it was the intention of the Government that the Bill which was to be introduced should be limited in its operation to the suppression of betting houses. The Act itself, to the lay mind, is perfectly clear on that point. Its short title is "An Act for the suppression of betting houses," and the general intention is quite plain. All the difficulties that have arisen in regard to 1310 racecourse betting under that Act are caused by the insertion of the word "place" in Section 1 of the Act. In that sectionAny house, office, room or other place opened, kept or used for the purpose of betting with persons resorting theretois declared "a common nuisance and contrary to law." I claim that it is abundantly evident that this Act was never intended to apply to racecourses, and that in asking your Lordships to agree to this Bill we are, in fact, asking that the law should be restored to what it was meant to be when the Betting Act of 1853 was passed.
There is one other point of considerable interest at the present moment in the speech of the Attorney-General. In the passage that I have quoted he draws a strong distinction between the system of betting under which one "man holds a bag against all comers," which he describes as being "productive of the greatest evils" and the system of betting under which individuals bet against each other, which he considered legitimate. The man who "holds a bag against all corners" is the bookmaker, and there can be no more complete example of a system of betting under which individuals bet with each other than the totalisator. That is the essence of it. I cannot help thinking that it is a curious paradox that a measure which was aimed by so great a lawyer as Cockburn against the man who "holds a bag against all corners" should, by the insertion of one redundant word, have become his bulwark against the introduction of a competitive system of betting under which people will be allowed to bet with each other. That barrier is now to be broken down. The old system and the new system will operate side by side on our racecourses, and the public will bet with whichever they like best.
I think it may be well that I should say a word with regard to the new system of betting which will be introduced if this Bill is passed. The pari-mutuel system originated in France some fifty years ago. I think I may assume that many of your Lordships must be familiar with it, and it is probably unnecessary for me to describe it in any great detail. Briefly what is done is this: A pool is established, people deposit their money and receive a ticket for the horse that 1311 they wish to back. After the race has been run the money in the pool is divided among the backers of the winning horse in proportion to their stakes, less a deduction which is made in order to pay the tax and the expenses of the system and to make a contribution towards the upkeep of the sport or to other deserving objects. The totalisator system originated in Australia rather later. It does the same thing mechanically, and it is claimed for this method that it does the work more quickly than the pari-mutuel, which is, of course, a matter of importance where large numbers of people congregate. Both the totalisator and the pari-mutuel are complete examples of the co-operative system, and I should imagine that on that account this measure would commend itself to the occupants of the Opposition Bench. I am all the more surprised, therefore, to find that the noble Earl on that Bench is to move the rejection of this Bill.
Before I leave this part of the matter I think I ought to utter a word of warning to the public against rash investment in totalisator propositions. Nothing whatever is decided as to the type of machine that will be adopted. That decision will rest with the statutory body that is to be set up under the Bill. The only thing that I or anybody else can say for certain at this moment is this—I will say it on my own behalf—that I am quite sure that the Jockey Club's and the National Hunt Committee's representatives on the Board will never agree to the adoption of any machine, whatever its excellence, if the terms on which it has to be acquired will impose an unfair charge on the public who use the machine, and I feel sure that the same considerations will weigh with the other members of that Board.
This Bill as it was originally presented was a very short one. It really was a dear little Bill, only about three lines long. It merely sought to amend the law so as to allow of the things that have described being done at race meetings held under the Rules of the Jockey Club and the National Hunt Committee. Those were the two bodies which promoted the Bill, and the reason why it was so limited was this. I know some people think that it was done by us out 1312 of some feeling of jealousy of other forms of sport. I can assure your Lordships that it was nothing of the sort. The reason it was limited was that we were prepared to set up machinery which would have prevented any improper exploitation of the funds which would accrue and would have prevented dishonest practices, and we could only do that on racecourses where our rules were accepted. We felt that we could not make ourselves responsible for allowing these things to be set up on courses where people would use them who would not be under our authority, nor, for the matter of that, under the authority of anybody else. We could not take responsibility for the abuses and malpractices which might occur in those circumstances.
After the Bill in that form had been given a Second Reading in another place, the Government decided that a Bill which gave exemption from the Criminal Law, as this Bill does, could not properly be confined in its operation to the people who use our racecourses, and that the exemption which it gave must be available to all of His Majesty's subjects. The Government further decided that it was necessary to have some legal method of defining the places where this exemption would operate and that for this purpose a statutory body should be set up under the Bill. I believe I have correctly stated the point, but if I have not, the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack, or some other member of the Government, will no doubt correct me. Quite frankly, we would have preferred to be left alone to manage our own affairs as we have always done, but we accept the creation of the statutory body as a necessary consequence of the extension of the scope of the Bill beyond what we had proposed. The new body will have to exercise the functions in regard to betting which we would have exercised under the scheme of the original Bill. It will not be an easy task but we wish that body all good luck and we will back it up to the hest of our ability.
The Bill is not really a very formidable measure even with all the additions that have been made to it during its progress through the other House. The first subsection of Clause 1 removes the restrictions imposed by the Betting Act of 1853. 1313 The second subsection deals with the setting up of totalisators. The third subsection gives the necessary definitions and I would like to say with regard to these, that the part which I like least of them is the word "totalisator," which seems to me to have at least one syllable too many. While we are dealing with these things would it not be better to curtail that word by Act of Parliament? Clause 2 deals with the statutory body—the Racecourse Betting Control Board, consisting of a Chairman and four members to be appointed by the Government and seven members to be appointed by sporting interests. Clause 3 deals with the powers and duties of the Board. Subsection (2) is a rent restriction clause for the benefit of bookmakers. Clause 4 forbids betting with persons under 17 years of age. We ask the House to pass this Bill because it will enable us to clean up our racecourses in a way which has never yet been possible and because it will make available funds which are badly needed to keep our sport abreast of the rest of the world.
There are in this House many noble Lords who have served His Majesty in the highest office in the Dominions, in the Colonies, in India and in other countries where the law is as we seek to make it. I hope that they will tell us what their experience has been. We made inquiries last year all over the world and from every country we received the same answer. Since the introduction of the totalisator, racing had been made more comfortable, more agreeable, and much cheaper for the spectators. The prizes were larger and the entry fees paid by owners were much lower, which made it a sport in which men of moderate means might indulge without being driven to resort to betting as they are here. The average value of blood stock has been increased to the great advantage of the breeders, and above all, the sport had been made cleaner and straighter. We ask that these advantages shall no longer be withheld from the sport of horse racing in this country. I beg to move that the Bill be now read a second time.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(Lord Hamilton of Dalzell.)
§ EARL RUSSELL, who had given Notice to move as an Amendment, That the Bill 1314 be read 2athis day six months, said: My Lords, I do not propose to follow the noble Lord who has moved the Second Reading quite so far back in history as he went. I was interested in his account of the people who backed a horse which was already dead. I am bound to say, from what I hear of people who bet on horses, that it is not likely to make much difference whether the horse be dead or not, because apparently they always lose their money. I would like to go back to the introduction of the Bill in another place. As the noble Lord has truly said, this Bill was then a very simple Bill. What it did was to legalise the introduction of this artificial betting machine on racecourses and to put it under the control of the Jockey Club, obviously the proper people to run it—responsible people in whom all the world had confidence, who were quite capable of making the necessary regulations and had quite sufficient power to see that they were carried out and adhered to.
§ A Bill of that kind was one thing. What one might have said about the Bill as then introduced was that the only serious change which it made was that it gave people an opportunity of making a bet with a machine, where they were able to be sure they would not be welshed, and would not get wrong odds, and that whatever was the proper proportion of their winnings, if by some miracle they had selected the winning horse, would be returned to them at the end of the day, less a small deduction. Had that been all that the Bill did, I do not think I should find myself here, today, opposing the Second Reading, but it has suffered a most remarkable change since then—a change which took place, I think, chiefly in Standing Committee in another place—and since that change the Bill has been opposed, so much so that the Government were compelled to take it up and to say that they were prepared to give two days to the remaining stages. In that condition and with that support it has now reached your Lordships' House.
§ The change which has taken place is this. What was the control and the management of this—shall I say vice, shall I say evil, or shall I say merely habit?—of betting, which was left by the original Bill in the hands of those who are familiar with it, who are interested 1315 in it, and who have no sort of moral objections to it, has now been placed to a very large extent under Government control. This statutory Board which is to regulate these machines is to have a Chairman and four other members appointed by the Government in various ways; that is to say, there are to be five members who represent the Government, and representation of the Government means, of course, representation of the public of the whole country. Therefore it means that the country at large is now invited for the first time to become to some extent a partner in the business of betting and in the running of betting establishments. To my mind that is a most serious change and that is the change that has brought me here to-day to oppose the Second Reading of this Bill.
§ I would also point out to your Lordships that by Clause 1—I think I am right in saying so, and I think the noble Lord so described it—it is made quite definitely legal to set up a place for betting within the meaning of the Betting Act so long as it is set up on a racecourse and in an approved place. The decision come to a good many years ago but within the recollection, I have no doubt, of a good many of your Lordships, by which it was declared that a book maker's stand or umbrella or whatever it was on a racecourse was not a place, has always been a decision rather of convenience than of law, but it has held during all those years; and by that evasion they have been able to Carry on their business on racecourses. But we are now definitely, as the noble Lord quite frankly admitted, going back upon the words of that Act, and we are authorising a definite place to be set up as a place for betting. I think that is a retrograde step.
§ I do not propose to detain your Lordships at any length in dwelling upon the evils of betting. They are sufficiently familiar to many of your Lordships. The harm which is done to family life, to child maintenance, to child welfare, by betting among the poor is not as great, but is no doubt very nearly as great, as the harm done by the excessive consumption of alcohol. I do not like to see the Government, in the name of the people of this country, taking a hand in what I personally regard as an unclean 1316 thing with which officially we should have nothing to do. There was a suggestion made, and an Amendment moved and discussed, in another place which might have had some little effect in modifying this scheme. There was a suggestion made—I think I state it correctly—that local authorities should have the right of veto on a new racecourse being set up within their boundaries. That Amendment was rejected, and rejected with the support of the Government against it.
§ What does that mean? It means that those people who are interested financially in the result of this betting will be able to start, and will no doubt be anxious to start, new racecourses in other parts of the country, and that, as I understand, a locality which dislikes the whole idea, which does not want that class of person imported, which does not want its police occupied in controlling the kind of people who attend racecourses, will have to submit, without any means of protesting, to the opening of a new racecourse in their midst with all its evils. I may be told that they had not the power of protesting before. I believe that was so. They had not any power before, but you are now setting up a new machine, and you are giving a direct interest in the proceeds to the people who are concerned in the racing. Now, in the case of your bookmaker, whether he won or whether he lost was only his own interest, and nobody else's. The public had no concern, and, above all, those who managed race meetings, and the Jockey Club, had no concern whatever with the individual profits or losses, success or failure, of individual bookmakers. But, as I understand, in this case part of the proceeds of this machine are to go to enabling the racecourse to diminish the prices of admission and part to add to the prizes. That, of course, gives a direct interest in the result of the working of this machine.
§ So far as the totalisator itself is concerned—and if, when we come to the Committee stage the noble Lord likes to put down an Amendment to call it "the Tote" I shall be quite willing to support him—I am bound to say that I have no objection to it. If people wish to bet, and to risk their money in this extraordinarily foolish way, I think it far better that they should risk it in a perfectly honest machine, giving a calculable 1317 and mechanical result, where they will get exactly what they are entitled to as the result of their bet. I do not see that anyone can object to that. It is a very desirable thing.
§ I am not, myself, arguing on behalf of the bookmakers; I have no brief for them, and I regret no harm that may come to them from this Bill. But it has been rumoured, and it has been, I think, stated in another place quite clearly, that the chief reason why the Government took up this Bill and supported it is to be found in the complete and utter failure of the Betting Tax imposed by the present Chancellor of the Exchequer. He made certain estimates of the yield of that Tax and those estimates have never even been approached. It is, I think, now admitted that there is evasion which cannot be checked, and which cannot be stopped by the Revenue authorities. The Betting Tax, as a means of revenue, has proved a failure, so much so that this year, as I see, the amount of the Tax is actually to be reduced in the Finance Bill, in the hope that by this drastic reduction a little money may be got in and a little more honesty observed on the part of those who make bets.
§ There were many of us, and I myself was one of them, who objected very much to the tax on betting, for the very good reason that it appeared to legalise and to recognise what I regard as a great evil. But the excuse that was made was that it was going to be a source of revenue, and that we must take revenue even from the devil. Well, the revenue has not been produced, the public conscience has been offended to that extent, and this new departure has been taken without even the adequate money return which was held by those who supported the Tax to justify it. And now, as I understand, one of the reasons why the Government are to be found supporting this Bill, with which it would appear at first sight they ought to have no concern, is that by means of the totalisator, where the receipts can be checked and where what is coming into the revenue will come in without any possibility of evasion, there will be installed this mechanical bookmaker and that they cannot get what they want out of the human bookmaker. That does not seem to me to be a good reason.1318
§ Those are quite simply the two reasons why I am opposing this Bill. First of all, that it is legalising the existence of a definite place for betting, it is recognising that there may be a legal place where you can carry on betting transactions, and to which the public may resort for the purpose of betting. That seems to me a retrograde step in a legal position which has lasted a hundred years. The second reason—and this to my mind is far the more serious—is that the Government are making themselves a party to the business of betting, and that the Home Secretary, of all people in the world, is to appoint the Chairman of this new Committee and is to be responsible for the way in which betting is run and the way in which bets are collected—surely, a result which no one would have expected when he first assumed that office. I am one of the public, and therefore in that sense I am represented by the Government. I do not desire to be a partner in a bookmaking business, which is what this comes to, and it is because I regard it as very humiliating that this country should be put into that position that I oppose this Bill. I beg to move that the Bill be read a second time this day six months.
Leave out ("now") and at the end of the Motion insert ("this day six months").—(Earl Russell.)
§ LORD DESBOROUGH
My Lords, it falls to my lot as representing the Government in these matters to say a few words in reply to my noble friend opposite. I will be very brief. The introducer of the Bill has explained it in so able and lucid a manner that it is absolutely unnecessary for me to go into it in detail. Suffice it to say that the main objects of the Bill are two in number. One is to legalise the use of the "tote," or totalisator or totaliser, and the second is to provide, as my noble friend opposite has pointed out to your Lordships, a place for bookmakers. There is, also, a subsidiary object—namely, to prevent juvenile betting, betting by those under seventeen. That is practically one of the objects of the Bill and brings the objects up to three.
§ LORD DESBOROUGH
No; the first two are the main objects. I tried to point out that the other one was a subsidiary object, though I hope my noble friend opposite does not think it is an unimportant one. I am sorry he is not a supporter of preventing betting by youths under seventeen years of age. There is nothing new in the totalisator. Totalisators are common in every country in the world at races, especially in our own Dominions. I think that Victoria is about the only State which has not got the totalisator in Australia, and I believe there is a Bill now before the Legislature to legalise the totalisator in Victoria. One of the reasons which induced me to support this Bill wholeheartedly is the hope that it will improve our racecourses. The racecourses of England occupy most beautiful places. There are the Downs at Epsom; there is Ascot Heath and there is Goodwood. These are all places of beauty. But for the public when races are on these beautiful places are marred by the raucous sounds made by the bookmakers and by the litter which invariably accompanies the operations of these people. I hope the "tote" will clean our racecourses in that regard, and I hope it will also enable the public to see something of the races. If you go to Ascot now, right from the start to the winning-post there is a long line of bookmakers, making, as I have said, sounds which are extremely unpleasant to most people's ears, and boards obstructing the view so that the public see nothing. If the "tote," or totalisator or totaliser, sweeps away those gentlemen it will be a great blessing to all concerned, to all those who are interested in horses as well as to those who go to races.
There is another great advantage about the "tote" and that is that it does not tempt people to bet. Most of these bookmakers have touts who naturally try to induce the confiding public to patronise their employers. In days gone by when I attended racecourses more frequently than I do now I used often to listen to the blandishments of these people. I used generally to hear in the course of their remarks a statement that they had had the honour of dining with various highly-placed owners of racehorses. From their appearance they did not look as if they would be welcome. They used generally to bring in the name 1320 of Lord Rothschild and to say that they had dined with him the night before. He must have been rather surprised at the sartorial appearance of his guests and must have had a very noisy dinner indeed. They would say that they had been invited by Lord Rothschild to dine with him and had been given the names of certain horses which would win. The public were taken in by these statements and risked their money with the bookmakers. If they won, when they went to find the bookmaker he was not always there. But if they lost they not only found the bookmaker but they had the pleasure of paying him whatever sums of money they had lost.
There are two things about the totalisator which I hope will appeal to my noble friend opposite. One is that it will not put temptation in people's way. It will be there when you go either to pay or to get your money. The other is that the whole of the operations are conducted in cash. I believe that will prove to be one of the greatest means of checking the evils of betting, to which my noble friend opposite has drawn attention. The greatest losses in betting are those, I believe, which are suffered through trying to get your money back. With the "tote" you will not be able to use in betting any more money than you have with you. Anyhow, you will not be tempted to spend huge sums in trying to get back the fortune you have lost. I think that is a very great point in its favour.
With regard to betting generally, I most cordially agree with my noble friend opposite regarding its evils, and I sincerely hope and believe that the setting up of the Board and the legalising of the "tote" will put a stop to a great many of the evils of which he complains. We close our eyes, hypocritically as I think, to the fact that betting goes on and has been going on here from the time of Charles I and before. You cannot stop it. It is my fortune to attend a great many meetings of agricultural societies. I have lately attended the World's Dairy Congress among others. Sooner or later I always notice in such meetings that someone gets up and says that, after all, agriculture is our greatest industry. I invariably listen to that statement with patience, but the last time it was said I replied: "Very well, if agriculture is our greatest industry, 1321 heaven help the others." Our greatest industry, it seems to me, is not agriculture but betting. If you really take the betting that goes on in this country, it is colossal. There is the football betting in the winter, when there are "slips" in every great shop and place of business. There is betting on horses, on greyhounds, on terriers running after rats and, I suppose, on pom-poms running after white mice. There is always something to bet on, and you cannot stop it. I think it is very much more honest to face the fact; not to pretend that people do not bet but to try to legalise and organise betting, to see that it is done under the best possible conditions and that it will not tempt people who are being induced to bet now. In the Football Association they are trying to stop this organised "slip" business and are trying to keep the sport as pure as possible. I feel pretty confident that that object will be secured by this Bill, which began by being small and has become more important. I believe, from a legal point of view, it is carrying out in the only manner in which it can be carried out the objects of those who originally promoted it.
I will only occupy your Lordships' time for a very few minutes longer, as I know there are many other noble Lords who want to speak, but I should like to draw attention to these points. The objects of this Bill are to legalise the use of the totalisator, and to provide places for bookmakers. I should like to say a word about that because it seems to me a very hypocritical situation to be in regarding the law. What does the Act of 1853 say? It prohibits the use of any house or place for the purpose of betting or for the receipt of cash payments with that object. How is the legal difficulty regarding these bookmakers—most of them stationary, most of them on soap boxes, receiving cash—got over at the present time? It is got over in this way. It has been held by the Courts that so long as a bookmaker perambulates on a racecourse, and does not keep a definite or fixed place and thereby localises himself, no offence against the Act is committed. We know perfectly well that all these bookmakers are localised. The only bookmakers who are not localised are those you wish were. Those are the bookmakers who, when you come to look 1322 for them, have perambulated with such success that you cannot find them. It seems to me that the only bookmakers who really carry out the law are those who run off with your money, and who are very often found rather battered in the police cells which adjoin most of our racecourses. Surely it is time we stopped going on in this way. Hypocrisy is about the only word for it. This Bill permits places for bookmakers to be provided by the racecourse committees, and repeals the Act of 1853. Surely it is better to do it in a straightforward manner like that than by a sort of subterfuge.
My noble friend opposite (Earl Russell) foreshadowed the possibility of certain Amendments being proposed in Committee. The shadow of those Amendments floated over the calm flow of the oratory to which we all listened with so much interest. But this point should be considered. The Government, having considered this Bill with the greatest care, are very anxious it should be passed. It is quite obvious that at a late period of the Session like this, if any Amendment is proposed and carried that involves an alteration of principle in the Bill, or which would give opponents of the Bill—and there are plenty of them in another place—the opportunity of holding up the measure, it will not be passed. I should therefore like to make an appeal to those members of this House who are so keen about securing the purity of our racecourses, not merely to come here and make on the Second Reading the interesting speeches to which I have no doubt we shall continue to listen, but to back up the Government when the time comes, which I believe will be on Tuesday next, when this Bill will be in Committee.
My Lords, having for many years been a zealot and a protagonist of racecourse reform, your Lordships will perhaps permit me briefly to state the reasons which induce me to consider this Bill a notable measure of progress. I believe it to be not only desirable legislation, but to be indispensable to the further prosecution of reform and indispensable in this sense, that if it is not passed the progress of reform will be seriously impeded. What is the position? A great transformation has commenced. England started racing long 1323 before other nations and we have been slow—perhaps wisely slow—in adapting our eigtheenth century arrangements to modern requirements, but the necessity of progress is making itself felt and already a considerable change has been effected. I am convinced that if this Bill is passed, the time is approaching when the reproaches made in another place against the present system of racing will be entirely removed, and that it will no longer be possible to say that the racecourse is not civilised or to refer, in the words of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, to the barbarous conditions of fifteen years ago.
Then, undoubtedly, the position was deplorable. Racecourses were so short of accommodation and stands that only a small proportion of the public could see the races in comfort. The prize fund was derisory, the forfeits were heavy, and the dates arranged for the forfeits were such as to entrap the unwary. Non-betting owners were treated so badly that there was a serious danger that the best blood stock would leave this country, attracted abroad by the superior prizes available under the system of totalisator established there. Happily, those times are gone. Through the efforts of the noble Lord who opened this debate, and through the efforts of other noble Lords who are present, a great change has been brought about. Effective reform has been initiated upon lines of extreme intelligence and great practical value. But reform in racing, as in other departments of life, is somewhat restricted by finance. It is now apparent that a further development of measures, bringing racing into harmony with modern conditions, is only possible if the vast sums which pass between the public and the betting fraternity are made to contribute their fair share to the maintenance of racing. This, in reality, in my judgment, is the principal thing that this Bill achieves, the principal thing which it contemplates and which it will be successful in attaining. Under the old system racing bore the whole burden; the subsidiary industry (as one may call it) of betting escaped scot free. That was neither fair nor politic. I believe this Bill will lead to the termination of that system.
So far I have spoken of the principles of the Bill, which, I believe, will commend 1324 it to your Lordships' favourable acceptance. I pass to the criticism in detail. The legal points I leave to be discussed by abler minds than mine. With regard to the composition of the proposed Board of Control it is quite obvious that the proposed constitution of it is the result of a compromise, and, like most compromises, it has led to something like a jumble, and in this jumble, it appears to me, one very important interest has been neglected—namely, that of horse-breeding. I am surprised that the Home Secretary, who is, I understand, a breeder of some distinction himself, should have tolerated such an omission, but he may be able to correct the deficiency at a later stage when it comes to nominating the members to be appointed to the Board by the Government. It is too often and too easily forgotten that horse-breeding, which is a great national industry, is entitled to equal consideration with racing, which is, after all, only a national pastime.
What are the arguments against the Bill? The first one—this was alleged very frequently in another place—is that it would lead to an increase of betting. I think that is most doubtful. What is not doubtful is that it will make betting much fairer, it will give the non-expert a better chance than he has to-day, and it will curb and curtail undesirable practices. I think that is admitted by everybody who gives impartial consideration to the clauses of the Bill. The noble Earl raised another objection—namely, that it is inexpedient for the Government to touch an unclean thing; betting has been assimilated to drink control and drinking, and the Government have been warned that the hem of the State garments will be soiled if any attempt is made to intervene in, or to regulate, these matters. I cannot subscribe to that view. In the first place there are great differences between drinking and betting. In the second place experience in the matter of drink regulation is a most powerful argument against any pharisaical abstention from State intervention in the matter of betting. I have some experience of the matter and I assert without any fear of contradiction that the immense improvement which has occurred in the matter of the drinking habits of this country during the last ten or twelve years is the direct result of wise regulation by the 1325 Government. If the Government of the day at the time of the War, and in the years after the War, had listened to advice like that given by the noble Earl and had abstained from regulating the drink traffic, the amount of drunkenness in this country would not have been reduced, as it has been reduced, by 60 per cent. The amount of alcoholic disease and mortality would not have been diminished in an even greater proportion. Many homes would have been rendered miserable by death and illness—and in another order of ideas the revenue of the Government would not have been increased by £100,000,000 a year.
I do not want to raise any false hopes. The totalisator, or the "tote," will not produce any financial result of equal magnitude, but in the sphere of morals and of manners it will be equally beneficial, and I believe it would be an act of cowardice and great unwisdom if the Government abstained from intervening. For these reasons I venture to hope that your Lordships will give the Bill a large majority on its Second Reading. I am convinced that to all those interested in horse racing, apart from professional layers and backers, it offers a prospect of a future of a much more agreeable nature, less disagreeable from noise and tumult, and less menaced by the prospect or the probability of financial loss. I am also convinced that it will tend to preserve to this country that supremacy in horse breeding which has been our pride for so long and which can only be made secure by measures like that now presented for your Lordships' consideration.
THE EARL OF LONSDALE
My Lords, it is not my intention to detain you for many minutes, but I do feel as representing the National Hunt Committee, as the noble Lord represents the Jockey Club, that I should not be doing my duty to them were I not, at this moment, to convey our serious hope that your Lordships will give all the support you possibly can to this Bill. I am perhaps in rather a peculiar position because I am one of those connected with the Turf who never bet. I have also as much interest in those who inhabit the racecourses as anybody probably of my age. I sincerely trust that you will support this Bill for this reason, that I have gone very carefully into all the details, I have 1326 searched about amongst my friends of high class and low class, and I am perfectly certain that the introduction under this Bill of the "tote" will be of the greatest possible benefit to the welfare of all those who now bet elsewhere because they cannot afford to go into the ring, or into the enclosed places, and generally lose their money. It will also mean that in the case of those who wish to bet and save up so much a week, as they do in many of the factories, for betting purposes, an individual will be employed not to bet with ordinary outside bookmakers but with a machine that can be thoroughly trusted. The noble Lord who opened the debate and the noble Viscount who has just spoken put the case so clearly, and in a far more able way than I can, that I will not traverse the ground again, but I do sincerely hope in the interests of the Turf, in the interests of those who attend the Turf and of those who are unable to attend the Turf, that this Bill will meet with your support.
§ LORD DEWAR
My Lords, the totalisator has benefited the blood stock industry, improved the conditions on racecourses and been beneficial to the national Treasury in many countries. In this country it will also be beneficial when it becomes law. Betting by this means will not throw out any of the arrangements of the Treasury for the collection of Taxes, but it will in time, when it is properly established, be a collector for the Treasury of large sums of money. It has been said that betting has gone on through all time and will continue. It is an inheritance of the human race, but, as is the case with the noble Earl, it is not my recreation. This Bill will assist to get under control the ready-money private betting which at present is in a state of tranquil chaos. The totalisator will automatically collect money which at present is not being collected for the Treasury. There are two classes, those who bet and those who do not. The totalisator will automatically collect all this money.
Good laws come from bad customs. The customs of our racecourses are not so good as they are upon the racecourses where the totalisator is in vogue. It has been stated that this machine will entice people to gamble, but it lacks the persuasive methods of the human being. 1327 It stands before you speechless. It looks at you with a distrustful face like a cash-register and refuses to bet with you except for ready money, thereby evading all the trouble and worry of credit betting, a pernicious practice which often ends in misery. This contrivance is a community bookmaker. It is the acme of true democracy. It registers with unfailing regularity and mathematical calculation the exact individual share minus the Tax. The totalisator will be the pivot around which all the betting market will revolve. Its influence will drive out of existence the dishonest individual and will give prestige to the honest bookmaker whom we want to see improve his position in every particular.
This machine will also look upon the racecourse gangs that infest the meetings with amused complacency when they come to blackmail bookmakers. The welsher will have no opportunity to live in competition with the mechanical honesty of the totalisator. The welsher in future will be unable to give his clients a good run for their money. With the allowances that will be made by the Board it will be possible to encourage more horse-breeding in this country and to assist farmers. It will be a protection of industry in itself without any expense to the Government. Another consideration is that the farmer may be induced to keep and breed from those brood mares which are at present leaving this country at ruinous prices. Here is an opportunity to assist one who needs assistance, the farmer, by getting a subsidy from the totalisator with no expense to the Treasury.
§ THE EARL OF DERBY
My Lords, I would ask your Lordships permission to say a few words on this Bill and, as often happens in this House, to make very little reference to the Bill itself. I want to speak as a non-betting breeder of horses. I am not the immaculate Puritan as a non-bettor that Lord Lonsdale and Lord Dewar are, in that I occasionally have had a bet, but as a general rule I can say that I am a non-betting owner and breeder, and I want to deal with this Bill and its principle, not from the point of view of betting or from the point of view of tax collection, but from the point of view of what Lord D'Abernon rightly called a very great industry. I do not think people quite realise what that industry 1328 does. We are often told that we are in danger of other countries supplanting us in the breeding of thoroughbred horses. I do not think that this will happen in our time, because, by a special provision of Providence, as it would seem, every nation has to keep coming back to this country to replenish its blood stock. We are told that horses from abroad come and beat our horses here. That is sometimes the case, but when you look into their pedigrees you will find that the base, and not a far distant one, has always been English blood stock.
This is a very great industry and, to show how great it is from the export point of view, which, after all, is an important one, let me recall a very big sale about three years ago when the late Sir Edward Hulton died. It was a record sale and the figures were mentioned by many people as showing that there was no decadence in horse racing. But what very few people noticed was that, with the exception of one or two cases, the whole of the big prices in the sale came either from people abroad or from people not suffering from having to pay English taxes. In short, it was only people from abroad and people not suffering from our taxation who could afford to pay these very great prices. Something, therefore, ought to be done to see that our blood stock breeding is maintained at its present level. It is an industry that is entirely dependent upon racing. People talk as if you could breed thoroughbred horses for export abroad even if there were no racing. That is not the case. It is racing that eliminates the bad and that gives us that superiority in thoroughbred blood stock that we now possess in this country. Do away with racing and you will destroy at once and for ever your blood stock supremacy.
This is an industry, though some people think that it is only an amusement. Certainly it is a great amusement. I do not say that to me it is not my greatest amusement—it is—but I realise that although, thanks to the very capable trainer and manager of my stud, I have been in the position, of late years at all events, to meet the expense, it is certainly a very expensive amusement and one that is not getting cheaper. Some may ask whether the totalisator will remedy this. I think the only way of proving that it will is by giving a concrete case and, although it is a personal one, 1329 perhaps your Lordships will allow me to do so. I race on a comparatively large scale in this country, and with a partner, Mi. Ogden Mills, on the same scale in France, and therefore I am in a position to compare the costs in the two countries. The difference is really somewhat startling. In England you may take it that every racehorse has to earn £650 in the year before it pays its expenses. In France it has to earn only £180 before paying expenses. That is the difference in costs to the owner and to the breeder—and I like to think of the two as being always combined—and to my mind the difference is entirely attributable to the totalisator. There are, of course, other reasons why racing in France is comparatively cheap, among them being that there is so much racing near Paris and the horses do not have to be sent on very long journeys. But the chief difference is made up of the very small entries and the big prizes, and that is entirely due to the money supplied by the totalisator.
If your Lordships will bear with me, I should like to give another experience, again, I am afraid, a personal one, of what the totalisator does for breeders of horses. I had the great luck—it was real luck—this year, in partnership with Mr. Ogden Mills, to buy a horse and win the big race in France, the Grand Prix. That horse was got by a. Government stallion or, in other words, by a horse for which there was either no fee or merely a nominal fee, and the reason why that was possible was that, on account of the money obtained by the totalisator, the Government are able to plate all over the country well-bred stallions and to put them freely at the disposal of breeders in all parts of the country. If you take breeding horses as being an industry, I may claim that this at all events is a way in which the totalisator can materially influence and improve that particular industry.
I do not want to go into the details of the Bill which, if necessary, can be dealt with in Committee. The noble Earl who has moved the rejection of the Bill would like to see the localities given the option of saying whether or no they would have a racecourse in their vicinity. I am not going to support that. I do not want to see racecourses multiplied, and I am certain that if this privilege were given, you would find that a 1330 great many localities would look upon it as a municipal enterprise to start a racecourse. Ask Chester and Doncaster and Ascot what they would do without their racecourses. The first two are under the Corporation, and it is thanks to that that there is a large reduction in the rates in those two towns. I hope your Lordships will pass this Bill, because I believe that it will help an industry which is going through a bad time, and which brings a lot of money into this country—an industry which, through the sale of its bloodstock, through the Entertainment Tax, and through the rates on racecourses, adds many hundreds of thousands of pounds to the national wealth. I hope that, this Bill will receive your Lordships' favourable consideration, and if it does I am perfectly certain that the industry will owe to your Lordships a great debt of gratitude.
§ LORD NEWTON
My Lords, the history of this Bill, and the effect of this Bill upon me, is to convince me more strongly than ever before that the most important people in this country are the members of the Jockey Club. The enormous influence which these noble Lords exercise in the country is more or less reflected here by the almost reverential awe with which they have been listened to this afternoon. Really, no one very much cares what the occupants of the two Front Benches think of this Bill. I doubt whether the smallest attention will be paid to them at all, but nearly everybody in the country will study most attentively the words, no doubt reported verbatim, of Lord Lonsdale, of the mover of the Second Reading, and of the noble Earl who has just sat down. This sentiment of admiration which prevails for these noble Lords pervades every class in the country.
If I may say so without giving offence, I remember an occasion when I was enormously impressed with the importance of Lord Lonsdale. I happened to be present when an important sporting case was being tried, and Lord Lonsdale was summoned as a witness. One of the counsel, a gentleman earning goodness knows how many thousands a year, addressed the noble Earl in these words:—Now, Lord Lonsdale, we are all aware of the fact that you are the supreme 1331 authority upon sport all over the world, and it is extremely gratifying to us that you should condescend to come here and attend our sordid proceedings, in order to give us your opinion. Will you be kind enough, as you are here, to give the Court a definition of what is termed 'unfair riding'?My noble friend reflected for some time, and then remarked:—I should define unfair riding as riding which is not fairI thought, myself, that that was not a very remarkable statement, and that if I had made it myself no attention would be paid to it at all, but its effect upon the Court was unmistakable. You could see everybody nudging each other and saying: "What a man this is; would we had him governing the country instead of the incompetent people who cumber the Front Benches in both Houses of Parliament." The power exercised by these noble Lords, by the members of the Jockey Club and of the National Hunt Committee, is so great that I feel almost inclined to beg them not to exercise it too freely. I am convinced that if they combined together, made a descent upon the Houses of Parliament, turned out the present occupants of these Houses and with their myrmidons installed themselves here as a sort of hierarchy, then the majority of the people of this country would say that they were perfectly right, and that we could not have a better government.
I welcome this Bill for the exact reasons that the noble Lord opposite disapproved of it. He objects to the Bill because he says it is a humiliating thing that the Government should touch the unclean thing. I deny that it is an unclean thing. I will not admit for a moment that betting is an unclean thing, or humiliating, but I do think that there is a certain amount of humiliation in bringing in a tax and then finding it very disappointing in its result. The main reason why this Bill is being brought in is that it is intended to remedy the palpable defects of the Betting Tax. For twenty-five years I have been as a voice crying in the wilderness and asking the Government to interest itself in betting. Twenty-five years ago I sat on a Committee dealing with the subject, but the Government in those days shared the views of Lord Russell. It was not only I 1332 who cried in the wilderness and asked for Government supervision of betting and for the totalisator. Noble Lords on the Liberal Benches, who had been former Governors of our Dominions and had experience of the totalisator, also cried in the wilderness, but nobody paid attention to them because they were merely ex-Governors and people of that kind.
So for many years nobody paid any attention to us, but at last, when the Chancellor of the Exchequer was hard up, he was induced, I hope partly in consequence of our arguments, to bring in the Betting Tax. Having once embarked upon the slippery slope the inevitable result is the introduction of the totalisator, but I cannot emphasise too strongly that we should not have had it but for the support of the Jockey Club and of the National Hunt Committee. I do not think I have ever heard any weaker opposition to a Bill than that which has been put forward by Lord Russell. Who in his senses is going to believe that the installation of the totalisator is going to increase betting? It will have exactly the opposite effect. You cannot bet on credit with a machine, and having put your money down, if you lose it you will not be in a position to renew your bet.
I do not want to spoil any point of the noble Lord, but perhaps if he will read the OFFICIAL REPORT to-morrow he will see that I never said a single word about increasing betting.
§ LORD NEWTON
The noble Earl objected to the State participating in the profits. If the State taxes betting, why should it not participate in the profits? You might just as well say that the State is encouraging capitalism because every Chancellor of the Exchequer increases the Death Duties. As a matter of fact, this measure is highly desirable, although it is much less important than we imagine. People who go to races are obviously going to benefit by it. They are going to places which will be conducted according to the rules of ordinary decency. It has always been a marvel to me that racing people who have experience of Continental race-courses should put up with the intolerable scenes and surroundings which occur on English race-courses. And, of course, the introduction of the totalisator will 1333 benefit the owners. At present, as I understand it, they are running for each other's money and providing the stakes themselves; they will therefore benefit by the change.
But, as a matter of fact, it is a comparatively small matter. People who bet on racecourses are only about 15 per cent. of the people who bet in this country. It is really almost an insignificant change, but I welcome it as a step in advance, and I hope that it is the prelude of further action on the part of this Government or of any Government which succeeds it. The real point of importance is not how betting is to be conducted on the racecourses, but how you are to regulate the vast amount of betting which prevails in this country, and to regulate it in a sensible manner. When we talk about the desirability of social reform that seems to me one of the most practical forms of social reform that any Government could undertake and I hope that I shall live long enough to see it undertaken boldly by some future Government.
§ On Question, Amendment negatived.
§ Bill read 2aand committed to a Committee of the Whole House.