§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
§ THE SECRETARY of STATE FOR AIR (THE MARQUESS OF LONDONDERRY)
My Lords, I must ask your Lordships' indulgence in venturing to put before your Lordships an important Bill, not altogether divorced from controversy, at so short an interval from the one which I explained to your Lordships a few days ago; but it is my duty this afternoon to present to this House the Betting and Lotteries Bill. If I might venture to do so, I would ask your Lordships to approach this measure with open minds, and, if you think fit to do so—and I sincerely hope you will—to give it a Second Reading.
This Bill is one which it would be the duty of any Government to introduce, but one which has a better chance of reaching the Statute Book in a satisfactory form when it is presented by a Government such as the present National Government, which represents all Parties in the State. The ordinary Party divisions are not reflected in the attitude adopted towards a Bill of this nature, 764 which seeks to give expression to the method in which betting and gambling should be controlled and regulated, and which naturally affords legitimate opportunities for the holding of widely differing opinions. I think your Lordships will agree that it is a proper course to pursue to introduce this Bill in your Lordships' House. Here we have perhaps a better opportunity of listening to the dispassionate opinions of those who have had the opportunity of studying the effects which opportunities for speculation in different forms have on the well-being of the community at large. It will readily be understood that members in another place find themselves in different circumstances. However strong-minded and independent a member of another place may claim to be, the pressure of sections of his constituents—and I speak not without experience of these things—exercises, and is bound to exercise, a certain, though not necessarily a predominating, influence upon the attitude adopted by him when these matters are debated there.
Your Lordships will, I hope, forgive me for uttering the platitude that, human nature being what it is, no Government can put a stop to gambling, and no Government would be so foolish as to make an attempt to do so. But the regulation of gambling, the control of gambling, by clear legislation, and legislation as definite as it can be, is a responsibility which no Government, and least of all a National Government, has the right to evade. The law, at the present moment, is in many respects nebulous and anomalous, and our earnest hope is that Parliament, in its wisdom, will realise that legislation of the present kind is necessary, and will proceed to its enactment. To reject our proposals would be to issue a mandate to the Government to enforce the existing law as it stands, a law which we all know cannot be enforced without inflicting injustice, injury, and hardship. Your Lordships will, I think, realise that any other course would be to bring the law into contempt, by encouraging and continuing its disregard, with all the disastrous results to the nation which would follow in the train of such an unhappy policy.
The State has, at varying periods, found it necessary to interfere, when experience 765 has shown that the unrestricted development of particular types of gambling facility is fraught with serious social dangers. As early as 1388 an Act was passed prohibiting the playing of certain games, and was followed by similar Acts, passed in 1409, 1477 and 1541, the motive behind these laws being the desire to promote archery and other military exercises, by preventing men from wasting their time on games the prohibition of which was included in those Acts. Part of the Act of 1541 is still in force. During the next three centuries, the lottery was the form of wagering which attracted most interest in this country. From the first, lotteries were the subject of State regulation, but, until 1698, there was no statutory prohibition of private lotteries. The growth of the number of lotteries, however, became so serious a mischief, that in 1698 Parliament enacted that all lotteries were common and public nuisances, and all patents and licences for lotteries void and against law. Thereafter, the only legal lotteries were those authorised by Act of Parliament, which, for the most part, were State lotteries for the benefit of the Exchequer.
A Select Committee of the House of Commons of 1808 denounced the social evils to which State lotteries gave rise. The Committee reported thatthe pecuniary advantage derived from a State lottery is much greater in appearance than in reality…. No mode of raising money appears to your Committee so burthensome, so pernicious and so unproductive.State lotteries, nevertheless, continued foi a few years, notwithstanding strong opposition, and it was not until 1823 that, in view of the growing tide of opposition, the Government announced that there would be no more State lotteries. The next important legislative measure was the Gaming Act of 1845, which gave powers for suppressing gaming houses, the existence of which at that time constituted a serious social mischief, existing legislation for the purpose being by no means effective.
The social evil to which Parliament had next to direct its attention was the growth of betting facilities. Between 1845 and 1853 there grew up a large number of betting houses for ready-money betting. The Betting Act 766 of 1853 was passed for their suppression. In the second half of the nineteenth century, the mischief of street betting became so notorious, that many of the municipalities found it necessary to secure powers by Private Acts to prevent persons frequenting the streets for the purpose of betting. These powers, however, proved unavailing, and in 1902 a Select Committee of your Lordships' House was appointed to consider how the evil might best be dealt with. In 1906, in pursuance of certain recommendations of the Report of the Select Committee, the Street Betting Act, 1906, was passed, which makes it an offence for any person to frequent, or to loiter in, the streets or public places, for the purpose of bookmaking or betting.
I propose now to describe briefly the position, as it presented itself to the Government in 1932, when the Royal Commission was set up. Within very recent years new factors had arisen, which had brought about serious social mischief, and which seemed to call for urgent remedies. The growth of lotteries, particularly of lotteries promoted abroad, the exploitation of the gambling propensity of the population through the introduction of greyhound racing and the subsequent increase in numbers of greyhound racing tracks, owing to the large profits made from the operation of the totalisator, and the multiplication throughout the country of "tote" clubs, created a situation which no Government could ignore. As the issues raised, however, were very complicated and controversial, it was considered right that action should be preceded by a comprehensive and impartial enquiry by a body of Commissioners whose recommendations would be likely to command public confidence. A Royal Commission was, accordingly, appointed in June, 1932, "to enquire into the existing law and the practice thereunder relating to lotteries, betting, gambling and cognate matters, arid to report what changes, if any, are desirable and practicable."
The Commission issued an Interim Report in January, 1933, dealing with one aspect of their inquiry, which had become of urgent practical importance—namely, the development of certain forms of totalisator or parimutuel betting. The Commission recommended, that the conduct in any place of totalisator betting with persons resorting 767 thereto, whether on a credit or cash basis, should be declared illegal in England and Scotland, save as provided by the Racecourse Betting Act, 1928. The effect of this recommendation was that the use of the totalisator, in "tote" clubs and on greyhound tracks, would continue to be illegal, as it was declared to be in the judgment of the High Court in the case of Shuttleworth rersus the Leeds Greyhound Racing Association, delivered on December 16, 1932, and in judgments subsequently delivered by the Scottish Justiciary Appeal Court. As regards the use of the totalisator in "tote" clubs, the Government accepted the recommendation of the Royal Commission, and announced their decision in Parliament on February 7, 1933, which was to the effect that, should further evasions of the law by changes in the method of operation of the totalisator in these clubs be attempted, and should it be found that the existing law was inadequate to deal with them, the Government would introduce any legislation which might be found necessary, to effect the complete suppression of these clubs. Since the end of 1932, the operations of "tote" clubs have ceased altogether in England and Wales, and a similar result was brought about in Scotland by the decision of the Justiciary Appeal Court in the case of Strathern rersus Russell and others, given on July 13, 1933.
As regards the use of the totalisator n greyhound racing tracks, we recognised that the facilities offered by the totalisator were only one form of the getting facilities provided on greyhound tracks, and that the Royal Commission would be dealing in their Final Report with the general question of betting facilities on those tracks. In those circumstances, the Government decided (and announced their decision in Parliament on February 7, 1933) to postpone coming to a final decision as to the legislation, if any, which might be necessary to deal with the use of the "tote" at greyhound tracks, until they had had an opportunity of studying the final recommendations of the Royal Commission with regard to other forms of betting. The Royal Commission issued their Final Report, covering the rest of their field of inquiry, in June, 1933. In spite of the highly contentious character 768 of the matters into which the Royal Commission was called on to enquire, the Commissioners found themselves able to reach a substantial measure of agreement, and presented unanimous Reports. The Reports cover the whole field of lotteries, betting, gaining and cognate matters. A Bill covering so wide a field would extend the range of controversy, and would have occupied an amount of Parliamentary time which is not available in the present Session. We have, accordingly, decided to confine the scope of the Bill to the more urgent problems, which demand immediate attention. The present Bill, therefore, deals only with the regulation of betting on the course, including the question of the legalisation of the totalisator on greyhound tracks, and with lotteries, and certain competitions of mixed skill and chance.
Before dealing with the individual provisions of the Bill, I will deal with the general principles underlying our proposals. We have not approached this question from the moral point of view. Private morals are a matter for the individual conscience, and the improvement of individual behaviour must be left to the influences of religion and education. We cannot attempt to determine the vexed question whether gambling is, or is not, immoral. Our sole concern has been with the social effects of gambling, and we have based our proposals solely on a consideration of the evil social consequences, which excessive and continuous gambling has been shown by experience to entail. If the question were merely one of abstract right and wrong, opinions on this subject would be limited to two. Those who hold that gambling is immoral would be in favour of its complete suppression: those who hold that it is not immoral would be in favour of leaving complete freedom to the individual. But the question the Government have had to face is a practical question—namely, what measures are required in the public interest to prevent the exploitation of certain facilities, which, if unchecked, are universally recognised as potential sources of danger to society.
The second principle, adopted by the Government, is that the State should not interfere with private gambling between individuals, but is concerned only with the social consequences which result from 769 the provision of facilities for organised gambling. As the Royal Commission point out, there is a sharp distinction between action which involves interference with individual liberty, and action directed against organised exploitation of the gambling propensity of the population for private gain. This principle has been well expressed by The Times, in its leading article on April 6, when it states that "in the eye of the State individuals possess no cast-iron right to enrich themselves by inciting or exploiting the gambling habit in their fellows."
Applying these principles to the sphere of gambling, the general aim of the Government, in dealing with facilities for organised or professional gambling, has been to propose restrictions upon such facilities, and such facilities only, as can be shown to have serious social consequences, if not checked. It is no use attempting to deny the serious social consequences that have followed upon the extension of betting facilities offered by the multiplication of greyhound racecourses. I know that there have been exaggerations, but it is equally true that, on the other side, there have been attempts to minimise these evils. My personal correspondence, as, I am sure, is the case with correspondence of many of your Lordships, since this Bill was introduced, has provided me with examples of both tendencies—the tendency to exaggerate and the tendency to minimise. But, as I have already said, there is no question that social evils have followed upon the increased opportunities of betting. The evidence which the Royal Commission had before them is convincing on this point, and, if anybody doubts the existence of a serious social threat in this organised exploitation of the gambling instinct, I can only refer him to the Interim Report of the Royal Commission, and the evidence upon which that Report was based.
The Bill has two main Parts, Part I dealing with betting, and Part II dealing with lotteries and prize competitions. Until comparatively recently, on-the-course betting was virtually confined to horse racing, which took place on comparatively few days yearly, at racecourses scattered throughout the country, and usually distant from large centres of population, and under the control of 770 bodies that ensured that horse racing was not conducted predominantly for commercial profit. Consequently, on-the-course betting at horse races did not call for active interference by the Legislature. When necessary, however, Parliament has intervened. The unregulated development of horse racecourses with frequent meetings near London about sixty years ago was checked by the Racecourse Licensing Act, 1879, which required an annual licence, to be obtained from Quarter Sessions, for any horse racecourse within ten miles of Charing Cross.
The position has, however, been radically changed by the development of greyhound racing since 1926. The Royal Commission point out that there are only seven horse racecourses within fifteen miles of Charing Cross, with 187 days' racing, whereas, in the same area there are twenty-three greyhound tracks, with over 4,000 days' racing each year. In i he City of Glasgow, there are no horse racecourses; but there are five greyhound tracks, with about 1,400 days' racing. Greyhound racing has brought on-the-course betting facilities, often as an almost nightly event, into most of the large urban districts in this country. We are satisfied that this provision of facilities for continuous betting on greyhound racing tracks is having undesirable social effects. The Royal Commission called particular attention to the evidence which they received as to the general deterioration of character among young persons in poor neighbourhoods, resulting from nightly betting on a succession of greyhound races which drove from their minds every other interest.
The Bill embodies the principles recommended by the Royal Commission: first, that there should be a statutory limitation of the number of days in any calendar year on which betting facilities may be provided at any course; and secondly, that, in order to avoid the provision of continuous gambling facilities, the days on which betting facilities may be provided should be the same in any given area. Clause 1 of the Bill, accordingly, provides, that betting by way of bookmaking, or by means of the totalisator, shall not take place on any track, on which races of any description, athletic sports or other sporting events take place, 771 on more than 104 days in any calendar year; and not on any Good Friday, Christmas Day or Sunday. Clause 9 provides that the licensing authority (the county council or the county borough council, as the case may be) shall fix each year the 104 days on which betting facilities may be provided on licensed tracks in their area, and that these days shall be the same for the whole of their licensing area.
My Lords, I think I should draw your particular attention to the fact that the restriction to 104 days only relates to the days upon which betting facilities may be offered to the public. Let me repeat, the 104 days in this Bill refer to betting days only. Greyhound racing unaccompanied by organised betting can proceed without let or hindrance on every other day of the year. The proposals that there should be a yearly maximum of 104 betting days, and that the betting days in any area should be the same for all tracks in that area, have been made the subject of strongly adverse criticism by the greyhound racing interests. But if each track were allowed to choose for itself the 104 days proposed by the Government on which betting could take place, to say nothing of the 208, and I believe 234 days proposed by the greyhound racing interests, the effect would be that there would be practically no limitation of betting days in any area in which there were two or more tracks. It is admitted, in all quarters, and even by the greyhound racing interests themselves, that there should be some limitation on the number of betting days, and a scheme of limitation is quite inconsistent with any proposal that each track should choose for itself the days on which betting should take place.
It is being said that it will not be practicable, from a commercial point of view, to operate dog tracks on 104 days a year. The Government do not consider it to be their duty so to frame their proposals as to ensure that every dog track in the country can be operated to the financial profit of its owners. The primary function of the Government, and of Parliament, is to impose such restrictions on this gambling facility as the interests of the country require. We are not animated by any desire to suppress dog racing in itself. Had we wished to do so, we would have proposed its abolition, directly and 772 openly. A good deal of the criticism of the proposals of the Bill is based on the misrepresentation that betting on greyhound racing will be allowed to take place on only two nights a week. It is true that the Royal Commission recommended that the licensing authority should fix two weekdays on which betting facilities may be provided in their area; but the Government realise Chat to limit the days on which betting could take place to two weekdays might involve some hardsLips on greyhound tracks, and that, in some areas, at any rate, it might be desired to concentrate the maximum number of betting days over a racing season. We have, therefore, decided that licensing authorities should be given complete liscretion as to the distribution of betting days throughout the year, and that no attempt should be made to fetter their discretion. We have taken it for granted that the licensing authorities will discharge their functions in a proper spirit, and will pay due regard to the needs of the different interests, and to the wishes of their constituents; and we have no doubt that in fixing the 104 days the licensing authorities will give due weight to representations made to them by the different sports Which will be affected by their decision.
The Bill proposes in Clause 2 and Clauses 4, 5 and 6 that, excepting in the cases of horse racecourses approved by the Racecourse Betting Control Board, and courses used on not more than eight days in the year, the occupier of any track, who wishes betting facilities to be allowed there, should be required to obtain a licence from the county council or the county borough council, as the case may be. We accept the view of the Royal Commission, that the determination of the conditions under which on-the-course betting is carried on is a matter for Parliament, while the application of general principles to local circumstances should be determined by the appropriate local authority. The issues involved in the provision of gambling facilities arc essentially national, not local, in character, but the general principles having once been settled by Parliament, it seems to the Government that the application of these principles to the particular circumstances of the different localities is a matter which it is appropriate 773 should be left to local bodies with knowledge and experience of local conditions.
The greyhound racing interests are opposed to any form of local control, and have urged that a statutory body should he set up. As we understand the proposal, this statutory body would control not only the betting facilities but also the conduct of the sport itself. We have not seen our way to accept the principle of setting up a statutory body of this nature. In the first place the analogy of the Racecourse Betting Control Board is not sound. The Racecourse Betting Control Board was set up by Parliament in 1928, because Parliament took the view that horse breeding and horse racing were of sufficient national importance to justify the setting up of special machinery for the purpose of controlling the operation of the totalisator. The Board has no concern whatever with the conduct of horse racing, and there is no precedent for the setting up of a statutory body to control the sport. In the second place, in this Bill Parliament is dealing not only with betting on greyhound racing tracks but with betting on all forms of sporting events, and, even if the principle of setting up another statutory board were accepted, it would be impossible and quite impracticable to set up a board suitable for controlling betting on all forms of sporting events. Both on grounds of principle, therefore, and on grounds of the practical difficulty of devising suitable machinery, the Government are definitely opposed to the proposal that there should be a statutory board.
This principle of local control is recognised in the existing law, though not with explicit reference to betting. Thus, the Racecourse Licensing Act, 1879, to which I have already referred, provides that no horse races may be promoted within ten miles of Charing Cross unless a licence, which remains in force for one year, has been obtained from Quarter Sessions. Again, in certain circumstances, a local authority may be able to exercise control, under the Town and Country Planning Act, 1932, over the erection of a course. Further, since the development of greyhound racing, there has been a persistent demand that local authorities should have some measure of control over the erection of dog tracks. 774 In 1928 a Second Reading was given in another place to a measure which required the promoters of any greyhound racing track to obtain a licence from the local authority. The Bill, however, after obtaining a Second Reading, made no further progress. In 1932 another Bill with the same object was read a second time and passed through Committee stage, but made no further progress. Local control, I feel your Lordships will agree, is clearly required to prevent betting facilities from being provided in places where those facilities are clearly undesirable; and noble Lords will agree, also, I think, that some steps should be taken to prevent the use of a track for betting where, in the opinion of those best qualified to judge, the effect would be to ruin the amenities of the district, or to cause serious detriment to the health or comfort of residents in the district. That is where we feel that the local authority has of necessity to come in and adjudicate.
The Government, however, as I have already said, recognise that the general question of the extent to which betting should be allowed must be settled by Parliament, and the sole concern of the local authorities should be to apply that general principle to the circumstances of its area. We have accordingly done our best to remove the moral issue as to the rights and wrongs of betting from the arena of local politics. It is accordingly provided in Clause 6 of the Bill that the licensing authority cannot refuse to grant a licence to a track, authorising the provision of betting facilities, unless it is satisfied on one or other of certain specific grounds of refusal. A licence is to remain in force for seven years—that comes in Clause 8—but can be revoked if the track has been conducted in a disorderly manner or for certain gross forms of mismanagement specified in Clause 15.
As regards existing tracks, we have decided that in view of the outlay involved in the erection of a track it would be unreasonable to expose existing tracks to the risk of being closed down through the immediate application to them of the licensing provisions contained in Clause 6. Clause 7 of the Bill, accordingly, proposes, in the case of existing tracks, that there should be a moratorium from the requirement to obtain an ordinary licence. An existing track will be eligible for a special licence, which 775 will remain in force for five years from the coming into force of the Act, on proof, to the satisfaction of the licensing authority, that betting facilities were provided on that track on more than eight days during the calendar year 1933. This special licence for existing tracks will, however, only authorise the provision of betting facilities in respect of the same kind of sporting events as those for which the track was being used in 1933. The principle that there should be a moratorium for existing tracks has already met with some measure of approval from Parliament. When the Dog Racing (Local Option) Bill, 1933, which proposed a measure of local control over the erection of greyhound tracks, was before a Standing Committee in another place last Session, the Committee agreed that existing tracks should be exempted for five years from the requirement to secure a licence.
The effect of the provisions of the Bill is that betting facilities at a licensed track may be provided by bookmakers, and, in the case of a greyhound racing track licensed under the Bill, a totalisator may also be operated, subject to a system of controls. The Royal Commission pointed out that if managers of a track have a strong financial interest in betting on the track, there is a tendency for tracks which are little better than casinos to be multiplied. The Bill, accordingly, contains a series of provisions, which are intended to limit closely the profits which may be derived from betting by the management of a track, either by exploiting the bookmaker or the use of the totalisator. Thus the charges which may be made to bookmakers and their assistants by the management of the track are limited, by Clause 12, to a sum not exceeding, in the case of a bookmaker, five times the amount, or in the case of an assistant, the amount, of the highest charge to members of the public. The management of a track may not engage directly or indirectly in bookmaking. That is in Clause 13. The revenue which the operators of a totalisator on a dog racecourse may derive from a totalisator is limited by a provision in paragraph 2 of the First Schedule that not more than 3 per cent. may be deducted from the pools.
For reasons elaborated in their Interim Report the Royal Commission recommended 776 that the use of the totalisator, elsewhere than on approved horse racecourses, should be prohibited. The Commission called attention to the spread of organised facilities for betting and gambling, and to the exploitation of the gambling propensity of the population by persons for their own financial gain. From this point of view they regarded the use of the totalisator on tracks as a grave danger, especially in view of the attractiveness to many people of totalisator betting. On the other hand, the Government have been impressed by the force of the contention that if betting at greyhound tracks is to be allowed, the backer should not be deprived of the fairer method of betting provided by the totalisator. In the view of the Government, the undesirable development with which the totalisator at greyhound tracks has in the past been associated, the multiplication of tracks and meetings with their opportunities for continuous betting, can be checked by the general restrictions which they propose for the control of on-the-course betting and also by careful regulation of the conditions under which the use of the totalisator on greyhound tracks is allowed. These, in their opinion, will provide the necessary safeguards, while at the same time the necessity for setting up elaborate machinery of State control will be avoided.
The Bill, in Clause 10, proposes that the use of the totalisator at dog racecourses, which are tracks licensed by the local authority, should be legalised, subject to conditions designed to secure, first, that the element of private profit should be limited as far as possible; and secondly, that any element of State responsibility for the working of any of the totalisators should be avoided. The operation of the totalisator is made subject to supervision by a duly qualified accountant, assisted by an experienced mechanician who shall act as his technical adviser. Perhaps the most important feature of the scheme—and it is certainly the feature to which most attention has been directed—is that the operators of a totalisator shall be allowed to retain not more than 3 per cent. of the amounts staked with the totalisator. As is pointed out by the Royal Commission, the real mischief of the totalisator, apart from the possibility of fraud, lies in the fact that, 777 if no limitation is imposed on the amount of profit obtainable from its operation, further encouragement is given to its exploitation, and so the way is laid open to an enormous increase in the opportunities for organised betting, such as the multiplication of tracks and the encouragement of attendance by the lowering, or actual abolition, of charges for admission.
It is universally agreed that there should be some limit on the amount of profit which should be derived from the operation of the totalisator on greyhound racing tracks. As recently as the 9th April, the Secretary of the National Greyhound Racing Society of Great Britain wrote a letter to The Times, in which he stated:My society has repeatedly made it clear that it is prepared to forego the totalisator as a source of profit.After considering all the possible alternatives, the Government have decided to propose a more or less arbitrary uniform percentage deduction not specifically related to an assumed right of the operator to recover certain charges. The main advantage of such a scheme is that it dispenses with the necessity for elaborate machinery for auditing the operating expenditure, for the purpose of determining the percentage which should be deducted, and avoids the risk of perpetual conflict with the operators, which is one of the chief defects of any scheme specifically based on the repayment of recoverable charges.
We do not feel ourselves called on to guarantee to the operators of a totalisator a sum which they will in all circumstances regard as adequate. The totalisator, which is now illegal, will be an added facility on a dog racecourse, and, if the authorised deduction from pools does not recoup the operators for their charges, it does not appear unreasonable that they should be expected to recover any deficit by raising the admission charges to the public. I need not assure your Lordships that the object of limiting the deduction is not, by devious methods, to make it impossible to operate a totalisator on greyhound tracks, and we shall carefully consider any representations on this subject made in the course of the debate which do not run counter to the main object underlying the Government's proposal—namely, that 778 there should be a strict limitation on the amount of the profit to be derived from the operation of the totalisator on greyhound tracks.
The effect of Clause 3 is to prohibit all betting by means of the totalisator and generally all betting on the parimutuel principle (whether or not a machine is used and whether on or off the course) except in the case of totalisators operated on horse racecourses in pursuance of the Racecourse Betting Act, 1928, or on licensed greyhound tracks in pursuance of Clause 10 of this Bill. In framing the Bill the Government thought it was desirable to take the opportunity of dealing comprehensively with all forms of betting on the totalisator or parimutuel principle both on and off the course. Betting on this principle, as the Royal Commission pointed out both in their Interim and Final Reports, offers enormous scope for fraudulent practices of a kind very difficult to detect. The Government took the view that if the Bill were to deal comprehensively with parimutuel betting both on and off the course, the underlying principle should be that such betting should only be allowed under some system of supervision and control. So far as parimutuel betting on the course is concerned, a system of control on the operation of totalisators on horse racecourses has been set up under the Racecourse Betting Act, 1928, and the Bill proposes in the First Schedule a system of supervision over the operation of the totalisator on greyhound tracks. As regards parimutuel betting off the course, there is no reason in the public interest why elaborate machinery should be set up to supervise and control betting on this principle, and in order to eliminate the possibilities of fraudulent practices and with a view to stopping any gaps in the law through which new forms of the so-called "tote" clubs might reappear, the Government proposed that all betting on the parimutuel principle other than betting by means of a totalisator subject to a system of supervision should be prohibited.
Since the introduction of this Bill the Government have had an opportunity of giving further consideration to this question. This is the only feature of the Bill which proposes a change in the law relating to betting off the course. There are many even more important aspects of off- 779 the-course betting which are not dealt with in the Bill, and I need only refer to the question of street betting which dominates the whole problem of off-the-course betting. There are certain disadvantages in attempting to deal piece-meal with the complicated and inter-related aspects of off-the-course betting. Whatever advantages there may be in dealing comprehensively with betting on the parimutuel principle, there are considerable disadvantages in isolating and singling out for special restriction only one method of off-the-course betting. After carefully weighing the advantages and disadvantages of both courses of action, the Government think that on the whole it would be preferable to take parimutuel betting off the course out of the Bill altogether. We accordingly propose to move Amendments in the Committee stage for the purpose of allowing the continuance of office parimutuel betting in the forms in which it is at present lawfully conducted in connection with such sports as horse racing and football matches. The Government realise that this decision may leave a loophole for undesirable and possibly fraudulent practices and, if abuses on a large scale involving serious social consequences were to arise as a result of this concession, the Government must reserve to themselves the right to propose such amendments of the law as experience may show to be necessary.
Clause 17 makes it clear that the Racecourse Betting Control Board are empowered to pay commissions to bodies, such as Tote Investors, Limited, which collect bets and transmit them to the Board's totalisators on the racecourse. In the recent case of the Attorney-General versus the Racecourse Betting Control Board, the High Court decided that the payment of such commission by the Board was lawful under the existing law. The provision in the Bill is merely declaratory of the law as laid down in that judgment. In this matter the Government have departed from the Report of the Royal Commission, who recommended that the Board should not be allowed to set up an organisation of its own to collect offthe-course bets, or to pay commission in respect of bets brought to the totalisator by outside organisations. The main object of Parliamentary sanction to the establishment of totalisators on horse racecourses, as your Lordships will recollect, 780 was the diversion of some portion of betting profits on horse races to improving the breed of horses and assisting the sport of horse racing. If the source of revenue at present available to the Board through the operations of Tote Investors, Limited, were cut off, there would be little prospect of any money ever being available for the purposes specified in the Racecourse Betting Act, 1928. The Board claims that the result of five years' experience shows very conclusively that the business which it has built up consists almost entirely of betting which was previously done with bookmakers. The Government are satisfied that no case has been made out, on social grounds, for preventing the Board from paying commissions to outside agencies which collect bets and transmit them to the Board's totalisators.
Clause 14 of the Bill prohibits betting on a track with a young person under the age of seventeen years. There was a general consensus of opinion among the witnesses before the Royal Commission as to the undesirability of allowing young persons to be drawn into gambling; and the age of seventeen years has been selected in recent legislation as the most appropriate one for the differentiation between adults and young persons.
With regard to Part II of the Bill, relating to lotteries and prize competitions, under the existing law all lotteries are unlawful unless expressly authorised by Act of Parliament. The law makes no differentiation between large and small lotteries, or between public and private lotteries; and it is immaterial whether a lottery be for charity or for private gain. If the law were strictly enforced at the present moment effective steps could be taken to suppress, at any rate, those lotteries which were promoted in this country. But the law has long been recognised to be too drastic in its provisions so far as concerns certain innocuous forms of lottery; and an administrative practice has grown up in England and Wales, and has been in force for many years, under which the Police do not set in motion the criminal law against private lotteries which are confined to members of a genuine club or society, or against such small public lotteries as raffles at bazaars and the like.
781 As the Royal Commission point out, a new situation has arisen from the sale in this country of tickets in lotteries promoted abroad, notably the Irish Hospitals Trust sweepstakes. Ever since the introduction of the Irish sweepstakes, there has been an agitation in this country for the legalisation of large lotteries for charitable and other objects, but, so far, Parliament has definitely set its face against any relaxation of the existing law, and has maintained the prohibition of all forms of lotteries, whether promoted for charitable or other objects. In 1918, long before the Irish Sweepstakes, a Second Reading was refused in another place to a Bill (the Lotteries (War Charities) Bill), which had passed through your Lordships' house, and the object of which was to allow the governing body of a registered War charity, with the consent of the Police, to raise money by lotteries. The question of lotteries came up for discussion again in May, 1931, when leave to bring in a Bill to authorise the raising of money by means of lotteries for the support of hospitals was refused in another place. In 1932 a Bill making it lawful for the governing body or trustees of any charity, within the meaning of the Charitable Trusts Acts, to hold a lottery, with the approval of the Secretary of State, to raise money for charitable, philanthropic, scientific or artistic purposes, or for carrying out any public improvement or other public object, obtained a First Reading in another place but made no further progress.
The Royal Commission, in Chapter IX of their Final Report, discuss in great detail the arguments for and against the promotion of large-scale lotteries in this country. In paragraph 484 of their Report they say that, at the outset of their inquiry, they approached the subject of lotteries from the point of view that present circumstances seemed to call for a considerable relaxation of the existing prohibition of large-scale lotteries in this country, but that, after close consideration of the subject, they reached the conclusion that a relaxation of the existing prohibition of large lotteries is undesirable and is not called for. The Government have also given independent consideration to the question of the legalisation of large lotteries in this country. In addition to the considerations advanced by the Royal Commission, 782 we have studied the views expressed in the debate in your Lordships' House so recently as November 30 last. We are in agreement with the conclusion of the Royal Commission, that large-scale lotteries, whether promoted by the State for the direct benefit of the Exchequer or by a statutory Board for charitable objects, or by individual charities under a system of permits, are socially undesirable.
History shows that State lotteries take their place among the expedients which are resorted to by Governments when other and more reputable methods of finance have failed. In this country lotteries were abandoned when more assured sources of income became available to the State. As regards lotteries for charitable purposes, it may be questioned, as the Royal Commission point out, whether in the long run voluntary hospitals in this country would benefit by participation in the proceeds of lotteries, and speaking for myself, as president of two hospitals, I am quite convinced that the adoption of the system of public lotteries for the support of our hospitals would be disastrous. The total receipts of 1,014 British hospitals for the year 1930 were over £15,500,000. It is clear, therefore, that unless the total subscriptions to lotteries amounted to a very large figure the proceeds would not be a very material factor in hospital finance. But, quite apart from the purely financial consideration, I am of the opinion that it would be calamitous to this country if, by encouraging hospitals to derive their finances from the proceeds of lotteries, hospitals were to lose that element of personal service and personal interest which the present voluntary system achieves.
If the promotion of large lotteries in this country is to be prohibited, the prohibition of the sale of foreign lottery tickets is a necessary corollary. The law against lotteries is over one hundred years old. In form it is largely archaic, and experience has shown that one of its greatest defects is that it does nothing to stop one essential factor in the success of the Irish sweepstakes—namely, Press publicity. The Government are in general agreement with the measures proposed by the Royal Commission. Clause 19 of the Bill accordingly maintains arid re-enacts the general prohibition of lotteries, other than certain small 783 schemes which are dealt with later in the Bill. The majority of the acts specified in Clause 20 also are already illegal under the existing law. It will continue to be an offence to print, publish, or sell, or distribute, or advertise for sale, any tickets or chances in a lottery. But this clause contains important new provisions, strengthening the law for the purpose of dealing more effectively with foreign sweepstakes.
It prohibits absolutely the publication of matter descriptive of the drawing, or intended drawing, of any lottery, or any list (whether complete or not) of prizewinners or winning tickets in the lottery. It prohibits the publication of any other matter relating to any lottery which is calculated to act as an inducement to persons to participate in that lottery or in other lotteries. It makes it an offence to bring into, or to invite any person to send into, this country any tickets or advertisements of a lottery, for the purpose of sale or distribution. It prohibits the sending abroad, by agents in this country, of counterfoils or money derived from the sale in this country of foreign lottery tickets. These new provisions should go far to discourage people in this country from participating in foreign lotteries. One of the most effective measures should be the prohibition of newspaper publicity, and the proposal embodied in the Bill has been welcomed by nearly every section of the Press itself.
The Bill does not seek to make it an offence for an individual to purchase a ticket in a lottery. This is in accordance with the general principle, which we have adopted, that the law is aimed at the exploitation of the gambling propensity of the public, and does not seek to punish the individual citizen who makes use of facilities for gambling provided by others. While we take the view that large lotteries are not desirable, and should not be legalised, we recognise that the existing law, which declares illegal all lotteries down to the very smallest, carries the prohibition too far. The Royal Commission considered that very small lotteries for small prizes do no social harm, and that, provided that the danger of fraud and nuisance could be prevented, there is a good cause for removing them from the ambit of the criminal law.
784 We have examined with care the terms of the exemptions which should be framed in favour of these small lotteries. In the provisions set out in Clauses 21 and 22, we have attempted to steer a middle course between the danger, on the one hand, that if the exemptions are framed too loosely large schemes will be promoted under cover of the exemptions, and the danger, on the other hand, that if the exemptions are defined too closely the restrictions will be regarded as pettifogging and unnecessarily restrictive. Thus, in the case of a private lottery organised by a club or society, the promoter can only pay prize money to a member of the club or society, and if a friend of that member holds the prizewinning ticket he must look to his friend, from whom he has purchased the ticket, to hand on the prize. Only in this way can the reasonable limitation of the scale of lotteries of this kind be assured —they are matters between friends. I would remind those who are disposed to criticise these restrictions, that at present even small schemes of this character are quite illegal, and that those who participate in them are securing, under the Bill, the substantial advantage of their legalisation. Further, while we attempt to reduce to a minimum the restrictions on the promotion of exempted schemes, we must have regard to the possibility that, without adequate safeguards, we might bring about the legalisation of schemes on a large scale after we have expressly decided not to allow large lotteries.
Clause 24 of the Bill prohibits certain types of prize competitions of mixed chance and skill promoted by newspapers or trading firms. The first newspaper competition on a large scale was promoted in 1892; but by 1908 they had so developed in number, size and character as to afford one of the main reasons for the appointment in that year of the Joint Select Committee on the Lottery Laws. The Joint Select Committee took the view that the element of chance very largely predominated in many newspaper competitions, and that there was little distinction between them and lotteries, though they were so framed as not to come within the legal prohibition of lotteries. They recommended that it should be made illegal to charge any form of entrance fee, including the purchase 785 and return of coupons, for prize competitions in newspapers and periodicals. Bills were introduced in successive Sessions of Parliament to give effect to this recommendation; but the outbreak of war in 1914 put an end to the consideration of the matter by Parliament.
The Royal Commission found that there had been a marked increase in recent years both in the scale of competitions and in the prizes offered. They considered that these competitions, as they grow in size, tend to become almost indistinguishable from large lotteries, and present many of the undesirable features of public lotteries. The Commission drew particular attention to the fact that newspaper competitions secure the widest publicity, because they form an integral part of the newspapers' scheme of advertising, and afford a channel through which persons who would not otherwise be interested in gambling are led into the gambling habit. The Government agree with the Commission's recommendation that Parliament should impose certain restrictions on newspaper competitions and on the similar competitions sometimes promoted by trading firms.
In the first place, it is proposed that competitions for the forecasting of events should be unlawful. In the past such competitions have taken the form of forecasting the results of sporting events; but convictions have recently been obtained under the Betting Act, 1853, in respect of certain types of competitions on sporting events. This prohibition is, accordingly, for the most part, merely declaratory of the existing position, and is not likely to disturb competitions of the types at present being promoted, which are, generally speaking, not forecasting competitions. The second prohibition in the Bill is more important. It is proposed to make it unlawful for any newspaper or trading firm to promote any competition success in which does not depend to a substantial degree upon the exercise of skill. The Royal Commission proposed an absolute prohibition of competitions for the forecasting of the results of sporting events, and, in respect of other competitions, a limit on the amount of any single prize, and other restrictions.
But we have found it impracticable to frame a provision imposing restrictions 786 on the lines proposed by the Royal Commission. A scheme on such lines might interfere with competitions which are not open to exception. We have accordingly framed the provision in the Bill directly in terms of the element of skill in the competition. A competition which does not contain a substantial element of skill will be prohibited as depending largely on chance and so approximating in character to a large-scale public lottery. But a wide field will remain for the promotion by newspapers of competitions providing entertainment for their readers.
Part III of the Bill contains the application of the Bill to Scotland and certain general provisions dealing with offences. The only provision to which I desire to call your Lordships' particular attention is that, in Clause 28, which provides that a Court before which a person is convicted of an offence against the law relating to lotteries shall confiscate any money in the hands of the Police which is shown, to the satisfaction of the Court, to represent subscriptions to an unlawful lottery. A provision on these lines is necessary, for the purpose of disposing of material seized by the Police in executing a search warrant issued in pursuance of Clause 25 of the Bill. Unless there were a power to confiscate such material it would be necessary for the Police either to deliver it to the promoter or to endeavour to return the money in their possession to each individual subscriber. When a lottery promoter has been convicted of an offence and the lottery has been declared unlawful, that lottery is stopped. It is clearly undesirable that the proceeds of the lottery should be restored to the promoter, who would thus reap considerable financial benefit from his defiance of the law. On the other hand there are obviously the strongest objections to throwing on the Police the responsibility for returning money seized to individual subscribers. The power to confiscate is limited to those cases where the money is brought before the Court in connection with the commission of some offence.
These, my Lords, are the main provisions of this Bill which I have the honour to recommend to your Lordships for Second Reading this evening. I have endeavoured to make it abundantly clear that we are maintaining a middle course between those who are opposed to gambling in all its forms and those who 787 would like to see all prohibitions and restrictions removed. We hope that the critics of the Bill will examine it, and pass favourable judgment upon it, as a whole. In the case of a complicated and detailed measure of this sort, which affects social habits at a variety of points, there is obviously scope for a variety of opinion. We do not claim that the Bill in its present shape contains the last word which can be said on this subject, or that the Bill is not susceptible of improvement. Parliament will no doubt be able to offer many suggestions for carrying out more effectively the general principles on which the Bill is based and which we believe command widespread support in this country. We shall welcome all suggestions which are put forward in a helpful spirit.
In legislation of this kind the aim of the Government and of Parliament is to find some solution of a social problem which will commend itself to the great mass of public opinion. Social legislation which does not receive general public support cannot, in the long run, be in the real interests of the community. On the contrary, it is a potential source of public mischief if, being out of touch with public opinion, it tends to bring the law into contempt. In the time at our disposal, and on the information in our possession, we have done our utmost to interpret public opinion and to find a practical solution of an admittedly difficult problem.
If the charge is raised against us that we are tampering with the liberties of the people, let me remind your Lordships (if, indeed, that be necessary, for your Lordships are as effective champions of public liberty as any to be found elsewhere) that liberty is not licence, but only so much freedom of action as is exercisable by the individual without curtailing the just liberties of his fellow countrymen. Every Bill, particularly every Bill which deals with social questions, that finds its way through Parliament to the Statute Book, is in one sense a curtailment of the liberty of the subject, and it is manifest that to raise this cry on the measure we are at present considering is simply an attempt to cloud the issue and to avoid the proper examination of our proposals by an appeal to popular sentiment. On this question of individual liberty, I need only point out to your Lordships that two of the most important provisions of the Bill— 788 namely, the proposal to regularise the use of the totalisator on greyhound racecourses, and the proposal to legalise certain innocuous forms of small public and private lotteries—constitute a legalisation of existing restrictions. In so far, therefore, as they legalise practices at present prohibited by law the freedom of the individual will have been enlarged. I beg to move.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(The Marquess of Londonderry.)
§ VISCOUNT BERTIE OF THAME
My Lords, in rising to move the rejection of this Bill I feel that I owe your Lordships an apology for not having given Notice of the Motion; but from a private conversation which I recently had with a noble Lord I understood that at least two or three Motions for rejection would be put upon the Paper. It would appear, however, that others have feared to tread where I may be thought to have rushed in. I do not pretend to think that this Bill is totally bad, but it is only piece-meal legislation and does not attempt to deal with the gambling laws on a rational basis. Perhaps that is due to lack of time, but where is the hurry, and, far more, where is the mandate for this Bill? There is none. People have asked me who is really behind this Bill, and, having listened to the noble Marquess, I shall have to say in future, as I have said in the past, I do not know. What I do know is that this Bill, generally speaking, is unpopular in the Press, in the country and amongst members of another place. The noble Marquess may say that if the Bill is unpopular in another place let another place throw it out. But he, who has had the privilege, as I have not, of having sat in that House, knows better than I know that members of that House are constantly quaking between the Scylla of the Whips and the Charybdis of the electorate. We are fortunately in a better position, and are unfettered.
In the country the Bill is regarded as class legislation, and, on the whole, I agree that it is, because it interferes with the poor man's amusement and does not affect the rich man. The noble Earl, Lord Kinnoull, whom I am sorry not to see in his place, put down a Motion for its rejection, and no doubt he had class legislation in his mind when he put down that Motion; but I am not surprised that he withdrew it, as no Bill, to my mind, is 789 calculated to make a Government more unpopular than this Bill; and, of course, if this Government becomes unpopular in the country that suits the book of the Socialist Party. My reason for moving the rejection of this Bill is to try to save the Government in spite of itself; for, if it is passed, if I may say so without offence, at the next General Election we may find ourselves hurled out of the National Government frying-pan into the Socialist fire. I beg to move.
Leave out ("now") and at the end of the Motion insert ("this day six months").—(Viscount Bertie of Thame.)
§ LORD SANDERSON
My Lords, ever since this Bill was introduced I have constantly been told that human nature being what it is you cannot abolish betting. Now I have heard it from the noble Marquess. The noble Marquess will forgive me, I hope, if I say that I do not agree with that human-nature being-what-it-is argument. It always seems to me that those who use that argument—I am sure the noble Marquess is not one of them—suggest that human nature is something nasty and bad which cannot be improved. I am sure the noble Marquess does not take that view himself, but many people appear to suggest that, whereas it never seems to occur to them that there is much that is good in human nature that is capable of development, especially in a decent environment.
It is true that you cannot abolish or stop betting under the present system, which on its economic side is based mainly on a scramble for wealth among all classes, but in a society where you have got rid of the glaring inequalities of wealth which you now have, where each member of society knew he was getting his fair share of the national income, there would, I am certain, be less desire for betting and less need for it. Also in a society where you had a higher social sense developed it would be realised that betting was anti-social, that it was antisocial to take each other's money and give nothing in exchange for it. Again, in a society where everyone had his fair share of work to do and where everyone had reasonable leisure and a reasonable opportunity of enjoying leisure, there would, I think, be less desire for betting. I do not say betting would disappear altogether. I think there would 790 still be bets between individuals which perhaps would not do much harm. I suppose it would not do a great deal of harm if in such a society I were to bet the noble Marquess half-a-crown or five shillings that he could not fly round the world in a week, but I think, although there would be individual bets of that kind perhaps, there would not be organised and systematic betting as now. That would probably almost disappear, and betting would be reduced to a minimum.
What are the causes of betting? I think that amongst the working people there is the desire to increase inadequate incomes, but I think betting amongst them is largely due to the long hours of monotonous work in which they are engaged, and to their lack of adequate leisure and of reasonable opportunity to enjoy it. Betting provides the excitement which is the antidote to the dullness of their lives. Amongst the richer section of the population I think betting is very largely due to the fact of their not having sufficient work to do. They have a great deal too much leisure and few rational interests, and betting is a means of providing the excitement that they need in order to fill up their leisure. I know that between the lower scale and the upper scale there are numbers of people who bet simply for fun and simply because they have got into the habit of betting, or because they think it is a sporting thing to do.
I am not speaking without authority on this subject. The Prime Minister some years ago wrote a pamphlet which was published by the Anti-Gambling League. In the course of that pamphlet —I have it here—Mr. MacDonald says he thinks that gambling both amongst the working classes and amongst the rich is mainly due to ennui. Writing in regard to the rich, he says that the habit of gambling in their case is due to their not being able to fill up their time otherwise. It is due to ennui, and he adds that the problem which presents itself with regard to them is how to compel them to find occupations of social value. He also says that betting among the working people is largely due to ennui. He thinks it is also due to their tendency to imitate the habits of the rich, and he says that gambling is a desire which spreads downwards to the industrious poor from the idle rich. I do not know whether Mr. 791 MacDonald holds those views now. He has changed his views on a great many subjects, which of course he has a perfect right to do, but that is what he said about gambling and the causes of gambling a few years ago.
We cannot change the social system immediately, and we have got to deal with things as they are. As the noble Marquess has said, you cannot abolish gambling under the present system and you cannot have perfect freedom with regard to gambling. Therefore, as the noble Marquess has pointed out, any legislation must be in the nature of a compromise. I very much sympathise with the Government in their task of producing a compromise which will be generally satisfactory, but I must say, although the Bill contains a good many points I would like to see carried through, I do not think the Bill is a good one. I do not think it is a very good compromise. The Government have recognised that betting is attended with serious social consequences, and one would have thought they would therefore have gone a good deal further in trying to remove the inducements to betting, but the Bill has not done that. The Bill has actually introduced at least one inducement to betting, and it has not removed many inducements which I think could have been removed.
I now come to the greyhound racing. I welcome the statutory fixing of 104 days for greyhound racing. I think that is a liberal allowance, especially when it is remembered that the Bill does not make it clear that there cannot be more than one meeting on one day. As the Bill stands, there can be two meetings on each of the 104 days, making 208 meetings in all. I should like to see the Bill amended in that respect and have it made clear that 104 days means 104 meetings. With regard to the introduction of the "tote"—I suppose I ought to say totalisator, but perhaps I may, without disrespect to your Lordships, use the word "tote" because it is more usual and it saves four syllables—I am sorry the Government are proposing to legalise it on greyhound race tracks. I am not, I am sorry to say, convinced by the argument that the noble Marquess put before us for so doing. I am surprised at the Government taking this course after the Report of the Royal Commission, which spoke in the strongest terms against the 792 "tote" on greyhound courses. They actually felt so strongly about it, as your Lordships know, that they brought out an Interim Report especially on this aspect of greyhound racing. To go back further, I may remind your Lordships that a Committee of this House, which sat on this question, decided against the "tote" in any form and in connection with any sport at all.
It may be argued, if you have the "tote" on horse racecourses why not on greyhound racecourses? The answer to that is, I think, that on the horse racecourses a percentage of the profits goes to legitimate purposes whereas in the case of the "tote" on the greyhound racecourse the profits go into private hands. There is no doubt that the "tote" is an enormous incentive to gambling. People seem to prefer it to bookmakers because they are less exposed to fraud. That may be a reason for having the "tote," but against that I think it must be said that the "tote" promotes a vast increase of gambling. There is no doubt that gambling on greyhound courses enormously increased during the years when the "tote" was working on the courses, and I am told the amount of gambling has decreased since the "tote" was declared illegal. That, I think, is the main reason for distinguishing between the two things. The "tote" is, after all, merely a gambling machine, and I do not think the Government ought to lend a hand in promoting machinery which is used for profit-making by exploiting the gambling propensities of the people. It may be said that the three per cent. is a small amount of profit. But still it is a profit, and a profit made out of gambling of a kind which I think the State ought not to sanction.
It was impossible, of course, for the Government to restrict greyhound racing altogether without placing very stringent restrictions on horse racing and without incurring the charge of class legislation. I do not think that there is much class legislation in restricting the amount of greyhound racing to the 104 days. I understand that on all the horse racecourses there are fewer than 700 racing days in the year and even under this Bill, with the two days a week, there will he more than 20,000 racing days on the greyhound courses during a year—700 days for horse racing against 20,000 for greyhound racing! I am the last person 793 in the world who would wish to restrict the pleasures of the working people or deprive them of enjoyment, but it may be said that there are people now who can go to a horse race meeting somewhere almost every day of the year if they want to, and it may be argued that it is rather hard that a working man should not be able to go to a greyhound race more than twice a week. My answer to that is that it is a bad thing and a foolish thing for people to go to a race meeting every day of the year even if they can afford to do so. The fact that you cannot stop that is not a reason for encouraging working people to go to a greyhound race meeting every day in the year.
I do not think there is much in the class-legislation argument. Besides, as the Bill stands, it will be possible for people to go to greyhound racing more than twice a week in many cases if the two days a week fixed are not the same in different areas. Take the towns in the North of England. Take Leeds and Bradford. If Leeds and Bradford do not fix the same two days of the week it will be quite possible for Bradford people to go to Leeds as well as to their own greyhound racecourse, and quite possible for Leeds people to go to Bradford and so to have at least four days a week of greyhound racing, the two towns being only about nine miles apart. That would be so in many parts of the North of England, where thickly populated towns are adjacent. I do not think in those circumstances the greyhound enthusiast would have much to complain of with regard to the amount of greyhound racing that he would be able to attend. I hope very much that the Government will reconsider the question of legalising the "tote" for greyhound races.
I welcome Clause 14, which makes illegal betting with young persons under seventeen, but why could that not be extended to bookmakers' employees and why should the age not be eighteen? I also welcome the second Part of the Bill dealing with the sale of lottery tickets and sweepstake tickets. I congratulate the Government on that Part of the Bill and also on resisting the demands which have come from a good many sides for State and other forms of lottery. With regard to newspaper competitions I am glad that the mere guessing competitions—competitions in which people simply 794 have to forecast coming events—are to be made illegal, but I am not so well satisfied with the provisions regarding newspaper competitions generally. Competitions where a substantial degree of skill can be shown are to be legal. if imagine that the phrase "substantial degree of skill" may give a good deal of work to the lawyers. Possibly one of the noble and learned Lords in the House may be able to tell us exactly what is meant by "substantial degree of skill" but I think it will be very difficult to define. I suggest, for the consideration of the noble Marquess, that possibly a better plan would be to make illegal entrance fees for these competitions and to do away with the question of skill or no skill. If you did that you would deprive newspapers of the large sums of money out of which they pay the prizes, and I think that would be an advantage. It would not stop competitions. Newspapers could still have competitions with a view to increasing the sales of their papers, but as the prizes would not be provided out of the entrance fees of the people taking part in the competitions there would not be such large prizes.
Prizes now sometimes amount to thousands of pounds and that is a great inducement to a very unsatisfactory form of gambling. Newspaper competitions really are hardly to be distinguished from lotteries on a large scale. If that large scale could be reduced by stopping entrance fees so that the prizes would be smaller there would not be such tremendous gambling. The Royal Commission said that in one year £3,000,000, I think, was spent in postage stamps and postal orders in connection with these newspaper competitions. There, my Lards, is a very large sum out of which newspapers can give prizes. If you do away with entrance fees the people who take part in the competitions will not be providing the prizes for which they compete. Newspapers would have to provide prizes themselves out of the proceeds of their increased circulation, or some other source. I suggest that plan for the consideration of the Government, because I cannot help thinking that perhaps they have not given this question of newspaper competitions all the attention which it deserves.
Speaking for my noble friends on tins Bench I may say that we do not like 795 Clause 25 of the Bill. It does not appear necessary and it seems undesirable to give more power to the Police to enter premises with search warrants. We have quite enough of that already and we think it would be much better to trust the people to carry out the law if this Bill becomes law.
Now I want to mention one or two points which are omitted from the Bill and to indicate certain things which I think might be done. For instance, the Bill hardly deals at all with horse racing. If it is possible and desirable to restrict advertisements in connection with sweepstakes and lotteries, why should it not be possible and desirable to restrict advertisements in connection with horse racing? The Report of the Royal Commission recommended the limitation of bookmakers' advertisements with certain qualifications. It proposed restrictions on racing news and racing advertisements in newspapers and also, following your Lordships' Committee of 1902, it suggested that the publication of tipsters' tips in newspapers should be illegal. Surely the Government could have embodied those recommendations in the Bill. I was going to congratulate the Government on having made illegal betting with the totalisator in offices and in connection with football, But I understand that Amendments are to be introduced to alter the Bill in that respect and make that form of betting legal. I do not know whether the noble Marquess will tell us whether the Amendments will cover football pool betting, but I imagine that is the case. I am sorry that the Bill is to be altered in that respect.
I think also that the Bill might have embodied another recommendation of the Royal Commission in regard to betting off the course by the totalisator in connection with the Betting Control Board. I should like to see all betting off the course through totalisators made illegal, including that carried on by the Betting Control Board. I agree with the noble Viscount, Lord Bertie of Thame, that the Government would have done better if they had brought in a really comprehensive Bill covering the whole ground and consolidating the laws on betting and gambling. I cannot see why time could not be found for that when they were dealing with the question. As I have said before, there are points in the Bill 796 which I should like to see carried into law, but the Bill leaves undone many things which ought to be done and does many things which ought not to be done. The question with which the Bill deals is not a Party question and the Labour Party will support the Second Reading, because there are some very good points in the Bill which I have tried to indicate and they would like to see them carried through. On the other hand they will put down several Amendments to the Bill. Whether they can continue their support in further stages will, of course, depend on the direction in which the Bill is amended.
§ LORD SNELL
My Lords, while supporting the general statement which has been made by my noble friend Lord Sanderson, I rise to bring to your Lordships' attention one aspect of this Bill as it affects local governing bodies. The London County Council, with which I am privileged to be associated, feels considerable alarm at the duties which this Bill proposes to put upon local governing bodies, and at its last meeting it unanimously passed the following resolution:That in relation to the Betting and Lotteries Bill, 1934, the Council is of opinion that the proposal to place upon local authorities the duty of licensing betting on tracks is a new and undesirable departure in local government.The view of the London County Council is that they are not the appropriate body to be charged with the duties which are sought to be imposed upon them in respect of Part I of the Bill, and they very emphatically regard the prospect as a new and altogether undesirable departure in local government practice.
I have no personal feeling in this matter. I have never hazarded, and have therefore never lost, even the smallest coin of the realm in betting, and I can to that extent approach the matter as an impartial person; but it does seem to me that placing these duties upon local governing bodies is putting upon them very onerous and altogether unpleasant duties without always giving them the authority and power to execute their will. The London County Council feel that the licensing of betting is properly a police duty and not the duty of a body such as the London County Council or the Metropolitan Borough Councils. They are in 797 an altogether different position from a county council in the provinces or a great city council, where the Police are under the control of their watch committee. Your Lordships will see at once that outside the Metropolitan Police area, watch committees and other machinery exist for dealing with police matters which have no counterpart at all in the area over which the Metropolitan Police exercise inspection. If this Bill were passed in its present form, those who are keen about issues of local government, health, and the building up of civic virtue would find that elections would be contaminated and influenced by this new appeal to provide or not to provide facilities for betting.
So far as county councils outside London are concerned, I understand that they take the view that these duties should fall upon the Standing Joint Committees of the counties, and I understand that if this Bill goes to the Committee stage, as I suppose it will, Amendments will be proposed to secure that end. But again, London is in a different and au anomalous position. The Standing Joint Committee of the County of London has no control over the Police, and to my mind the case is clear that London should be treated in a special way. I hope that between now and the Committee stage the Government will take that point into very serious consideration. It seems a reasonable thing to ask that in London the Police should assume these duties, especially now that no one lower than a senior wrangler is to be in charge of the London Police.
I do not desire to delay your Lordships longer, having made the firm point that the local bodies consider that they are not the appropriate authority to control betting and to issue licences for betting purposes. We understand that the Bill does give to local authorities control in regard to the granting of licences, and that if the grant of a licence would affect the health or comfort of persons residing in the neighbourhood, or would disturb the work of schools in the neighbourhood, or if it would affect the amenities of the neighbourhood, then the council may refuse to issue the licence; but again that is transgressing upon the sphere of the Police. The Police in London are the authority in matters of law and order and in matters of congestion 798 of traffic, and since they have the responsibility for those duties, it seems altogether clear that they and not the local borough council or the London County Council should have charge of the issuing of licences for betting.
I therefore repeat that the licensing of betting as proposed by the Bill is not a local government responsibility but a police responsibility, and that the Bill as framed imposes duties upon councils which they consider are outside their legitimate activities. Finally, I would remind your Lordships that it might well happen in the course of a local authority's duties that it might feel compelled to grant a licence on pure legal grounds, whereas there might be in its own area the very strongest objection on ethical grounds to any such licence being given. On those general grounds I ask the Government, if it will, to take those considerations into account between now and the Committee stage.
THE LORD BISHOP OF LONDON
My Lords, I shall speak only a very few words to-night, because I am very anxious that the Bishop of Manchester, who has come all the way from Manchester, should have an opportunity of speaking to-night, the only night upon which he can be in this House; but I must answer my noble friend who spoke last, whom we would congratulate upon being the Chairman of the County Council, a very distinguished position. I must entirely disagree with him over what he has just said. I will tell your Lordships at once a story which illustrates how I was myself brought into this matter, and your Lordships will see, I think, where my noble friend is wrong. My attention was first drawn to the terrible harm done by dog racing by a man who came to me at a golf club. That man said: "Bishop, I have ten thousand people in my employ, and there is going to be a dog track planted exactly where they all live. As it is they already spend part of their earnings in betting and gambling, and they will all be ruined if that dog track is put down there." I at once said: "What about the local body? The local body ought to decide whether it is right and proper to have a dog track down there." I was able to stop the setting up of that track by private interest; I happened to have sufficient interest to stop that dog track coming there, and 799 that man, I know, is most grateful to me for preventing the dog track coming among his ten thousand people, who were already spending their earnings partly on betting and gambling.
That made me look very carefully at the evidence, because prima facie I am opposed, as my noble friend would be, to interfering with any of the little pleasures of the poor. They have got a drab, miserable, hard life, and I should be opposed to stopping any pleasure which they have. Of course wireless has been a wonderful boon; and the cinema, in spite of all the criticism, has been a wonderful boon too. "Going to the pictures" is one of the little pleasures that they can have in their hard lives. But I have come to the conclusion that this particular pleasure is really doing more harm than good.
I have looked very carefully at a shortened form of the Report of the Royal Commission, and one thing you will find from it is that the evidence before the Commission was divided into two parts. One contained the evidence of witnesses representing the National Greyhound Racing Society, the National Greyhound Racing Club, and the British Greyhound Tracks Control Society, and nothing else, and on the other side you will find the Christian Social Council, representing the Church of England and the Free Churches, the Church of Scotland, the Manchester and Salford Council of Christian Congregations, the Y.M.C.A., the Church Army, the Salvation Army, the Charity Organisation Society, the Hulton House Club, the Chief Constables' Association (Cities and Boroughs), the Football Associations of Scotland and Wales, probation officers, Sir Frederick Wall, Secretary of the Football Association, the Stipendiary Magistrate for Swansea, the City Prosecutor, Edinburgh, and the Solicitor to the Commissioner of the Police of the Metropolis. Therefore, against greyhound racing there was a mass of opinion.
When you come to the evidence in support of greyhound racing you find that it is simply stated that it brings prosperity to a particular district. This statement is definitely contradicted by the secretary of the Charity Organisation Society. He says:In the opinion of the society much of the present-day poverty and distress directly traceable to gambling.800 In answer to a question he added:In areas where there is a dog-racing track we find at once an increase in the applications made to us.The probation officer at Highgate bears this out. Then it is said: "What a lovely little family gathering this dog racing affords." Look at the other side. An instructive light is thrown on this "family appeal" by the probation officer at Marylebone Police Court. He says:The worst features of dog racing in my opinion are the active participation of women of all ages in the betting; the presence of children and young persons who accompany parents and must, of course, be taught that gambling is legal and proper; and the large proportion of young couples who attend.It is alleged that gambling is the cause of the breaking up of a large number of homes, and the witness agrees with that, but he says: "It is difficult to give statistics." Another question and its answer may be quoted:That is the general view of all your other friends and colleagues who are probation officers in the Metropolitan Police Courts?—I have not spoken to a single social worker who does not agree that the dog races are a social evil and a menace to the best interests of the people.And you get on to Swansea, because it is not only in London that this occurs. The Stipendiary Magistrate there says this:In the cases that come before me I find constant complaint by the women of the had effect that this attendance at dog racing is having in the home.Then, as to our youth, because it is upon them that the future of this country depends. The honorary secretary of the Hulton House Club says this:The most obvious thing that strikes even the casual visitor to these parts of London is the lust of the people for gambling. This is particularly apparent amongst the young people.He adds that betting on the dogs is the chief form of gambling. This witness also spoke of "the deadly hatred" of the mothers and the women for these dog tracks. He said he had discussed the matter with them, and they were absolutely unanimous that the dogs were having a very bad effect on their lads. Then, when you go on, you find what I must say appeals to me, as one who for so many years has been trying to get the young people to enjoy sports. It would also appeal to the noble Viscount, 801 Lord Hailsham, whose father did so much in that direction. The boys have given up boxing and the parallel bars, and have taken to gambling, and it is almost impossible to interest them in recreative and educational activities.
Then as to crime. The memorandum presented by the Christian Social Council stated:Gambling is a determining factor in causing certain types of crime, particularly the crimes of embezzlement and petty larceny in their early stages.When you find this evidence put before us, not by fanatics but by reasonable people who know London, your Lordships must feel that the Government are right in taking this matter in hand. We recently had a meeting of the Christian Social Council committees from all over London, and they agreed to the limitation of the number of race days and also to the granting of local control. They were of opinion that the moratorium of five years was over-generous and should be reduced to three years, and that the age limit for young persons should be eighteen years instead of seventeen, and they do not like the proposal to put totalisators on all dog tracks. On the whole this great body of social workers backs up and are behind the Government in regard to this Bill. Therefore, although I may have some criticisms to make later on in regard to this Bill, I want to congratulate the Government on their courage in bringing it forward, and I hope they will push it through.
LORD HAMILTON OF DALZELL
My Lords, there are many members of this House much better qualified than I am to speak to your Lordships on the broader questions of public policy, and perhaps ethics, on which this Bill touches. In the few remarks I shall address to your Lordships I shall try to give the House, for what they may be worth, the impressions of one who has devoted a, large part of his life to the control and organisation of sport. The sport with which I am primarily connected is that of horse racing. I take a considerable interest in many other forms of sport, but that is the sport in which I perhaps take the most interest at the present moment. I am not speaking on behalf of any body with which I am connected, but I have no reason to believe that I am going to say anything of which my colleagues would 802 not approve. I have, however, no authority to speak on behalf of anybody but myself.
In my opinion the Government are to be congratulated on having had the boldness and courage to deal with a very important social question. I think they are also to be congratulated on having approached that question in a broadminded spirit and with an evident desire to do what is fair. If any one had had any doubt as to whether that was so or not I think that doubt should have been dissipated after listening to the speech of the noble Marquess. I have looked at this measure carefully, and certainly from the point of view of the sport with which I am best connected I can see no foundation for any accusation that this is a measure of class legislation—a charge that has been made in certain quarters rather freely. So far as I have been able to ascertain, the Bill touches the sport of horse racing at two points. As the noble Marquess pointed out, it removes a certain legal doubt in regard to the totalisator, and it also does what seems reasonably possible to put an end to these enormous sweepstakes, dependent on the results of our races, that have come into existence lately. I believe that both things will be of distinct advantage to the sport of horse racing.
A legal question which will be determined by this Bill is as to whether the Racecourse Betting Control Board is justified in paying commission to persons who bring bets to the racecourse totalisator. The advice given to the Board has always been that that was a perfectly legitimate and perfectly legal thing for them to do. That was challenged by an association of bookmakers, who no doubt had good reason for wishing to keep that field to themselves. An action of which that was the subject was tried in the Court of Chancery recently, and the result was that judgment was given in favour of the Racecourse Betting Control Board. I have heard that within the last couple of days an appeal has been lodged against that decision, and therefore I shall naturally not comment in any way on the matter. I shall not attempt to indicate what in my opinion is the present state of the law on this subject; it would be of no value if I did. The point is that the clause which deals with this matter in 803 the Bill is a declaratory clause introduced for the purpose of removing doubt. What it does is, I think, right and necessary, and I believe it is perfectly fair.
The reason why I say it is fair is that when the Racecourse Betting Bill was before Parliament certain provisions were introduced into it during its passage through the other House of Parliament which secured the position of bookmakers in a variety of ways. The bodies who had to administer that Act, the Racecourse Betting Control Board and the racing authorities, have most studiously and most carefully followed what the intention of Parliament appears to be in giving the bookmakers fair play and preventing their being put at any disadvantage in competition with the totalisator. If that is to be done it is obviously fair that the "tote" should be put on level terms with the bookmakers. That is what Clause 17 does, and I hope that it may be retained in the Bill. If there is to be any removal of doubt as to the correct interpretation of the Racecourse Betting Act, I should like to make another suggestion, and that is that words should be introduced to remove the doubt which I am told exists as to whether veterinary science and training and research are numbered among the things to which the profits of the totalisator may be given. I think it is very important that they should be. I can conceive of no object more worthy, and if it becomes necessary to move an Amendment to make that clear I hope the noble Marquess will see his way to accept it.
With regard to sweepstakes, if we are ever going to have very big lotteries in this country, for money running into millions of pounds—which I hope we shall not—I trust that the sport of horse racing may be kept out of it. These sweepstakes which take place in Ireland now four or five times a year are nothing but lotteries. There are huge prizes, with millions of tickets. The tickets are drawn out and the allocation of the greater part of the prizes depends on the order in which those tickets are drawn. But in the case of a certain number of the bigger prizes their final allocation is determined by the result of one of our races. The sums at stake sometimes amount to millions of pounds. That is an unhealthy thing for racing, and introduces an unhealthy and dangerous 804 element. I do not want to say anything which might be thought to reflect on the integrity of the men concerned, many of whom I know well and hold in high regard, and I think it would be highly undesirable that I should indicate the exact nature of the temptation which I think might be put before the owners and trainers and jockeys. I would ask your Lordships to imagine for a moment that, instead of depending on the result of a race, the allocation of these great sums of money should depend on a quite different contingency, and one in which the human element would also have part. I ask you to imagine that it should depend on the result of a Division in this House, and I would ask you to think how very improper that would be and the terrible things to which it might lead. If they must have these big sweepstakes in Ireland I wish they would run them on their own races, and not on ours.
The only other matter to which I desire to refer concerns the extension of the totalisator to dog racing. I have had a good deal to do with the measure which introduced the totalisator on to our racecourses, and I can honestly say that, though from the financial point of view it may have fallen short of the expectations of some of its supporters, it has already done a great deal of good. It has helped to clean up our racecourses and to make them more pleasant places, and it has helped control over matters over which there was very little control before. I see no reason why the sport of dog racing should be deprived of those advantages, but I am not altogether sure that the safeguards in the Bill are adequate. There are provisions in the Bill designed to secure the fair division of the totalisator pool and to prevent swindling of that nature; but, however adequate they may be, and however efficiently that duty may be performed, the totalisator can still be made an instrument for the systematic swindling of the public if the racing itself is crooked. That this is not an imaginary possibility is shown by something I shall quote to your Lordships.
In The Times of December 7 last year a report appeared of a judgment given by Mr. Justice Swift in a case at Leeds Assizes. It was a case that concerned dog racing and this is what he said:I do not want to say anything which is in any way condemnatory of dog racing 805 as a whole. I know nothing about dog racing, and I only have to deal with the facts put before me in this case. But the amount of roguery is greater than anything I have ever seen in any form of sport.And he went on to say:The way dogs' names are changed, the way they run on licensed and unlicensed courses under different names, and the way they are handicapped are perfectly disgraceful,I do not wish any more than the learned Judge to vilify everybody concerned in the sport of dog racing because of the misdeeds of a few individuals, but I say that that sort of thing ought not to happen, and steps ought to be taken to prevent its happening.
You cannot prevent scoundrels from taking advantage of Whatever possibilities there may be when great sums of money are at stake. That is not confined to sport. It has happened in every undertaking, commercial or financial, in the world, and we have not, been free from it in horse racing. We have had substitution of horses there. The classic case is that of the Derby of 1844 which was won by a four-year-old in the name of Running Rein, a swindle which was unearthed by the vigilance and energy of Lord George Bentinck. We had something of the same sort ten or twelve years ago, a minor case, when I am glad to say the people concerned were not only warned off the Turf but were prosecuted and got a good term of imprisonment as well. It is the duty of governing bodies of sport to deal ruthlessly with that sort of thing.
The control of sport is one of the things we may be proud of in this country. It has been built up slowly by the people engaged in the sports themselves, and it has taken a long time to achieve. It took the Jockey Club a hundred years to get complete control of horse racing. It is very necessary for every form of sport to have control, and it becomes vitally necessary when it is a sport on which a great deal of betting takes place. Greyhound racing is a young sport, and it has not yet had time to achieve complete control. I think it ought to be helped to do it. I understand there is a body which exercises in a disinterested manner the necessary legislative and administrative functions, a body called the National Greyhound Racing Club, and the suggestion I make is that the 806 grant of betting facilities which this Bill will afford should only be given to courses which are run under the rules of that body. The only alternative to doing that which I can see is to set up some form of licensing body, and instruct it that it shall not issue licences to any track unless it is satisfied it is going to be run under the rules of some controlling body in which it has confidence. I venture to make that suggestion.
I have only one more thing to say. I have used the word "sport 'very often, perhaps too often, in the course of the remarks I have made. It is a thing which I hold very high and value very much and I hate to see it abused or misused—not only the word but the thing itself. Dog racing has been described as the poor man's sport, in contradistinction to horse racing which is supposed, erroneously in my opinion, to be confined to the rich. Obviously it costs less to buy, breed, or train a dog than a horse, and as far as the animals themselves belong to individuals I have no quarrel with the distinction that has been drawn. On account of the comparative smallness of the ground it occupies, dog racing can be introduced in the midst of crowded areas of population where horse racing would be impossible. Dog racing can be carried out at night by artificial light, which would be unthinkable in the case of horse racing even if it were possible. Dog racing courses can be used very much more often than horse racing courses, because a dog is a light animal which is soft of foot and a horse is a heavy animal which wears metal shoes.
These are distinctions which are intrinsic to the sport, and I do not grudge my friends who are engaged in dog racing any advantage they may derive from them; but when one sees these advantages being exploited seven days a week, Sundays included, by men who own the track and the totalisator—that question is in abeyance at the moment—and the bookmakers and the dogs themselves, then I say things carried on in that way may rightly be described as working men's casinos, and I find nothing in them which conforms to my canons of sport. There is a clause in this Bill which prohibits the owner of a track from having an interest in the betting. I should like to see that amplified 807 by forbidding the owner of a track to own dogs. You must have individual ownership in these animals if this thing is to have any right to the name of sport; you must have that if it is going to be run straight. I beg to congratulate the Government on their courage in having tackled this matter, and I commend the suggestions I have made to the consideration of the noble Marquess and noble Lords who are interested in the sport of dog racing.
§ LORD ASKWITH
My Lords, the remarks I shall make to you will be confined to Part I of the Bill and be connected with greyhound racing, and I speak as honorary President of the National Greyhound Racing Society. I think it is an important part of this Bill in view of the fact that my noble friend the Minister for Air occupied two-thirds of the time he was speaking on this long Bill with the question of greyhound racing. The society takes part in this controversy largely in consequence of the interpretation put by a Divisional Court upon an Act of 1853, passed eighty years before that case came on, before even the totalisator was invented, and which dealt entirely with betting houses in London. That Act received very little attention in this House. Having had the curiosity to look up the Official Report I find that on the 11th August, 1853, there were sixteen Bills for First Reading, three for Second Reading and six for Third Reading, and the entry is: "Their Lordships met and, having gone through the business on the Paper, the House adjourned until to-morrow." On the 16th August the Bill was passed, no word having been uttered about it. The interpretation of that Act, which was said not to affect the "tote" by judgments of the Courts both in Scotland and England, was reversed by the decision of the Divisional Court, which was the final Court of Appeal.
To listen to the Secretary of State for Air one might think that nearly all the betting in this country was confined to greyhounds. I would venture to suggest that there is more money passing between different people in one week at Ascot than there is on the whole of the greyhound courses throughout the whole of the year in England and Scotland. Further, the greyhounds are very local concerns. There is no day-to-day betting, 808 there is no betting far in advance, and there is nothing like sweepstakes or lotteries or anything of that kind such as horse racing has to its credit. Further, I understand from this Bill that there are to be betting and non-betting days, and any one might have dog racing every day in the week provided there is no betting. I think it would be extremely difficult to keep control over such a rule. There would be a very great deal of evasion, and people who went to a dog racing course thinking betting was allowed on that particular day, might be very annoyed on learning that there was no betting and that they were under a new sort of "Dora" which they scarcely imagined existed. One is afraid from some of the criticisms of this Bill that people may fall into the condition of mind that seems to have actuated Parliament in an Act passed as long ago as 1740, which was expressed to be to "remove all temptation from the lower class of people who constantly attend these races to the great loss of time and labour and whose behaviour calls for stricter regulation to curb their licentiousness and correct their manners." That way of looking at dog racing is very unsatisfactory.
I cannot help thinking that it is more important to try to maintain the industry under proper control. It is an industry and a sport which has sprung up and is now a large one and is acceptable to a very large number of people in this country. It may not be generally known that under the society of which I am President there are fifty-eight courses, that there are registered owners of greyhounds to the number of 21,000, that they own 42,000 greyhounds, that the attendances in the last three years have averaged between 15,000,000 and 20,000,000, and that they have contributed to the Exchequer in Income Tax and Entertainment Tax an average of £150,000 to £200,000. And I may add that 7,000 employees would be thrown out of employment if the regulations were so strict that dog races were no longer to exist. I am entirely in agreement with my noble friend Lord Hamilton of Dalzell, who speaks with such authority as a long-standing steward of the Jockey Club, upon the necessity of control. Some of us have really taken up this industry with a view of trying to get control of it and bringing in good rule and management, rather than of 809 standing by and saying: "You ought not to do it at all, and it must be stopped by law."
The control that would have to be exercised over greyhound courses has two aspects. There is the "tote," and there is the racing. With regard to the "tote," if I may indicate the lines upon which Amendments may be proposed, they would be that the kind of "tote" defined in the Schedule is a particular kind which is not satisfactory to the Betting Control Board in horse racing, and which in some ways is not satisfactory or fair to the "tote." It ought to be slightly extended so as to include other kinds of "tote" that are invented or which may be invented. Then there is the control and the management of the "tote." In the same Schedule to the Bill it is laid down that an experienced accountant has to be appointed, and he has to have as his assistant an experienced engineer. Both of them are to be appointed by the operator, and they are to be able to turn round upon the operator and demand from him all kinds of information. If he does not give it or does not assist them in the way these persons appointed by him desire, he is to be liable for an offence—one of the many new offences created by this Bill. One wonders that it is not deemed to be a Bill for the advantage in some ways of junior practising barristers. We have found that we have had to have for the courses thirty-six chartered accountants of very considerable experience to look after these "totes" and after the dealings. There has had to be a voluntary Totalisator Control Board who have endeavoured to keep control over the totalisators and to see that the fairest kind of "tote" is employed and is run properly. That was done during the time that "totes" were considered to be legal. Amendments will be brought up with regard to the control of the "totes."
The other point is the control of the racing. The noble Lord, Lord Hamilton of Dalzell, has drawn a picture of some of the evils that may occur, or would have occurred, without control upon the courses. He cited Mr. Justice Swift, who was dealing with a course that was not under the Greyhound Racing Society and with practices which we have most studiously put down in the very strictest way we can. But we have not all the 810 courses under our control. We can only control those which come voluntarily into the society. We have no control over the people who may do So much harm by going into a field on Sunday—this is not allowed by the society—putting up a ring, having some sort of a machine with a little bit of skin over it, running it round at the end of a rope, having a few dogs and getting a few shillings out of the villagers in the neighbourhood. That is the sort of thing that ought to be put down most drastically, and it can be put down if every course has to come under control and be subject to strict rules. I recognise that the Royal Commission was appointed to reduce the amount of betting and to prevent abuses that have crept up in eases where there has been no control over the courses. We shall bring forward certain Amendments to make it possible that this industry shall continue and also that these millions of people shall have the enjoyment that they intend to have. I doubt whether you can stop them having it.
Upon the point of the number of days on Which racing may be allowed, I suggest that you should not have an indefinite area and say that racing on all courses in that area shall take place on the same day. People do not travel fifty or a hundred miles from one course to another. They have only the evening in which to enjoy this sport, and they cannot afford to give up and do not have to give up a day's work. It is not like horse racing where people have to travel long distances. Dog racing takes place in the evening. As to the evil of betting on these courses, while you may get witnesses who say one thing you will also get witnesses to say quite the contrary. A former Home Secretary, Sir William Joynson-Hicks, as he then was, was very doubtful indeed about dog racing. He heard so much about what was happening in the country that he thought it necessary to call together the chiefs of police from different towns. They told him quite a different story. They said that it prevenated street betting to a large extent, that it brought young hooligans and idle people who might have wandered about the streets with no amusement and nothing to do, into one place where they were occupied with something, that it gave them very good entertainment to see these dogs—very 811 fine dogs they are in great races—that it had the advantage of giving people an opportunity of meeting their friends where there was a sense of pleasure at being in a great crowd.
No one who saw the great race at Wembley when Mick the Miller won his last "Derby" in a clever manner and saw and heard 40,000 people rise to their feet and shout themselves hoarse for five minutes, would say that this is a wretched little sport which ought to be put down and one in which people could not take any interest. I do not wish to speak too strongly. I think this industry, this sport, ought to be controlled, and I welcome the suggestion which the noble Lord, Lord Hamilton of Dalzell, has made, that the National Greyhound Racing Club should be the nucleus of control. That Club, at present, consists of stewards who give voluntary work, who make most stringent rules for the different courses, who publish registrations of dogs, who have a journal dealing with various points connected with owners and dogs, who have inspected all the courses, who have fined or warned off 130 persons within the last year, and who have followed in many other ways the methods of strict control. Their number could be added to, or persons from outside could be brought in, without introducing the question of licensing greyhound tracks into municipal politics, about which the noble Lord, Lord Snell, has already spoken, and without creating difficulties by giving persons who know nothing whatever about the sport control in a manner that would be resented and which would not tend towards efficiency.
Those are the points on which I think some Amendments will be brought forward. I think the suggestion of the noble Lord, Lord Hamilton of Dalzell, might be considered. It will be found that without introducing an outside body a body might be created which would lay down —perhaps with instructions from Parliament—the number of days of racing, the number of sites that could be granted for greyhound racing, and the various steps that could be taken to ensure that this industry is carried on in a fair and proper manner, so that there shall be no complaints with regard to outrages or unruly crowds or unfair betting or cheating and swindling. Surely, my Lords, rather than try to stop this industry altogether it is 812 far more important that you should see that bad management and swindling are eliminated. If you do that you will do more to bring down the curse of extreme betting to reasonable dimensions than if you set up all kinds of fancy bodies or bring all kinds of offences within the ambit of the criminal law.
THE LORD BISHOP OF MANCHESTER
My Lords, I undertake not to keep your Lordships more than a minute or two, but there are one or two things I should like to say. I want to thank His Majesty's Government for the Bill which they have brought in and to congratulate them both upon the contents of the Bill and upon the courage they have shown in bringing the Bill before us. There are things in it which I do not like and there are some things not in it which I should like to see there, but it seems to me that the Bill will help, if not to stop betting, at any rate to prevent the exploitation of the betting tendency which has such disastrous results. Several times in the course of his speech the noble Marquess used the phrase "serious social consequences." It upon that that this legislation is based. The noble Marquess told us that education and religion must determine individual conduct and I agree. But it is the business of the State to protect its citizens and it is not engaged in class legislation when it protects its citizens from dangers that may beset them from this quarter or that.
The noble Lord who has just sat down directed attention to the topic which interests me most, and that is greyhound racing. Some time ago I found myself more or less intimately connected with it owing to the coming into existence of "tote" clubs in the City of Manchester. Those clubs have now ceased to be. I believe they were the most demoralising things in the realm of gambling that we have had in this country for a very long time, but honestly I believe that greyhound racing may be, unless we be extraordinarily cautious, an almost equal danger. Unless we be very cautious—and this Bill is cautious, though I doubt not that Amendments will be moved from both sides, and there may be danger in that—there is a very real danger that greyhound racing may demoralise the people almost more than anything else.
813 The noble Lord who has just sat down told us the way in which the sport was managed, and he told us that some time ago the chief constables said that it prevented street betting and helped in other ways. Honestly I do not believe that chief constables would say that to-day. I am perfectly certain that neither the Chief Constable of Manchester nor the Chief Constable of Salford would say it, in view of the greyhound racing tracks in Manchester, and I am perfectly certain that those who are in intimate touch with the life of the very poor (and to some extent indirectly I am that) would tell you that there are men and women, there are many mothers, who hate the day when these things ever came into their neighbourhood. I am not speaking of something which is far removed from my own home. There is a greyhound racing track a little over a mile from my house; there is an ordinary racecourse that I can see from my bedroom windows, and there is a speedway. I pass those three places from day to day, and honestly, from my own observation, I believe that much more harm is done in connection with the greyhound racing track than in connection with the other two.
In the past I have opposed, and have spoken strongly against, the legalisation of the totalisator upon greyhound racing tracks. I still regret the fact that the Government are going to legalise it, but I am grateful to them that they are guarding that legalisation by a good many very careful restrictions. The totalisator, used in that kind of way, does popularise betting. It does to some extent make it more respectable, and it does to a very considerable extent encourage betting by women. There are a great many women Who do not like going to bookmakers but who do not mind going to the totalisator. If, therefore, the totalisator on greyhound racing tracks is to be legalised, it does seem to me that the precautions and limitations laid down in the Bill must be faithfully observed. I regard this particular problem as so serious that, though quite happily I should vote for the Second Reading of the Bill if I were in the House (as I shall not be), I should feel obliged to vote against the Third Reading on the ground that harm was being done to the body politic if the totalisator were put upon the greyhound racing track and the restrictions which 814 are now enshrined in the Bill were omitted.
I believe it to be quite nonsense—pardon the strength of the word—to talk about this as class legislation. If we could get at the working classes who are mostly touched by this particular thing, there would be, of course, a great many votes given in favour of greyhound racing tracks by those who frequent them, but I believe that there would be an infinitely larger number given against them by those who know the danger, the sorrow, the anxiety and the crime consequent upon them. I do not think that in some places it is realised how strongly the whole community feels about the matter. A year and a half ago a brickfield in the City of Manchester, in a neighbourhood which has never had any amenities—there are people who say that Manchester has none anywhere, but that is not true—fell vacant. It is the, centre of a great, population. A proposal was made that a greyhound racing track should be laid down there. Plans were submitted to the City Council, and the appropriate Committee passed the plans as satisfactory. But Manchester rose and expressed its mind, and when the matter came before the City Council—and it came before the Council on November 9, the day when the Lord Mayor is elected, and therefore it was a full Council—those plans were thrown out by an unanimous vote of the whole Council. The Council expressed the mind of Manchester in that action. It was not partisan. It was a noble action in a matter about which the locality was very strongly moved.
The noble Lord who has just sat down every now and again called it an industry, and every now and again called it a sport; I think he corrected himself. I wonder which he really thinks it is. The noble Lord who spoke from the Benches opposite evidently would have cast his vote in favour of industry. I am inclined to cast my vote in a similar direction. The noble Lord drew a picture of Wembley at a greyhound race meeting. Go to Wembley next Saturday and see Manchester City play Portsmouth, and I venture to think that the question of sport and business will be settled once and for all. I do not want to detain your Lordships long, but a great many people who are interested in the welfare of our people—not only in their moral 815 and spiritual welfare but in their physical welfare—do feel that the bringing of these greyhound racing tracks in large numbers, and holding meetings at frequent intervals, into close proximity with the life of our people is doing a desperate disservice. I am profoundly glad that young people are to be shut out from betting. I wish there were a clause in the Bill to shut them out from the greyhound racing track.
I appeal to the House, as presently this Bill may go into Committee, to remember that it is not dealing with a business, it is not dealing with a sport; it is dealing with the character of the British people. The character of the British people is too precious a thing to gamble with. I admire with all my heart the tremendous courage of my Lancashire folk, who have faced difficulties, perplexities and problems in these last few years unexampled except in a few other places. They have done that with infinite patience, and they are doing it still. It does seem to me to be a thousand pities that a business, or a sport, of this particular kind should try to get at the weaker ones among them, the women and young people, and presently the children. I hope that the proposals in the Bill as it stands, possibly strengthened in the right direction, will be accepted. I only want to add before I sit down that if by Amendment in this House or in another place the temptation and the demoralising influence of greyhound racing tracks are increased, I hope that the law as it stands at present, bad as it be, will be Maintained.
THE DUKE OF SUTHERLAND
My Lords, I should like to take the first opportunity that I can of congratulating the noble Marquess the Secretary of State for Air on the very admirable and clear disquisition which he gave us on a very difficult Bill. It may be remembered that at the end of last November I initiated a debate in your Lordships' House on the subject of lotteries and sweepstakes. In this debate I was supported in my views by various Peers, who included the Duke of Montrose, the Duke of Atholl and others, and I was opposed by the most reverend Primate and others. The Government spokesman on that occasion, I well remember, promised that he would give the most careful consideration to all the views which we had put 816 forward; I think the words he used were that the opinions expressed by noble Lords would receive the most careful and attentive consideration from the Government before their proposals were submitted to Parliament. And yet, my Lords, not one single suggestion of your Lordships in regard to sweepstakes and lotteries is embodied in this Bill.
Nobody wishes hospitals to be dependent for their funds on sweepstakes or lotteries if they do not so wish, but I still maintain that a national sweepstake, properly licensed and controlled by the Government, would be of untold benefit to the people of this country, both for the necessary claims of medical research and for the benefit of the National Exchequer, in the same way as it is used in France, Italy and Spain. However, the Government have decided otherwise, and we must examine the Bill before us on its merits alone. I do not believe, speaking generally, that a more unpopular measure than this has been presented to your Lordships by the present Government. The man in the street wants to be allowed to take tickets in a lottery. That is why the Irish sweepstake is so popular in this country. The man in the street wants to be allowed to go to greyhound racing, and bet at greyhound races, not for one or two days a week but as often as he wants to. If this Bill were to pass in its present form, without substantial Amendments and alterations, it would do immense damage to the prestige and popularity of the Government.
If it were a just Bill the Government would he right to pass it in its present form, even if it were unpopular; but I consider that it is a most unjust Bill in its present form. It penalises the poor man's pleasure of sweepstakes and greyhound racing, limiting his day's sport and interfering with his pleasures, while the rich man can do as he likes and enjoy his racing and betting when he wills. I am sure it is not the intention, but this Bill gives the impression of class legislation—one law for the rich and another for the poor. To limit greyhound racing to 104 days in the year, and to give control to the local authorities, is altogether wrong, as it binds greyhound racing up with local politics. I see, as Lord Snell has told us at much greater length, that the General Purposes 817 Committee of the London County Council has specially protested against having this control thrust upon them. I agree that this Bill, bad though it is, should be given a Second Reading and amended in Committee, because the "tote" must be legalised for greyhound racing. I think, as Lord Askwith has said, the percentage of three per cent. is too low for any "tote" to be worked efficiently or reliably, but that question can be left until the Committee stage. What I understand the greyhound racing companies want is a properly constituted control board, similar to the Racecourse Betting Control Board. I think, as Lord Hamilton of Dalzell has said, that this should be granted. At present the National Greyhound Racing Club is an excellent body, arid to that body could be added other names to give weight and authority.
The late Lord Brentford, formerly Home Secretary, after most exhaustive inquiries and police reports, admitted (although he was personally opposed to dog racing) that greyhound racing had drawn people away from the public-houses, that there had been no increase in pawning in those districts, and that the crowds at greyhound races were extremely orderly. He did this in his speech in the House of Commons on the Second Reading of the Dog Racing Bill. I maintain that in addition to drawing people away from the public-houses greyhound racing has also provided a means of open-air entertainment for great numbers of people, who otherwise would spend their evenings in some manner or place physically less healthy. It has provided a means of interest or distraction which may be regarded as an antidote to discontentment of mind and social unrest. It has given the ordinary man something new to think about and to talk about. It has a definite family appeal, being patronised by husband and wife. This is particularly noticeable on Saturdays and at holiday meetings.
Regarded from the betting point of view it provides a far healthier outlet for the betting instinct than there ever existed before. It is more desirable that a man should make his bets on animals that he personally sees in performance, and on which he can form his own judgment, than that he should from day to day bet on horse races or football matches that he does not see, and on 818 the strength of advice or information that is not his own. It is submitted that the opportunity which greyhound racing provides for the working man to do his betting on actual races at which he is personally present must tend definitely to reduce street and workshop betting. Owing to the limited number of days in the year that greyhound racing is permitted in this Bill, and the small percentage allowed on the "tote," it will, unless substantially amended, ruin the whole greyhound racing industry, throw tens of thousands out of work, and cause the loss of a very large sum of capital invested in the business, amounting to over £5,000,000. Two hundred days racing in the year is, I am told, an absolute minimum for successfully carrying on the business. I agree that a large number of unlicensed greyhound racing tracks exist which should not be permitted to exist, and I am well aware of the danger to the public good that might lie in the undue multiplication of racecourses. These should be strictly limited and also the number of meetings allowed upon them. Lord Askwith, the head of greyhound racing, has himself told you how keen he was that, this should be done.
The greyhound racing public, which is a very large one, has come to expect the same facilities as await them on the horse racecourses. It is claimed, therefore, that it is inequitable that Parliament should grant facilities to one kind of sport and deny similar facilities to a closely analogous sport. It must be emphasised that whatever may have been the apparent reasons for approving totalisators on the turf, under the Act of 1928, the essential purpose of the Jockey Club, as a result of the strikes of bookmakers that occurred at that time, and the consequent threat to the horse-racing public, was to provide the public with the safeguard of an alternative form of betting. Greyhound racing claims the same safeguard. I must call attention also to one outstanding fact which appears curiously to have been overlooked by the Commissioners in their Report. In discussing the amount of betting that takes place on horse racing and greyhound racing respectively, they have not recognised the fact that whereas betting on greyhound racing is virtually confined to the racecourse itself, betting on every horse race throughout the year takes 819 place in every town and village throughout the land.
There is far more betting in connection with one race meeting at Newmarket, for example, than there is on all the greyhound racecourses in the country put together. The volume of betting on horse racing during the year exceeds by eight times that on greyhound racing, and therefore to attack greyhound racing on the ground of its relative volume of betting is to ignore one of the fundamental facts of the case. Over £200,000 a year is paid to the National Exchequer in taxes by the licensed greylhound racecourses, as Lord Askwith has told your Lordships. I do not want your Lordships to think that I am in any way keen on greyhound racing for its own sake. I have not attended a greyhound race for years, and I have never bet on greyhounds and do not intend to do so, but I do feel that what I have said to-day had to be said in justice to greyhound racing, a new and young sport—and I think it is something that they deserve.
THE DUKE OF ATHOLL
My Lords, at this late hour of the evening I propose to confine my remarks to one only of the subjects of this Bill. Betting and greyhound racing are matters of which I have little practical knowledge, but I am more interested in the draining away from this country of money which might be used to assist our own national and charitable institutions. The noble Marquess stated that the receipts of the voluntary hospitals were over £15,000,000 for the year 1931, I think. The actual figure was £15,108,855. He does not mention, however, that £14,501,184 of this sum was actually expended, leaving a surplus of £607,671. With regard to this surplus, I must point out that it was arrived at as follows: In London there was a deficit of £101,453 and in the provinces there was a deficit of £51,907, but the situation was saved by the fact that in Scotland there was a surplus of £206,326, and in Ireland a surplus of £554,705, giving a net surplus of £607,671. But this surplus has to be reduced by £554,705, representing Irish sweepstake money in Irish hospitals, leaving an actual balance of £52,966. which means that the hospitals are working on a very narrow margin, leaning rather the wrong way. If the noble Marquess will excuse my criticising, he did not tell us that this figure of £15,000,000 820 is arrived at after including interest from investments, legacies, and so forth, and it is, therefore—quite unintentionally, of course—misleading if intended to represent the voluntary contributions of the year.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LONDONDERRY
I gave the sum of £15,000,000 which was raised by voluntary contributions for the hospitals, and my argument was that if you tried to substitute lotteries as a means of raising these funds we should dry up the source of that charity.
THE DUKE OF ATHOLL
My point is that the £15,000,000 is not nearly enough, but I will deal with that in a moment. Sir Charles Harris, in his financial report in the Hospital Year Book, states:If all the voluntary hospitals in Great Britain had a common exchequer it might suffice to say broadly that the maintenance surplus of £786,000 in 1931 was in the main applied to making good the capital deficiency of £733,000.I do not want to labour this point of the hospitals, because I believe it is a mistake to bring in the question of hospitals at all so prominently as has been done in this discussion of lotteries; but there are plenty of other deserving national objects to which lottery profits can go. The question of lotteries is a question by itself and ought to stand on its own feet without bothering about where the profits are to go. At the same time, I know it would be a great relief to those responsible for the finances of the hospitals if they knew that they had only to be responsible for maintenance and that the money for capital expenditure and medical research could be found from other sources.
I go back to the lotteries themselves. I find it difficult to discover any definite principle on this matter in the Bill. As I understand it, the question of whether any particular lottery is a crime or a legal pastime depends, broadly speaking, upon its size. This strikes one as being a somewhat curious dividing line between guilt and innocence, and hardly in keeping with either reason or morality. I pass from that to what I consider to be the most important part of this Bill —namely, the measures proposed to put a stop to the scandal created by foreign, or outside, sweepstakes or lotteries, of which we have heard so little to-day. On this point I 821 congratulate the Government on having at last set out to tackle the question effectively, and if anything I have done or said has contributed at all to this result I have no regrets at any personal misfortune which may have befallen myself. I have all along contended that the most effective weapon is to prohibit any publicity in relation to such lotteries, and I am more than pleased to see that it is proposed to do this. I anticipate, however, that the Bill will have many opponents.
On the last occasion when this subject was debated in this House, strong views were expressed in certain quarters against any form of lottery, and no doubt from the same quarters there will be protests against the type of club lottery and raffle which it is proposed to legalise, but I am glad to see that generally speaking, so far as these proposals are concerned, the criticsms have been rather more favourable than I anticipated. Again, there may be something said as to fettering the liberty of the Press by prohibiting the publication of matter relating to illegal lotteries. I am the last person to desire to interfere with our Press, whose patriotism is beyond question, but I would beg those who, for one reason or another, may be proposing to oppose this Bill on these grounds, to try and appreciate before doing so what I think is not redly understood generally—namely, the hopeless position created by the law as it stands today, including the apparent lack of co-ordination between the authorities concerned in administering it, and the very real menace which these outside lotteries and sweepstakes constitute, not only by their continual draining away of money from this country, but by the subterranean corruption and bribery inherent in them.
As illustrating the present anomalous position of affairs, and to show the lengths to which a Government Department can go when really out on the warpath and at the risk of boring your Lordships, I should like to recount very shortly my own experiences. With the object I have always had in mind of trying to keep money for our own charities, I was originally responsible for the issue of a competition, which was an attempt within the law, as I was advised, to put before the public a competitive scheme for the benefit of Brutish charities. Before 822 issuing this I had of course taken the usual legal advice, and in addition had made inquiries in what I considered to be the right quarters as to whether my enterprise came within the law and I received the impression that I had the unofficial blessing of the authorities. The tickets were printed, and large expenses incurred, but the scheme had not been issued more than three days when I received notice from the Home Office through the Police that the scheme was considered a lottery, and that unless it was abandoned forthwith, proceedings would be instituted. This shows how difficult it is, in existing circumstances, to know what is or is not legal, and I hope these things will be cleared up by this Bill.
In these circumstances, I had no alternative but to withdraw the scheme, and, of course, I returned every penny which had been subscribed. I confess that I felt I had been rather badly let down. I had, however, received so many letters, from all grades of society, pressing me to cut across the outside sweepstakes, that I eventually decided to make another and different effort to raise the money. My new appeal was carried through, and a large amount of money was raised, which under the terms of the appeal was to be disposed of at my entire discretion. The expenses were unfortunately high, but this was due solely to the fact that the uncertain state of the law to-day drives one into the hands of persons who will only carry on the work of distribution at something approaching extortionate fees. In spite of this drawback, I was able to distribute a considerable sum of money to a substantial number of people—and here may I state that in my experience hospitals do not refuse donations which may be the result of lotteries? After I had made the distribution to the public, I heard nothing further of the matter until some time after the appeal had been closed, and then one day two police officers from Scotland Yard came to me at Blair Atholl. They announced themselves—as they told me later, to avoid unnecessary scandal—as a deputation from the Home Office, but fortunately I had previous notice that they had left Scotland Yard, and so I was prepared to give them a proper reception. When they interviewed me, they told me they had 823 come as emissaries of the Director of Public Prosecutions, and on his instructions, and I gathered that they were acting under his directions and not under the directions of their own Department.
To put it briefly, these officers, who were entirely courteous, said that although they personally had no objection to sweepstakes or lotteries I had, in the opinion of the Public Prosecutor, in advertently opened a door in the Lottery Acts which might be used by dishonest persons for their own benefit. They therefore said that, pro bono publico, it was desired by the Public Prosecutor that I should sign a paper pleading guilty to a technical offence tinder Section 41 of the Lottery Act in order to avoid public mischief, notwithstanding that I might not have committed any legal offence; in other words, I was invited to commit perjury in order that others thereafter who were then innocent might be found guilty. They told me that, if I would do this, arrangements would be made to frame a charge to be heard at a particular Court before a particular Magistrate, whom they named, and that I should be fined about £25; and, further, that the whole matter would be put through very quietly, and without any reflection on my personal character—thus assuming to themselves the gift of second sight. For a reason, which will appear in a moment, I allowed these officers to say all that they wished to say, and I signed certain statements and admissions they wished me to, and they went away.
Later in the day I asked them to return, and took the precaution of having a witness present at the interview. The officers were reluctant to reopen the matter, but I pointed out that the statements they had taken from me had been taken without warning, and therefore were useless. The whole matter was gone over again in the presence of a third party, and eventually the officers went away, but I made it clear that I was not prepared to plead guilty to any offence which I was advised I had not committed. Subsequently, a summons was issued against me on information laid before the same Magistrate who had been named by the police officers and at the same court to which they had referred. Of course I do not for one moment wish to suggest that the Magistrate had any knowledge of these happenings. In the result I was found guilty of having in- 824 tended from the start to distribute money to individuals by lot or chance, a decision which, though it may be effective in law, I still find it difficult to appreciate as, from the practical point of view alone, I was uncertain until the closing stages that I should get enough money even to pay the expenses. As I have said, I was found guilty, and by a coincidence, I was fined £25, the exact amount which had been mentioned by the police officers at the interview at Blair Atholl. The crystal ball of divination used by the mediums of the Public Prosecutor is indeed 100 per cent. efficient!
I appealed against the decision, but unfortunately the appeal could not be heard as owing to a technical mistake made by a clerk, the case was filed at the High Court the day before it was served on the Treasury Solicitor. Notwithstanding the fact that the case had been previously agreed to and signed by the legal advisers on both sides, this objection, remarkable as it may sound, turned out to be a fatal objection to the appeal being tried on its merits. The authorities flattered me by attaching sufficient importance to the retention of the conviction they had secured against me to brief the Solicitor-General himself to support this technical objection—a course which would seem to indicate a certain amount of doubt as to their ability to resist the appeal. However, the objection succeeded, but the view taken by the High Court as to its merits is, I think, indicated by the concluding remark made by one of the learned Judges when the Solicitor-General said that he did not, in the circumstances, propose to ask for costs. The learned Judge's remark was that he thought the Solicitor-General had exercised a very wise discretion in not asking for them.
I am sorry I have taken a long time over a personal matter, but I feel that, Gilbertian though it may be, it does illustrate the unsatisfactory and uncertain state of the law at the present time. There is one aspect of this question which I think may have been underestimated by the Government—namely, the extent of public interest in sweepstakes and lotteries, and this has been catered for through the medium of the enormous outside sweepstakes and lotteries with which we are all familiar, 825 and to which the majority of people, I believe from Cabinet Ministers downwards, at one time or another subscribe.
With regard to the Irish sweepstakes alone, the figures are undoubtedly stupendous. Unfortunately the actual figures are not available for the public, owing to deductions allowed under the Act before the available surplus is de-dared, but for the eleven Irish sweepstakes from November, 1930, to March, 1934, the total subscribed, as shown in the accounts, is £31,300,874. Of this, taking the figure of 83 per cent. calculated by the Royal Commission on Lotteries to be the amount subscribed from Great Britain, £25,975,000 was subscribed in this country. As, under Section 9 of the Irish Act, 45 per cent. of the gross total is deducted before declaring the available surplus, we must add £21,331,000, as representing the undisclosed British subscriptions, making a total of £47,310,000, which, after deducting £13,769,000 returned in prize money to this country—on the basis of 53 per cent. given by the Royal Commission—gives us a total of £33,541,000 lost to Great Britain in forty-one months, or £818,000 per month, or an average of £9,816,000 per year, representing about two and a half times the amount of the entire annual voluntary subscriptions to our hospitals. It may be of interest to compare the Irish trade figures. Irish total imports from Great Britain were in 1933 under £23,000,000: and the monthly adverse trade balance on all accounts during the last three years was £1,200,000 per month; so by the means of the invisible exports of the Irish sweepstake we are paying about two-thirds of the adverse trade balance of Ireland.
I do not want to say anything more, except to ask the noble Marquess whether he will not consider in these circumstances the advantage of taking power in this Bill to have a general sweepstake in this country. I would suggest that the Government should accept an Amendment reserving to themselves the power to promote or license under such terms as they think proper some form of regulated lottery or sweepstake that might be run on the larger scale. This would meet the wishes of people who have been disappointed in having their little "flutter" taken away, and would make them more favourable to the Bill. These powers would, of course, only be used if 826 and when deemed advisable, but such a course would, in my opinion, go a long way to remove the impression from the public mind that this Bill is yet another manifestation of "Dora" and one more infringement of the liberty of the individual.
THE LORD BISHOP OF WINCHESTER
My Lords, I beg to move that this debate be adjourned until Tuesday next.
§ Moved, That the debate be now adjourned till Tuesday next.—(The Lord Bishop of Winchester.)
§ On Question, Motion agreed to, and debate adjourned accordingly.