HL Deb 19 June 1934 vol 93 cc14-29

Order of the Day for the Third Reading read.


My Lords, in moving the Third Reading of this Bill, I wish to explain to your Lordships that there are one or two points raised by noble Lords on the Report stage, which I promised to consider further on behalf of the Government, and which are still outstanding. I may perhaps refer, in particular, to the points raised by the noble Lord, Lord Snell, in connection with the position of standing joint committees to which county councils may desire to delegate their licensing functions, and that raised by the noble Viscount, Lord Bertie, regarding bonds redeemable by annual drawings. All these matters are receiving our careful attention, and, on behalf of my right honourable friend, the Secretary of State for Home Affairs, I can assure my noble friends that, while consideration of these points has not yet been completed, the Government will introduce Amendments to the Bill in another place, where this course is found necessary. I beg to move.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 3a.—(The Marquess of Londonderry.)


My Lords, I was not able to be present at the important stage, the Committee stage, of this Bill, owing to public duties, but I have some knowledge of part of the matters contained in the Bill, notably greyhound racing, which I should like to give to your Lordships. As I listened to various speeches on the opening day, in particular a speech from the right reverend Prelate the Lord Bishop of London, I rubbed my eyes and wondered whether we were talking about the same thing. Throughout many speeches, especially his, there ran the phrase "social mischief" as applied to greyhound racing. Even my noble friend who is in charge of this Bill, to whose courtesy and patience in this matter I should like to pay tribute, spoke of the social mischief and shook his head.

Now where does the social mischief lie? It is a Very good question to ask to-day. Is it in the amount of betting which takes place? Well, I do not think that can be so. I have been at pains to get what figures are available, and I think there is no doubt whatever—and I challenge contradiction—that there is at least eight times more betting on horse races than there is on greyhound races. But is it not a little amusing to have all this shaking of heads about the social mischief of betting when your Lordships' House is depleted to-day because, as we all very well know, most members of the House are at Ascot viewing the horse races, as I am sure I wish I could be myself? But I have a quotation here which I think is applicable and which I found by hazard, and it seems to me the only proper thing to say about all this wagging of heads over social mischief, when eight times as much betting goes on in connection with horse racing, which I personally love.


May I ask the noble Lord whether he has studied the Report of the Royal Commission?


I have indeed; I have read every word of it, and if my noble friend will forgive me I hope to make good my case whatever the Royal Commission said. Is it the amount of betting that goes on? That cannot be justified when there is eight times as much betting on horses as there is on greyhounds. I quote Lord Maeaulay's words in his essay on Moore's Life of Byron: We know no spectacle so ridiculous as the British Public in one of its periodical fits of morality. Take out "British public" and substitute some of the speakers on this matter and I think that is a true remark. If it is not the volume of betting, as I think I have proved, then is it the method—is it the presence of bookmakers? They are the same in both cases, but if that be so we ought to give every opportunity for betting with the totalisator, which avoids that evil.

I am at a loss to understand what the meaning of all this talk about social mischief can be. Of course people will bet. It is admitted that they bet far more on horse racing, but if you are going to enquire into the real social mischief of betting, let us look at the loss of money and waste of time involved in playing cards. It does not seem to occur to the Bishop of London, whose friendship I am proud to enjoy, that if he looks round his flock he will see that the real mischief is to be found at card tables and not at horse racing or greyhound racing. That is where the social mischief lies most deeply. It is very difficult to form an exact estimate, but there can be no comparison between the waste of time involved in greyhound racing and in card playing. I know of a case of two people who profess to cut the cards at breakfast time and play right on till two o'clock next morning. We all know of numbers of people who spend nearly all their time, in all classes of society, playing bridge or some other card game infinitely more demoralising than these open-air sports of horse racing and greyhound racing.

I hope that what I have said will do something to prevent people going on with this talk about moral mischief; that it is something you cannot stop, that it is wicked and evil. It is neither one nor the other. I know something about it, because I am Chairman of the Empire Stadium at Wembley. As the noble Lord, Lord Askwith, knows and as the noble Marquess, Lord Londonderry, pointed out, Wembley is concerned with other things in even greater degree than with greyhound racing—football matches, Empire games, and the rest—but it does not alter the fact that I have to go to Wembley from time to time to see greyhound racing. I have been there very often. Not long ago I took my noble friend Lord Gainford, one of the most right-thinking men I have ever known. What happened? The noble Marquess, Lord Londonderry, has announced he has never made a bet on a totalisator; I have never made a bet on a greyhound in my life; but Lord Gainford in his kindness of heart made several bets on greyhounds for the benefit of my children. When it was all over I said to him: "Well, what do you think of it all?" His comment was illuminating "Well, it is not so exciting as horse racing, but it is a very pleasant way to spend an evening." "Do you see anything wrong with it?", I asked. "No, good gracious, why should I?" he replied. There is the point of view of a man whom all your Lordships respect, and who has permitted me to quote him. If you go to a well-conducted track you will find people there behaving themselves extraordinarily well. The Police make no complaints. The whole thing when well-conducted is in my considered judgment a good thing for the people.

The noble Lord, Lord Hamilton of Dalzell, struck the right note when he said that what was wrong about this new sport was that in many cases there were these hole-and-corner affairs where bookmakers own the dogs. What you want is control. It so happened that I took the chair at a meeting when we planned a greyhound racing track divorced from all the interests connected with the actual racing. I repeat that it is a good and well-conducted sport, and all the Police reports testify to that, but these hole-and-corner race meetings ought to be stepped, and if I may say so, Sunday racing ought to be stopped. That is a bad thing. I hope that when this Bill goes to another place, or even when it returns here, the noble Marquess will use all his efforts to see that these hole-and-corner meetings are stopped and that Sunday racing is absolutely prohibited.

Finally, I wrote to the managing director of Wembley Stadium, who naturally must be more concerned with these great football matches, Empire games, and bicycle racing than he is with greyhound racing. I asked him whether he would tell me candidly what he thought was the social effect after all the years he had been watching greyhound racing. This is what he says: My personal opinion on the social effects of greyhound racing after years of first-hand experience is that it is in more ways than one a very definite social asset. The provision of a well-conducted sport, where those who would gamble in any case, can have small bets in the open air— instead of at the card table— under the best possible circumstances, to my mind acts as a tremendous antidote to social unrest of all kinds. That is a very strong opinion. I would defend greyhound racing from the point of view of the working classes of this country who attend in such large numbers. Are they all guilty of social evils? If you go to see, these things in a well-conducted place you will find the working classes represented there, men and women, orderly and enjoying themselves in the open air without any thought of contributing to social evil.

I have heard it said in the course of these debates that if we had no betting on greyhound racing there would be no greyhound racing. The same thing might be said of horse racing. But if the idea is that the working classes only go to these open air spectacles because of the betting—although I fully admit if you deprive them of the opportunity they will bitterly resent it, whether horses or greyhounds are concerned—I would point out you have a practical answer in the fact that in the case of the sport imported from Australia, speedway racing at this very place, Wembley, where this sport is conducted and where there is and can be no betting, partly because it happens so rapidly but partly because there is no chance, far more people attend bicycle racing than attend anything else there except the great football matches. On behalf of the working classes, if I may venture to speak for them. I would resent the suggestion that in attending this harmless outdoor sport they are contributing in any way to a social evil. I trust that this Bill will pass with Amendments which will stamp out all the bad parts of it and especially Sunday racing, and I shall be prepared to support the Bill.


My Lords, we have heard a new aspect of the case from the noble Lord who has just spoken and who was not here during the Committee debates. I was here during the whole proceedings on the Bill and there are one or two remarks I should like to make. I confess that, with all due respect, I have never felt more dissatisfaction with any measure promoted by a Government which I was trying to support. First of all, the Bill is divided into two Parts, neither of which has anything to do with the other, and in neither Part does there appear to be either principle or logic. Members of your Lordships' House who are interested in one Part of the Bill have been obliged to sit through discussions on the other. Part II—I mean the Part relating to lotteries—coming at the end of a very long and contentious Part like that relating to greyhound racing, has really not had a dog's chance of being considered on its merits.

Very few members of your Lordships' House are really interested in dog racing, but many of you have felt it a duty to examine the Bill closely, and if it had been left to a free vote I believe that the measure would have been altered considerably for the better. Personally I think it is a pity that the Government should have troubled to go so closely into the domestic details of dog racing. I think it would have been far better to have made a ring fence round the business and to have told those connected with it that the Government would not interfere so long as they behaved themselves and obeyed certain general regulations. It would have been sufficient, I think, if the Government had dealt with the question of the totalisator and interfered with very little else. I have been unable to understand the attitude of the Government and some of their supporters in the House whom we know to be opposed to dog racing. They have definitely recognised dog racing as a matter concerned with social welfare as it is described in one part and done nothing to stop it, but, on the other hand, they have opposed any measure whereby dog racing could be properly controlled and run as cleanly as it is possible to run it in the interest of all concerned. That the Government have resolutely opposed.

There was a great opportunity to insist on an approved dog racing control board of disinterested persons being set up independently by the organisations themselves, under a single set of rules, which would have seen that betting was properly conducted and that there was no swindling with regard to the dogs themselves. While I had not expected much support for anything that I have to say on the Bill from the right reverend prelate the Bishop of London, at least I had expected that he would have supported me on that particular point instead of giving it his definite opposition Frankly, too, when the noble Marquess who is in charge of this Bill told us that morals did not enter into the question, I found it very difficult to reconcile the fact that it may be moral to bet on Monday and not moral to bet on Tuesday.

Regarding the second Part of the Bill, in which I personally am more interested, I feel that if it had been left to the unfettered vote of your Lordships' House a very different Bill would have emanated. The majority of your Lordships' House support the Government and are not anxious to vote against it. There are very few members of this House, I believe, who do not look upon lotteries, properly conducted, as a somewhat harmless form, perhaps, of sin, and a very large number of them, I should think, are absolute sinners in this respect. To have attended the discussions of the Lotteries Part of the Bill they would have had to sit for many weary hours listening to the debate on the Greyhounds Part and would even then, probably, have abstained from voting, for reasons which I have already given. It also got about, I think with some possible substratum of truth, that the noble Marquess in charge of the Bill had instructions from the Home Office to give way on no single point and, therefore, it was not worth the trouble of attending for a foregone conclusion. One has to remember in this respect that members of your Lordships' House do not all like being thought to be mere sub-labels of the National Government.

We have to remember that there is no organisation behind those who wish to see lotteries run on reasonable terms in this country, whereas their opponents are not only vociferous but thoroughly organised, and with paid secretaries, while the Home Office has been literally honeycombed with anti-lottery ideas for the last three generations. For these reasons the majority of your Lordships' House and the public have only looked upon the recent debates as a means of bringing to the surface the ideas of the Government in order to assist members of another place to be forewarned so that they may have concerted action now that the views of the Government are known. As a test of opinion the public absolutely discount the opposition to lotteries in this House because the extent of that opposition is already known, and is deemed incapable of taking—I was going to say any wider view, but I do not wish to be offensive: at any rate I think their minds are made up on that point.

The sum total of the Bill, so far as I can see, after all the time that has been spent on the Bill, is that small lotteries, like those at church bazaars, are re-introduced and safeguarded for the future with the approval not only of anti-gamblers but also of members of the Church in this House and under enough regulations to rule a continent. Again, innocent domestic lotteries like club lotteries and so forth, which were doing no harm at all, are curtailed, made more difficult and often impossible for the purpose for which they were intended, such as helping charities, golf clubs and so forth. The only redeeming part of the Bill, which would have been sufficient in itself, is that which is designed to stop outside lotteries which are not only not under the control which is wished but which have also robbed the British taxpayer of many millions of pounds. The Government, in my opinion, make a real mistake in not accepting in some form or another the running of a large sweepstake under known and controlled management in this country, for, as I have said already, if they did so they would have the majority of the people on their side and every citizen of good standing would help them in their effort to stop undesirable outside lotteries. In addition, they would have helped to put out of business a large number of undesirable people who at present are making a thriving profit.

So far as I cam see the chief people who have benefited are those who run football coupon competitions. These people are to be firmly entrenched so that they can continue the beneficent work which they now carry on amongst the young. Nothing is done to deal with the question of ready-money betting, which is a difficult one I admit but not incapable of solution. But one thing is assured and that is that in no possible circumstances can the sick and suffering of this country be helped by any species of lottery. That is absolutely cut out, and yet the only way that I can see of helping hospitals and medicine generally is by a lottery of some sort. But an innocent lottery, carried on by that particular body for its own benefit, is now absolutely forbidden. Last but not least I would deprecate a statement made more than once during the debates on this Bill from the Government side of the House and reiterated just now by the noble Marquess himself, that we have got to do these things because the Royal Commission on betting said so. There is nothing sacrosanct about the findings of any Royal Commission, but there is something valuable in the free and unfettered opinion of Parliament in a matter of this sort. In my opinion it would still be wise if the Government were to invite the members of another place, who are more in touch with the people of this country than we are, to give their own views uncontrolled by Party ties on a question which is a matter of concern to all parties.


My Lords, the last thing I expected when I came here this afternoon was that we should have a resumption of a Second Reading discussion o£ this whole Bill. I am very loth to take up any of the time of your Lordships, but I can scarcely let the speech just made by my noble friend Lord Mottistone pass without a certain good-natured retort. I am not going to follow him into a disquisition upon the rival effects upon public morals of horse racing, bridge-playing and greyhound racing. Nor am I going to consider for a moment what I regard as the irrelevant question of the amount that happens to be spent upon these various forms of social indulgence. The point about greyhound racing is not the amount of betting which goes on but the extent of it. What matters is the extension of betting in this very easy way over an immense multitude of our people. It is mainly in very small bets that betting on greyhound racing takes place, but it is not in the least degree less harmful because the amount of the bets is small. The point is whether or not it increases the habit of betting and gambling among the community.

With regard to that, from such experience as I have had I should say that beyond all question the extension of that habit is bad for the industries of this country. It produces a certain recklessness and an impatience of mind in regard to earning wages by honest work which is very serious. More than that, we all know that the time is coming when much will depend upon the use of leisure, and meanwhile anything that tends to extend the habit of gambling tends to poison the way in which that leisure is to be used. As to what the noble Lord called—he almost derided the term—a "social mischief," I agree with the noble Marquess. The evidence taken with immense care, and so far as I know with impartiality, by the Royal Commission established two things—the social evil of the extension of the habit of betting and gambling and the contribution to that habit made by greyhound racing. I know I have not the experience of proprietorship of a greyhound track which the noble Lord possesses, and that may be a disqualification to my expert knowledge but not, perhaps, to my impartiality. I venture to think, having regard to the careful conclusions reached by the Royal Commission, that your Lordships' House would not be justified, even after his admirable and good-natured observations, in supporting the noble Lord.


My Lords, when I spoke on the Second Reading of this Bill I said that I thought the Bill contained some good points which I should like to see carried, but I also said I thought it was not a good Bill. In the course of its passage through the House the Bill, in my opinion, has not been very much amended in the direction of improvement. There were, of course, two Amendments which I moved with regard to betting with young persons on the course and the employment of young persons on the course which the noble Marquess was good enough to accept. Those Amendments I regard, perhaps naturally, as improvements. There were some improvements made, I think, with regard to the arrangements in connection with the licensing of tracks, but apart from those I think the main Amendments have been disastrous to the Bill.

I begin with the new Clause 3. The Government in that clause went back on their original intention of making football pool betting and other forms of pool betting off the course—except pool betting off the course through the totalisator on; the course—illegal. The noble Marquess himself said that pool betting was a form of betting which was particularly open to fraud of a kind difficult to detect. Pool betting was strongly condemned by the Royal Commission and also by the Football Associations of England, Scotland and Wales in the evidence they gave before the Royal Commission. It is a form of betting which is increasing considerably. It is very popular with young people and I believe it is quite unnecessary to allow it, because if people want to bet on football there are plenty of opportunities for betting where fixed odds are given, opportunities of betting much less open to fraud. This clause opens the door for pool betting or pari mutuel betting on all kinds of sport. I understand it is already creeping into cricket, which I think is to be deplored. Notwithstanding all this the Government have not made illegal this form of betting, which is a very bad form of betting, in a Bill which sets out to be a measure of social reform. They have left this form of betting, which is an extremely deleterious form and likely to increase in the harm it does.

The other main Amendment which I think has been disastrous to the Bill is the Amendment increasing the percentages and the change in regard to breakages in the operation of the totalisator on greyhound courses. With regard to this Amendment I should like to say a few words as to the procedure which was adopted on the Report stage. An Amendment moved in the Committee stage by the noble Lord, Lord Askwith, and the noble Duke, the Duke of Sutherland, was put down again and appeared on the Marshalled List of Amendments on the morning of the day of the Report stage. That Amendment had been rejected by the Government a week earlier on the Committee stage, and rather firmly rejected, I may say. I naturally thought, certainly my noble friends behind me thought, and a great many other noble Lords probably thought, that the Government would not be likely to give way on that Amendment. Then at the last moment on the Report stage, in a rapidly thinning House, three manuscript Amendments were brought in, and we were told that they had been practically agreed outside the House. I am not saying that there was anything technically wrong in that procedure of your Lordships' House. I know that the procedure of the House is very informal, and rightly so, but I think that the very fact of its informality ought to be sufficient to protect your Lordships from that kind of procedure. I am not in the least saying that it was unfair; I will not use the word "unfair"; but I do consider that it was very unfortunate procedure. I do not think it is an exaggeration when I use the word "unfortunate." It was an important Amendment. We needed time for consideration, and more time should have been given for a fuller discussion of such an important matter. I think, if I may say so, that the noble Marquess was perhaps a little too good-natured in giving way to the pressure which I have no doubt was put upon him for those Amendments to be brought forward in that way and dealt with in that way.

I myself think that those Amendments are disastrous Amendments. I made my protest at the time and I am not going to repeat it now, bat I want to add just one point with regard to that question of the percentages and the question of making greyhound tracks pay their way. I had a paper sent me the other day called, the Greyhound Express. I have it here. Probably many of your Lordships had it sent to you. That, I understand, is a paper entirely devoted to greyhound racing, and it represents the views of most of the people who are supporting greyhound races. In this paper there is an open letter on the Betting Bill from the editor. I do not know what his name is. In the course of that letter he says that there are a large number of existing greyhound racecourses which have no justification at all and that there are many which are dishonestly conducted. In another place he argues strongly for a control hoard on the lines of the Betting Control Board. He lays down certain conditions which that control board should adopt with regard to the licensing of these courses; and he says that at least three-quarters of the greyhound tracks would not qualify for licences under the conditions which he himself lays down. I ask why the Government should go out of their way to raise the percentages and the breakages in order to make these greyhound courses pay their way—greyhound courses many of which are dishonestly conducted and three-quarters of which would not pass a reasonable qualification for a licence.

So much for the Amendments. Passing to what I regard as the bad points in the Bill, most of them unfortunately still remain. The totalisator has been legalised on greyhound tracks with certain safeguards. On the Committee stage the noble Marquess kindly referred me, on the question of safeguards, to the First Schedule. Of course I had read that Schedule before; I always make a point of reading Bills—or having them read to me—before I speak upon them. As I say, I had read it before, but I read the Schedule again, and I still remain unconvinced that those safeguards really are a protection against betting. I still believe that although they may make the totalisator less open to fraud, they will in so far as they succeed in doing that make it a better gambling instrument, and will have the effect of increasing betting on these courses.

With regard to the second Part of the Bill, the Bill certainly makes big sweepstakes not merely illegal but more difficult to carry out, and so far it is good. That is one of the strong points in the Bill, I think; but with regard to newspaper and other competitions, I think the Bill might have gone much farther. The clause which forbids competitions except those in which a substantial degree of skill can be shown is not worth very much, and leaves the matter pretty much where it is. I have been rather surprised that we have not had the pleasure of hearing some of the distinguished legal authorities who are members of your Lordships' House on this very curious and vague phrase—so it is to me—"a substantial degree of skill." I am not a lawyer, but it does sound to me somewhat vague and not worth very much. I should have liked to hear the views of some of the noble and learned members of this House upon it.

I think the noble Marquess has had a very hard task in piloting this Bill through the House. The Bill was necessarily a compromise, and compromises are never wholly satisfactory to anybody. He has had to steer a course between more liberty on the one hand, and more social order, for which I and my noble friends behind me stand, on the other hand. Now of course increased liberty means in this case not merely more liberty to people who want to bet but more liberty to people who want to make profits and exploit the people who want to bet, the gamblers. The Government, I am sure, have had to resist a good deal of pressure on the side of those who are financially interested in betting. There has been a great deal of pressure applied both outside the House and inside the House by people who are determined to make greyhound racing a paying business, and their determination has often been very thinly disguised under a rather flimsy pretext of an interest in the amusements of the working people.

The noble Marquess has gone some way in the direction of opposing that pressure, and I think the reduction in the number of days racing is one of the strongest things in the Bill. Personally I should have liked to have seen the number of days reduced still further, and I hope very much that the Government will not go back on that question, and will not increase the number of days for racing on greyhound tracks when the Bill gets to another place. On the whole, however, the pressure of those financially interested in racing, and dog racing especially, and football people, seems to have been too strong for the Government, and I think it is most unfortunate that it has been impossible for the noble Marquess to oppose some of the Amendments which have been accepted. Looking at the Bill as a whole the Government, after all, have only touched the fringe of the matter, and they have only really tinkered with the fringe in a somewhat half-hearted manner, whereas the Bill might have been a great measure of social reform, dealing in a comprehensive and thorough way with the whole subject of gambling and betting.


My Lords, the noble Lord who has just sat down has proceeded at considerable length. I am not going to follow him, or any of the other speakers who have made Second Reading speeches, but the noble Lord has thought fit to attack me, firstly by saying that I was unfair, and then withdrawing it and saying that it was an unfortunate proceedure which was adopted on the Report stage of the Bill. The noble Lord is still more unfortunate in his procedure in making such a speech as he has on the Third Reading of the Bill, in a depleted House, when no one could possibly expect it. The reason why a change was made on the Report stage of the Bill was that originally an Amendment to substitute 7½ per cent. was down in the name of the Duke of Sutherland, who had to go away on other duties, and my name was added to it. Certain remarks were made by the noble Marquess during the Committee stage. I think his words were, that he was going to give very careful attention to the question of the "tote," but he said that he could not accept 7½ per cent.

I will read what he said: I have a suggestion to make after the noble Duke has finished his remarks, which I have no doubt your Lordships would like to hear. It may guide his remarks if I tell him that there is certainly no desire on the part of the Government to be unreasonable in this matter. We are quite unable to accept the proposal that the deduction should be increased to 7½ per cent., but I can assure your Lordships that if a case is made out for a slight increase in the pools, the Government will certainly consider the matter further at a later stage. Part of the difficulty of putting down Amendments on Report, after Committee stage, is that there is no Order Paper in this House from Friday morning until Tuesday morning, and therefore if shortly after the Committee stage the Report stage is put down for the following Tuesday morning, unless Amendments are put down almost immediately they cannot be in the Amendment Paper until Tuesday morning. I heard that the noble Marquess was not going himself to propose an Amendment of the 7½ per cent, which was ready to be put down for the purpose of raising discussion and explanation, but that he would prefer that the proposal should be made by myself on behalf of the noble Duke.

Accordingly I handed to him the proposal to be made, and I emphasised it with argument and appeal to the figures which the noble Duke had used after the concession had been made on the Committee stage, and the noble Marquess was able to accept a proposal which was certainly in three Amendments, though practically all one, for a slight amelioration of the amount allowed in percentages and breakages. I am not going into the question whether the concessions given to this industry were sufficient to enable it to be run at a profit, but I merely wish to explain how it was that the manuscript Amendments were handed in on the Tuesday afternoon when the Report stage of the Bill was taken in this House.

On Question, Bill read 3a.

Amendments (Privilege) made.

Bill passed, and sent to the Commons.