§ Debate resumed (according to Order) on the Amendment to the Motion for the Second Reading,—namely, That the Bill 925 be read a second time this day six months, moved by Viscount Bertie of Thame last Thursday.
THE LORD BISHOP OF WINCHESTER
My Lords, I know there are many who desire to speak, so I do not propose to occupy any considerable extent of time, and it is less necessary for me to do so for, notwithstanding the different opinions expressed during the last debate, there were one or two principles on which I think we were all agreed. We were all agreed that the State has not the duty of interfering with betting between private individuals. It is only called upon so to interfere when organised betting has reached the pitch that it leads to grave social consequences. The other principle on which I think we were agreed was that, as a matter of fact, betting has greatly increased during recent years and that from it there have come grave social consequences. I need not spend time in urging the accuracy of that position. I can only say from my own personal experience—for ever thirty years until quite recently I have been roost closely connected with large industrial districts—that during that time I have seen many changes, most of them for the better, but during that time, and especially since the War, there has been a rapid increase in betting and gambling, in the amount which is spent in this way, and in the number of people who take part in it.
The evidence brought before the Royal Commission showed quite plainly—and the Commission in its Report accepts the evidence—that through this increase of betting crime has often been caused, poverty has been intensified, and character has frequently deteriorated. The Commission expressly points out the evil effects of this increase in betting and gambling on those who belong to the younger generation. Where young men and lads have been seized with the gambling habit, as some of them have, all other interests pass away. There was very striking evidence brought forward in this connection, and noble Lords who doubt that can test it for themselves if they are in connection with any old school or college mission. If they ask the manager of such a mission, whether he be clerical or lay, and if he has had considerable experience there, he will say that during the last years one of the most 926 difficult problems he has had to deal with has been this increased betting and gambling among the boys in his club.
I think that on these matters we are agreed, but where we differ is as to whether the State can rightly and usefully interfere with this betting. There are a number of speakers who have suggested that the causes of betting and gambling are such that the State cannot rightly interfere. We are told that the increase of betting and gambling has been partly due to a reaction from the excitement of war, partly it has been due to the intense desire for some escape from the monotony of daily life, and it has been partly due to the desire suddenly to get rich and to live the kind of life which is presented day by day in so many of our films. I am quite ready to recognise the force of all these reasons. I sympathise with the motives which lead many people to take to gambling. I could not possibly pass a sweeping condemnation on the individuals who are actuated by these things, but these are not the only causes of the increase of betting and gambling. There is another cause, and that is a cause which can quite legitimately he dealt with by the State.
As the Royal Commission found, one of the main causes of the increase in betting and gambling to-day is that the organised facilities for gambling have increased, and that there has been a deliberate exploitation of the gambling propensity for the sake of private gain. I venture to read two very short extracts from the Report of the Commission:One of the main causes, perhaps the most potent, in the growth of gambling, has been the increased facilities for organised gambling.Again:We see before us the mass exploitation for private financial gain of the instinct or propensity to gamble.There have come into existence a number of new companies and associations whose prosperity or decline depend upon the increase or decline of gambling. Their dividends depend very largely on the amount which they are able to receive from those who go to various forms of amusement not for the sake of the sport which is there but so that they may have opportunities for gambling.
It is riot good for the State that there should come into existence societies and companies who make private gain 927 through encouraging the anti-social habit of excessive betting and gambling. If these societies and companies are allowed to flourish they may eventually become a real danger to the nation. They will possess in the course of time considerable wealth and they may use it, as has been done in other countries, in an attempt to manipulate the Press, to bribe the Police, and to influence representatives in Parliament. I am not at all sure that signs of this are not already visible. I understand that members in another place are being deluged by postcards which are all in almost identically the same terms and which are evidently due to the promptings of some organisation. The State has not only the right, but it has the duty, to control and, if needs be, to stop those who are attempting to exploit gambling propensities for the sake of private gain.
This Bill, as far as I understand it, does not attempt in any way to interfere with private betting and gambling. It contains, as far as I can see, no penalties that are directed against the individual who gambles. Its whole purpose is to control and check those who are trying to organise gambling so that they can make private gain from it. This is, I think, plain in connection with the clauses in the Bill which deal with greyhound racing. This is a new amusement which has come very rapidly into popularity. I noticed that the noble Lord, Lord Askwith, in his speech, was rather doubtful as to whether he should call it a sport or an industry. I am doubtful, and I was glad to see that the noble Lord, Lord Hamilton of Dalzell, was also doubtful, whether it ought to be called a sport. Our objection to greyhound racing is not to the racing itself. The racing itself has nothing whatever objectionable in it. Nor can any charge be fairly brought against the crowds who attend these gatherings. Our objection to greyhound racing as it is very often practised is that it becomes very largely an excuse for gambling on a very large scale.
On the two occasions when I visited dog-racing tracks I was very much struck by the great rings of bookmakers. A friend who was with me, who is much more accustomed to horse racing than I am, tells me that they were in proportion far in excess of anything you see on 928 the ordinary horse-racing course. What also struck me was that the majority of the people were not showing any interest in the actual racing. They were showing great interest in the bookmakers, but comparatively little interest in the actual racing. I could quite understand it. The first race or two that I saw thrilled me. Afterwards I found the performance became boring beyond all words. Out of the two hours or two-and-a-quarter hours of the performance, I think only four or five minutes were actually taken up with the racing. Many of the people kept their eyes the whole time on the board which was to have numbers hoisted on it and paid no attention to the racing. Another thing which struck me was that crowds of quite young men and youths were taking part in the betting in the lower-priced seats.
The evidence which was brought before the Royal Commission shows that there has been a great increase in betting and gambling through the coming into existence of these greyhound courses. Two of the noble Lords who spoke last week, Lord Askwith and the Duke of Sutherland, gave us a most vivid and attractive picture of these courses. From their speeches I think we might gather that these courses were run by kindly and philanthropic people in order to give the working classes some amusement in the evening. We had a picture of the man and his family enjoying a happy, healthy evening in the open air. I could understand the account given by the noble Duke because he told us he had not attended one of these racecourses for a very long period. I was rather more perplexed by the account given us by the noble Lord, Lord Askwith.
The noble Lord fortified his opinion by quoting a description given by the late Viscount Brentford when he was a member of the other House and Home Secretary. I feel that even if Viscount Brentford in 1928 passed a favourable opinion on these courses, that would hardly apply to-day. Then there were only forty-five of these courses in existence whereas now there are something like 230 or more. When I looked up the speech made by Sir William Joynson-Hicks, as he then vas, I saw that the Home Secretary said that the first thing he had learned from the reports of the police was that there was a great deal of betting. He said: 929I am bound to draw the conclusion that there is very much betting. That is one point that appears quite clearly, that dog racing and I am inclined to say must be, associated with a very large amount of betting indeed…. That is the first fact that emerges from the opinion of all the police forces.If that was true some six years ago, it is much more true to-day.
This Bill deals with dog racing in three ways. It gives local authorities some opportunity of saying whether they desire this kind of racing or not. It is really almost intolerable that to-day a company may decide that it desires to start a racecourse in the midst of some locality, and that although the local authority and the great mass of the people may be most violently opposed to it, there is no possible way of stopping it. This Bill, if it becomes law, will give the local authority some power of stopping a course being thrust upon a reluctant population. I am bound to say that I wish the reasons given were rather fuller. Reasons of police and reasons of traffic may be right, but I cannot see why moral and other reasons should not be also included. Next, the Bill limits the number of days on which there can be betting. It does not interfere with the number of clays upon which they can have racing. I think there was some confusion in connection with this in the minds of some of the noble Lords who have spoken. If the noble Lord, Lord Askwith, and the other philanthropists, wish to continue giving this healthy recreation for the working classes in the evening, night by night, there is no reason why they should not do so. It is true that they will not be allowed to have the totalisator every night, and they will not be allowed to have bookmakers every night, but with those exceptions they can continue having this racing, and if people go there simply for the sake of the sport and simply for the sake of spending an evening with their wives and families, surely they can still continue allowing these races to go on night by night.
Then the Bill will also legalise the totalisator on dog-racing tracks. I find myself quite unable to resist or criticise this proposal. If you are going to allow betting on a dog track it is, I think, right that they should have the opportunity of what is generally regarded as the cleanest and fairest form of betting. But if they are to be allowed to have the 930 totalisator, I trust that the Government will not withdraw or modify any of the restrictions which they have placed upon it in this Bill. The difference between the totalisator on a horse racecourse and the totalisator on greyhound tracks while it was still in operation, was that the latter was used for private gain, and it is this element of private gain which we desire to see taken out of the totalisator. If private gain is allowed to come into the use of a legalised totalisator on every greyhound race track, I believe that the greater part of the value of this Bill will be lost.
I want to spend only a few moments on the question of lotteries. Here again, the Government have distinguished: they have decided to allow the smaller lotteries and they have directed their attack on the great organised lotteries—lotteries which are advertised highly and which stimulate the gambling instinct, and incidentally in some cases mean that very large sums of money leave this country. I know that we have an alternative: it has been pressed upon us that we should have in this country sweepstakes for the sake of the hospitals. The noble Duke, the Duke of Sutherland, told us that he was greatly disappointed because, while in a previous debate in this House the Government spokesman had said that his view and the views of others should receive careful consideration, apparently nothing that they had suggested was to be found in this Bill. Personally, I am not over-optimistic when noble Lords on the Government Front Bench, whatever Government may be in power, tell us that proposals are going to receive careful consideration; but in this case I think many of us may feel that our views did receive careful consideration, for I think the weight of the argument in that previous debate was against lotteries for the sake of the hospitals. I think it was shown that by far the greater part of the money which was raised for the hospitals never reached the hospitals at all, but went into the pockets of the private individuals and agents who were organising those lotteries. Of course, the lottery law is at the present time in a hopelessly inconsistent condition.
I think the most serious feature of this Bill is that it fails to deal with street betting. Street betting is illegal, and it is practised in almost every street. 931 The law is brought into contempt by the way in which that law is set at naught. I am not, however, proposing for one moment that any attempt should be made to enforce the present law. I doubt whether popular opinion would stand it. Nor am I proposing that the present law should merely be strengthened; but I think that sooner or later some Government with positive proposals will have to deal with what is admittedly a very serious evil.
This is not a Bill which has been drawn up by anti-gambling societies. If those who are opposed to all forms of betting and gambling had drawn up a Bill dealing with these problems, it would have been a very different Bill from the one which is now before the House. I venture to think that in some ways it would have been a very much better Bill. It would have been a Bill which dealt with street betting, a Bill which dealt much more drastically with all the advertisements and announcements of betting; it would probably have been a Bill which refused to legalise the totalisator; and it would have been a much more drastic Bill. But this Bill has one definite aim as far as I understand it, and that is to check and control organised betting—the organised exploitation for the sake of private gain of the propensity to bet—and because I believe that this Bill, if carried into law, will do something to check organised betting on a large scale, which has grave social consequences, I for one shall unhesitatingly vote for its Second Reading.
§ LORD BAYFORD
My Lords, after the speech which we have just heard I as a mere layman should not for a moment venture to pronounce any sort of opinion on what after all is a very difficult ethical problem, and that is, just where you draw the line between that which is perfectly innocent and that which is undoubtedly the reverse. The difference, for instance, between winning a turkey in a raffle at a village bazaar and breaking the bank at Monte Carlo seems to me to be one not of essence but of degree. Everyone would agree, I think, that the first was practically innocent; everyone would agree that the second was anything but innocent. There are infinite gradations between the two, and the difficulty with which the State has to deal in tackling a question like that is to know exactly where the line is to be drawn.
932 I think we all fully admit what the last speaker said about the misery caused by gambling. What is not so often mentioned is the amount of pleasure, and very often quite innocent pleasure, which gambling in a mild degree does give. There was no better judge. I suppose, of various kinds of pleasure than Charles James Fox, who devoted to the racecourse and the gambling table what time he could spare from the furtherance of Liberal politics; and it was the opinion given by Charles James Fox that the greatest pleasure which existed was to win at cards, and the next greatest pleasure was to play cards and lose. That is an extreme case, which I do not suppose that any one in this House would endorse for a moment, but it is the fact that an enormous amount of innocent pleasure is got out of mild gambling. After men have been working hard, whether in an office in the City or in a factory or workshop, a good many of them leading fairly drab lives, the amusement to which they look forward is sometimes playing a rubber of bridge in the evening, or sometimes, if they are working at a factory, going to see the dogs run at one of these greyhound racecourses. A great deal of that pleasure is perfectly innocent, and the real difficulty with which the State has to deal is exactly where to draw the line.
I certainly am not going to vote against the Second Reading of this Bill. I think the present position is absurd. The attitude which the State has taken up in the past seems to me to be expressed somewhat in this sort of way: "Really it is wrong to gamble at all, but the practice is too popular to stop, and so we will put every sort of pettifogging difficulty in the way." Though I am not an authority upon the law on this subject, I believe that it is legal to make a 210.000 book, but it is very doubtful whether it is legal to have a whist drive. That is a question upon which I believe the Police authorities and the legal authorities in the country decline to express any opinion. So far as the present Bill clears up these difficulties, I think we ought to be grateful for it. That is all that I want to say on the general question, but I want to speak, not on the dog-racing part of the Bill at all but on Part II of the Bill, which deals with what the law is to be in the future with regard to lotteries, 933 especially as they affect the clubs throughout the country.
I am speaking on behalf of the Association of Conservative Clubs of the country, of which I have the honour to be the Chairman. They number 1,500, and they have about half a million members. It is on their behalf that I want to say a word or two on Part II of the Bill. These clubs have "sweeps" on the big races, and they often have Christmas draws for turkeys, or something of that sort. Until now there has been no interference with that practice at all. The Royal Commission dealt with the matter and said:It is the practice of the Home Office to issue circulars to the police in England and Wales on matters affecting police work. The police have been informed in Home Office circulars that … private lotteries confined to the members of a genuine club, or society, should not be interfered with.And they have dealt with the matter in one or two other paragraphs. When, however, we come to this Bill, and the provisions which are made, under Clause 22, to exempt private lotteries from the existing law, which declares all lotteries to be unlawful, the Bill goes on to impose certain conditions, and it is to these conditions that the workingmen's clubs take the most serious objection. These clubs have hitherto beer permitted to promote these lotteries without outside interference.
In Clause 22, subsection (2), paragraph (g), it is laid down that:before selling any tickets or chances, the promoters shall give by registered letter to the chief officer of police a notice, signed by each of them, stating the purposes for which they intend to promote the lottery and the full names and address of each of the promoters.Now clubs are properly regarded as private concerns, and they feel that if they care to promote a sweep on the Derby, or a draw for a turkey, it should not be incumbent on them to acquaint the local police by registered letter, failing which each of the promoters of the lottery shall be "guilty of an offence." It is a new practice. In the past no such notice has been necessary. This obligation, and others imposed on such private promotions, have caused considerable irritation amongst the members of these various clubs who regard them as undue interference with their private concerns.
Now I come to Clause 25 of the Bill, which deals with search warrants. I do 934 not want to say that it, would not be administered impartially. I have no doubt that, it would be, but you are sure to get the accusation made that there is one law for Pall Mall and another for Poplar, and any good you may do is really not worth the ill-feeling which such an allegation as that would cause. Then there is Clause 28 of the Bill. Under it any person guilty of an offence under any section contained in Part II of the Act shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding£100, and in the case of a second conviction to three months imprisonment or a fine not exceeding£200, or to both, while on conviction on indictment the maximum penalties are a year's imprisonment and a fine of£750, or both.
I do not propose to say for a moment that such extreme penalties are likely to be imposed for any irregularity in connection with an ordinary "sweep" or Christmas draw promoted in connection with a workingman's club, but the Bill provides for their imposition, and members of these clubs see the Bill, or see quoted in the papers paragraphs about the Bill, and they do not realise that these very heavy penalties are not going to be inflicted upon them. Naturally, they are regarded as out of all proportion to any offence which wittingly or unwittingly might be committed, particularly as hitherto such promotions could be instituted and carried through without any outside interference whatsoever. Further, under Section 28 (3) anything seized by the police, money, etc., is to be forfeited, while all documents, tickets, etc., relating to the lottery can be ordered by the court to be destroyed. This affects a great many clubs.
Altogether there are 14,300 registered clubs in England and Wales alone. Their total membership is probably about 3,000,000, of whom the majority are weekly wage-earners. They are decent, law-abiding citizens, and none the worse citizens for occasionally putting a shilling on a horse or in a sweepstake. Is it necessary to hedge round private lotteries, occasionally promoted by bona fide clubs as innocent diversions, with all the restrictions, obligations and penalties contained in this Bill?—obligations which are regarded by clubmen not only as irritating but insulting, They have been allowed to have their "sweeps" and Christmas draws without let or hindrance in the past, and no dire consequences have happened either to the participators 935 therein or to the nation. It is really employing a Nasmyth hammer to crush a nut.
Why not let well alone? If the Government intend to proceed further with Part II of the Bill, or at any rate Clause 22 of it, that paragraph which necessitates giving notice of a, private lottery promoted by a bona fide club to the police, really should be eliminated altogether, and also Clause 25, giving magistrates power to issue search warrants. Clause 28, which deals with penalties and forfeitures, also seems to need drastic amendment, and I propose on the Committee stage to put down Amendments to that effect. I have been at a recent conference of Conservative clubmen in different parts of the country, and I have been surprised at the strong feeling which exists against these club regulations in the Bill. That part of it dealing with private lotteries and sweepstakes in a club is regarded as an unwarrantable interference, and that is a view which there is good ground for believing is shared by the vast majority of the 3,000,000 people who belong to these bona fide clubs.
§ LORD ELTON
My Lords, as this is the first occasion on which I have had the honour of addressing this House I shall not venture to detain you for more than a few minutes, and I shall confine myself entirely to Part II of the Bill, to which, I think, less attention has so far been devoted in the course of this debate, but which I think raises issues of little, if any, less importance to the public interest than those involved in Part I. If I may turn at once to Clause 20, the Irish Hospital Trust is engaged in promoting the sale of its tickets in other countries besides Great Britain, although, of course, Great Britain is by far the most lucrative field exploited, and in most of those countries, as in Great Britain, the sale of these tickets is a breach of the law. I think that the spectacle of this widespread and intricate commercial organisation, busily engaged in encouraging the citizens of other countries to break their own laws in the financial interests of the Irish Hospitals Trust, is a spectacle to which your Lordships will be very ready to put an end. There surely has been something grotesque in this country imposing special duties in an 936 endeavour to recover from the Irish Free State an equivalent of moneys which we believe to be improperly withheld from us and at one and the same time permitting, at any rate since June, 1932, this large annual illegal subvention to the Irish Free State Exchequer.
In view of all this, I cannot help thinking that if there is any doubt present in your Lordships' minds about this provision of the Bill, it is likely not to be whether it is desirable, but only whether it is likely to be effective. If that is so, we are at once faced with the question, should we encourage in this country a substitute for the now prohibited sweepstakes organised across the Irish Channel? Well, more than one noble Lord who has already spoken in the course of this debate has professed himself ill-qualified to discuss the moral aspects of the lottery, and I should certainly be the last person to propose myself as an exception to that self-denying ordinance; but I do feel that possibly for our present purposes it may not be indispensable after all to consider the moral aspect of the lottery. For I must confess that for my own part I have been convinced by the Commission.
I feel that it has substantiated its view that if there is to be a successful lottery in this country it must be a monopoly; and therefore, if there is to be a monopoly, I myself follow the Commission in thinking that it must be a State monopoly. For, as I understand it, the fundamental conception of this Bill is that, if there is to be betting, the gambling instincts of the people shall not at any rate be exploited for private gain. If that is so, it seems to me that the conclusion follows readily, and I cannot think that the Government can have hesitated long before deciding not to add to their already numerous obligations that of promoting national sweepstakes. It would indeed, I think, be remarkable if during the last two and a half years, while the Government has been constantly and rightly exhorting us to practise the sober virtues of economy and hard work, it should at the same time have been using all its powers of persuasion, and possibly pressing into its service the vacant hoardings of the Empire Marketing Board for suitable advertisement, to encourage us to spend our money on a one-in-a-million chance of getting something for nothing.
937 Whatever may be said for State lotteries, it cannot be denied that we have got along very well without them since they were prohibited in 1826, and the time to re-introduce them is surely not a moment when the people of this country are slowly and painfully raising themselves by the virtues of self-denial and patience from the trough of an unparallelled slump—itself, as many think, largely due to over-speculation. It was after considerable and varied experience, extending over several generations, that the Select Committee of 1808 decided against State lotteries, in good round English of which the noble Marquess who introduced the Bill has treated your Lordships to an example. As your Lordships are very well aware, 1808 was not a period in which rigid moral Puritanism was in the ascendant. It was a period deeply impressed by the genius of that Charles James Fox of whose tastes in gambling the noble Lord, Lord Bayford, has just given us such a vivid description, and I cannot but believe that the Select Committee of 1808 came to its conclusions, not as moral censors, but as statesmen; and in the passage of a hundred years for my part I see no change of circumstances which should lead us either to discard their experience or to differ from their conclusions.
There is just one further aspect of the public lottery—for so I think it must be described—and it has hardly been touched on so far in the course of the debate in your Lordships' House, and that is the great newspaper competitions for£15,000,£10,000,£1,000 a year and so forth. It is very interesting to see from the Report of the Commission that on that issue there is a deep conflict o' view within the Press itself. What I may perhaps be allowed to call the large circulation Press—I believe "mammoth" is the correct journalistic term—takes the view that giant competitions are part of the essential business of a newspaper. So deeply rooted is that view that the journal which represents the views of noble Lords opposite, while rarely ceasing to visit unearned income with opprobrium, is itself through these competitions almost weekly creating new owners of them.
The noble Lord who spoke from the Front Opposition Bench, Lord Sander- 938 son, spent some time in his speech in contrasting the present system with a future state at which he and his friends desire to arrive, and in which, he assured your Lordships, there would be both less desire and less need for betting. When, however, I see the powerful journal which shares, and indeed officially represents, the noble Lord's views, simultaneously denouncing the so-called capitalist system and busily organising lotteries to create new capitalists, I find it very difficult, not to think that, if the noble Lord ever succeeds in arriving at his New Jerusalem, he may not find it, at any rate as regards its betting proclivities—and, I must add, its logic—not quite such an improvement on the present state of affairs as he has been led to expect.
Witnesses for the powerful section of the Press which takes this view about competitions and which, we are led to understand, retains permanent special technical staffs to conduct them, hold the view that without these competitions their great circulations could not be either obtained or subsequently maintained. On the other hand, the Press which enjoys a comparatively smaller circulation—and that section of the Press includes not only the bulk of the provincial Press but a great national and indeed international institution like The Times—takes on the whole the contrary view. It does not hold that the great competition is part of the essential business of a newspaper. Rather significantly, one of the witnesses before the Commission said that a provincial newspaper is "bought to be read." I suggest to your Lordships that the striking contrast which, broadly speaking, can be observed between the whole journalistic standards of the competition Press and the no-competition Press is not a coincidence.
I do not want to say anything about the effect on public morals of the great competitions, but I should like to say this final word as to their effect upon the Press of this country itself. That section of the Press, to put it mildly, which bases its large circulations upon such methods, is not the most reputable or the most responsible section. Foreign observers of this country have often expressed surprise that a country of such great political stability and political responsibility should have a popular Press 939 which, despite good humour and public spirit, does exhibit so little of either of those qualities. For myself I believe that the people of this country—and I think this is particularly true of the working class—want their daily newspaper to be reasonably responsible and reasonably detached in the views and the news which it brings to their breakfast table. It is these great artificial adjuncts to the ordinary business of a newspaper which induces them to give this kind of Press its gigantic circulation. Your Lordships will, I hope, readily agree that the more these mammoth prizes enable the Press to rely upon such methods of gaining circulation the less will it have to rely upon presenting responsible and detached news and views in its columns.
I have spoken too long for one who has the honour of addressing your Lordships for the first time, and I only want to end by appealing to your Lordships on behalf of the Bill as a whole. If Solon and Socrates were working in conjunction to construct a measure upon betting and lotteries they could not hope to produce a measure which would win the comprehensive support of your Lordships, and I have been surprised, as I have listened to the course of this debate, at the degree of support which has emerged for this Bill. This is a Bill which is likely to end several vexatious anomolies, and it is further a Bill which is likely to earn no popularity and very few political dividends for its authors. That fact was used as an argument against it by at least one noble Lord, and possibly two, in the course of the debate. For myself I must confess I think it is an argument for the Bill. We have had to wait for a strong Government and an all-Party Government to introduce an unpopular measure, and I hope your Lordships will deem that an additional reason for supporting it.
§ LORD AMULREE
My Lords, I wish to congratulate my noble friend Lord Elton on his maiden speech, and I hope that in future he will take frequent occasion to intervene in our debates. I have long observed that there are two subjects on which Governments, of whatever political complexion, always hesitate to legislate—namely, licensing and betting. I had the honour of being associated with the recent Royal Commission on Licensing. Its Report appeared about two 940 years ago. It is a moderate and constructive Report. Although the membership of the Commission represented nearly every section of opinion the Report was almost unanimous. Yet so far nothing has been done to give effect to any of our recommendations. I am not complaining of that, for I know that the Government have their hands full of other important matters, but I hope the subject is not being forgotten.
I can, however, congratulate the Government on introducing this Bill which, in my opinion, is a substantial measure of social reform. We had evidence before the Royal Commission on Licensing to the effect that while the evils of excessive drinking had largely diminished in recent years, gambling on the other hand was increasing to an alarming extent. The Royal Commission on Lotteries and Betting emphasised the increase in the gambling habit and the large amount of money turned over. They reached the conclusion that the total turnover in money to-day is probably at least as great as at any recent date and much greater than it was at the beginning of the century or earlier. Further, the amount of money expended represents a considerable spread in the gambling habit, since a larger proportion of the turnover than at any previous time is represented by the relatively small bets of the poorer classes of the community. Why has excessive drinking so largely diminished and gambling so largely increased? In the main, because the opportunities for gambling have largely increased and the facilities for drinking have been much curtailed. New opportunities for gambling have arisen and the existing law is unable to cope with them. The present Bill goes a long way to control those opportunities.
I wish to congratulate the noble Marquess on his speech on Second Reading. He took his stand on high principle, and challenged the opposition to the Bill in his presentation of it as a concrete recognition of duty. The Government have been accused of uncalled-for meddling with a system which were better left alone. The noble Marquess answered by declaring that:The control of gambling by clear legislation and legislation as definite as can be is a responsibility which no Government, and least of all a National Government, has the right to evade.941 Although I should have wished that the Bill had contained all the recommendations of the Royal Commission, I am satisfied that the Government have pursued a sound and courageous course. Some of the new opportunities of gambling are dog racing on greyhound tracks, lottery devices, certain newspaper competitions, and the football pool.
Greyhound tracks are spreading throughout the country with remarkable rapidity. As Lord Askwith reminded us, the attendances are generally large at those race-meetings, but it is the amount of money that is turned over that matters, for that tends to show whether or not the main object of the attendance at the meetings is sport or gambling. The Royal Commission have given us some indication as to the amount of money turned over. According to the Report, it appears that on tracks affiliated to the National Greyhound Racing Society the gross turnover on the totalisator, before it was declared illegal in 1932, was approximately£8,000,000 a year. In addition there was betting on licensed tracks carried on with bookmakers and betting on unlicensed tracks carried on with bookmakers and the totalisator. At several of the licensed greyhound tracks as many as 200 or 300 bookmakers are present when racing takes place. The Commission concluded that the total turnover of betting on greyhound tracks must be very considerable, probably several times the amount of the turnover on thetotalisator—that is, several times£8,000,000 in the course of a year.
These figures show, I think, that the attraction to these tracks is the gambling rather than the sport. The rapid hold that dog racing has secured on the younger members of the community has greatly strengthened and increased during recent years. Reference has been made to the late Lord Brentford, and I shall also refer to him. In 1928, speaking on the Second Reading of the Dog Racing Bill, he said it was clear that, in a Police view, very few young people took any part in betting on greyhound tracks. Four years later, in 1932, one of the witnesses before the Royal Commission estimated that the exclusion from greyhound racing tracks of young persons apparently under the age of twenty-one lowered the attendance by 35 per 942 cent. These figures had been given to him as the result of observation.
The granting of control over the establishment and development of dog racing tracks is of great importance, and will prevent financial interests imposing tracks on reluctant communities. The Bill proposes that the licensing authority should be the county council and the council of the county borough. It has been suggested that these bodies are inappropriate for this work, and it has been further suggested that the standing joint committee of the county and the watch committee of the county borough are the most appropriate bodies. I have nothing to say against the standing joint committee or the watch committee, and I am quite content with the county council and the county borough as the licensing authority, but if any change in the licensing authority is to be made in the Bill, might I suggest for the consideration of the noble Marquess that the Justices of the Peace for the county and for the county borough should be substituted. A non-elected body has in many respects qualifications for this kind of duty which are not perhaps possessed by an elected body. It would be disastrous if organised bodies of bookmakers were to intervene in local elections and spend large sums of money in furthering their own views. Moreover, the substitution of Justices for the county council and county borough council would be in keeping with precedent. Under the Racecourse Licensing Act of 1879 the Justices in Quarter Sessions are the licensing authority, and it would save confusion if the Justices were to become the licensing authority under the Bill as well.
The Bill proposes a moratorium of five years for existing tracks. Inasmuch as many of those tracks were put down in opposition to the expressed mind of the community, the period of five years is generous. Indeed, it might with advantage be curtailed. It will doubtless be said at the end of the five years that the adjoining occupiers have become used to the nuisance or inconvenience and should continue to put up with it. If the proposals of the Bill are adhered to they will go a long way to restrict and control the facilities for gambling now so freely offered at greyhound tracks, and I hope there will be no modification of these restrictions.
943 The Royal Commission were unanimous in their judgment against the legalising of public lotteries. The provisions in this Part of the Bill are to be welcomed as tending to clarify and strengthen the law against such lotteries. The Bill makes it an offence to print and publish advertisements, results, reports and other matters relating to foreign sweepstakes which would in any way serve as an inducement to participate. I believe that these provisions will do much to check the lottery menace. There is a laudable movement on foot at the present time on the part of trade unions and many employers to shorten the hours of labour so that workpeople may have mere leisure. It would be a travesty if the present opportunities for gambling were to continue to be provided whereby people may be induced to spend their additional leisure in gambling at dog tracks and similar places. It is idle to say that the Bill is a piece of class legislation. On the contrary, it aims at remedying a great social evil. It seeks in the interests of the people to control and regulate organised gambling and provides for fair dealing between the bookmaker and the backer, and endeavours so far as it goes to establish clean sport in the interests of all.
§ EARL HOWE
My Lords, I hesitate to intervene on this subject, and I do so only because of the fact that I was for many years a London Member of Parliament and in that capacity had frequent opportunity of coming in contact with the views of my constituents and of all sections of them. I have never in my life had a bet on a horse, on a dog, or a motor car, or anything else, and I am entirely disinterested in the matter. I have no sort of connection whatever with any enterprise, either direct or indirect. Like many of your Lordships who have already addressed the House, I do not want to see an indefinite extension of gambling, but when I have said that, neither do I want to see any unreasonable restriction of the ordinary harmless pleasures of the working-man.
The noble Marquess when introducing the Bill the other day appealed to your Lordships to approach this matter with an open mind. He further went on to say that the ordinary Party divisions are not reflected in the attitude towards a Bill of this nature. No, the ordinary 944 Party divisions are certainly not reflected. On the other hand, I am sure the Government must realise perfectly well that if this Bill errs on the side of severity, if it goes too far in interfering with what the industrial population regard as their freedom to enjoy harmless pleasures, then, I submit, the Government will have to take the blame, and the Conservative Party as the largest Party in the National Government will undoubtedly get the major portion of the blame. In that I agree very much with the noble Viscount who moved the rejection of the Bill.
I have listened to most of the speeches so far made upon the Bill. There seems to be a certain confusion of thought. Many of the speeches would have been better directed to a Bill which proposed to do away with all forms of gambling in every shape and form. But that is not the Government idea. The noble Marquess when introducing the Bill stated that the Government had two principles in dealing with it. He said private morals were a matter for the individual conscience and tire improvement of individual behaviour must be left to the influences of religious education. We cannot attempt, he said, to determine the vexed question whether gambling is or is not immoral. He also went on to say that 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. I quite agree with all that. At the same time I think there is a danger in this Bill, so far at any rate as Part I is concerned, that it may go too far and by doing so may make it impossible for many of the greyhound racing tracks to continue.
We may, or may not, like greyhound racing, but at any rate it has an enormous public, and I submit that what we want to do with regard to greyhound racing is exactly what the Government have in mind—to prevent the exploitation of the public. On the other hand, we do not want to go so far as to make it impossible for a properly conducted greyhound track to continue. Every one of us must wish to see the end of dog casinos, and in this connection perhaps your Lordships would allow me to recite 945 just one or two causes which have given rise to such institutions. In 1927 the National Greyhound Racing Control Club was formed and also the National Greyhound Racing Society. In 1930 and 1931 the "tote" was declared to be legal both in Scotland and in England, with the result that many tracks were immediately formed and grew up round the "tote." These tracks were merely au excuse to have a "tote," a sort of gambling machine, not at all the sort of idea which any of us would favour. Most of the tracks formed under these auspices have not been recognised by either the Club or the Society. They hold as many as twelve meetings a week and they include Sundays in their operations. The companies who promote these tracks own the dogs and are financially interested in the betting. There is any amount of substitution. Dogs are painted all sort of colours and, in fact, I believe the only way you can tell whether a dog has been substituted or not is by the colour of its toe-nails. In fact, one may say that the racing is entirely subservient to the betting.
The Greyhound Racing Control Club and the National Greyhound Racing Society did what they could to meet the situation. They introduced a system of licensing, with the result that fifty-eight. tracks are licensed, and I am informed that they include all the best tracks in the country. Some figures were given to your Lordships by the noble Lord, Lord Askwith, last week, but there are one or two figures which perhaps your Lordships would permit me to give. First of all the attendances at these licensed tracks—I am not including unlicensed tracks—amount to something like 20,000,000 a year. Then the licensed, properly conducted tracks give away a large amount of money every year in prizes to the owners of the dogs. The noble Lord, Lord Askwith, told your Lordships that there are no fewer than 21,000 private owners of dogs. Those 21,000 owners compete for a sum which aggregates£416,000 in prize money.
Your Lordships listened to, and I am sure enjoyed, the remarkable speech of the noble Lord, Lord Hamilton of Dalzell, and for my part I entirely sympathise with what he said when he pointed out how important it was to keep the sporting idea to the fore in this matter. When it is realised that there 946 are 21,000 private owners of dogs—many of them working men who pay sums of£20 or£30 in order to own a dog—and that they compete for so large an amount of prize money, I think we can say that so far as licensed tracks are concerned there is a real element of sport. These tracks are not just dog casinos. There are other figures which I could give your Lordships. For instance, the amount paid to the Government is very consider able—some£200,000 odd—and the amount paid in local rates is no less than£50,000 odd. That all comes from licensed tracks.
The first objection which I wish to submit to your Lordships with regard to the present Bill is that it errs on the side of excessive restriction. I have made inquiries and I understand that it is simply not possible for the ordinary track or, indeed, for any track to exist with only 104 meetings a year. That number of meetings will simply not provide the revenue required to pay out prizes. It will mean that these men who have invested their money in buying their dogs will find that their dogs are worth nothing. I do not know why one class of people, whom I consider ought to be encouraged, should be treated with such severity. Then there is the question of the fixation of clays. It is proposed by this Bill that there shall be only two days a week, that those days shall be fixed by the local authority, and that meetings in the same area are to be all on the same day. I submit that this must entail cutthroat competition of a very severe character. It also entails the result that racing may be legal on one day and illegal on another, or if the days are lumped together by the local authorities, as is possible under this Bill, racing at one period of the year will be legal and at another period of the year illegal. That, I submit, is not what we really want. We want reasonable liberty for greyhound racing.
I do not wish to see anything done to greyhound racing that is not done to any other form of sport. To deal too severely with greyhound racing, and to allow other forms of sport such as horse racing to continue without the same restrictions, would be to lay ourselves open to a charge of class legislation. I would like to make another point with regard to this fixation of days. No allowance is made for weather. It is quite obvious that if racing is restricted by local authorities to 947 certain days, and there is no provision for changing meetings to some other day of the week or some other portion of the year, it may happen that if the owners of a track strike a patch of bad weather, of fog or rain, it will be difficult for them to continue to operate.
Then there is the question of licensing by county councils. On that I would like to suggest to your Lordships that county councils were not established with this idea. It is likely to give rise to all sorts of difficulties. I think personally that it is likely to introduce the trouble that has appeared from time to time in connection with licensing under the drink laws. It is likely to bring greyhound racing into Party politics. Undoubtedly, candidates will get questionnaires: Are you or are you not in favour of greyhound racing? Are you or are you not in favour of betting? That is a most undesirable thing to be brought into county council affairs. I must say that I agree strongly with the attitude of the London County Council as outlined the other day by the noble Lord, Lord Snell. I would like to point out also that there is no sort of appeal provided against the decision of the local authority. I think there should be some sort of appeal allowed. Otherwise a local authority, after a period of five years, out of pure caprice might put an end to a perfectly well-conducted track. IF that is done in connection with greyhound racing, why should it not be done in connection with the Derby or with the cricket test matches—perhaps that is not a very good instance, because there is no betting there—or in connection, say, with the Football Association cup final? Why should we single out this sport for so severe a restriction as that embodied in this Bill?
With regard to the operation of the totalisator, it is true that the Bill provides that greyhound racecourses may operate the totalisator, but I should like to submit to your Lordships that no totalisator can possibly operate at so low a percentage as 3 per cent. It leaves no provision for recouping capital cost, and it would simply mean that the management would have to concentrate on encouraging people to bet—quite the last thing that we really want them to do—in order to pay the cost of the totalisator's operation, and there would be the danger that the betting might become more important than the sport. I have 948 here certain figures with winch I have been provided which relate to certain actual specified tracks, and they may be of interest.
These are the figures relating to Wembley, one of the most important tracks in the London area: The capital cost of the installation of the totalisator on that track was over£21,000; the revenue at 10 per cent. of the pools plus breakages was 252,000 but the cost of the operation of this track was no less a sum than£21,800 and the percentage of expenditure to pools was 4.5. If the totalisator had been operated on the basis of 3 per cent. and breakages to the nearest penny, it would have shown a loss in the period in question, the year 1932, of£5,971. That is one of the best conducted tracks in the London area, I am told.
I also have here the figures for the Welsh White City at Cardiff. Again, if the totalisator had been operating on the basis of 3 per cent. with breakages to the nearest penny, it would have shown a loss for the period of£4,270. Those are two of the biggest tracks in this country. With regard to the White City, a track with which probably many of your Lordships are acquainted, I am informed that there the average salary paid to the totalisator staff per meeting was£150, and to meet this item alone, on the basis of 3 per cent. it would be necessary for the management to take 100,000 shilling units per meeting, a figure considerably higher than the average taken when the totalisator was in operation before. I merely mention these figures in order to show that as the Bill stands at present greyhound racing is being altogether too severely dealt with under the Bill. Another point I should like to put forward is that the Bill makes no provision for the adequate supervision of the operation of the totalisators. If we are going to have totalisators on the greyhound racecourses, I think they ought to he properly supervised and there ought to be some protection for the public to ensure that they are not victimised.
I submit that this Bill is going to perpetuate and aggravate all the worst features of greyhound racing and is going to eliminate some of the best of them at present. It makes no provision to ensure the honesty of racing or to protect the workingman against fraudulent management and dishonest bookmakers. 949 I should like to reinforce the suggestion made by the noble Lord, Lord Hamilton of Dalzell, which I think was that the National Greyhound Racing Club should be recognised and should be given power by the Government to license tracks. If this is impossible, I should like to submit to the Government that an ad hoc body should be formed to license all the tracks of the country. That ad hoc body could easily include representatives of local authorities, so that they would still come in and be able to have their say as to whether tracks should be licensed or not; but at any rate it would avoid the possible hardships which might arise under the Bill.
There are various Amendments which at a suitable stage, if it is possible, I shall desire to put forward. One is that there should be not less than four meetings per week and that there should be not more than eight races at any one meeting. That would, I think, be a reasonable provision and would prevent undue betting and gambling. Another Amendment which I should wish to propose would be that there should be no fixed days and there should be freedom of choice to the management. This would allow for local difficulties and weather conditions. Then I would also propose that there should be no local licensing; that the percentage from the totalisator should be more in the region of 8 per cent. than in the region of 3 per cent.; that there should be freedom of choice as to the actual totalisator used; that there should be legalisation of pari-mutuel betting on the course as in horse racing; and that the Bill should be amended to ensure that greyhound racing is carried on under a proper code of rules.
I must apologise for having detained your Lordships all too long in this matter, but my one anxiety is, first of all, that we should not unduly restrict the pleasures of the workingman, and that unless we are going to say that betting is entirely immoral and should be stopped, we should not unduly restrict the opportunities for it. After all, any one of your Lordships who can afford a telephone and is in touch with a bookmaker can, I understand, have a bet at any time when you want to do so, and I think that if we unduly restrict the opportunities of the workingman' for 950 betting we do again lay ourselves open to the charge of passing class legislation. I really want to see a square deal for the properly-conducted greyhound racecourse. I am entirely in favour of such parts of the Bill as deal with unlicensed courses, and also with Part II of the Bill which deals with lotteries and so on.
§ LORD GAINFORD
My Lords, I am sorry that my noble friend Lord Reading, owing to indisposition, is not in his place, for be would have preferred to indicate the prevailing view of those who are generally associated with him in regard to the provisions of this Bill. I rise merely to say that those on these Benches are prepared to give a wholehearted and general support to the Second Reading of the Bill, reserving to themselves, of course, the right of expressing their varying views upon Amendments such as those to which the noble Earl who has just sat down has referred, when we reach the Committee stage. On behalf of those with whom I am associated I should like to thank the Government for the courage which they have shown in introducing a measure of so contentious a character, and also I would congratulate the noble Marquess who is in charge of the Bill on the very lucid exposition of a somewhat complicated Bill which he delivered in our previous debate. And may I sympathise with him in the fact that on a fine afternoon like this he has not been able to be in another place on the first day when a very important meeting is being held?
Personally I see no sin whatsoever in backing an opinion or a choice, or in trying one's luck from time to time if occasion presents itself, but the betting laws seem to me to be uncertain, anomalous and illogical, and they do require amendment. Many of the proposals of the Government, I think, commend themselves to those with whom I am associated. We welcome not so much the legalisation of certain matters new in form which are now illegal in connection with betting, but we do welcome proposals which are going to restrain children and young persons from taking the opportunities now before them, and which if left unremedied are likely to produce evils in connection with their careers. We welcome the provision which enables the days of racing to be 951 limited, at any rate where public gambling is associated with the meetings. We also are glad that some control will be given to representative bodies in connection with these race meetings, whether they are of one kind or another.
There has admittedly been in this country an increased tendency to gambling and, as has already been mentioned, there has been a considerable increase in the exploitation for private gain of the public tendency to bet—an exploitation that ought to be abolished. The evils attending gambling are known to us all. We have all seen homes wrecked, and misery and poverty produced, by excessive gambling on the part of those who have not got very much money to spend on betting, and those of us who have been in business have often seen young careers ruined by debt contracted in connection with horse racing. Men have then been tempted to take money, with no intention of committing any fraud whatsoever, but when their investments on other horses have failed they have been found out, their careers have been ruined, and in some cases they have ended up with a term of imprisonment for embezzlement.
Personally I believe that all sport and all recreation can be conducted without the amount of wagering which to-day is rampant. In my younger days, when playing cricket and football for my University and county, I never recollect any case in which anybody playing those games found it necessary to have a wager of any kind, and yet all enjoyed the sport just as much. To-day, in connection with football, I am afraid there has grown up a spirit of taking a pecuniary interest in the game rather than of playing it for the love of the game, and I should like the old system to be more prevalent. [...] deplore the irregularities which have occurred in horse racing, known as in-and-out running of horses, and the "pulling" which is probably due to individuals associated with horse racing or the stables being allowed to back horses. I remember that on one occasion at a race meeting I saw a horse which I rather fancied being led by a rather glum boy round the paddock. I got near him and said under my breath: "Are you on the job to-day?" And he said: "No." I watched that horse, and although I cannot say he was "pulled" he came in with the ruck. We deplore racing and betting 952 if it is going to lead to irregularities of that kind, but if this Bill passes it is a satisfaction to us to feel that there is going to be considerable discouragement of these sweepstakes, which in my opinion have become almost an abomination
I am told that the hospitals in Ireland have gained about£25,000,000 by the sweepstakes raised in that country, that enormous sums of money have been given in prizes, and that 75 per cent. of the amount contributed has been contributed by the people of this country. Only a short time ago in the South of France a man ran after me with a ticket in one of the Irish sweepstakes, for they are being distributed in all foreign countries. It is time that this evil was put an end to, and I believe that this Bill will do a great deal to put a stop to it. I hope the Bill will reach the Statute Book, with no doubt a certain amount of amendment, and that it will tend to diminish many of the evils which at present occur. I hope and believe that it will assist in promoting and recognising healthy emulation in the conduct of sport, recreation and amusement. Fondness for recreation and sport is characteristic of the British people, and I believe a great deal of the monotony and deadly dullness of industrial and commercial life is neutralised by one's being able to attend these meetings, which I hope in future, after the passage of this Bill, will be conducted in s different spirit than that in which some have been conducted in the past.
§ LORD SOMERLEYTON
My Lords, I do not intend to inflict upon you a speech at this hour of the night, but I should like to make two points which occur to me as rather important. I do not think it is necessary to support the Bill, which was so ably introduced by the noble Marquess, further than to say that there is still a general opinion in many quarters that the voluntary hospitals of this country are in danger and ought to be supported by sweepstakes or lotteries. I would like to point out in the first place that the voluntary hospitals of this country are in a very flourishing condition, if we consider the very bad times through which we have gone in the last few years. Secondly, I would like to point out that the money given to the voluntary hospitals last year and previous 953 years is very much in excess of what may be believed to be the case.
Let us take the case of the London hospitals. In 1931 the aggregate surplus for the year on the whole of the hospitals in London, after deducting all deficits, was£76,000; that is to say, some of them did badly but others did well, with the result that there was an aggregate surplus of£76,000. In 1932, the latest year for which I can give your Lordships figures, the aggregate surplus was£101,000, and without knowing what the figures for this year will be we are pretty certain that they will be better than those for 1932. With regard to the voluntary gifts to maintenance and building and endowment, Sir Arthur Stanley gave the Royal Commission the 1930 figures for the provincial hospitals as well. If we include what was given for the support of London hospitals in 1930, you have a total given in that year of between£12,000,000 and£13,000,000. I think that is a very sound figure, and one which will make you consider that the view still held in many quarters that our hospitals must be supported in this extraordinary way by sweepstakes and lotteries, is unfounded. I do not say that our voluntary hospitals will lose all this voluntary support if we give them the support of lotteries and sweepstakes, but I do ask your Lordships to bear in mind that we should thereby be jeopardising a gift of approaching£13,000,000 a year. That ought to be borne in mind, as well as the fact that London hospitals have shown a large surplus.
§ LORD HUTCHISON OF MONTROSE
My Lords, at this late hour I do not wish to detain you, but first of all I want to congratulate the Government upon attacking this extremely difficult national question. They have shown great courage in doing so, and I am delighted that my old friends on the Liberal Benches have been so unanimous in praising this Bill. I can remember a time in another place not very many years ago when I myself and another member were the only two who went forward to try to legalise and to minimise the difficulties of betting in dealing with the Totalisator Bill. We have advanced since those days, and undoubtedly the Government are trying in this Bill to deal with a problem that is not only cutting right across the moral condition of our people but is a real social 954 necessity. This problem has remained for years and years without any legislation. Not for a moment do I say that I agree with all that is in this Bill, but I do say that there is a very great deal in it which is good. I am delighted that the noble Marquess in the name of the Government thought fit to withdraw Clause 3. It led to a great deal of heart-burning and complaint of unfair treatment, and I am delighted that at the early stage that they did they decided to withdraw that rather difficult clause.
When we talk of gambling there is always a tendency to think that it is a question only of horse racing and dog racing. There is a very much more pernicious form of gambling on the Stock Exchange and other places, which is often entirely overlooked. Therefore, I think that those who are opposed to gambling as a whole should look upon our human frailties with a little more consideration than they do. The Bill deals with a great many points which of necessity had to be dealt with, but there is one point which was brought out most clearly I think by the noble Lord, Lord Hamilton of Dalzell—namely, that the licensing authority for dog racing should not be the local authority. The local authority will bring it into local politics. I realise quite well that it will only happen once in five or seven years. Still, you bring the whole question of dog racing into the affairs of the local authority by making them the body for licensing tracks, and I should have thought it was far better to have some ad hoc authority, composed of people of standing who could adjudicate on the necessities of areas, and would avoid the political troubles which we undoubtedly shall have if the question remains in the hands of local authorities. Such a body could, after all, well take into consideration the views of local authorities, and therefore to a large extent give effect to the wishes of the local authorities in the matter.
My noble friend Lord Howe raised the question of the totalisator in regard to dog racing. It is ridiculous to suppose that a totalisator can be run at all with a profit of 3 per cent., and if it is the intention of the Government to suppress this form of betting altogether, well, why not say so Any one who has had any experience of the cost of running a totalisator properly—and I have had 955 some experience abroad—must agree that this percentage is far too low. If you are going to allow the totalisator for horse racing and the percentages deducted there are such as allow for the expenses incurred before anything is paid in the way of dividends, I think that dog racing ought to be treated on the same terms, and I suggest to the Government that this clause requires amendment. If the Government could have foreseen in 1928 what was going to happen in the running of the totalisator, I believe that they would have had little to do with the Betting Control Board; and I think the Government are very wise indeed not to go and step into the totalisator on dog racing and bring in a board with some Government control. I am perfectly certain that at the present moment the finance of that concern is in a very difficult position.
Another point to which I wish to draw attention is this. It may be very suit able to have 104 days in the year for dog racing. I do not say that that number is either excessive or too little; but I think that to say that all dog racing where betting is allowed must be on the same day of the week in an area. is ridiculous. I suggest that if there were a Jockey Club for dog racing the one thing they would avoid would be the holding of racing on the same clays in the same area. I suggest that, instead of increasing the number of days in the year on which betting can take place at dog racing tracks, the Government should examine the possibility of having dog racing on different days in the various localities. After all, it is a sport which the poorer people enjoy. They go in large numbers to see it, and if we can enable dog racing to he conducted under proper conditions, I think it is a very good thing to encourage people to enjoy their sport if they want it. I believe in the freedom of the individual to enjoy himself as he wants to and, as long as he does not become a nuisance to the community, I do not see any reason why he should not enjoy himself in his own way.
There are two other small points. The first arises under Clause 22 (2) (q). I think it is a hardship to say that clubs which want to run lotteries should have to apply to the police and give particulars. Clubs run various sweepstakes, and naturally they consider that it is 956 their private business. Another point is raised in Clause 25. I think that clause wants very careful looking into. In that clause you give the power to search. I do not know what noble Lords think about it, but I think that the power to search should be given with very, very great care, and some Amendment ought to be made to that clause. At present it lays down that any Justice of the Peace can, on certain information, give the power of search, which lasts for a month. I for one would hesitate to agree that that is a right and proper thing to do. But, notwithstanding all these minor points, on which undoubtedly there is great controversy, and in regard to which Amendments will no doubt be moved, I congratulate the Government on this Bill, and I give the Second Reading wholehearted support.
THE EARL or KINNOULL
My Lords, when I first saw the text of this Bill I thought it such a rotten Bill that I put down a Motion for its rejection. After I had heard the speech of the noble Marquess who moved the Second Reading I rather suspected that he thought it was a rotten Bill too, because he was very conciliatory in his speech. But on more mature reflection I came to the conclusion that this Bill could be amended. The first criticism I would make is this. This Government is a National Government, brought in at a time of alleged crisis to deal with that crisis, and it was given no mandate whatever to tinker with betting. This Bill is sheer class legislation; you cannot get away from that. The noble Viscount, Lord Bertie, who referred to me in his speech, said he was sure that I had that in mind. It is quite true; I did have it in mind. This Bill restricts the poor man's sport. I cannot see why on earth poor people should be deprived of their sport. Rich men can go racing every day of the week, but the poor man under this Bill is restricted to two days a week.
It has been said that greyhound racing is a social menace. I believe that the figures show that on the track in Liverpool, where 1,500 people attended every night, or 20,000 a week all told, it worked out that they each spent 2s. per head, per week on everything, including entrance fee, betting, and refreshments at the club. Is that a social menace? I am very surprised that this Government has not 957 even concurred with the Interim Report of its own Royal Commission, because I think it is in paragraph 77 of the Interim Report that the Commission definitely suggest that the totalisator at greyhound tracks should be abolished as soon as possible.
Of course, you cannot deal with gambling by legislation. I think the noble Marquess said that in his speech, and I absolutely concur. To start with, the whole capitalist system is based on gambling, as the noble Lord said just now when talking about gambling on the Stock Exchange. You can bet on anything. The other day I heard a story of a man in a public-house with some friends who started to make a book on what sort of hat the next person coming through the swing doors would be wearing. He was laying two to one against a squash hat, three to one against a bowler hat, four to one against a top hat, and so on. Everyone backed his fancy, but they all lost their money as the next man to enter was a man with a fez selling carpets. It is absolutely absurd to think you can restrict gambling by legislation; it just cannot be done.
The other day I received—I have no doubt every member of your Lordships' House received—a summary of statement on the Betting Bill made on behalf of the British Greyhound Tracks Control Society, Limited. I read it through. Although I did not agree with everything in it, I thought it was a very excellent statement. For instance, I do not agree that 234 days' racing is enough. Personally I think greyhound racing should be allowed every night. of the week except. Sunday. Then they suggest payment of dividends "to the nearest penny under." That is no doubt very sensible. Also they say that the hand." tote "should be permitted as on a horse racecourse and they say the hand" tote "is used on the vast majority of racecourses. Probably only Ascot and Newmarket have electrically-operated "totes." I should like to point out to my noble friend Lord Sanderson that actually the mechanical "tote" is a thing of the past.
The next point they make is that chartered accountants should be present at meetings. I think everyone will agree with that, because the public must have some sort of protection. It is usually a firm of chartered accountants so that a 958 man cannot be "got at" as it were. They probably send a different man every time and the public do get a safeguard, and can see that they are not being swindled. The present system is unfair because it gives merely approximate odds. Supposing there are a thousand bets and the approximate odds are three to one and only 2s. 9d. is paid, it would mean that 3,000 pennies would be lost to the public. It is therefore very necessary to have chartered accountants. Then, the society say:All units betted to be shown during the progress of betting and finals pools exhibited prior to the commencement of the race.That is very sensible because the public can definitely tell how the betting is going on, and they can work it out for themselves if their dog wins.
The next point is:All electric and mechanical 'totes' to show units betted; this excludes 'totes' which only show approximate odds.That is of course the point I have just dealt with. Then they deal with purlmutuel betting. Here may I say I did think when I first read the Bill that the only good clause in it was the football pool clause? And now the noble Marquess has informed us he is withdrawing that. If they withdraw the clause about football pools why on earth should they not withdraw the clause about pools on dog racing? This double and treble system is most popular. Practically everyone who goes racing indulges in doubles and trebles and even quadruples. Then the society says that "off-the-course" betting should be allowed as on horse racecourses. If it is allowed on horse racecourses, why on earth should it not be allowed on dog tracks? I cannot see any difference between the two. It seems to me very illogical.
With regard to licensing by local authorities, I think that is a sensible provision, with all due deference to my noble friend Lord Snell., who spoke on behalf of the London County Council. I think they are the people who should license these tracks, because they know the amenities of the district and they are the best qualified. The next point the society makes is that all tracks should race under one code of rules. That seems to me to be fair, but they suggest thatas at the moment only ninety tracks out of 225 or more existing, race under any racing rules, the remaining 134 should be 959 compelled to join up either under the rules of the B.G.T.C.S. or the N.G.R.C. This would entail amongst other provisions the registration and identification of dogs—these prevent substitution and guarantee the public a fair deal.I think most people know that very often at these unlicensed tracks not run under any rules at all dogs can be substituted. You get a good dog put in in the name of another man and that sort of thing. I think that what is proposed is very sensible.
Then they also suggest that betting facilities should he optional to the track managements—betting by totalisator only, betting by bookmaker only, or betting by both, and that it should be carried on at the discretion of the management of the track. That seems to me perfectly fair. I cannot see why bookmakers must be allowed on the tracks whereas the totalisator is optional. It does not seem at all reasonable. When they come to the charges to bookmakers for admission, they suggest a minimum of£. 10s. and a maximum of£5. If you deduct the difference between the admission charged to racecourses and the admission charged to dog tracks, it shows it is quite normal, because the average admission price at the racecourse is somewhere about 6s. or 7s. whereas the average admission price for dog tracks is in the region of sixpence. I think that is a very helpful suggestion.
Then they say:No credit on-the-course betting to be permitted. This has the effect of minimising gambling and has a tendency to bring betting within reasonable proportions; the big gambler who usually bets on credit being a distinct menace.I rather agree with what they have to say. They suggest a minimum deposit by bookmakers of£10 and a maximum of£40. That is to safeguard the public, to guarantee payment, and to prevent welshing. They suggest also that competitions of skill should be allowed on events taking place on the track on the same day. I think it is these people who have a track where they give away£50 free every night to any one who can forecast the exact order of the dogs. This costs the public nothing, and personally I cannot see any objection whatever to it. Then we come to Sunday racing. I entirely agree that dogs should not race on Sundays any more than horses do.
960 I am sorry to detain your Lordships so long and I shall summarise as much as possible, but I should like to deal with the speech made by Lord Hamilton of Dalzell. The noble Lord is an undoubted authority on horse racing, but I cannot see that ipso facto he should speak authoritatively on greyhound racing. Is the noble Lord not aware that there are licensing bodies other than the National Greyhound Racing Club who licence and exercise very efficient control over other greyhound tracks? I refer to the originators of the leaflet, of which all noble Lords have had a copy, issued by the British Greyhound Tracks Control Society. I disagree most profoundly with the establishment of any control board for greyhound racing, but even if an authority such as this were given legislative sanction, I put the claims of this society on a par with the society which the noble Lord mentioned in his speech. My opposition to a control board should not be taken to mean that I am opposed to licensing bodies such as the British Greyhound Tracks Control Society or the National Greyhound Racing Club in so far as they lay down rules for the conduct of the actual racing itself. With regard to the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Askwith, he covered up the fact, whether intentionally or unintentionally I do not know, that at least one other body licenses and controls the sport of greyhound racing. This other body, which I referred to in my remarks a moment ago, is the British Greyhound Tracks Control Society. Before anything is done, I must suggest that the licensing authority for which the noble Lord, Lord Askwith, speaks should be asked to cooperate with the other licensing body and bring forward joint Amendments to the Bill.
I would like to refer for a moment also, very briefly, to the speech of the most reverend Prelate the Bishop of London. He used the Royal Commission's Report to substantiate his case. May I point out to the House that the evidence given by the greyhound interests was given before the totalisator was declared illegal, which would necessarily make such evidence not so comprehensive as would otherwise have been the case? The most reverend Prelate's arguments were levelled against gambling in general, and I must ask him, if greyhound racing were curtailed does he 961 suggest that money invested in the dogs would not flow into other channels? Does he suggest that the money invested on dogs would be lost altogether? I suggest it is merely a transference from one pocket to the other, and, surely, the balance which goes to the management is also not lost but is circulated in the form of wages, the purchase of dogs, and a multitude of other things.
Incidentally, while on that point, I may say it is perfectly true, if the Bill stands as it now is, 3 per cent. only is to be allowed to the totalisator. I think the noble Earl, Lord Howe, said it would be utterly impossible to carry on dog-racing at all on those terms. It has been shown in the case of horse racing that the Betting Control Board were forced to allow 10 per cent. or 12 per cent., and even then they had to take off-the course, money in addition before they could show a profit. Therefore, with only two, days a week allowed for dog racing and only 3 per cent. to the totalisator, it means that automatically greyhound facing tracks would close down. Among the things that that would mean is that thousands and thousands of dogs would be placed on the market, for greyhounds are of no earthly use except for this racing. Greyhound breeding has become quite a big industry. You have only to look at the stud books to see that racing greyhounds have quadrupled themselves in two years. It has actually become a big industry, and one should have regard to that fact. It is always easy to be destructive and not always so easy to be constructive. But in this case I think all that is wanted is a quite simple Bill to legalise the totalisator on greyhound tracks. I think all sections of public opinion, with the possible exception of the very few who want to prohibit all forms of betting altogether, are in agreement that totalisators on these tracks should be legalised.
The second provision I would suggest would be that these tracks should be allowed to hold one meeting every night, except Sunday, and in addition one matinee, say on a Saturday afternoon or some other afternoon. After all, why should the poor man be forbidden his little bit of sport in the evenings while rich men go racing every day of their lives? Surely the noble Marquess who moved the Second Reading of the Bill, who is himself a well-known owner of 962 racehorses, will see the fairness of this. Would he like to be restricted to going to races on only two days a week? It is grossly unfair thus to penalise the working class. The next point I make is that independent chartered accountants should be in charge of the totalisators and should produce to the public the odds as to the various dogs at the beginning of each race. This, as I have said, is designed to protect the public from any possible. swindling, and I think it must be acceptable to everyone. The final suggestion that I have to make is that the deduction for expenses taken by the owners of the track from the totalisator should be 5 per cent. This is only 2 per cent. higher than that suggested in the Bill, and I think that, with racing six nights a week and one matinee, the owners should make what is a fair and proper profit. This will also stop those who in the past have tried to get rich quick on the small tracks by taking a large percentage from their totalisators and not telling the public how much they were taking. I hope the Government will see their way either to withdraw this Bill altogether and introduce a fresh Bill on the lines I have suggested, or accept such Amendments to this Bill as will give effect to the suggestions I have put forward.
§ LORD JESSEL
My Lords, after the eloquent and constructive speech we have just heard—I am afraid I did not hear nearly so much of it as I would have desired—and as time is getting very short, I wish to say only a very few words. The noble Lord, Lord Snell, on behalf of the London County Council, the other night mentioned that the County Council had passed a resolution that they did not think it right that the duty of being a licensing authority should be cast upon the London County Council. It is very rare indeed that the London County Council passes a resolution unanimously. There are only two Parties in the County Council now, arid they agreed to pass this resolution. My purpose in rising to-night is to say that the City of Westminster also passed a similar resolution—not from any desire to run counter to the County Council—that the County Council of London should not be the licensing authority. The reason for that is very obvious. The police district does not coincide with the administrative 963 county of London. In the Bill there seems to be some little hitch. Probably I am wrong, perhaps I have not understood the Bill as a trained lawyer might, but as I understand it, if a local authority belongs to the London County Council that local authority is debarred from being heard. London has always had separate legislation.
I am not going to discuss the merits of the question whether other county councils should have this power or not. I am not so sure that they should, because to my mind it is somewhat alien to the duties of a local authority. For many reasons I think that county councils should not have the power of granting licences. I may be told that one of the duties of the London County Council is to license racecourses. I do not think that power has been exercised in recent years. On the other hand, it may be asked: Where in London, especially in the centre of London, are you going to have a dog track? You might have someone, especially some member of the House of Commons moving that all the railings be removed from Hyde Park, and you might have a dog track there. Before such a thing as that came to pass what a discussion there would be!I do not wish to stand any longer between the House and the noble Earl who is to reply for the Government. I hope some central board will be set up for the whole of the country, or at all events some special measure will be devised for the purpose of licensing in the districts of the County of London, and also the districts adjacent to the County of London. I had some remarks to make on other portions of the Bill, but I will refrain from making them now. I wish to urge, however, that local authorities should not be burdened with the duty of licensing.
§ LORD LUKE
My Lords, I would like to thank the noble Marquess in charge of this Bill for his statement on hospital finance. In brief, he said that if lotteries on a large scale were to be held in aid of these charities they would dry up the present sources of voluntary effort. At the same time, this Bill has very wisely permitted competitions which contain an element of skill, including football pools. No doubt these football pools are to be permitted because entrants must have some knowledge of football form and must 964 take thought before putting down the club names, and though the result may be much more a matter of chance than skill, the competitor thinks his skill predominates, and in a moral matter of this kind the thoughts of the entrant are important. There will be many other competitions that are on the border line so far as skill is concerned, and I am sure there can be no desire to run the risk of having to prosecute, especially in the case of charitable bodies who have no money to waste. Therefore questions of sufficiency as regards skill should be settled before the competition starts, and I propose in Committee to move an Amendment that will supply a method of effecting this.
With regard to competitions for charities, with an entrance fee of a shilling or so, it is not only that large sums have been found for hospitals and other charities in this way, but it gives an opportunity of advertising the charity through the post and the Press to a very wide circle many of whom may not have realised that the hospitals require money. Nowadays when the fifty-guinea contributors are less able to give, it has become all the more important that the money should come in from those who can only spare shillings. In one of the British Charities' competitions the entrant had to pick out the best twelve of twenty-four "Help the hospitals" slogans, and over two million entered. Thus in, say, a million homes the hospitals slogans were studied by possible entrants. That amount of educational publicity for hospitals could not be got in any other way without very great expense.
THE EARL OF FEVERSHAM
My Lords, the noble Marquess who moved the Second Reading of this Bill said that it would provide an opportunity in your Lordships' House "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 wellbeing of the community at large." I believe that your Lordships will agree with me when I say that the quality of the many excellent speeches that have been made in the debate that has taken place on Thursday last and to-day has proved the correctness of the prophecy made by the noble Marquess. I should 965 like to take the opportunity—if the noble Lord, Lord Elton, will not consider that in my present position I presume—of congratulating him on a very powerful speech, and of expressing the hope on behalf of your Lordships that we shall have the opportunity of hearing the noble Lord, who I am sorry to see is not now in his place, on many other occasions.
At this late hour it will be somewhat difficult for me, in replying on behalf of the Government, to cover all the points that have been raised by various speakers. I should like in the first place to endeavour to dispel certain misrepresentations that have been made in regard to this Bill by some who have referred to it as class legislation. The noble Viscount who moved the rejection of the Bill said:…the Bill is regarded as class legislation,…because it interferes with the poor man's amusement and does not affect the rich man.I would like to point out that there are only 700 days provided upon which the public can enjoy horse racing. Under this Bill there will still be allowed 20,000 days racing on greyhound racing tracks. That in itself, if I may say so with due respect, points to the fact that although the provisions of this Bill tend to limit the days per calendar year upon which greyhound racing with betting facilities can take place, there will still be a very large margin in favour of the man who is confined to a restricted area owing to his income. I would further like to point out that even if the argument were correct—which I hold with Lord Hamilton of Dalzell is not the case—that horse racing is confined to the rich man, the amusement that can be provided for the poor man, as he has been described in this debate, is not in any way prohibited by this Bill: it is merely restricted.
I would also like to refer to the speech of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Manchester, who most clearly emphasised that this Bill is aimed at preventing collective action by persons who endeavour to exploit the gambling tendency of the public by organised gambling facilities. He said that the harm which has been done in the last four or five years is not to the type of person that a certain section of your Lordships would wish to see have no control placed upon their liberty to do as they would wish in sporting activities, but it is to that weaker element of the population who, 966 because of the collective action that is provided by these increased gambling facilities, go, perhaps without the knowledge of their elders or their parents, to participate in greyhound racing, with results, as your Lordships have heard in this debate particularly from the right reverend Prelates, which in industrial towns have been most detrimental not only to a particular district but to the community at large. Therefore, on that ground the Government's proposals can, I think, be defended to a very conclusive degree.
I would point out, as the noble Marquess said in introducing the Bill, that the exploitation of the gambling propensity of the population through the introduction of greyhound racing has created a situation that no Government can ignore. The speech delivered by the noble Lord opposite, Lord Sanderson, if the views expressed by him are representative of those of the Party to which he belongs, has shown that that Party would, if they had the opportunity, take more restrictive measures in limiting the existing facilities which are offered. Much comment has been made both by the noble Viscount who moved the rejection of this Bill and by other noble Lords, to the effect that the Bill is piecemeal, and that it does not sufficiently cover the whole scope of the Betting Acts, which are agreed by most people to be anomalous. But I would point out to the noble Viscount that a comprehensive Bill dealing with all the matters covered by the Report of the Royal Commission would have included, in addition to the present contents of the Bill, provisions relating to betting off the course, to betting inducements, and to gaming.
As regards betting off the course, the main problem is that of street betting. The Royal Commission took the view that the only way to tackle this problem was to provide some alternative facility, and they unanimously recommended that cash postal betting should be legalised as an alternative facility, and that as a corollary bookmakers should be registered. As regards betting inducements, the main proposals of the Royal Commission were that drastic restrictions should be imposed on bookmakers' advertisements and that the activities of the professional tipster should be prohibited. As regards gaming, they said 967 that there was no urgent need for amendment of the law, but that in all these three sections clarification and consolidation were necessary when the Government had greater time to deal with a Bill of a more comprehensive character. I would welcome, and I feel confident that His Majesty's Government would be pleased at, an opportunity to make the Bill more comprehensive, but I would point out to a certain section of your Lordships who have addressed the House that such a Bill, being more comprehensive, would have led to greater conflict, and that it is in accordance with the traditions of this House and of Parliament that such matters should be taken by degrees.
The noble Lord, Lord Bayford, and several other noble Lords have raised a point with regard to Part TT of the Bill, which is confined to the question of lotteries. The noble Lords, Lord Bayford and Lord Hutchison of Montrose, criticised Clause 22, subsection (2) (g), saying that under that paragraph it would be necessary, in the event of a club, such as the club which the noble Lord quoted, instituting sweepstakes, for the promoters first to obtain sanction from the Police, and to have police supervision. The object of the proposal is to prevent the growth of undesirable clubs formed especially for the purpose of promoting large lotteries under the guise of exempted private lotteries. No permission from the police to run a lottery would be required by such a club as the noble Lord, Lord Bayford, ha instanced. I can assure the noble Lord that the Government will give the most careful consideration to the views put forward on behalf of the clubs which he has in mind.
Severe criticism has been directed to the point that the line of demarcation which His Majesty's Government have drawn between lotteries which will be legal and lotteries which will not, under the proposals of this Bill, be accepted, is based neither on a moral nor an ethical line, but is confined really to a limitation of the size of a lottery and the point whether it is of the magnitude which the noble Lord, Lord Elton, quoted, or the common form lottery of the bazaar. It was necessary in framing this Bill on the one hand to take into consideration the restrictions necessary to prevent large lotteries being formed 968 under the guise of such small organisations as are at present tolerated by the administrative action of the police—on the one hand to prevent abuse of the restrictions which are to be imposed—and on the other hand to prevent pettifogging restrictions being made which would raise difficulties in lottery sweepstakes of the type to which I understand your Lordships' House takes no exception.
It has been suggested by my noble friend the Duke of Sutherland, by the noble Duke, the Duke of Atholl, and by the noble Lord, Lord Hutchison of Montrose, that provision should be made to legalise large lotteries. As the noble Marquess behind me has already said, the Governmentare 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.We have only to turn to the Act of 1823 and to the former history of this topic to appreciate that lotteries organised by the State have not fulfilled the end for which they were originally instituted, that after a number of years the size, extent, and scope of those lotteries has decreased, and that if an attempt were made to raise funds by lottery either under the auspices of the State or under charitable boards for certain charities such as hospitals, it would he found that that system would not raise a sufficient sum to take the place of the voluntary contributions which the hospitals are now enjoying from individuals.
I think it stands to reason, and indeed many of your Lordships would know better than myself, that the State having inaugurated or tolerated the inception of lotteries for the purpose of raising money for hospitals, there would not be the same response from private persons, or the same individual interest taken by private persons in the maintenance and upkeep of certain hospitals in which they themselves are particularly interested. Therefore on that ground, and on the ground of past experience, I hold that the Government have taken a wise 969 decision in emphatically stating there should be no future State lottery. I hope that with this explanation I have sufficiently answered the point raised last Thursday by the noble Duke, the Duke of Atholl, who asked that provision should he incorporated in the Bill which would allow at some future date a licence to be given for a State lottery to be inaugurated.
The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Winchester has to-day given a most powerful speech in support of the Bill, but he, on his part, has said that his only sorrow is that street betting is not included in the provisions of the Bill. I have endeavoured shortly to state the reasons why it is impossible within the scope of this Bill, which deals with betting on the course and only on the course, to consider that matter further.
Several times during this debate reference has been made to the matter of a licensing authority. On the one hand it has been strongly advocated that the licensing authority be taken out of the hands of the county council or county borough council, and placed in the hands of the standing joint committee. If it were placed in the hands of the standing joist committee there are two important points to consider, which I think will prove to your Lordships the undesirability of reverting to that practice. In the first place the standing joint committee is composed, as to 50 per cent., of Justices of the Peace, and that committee has no staff wherewith it can recognise the conditions that are provided for in Clause 6. In Clause 6, subsection (1), paragraphs (a), (i) and (ii), it states that the local authority may refuse a licence if it is satisfied that the existence or user of the track would injuriously affect the health or the comfort of persons residing in the neighbourhood of that track, or would seriously impair the amenities of that neighbourhood. I would ask whether the standing joint committee is constituted to make such a decision as to whether the existence or user of a track will affect the amenities of a particular district or the health and comfort of the people in that neighbourhood. Surely it is the functions of the local authority to decide upon such matters. They in former Statutes have the precedent of deciding what is, and what is not, in the nature 970 of an amenity of the district in which they reside, and therefore I do not think, for those two reasons, that the standing committee is the right authority to deal with these matters.
Another suggestion was put forward, that the Court of Quarter Sessions should make this decision. It has been said that the Court of Quarter Sessions has already a precedent for granting licences on race horse tracks. I think, my Lords, that that is not entirely applicable to the whole country, for I understand that that granting of licences only applies to the London area, and to courses within a certain radius of London City.
THE LORD BISHOP OF LONDON
Have the borough councils—have the local authority—a right to refuse to allow anyone to start a dog racing track?
THE EARL OF FEVERSHAM
I think the right reverend Prelate is really referring to county borough councils, although he said borough councils, which are not the licensing authority. The county council and the county borough council are the licensing authorities, and they have the right to refuse a licence under any of the conditions contained in Clause 6. I think it was Lord Amulree who strongly put forward the opinion that if neither the standing joint committee nor the Court of Quarter Sessions be adopted in place of the licensing authority in the Bill, it would be better—an opinion shared by certain other noble Lords—to bring a statutory board into existence. It has been said that there is a precedent for a statutory board in the Racecourse Betting Control Board, but that is only in respect of the totalisator operating on licensed racecourses, and I think it has been suggested by Lord Askwith, and by several of your Lordships who have addressed this House, that such a statutory board should control not only the totalisator but also the greyhound racing tracks, and generally the supervision of the sport, as it is named.
I think that would be contrary to any scheme that has been put forward on previous occasions, and as Lord Hamilton of Dalzell said, it took one hundred years for the Jockey Club to receive complete control of horse racing. Is it possible for us to say that greyhound racing has been going on sufficiently long, and that it is 971 of the same national interest and importance as horse racing, and should have a statutory board to supervise completely its control, where such a board has not existed for horse racing? On behalf of the Government I can say in the most decisive terms that such a board would be contrary to the findings of investigations that the Government have made, and that for that and for many reasons, which I think will spring to the mind if the noble Marquess's speech is very carefully studied, a statutory board will be unacceptable both to the local interests, to the many different interests which exist in the greyhound racing community, and to the public generally.
The number of days allotted to greyhound racing, 104, has been very severely remarked upon. It has been suggested that the number should be increased to 208. I should like to point out that there has been some element of confusion. inasmuch as the provision of 104 days does not include any number of meetings that may held, and that it would be impossible to think of allowing greyhound racing organisations to have a greater number of days, because if the number were increased to four, or even to six or seven days a week, which is the number now in some cases, it would mean that the object of a Bill of which your Lordships approve in principle would be defeated. If the recommendation be accepted that the local authority do not make the same days operative in a given area, then, as Lord Sanderson pointed out, on Thursday last, it would be possible for residents to go from Leeds to Bradford or from Bradford to Leeds and obtain six or seven days' racing, which is considered to be undesirable for that element of the population to which the right reverend Prelate has referred.
I am afraid it has been impossible to answer all the points that have been raised, but I can assure your Lordships that such points as are more suitable to be dealt with at a later stage will have the full consideration of the Department which I have the honour to represent. You are asked this evening to approve of the principle that that weaker element of the population that now has facilities for indulging in the gambling instinct almost thrust upon it, should to some extent be safeguarded by the action of the State. In no sense does His Majesty's Government take the view that we should 972 adjudicate upon the ethics or the gambling habits of the community at large; but we do say that when the industry of sport has been allowed to grow up to what it is to-day, then it is time that action should be taken.
VISCOUNT BERTIE or THAME
My Lords, notwithstanding my noble friend's contention that this is not class legislation, I still regard it as such to some extent, because my noble friend seems to forget that the rich man can travel, and the poor man cannot. When this distinction is realised up and down the country the electorate will think it is class legislation. It is true that there are now greatly-increased facilities for betting, but it is now rather late in the day to stop that it is rather like locking the stable door when the horse has been stolen. It is true also that increased facilities for betting and gambling cause misery, but, in the world as it is to-day, the minority has generally to suffer for the sake of the majority. Once the voters have tasted blood they will vote against any Government which tries to restrict their liberty, and, if I may say so without offence to the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, I think that if the National Government were defeated and the Socialists returned the misery would be much more general than it is now. I sympathise with the noble Earl in having shirked the introduction of a general Bill to deal with betting and gambling, because I know that he will have controversy enough over this Bill, but I do hope that, unless this Bill is very drastically altered in Committee, your Lordships will reject it on Third Reading. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw my Motion.
§ Amendment to the Second Reading Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ On Question, Bill read 2a.