HL Deb 26 March 1947 vol 146 cc807-18

Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.


My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time. It is customary in this House for a Minister to declare any interest which he has, but it is not customary for him to declare his prejudices. I have no interests, but I confess that I have prejudices about this matter. Due perhaps to my ancestry, I confess that I do not like or patronize dog racing. It is very easy to be intolerant of other people's vices whilst being very tender in regard to one's own. This is not an occasion on which I need reveal the extent or nature of my own vices, but it is a fact that dog racing is not one of them.

As your Lordships all know, we are confronted with a very serious situation, from which, as I see it, there is only one possible way out, and that is by greatly increased production. We would all of us very much regret anything in the nature of compulsion of labour; I do not think we want that. The most reverend Primate, the Archbishop of York, told us the other day that sermons have had their day, and if that is true of sermons it is more true of my addresses. There does remain the question of how far it is legitimate to interfere with those matters which may prove handicaps to or stumbling blocks in the way of production. I put it in that way because I am most anxious to make it plain that, in spite of my prejudices, I am not going to use this occasion to single out greyhound racing merely because of some ethical questions about gambling.

Where greyhound racing differs from all other sports is in the respect that, even if the proprietors were willing—and they have been most willing to co-operate with us—they would not be able, by reason of the law of the land, to do what we want them to do. We believe that the best contribution we can make at the present time is to try to get, by common consent, a two-shift system of working—that means to say, a system of working from 6 a.m. till 2 p.m. and then from 2 p.m. till 10 p.m.—to iron out the peak periods of the electricity load. If we are to have that system, it may well be that if these sports (which attract large numbers of people) continue during the time when work would normally be going on, they may attract people from their work and so increase the volume of absenteeism. Here let me say in parenthesis that although we are very apt to talk of absenteeism in the mines, because it is from there that we get our best statistics, it must not be thought that there is no absenteeism in all sorts of other industries. Let it further be remembered that the trouble about absenteeism is that one man may stay away and thereby disorganize a whole team or group of men. It is therefore very necessary to do everything possible to discourage absenteeism.

That being so, we approached all the organizers of the great national sports—horse racing, football, greyhound racing and others—and I would like to say here and now that they have all most willingly co-operated with us. But it is necessary to bring in this Bill because, as I have said, by reason of the existing law those who operate the tracks cannot comply with our requirements. This Bill was, therefore, discussed with them, and, subject to one small point which I will mention, it has been agreed with them. The position is that under Section i of the Betting and Lotteries Act of 1934, betting facilities on licensed dog tracks are confined to 104 days in any year, and io8 meetings are allowed on those 104 days. Usually Saturdays and Bank Holidays are the days taken, but sometimes—and necessarily so—mid-week days are taken. On roo days in the year the amount of time to be occupied is limited to eight races within a period of four hours, but on four days sixteen races are allowed within a period of eight hours. In effect that means that, in England on Bank Holidays, or in Scotland on Public Holidays—four in the year—there arc two meetings, one after the other and extending over a period of eight hours. On the other days they are by law allowed to have only one meeting.

Consequently, what happens is this. There are nearly always fifty-two Saturdays in the year, and they have their meetings on those Saturdays. Then they have forty-eight mid-week days and then the four special days, so that they get in 108 meetings on those 104 days. The effect of this Bill (which is designed to confine greyhound racing, apart from these Bank or Public Holidays, to Saturdays) is to allow the present double meetings—that is the two consecutive meetings lasting over a period of eight hours—on Saturdays, as well as on the four special days. Therefore, under this Bill there will be just as many meetings as there were before, but on forty-eight Saturdays there will be two meetings, on the four remaining Saturdays there will be one meeting, and on the four special days there will be double meetings. That makes io8 meetings, which is the same number as before. The difference will be that mid-week meetings (which under the law as it stands are necessary, because there can be only one meeting of four hours on a Saturday) will have been done away with, and an extension will have been granted on Saturdays.

Accordingly, Clause I (4) provides that licensing authorities shall still fix the betting days, because it may be that with the Amendment which I will move, the Bill may come to an end at an earlier date. The licensing authorities, therefore, will go on fixing as before. The licensing authorities, broadly speaking, are the county councils or county borough councils and their position is this: If all the operators within their area agree as to what the dates are to be, then those dates will stand, but in places where the operators do not agree among themselves it is necessary for the licensing authorities to fix what the dates will be. As I have said, in nearly all cases Saturdays is one of the days although I believe there are counties in England, and certainly in Scotland, where greyhound racing takes place not on Saturday but entirely in mid-week.

Clause 2 provides that betting facilities are not to be operated on Saturdays before 1 p.m. This is subject to an Amendment which I am moving on the Committee stage of the Bill. I should point out that this was the only case in which there was any divergence of view between the Ministers who were negotiating this matter and the greyhound racing authorities. They were anxious that betting on certain days should start at 12 o'clock. Clause 3 is a Scottish application. There are no Bank Holidays there. Clause 4 makes the Bill temporary until June 30, 1948, although, as I have said, in the Amendment which I am going to move there is power to bring the Act to an end at an earlier date.

The object of this Bill is to do away with one set of circumstances which we believe interferes with production. To disarm criticism, I say at once that I have no statistics to prove that greyhound racing does interfere with production, and I do not believe there are any such statistics. But I do remember that not only in this Government but also in the Coalition Government—as some of my friends will remember—we had repeated representations from people who know, that when this greyhound racing takes place in mid-week, when a football match takes place in mid-week, or when a great horse race meeting takes place in mid-week, it does have an adverse effect on production by encouraging absenteeism. The horse racing authorities have ample power and need no Bill, and they have cooperated by saying that the great classic races—the Grand National is one—are to take place on Saturdays. The football authorities co-operated by saying that the great football matches shall also take place on Saturday and not mid-week. The greyhound racing people are similarly willing to co-operate, but they need this power—by reason of the complications about which I have told your Lordships—to see that their greyhound meetings shall take place only on Saturdays. In itself this is a very small measure, but I think it is a measure which, in the opinion of those best qualified to judge, may tend to do away with absenteeism and therefore make our two-shift system more likely to succeed. I beg to move.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(The Lord Chancellor.)

3.5 p.m.


My Lords, I am quite certain that there is no one in your Lordships' House who would in any way want to stop or hamper a measure designed to increase the production of the country at the present time, and this Bill is put forward with that object in view. I believe that one of the things which is most hampering effort in this country at the present moment is the fact that people have little on which to spend such money as they earn, and it is perhaps for that reason that affairs like dog races, where people with money in their pockets can have what I believe is called a "flutter," are more popular than they have ever been. That is perhaps an added justification for this Bill.

Of course, this Bill, as the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack has reminded us, is necessary only for this one form of amusement, because these races are already under statutory regulation as to when the meetings can be held. In fact, like the noble and learned Viscount, I have never been to a dog race meeting, but I am told that the hare goes round the course. Summing it up quite simply, I would say that this Bill is really one to allow those who run greyhound racing tracks and organize the sport to gain on the swings what they lose on the roundabouts; that is, to gain by a double meeting on Saturday what they have lost by having to give up a mid-week racing day. I suppose it will be an advantage to those who patronize this sport, that if they lose at the first meeting on a Saturday afternoon they can stay on for the second meeting with a view quickly to recouping, or trying to recoup, such losses as they have suffered, and will not have to wait until the subsequent Wednesday for that purpose.

There is one comment which might be made on these efforts to stop completely any sport in mid-week. Do not let us forget that in this country there is a very large and worthy section of the population—I know what they did when I was Minister of Food—who operate in the distributive trades—the shopkeepers and the shop assistant—and, apart from them, quite a large number of transport workers. I think those people are entitled to see a football match or greyhound racing or anything else. It is for the convenience of a large number of people in factories, and similar establishments, that the shops should be kept open on Saturday and should have the early closing day on some other day of the week. It is equally important if the people from factories are to get their recreation, that they should have some method of transport to it on the Saturday. Therefore, many men, and quite a number of women as well, have to be employed on Saturday in the buses and tubes to take these people to their recreation. We do not want altogether to overlook the fact that those people ought to have some opportunities of enjoying similar recreation. It may be that when the Amendment to which the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack has referred has been moved, there may be much more flexibility about this measure than there was when it was originally presented to us from another place.

My main comment against this Bill was that it was far too rigid, that it would apply these rigid rules over the whole of the country, whereas in some parts, from the production point of view, it might not be at all necessary. That particularly applies to tracks at our coastal holiday resorts, where there are no great production enterprises. It might well be a good thing—when this Amendment is passed, and I for one will give it my support—to allow greyhound tracks to open in these places on Wednesday or Thursday, or whatever other day it is, as well as on Saturday. In the case of people who go off for a week or fortnight's holiday to one of these seaside resorts, to have all the amusements—football matches, greyhound racing and everything else—crowded into one day does not seem to me to make sense. I hope the Secretary of State will modify the rigid provisions of this Bill. Indeed, that is provided for in the Amendment which I understand the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack is shortly to move. I think that will make a great improvement to the Bill. I hope that equally flexible arrangements may be made for places where production will not be affected by events such as football matches. From the point of view of people in the distributive trades and the transport industries, those events might well not all be held on Saturday afternoons.

Before I conclude my remarks, there is one other reflection that I would like, to make. This Bill went through another place, in all its stages, in one day. Now, on the very day that it is presented to us, we have an Amendment which substantially alters the provisions of the Bill. All I can say about that is that we in this House can congratulate ourselves that we are a good place for second and better thoughts. We find second and better thoughts an behalf of the Government, following what was said in another place and the representations made to them. If it were not for the existence of your Lordships' House, this Bill might have had to go through in rigid form, and there might even have been a second Bill to follow it. We understand that to-day there is an urgency about the matter, and that it may be desirable to pass the Bill through all its stages this afternoon. We on these Benches have no objection, and we welcome the Amendment I have referred to, which is down in the name of the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack. I would only add, once more, that I hope we shall bear in mind that a large section of our population like and deserve to have some amusements on their day off. I hope that all the arrangements made will be made over the smallest area possible, so that other people may also have recreation during their day off.

3.15 p.m.


My Lords, it is unnecessary for me to say more than that noble Lords on these Benches agree with the arguments stated by the noble and learned Viscount, the Lord Chancellor, and concur in the enactment of this Bill.


My Lords, I venture to address a few remarks to your Lordships because for the last ten years I have been Senior Steward of the National Grey hound Racing Club, and there are seventy-eight Racecourses operating under the aegis of the rules of that Club. We in the greyhound racing world were rather disturbed because we thought that discrimination was made against us and against no other sport in the country. I am all the more willing, therefore, to thank the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack, not only for the measure which he has introduced but, above all, for the Amendment which he is going to move in the later stages of the Bill.

During the course of the year, some 50,000,000 people, at least, attend greyhound racing, and I would like to support what the noble Lord, Lord Llewellin, said, when he remarked that it would be a very grave mistake to limit the sport, pastime or industry (call it what you will) to Saturday. There are not only the distributive trades which, as the noble Lord, Lord Llewellin, said, should be borne in mind; there are places like Blackpool and Brighton where people spend a perfectly legitimate holiday, and there is no reason in the world why during such a perfectly legitimate holiday they should not have an opportunity of attending race-courses.

I am therefore very grateful that an Amendment is to be moved whereby, where local circumstances warrant it, it will he possible for the actual terms of the Bill to be enlarged to enable greyhound racing to take place on days other than Saturday. I was rather shocked to hear my noble friend say that he had never been to a greyhound racecourse. I will soon see that that is remedied, and I hope others of your Lordships will accompany me to see what is one of the great sports of the English people. I am pleased to be able to thank the Government for what they are doing to-day.

3.19 p.m.


My Lords, I do not wish to detain your Lordships with more than one or two observations. By this Bill we are seeking to. place restrictions on the freedom of choice of individuals. We are seeking to remove a temptation from them, but in so doing we are restricting their freedom of choice. I think we should reflect very deeply on whether it should be necessary to do so in peace-time. Normally, if an Englishman wishes to take an afternoon off, he is free to go to greyhound racing. We might think it unwise from the point of view of his family, but he is the arbiter, not the Government. When we seek to make His Majesty's Government, and not the individual, the arbiter in these matters, we are striking at something which goes very deep in our lives. I think it is the main secret of our troubles; it is certainly the symptom of one of them. We have a fundamental maladjustment in our economic life.

On Question, Bill read 2a.

Then, Standing Order XXXIX having been suspended (pursuant to the Resolution of Monday last):


I beg to move that the House do now itself into Committee.

Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(The Lord Chancellor.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly:

[The EARL OF DROGHEDA in the Chair.]

Clauses I to 3 agreed to.

Clause 4:

Duration of this Act.

4. This Act shall continue in force until the thirtieth day of June, nineteen hundred and forty-eight, and shall expire at the end of that day, except as respects things previously done or omitted to be done:

Provided that His Majesty may by Order in Council declare that it is no longer necessary that this Act, or any provision thereof specified in the Order should continue in force, and, if an Order under this proviso is made, this Act, or the specified provision, as the case may be, shall expire at the end of such day as may be specified in the Order, except as respects things previously clone or omitted to be done, and so that, in reckoning the number of days on which betting by way of bookmaking or by means of a totalisator may take place on a track during the remainder of the year in which the day specified in the Order falls, days on which such betting has taken place during that year up to that day shall be reckoned in accordance with subsection (3) of section one of this Act.


The first three Amendments are merely drafting Amendments to make room for what is to follow hereafter-that is to say, provisions to enable the Bill to be brought to an end before its due time, and to enable the Secretary of State to make these arrangements giving elasticity. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 3, line 13, at the beginning insert: ("(I) Subiect to the provisions of this section ".)—(The Lord Chancellor.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Amendment moved— Page 3, line 15, leave out from ("day") to ("His") in line 17, and insert ("(I)").—(The Lord Chancellor.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Amendment moved— Page 3, line 20, leave out ("proviso") and insert ("subsection").—(The Lord Chancellor.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

THE LORD CHANCELLOR moved to leave out from "Order," where that word occurs a fourth time, to the end of the clause and insert: (3) If the Secretary of State is satisfied as respects any particular licensing area or part of such an area that, having regard to its situation or to other local circumstances, the making of an order under this subsection in relation thereto is unlikely to lead to any substantial interference with industrial production, he may by order direct that, on and after such day as may be specified in the order, either—

  1. (a) this Act shall not apply to tracks in that area or part; or
  2. (b) subsection (I) of Section two of this Act shall not apply to tracks in that area or part, or shall,. in its application to tracks in that area or part, have effect with the substitution of a reference to an earlier hour for the reference to one in the afternoon;
and any order under this subsection may be revoked, and an order thereunder substituting an earlier hour as aforesaid may be varied, by a subsequent order made by the Secretary of State.

(4) The expiry of this Act, or the revocation of an order under the last preceding subsection, shall not affect the operation thereof as respects things previously done or omitted to be done, and, in reckoning the number of days on which betting by way of bookmaking or by means of a totalisator may take place on a track in a part of a year after the expiry of Section one of this Act or in a part thereof during which that section does not apply to the track, days in that year on which such betting has taken place during the continuance in force of that section and its application to the track shall be reckoned in accordance with subsection (3) of that section"

The noble and learned Viscount said: This Amendment is to leave out from "Order" to the end of the clause, and to insert these new provisions. The first is a new subsection providing that "If the Secretary of State is satisfied as respects any particular licensing area or part of such an area that, having regard to its situation or other local circumstances, the making of an Order under this subsection in relation thereto is unlikely to lead to any substantial interference with industrial production, he may by Order direct that on and after such a day as may be specified in such an Order the Act shall not apply to tracks in that area," and so on.

The particular illustrations given in another place were the Isle of Thanet, arid, I think, Blackpool. If the Secretary of State is satisfied that what goes on in such places does not interfere with production, it is right that he should apply his powers to those areas. The only justification, the only excuse, we have for this Bill is the effect of dog racing on production. We are not trying by a side wind to bring in some measure to stop betting or anything of that sort—that is not the point. The noble Lord, Lord Lkwellin, referred to early closing days. It is only right (and I agree with the noble Lord, Lord De L'Isle and Dudley) that people concerned should have a say in deciding what they want to do, for this is a free country—at least I hope it is. That again is a matter which the Home Secretary will consider. With regard to the other provision this whole scheme is, of course, experimental, and if we find in the working of this Act that there is no need to go on with it (in any case it can continue only until June, 1948), it may be that we shall be able to bring it to an end at an earlier date. Therefore, in the Amendment there is a provision which enables the Home Secretary, if satisfied that there is no interference with production, to bring the Act to an end even before June, 1948. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 3, line 22, leave out from ("Order") to the end of the clause, and insert the said new subsections.—(The Lord Chancellor.)


I wish to ask the noble and learned Viscount, the Lord Chancellor, one question upon this. Who is it that would initiate this kind of move, of which he has spoken, to terminate the operation of the Act? The Secretary of State is the person—and quite rightly, I think—who will make the decision, but would it be the local licensing authorities, or persons interested in the racing who would normally draw his attention to the fact it was desired, arid appropriate, that he should take action?


We contemplate that it may very well be the licensing authorities, who will say, "We want some amusements for our people," or it might be the greyhound racing authorities themselves who would make the move. Either of those groups would be able to approach the Secretary of State. Of course, before he considered what to do he would approach the other party and hear their views.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 4, as amended, agreed to.

Remaining clause agreed to.

House resumed.

Bill reported with Amendments; read 3a with the Amendments, and passed, and returned to the Commons.