HL Deb 28 April 1959 vol 215 cc1121-3

Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.

6.18 p.m.


My Lords, this is a small Bill to amend the Small Lotteries and Gaming Act, 1956. It went through all stages in another place without any sort of opposition. The 1956 Act of which I was in charge while it passed through your Lordships' House, had as its objectives, as your Lordships will remember, the legalisation of small lotteries held for charitable purposes and for certain other similar purposes. On the whole, it received a favourable reception from your Lordships, although I should perhaps mention that there was a certain amount of opposition, notably from the most reverend Primate the Lord Archbishop of Canterbury, who spoke against it on the ground, among others, that, in his view, the provisions in the Bill for providing control on the part of local authorities were not sufficiently stringent. Indeed, we did something in Committee towards satisfying that criticism.

I mention this particular point because although, on the whole, the Act has, I think, worked very well and has been very well received, and although numerous deserving charities have benefited substantially as a result of its working, there has been a certain amount of criticism of the same kind as that put forward by the most reverend Primate the Lord Archbishop of Canterbury on that occasion. There has been discussion in the newspapers and it has been suggested that the provisions for ensuring that all money which is collected reaches the charity are not sufficiently strong. I am net in a position to say whether these criticisms are justified or not. It may be that an inquiry into that aspect of the matter ought to be initiated at some time.

This Bill is not really concerned with that matter. It is concerned simply with putting right—or perhaps over-riding, is a more accurate way of putting it—a decision in the High Court, which found itself constrained on the construction of this Act and of the Licensing Act, 1953, in the case of Smith v. Wyles, to hold that the conducting of a small lottery on licensed premises is an infraction of the Licensing Act, 1953. In that case, the Deerleap Bowling Club, which carries on its activities in Birmingham and has its headquarters in a public house, and which is registered under the Small Lotteries Act, being minded to conduct a small lottery under the Act, not unnaturally proceeded to sell tickets at the bar of the public house under the eyes of the landlord. The organisers and the landlord were distinctly surprised when they found themselves before the magistrates shortly afterwards, charged with an infraction of Section 141 of the Licensing Act, which makes it an offence to suffer gaming to be carried on in licensed premises. The magistrates convicted them and that conviction was upheld by the Queen's Bench Division of the High Court.

It is obvious that one of the most likely places for conducting a small lottery and selling tickets is in the bar of a public house, and the promoters of this Bill had not the remotest idea that this would be regarded as an infraction of the Licensing Act. They thought, and I am sure that Parliament thought, that small lotteries were being legalised wherever they were held, and the decision of the High Court was received with consternation, as it obviously removed much of the usefulness of the Act and meant, in effect, a return to the sort of cat-and-mouse methods which were used in some parts of the country for the suppression of small lotteries and raffles and excitements of that kind before this Act was put on the Statute Book.

This Statute has been operating now for three years and I am informed that many lotteries have been held in public houses, that thousands of tickets have been sold in the bars of public houses and that there has been no sort of complaint that this has led to any scandals or difficulties. This particular prosecution came as a complete surprise. I hope that your Lordships will agree with another place that the situation ought to be regularised. The Bill which is before your Lordships this afternoon regularises it, and therefore I have pleasure in moving that the Bill be read a second time.

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


My Lords, I think that the noble Lord, Lord Chorley, has explained his Bill with admirable clarity, and I have no comment upon anything that he has said. I rise only to tell your Lordships that the Government's position in regard to the Bill is one of neutrality, although if there can be said to be degrees of neutrality, it is neutrality of a benevolent kind.

On Question, Bill read 2a.; and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.