HL Deb 02 June 1960 vol 224 cc331-92

3.55 p.m.

House again in Committee.

Clause 6:

Increase of penalties for street betting

6.—(1) Any person who commits an offence under subsection (1) of section one of the Street Betting Act. 1906, after the appointed day shall, instead of being liable to the penalty provided by paragraph (a), (b) or (c) of the said subsection (1), be liable on summary conviction to a line not exceeding one hundred pounds or, in the case of a second or any subsequent conviction for such an offence committed after that day, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding three months or to a fine not exceeding two hundred pounds or to both.

THE LORD CHANCELLOR moved in subsection (1) to leave out "or any subsequent". The noble and learned Viscount said: I believe it would be convenient if I put before your Lordships very quickly the present position as to the penalties for street betting, the position in the Bill as it stands and the effect of the Amendment. Under the Act of 1906 the penalties are these: in the case of a first offence, a fine not exceeding £10; in the case of a second offence, a fine not exceeding £20; in the case of a third or subsequent offence, or in any case where it is proved that the person while committing the offence had any betting transaction with a person under the age of sixteen years, on a conviction on indictment a fine not exceeding £50 or imprisonment not exceeding six months; or on summary conviction, a fine not exceeding £30 or imprisonment not exceeding three months.

The Bill as it stands substitutes as the maximum penalties: in the case of a first offence, a fine not exceeding £100; in the case of a second or subsequent offence, imprisonment not exceeding three months or a fine not exceeding £200 or both. There is no provision for the offence to be dealt with on indictment. During the Committee stage in the House of Commons, and again during the Report stage, Amendments were moved to omit the possibility of awarding a sentence of imprisonment, while raising still further the maximum limit on a fine for a second or subsequent offence. Those who supported the Amendment argued that the men who took bets in the street were mostly book- makers' agents rather than principal bookmakers and were thus men in a small way of business. It would be unfair (the argument went on) that "small" men acting merely as agents for others should be liable to be imprisoned.

The practice at present when street agents (or "runners") are convicted under the Street Betting Act and fined is for their fines to be paid by their principals. Hence, the argument went, the raising of the maximum fine which could be awarded would be more effective as a means of suppressing street betting. The argument on the other side which appealed to Her Majesty's Government and appeals to me is that, in fixing maximum sentences, it was necessary to think, not of the typical or average case, but of the worst type of case that it was possible to foresee. It had to be remembered that the principal bookmaker himself might be charged and convicted as an accessory. Although, if he was a wealthy man, he might be wilting to risk having to pay several hundred pounds by way of a fine, he would not be likely to take the risk of a sentence of imprisonment. Thus it was necessary to retain the penalty of imprisonment as an ultimate sanction to deal with the worst case of a principal bookmaker who is a persistent offender.

My right honourable friend the Home Secretary undertook to look at the matter again and the Amendments that we suggest have the effect of retaining the ultimate sanction of imprisonment for three months, but reserving it for a third or subsequent offence, so that it cannot be awarded for a second offence. The Committee will remember that, under the Act of 1906, it can be awarded for a third offence. In fact, under the Act of 1906 six months' imprisonment could be given after a trial on indictment instead of the three months which we maintain. We believe that it is necessary to maintain imprisonment as a deterrent; that it will deter in the case of a third or subsequent offence—it will deter the persistent offender, including, as I say, the principal bookmaker who is convicted as an accessary and who persists in his illegal activity. I hope that the Committee will think that the relaxation from a second to a third offence is as far as we can go to meet the other point of view. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 5, line 34, leave out ("or any subsequent").—(The Lord Chancellor.)


I agree with the noble and learned Viscount that this, as it were, spreading the penalty into three stages instead of two is to some extent an acknowledgment of the commitment which his right honourable friend entered into in another place. But, quite frankly, when I read that this was one of the three matters on which the other place would welcome your Lordships' advice, I thought that that meant that they would like our advice with regard to the reduction of penalties to be inflicted on street bookmakers. In fact, this Amendment, although it spreads the penalties into three instead of two stages, makes no reduction at all.


It means that the bookmaker who is convicted as an accessary cannot be sent to prison for a second offence; he has to commit three offences.


I quite agree with that; but the noble and learned Viscount will agree that the minimum maximum penalty (if I may use that expression) is £100; the maximum penalty is still £200 or three months' imprisonment, or both. That compares with the penalties which are at present in existence of £10. £20 or £30. with an alternative of imprisonment.

I should like to make it quite clear that in this matter I am speaking entirely for myself, and I do not know whether my noble friends, or your Lordships in any other part of the House, will agree with me. I should also make it clear, as has been said by almost everyone who has spoken in every section of the deliberations of this Bill, that I am not a betting man. My personal view is that that is no kind of a recommendation for the acceptance of one's advice on a betting Bill. I should, therefore, make it quite clear that I am not opposed to betting. Provided that one pays the rent and looks after one's wife and children, I think one may then be able to do what one likes with the rest of one's income.

I well remember that the last bet I had was in the Grand National, quite some years ago. I remember the horse—its name was "Gyppo"; I backed it because it was a grey (I can see greys, and I cannot see the others), and because it could jump. I had the vain hope that the others might all fall down and that this one might win; and at odds of £1,000 to £25, it was quite attractive. My honourable friend, as he then was, Stanley Evans, put the bet on because I did not know a bookmaker. He subsequently told me that it was better not to put on a "pony" but a "monkey", because then it would have got over the jumps; and it was only later that I learned that a "monkey" was £500, and I was glad I had not accepted his advice.

I am not exactly an expert; I am not completely disinterested. But I have seen street bookmakers, and I am quite sure that the noble and learned Viscount would think even less of me than he does if I failed to speak what I think is the truth. The truth, as I see it, is this. We have very large numbers of street bookmakers who are fulfilling what the general public regard as a service. Regardless of whether it is a moral service or otherwise, the general public like it. The Government, in this Bill, have decided to get rid of it. Again, I am not arguing whether that is right or wrong. But if in deciding to get rid of it the Government propose to lay down excessive penalties—perhaps not excessive; but large, prohibitive penalties—then an obligation rests on us to ensure that those street bookmakers have reasonable facilities for translating themselves into some other kind of bookmaker which is approved of by this Bill.

I am very much concerned by the fact that this Bill does not provide those facilities, or not in the measure which is required. I have heard my noble friend Lord Silkin talk about the need for getting planning permission for betting offices. What is going to happen? It is a very simple process. The street bookmaker will look round for a place in the vicinity where he works in which he can set up a betting office, in order to comply with the law. In many of the poorer quarters of London that will be a very simple and comparatively poor establishment. If that is acceptable to the terms of the Bill, then I have no objection to any penalties whatsoever, however severe they are. But if, when this Bill becomes law, it means that it is going to be excessively difficult, if not impossible, for these men to continue to ply their trade, which would then be a legitimate trade in accordance with the terms of this Bill when it becomes an Act, then I think we are doing ourselves, and them, a considerable injustice. I would say that these large penalties would then be seen to be an expression of the Government's fear of failure. They would, in fact, be a perpetuation of injustice.

It is all very well to say, "They are only bookmakers. Who cares?" But I do not think the noble and learned Viscount would take that view at all. Therefore, I want to put it to him quite plainly. I am in this case talking of something of which I know, and I should like some assurance from him that, within the terms of the Bill or of the instructions which are likely to be issued (or, if not instructions, the guidance which is likely to be issued) to the appropriate authorities, they will not be extremely hard-and-fast with regard to granting planning permission for particular types of premises to become betting offices where persons can establish that they are already in business as street bookmakers. If street bookmakers can go from the street into a place and conduct their business in accordance with this Bill, then I imagine that no one would suggest that we should be wrong to impose severe penalties on them if they did not make that change. But if it is going to be extremely difficult, and almost impossible, for them to carry out the instructions of this Bill, then I would say that it would be a gross injustice and would really be a means of covering up our own failure if we then provided very severe penalties.

The noble and learned Viscount's Amendment, compared with the present practice means merely that, instead of a man being fined a maximum of £10, he can be fined a maximum of £100 or £200. But in practice, if it should prove that bookmakers cannot reasonably convert their place of business into licensed premises, for reasons of technical objections about planning or otherwise, then the public will not support the Act of Parliament; they will support the bookmaker. Equally, the police will not sup- port the Act of Parliament; they will support the bookmaker. They will find this section of the Act just as unworkable as existing legislation, and we shall be confronted with exactly the position which we have now: that the police do not enforce the 1906 Act; that they arrange for people to be arrested for the convenience of bookmakers and to satisfy the records in their own areas; and that they take the appropriate consideration for such a service. In fact, we shall have a continuation of the old, evil practices of which we are all aware.

I think that this all arises out of the decision of the Government not to license street bookmakers, which I think was a wrong decision. That decision having been made, it is no use discussing it any longer; but I ask the noble and learned Viscount to say now whether, in asking us to agree to these very severe penalties, he is satisfied that, when this Act becomes law, there will be proper opportunity for legitimate street bookmakers who are honestly carrying on their business to transfer themselves from the street to an office in the near vicinity of the place where they are at present carrying on their business, and that they will thus be able to comply with the terms of this Bill when it becomes an Act. If he is satisfied of that, then I can see no objection to severe penalties: if he is not satisfied of that and cannot give the assurances for which I have asked, then I think it would be utterly wrong and utterly unjust to demand these penalties.


I express no view at all on the interesting question raised by the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, as to whether street bookmaking should or should not be allowed. I think that is an interesting question, but it is not relevant on this Amendment. I rise simply to express some astonishment at the proposition of law or fact which he has now advanced: that one can have a vested interest in an illegal activity entitling one, when new legislation conies in, to demand facilities.


That is a fact.


I think my noble friend Lord Stonham is assuming that everybody who is liable to penalties in respect of betting in the streets is a principal and not an agent. If all the agents who are engaged on this activity—and they are extremely numerous—are going ipso facto to become eligible to obtain licences as bookmakers, it will be quite astounding: but, in fact, the vast majority of them are employees who are collecting bets on behalf of bookmakers, and it is to be assumed that the bookmakers will continue to find employment for them in other capacities after this Bill becomes an Act of Parliament.


On the major point of the argument of the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, that he disagrees with our solution, he would not wish me to follow him, nor would he think me discourteous in abstaining from doing so. But I appreciate the particular point that he has in mind: that is, that we are wanting to free betting from being carried on in the illegal way which brings the law into disrepute. That is our objective; and it will be necessary to see that the new channel is functioning if we hope to get rid of the evil (whether we are right or wrong in thinking that it is a bad method of doing it) of illegal street betting.

Now I should like to remind the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, of subsection (2) of the clause we are amending. That says: The day appointed for the purposes of this section shall not be earlier than six months after the day appointed for the coming into force of section four of this Act. That is the clause which provides for betting office licences and betting agency permits—and it is a matter for my right honourable friend to appoint when that comes into operation. But, whenever that may be—and, of course, one wishes first of all to give people a reasonable chance to get the offices—then the scheme of the Bill is that there should be a delay before these additional penalties are enforced, in order to give that a chance of functioning.

I should like to consider carefully what the noble Lord has said about guidance as to the premises. As he will remember, when I was Home Secretary—and it applies a fortiori to-day—I was always most careful to leave the independence of justices unfettered; and he has often heard me, when pressed in another place to issue circulars and to give guidance about offences, steadfastly refuse to do so. This is a different matter, because I appreciate that the basis of his argument is that here the justices are acting as licensing justices in the case of liquor, in a quasi-administrative, as well as quasi-judicial, function. I think it is a point of great importance, and I should like to consider that and discuss it with Mr. Butler. I am grateful to him for raising that point. There are always difficulties when you are dealing with a discretionary matter, but I should like to give it consideration before the next stage.


I am grateful to the noble and learned Viscount. He will appreciate as well as I that, while accepting everything he says about the inadvisability and the undesirability of giving guidance to or of exerting pressure on licensing justices, it is the case that words that he may utter in this connection carry great weight, and, indeed, may be considered and put forward when these matters are discussed before licensing justices. The kind of thing I have in mind is this: in, shall we say, the poorer districts, the more densely populated quarters of London (and other big cities, so far as I am aware), there are more street bookmakers than in other areas with the same population or even a more dense population. By reason of that: fact, there are likely to be more applications in such areas, and they are likely to be for approval of less palatial premises. Therefore, unless that fact is taken into consideration and there is some reasonable hope of equality of treatment, there is likely to be injustice: and, if there is injustice, it would be hateful to all of us that the victims of such injustice should then be the subject of heavy penalties. That is the only point of my opposition (as you may call it), or question. If the noble and learned Viscount has that point in mind and will give it due weight, then I am satisfied.


Yes, I certainly shall do that. I agree entirely with the noble Lord that the type of premises must vary according to the locality; and not only the needs of the locality, but what the people in that locality would expect, and what would be possible according to the premises available. I am in entire sympathy with him there. I think that to set up absurdly high standards would be to defeat the object of the Bill. I hope that what I have said is helpful.


I am very grateful to the noble and learned Viscount. That entirely meets my point.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.


I bee to move the next Amendment.

Amendment moved— Page 5, line 35 after ("day") insert ("to a fine not exceeding two hundred pounds or, in the case of a third or any subsequent conviction for such an offence so committed").—(The Lord Chancellor.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 6, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 7:

Betting with young persons

7.—(1) If any person—

(b) employs a young person in the effecting of any betting transaction or in a licensed betting office; or

(c) receives or negotiates any bet through a young person, he shall be guilty of an offence.

Provided that a person shall not be guilty of an offence under this subsection by reason of— (i) the employment of a young person in the effecting of betting transactions by post; or

4.23 p.m.

LORD STONHAM moved, in subsection (1) (b), to leave out "young" and after "person" insert "who is under the age of twenty-one years". The noble Lord said: On behalf of my noble Leader and my noble friends, I beg to move Amendment No. 19. I hope that it will be convenient to your Lordships to take with it Nos. 20 and 21, which concern the same point. A little while ago the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, brought in question the logic of the Government's decision on an earlier Amendment, but this is a totally illogical Bill. In one discussion, we find ourselves on opposite sides of the fence, and in the next discussion on the same side. I am afraid that this Bill is going to bring a considerable extension of betting, and I am proposing these Amendments in order to limit that so far as possible, having originally accepted the need to make legal something which at present is illegal—that is, cash betting. In these three Amendments, my noble friends and I seek to ensure that no one under twenty-one shall take part in the business of betting. It is already laid down in the Schedule that no one under the age of twenty-one can take part in the business of betting as a principal. I hope that the Committee will agree that no one under the age of twenty-one shall be engaged in betting as an employee.

It may be argued: what harm is there in a young girl who comes from a commercial training college at the age of sixteen or seventeen, being engaged in a bookmaker's office any more than in a stockbroker's office or any other office? What harm is there in a young lad of eighteen making tea in a bookmaker's office, cutting the cake, calling the runners off the tape and doing all the other little jobs which have to be undertaken? I do not accept that. It is unquestionable that if a young person is engaged in a betting office in any capacity, he will inevitably be drawn into the exciting net where there is talk of gambling, speculation on what is likely to happen and perhaps regrets for what did not happen after the event. I think that under twenty-one is much too young for people to be constantly engaged, every day of their working lives, in the hothouse atmosphere of gambling.

It is laid down in the Schedule that no one under the age of twenty-one can have a bookmaker's licence. That is for a very good reason. We do not want them to get into the bookmaking business too young. If that is accepted for a principal, what possible justification can there be for permitting the employment of young people in a subordinate capacity in bookmakers' offices? If it is wrong for people under twenty-one to become bookmakers, why should it be right for people under twenty-one to become bookmakers' assistants? Just imagine what goes on in a betting office. At 2.20 the runners come through for the 2.20 race, and it is announced. At 2.21 they are off and on the tape. At 2.22, if it is a five-furlong sprint, the results are up. It is all very well to say that all this atmosphere is confined to the punters. It is also communicated to the people engaged in the business. If you think that your mission in life is to work in a betting office in that kind of atmosphere, well anti good; but surely we have a responsibility to see that people should not have to make that decision too young. I think that the noble and learned Viscount will appreciate the thought behind these Amendments and I hope that both he and your Lordships will accept the view that these alterations should be made to the Bill.

Amendment moved— Page 5, line 43, leave out ("young") and after ("person") insert ("who is under the age of twenty-one years").—(Lord Stonham.)


I think that it would be to your Lordships' convenience if I answered the noble Lord on Amendments No. 19, 20 and 44. The noble Lord mentioned No. 21 but I am sure that he will appreciate that that deals with postal betting and that it would be more convenient if I speak about that later.


I agree with the noble Earl that it is a different point, and I apologise for my mistake.


Clause 7 makes it an offence for a person to have a betting transaction with a young person, to employ a young person in the effecting of any betting transaction or in a licensed betting office, or to receive or negotiate any bet through a young person. Under the Schedule, it is one of the rules for a licensed betting office that a young person shall not be admitted or be allowed to remain on the premises. The age limit in the Bill for all these purposes is eighteen, and the Amendments propose to substitute twenty-one as respects the offence of having a betting transaction with a young person—that is the offence I have just mentioned. On the other hand, the noble Lord's Amendment would allow a young person to place a bet at the age of eighteen. The appropriate age limit for these provisions is largely a matter of opinion. The noble Lord has an opinion, and he has expressed it. The age limit recommended in the Royal Commission's Report is the age of eighteen for a young person. In paragraph 256 they recommended that a registered bookmaker should not be allowed to employ any person under the age of eighteen; and although the prohibition on employment in the Bill does not go so far as to forbid employment in every capacity, as the Royal Commission suggested, the age of eighteen follows their suggestion.


If I may interrupt the noble Earl, I tried to make it clear that my Amendment had not the object of preventing a young person of eighteen from having a bet. The purpose of my Amendment is to ensure that the person with whom he bets shall not be under twenty-one.


I appreciate that, and, in fact, I think I made it clear in my opening preamble. In sub-paragraph (iii) of paragraph 263 the Royal Commission recommended that it should be an offence for any person under eighteen to enter a licensed betting office and for a bookmaker to bet with any person apparently under eighteen years of age. The Bill follows this recommendation exactly. It is already an offence under Section 15 of the Betting and Lotteries Act, 1934, for a bookmaker to employ a person under the age of eighteen on the course or to have a betting transaction with a person under that age. There is also a precedent for the adoption of the age of eighteen in the Licensing Act, 1953. That Act provides that a young person under that age may not be employed in any bar or licensed premises, and that intoxicating liquor may not be served to a person under that age for consumption on the premises. There are thus precedents for the adoption of the age of eighteen.

The question whether the higher age should be substituted is largely one of judgment, but it is doubtful whether it would be practicable to insist on the higher age limit which the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, would like to see. Many people between the age of eighteen and twenty-one have reached degrees of maturity, and, regrettable though it may be that such persons may wish to indulge in betting, it does not seem feasible to attempt by law to deny them facilities for doing so. We heard yesterday, in what I am sure all your Lordships will consider was a great debate, initiated by the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, a number of noble Lords say how young people were maturing earlier in these days.


If the noble Earl will allow me, I said they were more mature outside but far younger inside than we were, and needed our protection far more.


They may be maturing more outside and less inside. We did hear harsh criticisms on young people, but I know there are Members of your Lordships' House and members of the public who under the age of twenty-one were entrusted with the lives of men in their platoons. They have had to deal with every sort of problem in the solution of which, supposing they had had the wisdom which they accumulate in time, perhaps, in your Lordships' House, they might have been seriously affected. One can think of young people up and down the country in the Services to-day, and in civil life as well, driving cranes or motor lorries and so forth, all of which involves a great deal of responsibility. I think that is a considerable reason for putting forward a plea to the noble Lord. It would be difficult, for the reasons I have just put forward, to consider a person under twenty-one as suitable to carry on such responsibilities as I have described, and yet at the same time deny him the right of working, should he so wish, for a bookmaker.

If this is recognised, it is difficult to justify excluding punters of this age group from licensed betting offices. The adoption of different age limits for different provisions of Clause 7 would give rise to strange anomalies if the noble Lord's proposal were carried out. It would be an offence under paragraph (c) of subsection (1) for a young person over eighteen but under twenty-one to be used to take a bet from the punter to a bookmaker, yet the same young person could on his own behalf place a bet with a bookmaker. That is just one of the anomalies which the noble Lord's Amendment would create. The Government respect the sincerity of the noble Lord for his views and his desire to protect young people from too early indulgence in the betting habit, but this series of Amendments is not one which we can advise your Lordships to accept.


Like many noble Lords who have taken part on the Committee stage and on Second Reading of the Bill, I can also claim not to be a betting man. I have had one bet and, unlike my noble friend Lord Stonham, I was successful; I won some money on "Quare Times" in the Grand National. I rise to support my noble friend on this Amendment. In his reply, the noble Earl laid great stress upon the maturity of our young people to-day. He made play—and with some truth—of the fact that we have in time of war placed men of seventeen, eighteen and nineteen in command of troops. But when those men were placed in that position they had had training; they were trained to carry out an operation; and they had mature officers behind them. With due respect to the bookmakers, surely the noble Earl is not going to suggest that a bookmaker is in the same degree as the commanding officer of a battalion or a company. Bookmakers may be, in their business, honourable gentlemen, but there are some of us who feel that it is a business which is—not necessarily shady, but at any rate one where there is considerable temptation.

I share with my noble friend Lord Stonham a feeling that young men or women under the age of twenty-one ought not to be employed in this type of business. We know that under the Bill nobody under the age of twenty-one can be a principal. According to the Bill, a youth over eighteen may be employed. But what is the position of the agent? As I understand it, a youth over the age of eighteen can be an agent. Am I right? I understand that an agent, the tout who negotiates business on behalf of his principal, need only be over the age of eighteen. As your Lordships know, in business it is sometimes difficult to differentiate between a principal and an agent.


It is harder in bookmaking.


That is probably the case. But in business he is a principal because it is his finance, his capital, which is at stake; but his agent will negotiate and conclude the business. In this, I might be prepared to go some way with the Government in saying that the clerks and the typists in an office could be under or above the age of eighteen, but I would submit most strongly that a tout should not be employed below the age of twenty-one.


I am afraid that there is a difference of view here. We have considered this point very carefully, and I am sure my right honourable friend will consider the arguments advanced. But we feel that eighteen is the proper age, and I am afraid we cannot accept the Amendment.


I have raised a new point as far as the age of an agent is concerned. Would the noble and learned Viscount give an undertaking that he will look into this matter to see whether, if they cannot accept the Amendment as it stands, they could agree to bringing in a higher age limit for the employment of agents?


I cannot give any commitments at all, but I will willingly bring that point specially to the notice of my right honourable friend, and we will consider it. But as the noble Lord will understand, I cannot give him any commitment on the matter.


I am grateful to the noble and learned Viscount and to my noble friend for putting that point so well. I appreciate there is no undertaking, but on the noble and learned Viscount's assurance to look at it again I ask your Lordships' permission to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.


had given Notice of his intention to move, in subsection (1), to omit proviso (i). The noble Lord said: Having listened to the very eloquent argument of the noble Earl on the previous Amendment, despite the fact that this is on a somewhat different point, and having regard to the fact that the Government will not agree that people who assist bookmakers in offices should be at least twenty-one years of age, it seems to me that they will not agree that people who assist in betting by post, making up the envelopes and typing the bets, should be at least twenty-one years of age. Therefore I see no useful purpose in taking up your Lordships' time in moving this Amendment separately, so I will not move it.

Clause 7 agreed to.

Clauses 8 and 9 agreed to.

4.45 p.m.

LORD DOUGLAS OF BARLOCH moved, after Clause 9 to insert the following new clause: .Every holder of a bookmaker's permit or licence or of a betting agency permit shall deliver to the authority issuing such permit or licence once in every year on a date to be prescribed a statement showing the total turnover of the business conducted under such permit or licence.

The noble Lord said: If I may, I will discuss this Amendment and the following Amendment together, as they are closely related. It is provided in Clause 10 that information shall be published of a statistical character with regard to the grant, renewal or cancellation and expiry of bookmakers' permits. It is obvious that bookmaking is an extensive business in which large sums of money change hands in the course of a year, and it is something of considerable social importance. That is one of the underlying bases of this very Bill. But there is no provision by which any exact ascertainment can be got of one of the most important statistics relating to this business, and that is the amount of the annual turnover—the total amount of money which is staked during the course of a year. Therefore, the purpose of the first Amendment is to provide that the holders of bookmakers' permits or licences, or betting agency permits, shall deliver to the licensing authority every year a return stating what the turnover of the business conducted under the permit is.

Similarly, the proposed Amendment to Clause 10 provides that this information shall be included in the annual statement which is laid before each House of Parliament. I hope it will be agreed that this information is useful and has considerable social importance. It has importance in another respect, because if, following the recommendations of the Peppiatt Committee, some measure is introduced at some time for the purpose of levying taxation upon betting, it will be important to know what sums of money would possibly be involved in that. For those reasons, I hope the Government will accept the Amendment, and I beg to move.

Amendment moved— After Clause 9 insert the said new clause — (Lord Douglas of Barloch.)


It might be convenient if I intervene in the debate upon this Amendment to tell the noble Lord that Her Majesty's Government appreciate the problem which he has put before us and would like to consider the purport of it. I should like to mention paragraph 189 in the Report of the Royal Commission, which says that as much information as is practicable should be made available to the public about the extent of gambling, and, wherever possible, the conduct of the various forms of gambling. The noble Lord mentioned Clause 10 under which a report is to be put before the two Houses of Parliament. The noble Lord's Amendment is open to detailed difficulties of interpretation, as I am sure that fie and his noble friend will appreciate. In particular, it is not clear what precise meaning can be given to the word "turnover". Many bookmakers lay off bets on a particular horse or other contestant which has been backed heavily, by placing "hedging" bets with other bookmakers. Such a bet would be part of the turnover of the second bookmaker, but does not represent any new betting business from the general public. An accumulator bet involves a combination of predictions on a number of events. If the prediction on the first event is correct, then the winnings are transferred to the second event, and so on. It is not clear whether the word "turnover" includes merely the original stake or the winnings, if any, on the successive stages of the accumulator. As I am sure the noble Lord is aware, this accumulator betting is becoming very popular all over the country.

These criticisms could no doubt be removed by more careful definition. For example, bets between one holder of a bookmaker's permit and another could be excluded. That would probably look after the "laying-off" which I have just mentioned, and in the case of an accumulator it could be stated that it is the original stake only which is counted. But the main question is whether it is practicable for this information to be obtained. The Royal Commission evidently did not think it would be so: otherwise they would have added it to the recommendations which they made. My right honourable friend understands that bookmakers, generally speaking, do not compile this information at present, and there has been insufficient time since this Amendment was put down for an assessment to be made of the amount of work involved to bookmakers and the Home Office and Scottish Home Depart- ment in obtaining the information which the noble Lord's Amendment seeks. It is a question of balancing the expense of obtaining the information, which is not available at present, against the benefit to be obtained from the information if it were to be given. If the noble Lord will allow my right honourable friend and my noble and learned friend who sits on the Woolsack to consider this Amendment, we should be grateful if he would withdraw it.


I am much obliged to the noble Earl. I appreciate that there are some technical difficulties in this matter, and if a provision of this kind was to be inserted it would need to be redrafted. I hope, however, that some provision covering the point will be found possible. I appreciate that bookmakers probably do not keep statistics of this kind at the present moment. However, they are being presented in this Bill with a legalisation of business which has been carried on hitherto in an illegal fashion; for which they have been paying the fines imposed upon their runners. They are therefore going to make a clear saving in carrying on their business, and it is not unreasonable that in a matter of such social importance as this is they should be required to comply with certain conditions. On the undertaking which the noble Earl has given, I shall be happy to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 10 agreed to.

Clauses 11 to 14 agreed to.

LORD UVEDALE OF NORTH END moved, after Clause 14, to insert the following new clause: .After paragraph (e) of subsection (1) of section three of the Pool Betting Act. 1954, there shall be added the following paragraph— '(ee) No prize in respect of any bet in any competition shall exceed the sum of £50,000.'

The noble Lord said: In moving this Amendment I would say that pool betting in this country is, to my mind, the most fantastic thing that was ever put before an intelligent public. I have in my possession at the present time a sheet from Littlewood's which points out that the first prize one week was £50,000. You can take it that the prizes altogether were roughly £100,000. The price of the sheet is five shillings. The chance of a man getting one of these prizes is one in 200,000. How is it possible for a man to bet when the chances against him are 200,000 to 1? Men do bet, and hundreds and thousands of people bet in this way. The reason is that they say to themselves, "Mr. So-and-So won £50,000 last week and I had an equal chance with him. It could just as well have come to me as to him. Therefore the chances are fifty-fifty". Another thing that appeals to people is this sudden change overnight from poverty to affluence. The chance may be almost infinitesimal but the chance is there. As to limiting the prize, this, of course, has been done in the Irish Sweep; they have limited the maximum prize there. This is just a modest step to limit the prize to £50,000. Some noble Lords may hold that it is too much for a maximum, and others may hold that no maximum should be imposed. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— After Clause 14 insert the said new clause. —(Lord Uvedale of North End.)


I should like to oppose this Amendment, because, unlike so many noble Lords who say they do not bet, I confess to betting—not successfully, but I do bet. One of the most agreeable forms of betting in the winter is trying to prognosticate the impossible results of the Football Leagues. I am therefore a confessed member of what they call the Happy Circle. But I fully appreciate the words of Robert Louis Stevenson when he said: It is better to travel hopefully than to arrive. Frankly, I have never experienced the arrival part of it, but I still travel hopefully every week-end in the winter, living to win one of these prizes.

Noble Lords will realise that the complications of football pools automatically make you try to get one of these permutations, and no sooner have you started on permutations than the sum invested becomes very big. Consequently syndicates are being formed all over the country who together make very big investments which are spread over many people. In fact, the other day I was asked by one of the great firms to present a cheque for £200,000 to a collection of airmen, and in the end they got only about £8,000 each because there were so many in it. It shows the sort of thing that is going on; it does not mean necessarily that all this money goes to one person. I see no great objection, at any rate from a personal point of view, in changing from poverty to affluence, which was one of the objections raised relative to the paying of this great sum. I think it is rather an interference in a business which is, after all, run pretty satisfactorily throughout the country. It is not for your Lordships here to lay down how a great bookmaker's business should be run. It is just as logical for us to pass an Amendment to this Bill that all bookmakers should pay on the first four in every race rather than the first three. It would seem a gross interference in the way a bookmaker's or betting establishment is run. There is no demand for this at all, and I consider it would be an interference which is not justified in any way at all.


I feel rather strongly about the Amendment. It seems to me that the whole Bill is presented by the Government to bring the question of betting up to date and in line with the need of modern requirements. Therefore, I feel that the Amendment is out of touch with the Bill as a whole. I do not see why pools should be limited. I do not believe that the public want them to be limited. A certain amount of the glamour of the pools would be lost by a limitation of this nature. I do not suggest that betting is necessarily a good thing. I do not do the pools myself, but to the average man in the street the excitement of possibly winning a large sum of money is glamorous. Possibly pool betting would decrease, and therefore the Government would lose a certain amount of revenue, if a limitation were imposed.

I am under the impression that people who win large sums on the pools do not necessarily squander them. Committees of experts are arranged by the big pool companies whose advice and opinion can be given to winners of large sums of money, I understand that most people who win these sums invest the money wisely and do not fritter it away. Bookmakers give enormous odds for the first three horses in a race, and we might as well ask bookmakers to limit the amount of money which they pay out. For all these reasons and because limitation would be unpopular, this is not a good Amendment and I am strongly opposed to it.


I should like to say a word in favour of the Amendment, particularly because I felt that the argument of the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon of Tara, was incompatible with the whole object of the Bill, which is to place certain restraints on this form of activity. He was, in effect, arguing that it should be left completely free for people to do what they like in regard to the running of betting businesses. The whole philosophy of the Bill is that within limits it is the sort of business which should be checked and controlled in the interests of the public as a whole. I should have thought that the Motion of my noble friend, Lord Uvedale of North End, was well within the scope of that sort of outlook. Fifty thousand pounds is a very large prize. As my noble friend pointed out, in the case of the Irish Sweep it was found, after a good deal of experience, reasonable to limit the prize. My noble friend has made a good proposition for a limitation of this kind, which is within the general policy of the Bill.

5.3 p.m.


My Lords, I am afraid that I approach this matter from a slightly different angle from those hitherto adopted. The position is that the Royal Commission on Betting, Lotteries and Gaming, which reported in 1951, devoted a chapter to football pool betting, and in paragraph 321 recommended a number of detailed controls and restrictions upon the conduct of such competitions. These recommendations, with exceptions and variations, were carried into effect by the Pool Betting Act, 1954, which was the result of a Bill introduced into the House of Commons by a Private Member. Although the Royal Commission had reported in favour of the principle which the Amendment exemplifies, that was not one of the matters that was put into effect by the Act of 1954. The position was that not only the mover of the Bill, but the House of Commons, addressed their minds to this matter and decided not to insert this limitation. Whichever view is right, it is clear that it is a highly controversial matter as to whether there should be a limit. I should have thought that it is by no means certain that the people who take part in football pools, notwithstanding what the Royal Commission said, are mainly or even largely averse to the possibility of the payment of large prizes. Everyone has agreed on the psychological diagnosis of this matter, including Lord Uvedale of North End, Lord Brabazon of Tara and Lord Foley. It is the perpetual "Cinderella" story in human nature that a person loves to imagine that he may be the one to whom the fairy godmother appears. I shall not pursue that analogy. I merely say that it is one of the psychological stimulants which produces this popularity. It would be interesting to pursue it and see whether it really affected the appearance of the fairy godmother that she would be able to provide only the dress and not a coach. We will not, however, pursue that enchanting line of speculation any further.

The Government feel that this Bill is not a proper vehicle for the making of a major Amendment to the Pool Betting Act on so important and controversial a topic. The purposes of the Bill are to provide for the establishment of licensed betting offices and to enact a new code for gaming. It is not concerned with the control of football pool betting, which was dealt with by the Act of 1954. It is true that I may be met with the debating answer that the House of Commons decided to insert into the Bill two new clauses, Clauses 13 and 14, which make minor Amendments to the 1954 Act. They are, however, very minor Amendments dealing with a point of almost infinitesimal narrowness. The proposal in the House of Commons to add two other clauses amending the 1954 Act was resisted by the Government, on the ground that they dealt with more important matters that were outside the scope of the Bill.

I do not want to enter into the controversy between my noble friend Lord Brabazon of Tara and the noble Lord, Lord Chorley on the merits of the matter, but I think that if the Pool Betting Act, 1954, is regarded as unsatisfactory, the proper method of dealing with it would be by the introduction of fresh legislation about pools expressly for the purpose. I remember that in the House of Commons (my noble friend Lord Brabazon of Tara will remember it, too) the first time the subject of football pools came up was on a Private Member's Motion on a Friday. As everyone who has been in the House of Commons knows, the difficulty on a Friday is usually to keep a quorum. On that day, every seat was occupied: people were crowding the gangways, and the interest was immense. Whoever is right, this is a subject of enormous popular interest. If we were seriously to regulate—and this Amendment would seriously regulate—it should be done by legislation directed to pools and not by a side wind in a different Bill.

That is not so hopeless as the argument about waiting for further legislation usually appears, because the 1954 Act was the result of a Private Member's Bill. It was introduced, if my memory is right, by Mr. Mulley. Therefore, if there was a feeling that there should be a change, it could be done by a Private Member's Bill; and there would be a lot to be said for it. It is, however, a matter of such popular importance and interest that at ought to be done by legislation directed to the point and, as I say, not by a side wind in a different Bill.


It is interesting of the noble and learned Viscount to dangle before our eyes the carrot of hoping to achieve an amendment by means of a Private Member's Bill. Of course, hope springs eternal in the breasts of those who introduce Private Members' Bill; but their hopes are often frustrated, especially if the Government do not extend a blessing to the measure which is introduced. The principal point which has been raised in opposition to this Amendment is that it is a matter of acute controversy. It is perfectly true that divergent views have been expressed in this House this afternoon, but I have no evidence that it would be a matter of acute controversy in the country generally. Nobody is proposing in this Amendment to deprive the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon of Tara, of the opportunity of filling in his football pool coupon. There is nothing of that kind in it. It can be said that one of the results of this Amendment would be to increase the number of prizes which would be available, and to increase the chances of winning a prize of a substantial amount, instead of having the money concentrated in a prize of perhaps £250,000. So I am not at all sure that there would be any adverse criticism on the part of the general public; indeed, there might be a lot of support for it.

I want to remind the noble and learned Viscount of the principle which underlies this Bill—that although betting is something which cannot be stopped and which must be tolerated, at the same time it is not desired to increase the temptations to betting. I ask him to look at the sides of London buses which have plastered upon them the amount of the maximum winnings in a football pool. It is quite obvious that in the minds of those who pay far those advertisements—they probably understand their own business very well—they contribute to the attraction to a number of people, who never calculate what the real odds are, to fill up more and more football coupons.


I thank the noble and learned Viscount for his statement. I found him sympathetic to every view that has been expressed—which is only the right thing. But after showing sympathy with every word put forward he has finally to make up his own mind on this issue. I can only hope that he will make up his mind in the direction of this Amendment, which I now beg leave to withdraw.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clauses 15 and 16 agreed to.

Clause 17 [Gaming machines]:

On Question, Whether Clause 17 shall stand part of the Bill?


May I say a word or two on the Motion that Clause 17 stand part of the Bill? This is the clause which is connected principally with gaming machines—that is, with such things as the fruit machine, colloquially known as the "One-armed bandit". There have been one or two rather disturbing articles in the newspapers of late, principally in the Sunday Pictorial of May 8, and in the People a week or two earlier, suggesting that a rather unsavoury racket is liable to break out upon the introduction legally of fruit machines into clubs and other places. If I understand it correctly—I have checked some of these facts and it appears that there is some substance in this complaint—there are going to be rather unsavoury gentlemen buying enormous numbers of fruit machines from abroad who will plant them into all the little clubs which, it is expected, will take them and operate them as soon as this Bill becomes law.

I understand that the racketeering will be run on Transatlantic lines, in this way. While the clause lays down that the profits from the machines should be used for purposes other than private gain—that is, for the benefit of the club—in practice the owners of the machines will be able to demand a rent for their hire. It is suggested that certain strong-arm methods which have been used by undesirable characters in other places will be used to extort rents from innocent hirers of these machines—and very considerable rents at that. I understand that this has been a fairly typical practice in America, where it has given much trouble to the authorities. I think it would be most undesirable if it arose in this country. I must apologise to my noble and learned friend for having given him shamefully short notice that I was going to raise this point. There is no Amendment on the Marshalled List, and therefore I can do no more than ask him if he will look into this matter between now and the next stage, to see whether these reports are well or ill-founded; and, if they are well-founded, to see whether some precautions cannot be inserted into the Bill to prevent what is normally a pretty harmless and innocent amusement developing into a most undesirable racket.


I will certainly give an undertaking to keep a careful watch not only on the operation of Clause 17 after the Bill has passed into law, but on the foundation of the fears of my noble friend Lord Mancroft. I am aware that some concern has been expressed about this clause; but as my noble friend says, its purpose is to legalise the practice whereby fruit machines are installed in such places as golf clubs and the profits are devoted to the funds of the club. But after the warning that we have had, we shall take steps to ascertain whether there is any foundation for the trepidation which my noble friends express. I do not think I can say any more at the moment, except that I am grateful to my noble friend for having raised the point.


I am much obliged.

Clause 17 agreed to.

Clause 18 agreed to.

5.18 p.m.

THE LORD CHANCELLOR moved, after Clause 18, to insert the following new clause:

Saving for dominoes and cribbage on licensed premises, etc.

".—(1) Section eighteen of this Act shall not apply to the playing of dominoes or cribbage—

  1. (a) on premises in respect of which there is for the time being in force a justices' on-licence granted under the Licensing Act, 1953, or a hotel certificate or public house certificate granted under the Licensing (Scotland) Act. 1959; or
  2. (b) on premises in any district specified in Part I of the Ninth Schedule to the said Act of 1953 or in Part I of the Eighth Schedule to the said Act of 1959 which are being used for the sale on behalf of the Secretary of State of intoxicating or, as the case may be, excisable liquor for consumption on those premises.

(2) The licensing justices for any licensing district within the meaning of the said Act of 1953, or the licensing court for any licensing area within the meaning of the said Act of 1959. may at any time, if in the case of any particular premises such as aforesaid situated within that district or area they think fit [...] to do by order impose such requirements or restrictions with respect to the playing of the said games on any part of those premises to which the public have access as they consider necessary to secure that the games are not played on that part of the premises in such circumstances as to constitute an inducement to persons to resort thereto primarily for the purpose of taking part in gaming at those games and that any such gamine on that part of the premises does not take place for high stakes.

(3) The justices or court aforesaid may at any time by a further order vary or revoke any previous order made under this section.

(4) An order under this section with respect to any premises shall come into force upon notice thereof being given—

  1. (a) in the case of premises such as are mentioned in paragraph (a) of subsection (1) of this section, to the person who is for a time being the holder of the licence or certificate aforesaid in respect of those premises;
  2. (b) in the case of premises such as mentioned in paragraph (b) of that subsection, to the Secretary of State,
and the justices or court shall send a copy of the notice to the chief officer of police for the police area in which the premises are situated; and, subject to any further order varying or revoking it, the order shall continue in force so long as the premises continue to be premises such as are mentioned in the said subsection (1).

(5) Section one hundred and sixty-six of the Licensing Act, 1953 (which relates to the application of that Act to the Isles of Scilly) shall have effect as if the reference therein to the functions of the licensing justices under Part VII of that Act included a reference to the functions of those justices under this section."

The noble and learned Viscount said: With your Lordships' consent, and with the approval of the Lord Chairman, perhaps we might consider Amendments Nos. 25 and 32, although of course No. 25 will be the one that will be strictly before the Committee. These are the Amendments which introduce the saving for dominoes and cribbage. I do not suppose that there is any great feeling on this point, and therefore I will explain only two aspects of the matter. One is the method that it is suggested should be used, which is unusual in gaming provisions, of naming the two games. The reason for that was that we have, in our consultations, consulted the Magistrates' Association on the alternatives. One was to name, and the other was to leave it to the different benches of magistrates. The Magistrates' Association felt that that would be undesirable and would lead to great difficulties and differences between, it may be, neighbouring, benches. So we have taken the rather unusual step of naming the two games.

With regard to dominoes I do not think that even in a House of saints, as your Lordships have proclaimed yourselves to be, there are any of your Lordships who will indignantly deny ever having played dominoes, so I do not think I need say any more on that. I confess that I am not an expert in cribbage, but I am told that it is fairly widely played for money in public houses; and although it is a card game it is one which appears to be easily distinguishable from other card games by its rules and by the manner of scoring on a special board, so that I do not think there will be much difficulty about identification.

The other matter that I wanted your Lordships to have in mind is that one of our reasons for not using this method of naming games is that it is sometimes possible to invent games similar to those that are named. There is a long history, over centuries, of that being done. I do not think it is important here, but it might happen that in a particular distict or public-house they may have got into the habit of playing dominoes or cribbage for high stakes; and if it got about that it was encouraged in that house it would not only be a bad thing in itself but bad for the purposes of the house, as a public-house and a place where people could meet, drink and talk. We have therefore put in subsection (2) which gets round the difficulty by enabling the justices to impose requirements or restrictions upon the playing of these games if the gaming gets out of hand. That could happen where the game was played for high stakes or became such a popular attraction as to supplant the original purpose of the house. Subsection (2) has been put in so that in those circumstances the magistrates could attach conditions.

That leaves entirely unaffected the gaming which can take place in a separate room to which the public have no access. In these circumstances I do not think I need go into any further detail. I shall be pleased to answer any points on this rather lengthy Amendment which any noble Lords may wish to put. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— After Clause 18, insert the said new clause.—(The Lord Chancellor.)


I have no feeling whatever about this Amendment. If somebody wants to play dominoes or cribbage in a public-house I see no particular reason why we should prevent him from doing it. In another place there was some discussion as to whether dominoes (which I must confess I have not played in my time) was a game of skill or a game of chance. But are dominoes a game at all? I always thought that dominoes were the implements with which the game was played and that each particular piece of wood, bone or other material, was a domino. I imagine that one can use these implements, or "dominoes" as I prefer to call them, in a variety of ways. Does not this new clause rather assume that there is only one game of dominoes played, and that underlying the Amendment is the assumption that it is partly a game of skill and that people will play it according to the rules with which the noble and learned Viscount or I were brought up?

There is no reason why people should do so, however. They can invent their own rules and make it a pure game of chance—and even if that were so I should not myself feel very strongly about it. But I doubt whether that was the intention. I believe that underlying it was doubt of the extent to which it was a game of skill, and therefore I presume that the Government have thought it right to allow people to play this game in public-houses. I should be very glad if the Government would have another look at this clause. It may be merely a matter of drafting. If they wish to do so, it might be necessary to provide a safeguard to ensure that the game does not deteriorate into a game of pure chance. As for cribbage, I must say that I know nothing at all about the game. The noble and learned Viscount says it is a game in which cards are used. I take it from him. I was not aware of it.


I am worried about this clause from a rather different point of view. It seems to me that a clause of this length, solemnly setting out provisions about dominoes and cribbage, gives an indication of where we are getting to in this type of legislalation. I shall certainly not oppose the Amendment that my noble friend has moved. The addition of this new clause is a great improvement on the prohibition contained in Clause 18, but it is also a sign of how far Clause 18 is wrong.

Are the British public so incapable of behaving like adults that they have to be told what games they are to be allowed to play in public-houses? To me the idea is in itself slightly offensive. I believe the Amendment arises—and my noble and learned friend will tell me later if I am wrong—from the drafting of Clause 18 as it stands, containing the general prohibition of gaming. I will read the beginning of that clause: Subject to the provisions of this Act, if any person takes part in gaming in any street or in other public place to which … the public have access, he shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding fifty Pounds. If we then look at the Definition Clause (Clause 27), we find that 'gaming' means the playing of a game of chance for winnings in money or money's worth. and that: 'game of chance' includes a game of chance and skill combined and a pretended game of chance or of chance and skill combined, but does not include any athletic game or sport. I am not sure if darts escapes as being a game or sport—


Pure skill.


I agree. I entirely agree with my noble and learned friend that dominoes and cribbage shall be excluded, as they are excluded by his new Amendment. But why those games alone? In answer to the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, I think "dominoes" describes both the game and the pieces with which it is played; and I believe that those who play dominoes quite frequently challenge somebody else to a game of dominoes and ask what variety they are to play. If the noble Lord has never played the game before I would take him on in the variety known as "Fives"; and if he has never played it before he will find that there is a certain amount of skill in it. Equally, I should be prepared, if he has never played the game before—or even if he has—to take him on at backgammon.

Why on earth should one not play backgammon in a public-house if one wishes? Is it really to be said that the great British public must be restrained from doing so? I find it offensive to the nation that it should be thought necessary to pass this type of legislation. I agree with my noble and learned friend that it may be very convenient to the magistrates, if they have to enforce Clause 18, to have the actual games mentioned that are excepted beyond all doubt from the mischief of that clause. But I cannot believe that these are the only two games which the British public ought to be allowed to play in a public-house if they so wish.

I do not know what is the basic philosophy on which that view is based. I think there may be a great deal in the further provisions of the clause, which my noble and learned friend justified, to ensure that the game should not be made, by excessive stakes or anything, the main attraction of the house so as to destroy the traditional pleasures of the public-house. That safeguard could operate even if many other games were permitted. I was sorely tempted, when I saw this clause, to add the words, "or backgammon or any other game", in order that the Government could really see what some of us thought on this subject and could state quite clearly what is the philosophy behind the restriction. I do not wish to weary the Committee. I agree that this new Amendment is an improvement on Clause 18 standing alone. Clause 18, standing alone, would obviously produce ridiculous results, if it hit the innocent pleasure of dominoes in a public-house. But I say that the exceptions are altogether too narrow and that the whole conception of this part of the Bill is insulting to the British public.


I find myself enjoying the somewhat rare luxury of agreeing in almost every particular with the noble Lord, Lord Conesford. But I think that even he will agree that much of what he said, although, I think, completely indisputable, is a little beyond the terms of this Amendment. I, too, welcome the Government's Amendment and wish that it went further. I think that the basic philosophy of this clause is based on the single word, "Don't"— "Don't do this", and "Don't do that". I wish it had gone very much further.

On this question raised by my noble friend about domino and dominoes, I always understood that a domino was a mask, and the word "dominoes" originated from the holes in the mask. I suppose that a domino is a single dot and dominoes are those with more than one dot—though I am not quite sure that that is right. My only purpose in intervening is to ask the noble and learned Viscount a question. Does subsection (1) (a) of the proposed new clause permit the playing of dominoes or cribbage on railway trains? We all know, particularly those of us who at one time played football or cricket and went on long railway journeys with the team, that those were the sort of simple amusements—playing cards—which whiled away the time. It may not have been cribbage that was played. It used to be pontoon and solo whist and games of that kind. I suppose we played—I think we did—for penny and halfpenny points.

I want to know, because people, I am quite sure, will continue to play cards on railway trains whether or not this new clause makes that legal. And if it does not, would the noble and learned Viscount consider just looking at this particular point between now and the Report stage to ensure that something which is generally accepted as being quite harmless (unless you are going down to Epsom on a race train), or is usually quite harmless, is covered, and make the playing of these games, or, indeed, the playing of card games, on railway trains legal? Could he say whether this question is covered, and, if it is not, would he look at it again to see whether it can be covered at the next stage of the Bill?


On the last point, I should like to look into that question because I have not considered the effect of the various railway legislation on that point. I will certainly look into it, with pleasure, and I will let the noble Lord know. On the general point, the philosophy behind the clause is an extremely rare philosophy: it is the humble realisation of the limitations of human ingenuity possessed by Her Majesty's Ministers in this House or, at any rate, by the noble Earl and myself. And the limitation of which I have been very conscious is how to get any definition of the intermediate category.

Obviously, games of pure skill come in; then there are games of chance, which I do not think many people would like to see played generally in public-houses. This is my own view. I should not like to see the ordinary village pub devoted to poker in a big way, or even vingt-et-un in a big way, although there would be a harmless game of vingt-et-un occasionally. If one had definite poker schools and vingt-et-un schools settling down in the ordinary English public-house, it would not remain the public-house which one has known and loved in this country. There is the intermediate class between those categories which is so difficult to define. My noble and learned friend Lord Conesford may disagree with me about vingt-et-un; I do not think he would disagree about poker: I think he would take the same instinctive view. But how do we define the class which is a game of chance, or mixed skill and chance, but is harmless? How does one get the category? That is the problem that absolutely defeated us, and that is why the Amendment has been made in this way.

I think I have inferentially dealt with one aspect of the supreme doubts of my noble and learned friend Lord Conesford. Again, it is equally difficult to define it. As I say, there is a class of games that one would just feel was out of keeping and therefore wrong. I do not think I can help him any further than that; and I am grateful to know that, at any rate on this Amendment, he feels that I am not sinning in the way mentioned and am moving a little way towards him.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clauses 19 and 20 agreed to.

Clause 21:

Local Authorities not to subsidise premises for gaming

21. It is hereby declared that nothing contained in section one hundred and thirty-two of the Local Government Act, 1948, or in any local or private act shall be deemed to authorise any local authority to maintain or subsidise any premises solely or partly for the purpose of persons resorting thereto habitually for the playing of games for money therein.

5.39 p.m.

EARL BATHURST moved to leave out "solely or partly" and to insert, "wholly or mainly". The noble Earl said: It might be convenient to your Lordships, with the Lord Chairman's permission, to take this and the next Amendment together. The object of this clause, which was added to the Bill in another place, is to prevent the establishment of a casino by a local authority. We had considerable discussion about that matter on Second Reading, and this Amendment is the one to which I referred at that time. As commonly understood, the term "casino" applies to a method of organised gaming adopted in some of the holiday resorts upon the Continent. The characteristics of these are; first, that the public are admitted; and, secondly, that the management meet the cost of the facilities provided, and commercial profit is made either by their operating a bank which has an unfair advantage over the players, or by their taking a "cut" on the stakes. The successful casino must obviously encourage large stakes to be laid, in order that they can take their "cut" out of those stakes. An establishment conducted on these lines would be contrary to Part II of the Bill in two respects. The conduct of gaming in premises to which the public have access is contrary to Clause 18; and either of the methods I have just described, by which the management can take money out of the gaming, is contrary to Clause 16, subsection (1). Theoretically, it would be possible under the Bill to organise casino-type games among members of a club, but the likelihood of a profit being made by the making of a fixed charge for each session of gaming by virtue of Clause 16, subsection (7), seems so small that the commercial exploitation of gaming within the terms of the Bill can be discounted.

There remains the possibility that a local authority, in a holiday resort or elsewhere, might think it worth while to subsidise a casino to attract people to the locality. One of the obstacles to such an arrangement would be that the public could not be admitted it would be necessary to form a club which anyone who wished to take part in the gaming would have to attend. The only general power under which a local authority might perhaps be able to incur expenditure out of the rates for such a purpose is Section 132 of the Local Government Act, 1948. Under this, a local authority may arrange for the doing of, do, or contribute towards the expenses of the doing of, anything necessary or expedient for, inter alia, "the provision of an entertainment of any nature". Two questions arise on this: first, whether the provision of facilities for gaming would be included under the provision of an entertainment" which I have just mentioned; and, secondly, if so, whether the power is applicable to the provision of an entertainment which is not available to the public generally. As I have said, a club would have to be formed. The answers to these questions are not certain.

In another place they were concerned that this possibility should not be allowed to remain open, and on the Report stage the Government accepted an Amendment moved by a member of the Opposition Front Bench that Clause 21 should be added to the Bill. It was agreed that the words in the clause go too far in preventing the provision by local authorities of facilities for legitimate activities, and the clause was added on the understanding that it would need to be amended, as I mentioned on Second Reading. Since then, the Home Office have consulted the local authority associations, and have obtained particulars of the ways in which local authorities legitimately provide facilities for gaming.

The clause declares that nothing contained in Section 132 of the Local Government Act, 1948, or in any local or private Act shall be deemed to authorise any local authority to maintain or subsidise any premises solely or partly for the purpose of persons resorting thereto habitually for the playing of games for money therein. The reference in line 31 of this Bill should, of course, be to gaming—the phrase "playing of games for money" covers games of pure skill, as well as those covered by the definition of "gaming" in the Bill—and we have been hearing a little of that from my noble and learned friend who sits upon the Woolsack and from my noble friend Lord Conesford. This point is taken care of in the opening words of the second Amendment. Apart from this, the clause goes too far in so far as it applies to premises partly maintained for the purpose of persons resorting thereto habitually for gaming. If the word "partly" were kept in the clause, one result would be to prohibit such facilities as the provision of a card room in a municipally-owned golf club house; or the letting of a room in a town hall or municipal assembly room to a bridge club or to a church for the holding of a whist drive. In local authority premises where this kind of gaming occurs, however, the gaming is only one of a number of activities which are carried on. The clause can thus be made not to apply in these circumstances by the substitution of "mainly" for "partly". This is what the first Amendment does. The clause as so amended would still, however, cover the hypothetical local authority casino since, even though meals or other refreshments might be served at such a place, the gaming would be the main activity there and thus would be caught by the clause.

The clause as amended by the first Amendment would still cover one activity of local authorities which is a legitimate one. At many seaside resorts, the local authority maintains premises—for example, on the pier—which are used for the minor form of gaming covered by Part III of the Bill under the title of "Amusements with prizes". Such premises are maintained wholly for the purpose of persons resorting thereto habitually for gaming, and would therefore be covered by the clause even with the change proposed in the first Amendment. The second Amendment exempts such premises from its operation, and allows such premises as piers and other legitimate premises run by a local authority to continue, I beg to move the first Amendment.

Amendment moved— Page 16, line 29, leave out ("solely or partly") and insert ("wholly or mainly").—(Earl Bathurst.)


I must say that the explanation of these two Amendments is completely above my head. I will not say that I have not understood a word of it, but I have understood very little; and in order to appreciate it, one will have to read it in Hansard and study it. But I presume that the idea is to make it more difficult for local authorities to run casinos.


No. If the noble Lord will allow me, the clause as it exists forbids a local authority to run a casino of the type that I have mentioned. I regret that it must be so complicated, but I am sure that the noble Lord opposite appreciates that so many legal terms are necessary to stop infringement. The point of the Amendment is that, because local authorities are forbidden to run the type of casino that I have mentioned, they are also forbidden to run such activities as a card room in a golf club, and to use the pier for gaming machines, under Part III, which I also mentioned. The purpose of these two rather technical Amendments is to put those particular provisions right.


I was rather wondering whether, in view of that, it would not be a good thing if we could discuss these Amendments together with my Amendment to Clause 21.


May I say that we did consider this point, but I can assure the noble Lord that the making of our Amendments does not in any way prejudice his plea for a casino. The Amendments that my noble friend has just dealt with make three relaxations. One would have to make much greater relaxations before it would be possible to have a casino, so they do not prejudice the noble Lord's position.


That rather confirms a point that I was going to put: that is, that the use of the words "wholly or mainly" would not merely permit the use of a room in a town hall as a bridge room, but would surely permit the use of a casino in a building such as, for example, the Tower building at Blackpool, where they have a zoo, a theatre, an innumerable number of bars, a ballroom and all sorts of attractions like that. If they decided to convert one part of one floor into a casino, then the purpose of that building would be neither wholly nor mainly that of a casino, but it would be possible to carry on a fully-fledged casino there. In the same way, Brighton now has before it—in fact, it has been approved—a scheme costing something like £5 million for the provision of facilities of all sorts, including a restaurant and cinema. They could put a casino there which might occupy one-tenth or one-fifth of the entire project. I should have thought that, all things being equal, that would be permissible under these two Amendments but, as the noble and learned Viscount said, would not prejudice the possibility of the acceptance of the Amendment which my noble friend hopes to move later.


I am getting very confused over this matter. On Second Reading I supported the idea put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, that there would be little harm in allowing a municipality, or its agents, to run a legitimate and proper casino, well-ordered. I had in mind the sort of casino we see at Cannes or Deauville. I imagine that is what the noble Lord is driving at in this modestly worded Amendment No. 28. Can the noble and learned Viscount tell me this at the moment? Will it or will it not be legal, when the Bill becomes an Act, for a municipality to run a casino in the ordinary sense of the word as we understand it? And will the Act be so worded that it will be worthwhile, or not worthwhile, for a municipality to try its hand? I see that the mayor and corporation of Eastbourne have announced that they are prepared to give a casino a trial if this Bill becomes law. But will it be worth while trying it, or will it be so wrapped round with provisos and safeguards as to make the game not worth the candle?


If my noble friend Lord Mancroft is asking me to give an economic opinion about the possibility of making money out of casinos, I am afraid that is beyond my experience, ministerial and otherwise. The noble Lord will find that I tried to deal with this matter on Second Reading and that my noble friend Lord Bathurst dealt with it also. Putting the position broadly, under our gaming scheme if you have a banker or a roulette with a zero or take a "cut" from the stakes, it is out. The ordinary methods by which money is made out of casinos by the bankers' chances being better than other people's or by the much simpler one of taking a share of the takings, are not available under the Bill.

There is a possibility that local authorities may think that, even though they cannot pay for a casino out of gaming, it is still worth their while to pay for it out of the rates because they would get so many more people coming to their town if they could gamble there. That was the possibility that was opened and that was why Clause 21 was put in. But it was realised that Clause 21 had gone too widely and therefore my noble friend Lord Bathurst has moved these Amendments. I will willingly examine whether the "wholly or mainly" is subject to the doubts which the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, had. I did not think so, but I am always prepared to look again at a definition, and the noble Lord conjured up some circumstances at which I should like to look again. I want to assure the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, that the relaxations mainly provide for things that are necessary for the running by an ordinary seaside municipality of a card game or a competition for prizes. They do not affect or prejudice the thesis which he will make on the next Amendment—namely, that they should be allowed to have casinos.


May I support the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, in what he said? I cannot understand why we cannot get a real decision about these casinos. If you go into the Palm Beach Casino at Cannes or the Sporting Club at Monte Carlo, you will find many Members of your Lordships' House and of another place. I cannot see why we cannot come to some arrangement in this country to have some form of controlled gambling, which is a good thing for the State.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.


I beg to move the next Amendment.

Amendment moved—

Page 16, leave out line 31 and insert ("purpose of taking part in gaming: Provided that this section shall not apply where the gaming is by way only of amusements with prizes and the premises are premises in respect of which a permit for the provision thereon of such amusements has been granted, and is for the time being in force, under the Third Schedule to this Act,")—(The Lord Chancellor.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

5.58 p.m.

LORD SILKIN moved to add to the clause: Provided that a local authority may, subject to such regulations for the management and control of such premises as may be prescribed, maintain or subsidise such premises if after a poll of persons on the register of local government electors in such local authority the majority of such electors express their approval at such poll of the local authority maintaining or subsidising such premises. The noble Lord said: In this Amendment, I am afraid that I part company with some of my noble friends with whom I have been associated on other parts of the Bill. I regard this as an important Amendment and one which, if it is not fundamental to the Bill, at any rate represents an important issue for a number of local authorities throughout the country. I have been assured by the noble and learned Viscount that this is a proper Amendment, in spite of the fact that Clause 21 contains a declaration that Section 132 of the Local Government Act cannot be deemed to authorise the running of a casino. My purpose in this Amendment is to authorise local authorities to run casinos, if they so desire and if the majority of the electorate in a poll so decide.

I am not going to argue at length in this thin House the material advantages that would accrue to a great many areas if they were able to run casinos. The noble Lord, Lord Colwyn, is quite right. I have seen a number of noble Lords at the casino in Monte Carlo, and quite recently in Nice; and it may be that if they were able to go to a casino at Eastbourne, it might keep them from going abroad. A number of local authorities would like to run casinos for the purpose of attracting people to their areas. It is perfectly legitimate that they should. It is not as if we were objecting to gaming in this Bill. We permit betting shops, lotteries, gambling by means of machines and gaming in all sorts of ways. It seems to me that having gaming in an establishment run by a local authority, which provides some kind of guarantee that it will be run properly and fairly, is much less objectionable than the betting shops, the runners and all the rest of it.

As I say, there are two safeguards in the Amendment. One is that the majority of the electors on the local government register have to agree: by that I do not mean merely a majority of those who vote, but an absolute majority of all those on the register. Those of your Lordships who have had some experience of local polls will know that this would require some getting. The normal local poll is perhaps 10, 15 or 20 per cent. of the total electors, and there would have to be exceedingly strong feeling to get a majority of the electors in support of any particular scheme. But if you got that, and if the local authority wanted to run it, what possible objection could there be? After all, we pride ourselves on our system of local government and claim that we give local authorities the maximum amount of freedom to manage their own affairs. What objection can there be if the majority of the electors want to run a casino in their area?

In case it may be alleged that they might become institutions for gambling, the second safeguard in this Amendment is that the Home Secretary can prescribe regulations which would ensure that they would not be run improperly. I imagine that he could prescribe regulations as to the times during which play could take place, as to maximum stakes, as to supply of alcohol, and any other safeguards that he thought desirable. One has to admit that the ordinary pavilion (or whatever these places of assembly are called) in the seaside towns are exceedingly dreary affairs. Occasionally there is a concert in the evening, or some other function; but mostly they are white elephants. Nobody would dream of spending much time in one of these institutions. This would, at any rate, give an opportunity of getting them used by a greater number of people, and for their greater enjoyment. People who go to these casinos abroad do not go to gamble: they go for the conviviality, for the lights, for the atmosphere, for the opportunity of meeting other people and that sort of thing.

After all, in a British seaside town there is precious little to do in the evening. You can walk up and down the promenade, if you feel so disposed and the weather is favourable, or you can go to a cinema, and sometimes to a concert. But what is there really to do? On the rare occasions when I have spent a holiday at a seaside resort I have found myself more and more having to spend my time in the hotel reading a book—which in itself is quite a novelty these days, when one gets so little time to read. The purpose of going to these casinos is, as I have said, to get a change and a little lightness and brightness. It is not to win money, because nobody who goes to these places really imagines he is going to win any money. Certainly on the kind of stakes that I imagine the Home Secretary might prescribe there would not be any great winnings or losses.

I hope that, in spite of the fact that the Government introduced Clause 21 on the Report stage in another place, they will preserve an open mind on this subject. As I said at the outset of my speech, I am sorry that this is being considered in such a thin Committee, and if the noble and learned Viscount would be prepared to give me some hope that the Government would be willing to consider the matter, it might be worth putting the Amendment down again on the Report stage with a view to getting a better attendance and, presumably, a better discussion. This is something which a great many seaside authorities have expressed their desire to do, if it is possible. I do not want to mention particular resorts, but I have seen the names of something like a dozen seaside resorts that would like to do it. And it is not confined to seaside resorts, because there are inland resorts, where conditions are even drearier in the evening, where something of this kind would be welcome. I move this Amendment in the hope that it may get some sympathetic consideration. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 16, line 31, at end insert the said proviso.—(Lord Silkin.)


I have explained twice the history of this matter. The Government accepted this clause—as I have said, it came from the Front Opposition Bench, but this is not a Party matter—and it was obviously the sense of another place that it was desirable to have a prohibition against casinos. That in itself is an important fact. The general principle that I enunciated on Second Reading with regard to the gaming part of the Bill is that it is the aim of the Bill to free private gaming for pleasure from restriction but at the same time to make unlawful any practice by which large profits might be made from the commercial exploitation of gaming. I feel that there would still be a great body of opinion in this country which would be against what they would consider to be a form of commercial exploitation, even though it were done by a seaside corporation.


Even though the majority of the people on the register supported it?


I was going to come to that point, but I will deal with it right away. There are a large number of people in this country who would say that so fundamental a change in the British way of life as to institute Continental casinos is not a matter for local option, but one to be decided by Parliament. The noble Lord has given the picture. But, on the other hand, if you take the ordinary games that could be played in a Continental casino, you have roulette or baccarat—those are the ones that are caught by the unfair advantage rule—and then you have a game like chemin de fer, in which the players have equal chances but the management take a cut in the stake. I think the noble Lord's interruption has reduced it to the real point. The question is whether Parliament wishes to have places for the playing of such games maintained in this country on the decision of a poll of local government electors. I do not think that this is an issue which ought to be settled by means of a local referendum. This is an issue which should be determined by Parliament, and whatever may be the views of a few people, the Government cannot think that the establishment of casinos in this country, whether they are established by private persons or local authorities, would be acceptable to the majority of public opinion. For that reason they are strongly opposed to anything being included in the Bill which could have this result.

I always like to help Lord Silkin to have another chance on Report stage, and I agree with him that it is unfortunate that we are discussing the Committee stage in the last hour or two before a break, because had we had a debate in which more noble Lords had taken part and which had received greater publicity, he might have been able to rally public opinion, or produce to rue evidence of public opinion before the Report stage. But I am bound to tell him that at the moment, on the view of public opinion which is the best that we can form, what I have expressed is our own estimate of public opinion; and therefore we are against the inclusion in the Bill.


I think it would be right to make it clear that not all Members on this side of the House agree with my noble friend's proposal. I hope it will not go out into the minds of the general public from what my noble friend has said, and what the noble Lord on the other side has said, that if you go into the well-known casinos on the Continent you are bound to find a lot of Members either of this House or the other place. That, I think, is far from being correct.


I did not say a lot of Members. I have been to both Monte Carlo and Nice. I do not go very often to these places, but I have always seen some Members there.


I think it was the noble Lord on the other side who suggested that they were numerous. Even so, I think it is improbable that you will find them there always. My noble friend said that there were some material advantages to be had out of this. I confess that I cannot see what they are, and I do not know what moral advantages would be had out of it. My noble friend said that seaside resorts and other resorts were dreary places, and that casinos were places of conviviality. My experience of casinos is extremely limited, but I shall never forget one morning going into the casino at Monte Carlo and seeing seated at the table a number of habituées of the place concentrated upon this in the most deadly seriousness, having notebooks in which they were running systems out of which they hoped to win. There was nothing convivial about that sight at all; it was the most dreary and depressing one which I have ever seen in any supposed place of entertainment. I agree that there are probably other times of the day when the place may have a more cheerful aspect. But that is certainly something which ought to be borne in mind.

It is a different thing for people who are going to the Continent to have a holiday. I dare say they go into the casino in the evening and stake some money occasionally, and do not care whether they win or lose. Anyhow, they do not go to the Continent for that purpose alone. There are many other purposes which induce them to go there. It is quite a mistake to suggest that any Continental traffic is going to be prevented from going there because some seaside resorts in this country have a casino. The whole thing, I say, with all respect, is a fallacy.

On Question, Amendment negatived.

Clause 21, as amended, agreed to.

6.15 p.m.

LORD DOUGLAS OF BARLOCH moved, after Clause 21 to insert the following new clause:

Lottery tickets

". After paragraph (b) of subsection (2) of section one of the Small Lotteries and Gaming Act, 1956 there shall be added the following paragraph— '(bb) No commission in either money or money's worth shall be paid to vendors or distributors of tickets.'

The noble Lord said: This Amendment and the two following Amendments are designed to correct some deficiencies and imperfections in the Small Lotteries and Gaming Act, 1956. The first Amendment which I am now moving is to prevent the payment of commission to vendors or distributors of tickets. Under the Act as it now stands there is a provision by which a certain amount of the money received may be used for the purpose of expenses. The idea which underlay that was that a certain amount of money was needed in order to pay for the printing of the tickets, and things of that nature. I do not believe that it was ever intended, when the Act was passed, that commission should be paid for selling tickets, but I am told that it is quite frequently done. The underlying principle of the Act was that it was for the benefit of small or private associations to enable them to raise money for good purposes; and the assumption was that the members were public-spirited people who were doing it for that purpose and were not going to make any money out of it themselves. But practice has shown that that is not the way in which the Act operates, and therefore I would ask your Lordships to agree to this Amendment to prevent the payment of commission upon the sale of tickets. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— After Clause 21 insert the said new clause.—(Lord Douglas of Barloch.)


I hope the noble Lord will not press this Amendment. He will remember that the purposes of the Small Lotteries and Gaming Act, 1956, which was the result of a Bill introduced in another place by a private Member, made lawful a lottery which is promoted on behalf of a society registered by the local authority, being a society established and conducted wholly or mainly for one of the following purposes:

  1. "(a) charitable purposes;
  2. (b) participation in or support of athletic sports or games or cultural activities;
  3. (c) purposes not described in the foregoing paragraphs, and not being purposes of private gain or purposes of any commercial undertaking. …"
The Small Lotteries and Gaming Act was a small Act, but it was of immense importance socially, politically and athletically. It was asked for in another place by a wide range of people, including many members of the Labour Party, who thought that, with the limitations, it would be useful to have, just as it would be useful to the Conservative Party or to the Liberal Party.

The Act laid down that no remuneration was to be paid to the promoter; no ticket may cost more than one shilling, and the total value of the tickets sold may not exceed £750; not more than 10 per cent. of the proceeds may be devoted to expenses, and not more than one half to prizes; no prize may exceed £100 in value. So that one is dealing with gaming in a small way. There is the additional requirement that the promoter of the lottery must send to the local authority which has registered the society a return of the lottery giving various particulars, which include the whole proceeds of the lottery and the sums provided out of those proceeds on account of expenses and prizes respectively. Those returns must be made to the local authority at their office and must be made available for inspection by the public.

I am quite aware of, and I have read, the Report recently made to the Churches' Council on Gambling by its General Secretary on an investigation into the working of this Act. The investigation was made by a scrutiny of the returns made to a sample of local authorities. I assume that it was that report which inspired the noble Lord to put down this Amendment. On the question of the remuneration of those who sell tickets, I am told that it is not infrequent in the case of lotteries conducted under the Act for remuneration to be paid to the ticket sellers in the form of a commission of so much on every book of tickets sold. Your Lordships appreciate from what I have said that, although commission may be paid, the Act imposes a degree of restraint in so far as the commission will be included in the expenses of conducting the lottery, which must not exceed 10 per cent. of the proceeds.

Where my information is different from that of the noble Lord, Lord Douglas of Barloch, is this—and I think it is an important point. I am told it was a deliberate decision of Parliament in 1956 that it should be possible to pay commission to ticket sellers; that they considered the recommendation of the Royal Commission and that they implemented the first part but not the second. The question of the payment of commission to ticket sellers was discussed during the passage of the Bill but the decision was not to include any prohibition, and the limit of the total of expenses, which began at 5 per cent., was raised first to 7½ per cent. and then to 10 per cent., to cover the commission to the ticket sellers. That is only four years ago. I do think again that this is the sort of matter that we could leave to a special amendment of the Small Lotteries Act by another Private Member's Bill. It is outside the two main purposes of this Bill, and we are really dealing with something that has no element of commercial gambling so far as I know, except this one point: that the people who sell the tickets can get a commission on them. I do not think that we ought to deal with it in the context of this Bill. We can leave it for a Private Member, should he so desire it, and I would ask the noble Lord, having drawn attention to this—and I am sure that local authorities and those responsible will bear in mind what he has had to say—not to press it at this stage of this Bill.


I do not intend to press this Amendment I fully appreciate what the noble and learned Viscount has said. I am reluctant to lose an opportunity of carrying through an Amendment, because, as I said on an earlier occasion, it was all very well to say that a Private Member's Bill can be introduced to deal with these matters, but this is a Bill which is expressly designed, as its Long Title says, "to make amendments in the law with respect to gaming"—this is a species of gaming—and to facilitate consolidation, which implies that the Government is going to introduce a Bill which will consolidate the whole law with regard to gaming, including the Small Lotteries and Gaming Act. If that happens it may be even more difficult to secure Amendments. However, I will withdraw this Amendment because it may be that Parliament intended that commission should be paid. I very much doubt whether that was the real intention, because the promoter himself is expressly debarred from getting any remuneration at all, and that can easily be evaded by putting up some man of straw to be the nominal promoter and then getting somebody else to do the work and be paid the commission.

I want to point out to the noble and learned Viscount that, although there are limitations in this Act, the total amount may be £750; 10 per cent. of that is £75, and the expenses of printing may on a lottery of that magnitude, be quite a small fraction of £75; so that the margin which may be left for the purpose of paying commission might be quite appreciable. I am not going to press the Amendment, but I hope he will invite the right honourable gentleman the Home Secretary to keep an eye upon this matter. I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

LORD DOUGLAS OF BARLOCH moved, after Clause 21 to insert the following new clause:

Form of lottery return

". At the end of paragraph (b) of subsection (1) of section three of the Small Lotteries and Gaming Act, 1956, there shall be added the words 'itemising the expenses and the prizes'."

The noble Lord said: This Amendment is for the purpose of making certain that the returns which are made to the local authorities by the promoters of small lotteries shall contain adequate particulars. The noble and learned Viscount read out a few moments ago what the Small Lotteries and Gaming Act says upon this subject, and it appears that the law is sufficiently complied with by putting in a return which shows merely a global sum for the receipts, for the expenses and for the prizes. That being so, it is quite impossible for the local authority or anybody who inspects a return to form any idea as to whether or not the expenditure has been properly incurred. It is surely essential that the purpose for which the making of returns was inserted in the Act should be made effective by ensuring that the returns which are filed with the local authorities contain particulars which are capable of being verified and capable of being checked. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— After Clause 21 insert the said new Clause.—(Lord Douglas of Barloch.)

6.30 p.m.


I should like to say a word in support of this Amendment. I am afraid that the noble and learned Viscount will probably advance the same arguments in this particular matter as he did in regard to the remuneration of the sellers of the tickets, and it may well be that that is a strong argument. But, as the one who introduced this Act into your Lordships' House, I must confess that I read the Report of the Churches' Committee on this problem with a good deal of disquiet. I feel that the provisions in the original Act were not tightly enough drawn. Not only did the Churches' Committee investigate this matter, but one of the responsible daily papers a year or two ago conducted an investigation—albeit not a complete one, as my memory goes—into the problem, and that result, too, was rather disquieting.

I think it is fairly clear that the provisions of the Act as they stand are not sufficiently tightly drawn to control this matter. There probably is not evidence that it has become a major public scandal or anything of that kind, but there are here possibilities of a good deal of rather unsavoury conduct. There is a type of person about in the world at present who is much alive to the possibilities of exploiting opportunities of this kind. I feel that the Home Office are in a much better position to investigate what is going on. If the noble and learned Viscount, as I expect he will, resists the Amendment on the grounds that it should be dealt with like the last one, I strongly support what my noble friend Lord Douglas of Barloch has said in asking him to bring the matter clearly to the attention of the Home Secretary, so that this business can be effectively looked at.


I will certainly do that. I will not repeat my general arguments, but for the benefit of both noble Lords, I should like just to say that the first relevant provision is that there must be a society registered by the local authority and established for the three purposes which I mention. Clearly, that is one point which one might look into, to see that none of the societies is marginal. I should not like to hint that one can say anything more than that, because it would be a poor thing to say of people unless one had evidence. But I can look at it, because I gather that the suggestion has been made by the Council of Churches that some are marginal. I do not think they go beyond that. On the question of expenses, as I said, there is a limit of 10 per cent., and if more than 10 per cent. is devoted to expenses, that is, I think I am right in saying, an offence under the Act which the noble Lord introduced. Therefore the sanction is there, and the local authority—


The noble and learned Viscount will probably agree with me that it is not easy to make sure that this limit is not being, exceeded on the basis of the returns which are made. That is what I rather gather.


That is the point that I am not clear about. Perhaps it is my own stupidity at this stage of the Bill. You cannot have more than £75. Whether you itemise or not your expenses, including the commission on the tickets, they must not exceed 10 per cent. and the maximum you can collect is £750 under the Act. Thus the maximum of expenses that you can have is £75. Whether itemised or not, if they are more than £75 that is an offence under the Act. The second point is that in order to collect £750 you would need to have printed 15,000 tickets at one shilling each, if my arithmetic is right. I know that even when I last stood for Parliament, which is nearly nine years ago, one paid a terrifyingly high price for the printing of one's Election literature—I am sure the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, would agree with me there. So you are dealing with the difference between your printing expenditure and any other expenditure, and £75. You cannot give more commission than that, and you cannot get your expenses over £75.

The third point is—I merely state these as possibilities—that local authorities have not been quick off the mark when they have found that there have been breaches. I will see that the Home Office takes this point into consideration. But, in view of the smallness of the subject matter and the great excellence of a number of the purposes for which these small lotteries are carried out, I think that we might leave it with that assurance on my part.


I should like just to say this. The noble and learned Viscount has said that in this matter there is little at stake and that the maximum size of any lottery is only £750. He suggested that practically all the expenses will disappear in the printing. That is exactly one of the things which requires to be ascertained, and it will not be ascertained unless a provision of this kind is inserted into the Bill. In addition, let me point out that it is not necessarily a case of one lottery in a year; it may conceivably be one lottery every week. In some cases, at any rate, this is practised as a system which is conducted time after time; and when you begin to look at it from that point of view, the thing takes on a very different picture.

This Amendment is unlike the previous Amendment, in respect of which the noble and learned Viscount was entitled to say that provision with regard to preventing commission was deliberately left out when the Act passed through Parliament. But this Amendment is one dealing merely with the machinery of the administration of this Act, and is for the purpose of trying to ensure that the returns are of a nature which can be checked. If Parliament decided that the returns were to be made by the promoters of small lotteries and be deposited with the local authorities, and be open to public inspection, Parliament presumably intended to achieve something by it. But the machinery for achieving that is nugatory if no details are given; and it is quite impossible to verify the theory which, from my information, is not true in the case of the larger ones—printing lottery tickets at a cheap rate is a considerable business in this country—that most of the expenditure is merely the expenditure of printing. That is something that we ought to know about, and I beg the noble and learned Viscount to look at it from that point of view.

On Question, Amendment negatived.

6.40 p.m.

LORD DOUGLAS OF BARLOCH moved, after Clause 21, to insert the following new clause:

Nil returns

".At the end of section three of the Small Lotteries and Gaming Act, 1956 the following subsection shall be added—

'(4) Any society which is registered under this Act which does not hold a lottery during the course of any calendar year shall send to the local authority a return stating this fact not later than the 31st day of March of the following year.'"

The noble Lord said: This Amendment also is intended to cure a defect in the administrative machinery of the Small Lotteries and Gaming Act. Societies which are registered under this Act are required to pay a fee and to renew their registrations every year; and they are also required to lodge returns with regard to every lottery held. I am told that there are numerous cases in which societies renew their registration year after year but file no return. It certainly seems rather strange that they should do that if they are not holding any lotteries. The purpose of the Amendment, therefore, is to require registered societies to file a return even if they have not held one, stating the negative fact that they have not done so. This, again, is a provision which surely ought to be inserted in the Act, if the provisions with regard to filing returns are intended to work and to have any real meaning. I think that must be clear and that societies which maintain their registration ought to make perfectly clear the fact of whether or not they have held a lottery. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— After Clause 21, insert the said new clause.—(Lord Douglas of Barloch.)


On this point, the societies presumably having paid their registration fee, there are two possibilities: the first that they have held lotteries, the second, that they have not. If they have, and have not put in a return to the local authority, then they have committed an offence under the Act and can be prosecuted. If they have not held any lotteries, then the only effect of this Amendment would be that they would have to put in a "nil" return. I do not repeat my argument for not amending this small but useful measure at the present time, because my argument is that it ought to be looked at in its own context. But I certainly do not think there is any likelihood of scandal being raised by the absence of this Amendment, because if the society have held lotteries there is an obligation under the Act that they should make a return.


The noble and learned Viscount is perfectly correct but is there an obligation upon anybody to inquire into the circumstances, to try to discover whether or not a lottery has been held? On the previous Amendment the noble and learned Viscount suggested that local authorities were under some obligation to inspect the returns when they are made. I do not know of anything in the Act which requires them to do so, and I am told that in a good many cases returns are simply filed, and that nobody looks at them or pays any attention to them. Consequently, no doubt it is also the case that nobody bothers at all if a lottery society register year after year and never put in a return. Who does bother to find out whether or not they have committeed a breach of the law? That is the weakness of the situation. It is evident that I have not succeeded in carrying this Amendment, but I hope that the right honourable gentleman, the Home Secretary, will look into this question, for what is the use of having on the Statute Book a law to which nobody pays any attention? I beg leave to withdraw my Amendment.

Amendment, by leave withdrawn.

Clauses 23 and 24 agreed to.

Clause 25 [Playing of games on certain premises]:


This Amendment is consequential. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 19, line 36, at end insert ("or a requirement or restriction for the time being in force under section (Saving for dominoes and cribbage on licensed premises etc. of this Act is contravened.")—(The Lord Chancellor.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 25, as amended, agreed to.

Clauses 26 to 29 agreed to.

Clause 30:

Short title, extent and commencement


(3) This Act shall come into force on the appointed day.

6.48 p.m.

LORD STONHAM moved to add to the clause: and shall come to an end at the expiration of five years after the appointed day". The noble Lord said: As I believe this is the last Amendment at the Committee stage which we shall be moving from this side, I should like, on behalf of my noble friends and myself, to convey our thanks to the noble and learned Viscount for the very patient, careful and courteous consideration he has given to all the arguments we have put forward, and to thank also his noble friend Lord Bathurst. We are very grateful that on those occasions when it appeared there was some point of substance in our arguments, the noble and learned Viscount agreed to look at them again.

This Bill that we are considering and on which, apart from the Schedules, our discussions have almost come to an end at this stage, is an experiment. There is no dispute about that. We think it is a bold and, in some ways a brave experiment; but it is a conglomeration of views and opinions and the best advice that the Government can get in an uncharted field. Some of us who believe that on some things in this Bill we know better than the Government, believe they have been wrong. For example, there has been a strong cleavage of opinion, both here and in another place, as to whether or not street bookmakers should be licensed. The Government have come down on the other side of the fence on that matter and have decided that we shall not license street betting but shall concentrate instead on betting offices.

Perhaps arising from that, it has become necessary to say that all the bookmakers' agents—the various people, roundsmen of all kinds, runners in factories and all kinds of people—shall legally become agents and servants of bookmakers, and carry on a cash betting business on their behalf. I believe that most of your Lordships have had doubts and misgivings on points of that kind; and I could, of course, instance a great many more. In fact, the whole Bill has given rise to a sharp cleavage of opinion, not so much between those who would at all costs prohibit and stop betting and those who think there should be reasonable freedom to bet, but about the right way in which to grant that reasonable freedom. I do not think anyone at all would doubt that premise.

For these reasons my noble friends and I have felt that there should be a term to the Bill. My noble friend Lord Silkin raised this point on Second Reading and suggested that the Bill should end in five years. I then expressed the opinion that two years would be long enough; and if the noble and learned Viscount the Lord Chancellor should suggest that five years would be too long a period before a reconsideration, then my noble friend would probably very readily accept the shorter term. But the Amendment we have down now suggests that the Bill should come to an end at the expiration of five years after the appointed day. That would mean that, four years hence, the Government of the day—perhaps of the Party opposite or, I hope, of my Party—would have an obligation on them to decide whether the Bill had in all respects succeeded or whether it required amendment in some respects; and they would have the duty either to continue the Act exactly as it is or to bring in an amending Bill.

The noble and learned Viscount may well argue that all Governments are constantly reviewing legislation. That is perfectly true. But it is a very different matter to have an Act on the Statute Book and, if there is something wrong about it, for the pressure of public opinion to be brought to bear on the Government to induce them to bring in an amending Bill. Private Members may try to redress wrongs in that way but it is a matter of some considerable difficulty. It is quite a different thing to have written into an Act that five years after the appointed day the Act shall come to an end, because that puts on the Government of the day an absolute obligation to make up their mind about it, to examine all aspects, and, in the light of experience, to find out whether or not some parts of the Act need alteration. We think, therefore (and this cannot be disputed), that, since in so many respects this is an experiment—in so many important parts of the Bill we are setting out on an uncharted sea without any past experience to guide us: we have only our estimate of the various facts and the evidence that has been put before us—there is a strong case for writing into the Bill now a term of years to ensure that it is reconsidered in the way I have suggested.

Amendment moved— Page 24, line 27, at end insert ("and shall come to an end at the expiration of live years after the appointed day")—(Lord Stonham.)


May I, first of all, thank the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, for his kind remarks about my noble friend and myself. The noble Lord, Lord Silkin, and I are old, friendly opponents in this field of human endeavour, and his sagacity in helping the House is well known. I should like to tell the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, speaking from this side of the House, how much we appreciate the contribution he has made to this House during the time he has been here. That has never been more apparent than on this Bill.

Although he has developed a serious argument and made an undeniable point in basing it on the experimental nature of these new provisions, I do not think he had very great hopes of its acceptance. I shall not keep the Committee for a moment, but I am not putting the Amendment in the category of a number of Amendments he may remember when I was in charge of the Licensed Premises in New Towns Bill, which was the first de-nationalisation measure of the 1951 Government. Mr. Leslie Hale put down an Amendment of this kind in another place which I think was to delay it for two years. That was done on the basis that there were usually ten by-elections every year and the Government would undoubtedly lose all ten by-elections, so that in two years their majority would be destroyed.

But I should like, in deference to the argument, to say that it would be a serious matter to include a provision of this kind, because the result of making the Amendment would be that those concerned to provide facilities for betting and gaming, such as the proprietors of amusement parks, would be left in a state of uncertainty as to whether it would continue in force beyond the five-year period. It is the Government's intention, and their expectation, that the Bill will succeed in its purposes. The most controversial part of it is the establishment of licensed betting offices, but the decision of the Government to bring forward legislation to make these lawful was not a shot in the dark. It was based upon ample experience in the Republic of Ireland and, more recently, in Northern Ireland, which has shown that licensed betting offices can provide a satisfactory alternative channel to street betting; and the Government see no reason why the same should not be so in Great Britain. Therefore we feel that it would be a mistake to write into a Bill anything which suggested that Parliament, in passing it, has doubts about whether it will work. It would be unfortunate and discouraging if those who had to operate the Bill should be required to do so under the shadow of the knowledge that there was no certainty that it would continue in force for more than a period of years.

The noble Lord, Lord Stonham, as a good advocate, has discounted what I am now going to say: that the Government will, of course, keep the provisions under review. But as he has discounted it, I should like to assure him that this is a field where the review cannot remain merely a matter of words; it is a field in which the Home Office must get the fullest information from the police and from local authorities as to the working of this matter, and I can assure him that that will be done. I am afraid that I cannot advise your Lordships to agree to the Amendment but I am grateful to the noble Lord for the most felicitous terms in which he moved it.


With my eye on the clock, I want to say that I am sure the noble and learned Viscount knows how much I appreciate his approach to the Committee stages on various Bills—I will not say more. I see the force of what the noble and learned Viscount has said. I always do, I hope. Nevertheless, the kind of review which all legislation necessarily gets from a Government is not really good enough, in my view, in this case. I can see that it might not be desirable to bring this Bill to an end at the expiration of a certain period because of leases on premises and commitments in that connection, and so on: some people may require to take leases for periods longer than five years. But I should like to see some more definite and specific obligation inserted in the Bill, which would put the Government under the duty of looking at how the thing is working.

It may be that the right way would be to require a report from the Home Office on the working of the Bill, either an annual report or a report at the end of a certain time. If the noble and learned Viscount would be prepared to consider that, or something along those lines, to be written into the Bill—something short of putting an end to the operations of the Bill—I myself should be disposed to accept that in lieu of the Amendment; and I hope that the noble and learned Viscount will see his way to giving some kind of consideration to that point.


I should like to do that. I did promise the noble Lord, Lord Douglas of Barloch, in respect of one of his Amendments, that we would consider how information in a certain field should be gained, and I should like to look into the general possibility of reports. Frankly I have not applied my mind to it. I will do that, and I will write to the noble Lord.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 30 agreed to.

First Schedule [Bookmakers' Permits, Betting Agency Permits and Betting Office Licences]:

7.1 p.m.


I should like to associate myself with my noble and learned friend in thanking the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, for the kind remarks that he has made. It has been a great honour and a great privilege to be assisting my noble and learned friend in this Committee stage—and a very great experience, too. I only apologise to noble Lords in all parts of the House if I have not been able to make myself quite clear; and I am most grateful for the assistance of my noble and learned friend. But noble Lords will appreciate that I must stick pretty closely to the words—otherwise, a coach-and-horses, as the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, suggested, may start appearing.

I could speak on Amendments Nos. 37 to 42 inclusive, as they all deal with the same subject. We concede in these Amendments that the licensing authority should not be a respondent to an appeal against a refusal to grant or renew a bookmaker's permit or an agency permit, but shall be a respondent to an appeal against the refusal of a licence for a betting office. I could go through that at considerable length, but I assure your Lordships that it has the approval of the licensing magistrates. I beg leave to move the first Amendment.

Amendment moved— Page 32, line 49, leave out ("to the authority").—(Earl Bathurst.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.


This Amendment is consequential. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 32, line 50, at end insert ("and, if the appeal relates to a betting office licence, to the authority").—(Earl Bathurst.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.


This also is a consequential Amendment. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 33, line 26, leave out ("the appropriate authority").—(Earl Bathurst.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.


This is another consequential Amendment. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 33, line 27, after ("authority") insert ("or, if the appeal relates to a betting office licence, the appropriate authority")—(Earl Bathurst.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.


This, also, is consequential. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 33, line 30, leave out ("a") and insert ("in the case of an appeal under paragraph 22 of this Schedule with respect to a betting office licence, the")—(Earl Bathurst.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.


This, is likewise a consequential Amendment. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 33, line 31, leave out from ("allowed") to the end of line and insert ("the appeal").—(Earl Bathurst.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

First Schedule, as amended, agreed to.

Second Schedule [Rules for Licensed Betting Offices]:

LORD DOUGLAS OF BARLOCH moved, after paragraph 1 to insert: 2. No licensed premises shall be open for business after half-past six in the afternoon.

The noble Lord said: The purpose of this Amendment is self-evident: that is, to ensure that premises licensed under this Act shall not remain open for indefinite periods in the evening. My only doubt about the Amendment is that I think it is too generous and that it would have been better, perhaps, to have chosen an earlier hour. After all, most shops, places of business and other premises are closed for business transactions before this time of day. It is agreed by everybody, I think, that premises used for betting should not remain open indefinitely, and the hour which is suggested in this Amendment, but which I should have liked to make even earlier, is 6.30. I beg to move.

Amendment moved—

Page 35, line 48, at end insert the said paragraph.—(Lord Douglas of Barloch.)


if I may detain your Lordships for a few moments, I hope the House will not accept the Amendment which has been moved by the noble Lord, Lord Douglas of Bar-loch. In the Second Schedule the Minister has taken power to close these premises on Good Friday, Christmas Day and every Sunday, and at such other times, if any, as may be prescribed by the Minister. There is such a thing as what is called evening racing, which is very popular with a large number of people in the summer months, at any rate from Monday to Friday. As we are providing facilities in these betting offices for people to bet by cash, it would be a considerable inconvenience to many people if they could not put bets on evening races in the summer months. As this Bill is part of an experiment, I think it would be much better to leave it to the Minister's descretion, for him to see what time it is necessary to close these betting offices, when they come into operation. My own view is that it should be a later hour, at any rate in the summer months; otherwise, I think it will cause considerable hardship to the betting public.


In another place there were several ideas as to what time the betting shops should close, and there were different ideas (some along the lines which my noble friend has put forward) varying from 6.30 up to 10 o'clock. For that reason there is no time specifically written into the Bill. The Churches' Council on Gambling in a letter to my right honourable friend, have drawn attention to this reservation, and have represented that, at least to begin with, the 6.30 closing provision should be made to cover the whole of the country. That was partly because there are already illegal offices in Scotland which operate much later for the reasons which my noble friend has mentioned. Six-thirty was also the time that the Royal Commission recommended in their Report. It is difficult to prophesy what the consequences would be if these illegal offices were required to close at 6.30.

However, in view of the apparently widespread desire for a uniform closing hour, bearing in mind the Royal Commission Report, and after consultation with the Scottish Chief Constables, my right honourable friend is prepared to give an undertaking that he will make regulations prescribing 6.30 as the closing hour. These regulations will be reviewed and, if need be, amended in the light of experience. The experience of the police in enforcing the Street Betting Act when the Bill is through will be very relevant in this connection. Similarly, if evening horse-racing becomes extensive, it may be necessary to review the position somewhat along the lines which my noble friend has suggested. In the event, we do not wish to accept the Amendment of the noble Lord.


I am grateful to the noble Earl for the statement which he has made, and I am of course quite happy with the pledge that regulations will fix the hour of 6.30. I do not deny that, in the light of experience, some other views may prevail, though I sincerely hope that they will not, because there is the welfare of the people employed to be considered, as well as many other matters. I am obliged to the noble Earl and to the noble Viscount the Lord Chancellor for their courtesy and for the way in which they have dealt with the Amendments, although I have not generally been very successful. I beg leave to withdraw my Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Second Schedule agreed to.

Third to Fifth Schedules agreed to.

Sixth Schedule [Repeals.]


This is a technical and drafting Amendment. I beg to move.

Amendment moved—

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