§ 3.30 p.m.
§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
My Lords, no one would deny that betting and gaming hold a place in the way of life of many people in our country, and it is right that we in Parliament should legislate on a subject which is of such common interest and affects, in one way or another, so many members of the community. There are some people in 1124 this country who take the view that gambling is wrong in itself, and others—no doubt there are Members of this House among them—who think that, whilst it may not be in all circumstances wrong, there may be rather more of it at present than is good for the social health of our community. On the other hand, there is a school of thought which considers, and almost takes delight in claiming, that the British are peculiarly a nation of gamblers.
But, my Lords, the records go back a very long time, and are dispersed among many nations. The astralagus or knuckle bone was the original of dice, and archæologists have found that these bones were used for gambling purposes as far back as the sixteenth century B.C. When the ruins of Pompeii were uncovered, dice were found made of ivory, porcelain and stone. It is a sad commentary on the unvarying condition of one aspect of human nature that some of these dice, even, were loaded. Whatever may be one's views on the morality of betting and gaming, it cannot be denied that the instinct to gamble is deep-rooted in human nature. As a seventeenth century book describes gaming:Gaming is an enchanting witchery, gotten betwixt idleness and avarice; an itching disease…We may or may not agree that it is "gotten betwixt idleness and avarice", but that some people have an itch to gamble is beyond dispute.
In framing the present Bill, therefore, the Government had to take note of the fact that, for good or ill, betting and gaming are part of the way of life of many of our citizens. Certainly I realise that the opinion is most strongly and sincerely held by some that such practices are immoral. But this is a matter for private conscience. The State must, when making laws, confine itself to the question whether gambling leads to any actual or potential social evils. I tried to find the hardest statement the other way, and the most severe that I could find was from Geoffrey Chaucer; and, as he used to have an office in this building, I thought it would be a suitable one to quote. Remember, he says:Gaming is the very mother of all liesAnd of deceit and cursed villainies,Manslaughter, blasphemy and wasteful soreOf cattle and time, And furthermore'Tis shameful and repugnant to honourTo be regarded as a hazarder.1125 This was a problem which the Royal Commission on Betting, Lotteries and Gaming, under the distinguished chairmanship of Sir Henry Willink, considered. They heard many different views on the question whether gambling is inherently immoral, but were left with the impression that it is extremely difficult to establish by abstract argument that this is so, without adopting views as to the nature of good and evil which would not find general acceptance among moralists.
My Lords, for our purposes the Commission's views on the social effects of gambling as practised to-day are more germane. They heard evidence from representatives of the Churches, the law, police and social workers. It appeared to the Commission that gambling in excess could cause dangers—I do not think that anyone would dispute that conclusion—but that this would be the result of any form of immoderate indulgence. The evidence before them indicated that gambling was of no general significance as a direct cause of crime, and of little importance as a direct cause of minor offences of dishonesty.
The attitude of Her Majesty's Government is similar to that of the Royal Commission. On the moral issue we are neutral, and the introduction of the Bill does not imply any moral approbation of betting and gaming. Our approach is that it would neither be consonant with public opinion nor justified by the facts to attempt to impose severe limitations upon betting and gaming. In the words of the Royal Commission, in paragraph 186:We therefore consider that the object of gambling legislation should be to interfere as little as possible with individual liberty to take part in the various forms of gambling but to impose such restrictions as are desirable and practicable to discourage or prevent excess".What Her Majesty's Government are trying to do in this Bill is to bring our betting and gaming legislation into accord with twentieth century social habits and requirements. Much of the legislation on betting and gaming at present on the Statute Book was enacted in social conditions which were very different from those of the present day, and their provisions are too far out of step with present-day public opinion to command either respect or obedience. It has become notorious that one of the 1126 Statutes which is the basis of our present gaming legislation was designed by Henry VIII to encourage military efforts and the practice of archery.
An out-of-date law gives rise to evils. It encourages a contempt for the law so that little social stigma attaches to those persons who break it, and this may affect the public attitude to other branches of the law. Further—and this is a point to which my right honourable friend the Home Secretary attaches particular importance, and which I, as a former Home Secretary, can endorse—it harms the relationship between the public and the police. The police have been obliged to administer a law with which the public is out of sympathy. The position of the police has been unenviable: to fail to enforce the law would bring the law further into disrepute, but to try to enforce it brings them into conflict with public opinion generally. It is not surprising that the existence of such an outmoded and unpopular law has led to suspicions of corruption of the police. Happily, the Royal Commission reckoned that, while attempts to corrupt the police are occasionally made, the number of police who succumb to them is very small. But it is clear that we should put an end to a situation in which the police should be subject to such accusations, unjustified though they are.
The Bill therefore seeks to replace this out-of-date law. In the case of gaming, the most recent Statute is over a hundred years old, and the Bill makes a clean sweep and a fresh start. In the case of betting, Parliament has been more active in modern times and part of the existing law is up to date and not affected by the Bill except in minor respects. The Racecourse Betting Act, 1928, provides for the establishment of totalisators on horse racecourses and the Bill does not replace it, although it is substantially modified by Clause 11. The Betting and Lotteries Act, 1934, provides for control over betting at tracks other than horse racecourses and enacts a code for the conduct of lotteries, subsequently extended by the Small Lotteries and Gaming Act, 1956. The Pool Betting Act, 1954—which implemented one of the major proposals of the Royal Commission in advance of the present Bill—controls the conduct of football pools. None of these is affected by the Bill, except for small adjustments 1127 and amendments. But it is the Government's intention that, after the Bill has been passed into law, there shall be a consolidating measures so as to bring all the law relating to betting, lotteries and gaming into a single comprehensive Statute.
The Bill has two main purposes, flowing broadly from recommendations of the Royal Commission, though differing in points of detail: first, to require bookmakers to register and to legalise cash betting off the course by the establishment of licensed betting offices to which the public may go to place their bets—this is the object of Part I; secondly, to enact a new code for the conduct of gaming—this is covered in Parts II and III.
I now turn to Part I of the Bill. Broadly, the original intention behind the existing law regarding betting off the course was to suppress it and to confine betting to racecourses. The Betting Act, 1953, forbids betting on cash terms and the use of a room or office to which people can go in person to place bets. The Street Betting Act, 1906, forbids street betting. The aim of these two Acts to stop off-the-course betting has been frustrated in two ways. The first has been by continual breach of one or other of the two Acts. In Scotland and some parts of the North of England and Midlands, illegal betting offices are to be found; and in other parts of England and Wales illegal street betting continues to be carried on.
The other way in which the intention of the 1853 and 1906 Acts has been overcome is by the legal method of betting by telephone on credit. This has, of course, led to differential treatment for different social classes of the community. Those who have easy access to a telephone and can obtain an account with a credit bookmaker can bet without infringing the law; those who choose to see their bookmakers personally to bet in cash—usually in small amounts—cannot do so without breaking the law. It is, I think, generally agreed that this distinction is one which cannot be justified.
To meet this situation, the Bill adopts the Royal Commission's recommendation that facilities for betting off the course in cash should be permitted by the establishment 1128 by bookmakers, under a licensing system, of betting offices where members of the public can go to place their bets in cash. This is the major issue on Part I of the Bill. Whilst the proposal for the establishment of betting offices seems to have been generally accepted—though some people have misgivings—the suggestion has been put forward in the Press and in debate in another place that this should be accompanied by the legislation of street betting in those areas where it is now illegally carried on. The Government is opposed to this course for reasons set out in paragraph 228 of the Royal Commission's Report.
The argument most commonly developed in support of street betting is that we should "legalise the status quo". The present situation leads to no trouble, the argument runs, apart from that arising from the fact that it is unlawful: so why can it not be made lawful and continue? But this cannot be done for the simple reason that the behaviour of street bookmakers or runners would become very different if they were acting legally instead of illegally. The present unobtrusiveness of street bookmakers is a consequence of the illegal nature of their business, and it does not seem likely that they would remain as unobtrusive if their activities became lawful; indeed, it would be contrary to their business interests to do so.
Apart from this, the main objection to street betting is that the street is not the proper place in which to bet. Any relaxation would open the way to solicitation, and it would be difficult to prevent betting with young persons—to my mind a most important point, since we are throughout this Bill anxious to safeguard young persons. We have considered whether some of these evils could be overcome if we were to introduce a licensing system; but we are satisfied that such a system would not be practicable. The Bill therefore adheres to the licensed betting office as the best method of providing lawful facilities.
Subsection (1) of Clause I repeals the Betting Acts of 1853 and 1874 (which applied the earlier Act to Scotland). Subsection (2) re-enacts the general prohibition on the use of premises as a place to which people may resort for betting, but there is no re-enactment of the prohibition on the payment of cash. Thus 1129 cash postal betting will no longer be unlawful, but if an office is to be used for betting by people who go there to meet their bookmaker in person a licence will be required under Clause 4.
An exception to the ban on the use of premises for betting is made by proviso (a) in the case of a factory or other place of work. At present, it is a common practice for an employee in a factory, acting as an agent for a bookmaker, to collect bets from other employees, though the practice is contrary to the present law. The Royal Commission recommended (paragraph 256) that the practice should be forbidden, but this has not seemed to Her Majesty's Government to be realistic. It would be difficult to enforce, and any attempt to do so would be unpopular both with those who are accustomed to bet in this way and, if it resulted in workpeople going out in working hours to place their bets in betting offices, with managements. So proviso (a) has been included to allow the collection of bets in this way. It also permits the collection of bets in residential establishments, such as a hotel or hospital, by one of the staff, such as a porter.
Clause 2 implements the recommendation of the Royal Commission (paragraph 252) that bookmakers should be registered. It does this by requiring that a bookmaker carrying on business on his own account must hold a permit issued by a licensing authority, which is to be, in England, a committee of justices and, in Scotland, the licensing court established for the issue of liquor licences. The procedure for the issue of bookmakers' permits is laid down in the First Schedule. It requires an applicant to advertise his application so that objections may be received and considered by the licensing authority. This provision has, I think, been generally welcomed as a method of securing that bookmakers are—to quote paragraph 17 of the Schedule—"fit and proper persons".
Clause 3 was added to the Bill in another place in order to provide a means of identifying bookmakers' agents. It forbids a person to take bets as an agent for a bookmaker or the Racecourse Betting Control Board, for example, in a factory, unless he has a written authority from his principal; and requires a principal to keep a register of his authorised 1130 agents. Many people would have preferred a system of licensing by the justices similar to that applicable to bookmakers, but this would have been beyond the resources of the licensing authorities.
Clause 4 gives effect to the major purpose of Part I, namely, the establishment of licensed betting offices. Licences may be granted to the holder of a bookmaker's permit or to the Racecourse Betting Control Board or an agent of a bookmaker or the Board who holds a betting agency permit. The procedure is again that laid down in the First Schedule. Applications are to be advertised and objections considered. The grounds for refusal are set out in paragraph 20; an application may be refused if the premises are not suitable, or on account of the number of betting offices already in the area, or because of misconduct of the premises. The Royal Commission recommended and the Bill originally provided that a betting office should have separate access to the street, and this meant, in effect, that the betting office had to be in premises which were separate. But it was felt that this strict requirement would make it difficult to provide facilities in small towns and rural areas, so it has been relaxed a little. It will now be possible to set up a betting office in a building used for other purposes (for example, for carrying on some other form of business), provided—and this is important—that the betting office is in a separate room and can be approached without going through the other place of business.
Clause 5 provides that a betting office shall be maintained in accordance with the rules set out in the Second Schedule. There was considerable argument in another place about these rules. On the one hand, it was felt that to have followed the Royal Commission all the way would have made the offices too austere and unattractive. On the other hand, there seems to be danger in making them so attractive that they may encourage people to visit them who would not otherwise think of doing so or to stay there too long and to indulge in excessive betting. The Second Schedule as it now stands is a middle course between these two extremes. The aim has been to provide what might be called the "tools of the trade" but not to allow attractions which are unnecessary for that purpose.
1131 The prohibitions on loitering and the payment of winnings during racing hours recommended by the Royal Commission have been dropped as unenforceable. But the Second Schedule lays it down that the offices may not be used for any purpose other than betting; and that no music or other entertainment may be provided. Persons under eighteen may not be admitted. The licensee and his agents and servants may not encourage the public to bet. And—most important as regards continuous betting—there must be no television or radio, although the "blower" will be allowed. This is. I understand, a service of racing information relayed from the course and capable of being broadcast by loudspeaker in betting offices.
Clause 6 increases the penalties for street betting, but this increase is not to come into effect at once. It is the Government's intention that, once there is an adequate number of betting offices, the provisions on street betting will be rigorously enforced. Clause 7 was added to the Bill in another place to meet the general feeling that young persons should be protected from being involving in betting. It is made an offence if any person has any betting transaction with a young person; or employs any young person in a licensed betting office or in the effecting of any betting transaction other than by post; or uses a young person as an agent in a betting matter.
Clause 8 provides for the cancellation of a bookmakers' or betting agency permit by a court on conviction of the holder of an offence against the Betting Acts of a kind specified in the clause, or of an offence involving fraud or dishonesty. Clause 9 forbids a bookmaker to employ a person who is disqualified from holding a permit because of such a cancellation. Clause 10 requires the Secretary of State to lay a report before each House of Parliament—that is, an annual report containing statistical information about bookmakers' permits, betting agency permits and betting office licences.
Clause 11 deals with a rather different aspect. It widens the powers of the Racecourse Betting Control Board in various ways and, in particular, gives it an exclusive right to carry on pool betting 1132 and betting at tote odds on horse races. The Board will have power to authorise other persons to carry on these forms of business on such terms as they may see fit. This clause thus extends the Board's present on-the-course monopoly of pool betting on horse racing and grants it a kind of "copyright" of its "tote odds". But it is the Board's hope that it may be able to arrange for off-the-course bookmakers to act as its agents for the collection and transmission to it of totalisator bets. Clause 12 provides a similar "copyright" of the "tote odds" on dog races. Clauses 13 and 14 make amendments to the Pool Betting Act, 1954.
That brings us to Part II of the Bill which deals with gaming—that is, the playing of a game of chance or of conbined chance and skill for winnings in money or money's worth. Under the existing law, gaming is not in itself illegal. It is brought within the ambit of the criminal law either by reasons of the game itself being of a kind declared to be unlawful; or being carried on in a common gaming house or in a public place. It may not disturb the members of this House to know that they are debarred from playing what a Statute of Henry VIII calls "sundrie newe and crafty games and playes". I doubt whether the illegal game of cloyshe-cayles is now as popular as it once was, although the illegal game of slydethrift, otherwise called shovegrote, is still, I believe, to be found in its modern guise of shove-ha'penny. But we may all be in a very present danger of infringing the provisions relating to a common gaming house if we habitually play cards for money. Those of us who play bridge in our clubs are indeed living dangerously.
Part II of the Bill starts by sweeping away by means of Clause 15 all the existing law relating to gaming so that a new start, based on the principles of the Royal Commission, can be made. Clause 16 lays down general rules for the future lawful conduct of gaming. The object of these rules is to ensure that no profit can be made from gaming by the playing of a game in which the promoter has an unfair chance as compared with other players—for example, by the operation of a bank, or by making a cut on the stakes as the game is played. By this means, it is the aim of the Bill to free 1133 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. It is also provided that there should in general be no other payment in money or money's worth to take part in gaming. But subsection (7) allows a fixed sessional charge to be made for the right to take part in gaming carried on as an activity of a club—such as the card money which is charged for the use of a card room at a social club, or the charge made for an evening's session of a bridge club. Subsection (3) prohibits gaming with young persons unless they have the consent of their parents.
Now to turn to gaming machines. Clause 17 prohibits gaming machines generally but allows them in premises to which the public do not have access provided that the coin to be inserted in the slot does not exceed 6d. and that the proceeds are devoted to purposes other than private gain. This is a modification of the recommendation of the Royal Commission. But gaming machines are to be found in such places as club-houses at present and are often a valuable means of helping club funds. It seems reasonable to permit them, subject to the safeguards written into the clause. Clause 18 prohibits gaming in any street or place to which the public have access. Clause 19 applies to the kind of whist drive or similar small gaming party promoted for raising money to be applied for purposes other than private gain which was made lawful by Section 4 of the Small Lotteries and Gaming Act, 1956. It exempts such innocuous gaming from the general rules of the Bill which it would otherwise breach. Clause 20 is technical.
Clause 21 is designed to meet a fear that a local authority, for example at a seaside resort, might be prepared to maintain a casino at a loss to the rates as an attraction for visitors. The general rules of Clause 16 are framed to prevent the commercial exploitation of gaming and a commercially successful casino could not be run without a breach of its provisions. But in another place a fear was expressed that a local authority might be prepared within the terms of the law to establish premises for the playing of games of the type found in Continental casinos and to make good any loss to the rates under the powers of the Local Government 1134 Act, 1948. The clause is intended to stop this possibility. It was added to the Bill at a late stage in another place and as drafted it goes too far in interfering with the legitimate activities of local authorities. The Government will move Amendments to it.
Part III of the Bill permits the kind of games to be found in stalls at travelling fairs and amusement parks and as sideshows at charity fêtes and sports meetings. These forms of amusements with prizes fall within the definition of gaming and without special provision being made in Part III of the Bill they would contravene the provisions of Clauses 16, 17 and 18. Clause 22 allows such amusements to take place at non-commercial entertainments such as bazaars, sales of works or fêtes—where such amusements are not the only inducement to people to attend—provided that the whole proceeds, subject to deduction of expenses, are devoted to purposes other than private gain.
Clause 23 allows amusements with prizes at such places as fun fairs and amusements arcades. Under the clause a permanent amusement arcade or amusement park will need a permit granted by the local authority under the procedure set out in the Third Schedule. No permit will be required by a travelling fair of short duration such as that to be found on Hampstead Heath on August Bank Holiday. Clause 24 frees from all restrictions gaming machines of an innocuous character in which the successful operation results in the return of the coin or a free turn.
Clause 25 deals with an issue which has proved to be one of the most difficult and controversial in the Bill—gaming on premises licensed for the sale of alcoholic liquor. Under the present law, all gaming in public houses—including gaming at games of pure skill such as darts—is unlawful. But certain minor forms of gaming—which vary in different parts of the country and include gaming at darts, dominoes and cribbage—have been tolerated. The Royal Commission proposed that the complete ban should be maintained and this was carried into effect in the original Bill. But as a result of criticism which this matter aroused, the clause was modified during its passage through another place to permit a certain amount of gaming in licensed premises. The clause now 1135 allows gaming in licensed premises to be conducted subject to the same conditions as are applicable to other premises. One immediate consequence of this is to free gaming at games of pure skill—such as darts and shove-ha'penny—from all restriction.
But Clause 18 as applied to licensed premises will still prohibit the playing of games of chance or mixed chance and skill in those parts of licensed premises to which the public have access. The distinction between the playing of darts for money or money's worth in the bar, which is to be allowed, and dominoes or cribbage, which is not, has continued to attract criticism. My right honourable friend, the Home Secretary, has undertaken to consider whether anything more can be done. It is a difficult problem for which to find the right words, because once one goes beyond the realm of games of pure skill, there is the practical difficulty of finding a way of distinguishing between games which are harmless when played for small stakes and games which all would agree are undesirable in licensed premises. This, as I have said, is still under consideration, and I should be glad to hear any suggestions for dealing with the problem which any of your Lordships may have to make.
Here I should perhaps refer to the Peppiatt Report which has, as I know, aroused much interest among your Lordships. When the Betting and Gaming Bill was in preparation it was represented to my right honourable friend, the Home Secretary, by bodies interested in the sport of horse racing and the breeding of race horses, that the legalisation of cash off-the-course betting ought to be accompanied by an obligation upon bookmakers who take bets off the course on horse races to make a contribution towards the sport of horse-racing and the breeding of racehorses. In their view, horse-racing badly needed an infusion of fresh money if it was to survive in its present form or compete on equal terms with foreign competitors. These proposals for a levy raised difficult issues of both principle and practice, and the Government felt that the whole matter required detailed and impartial examination. The Peppiatt Committee were therefore appointed and they have now reported with commendable speed. 1136 We are very grateful to them for the work which they have done.
When the Report was received, the Government gave it immediate consideration, and the Joint Parliamentary Under-Secretary to the Home Department said in answer to Questions on May 3, in another place, that the Government were disposed to accept its general recommendations, subject to consultations. The views of the racing interests have already been sought and these are in general favourable to the proposals for a levy, although there is very considerable disagreement on the precise method of collecting it or the machinery required. I need hardly say that the Government will take into very careful consideration any views which may be expressed this afternoon in this House. We are very aware that there has been some desire to incorporate the Peppiatt proposals in the Betting and Gaming Bill. It will be realised that this could be done only by framing a detailed scheme at once without as full an opportunity for consultation with the interests concerned as we should like. The necessary legislation can, however, in any case be passed in sufficient time to comply with the timetable in the appendix to the Report.
This, then, is the Bill which we have before us. Like all attempts at social reform it is the result of a balance between conflicting interests and points of view. It is intended to provide the public at large with reasonable facilities to bet and to game for money while, at the same time, retaining safeguards to prevent exploitation or excess. It aims at providing a code which will command public respect and which the police will be able to enforce. It will provide bookmakers and other persons with financial interests in betting or the provision of amusements at funfairs with reasonable opportunities to pursue their trades while retaining sufficient control to prevent abuse of those opportunities. In short, the Government present this Bill as an attempt to devise betting and gaming legislation which is relevant to twentieth century conditions. I do not think that anybody should underestimate the difficulty of what we are trying to do; but if we succeed, we shall have undertaken a major social reform. I beg to move.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(The Lord Chancellor.)1137
§ 4.11 p.m.
§ LORD SILKIN
My Lords, we are all obliged to the noble and learned Viscount for his most interesting historical background to this subject, and we are very glad indeed to hear that it is proposed, I hope in the near future, to introduce a consolidation measure which will bring under one umbrella all legislation on betting and gaming.
The noble and learned Viscount explained that this Bill was based on the Report of the Royal Commission on Betting and Gaming which was set up in 1949. He did not tell us that this Commission reported in 1951, so that it is now nine years since we had their Report. I have from time to time constituted myself as a champion of Royal Commissions. I have felt that so many people give so much time serving on Royal Commissions, that too often their work is set on one side, ignored; or even that the Government of the day make no pronouncement on the Reports of these Commissions. And I have felt that on the Report of every Royal Commission there ought to be a decision of the Government within a period of two or three years.
I am reminded that in connection with this particular Report I raised the matter in this House in 1953 or 1954 and asked the Government what they were going to do about the Report of the Royal Commission. I understand that on that occasion the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft (who I am glad to see is going to speak later on), replied. I cannot recollect the nature of the reply—perhaps he will refresh our memories—but I shall be very surprised if he did not give an assurance, seven years ago or thereabouts, that this matter was going to be dealt with very speedily. Here we are. I want once more to emphasise this point: if we do set up Royal Commissions we have a moral duty to ensure that notice is taken of their Reports and that we do not allow them to lie on the shelf and get dusty. In this case I am glad the Report is not too dusty, and that a great part of what it recommended is now proposed.
The purpose of this Bill has been stated by the noble and learned Viscount. It is that the law was getting into disrepute and was consuming a great amount of police manpower, and that in many cases the police were turning a blind eye to the evils of street betting. But there 1138 is, in my view, another reason why it was necessary to introduce this legislation; that is, that there have been two standards of betting. Those who have the means and the opportunity can bet with impunity on the telephone or on the racecourse, but those who have to indulge in cash betting on the spot are committing an offence. It is, I think, right that the two kinds of betting should now be treated in exactly the same way and that we should legalise those who want to bet by cash.
The noble and learned Viscount quoted paragraph 186 of the recommendations of the Royal Commission; and I should like to say that, I myself accept the purpose of gambling legislation that they have set out: that it is not the business of the State to interfere except to the extent that it is necessary to discourage people from betting to excess. One's approach to this Bill—and this has been evidenced throughout the discussion in another place—is determined by one's attitude to gambling generally. In another place there were differing and extreme views expressed from both sides of the House. My friends in another place decided that it was not necessary to have a Party line on this matter, and we introduced no Whip and allowed each person to speak for himself. We in this House propose to take the same line. I am therefore speaking for myself—I will not say entirely for myself, because I hope that some of my friends, at any rate, may agree to some extent with what I am going to say. But I want to say at once that I do not complain that the Government thought it right to take a different line and to put on the Whips. After all, the Government must make up its mind what it wants and then, having listened to different views, must ensure that it gets, broadly, the legislation that it thinks right.
While broadly accepting the views of the Royal Commission, I feel that there is a good deal of hypocrisy, expressed and implied, about gambling in this country. We have, as I have indicated, people who bet on the turf by telephone; but we also have a very great deal of gambling, I think almost as extensive as that on the racecourse, on the Stock Exchange. A very large number of people, especially to-day, do not buy stocks and shares for the purpose of getting a reasonable return on 1139 their money but in the hope of capital appreciation. Their hopes are not always realised, and they are, in fact, gambling. There is no doubt that this kind of gambling is on the increase. But we do not call it gambling; we call it investing. I think it is right we should realise that this is as much a part of the gambling that is going on in this country as any other.
We have premium bonds. A person holding, say, £500 worth of premium bonds is gambling to the extent of 5 per cent. of that money, or £25 a year. He forgoes his interest in the hope of getting a capital premium. We have greyhound racing, and we have something that is not particularly touched on in this Bill but which is widespread in this country—namely, football pools. I imagine that there are more people indulging in gambling on football pools than on horse-racing. One of the difficulties we are faced with in dealing with this subject is that we have so little concrete information. I should hope in the course of the Committee stage to introduce some Amendments to ensure that we get far more statistical information about this subject than we have had hitherto. Having said that, I am not prepared to say that any of these kinds of gambling, carried out in moderation and within the means of the individual who embarks on it, is morally wrong; and certainly I would not wish to discriminate as between one form of gambling and another.
This Bill was fully considered in another place—I believe that it occupied some 90 hours of Parliamentary time—and I would hope that we in this House shall not find it necessary to devote to it as long a period as that. But the Bill will require searching inquiry, and I hope that it will be possible to find the necessary time to enable us to go through this Bill with the care which it requires, in spite of the large amount of time which was given to it in another place. While in another place there was general acceptance of the idea of licensing bookmakers and requiring them to carry on in offices, considerable doubt was expressed as to whether street bookmaking should or could be entirely eliminated. I want to deal with that aspect in a moment. There was also some considerable doubt expressed about the employment of 1140 runners, and as to the rules to be imposed in the management of betting shops as set out in the Second Schedule.
One important question, at any rate, was left open—namely, whether those who are running betting offices should be permitted to advertise those offices. I think the Bill is silent on the subject. Therefore I would assume that, as the Bill stands, there is nothing to prevent bookmakers from advertising their offices, in the Press, on television or in any other form that they desire. On the question of street bookmaking the noble and learned Viscount referred to paragraph 228 of the Royal Commission, which gave its conclusions that street betting should not be permitted. I have a perfectly open mind on this subject, and I am bound to say that as I read the debates in another place my mind went from one side to the other. I thought that the speeches of those who were in favour of street bookmaking were most convincing, but I also thought those who were against it were most convincing. I cannot pretend that, even now, I have finally made up my mind, although I have a slight bias in favour of licensing street bookmaking; but I am not prepared at this stage to advocate it very strongly.
One thing I do want to say is that I did not find paragraph 228 of the Report of the Royal Commission really convincing. It did not do justice to the case of those who were in favour of street bookmaking, and therefore, as so often happens, the answer it gave to that case was ineffective. It so often happens that when you set out to answer somebody, you do not really do justice to the case that has been made, and I think that before the Royal Commission gave their answer, they should have done full justice to the case of those who advocate street bookmaking. I cannot help feeling that this subject is one which is dear to the heart of the Home Secretary. He has already swept the streets of prostitutes; but they have not disappeared—they now advertise in a journal, and anybody who is interested in the subject can, I think, buy this journal for 6d. or 1s. and can get all the street prostitution that he likes. I doubt whether the Home Secretary is going to be wholly successful in sweeping street bookmaking from the streets. I want to give some of my reasons why I think that that is so.
1141 The Bill provides for the setting up of bookmakers' offices. That is going to be an extremely difficult and costly proposition. If it is to serve the needs of a populated area a large number of offices will be required, and having regard to the conditions which are laid down, as to separate entrances and so one, it is not going to be easy to find these offices. Moreover, planning permission in respect of these offices will have to be given by the local authority. I imagine that there will be introduced a Special Uses (Classes) Order because at present, if it is comprised in the normal office, no special planning permission will be necessary. But the Bill requires that there should be planning permission, so it implies at the same time that there should be a special class of permission under the Uses (Classes) Order—namely, offices used for betting. I cannot help thinking that that is going to be a matter which different local authorities will view from different angles. Those who take what might be called a free view of betting will give free permission for offices to be constituted under a Special Uses (Classes) Order; but others, who are opposed to betting, will give this permission with the greatest of difficulties. That is difficulty No. 1—that it is going to be difficult to get the offices; it is going to be difficult in some areas for bookmakers to get the required planning permission.
As we all know, at the present time office accommodation is at a premium, and I am afraid that landlords are going to hold bookmakers up to ransom for their rents. So life is going to be made very difficult for the bookmaker. He will also have to get a permit from the licensing justices and pay £100 for the privilege. When we take all these things together, I believe there will be a great temptation for many bookmakers who are finding it difficult to get offices or afford the rent, or pay commission, to carry on with their street bookmaking; and I myself believe that we shall have the same difficulty as we are having to-day over bookmakers carrying on their trade in the streets. And I think it will be the most difficult thing in the world to prevent it.
I wonder whether in the circumstances, therefore, it would not be wiser to permit street bookmaking under licence, subject to conditions. The report of the Royal 1142 Commission refers to the possibility of bookmakers standing at bus queues and taking bets. Anyone who has ever stood at a bus queue at 6 o'clock in the evening when people are trying to get home would not regard that as a suitable occasion for bookmakers to carry on their trade. But whether that is so or not, I believe that we might license the bookmakers, making certain conditions as to where they are to carry on business and restricting their numbers to what is regarded as necessary—and I want to repeat that I am putting these views forward quite tentatively and am very ready to hear the answers to these difficulties. But it looks to me as if we are not going to prevent street bookmaking.
There is one other factor about betting in offices, especially if it is proposed to restrict the times during which betting is permitted. A person who normally puts a shilling or two on a horse will have to go to the offices. Most of these persons are employed and would find it very difficult to get away at the appropriate time; and I hope very sincerely that we are not going to encourage workers to leave their work in order to go to a betting office and make their bets, for that would be disastrous. In many cases those people will send a messenger; possibly their wife. In most cases the wives will not have participated in betting before and so we are going to introduce wives to the mysteries of betting; and no doubt in due course, when they have done a bit of betting for their husbands, they will indulge in a little betting on their own account—which I am sure is not the intention of the Bill. Alternatively, other messengers will be sent and the same thing may happen. People who are going on the business of laying bets for others will start indulging in bets for themselves; so we are, in fact, spreading the field of betting, rather than restricting it.
We do not eliminate street betting because we are permitting agents of the bookmakers to go to factories and carry on their operations there and also to ply their wares as they carry on other trades or industries. For instance, the milkman has been mentioned in another place. In many cases he may well become an agent of a bookmaker and, in addition to delivering milk, may take a bet or two as he goes round. So may the newspaper man, the baker and 1143 various other people. If that is not street betting, at least it is pretty near to it. It is betting at the street door. As the Bill stands at present there is nothing to prevent the postman from taking a bet or two in the morning and, if there is an afternoon delivery—which I very much doubt—in the afternoon as well. All kinds of people may be engaged, as agents, to accept bets for bookmakers. That is going to be legitimate. Is that stage materially better than the existing state of affairs? I wonder.
All these are matters which I should like to see discussed in broad principle far more fully than has been the case up to now, and I wish now to say a word about conditions in the betting offices. The Government themselves have rather vacillated over whether they should make these places as miserable as they possibly could or brighten them up a bit. As the Bill stands at present, meals must not be taken on the premises. As I have read the Bill, the bookmaker or his staff cannot even make a cup of tea—for fear, I presume, that they might give somebody else a cup of tea in the process. While I feel these places should not be made unduly attractive, so as to make that itself a reason for people to visit them, I do not know why, if we are to have these offices, we should not see that there is a modicum of comfort in them, so that people who come there should not have to deal with their business in a place that is like a railway waiting room. At one time it was even suggested that people should not have an opportunity of sitting down in a betting shop, but I believe that that has been withdrawn.
We shall look at these conditions again on the Committee stage and, as I have already indicated, we want to have made quite clear the question of whether or not bookmakers should be permitted to advertise. I can see the case for advertising, because if they are to have offices there must be some way by which they can let the public know where they are; but what are they going to say? Bookmakers are to be in competition with one another. Are they merely to give a name and address or will some offer more comfortable offices and waiting rooms, or better odds, or what?
There is one other question I would ask. Is it contemplated that the creation 1144 of large syndicates should be possible under this Bill, so that a group of bookmakers may get together and form a company and run a large number of offices (if they can find them) under the ægis of the one company? Presumably such offices would then be managed by people having no particular direct concern with the business of the office. In other words, would a company be granted a licence? As the Bill stands, assuming a person comprises a company—as it does normally—there would be nothing to prevent a company from applying for a licence; and I should be glad if the noble and learned Viscount could let us have his view of what is the position under the Bill and whether it is open to a company to apply for a licence, and, if so, whether he thinks that that is desirable. At the Committee stage I propose to put down an Amendment which will make it quite clear that a company will not be eligible for a licence.
My Lords, I have dealt with Part I of the Bill, which is the Part which attracted most attention in another place. In fact, out of the many days on which the Bill was discussed in Committee only two were devoted to the remainder of the Bill. I do not propose to say a great deal about the remainder because I think it is largely non-contentious. We should all agree that it is desirable to amend the law so that none of us is inadvertently committing an offence by having an innocent game of bridge or anything else you like, or even taking part in a lottery for charity, and that those who benefit by a lottery are themselves not breaking the law. I have noticed that a great many people who have a fundamental objection to gambling have no objection to benefiting as the result of one of these lotteries. But I am glad that it is now going to be made quite clear that where a lottery takes place, not for the purpose of any private gain, then it will be quite legal. I hope that we shall be able to settle this very vexed question of whether or not dominoes may be played in a public-house. I myself would toss up for it. It do not think it is a matter of very great moment one way or the other, except to those who want to play dominoes.
§ SEVERAL NOBLE LORDS: Hear, hear!1145
§ LORD SILKIN
But if there is any doubt about it, I suppose the simple thing is to permit it unless there are very strong reasons to the contrary.
There is one final question I want to ask the noble and learned Viscount. What is the objection to allowing a local authority, which so desires, to run a casino? I can understand that a casino on the scale of Monte Carlo, with very large stakes, would be undesirable. But a casino with modest stakes, which would ruin nobody and which would be an attraction (such places now cause people to go abroad, if only for a day or two) would attract not only our own people but people from abroad coming to our towns. I do not want to advocate the casino. What I am asking is this: why do the Government regard it as so objectionable that they thought it necessary to introduce a clause in the Bill to prohibit a local authority from having a casino if they desire to do so? The Government can have in mind all the safeguards they like. They can make quite certain that the majority of the population desire it; that it is not at the whim of the members of the local authority itself. But if most people in Folkestone, Brighton or Eastbourne, say, want a casino, and the local authority think it is desirable, why not? Is it the fear that it may become a burden on the ratepayer? That is a matter for the population themselves and for the local authority. The Government are under no obligation to make a contribution.
These are a few casual and haphazard observations on a subject about which, I must confess, I cannot speak with the slightest authority. But it is a subject which has interested a great many people, and I think it is as well that we should have a thorough Committee stage on this Bill so that we can all ventilate our different ideas. I hope that ample time will be given for that purpose. I should like to express my satisfaction that the Government have tackled this extremely difficult problem, even though belatedly. I recognise that it required a certain amount of courage to tackle a thorny question of this kind about which there are so many conflicting views, and I am glad that the Government have shown that courage and have introduced this Bill. To my mind, the Government, evidently, are determined to go ahead 1146 with the betting shop and to try to put an end to street betting.
I hope that they may regard this as an experiment, say for a period of five years. I realise that this Government or any other Government are perfectly free to look at any piece of legislation from time to time and to modify it if they so desire, but that is not quite the same thing as giving a term to an Act. I should like to see this Bill remaining in operation for a limited period, whether it is five years or seven, so that the Government of the day would be compelled to reenact it, either in its present form or in some amended form before it comes to an end. I hope that the Government will consider that suggestion very seriously, because they are embarking along uncharted fields. None of us knows what is going to be the outcome of these betting shops, whether we are going to bring street bookmaking to an end, or what is going to be the result. Broadly speaking, I support the Bill and I myself do not propose to vote against the Second Reading. But, as I have said on a number of occasions, I hope that it will get a thorough examination as we proceed.
§ 4.47 p.m.
My Lords, like all good Liberals I have never been on a racecourse or in a public-house in my life, and therefore I am bound to be guided in these matters by the better opinion of your Lordships. However, I have been informed by people who have erred and strayed from the strait and narrow path that we can regard this as a good Bill and that it should be supported. And that being so, I am very pleased to lend what support I can to this measure. I doubt very much whether people appreciate the sweeping nature of this Bill. Both in betting and gaming the Bill sweeps out of existence former legal rules, conceptions and decisions, and—may I say without disrespect?—a host of cobwebs. So far as betting is concerned, the restriction on cash betting is removed. There are, or soon will be, five ways in which you and I can make a bet. I can make a bet by telephone; I can make a bet by post; I can make a bet via the milkman; I can make a bet via the runner who comes to the factory or office in which I work; and, of course, I can resort to the licensed betting office. But I must not resort to street betting.
1147 I am very glad that street betting is still to be illegal and that the penalties will be increased for that offence. There seems to be a most incredible amount of shilly-shallying about street betting. I am absolutely, lock, stock and barrel, against it. I can imagine nothing more undignified than to see a police officer chasing round the corner of a street after a couple of men in shirt-sleeves who have been passing slips of paper to other people. As for the licensed betting offices themselves, this is a novel conception, both in law and in our social system. But we must remember that in this world nothing is static: the only thing that is constant is change, and so we must become accustomed to the licensed betting office. This will indeed be a solemn place. No music, dancing or other entertainment will be allowed there. Nor may there be any wireless or television on the premises. But it is gratifying to know that a "blower" is going to be allowed in licensed betting offices. I must confess that until I came here I did not know what a "blower" meant, but the noble and learned Viscount the Lord Chancellor has explained this instrument to me.
I am glad to see that the Racecourse Betting Control Board are to have the exclusive right to control certain matters under the Bill. As your Lordships know, the Board have nothing to do with fixed starting-price betting, which is the province of bookmakers. When a lot of money is placed with bookmakers on a favourite and an outsider wins, this is known in bookmaking circles as a "skinner". Personally, I prefer not to be skinned. At all events, the totalisator, which is run by the Racecourse Betting Control Board, skins you in a much more subtle way by taking a little off you for expenses whichever horse wins the race, whether he be a favourite or an outsider.
So far as gaming is concerned, the repeal of the former law is most desirable. No one, however, seems to know precisely what are games of skill and what are games of chance. I have been informed by people who are experts in these matters that housey-housey is a very wicked game. On the other hand, the odour of criminality does not attach to tiddlywinks or hunt-the-slipper. And I need hardly say that the whole world 1148 waits to know whether dominoes is a lawful or unlawful game. As to the definition of a "game of chance", we are told in the Bill that this: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…Then,'gaming' means the playing of a game of chance for winnings in money or money's worth;I must confess that this definition is very confusing. I know what is meant by a game of skill; I know what is meant by a game of chance, and I know that many games are a combination of skill and chance. But what is meant by the statement that'game of chance' includes a game of chance and skill combined and a pretended game of chance or of chance and skill combined"?I hope that some genius will explain that definition to me.
On this point, I may say for a moment that I think we in your Lordships' House are very fortunate in having the noble and learned Lord Chancellor and his colleague, Lord Bathurst, to explain these matters to us. I have noticed on previous occasions that Acts of Parliament are made understandable to the ordinary person only by the very lucid expositions which are given by the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack and by Lord Bathurst from the Front Row of the Government. There are, therefore, certain matters upon which I respectfully ask for information. So far as I am concerned, they might as well be printed in Chinese, Spanish or in the Honolulu language: they mean nothing to me at all. What is meant by subsection (2) of Clause 16 of the Bill? Then let me pass to Clause 20 of the Bill, which deals with the relationship between the law of betting, of gaming and of lotteries. I wish some genius would explain that to me.
Finally, may I say a few words about a subject which is unknown to me—namely, what can you or can you not do in a public-house? I understand that under the Bill if I go into the bar of a public-house and play there a game of skill—for example, darts—I am within the law; and not only can I play a game of skill, but I can play it for "money or money's worth"—such, for example, as a glass of beer. But I must not, on the face of it, go into the bar of a 1149 public-house and play there a game of chance. If dominoes is held to be a game of chance, I must not play it in the bar of a public-house. But there is this subtle distinction. I may go into the bar of a public-house and play there any game, whether it is a game of skill or of chance, provided that I comply with Section 4 of the Small Lotteries and Gaming Act, 1956. I am going to suggest, in all seriousness, that Section 4 of the 1956 Act should be printed and pasted up in the bar of every public-house in the country, so that everybody will know whether or not he has a good defence if he is charged with unlawful gaming.
Section 4 provides, in effect, that not more than one payment can be made by each player; that no such payment must exceed 5s.; that the total value of the prizes must not exceed £20; and that the whole of the proceeds, after deducting expenses, must be applied for purposes other than private gain. It appears that if I and my friends comply with Section 4 of the 1956 Act, we can play any game we like in the bar of a public-house. There is one further subtlety. You and I can go into a public-house; we can go into a secret room behind the bar—a room to which the public generally have not access—and in that secret room we can play any game we like. My Lords, I think myself that these matters should be explained and made clear to the general public, because I am informed by people who know better that a considerable number of the public do, from time to time, go into the bars of public-houses.
My Lords, the last question I would ask is, when will the Bill come into operation? The Bill will, of course, be passed on one day, but when will the various parts, and possibly the clauses, come into operation? In conclusion, I think we ought to support the Government, and appreciate what they have done in introducing a Bill to deal with an extremely difficult subject. Last, but not least, we should support them because they have swept away such a lot of nonsense that exists at the present time.
§ 4.56 p.m.
§ LORD NORRIE
My Lords, unlike the noble Lord, Lord Meston, I have been both on a racecourse and in a public-house. There is such a great 1150 deal to be discussed on this Betting and Gaming Bill and its many ramifications that I intend, I hope with your Lordships' approval, to confine myself to the horse-racing and betting side, and to the recommendations of the Peppiatt Committee. From Christmas, 1944, until 1957 I had the good fortune to live in South Australia for 7½ years, and then for a further five years in New Zealand, and I gained a lot of experience in the racing and betting world of these two countries.
I should like, very briefly, to tell your Lordships something about racing conditions in New Zealand, where, apart from my official responsibilities, I was lucky enough to be a successful owner of racehorses and my racing expenses were more than covered by the generous stakes won—without any recourse to betting. I will not bore your Lordships with my successes and my failures on the New Zealand turf, but I must tell you, as it does have some bearing on the subject, that I won 18 races in 4½ years, and I was beaten by only a short head, or three inches, in the Wellington Cup. That was worth £12,000, so each inch cost me about £1,200. Your Lordships will be interested to know, if you do not know already, that bookmakers are illegal in New Zealand, and that all betting has to be done through the totalisator. That is a semi-Government controlled organisation known as the Totalisator Agency Board—or T.A.B. for short. There are T.A.B. shops throughout the Dominion, in all the cities and towns, where bets have to be placed two hours before the actual race, and 10s. is the minimum sum you are allowed to put on.
Racecourses in New Zealand are not publicly owned, but they belong to the clubs themselves. In other words, no dividends have to be paid, as there are no shareholders. All profits, after tax deductions, are ploughed back into improved amenities for the general public; beautifying the courses and looking after the interests of owners, trainers, jockeys, and the Press. Originally, the courses had to be bought and paid for, and this was done by a loan system, which loans have long since been repaid. Your Lordships may have read in the Press of several English racecourses, such as Hurst Park and another well-known and popular course in the London 1151 area, that may be in danger of being lost for building. Surely this is a symptom of the weakness of our system, under which shareholders are liable to be tempted by take-over bids from those who wish to use the racecourses for other purposes.
During my last year in New Zealand—that is, two and a half years ago—£44 million was handled by the Totalisator Agency Board, in a country which has a total population of only 2½ million people. Of this turnover of £44 million, £36 million was distributed as dividends to the betting public, the Government collected a little over £4 million for themselves in taxes and £3 million was paid back by the Totalisator Agency Board to race clubs to augment stakes, amenities and improvements. So your Lordships will see that race clubs largely depend on the grants received from the totalisator for their annual budgets and other expenses. I expect that your Lordships will also want to know what the Agency Board retained themselves to run the show. The answer is that they are allowed a levy of ½ of 1 per cent., which amounted to £230,000 in the year under review.
Racing is a national sport in New Zealand. Everybody takes a great interest not only in racing but also in the breeding of horses. In fact, they all have a lot of horse-sense. I never quite know what "horse-sense" means, but perhaps it may be interpreted that horses have the sense not to back humans. The average value of every race at a New Zealand meeting is £550—if your Lordships look in the papers here you will find what value an English race is—and at every meeting in New Zealand there is usually one race worth at least £1,000, and prizes are given not only for first, second and third but usually to the horse placed fourth.
The recent stories in the Press in England of the doping of racehorses has naturally aroused suspicions among the public here, so I recall that in New Zealand the winning horse of one race at every meeting is automatically tested for drugs. This examination is regarded as routine. Nobody knows which race has been selected before the meeting starts, and the result has been that doping, as such, has been stamped out. When my term of office was completed, I left New 1152 Zealand with a very high opinion of the way their racing was conducted, of their stands and amenities, their low entrance fees and high stakes. Owners, by their entry fees, contribute only some 3 per cent. towards the stakes, whereas in England to-day owners subscribe the highest percentage in the world which, I believe, is about 35 per cent. I can well remember one distinguished New Zealand owner making this remark to me during my first year, "The totalisator has been the real salvation of racing in New Zealand and you will soon see this for yourself." And I did. So much for New Zealand.
Now I must mention for one minute Canada, as some eighteen months ago I was invited to Toronto to help judge at the Winter Fair. I attended two race meetings at a place called Woodbine—nothing to do with cigarettes—some 12 miles outside the city. Bookmakers in Canada also are illegal, and racecourses, apart from the subscriptions they get from club members and entrance fees, largely depend on what they receive from the totalisator. I have seldom seen—in fact, never seen—better stands for members and the public, and the jockeys' changing rooms were something quite out of the ordinary, with sitting rooms, a small room for lunch or tea, a room for racing colours to be hung, a room with a "sweat box" and Turkish bath, a massage room with a masseur, a room in which film control of each race can be shown to the jockeys, wonderful wash and bathrooms and lastly a room with double-decker bunks where jockeys who have perhaps ridden in the first race and want a rest can lie down, if they wish to do so, until they have to ride again. It may be luxury but it certainly impressed me. However, as a result of what the race tracks in Canada get out of the totalisator pool—and the same applies exactly in America—the owners are running for only 1½ per cent. of their money, whereas in England, as I have said before, it is something between 35 and 40 per cent. So we at home must do something soon to get on a par with other countries. Some of my overseas friends marvel that ordinary owners at home can tolerate the financial conditions under which we race, and politely infer that we must all be "barmy".
1153 The Peppiatt Committee were not permitted, by their terms of reference, to consider the totalisator at all. The wording of their instructions was:To consider whether it is desirable and practicable that persons engaged in betting transactions on horse races otherwise than by means of the totalisator, should be required to make the contribution"—et cetera. In Great Britain, so far as we can judge, public opinion is definitely in favour of bookmakers. Punters feel that they know exactly what odds they are going to get and, after all, bookmakers have been part and parcel of the British racing panorama for years. We enjoy their noise, their tick-tacking and their friendliness. Also, it would be hardly in accordance with our feelings of fairness to abolish by Act of Parliament an industry on which many people depend for their livelihood.
Provided the bookmakers can, and agree to, pay a realistic share towards racing, their survival would appear assured, but if assistance to racing and breeding does not plan out as visualised, I personally feel that we must reconsider a policy of gradual totalisator monopoly, which has proved so beneficial and so successful to racing in New Zealand and also in other countries, such as America, Canada and France. If the recommendations of the Peppiatt Committee become law and later fail in their objects, the alternative seems as clear as daylight—to follow success where success has been proved.
At home, we have 45 racecourses, at which annually there are just under 400 days' racing, and I believe that there are approximately 4,800 horses in training in England, at an average cost of 10 to 11 guineas a week. I am quite aware that it is argued that owners keep racehorses for their own fun and pleasure. Nevertheless, they are the providers, at their own expense, of a sport which is greatly enjoyed by millions of people—and perhaps too often enjoyed by the bookmakers. That is why I am sure that we must do something about it, in the way of increasing stakes for the owners and amenities for the public. Actually—your Lordships would hardly credit this—there are some races in England, particularly in the winter, when entries and forfeits due from the owners contribute all the prize money.
1154 Since 1938, the costs of racing at home have gone up 200 per cent., while our stakes, which were never really very high, even in the old days, have increased only some 50 per cent. Trainers, in spite of these expensive weekly fees, do not make a satisfactory living. In fact, many trainers cannot afford to pay the stable boys and girls the wages they really deserve and should earn. I doubt whether your Lordships know that if an owner is lucky enough to win, say, £200 on a race, of which the owners have already subscribed one-third, he has to give 10 per cent. of his winnings to the trainer, 10 per cent. to the jockey and a slice to the stable boys; and after paying for the transportation of the horses to and from the race, there is very little left.
Great Britain has traditionally been the supplier of high-class thoroughbreds throughout the world, and it is a national industry of great importance. During the last ten years we have continually lost to America and other countries some of our best bred stallions who have won classic races, and also mares of the same calibre. What we really need is to find the golden mean of keeping sufficient top-grade sires at home to maintain our own very high standards and thereby maintain the foreign demand for our bloodstock. If we export our best breeds, bloodstock will become a diminishing asset and foreign buyers may eventually cease to purchase from us. At the moment the enormous prizes which can be won in the United States put American owners and breeders into a position of complete economic supremacy over their English equivalents, who can only hope to win, in the best possible year, a tiny fraction of the prize money available in America. This, I think, is driving out from the turf more and more the right type of owners in England and encouraging what I would describe as the wrong type, whose sole object is to gamble and bet.
I understand that the recommendations of the Peppiatt Committee are being considered in another place this very afternoon, but, speaking to your Lordships entirely as a private individual, as a small owner and breeder of racehorses, I welcome the general theme of Sir Leslie Peppiatt's Committee, their findings and the excellent presentation of their Report. The principle that some of the bookmakers' money should contribute to racing and breeding appears absolutely 1155 sound, and I am glad to think that the amount to be contributed can be reviewed annually. I feel strongly that the original estimate of some £3 million, which the Jockey Club so wisely recommended, may prove far more realistic than the sum of £1,250,000 advocated in the Report. At any rate, it is a start, and so long as we really get "off" and the recall flag is not signalled, the recommendations when legalised should prove of great help to the industry as a whole. I am not clear myself—and this is important—about the taxation angle. It would be disastrous if the money received in this way for racing and breeding were to be further reduced by taxation in the hands of the recipients, and I can hardly believe that this is the intention.
There are many other points in this Bill which could be and will be discussed, but I have purposely confined myself to this one subject. In conclusion, I would urge Her Majesty's Government to include the recommendations contained in the Peppiatt Report in the Bill which is before your Lordships' House. If, for one reason or another—and it may be through shortage of Parliamentary time—this proves to be impossible, then I would put in a strong plea that separate legislation should be brought in by Her Majesty's Government as early as possible, preferably in the next Session. For I am convinced that this is vital if the high prestige enjoyed by British blood-stock throughout the world is to be maintained.
§ 5.14 p.m.
§ LORD MANCROFT
My Lords, it is, I think, the first occasion upon which the noble Lord, Lord Norrie, has addressed your Lordships' House. I am certain your Lordships would wish me on your behalf to congratulate him warmly upon a most valuable and interesting contribution. The noble Lord comes before us as a great soldier, a great Proconsul and now a great expert in the sport we are discussing this afternoon. He lists in the books of reference among his clubs, not surprisingly, the Cavalry Club and the Turf Club. He has for three years been a Member of an even more satisfactory Club, namely, your Lordships' House, and I hope that he will not wait another three years before offering your Lordships the benefit 1156 of his advice. I intend in a minute or so to take up one or two of the points he has raised.
The noble Lord, Lord Silkin, in the course of his remarks, reminded your Lordships that some five or six years ago he initiated a debate on the subject of the Royal Commission, Sir Henry Willink's Report, and had reproved the Government for delay in taking some action upon it. He mentioned, I was sorry to hear, that I was the Minister in charge of the debate and gave some indication to your Lordships of the lines upon which I thought the Government might feel that legislation could be developed. The noble Lord, Lord Silkin, said just now that he assumed that the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft—who was the Under Secretary of State at the Home Office—had promised that legislation would be introduced very speedily. As the legislation was not introduced for nearly five years after I had made that speech, I was very anxious indeed to see whether I had used those words "very speedily". I am extremely happy and relieved to find that what I said was that legislation would "not be introduced tomorrow". I do not think that on that occasion I could have been accused of headstrong precipitation.
§ LORD MANCROFT
Therefore, I welcome this Bill, if only because it contains a great deal of what I suggested to your Lordships five years ago such a Bill should contain.
I also welcome the unexpectedly calm reception which has been accorded to the Bill throughout the country. At the time of our previous debate we were told that the Bill would be "dynamite"; that the Government would require immense courage. Well, this Government has immense courage. But the Bill, fortunately, has not proved "dynamite". There has been, in fact, the faint fizzle of anti-climax. This I welcome for an unusual reason. Since this potentially dangerous subject has proved so undynamic, it may encourage Her Majesty's Government to tackle the licensing laws, which we are also told are "dynamite", and get along with improving them.
This Bill cannot, and indeed should not, please everyone. Some people want 1157 the Bill to be tougher on the "bookies"—and the noble Lord, Lord Norrie, developed this theme and the pros and cons of it in detail and with information which will be of much use to us all. I agree with the noble Lord that the "bookie" has become part of the racecourse scenery, part of the English scene; and, from that point of view, it would be a pity to do away with him. I do not want to make any sweeping condemnations of a class of people. There are undoubtedly a large number of good "bookies"—men who are kind to their mothers and pay their hire purchase payments regularly—but any chief constable will tell you what a great deal of crime can be attributed, directly or indirectly, to the bookmakers. I, for my part, should not be sorry to see them go. Certainly I should be glad to see them contribute in some way or other to the revenue of the racing industry. But I should also like to see a little more rationalisation in the racing industry: a little more putting of the industry's own house in order. I know that certain steps have been taken, but I think that others could be taken, one of which would be the reduction of uneconomic racecourses.
Some people, as the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, said, would like to see municipal casinos; and I support the noble Lord warmly in that view. I am sorry that the Government have not seen their way to legalise the municipal casino. I think it would add greatly to the attraction of the scene, particularly in seaside resorts The Royal Pavilion at Brighton is surely man's gift to the casino-running world, if ever there was one; and, as I say, I am sorry that the Government have taken this strong line against it.
There are some (and this is one point I particularly want to make this afternoon) who, while welcoming the Bill strongly, would welcome fewer fussy and unenforceable restrictions. That is the only criticism I have to make of the Bill. There are, I feel, too many fussy restrictions, and too many restrictions which I am sure will prove unenforceable. Nothing kills a Bill more quickly than ridicule. The reason why the law of gaming and betting has fallen into disrepute is because it has become ridiculous. We must not repeat that mistake. I only have to recall to your 1158 Lordships the ill-fate of the Shops Bill—an otherwise excellent measure—which was killed by ridicule. It was killed by the discovery by your Lordships of Clause 17, which took 34 lines to establish the principle that only a practising Jew could operate as a barber in Scotland on a Sunday.
§ LORD MANCROFT
That is the sort of thing that I am afraid will occur in this Bill: we shall find two or three silly provisions, and people will begin to lose faith in the principle of the Bill. There will certainly be much more legislation—amateur, well-meaning legislation—put into this Bill. I therefore hope that the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack will consider giving a slightly longer time between the Report stage and Third Reading; to sit back quietly with the experts and look at the Bill as a whole and see whether, as a whole, it is acceptable and will be regarded as a Bill of repute to be honoured in every conceivable way by the public and respected by the police who have to enforce it.
On the Second Reading of a Bill like this it is not correct to give a large number of details of where trouble may possibly be foreseen. But I should like the noble Earl, Lord Bathurst, who is to reply, to consider in due course whether one or two of these may not land us in trouble. I believe that the provisions in the Bill about private casinos will get us into trouble quickly. I believe that the ingenious gentlemen who run these private houses will drive a coach-and-four through these provisions in next to no time. I am a little uneasy about the provision for the bookmaker who runs into trouble and welshes a month after he has been granted his licence. He can go on operating as a bookmaker for the eleven months that his licence still runs.
I believe that there will be trouble about the provisions for non-registration of bookies' runners. Here I am well advised, because I had the good fortune for two years to have as a batman a man who was generally regarded as the most skilful bookies' runner ever to be thrown out of Sandown Park.
I endorse the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Meston, about games of skill 1159 and chance. In my view, these provisions are going to look awfully silly if they are analysed by anybody who wants them to look silly. It is comforting to know that an infant under the age of eighteen can play dominoes for money, provided that he gets his grandmother's permission in triplicate. All this needs careful consideration. Bridge, as I play it, is purely a game of chance. Billiards, as played by the late and much-lamented Mr. W. C. Fields, was not only not a game of skill, but was positively an act of war. I would beg the Government to look at these provisions again, to see whether they have not allowed themselves, with the best will in the world, trying to do what is right, to produce a slight confusion which will end in ridicule.
Our trouble is that we legislate too often with the intention of catching the crook and not often enough with the intention of helping the honest man. We try to tie up every possible loophole, and we make a cat's-cradle of nonsense as a result. I fear that there are too many fussy restrictions in this Bill. It is perfectly right that we should not encourage gambling unnecessarily. But face the facts—people will gamble. The noble and learned Viscount, the Lord Chancellor, took us back to 1600 B.C., but going even further back than that, I am certain that the original caveman must have gambled with his friends upon the speed of flies crawling up the side of the cave. The milkman will take bets, and it is far better to accept these facts and to try to legislate for them, rather than to shut our eyes and surround these facts with pious hopes.
I particularly emphasise that point, bearing in mind the difficulties of the police who will have to enforce this Bill when it becomes an Act. It is from their point of view that I hope we shall make it as foolproof as we can. Originally, there was one law for the rich and another law for the poor. That was not necessarily a bad thing, because in the old days there was no great harm in a rich man throwing his money down the drain, but there was great harm in a poor man squandering his substance and throwing his wife and children on the rates. Times have changed, and I suspect that we are building one law for the rich and one law for the very rich. But 1160 that does not matter. What does matter is that this Bill must work. It has been an inordinate time in gestation. That will be all to the good if we can spend more time on it and make certain that it is wholly enforceable and will not be killed by ridicule. There is too much fussy and unenforceable detail in the Bill, and I hope that we shall take the opportunity, while it is still before the House, of de-fussing it as much as we possibly can.
§ 5.25 p.m.
§ LORD STONHAM
My Lords, I should like from this side of your Lordships' House to add to the congratulations which the noble Lord, Lord Norrie, has rightly received on his most entertaining and racy maiden speech. I was aware that he spoke with great experience, but it seemed to me that his speech was largely an argument for the rationalisation, if not the nationalisation, of racing. I was also aware, of course, that New Zealand was a sort of island demi-Paradise; now I know that it is a paradise for racehorse owners. It seemed to me, however, that it was not extremely helpful with regard to our present dilemma regarding bookmakers here, although I share with him the hope that the Government's decisions on the Peppiatt Committee recommendations will produce a large sum of money, as I think it can, for the benefit of racing in general.
I should like to add also to the congratulations which were heaped on the Government by my noble friend Lord Silkin, for what I think we should regard as their courage in introducing this Bill, even though it has taken nine years since the Report of the Royal Commission was published. I shall confine my remarks, as I think most noble Lords who have spoken in the debate have done, to Part I of the Bill, dealing with betting.
It is perfectly obvious, as was stated in another place by the Joint Under-Secretary of State, that the object of this Bill is not to encourage an increase in gambling but to revise laws which have fallen into disrepute, which are not understood by the public, and which consume a great deal of police manpower in attempting to enforce them. I think it quite right that we should 1161 attempt to abolish what is an indefensible injustice and to make these necessary changes without increasing the volume of betting. In my view, although both these objectives have the overwhelming support of people in this country, including the Churches' Committee on Gambling which was set up some time ago, both those objectives will fail completely if the Bill reaches the Statute Book in its present form, and if we go on with what I regard as the completely absurd and indefensible decision not to license street bookmakers. The right honourable gentleman, the Home Secretary, has, of course, taken an honest decision in this matter on the basis of the facts and information available to him. But this was one occasion when, in my view, Hoxton and not Oxford would have provided the soundest guide to a correct decision.
We know that for more than a century street bookmakers have flourished in this country with the approval of the public and the consent of the police, despite the laws. They survived in Victorian days, when it was not an offence to bet in the street but merely an offence to cause obstruction. They have survived since 1906, when the penalties were increased and when, for the first time, it became an offence to loiter for the purpose of betting. I cannot see any possible justification for the failure after all these years to do the simple, honest, straightforward thing and license street bookmakers, and thus legalise a system which has had public approval for over a century, and, moreover, end the corruption which has been attendant on the existing hypocritical system.
I can assure the noble and learned Viscount that in at least some parts of the country, and in parts of London, it is much more prevalent than he appears to believe. If I took the noble and learned Viscount's words down correctly, he said that the main argument for licensing street bookmakers is that it would legalise the status quo. He said that against this it cannot be done, because the behaviour of bookmakers would no longer be unobtrusive if their business was legal. There is no evidence whatever to support that contention. As I say, and as I hope to indicate, there is no ground for assuming that that contention is correct. In my view the present proposals aggravate the injustice 1162 which has existed for so many years. And because the public will not approve them, street betting will continue, but with the old evils made infinitely worse.
I am certainly not alone in thinking this. It was significant that on the Third Reading of the Bill in another place 43 Members on the Opposition side of the House—where there was a flee vote; there was not on the Government side—voted against the Third Reading. Obviously on such a measure there will always be those who, on moral or religious grounds or prejudice throughout their lives, will vote against the Third Reading. But on this occasion the list included Members who for many years have fought for the alteration of the betting laws and who are people of great experience. My right honourable friend, a former Home Secretary, Mr. Chuter Ede, voted against the Third Reading. So did Sir Frank Soskice, a former Solicitor General; so did other honourable Members who have had very considerable experience in this subject, Mr. Paget, and Mr. Mellish, who represents a fairly poor part of London exactly similar to the one of which, as your Lordships are aware, I have quite considerable experience.
Like Mr. Mellish, I have watched this present iniquity for years and longed to end it. I have watched street bookmakers and know how they work. Apparently the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, if I may say so with respect, has not watched them and does not know what kind of people they are, or he would not have committed himself to such a sweeping statement as saying that, in the opinion of police officers, a great deal of crime is attributable to bookmakers. I cannot pretend to know as many policemen as the noble Lord, but I do know quite a number, from humble constables up to heads of the police force; and never at any time have they made any such suggestion as that.
I would go further. So far as the street bookmaker is concerned he has to, as it were, live among his clients in the particular locality; he sees them every day, and if he was not honest in his bookmaking dealings he would not last a week. It may well be that the noble Lord had in mind that if people lose a lot of money they may then resort to crime. But if people lose a lot of money on the Stock 1163 Exchange you do not blame the stockbrokers if their clients then resort to crime; you do not say that they are responsible for a great deal of crime.
On that point, the noble and learned Viscount said that another objection is that the street is not a proper place in which to bet; that it would encourage betting with young people. So far as encouraging betting with young people is concerned, if the bookmaker knows that by law he should not do it, and he can see the young person, he will have a chance of not betting with him. But under the Bill as it stands, bets can come from factories, hotels and offices. The bookmaker will not have the faintest chance of knowing whether the person placing a bet is a young person or not. As for the street not being the proper place, think of the immense number of Stock Exchange transactions which take place in the street after the House is closed. They are almost all transactions which one can only call betting transactions. Is it suggested that that is an entirely unsuitable place? Are we now going to have a Bill to prohibit betting in the street on the Stock Exchange? This provision has been made quite honestly and after very careful thought by people who really do not understand what it means. The street bookmaker is a local character, perhaps a compulsory contributor to local charities and all good causes. He has to be honest with his people or he will not last.
There are all sorts of gradations of them. There is at the bottom the small man, with one pitch and one assistant, a sort of looker-out: the man who does all the work himself, puts his betting slips in his pocket, goes home to reckon it out and comes back in the evening to pay out to his clients. His pitch is completely unobtrusive—it may be a yard or an alley or an arch or a doorway. I very much doubt whether any of your Lordships—or more than a few of your Lordships—has ever even seen a street bookmaker. I equally doubt whether, if you walked by him, or I took you walking by him, you would know that he was a street bookmaker or what he was doing; he is as unobtrusive as that. As for the undignified spectacle conjured up by the noble Lord, Lord Meston, of a police constable chasing a man in shirt-sleeves, quite obviously if we licensed street 1164 bookmakers there would no longer be any necessity to run away from the police. But I can assure your Lordships that even in present circumstances it is quite unnecessary, because the arrest is made at the convenience of the police and the street bookmaker.
From the small man we come to the bigger man, who perhaps has a dozen of these pitches, on each of which there is a man who is his agent, his manager, as it were, who works for a salary, with perhaps a commission on turnover. All these pitches, whether they are singly owned by a single bookmaker who takes his own risks, or a bigger man who employs people on them, have their regular local customers; and there are part-time sub-agents in factories, offices, shops, hospitals, hotels and public-houses, who are usually paid a commission from 5 to 7½ per cent. on the total turnover. When we now learn, as it were for the first time, that the milkman and roundsman and people of that sort, and newspaper people, will be able to take bets in future, all I say is, what nonsense! They are doing it now. They were doing it this afternoon and this morning. There is nothing new in that and nothing in this Bill that will change it, except that it will be very much easier for them and they will have a sort of local status.
It would have been the simplest and easiest thing in the world to issue a permit to every person who, whether as an agent or principal, conducted a street-betting pitch. And whether he had ten pitches or one, for every pitch a permit would be issued for the man conducting it; and he would pay, I should have thought, an annual fee—not a single fee but an annual fee—of £500. That, I would assure you, would bring in very much more revenue than the complicated proposals now in the Bill, and at the same time it would cost each of these people very much less than they are paying now in protection money plus the various forms of tribute which are exacted for the privilege of conducting an illegal business.
I have tried to think of the valid objections to the licensing of street betting and I can find none. I have dealt with those which the noble and learned Viscount put forward. It cannot be an objection to street betting as such because, as has already been said, this Bill will 1165 enormously increase it. It will now be legal for any roundsman to collect bets; anyone selling milk, groceries, bread, vacuum cleaners—or, indeed, selling nothing at all—will be able, if authorised by a licensed bookmaker, to take bets and cash at the garden gate or at the street door. That is in the street. After all, the lady does not invite the milkman into the house but hands the bets out at the street door or at the garden gate. In the Daily Herald this morning there was a cartoon which showed the vicar at the door taking in the milk with an expression of horror on his face, and a very cheerful milkman congratulating him on the fact that his good lady had given the "bookies" a "caning" last week. We can imagine the kind of situation that will arise. But it is in the street. And the same people, of course, will pay out the winnings, and there will be more street betting than ever.
Then again, the Government's decision cannot have been prompted by the fear that licensing would have brought fresh cahoots of street bookmakers, because it is a local business and each area can carry only a limited number. On the other hand, if they were charged the £10 a week per pitch that I suggested, that would have kept the numbers down far more effectively than any Statute. There is no sound reason at all for this decision. The only reason that I can see is the same that we had under the Street Offences Act—namely, that the Government have adopted this structure out of their desire to sweep this business under the carpet and pretend that it does not exist. It just will not work. What will happen is that bookmakers will look round for an empty shop or house; or they will try to rent rooms in a house, which must, of course, be close to their present pitch. It has to be there, otherwise they will lose their connection. If they succeed, the betting office becomes the pitch, and that will be an improvement.
But, my Lords, what of the point raised by my noble friend Lord Silkin? He said that they will have to obtain planning permission, and that some local authorities may be "snooty" while others may be more understanding and generous. But in any case there will be a great deal of disparity in the treatment and action in this matter as between local authorities. The bookmakers have not 1166 merely to find a place, but they have to satisfy the appropriate authority, as it is called, that its character, lay-out, condition and location are suitable, and that there are not already too many offices in the area. No guidance whatever is given to the "appropriate authorities" in this matter. They have no past experience to work on.
There are street bookmakers in all parts of London, but they are much thicker on the ground in some parts than in others. Are the appropriate authorities to take this into account in granting betting office licences? Will they also be aware that in the areas with most bookmakers available premises are likely to be less palatial? I am thinking of areas of which I am aware (my honourable friend Mr. Mellish, whom I mentioned, is also aware of similar areas) where there are many street bookmakers—I cannot say, in every street, but getting on towards that way—who will want to take an office or room somewhere near where they are. If they have to be subjected to all this rigmarole and paraphernalia, what will happen? If the authorities turn down licence applications from bona fide bookmakers already in business, these people will carry on in the only way open to them—in the street; and the public will support them because they will feel that they have had a raw deal. So we shall be back where we are now, but with increased possiblity of corruption, because of the very heavy fines and the possibility of imprisonment. The police do not enforce the present law, and they will not enforce the new one if it goes forth in its present form. That is a dismal prospect, because it will defeat one of the main purposes of the Bill. And it is all so unnecessary.
I am also afraid that the Bill will greatly increase the volume of betting. There is the obvious danger that, with a roundsman calling every day, women, who perhaps only have an occasional "flutter" on a big race, will get into the daily betting habit and make disastrous inroads into the housekeeping money, or even into the weekly rent. Large betting offices may also become a menace. At present the ordinary worker places his bet during the morning, or at lunch time, with the factory runner. It goes round to the bookmaker and that is the end of it for the day, until he gets the result in his paper on his way home. It would be 1167 much the same if the appropriate authorities agreed to license small offices, which are virtually replacements of street pitches; they would have little room for lingering guests. If, however, because of insistence on the suitability of layout and condition, they favour only the more palatial establishments, we shall have a real problem on our hands. There are already illegal betting shops of this kind. They are the prototypes for the legal ones of the future. I have been in them and I have seen what happens in them. The young man who has placed his bet waits for the result, and such is the infection and atmosphere of the place, that with the odds coming through, the runners and results coming up, win or lose he bets again. He may stay all the afternoon and, at the end, find that he has not only lost his own money but somebody else's money as well. That is why I am certain that the Government's decision in favour of betting shops and against street bookmakers will bring about the very thing we wish to avoid—a great increase in betting.
I know that there are valuable safeguards to protect young people under eighteen, and these should be effective so far as their attendance at betting shops is concerned. But it is impossible to expect a bookmaker to be held responsible when he receives a bet from a young person through a roundsman or agent. Certainly that is one thing in Clause 7 that we shall have to try to clarify and alter in Committee. I hope that it is still not too late to persuade the Government away from their major error. They agree to cash betting, and it is surely common sense to legalise the form of cash betting to which people are accustomed. In my view, if this Bill goes from us unamended we shall place it on the Statute Book in the knowledge that the old injustice continues, that corruption will be more acute when it could have been abolished; and, for all our pains, our last state will be worse than our first.
For 30 years I have favoured betting reform, but this Bill is betting chaos. I support my noble friend Lord Silkin in suggesting that it should operate only for a certain time. I think that five years without review would be far too long. I believe the consequences would 1168 be such that we should be compelled to review it within two years, and I should like to see that provision in the Bill. We in your Lordships' House do not often vote against a Second Reading, but certainly were it not for that I should feel obliged to go into the Lobby against this Bill.
§ 5.47 p.m.
THE DUKE OF DEVONSHIRE
My Lords, I, too, should like to offer my congratulations to the noble Lord, Lord Norrie, on his maiden speech, and as a fellow modest, humble supporter of the Turf of this country, to say how glad I was to hear his extremely lucid explanation of the need for an injection of fresh capital into British racing. I hope I may be forgiven if I talk at rather greater length than is customary on the Second Reading of a Bill on one matter arising from the Bill, because it is wholly omitted from the Bill and I think it is a most serious omission. I am particularly concerned with the First Schedule of the Bill now before this House. This covers the procedure for the granting and renewing of bookmakers' permits. It sets out what appears to be a fair procedure, subject to one short-coming to which I will allude in a few moments. However, it wholly omits any reference to the existing machinery for dealing with those, whether they be punters or bookmakers, who do not pay the money they owe for bets on horse-racing.
At the moment, betting disputes are dealt with by a body called Tattersall's Committee, of which I have the privilege of being a member. Since bets on horse-racing are to continue to be irrecoverable at law, I presume that this Committee will continue to hear betting disputes. So long as the parties to a dispute are willing to obey the Committee's findings there should be no clash with those whose job it is going to be to grant and renew bookmakers' permits. However, should a party to a dispute, particularly when he is a bookmaker, refuse to carry out the Committee's ruling, then I fear that trouble may arise.
To understand what may happen it is perhaps necessary to explain briefly the way in which Tattersall's works. It is a body appointed by the Jockey Club and consists of about fourteen members. It meets, roughly speaking, every fortnight. 1169 The chairman must be a member of the Jockey Club, and the remainder represent different aspects of racing, being bookmakers, owners and others with a sufficient general knowledge of racing and betting matters to be able to understand and settle betting disputes. I think it is fair to say that they mete out rough and ready justice, in that there are no proper rules for the giving of evidence and evidence may not be taken on oath, nor may the parties be represented by solicitors or counsel; and there is no appeal from the findings of the Committee. Above all—and I believe that this is important—it is not a statutory body. The case comes before the Committee and, having heard the evidence (and disputes are usually between a bookmaker and a punter although very often they are between two bookmakers) the Committee, on a majority vote, decide whether or not the plaintiff is entitled to his claim. If he is, they order the defendant to pay up within a given time, usually seven days. Should the defendant not do so he is reported to the Stewards of the Jockey Club and in due course he is informed that as a result of his non-payment he has been warned off the Turf.
Being "warned off" means that he is not allowed to attend any racecourse over which the Jockey Club or the National Hunt Committee have control. However, and I think this is very important, the names of those who are warned off are at present not allowed to be published. I would ask my noble friend who is to reply on behalf of the Government whether, in future, the list of those bookmakers who are warned-off the Turf would be made available to the appropriate authorities when those authorities are considering applications for bookmakers' permits.
It will be appreciated that the only power Tattersall's have, other than the actual settling of disputes, is to report defaulters to the Jockey Club, which in the normal course of events leads to their being warned off; but warning off is of little or no importance to the bookmaker of punter who bets away from the racecourse. Neither the Jockey Club nor anyone else has the power to stop defaulters, whether they be bookmaker or punter, from continuing to bet off the course. It is true that under this Bill all 1170 applicants for permits will have to advertise in the local newspaper that they are applying for such a permit; and should a punter see an application for a permit from a bookmaker who has not paid him after having been ordered to do so by Tattersall's and has been warned, that punter may very well lodge an objection with the appropriate authority. But it cannot be certain that he will see that advertisement; and if he does see it he may not choose to lodge a complaint. It seems highly desirable for this Bill to contain some provision by which the appropriate authorities have access to the list of those bookmakers who are warned off.
I do not suggest for a moment that with Tattersall's Committee as at present constituted an application for a permit by a bookmaker who has been warned off by the Committee should be automatically turned down. The facilities at inquiries into the granting of permits are to be far greater than those at a hearing before Tattersall's. At an inquiry the parties can be represented by counsel and evidence can be heard on oath; and it may well be that, after hearing the evidence, the appropriate authority, on occasion, will decide to disregard the warning-off order. However, I repeat that I feel very strongly that it should be possible for the appropriate authorities to know whether or not an applicant is a defaulter and has been warned-off the Turf.
I have mentioned that I thought that there was one shortcoming in the Bill. It is this: I am concerned that as this First Schedule of the Bill stands once an application for a permit has been granted, no matter how badly a bookmaker conducts his business with regard to meeting his financial obligations to his clients, at least one year must elapse before he can be deprived of his permit. Here, again, I think, Tattersall's, through the Jockey Club, could be of assistance to the appropriate authorities by being allowed to inform them of any bookmaker in their area who has been warned off. This would not be difficult to arrange; all that would be necessary would be for bookmakers coming before Tattersall's to give the name of the authority who granted or renewed their permit.
It is, perhaps, worth remarking that although, as I have said, the facilities 1171 of the appropriate authority when deciding whether to grant betting permits would be far greater than those of Tattersall's, it would be necessary for those authorities to understand fully the rules of betting; because it is easy to see that the question of whether or not to grant a permit will revolve round betting disputes. Let us say that an objection is made by a client to the renewal of a bookmaker's permit on the grounds that the bookmaker has not paid him, to which the bookmaker replies that in his view that particular client was not entitled to be paid. There will then follow a purely technical argument as to whether or not according to the rules of betting the client or the bookmaker is in the right.
A possible solution to all this would be to strengthen the composition of Tattersall's by the addition of those qualified in the legal profession, to allow the parties in a dispute to be represented by counsel and permit evidence to be heard on oath, and to turn that body, thus strengthened, into a statutory body. Once it became a statutory body it would appear to be fair that any bookmaker warned off on the recommendation of this new Committee would not be allowed a permit and, should he possess one, that he should lose it immediately he became warned off. This may well be no practical solution, but it is very unsatisfactory that unless some alteration is made to the Bill a vital piece of evidence—that of whether or not a bookmaker is warned off—seems likely to be denied to the appropriate authority. There is one other matter to which I will allude very briefly—
§ LORD SILKIN
My Lords, before the noble Duke leaves that point, may I say that he will, of course, have seen paragraph 17 of the First Schedule to the Bill which sets out the grounds on which a licence can be refused. One of them is that:They are not satisfied that the applicant is, or satisfactory evidence is produced that the applicant is not, a fit and proper person to be the holder of a bookmaker's permit;Would not that exactly meet the case? I am sure that no authority would regard a bookmaker who does not honour his bets as a fit and proper person—provided they know that he has not met his bets.
THE DUKE OF DEVONSHIRE
My Lords, I am glad that the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, has raised that point, because, as I understand it, at the moment it is all a question of whether or not ordinary people are allowed to say that somebody has been warned off. So far as I know, if one says that, as the law stands at present one can be sued for libel; and I do not think that I myself or any member of the Committee would be prepared to turn up before the appropriate authority and say that a Mr. Smith has been warned off and thereby risk prosecution for libel from Mr. Smith. It may be that I am not correct in that, and I shall be glad if the noble Earl who is to wind up could throw some light on the matter.
The other fact I want to mention is that under the Bill cash betting by post will become legal in Britain. In my view and in the view of a majority (though not all) of my colleagues on Tattersall's Committee, this legalisation of postal betting is a great mistake. Betting by post has one unique and highly undesirable feature: it is the only kind of bet a bookmaker takes on on which his liability is unknown; for he cannot know what he stands to lose, since he does not receive the bet until the day following the race on which the bet has been struck. I know it is true that the bulk of cash betting by post is in small amounts of a shilling or two; but we must not forget that a half-crown double, treble or accumulator can amount to very large sums indeed. I have in mind the recent case of a gentleman who brought his case to Tattersall's. He had a half-crown eight-horse accumulator and stood to win £240,000.
Since the bookmaker does not know that the bet has been placed, as the letter containing it has not arrived, he has no opportunity of hedging that bet. It is true that some bookmakers reduce their liability by imposing limits to the odds for doubles and so on, but by no means all do so. I regard betting by post as an open invitation to unscrupulous punters and bookmakers alike to fraud. The punter, by one means or another, can get a time stamped on the letter carrying the bet which is earlier than the letter was actually posted. We have a very large number of cases before Tattersall's of this kind, and if your Lordships read the 1173 papers carefully you will see that frequently there are prosecutions by the Post Office for jiggery-pokery over time stamps. It is easier for the bookmaker to resort to fraudulent practices, because he has just to deny receiving any letter that it suits his book better not to have received. It might be that this could be got round by insisting that letter bets should go in registered envelopes. But this will not work, because bookmakers will not take bets by registered letters, as they have no time stamp. So there is no answer to this problem. I have talked long enough on these two points and I should like to give notice that I may raise them again, if necessary, on the Committee stage.
My Lords, may I be helpful—I should like to be helpful—by saying that paragraph 5 of the First Schedule has been amended so that the applicants must give references as may be prescribed? In view of the very important point raised by the noble Duke, the Duke of Devonshire, there might be two questions on those references: namely, "Have you ever appeared before Tattersall's Committee and been warned off?", or "Have you ever appeared before Tattersall's Committee at all?"
§ 6.3 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
My Lords, I should like to join all noble Lords who have congratulated the noble Lord, Lord Norrie, on his maiden speech to-day. We know so much about his public work, apart from his military-service record, that we wish we may be able to hear him many more times in the future. The debate we are having this afternoon is, I think, one of fundamental importance. I have listened to practically all the speeches, with the exception of that of the noble Lord, Lord Meston—I had to leave the Chamber then—and I must say that I have not been persuaded, really, by any of the speeches to change the point of view I intended before the debate started to put forward.
I listened to the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, as I have always done, with a good deal of what I call current pleasure, because he speaks so well and has 1174 such a delightful wit and humour that perhaps sometimes we are likely to overlook what are the actual faults in the presentation of the case that he makes. But I must say that when he makes a speech and suggests that the real danger to a Bill like this is that it would be killed by ridicule, and when he cites the unfortunate experience of the recent Shops Bill, after it left this House, saying that it was killed by ridicule, then I am amazed at his audacity; because the Shops Bill had passed through this House after having been most carefully examined and thoroughly debated, and then it was dropped, not by ridicule but by the moral cowardice of the Government.
§ VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
What had been likely to be a great social reform, long overdue, was never carried through. Is it not the case, as a matter of fact, that almost all great social measures based upon moral principles have always had the argument raised against them in Parliament and elsewhere that they are likely to bring the law which is to be passed into ridicule? It is as old as the hills. Anybody who has studied the progress of social legislation in this country knows that that is a long-standing and common argument, and if we had listened to those arguments in the past in this country we should have been far nearer to barbarity in society than we are at present.
This afternoon I feel, as my noble friend Lord Silkin said when he spoke immediately after the noble and learned Viscount the Lord Chancellor, that there is much to be said for the Bill as it stands. It certainly increases some restrictions upon wrong practices and tries to prevent certain dangers in this gambling world with which it seeks to deal. That is true; although I am bound to say, from the scanty knowledge I have of the recommendations of the Royal Commission (I have not studied them very closely as my noble friend has) that I should think that this Bill is not going as far as the Royal Commission recommended in trying to deal with dangers in the situation. Anybody who has been brought up, as I myself have, in the purely working class, in the small, terraced house in the long street, with almost back-to-back houses in some 1175 cases—not in all—knows how gambling went on in my youth and how often at the end of the week, When the money did not come home from the wage-earner in that kind of district because it had gone, perhaps either to the public house or to the bookmaker, the only resort of the housewife was to the pawnbroker. And so they were held in continuous social depression and human hopelessness, month after month, year after year; and anything that could be done to relieve any of those social evils by Parliament surely had to be done.
I can remember the indignation of the Free Churches in this country, for example, when the Licensing Bill of 1907 (I think it was) was thrown out of this House of Lords—one of the black marks, I think, against the older decisions of this House. I feel myself that, while some good is likely to arise from the restrictions which are included in this measure, they certainly do not go far enough and do not meet the real feeling in the church life in this country. The noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, said that the Bill had been given—I think I have his words aright—an apparently calm reception in the country. I hope I am not misinterpreting him. He probably does not read, say, the British Weekly or the Baptist Times or the Methodist Recorder or the English Churchman, or any of the other papers which are all open to him, to understand what the churches in the country are feeling. Certainly they, I think, with myself, will welcome some of the points in this Bill. But they certainly are not satisfied with the Bill.
I would state at the beginning one of the points made by my noble friend Lord Stonham which I think is a view held by all the churches in the country, and that is, regarding the reforms made in this Bill: that because of the failure to deal basically with the position of the street bookmaker, this Bill, when it becomes an Act, is likely to lead to an extension, and not to a reduction, of betting. And when we think of the legal sanction which is going to be given through the betting shop and which is carried on from there to the agents of the owners or directors of the betting shop and the like, then it is obvious that if those agents can spread from the milkman to the dustman and all such people, the insurance collector and almost anybody 1176 else, and they can be legalised collectors of bets for the betting shop, the opportunities for development of the betting business are going to be magnified tremendously.
Of course, there will always be difficulties in a life of this sort of gambling, of the kind of gambling which is aimed entirely, not at just the daily pleasure that some perhaps very wealthy people can have, but at "getting rich quick" if possible. It is always likely to lead to grave moral breaches in society. I was tremendously interested in the speech of the noble Duke, the Duke of Devonshire, with his intimate knowledge of the really innner circle of high-class racing control like Tattersall's.
I was thinking myself, as an ordinary working-class representative, how strange it is; how indignant the Press can become about the judgment of a trade union as to steps taken to deal with what they regard as something which is immoral behaviour. The whole Press of the country attacks them. Yet when it comes to the upper and more gentlemanly platforms of racing, racing control and gambling on the races, then nothing is said about an institution where evidence can be heard, where all the operations are carried out as if it were an actual court, and where there is an absolute banishment. They talk about a trade union sending a man to Coventry. That is regarded as an extraordinary thing; but in Tattersall's there seems to be practically no appeal.
THE DUKE OF DEVONSHIRE
My Lords, I should like to say to the noble Viscount that I was not suggesting that the machinery of Tattersall's is admirable in any way. I was merely pointing out that it is the only existing machinery for the settlement of betting disputes; and the reason for its very informal character is because money lost in betting disputes is not recoverable at law.
§ VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
I am not attacking the noble Duke in any way. I was so delighted to get this illustration of what goes on. From the point of view of keeping order in those regions of sport, I think that probably the institution is an excellent one. All I was doing was comparing it with the kind of Press comment one gets upon any working-class organisation which also seeks to bring 1177 some order of control into its proceedings.
§ VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
Surely; but they do not deal with people in that way. The noble Lord has not been a member of a co-operative society for very long.
May I come back to the actual case that I want to put? I would say to the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, that the Churches have a really good case. They are not being unhelpful. I do not think the members of the Government who are in charge of the Bill would say that the attitude of the Churches has been unhelpful in trying to bring about a proper reform. But the Bill falls short of what it ought to do. I have read with very great interest the memorandum submitted to the Home Office by the Council of Churches' representative, who put the case up to the Home Office; and, as a Baptist myself, I have looked very carefully at the decisions which were arrived at in the Council of the Baptist Union as to how this matter should be dealt with. I think that, for the benefit of the noble Earl who is representing the Home Office to-day, and of the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack, if I put the points seriatim and leave it there until we come to the Committee stage, it will serve the purpose of the day, and perhaps might indicate the range within which we should like—at least, I should like—to move Amendments. With my noble friend Lord Silkin, I must say that I am not speaking on a Party mandate: I am speaking for myself, and for my own Church's view upon this matter. We shall consider, when we have had this debate and the Government's answer, how far we should go.
The first point I would make is that there should be a prohibition against the advertising of betting offices in any way; and, in particular, against advertising those offices in the Press, in the cinema or on television or radio, either in this country or abroad. That is the first point that I want to make, and I hope to have the opportunity of pressing that in the later stages of the Bill. Secondly, there should be a prohibition against the exhibition of notices of any kind in a betting office which would be visible from the street, except for a 1178 reasonable notice stating the nature of the office's business and the name of the licensee. That, of course, would have to be permitted once the principle of the betting office is adopted. Thirdly, the clause prohibiting solicitation by the agents of the betting offices should apply universally; and, in particular, house-to-house solicitation of bets should be prohibited under the same penalties as street betting generally. I think we must pay attention to that.
Then, there should be some definite restriction in the Act itself, if the Bill becomes law, on the number of betting offices in relation to the population. It should be an express ground for refusing an application for a betting office licence that the applicant has failed to prove that there is a sufficient local demand. This kind of thing is surely as necessary to prove in the issue of betting shop licences as in the case of licences in the liquor trade. Then I would say that it should be an express ground for refusing an application that a betting office would not be in keeping with the character or amenities of the neighbourhood. I should hope that that would meet with some support from all parts of the House. I should think that there are some places which have become recognised as residential localities, and that they will not want to have betting shops put into that sort of area. I think there is something in that point.
There should be a provision requiring bookmakers and licensees to publish accounts—and, after listening to the speech of the noble Duke with regard to what may arise in connection with these bookmakers, which he dealt with very thoroughly, I should think I might have his support for an Amendment to the Bill which would provide that bookmakers and licensees should publish accounts. Perhaps he will think it over. Apart from that, I think that licences, other than those granted to the Racecourse Betting Control Board, should be granted to individuals only, and should not be transferable; and not more than one licence should be held by any one individual at any one time. My last point is that no person under the age of twenty-one should be employed in a betting office. In this regard, I think that the age of eighteen, which is visualised in the Bill, is too young, having regard to the kind of temptations that come before 1179 them. So I hope very much that, whilst it is quite certain the House would not think of voting against a Second Reading of the Bill (as we so rarely do up here), there is nevertheless a great deal for the Government to give attention to on this side of the Bill.
I would add only, in regard to the gaming section of the Bill, that we ought certainly to have an arrangement under which a club should be defined as an organisation the major part of whose income is not derived from sums of money paid by persons in order to take part in gambling—that is to say, that the main purpose of the club should not be that of gambling; that it may be recognised as a sort of legitimate club because the members pay a subscription. I think that that point will require a good deal of consideration. The Bill should also provide for the exclusion of persons under eighteen from amusement arcades which contain gaming machines. That last point I am not quite so sure about, because I have been thinking over the kind of explanation which the noble and learned Viscount made this afternoon, about how far the law is likely to go as regards machines. I do not feel quite so happy about enforcing further restriction in this case, but I will certainly study what the noble and learned Viscount has said.
§ LORD AMWELL
My Lords, may I ask my noble friend whether he would include in the list he has given the consideration of the question of capital and of what could be done with regard to having sufficient reserve before anyone can get a licence, just as in the case of a bank?
§ VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
My Lords, I would say honestly that I have not enough knowledge about the betting business to know exactly how much capital is required for a normal betting business. I think that the first step is to see, as we have mentioned in our submission, that those who get a licence should be made to keep accounts and, if required, publish them. And perhaps we could come by stages to the question of capital reserve.
I was about to say that I was very interested in the point my noble friend Lord Silkin made in regard to whether applications for licence would include 1180 applications not only by individuals but also by limited companies capable of operating a large number of betting shops throughout the country or throughout a district. I think that that would be a very grave development. In such a case, the question of capital, which my noble friend Lord Amwell has mentioned, would be very important. I hope very much that we may get some indication, to-day if possible, of the Government's view. I do not know whether the noble and learned Viscount who sits on the Woolsack will be able to give us a preliminary view about what the Bill would permit on this point; but if he could it would help us a great deal in our consideration of the matter before we come to put down Amendments.
Finally, let me say that I would not go quite so far as my noble friend Lord Stonham in saying that we would divide against this Bill. There are a few things in the Bill which the Churches would welcome, but they do not go nearly far enough. With a very different reception in another place from that which the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, thought the Bill had received in the country—there was a long-drawn-out and hot debate—I hope that, when we in this House have concluded our discussion on the Bill, the Government will be so moved, both by the logic and desirability of the Amendments which we may submit, that they will be able to see their way to giving those extra safeguards in the administration that will be set up under the Bill for the benefit of the community at large. I would add that we are not judging the Bill with a Party bias, because on matters of this kind the decision is for the individual and his conscience.
§ 6.25 p.m.
My Lords, I should like to pay my tribute to the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Norrie, who has made his maiden speech this afternoon. The noble and gallant Lord was Colonel of my regiment, and I feel that I can possibly bask a little in the reflected glory of his speech this afternoon. We were interested to hear of his success, and all that lay behind his success, on the race tracks of New Zealand; but, as your Lordships are well aware, it is not only on account of these successes that the noble and gallant Lord endeared himself 1181 to so many thousands of people throughout the Dominions. He was speaking, as he said, as a small racehorse owner, but we look forward to hearing him speaking in future on many other subjects on which he is an expert.
I am sure that my noble and learned friend on the Woolsack will agree with me that we have had a most useful and informative debate. The noble Lords, Lord Silkin and Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, were at pains to stress that there was no political feeling on this subject. This showed itself in another place, and we have had views from both sides of the House which did not coincide with the views of the Front Benches. That is one of the many reasons why my right honourable friend has taken so much trouble to ascertain the views of many groups throughout the country, not only those concerned with racing (we have heard some of their views from the noble Duke, the Duke of Devonshire, and from the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Norrie), and not only those whose interest in racing is having a "flutter", but also those whose views were emphasised by the noble Viscount, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, in his thoughtful and constructive speech in summing up the debate.
I think there is no doubt that we like to back our judgment, and the better we think our judgment is, the more money we like to be paid. That, I fancy, is the reason why in this country, practically alone of all the major racing countries in the world, the bookmaker is such an institution—in fact, so much of an institution that I doubt whether we shall ever be able to dispose of him. Perhaps we have reached the stage, as the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Norrie, suggested, when the bookmaker has done as much as he can for racing. There are many in the racing industry who are beginning to take that view and who look at the benefits that the totalisator and pool betting system under monopoly will have, as it has already had in such countries as the noble and gallant Lord mentioned. But that is not the view of the general public. And their view has been very much uppermost in the minds of my right honourable friend and of my noble and learned friend on the Woolsack in the framing of this Bill. Bookmakers are part and parcel of the racing scene and I do 1182 not believe that we should be justified in putting them out of business, together with the many thousands of men and women on their staffs, while they are carrying on a perfectly legal trade to the satisfaction of their clients. Therefore, my right honourable friend has had to consider the problem of this industry of bookmaking all the way through this Bill.
I think it might be as well if I were to refresh your Lordships' memories as to what we can and cannot do under the present arrangements, before this Bill comes into operation. My noble and learned friend on the Woolsack has just touched on points where we should be liable to come before the law in certain practices, but possibly I should go into a little more detail, especially in relation to the racing side of those practices. The Acts of 1853 and 1906—and there are many other Acts, too—made it quite impossible to bet in cash off the course or "to resort" (as it is put in the Acts) to a bookmaker off the course to make a bet; and it is those two Acts which have given rise to the illegal street bookmaking and street betting problem to which the noble Lords, Lord Stonham, Lord Silkin and Lord Alexander of Hillsborough have referred. I think their views are too pessimistic. But we shall see.
What can we do now? We can telephone a bookmaker, providing that we have an account and that we are reasonably close to a telephone in the course of our day's work and at the time when we want to place a bet. As noble Lords have said, that is legal. That is accidental, because the telephone came in to common use long after the 1906 Act was passed. Betting by cash with a street runner or a street bookmaker—and this was mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Stonham—is illegal under the 1906 Act. Yet this is done by many hundreds of thousands of people every day. You can bet in cash by a factory runner or in a place of work. That is legal until he turns up in a betting office to deposit the money he has taken. If he does it by telephone, that is legal. But obviously there are difficulties when the man has collected perhaps several hundred pounds unless he resorts to a bookmaker's office. Then, cash betting is done by resorting to a bookmaker's office. That is illegal under the 1853 Act. That has happened 1183 now in the North Country, and there is a great deal of illegal betting by resorting to an illegal bookmaker's office—and I shall come to that point when I answer the noble Lord, Lord Stonham.
Then again, we can bet in cash by post. That is illegal under the 1853 Act, but the Act can be got round by various ways and means. The noble Duke, the Duke of Devonshire, referred to that matter. It is practised mainly in small amounts and by people who cannot readily avail themselves of the services of the illegal street bookmaker. Then we can resort to someone who acts as a bookmaker's agent: it may be a barber, a milkman, or someone in any of the other occupations which have been mentioned. That, too, is illegal under the 1853 Act if we go to their place of business. But, as the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, said, if he is an agent, who is paid, or otherwise—he can do it out of the goodness of his heart or on behalf of the bookmaker—he can go visiting private premises or places of work, provided that he does not loiter in the street; and delivering milk, and any of the other occupations which would mean going into the house or pausing on the doorway, does not mean loitering. Therefore, that is legal, provided the agent carries out his transaction on the telephone and does not resort to a bookmaker's office.
From what I have said, my Lords, it is obvious that there are not many means at present of placing a cash bet in the course of the day, irrespective of whether it is within racing time or not. That is, in our belief, the main reason why this street betting has grown up. But in case your Lordships may think that I am dealing only with racing, I assure your Lordships that if you had played housey-housey or tombola, as it is sometimes called, under certain rules that are very common in the sort of institutions where one does play these games, that would be illegal also. Whist drives under certain conditions that prevail in village halls and many other places, especially governing the prizes, can be illegal. Even a spot dance prize may be illegal in certain circumstances, as that comes under a lottery. Certain types of raffles can be forms of gaming, and they would be illegal. Darts in a public-house has always been illegal; and fruit machines, the so-called gaming machines, are in any case illegal 1184 as the law now stands. So that even the most law-abiding of your Lordships and of course many hundreds of thousands of people outside, have a very good chance every day of falling foul of the law. It is to correct these anomalies and to bring up to date the law on all forms of betting and gaming, and gaming by machines, that we have brought forward this legislation.
We do not believe that the street is a logical place to bet. We bet in the street because there is nowhere else that one can quickly or conveniently place a bet. The street "bookies", or betting agents, as they may be, work furtively and under cover; they have their usual signals for showing how they are plying their trade or, which is far more likely, they know their customers by sight. If they should be made legal, as the noble Lords, Lord Silkin and Lord Stonham, would like, it is felt that the competition between them would become most undesirable, and especially so in places where the public are in great numbers. Bus stops have been mentioned by the noble Lord, and I suspect that at certain times in the day a bus stop would be a very profitable place to collect small bets; there may also be places where people come out of stations and so forth. It would be difficult to control bookmakers, whether by licence or by some form of balloting for these places, or by laying down that so many bookmakers per half-mile of street should be allowed.
§ VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
Are you not going to allow the runner to be given a permit by the owner of the betting shop? Is the runner in the street or out of the street if he stands on the doorstep? Is he going to call and solicit and get the bets because he stands on the doorstep five inches off the pavement? Is he to be in a privileged position in regard to the penalties which are operated against the street bookmaker?
§ LORD STONHAM
When dealing with that point, would the noble Earl also consider my suggestion that everyone who runs a street bookmaking pitch should be charged £500 a year for his permit? Surely that would be a limiting factor?
That is a point which the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, put forward, but we do not believe that 1185 street bookmaking is the answer. We do not believe that that is the right place or method to carry on bookmaking. In reply to the noble Viscount, I would say that he certainly cannot solicit; that is explicitly disallowed in the Bill. He cannot take bets in the street; that, too, is specifically disallowed. He must have a written authority; or if he is the agent, he must have a "bookie's" permit, and he must do that away from the premises. In other words, he will most likely be operating a considerable distance from the betting office, and he will come in to bring his bag or to place his bets on behalf of the clients at a convenient time through the betting office.
§ VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
But he has to visit his clients and call on them in the streets, or on the doorstep, at any rate. He has to call on his clients to bring his money, and then get back to the betting office. Does he stand on the flagstones or the doorstep? Is there a great difference between the two?
Have I not explained that if he goes into a house or stands on the doorstep—we used the example of the milkman, who is not a very suitable person; I do not believe many milk men do this, but it was said in another place—and talks to whoever comes to open the door, he is not loitering in the street? He is in the house, or deemed to be in the house. If he turned round and, for some reason or another, the housewife, or whoever it was, came from the backdoor and it was practically on the pavement, that might open up all sorts of possibilities, but I do not think that that is likely.
§ VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
My Lords, I am grateful for the way in which the noble Earl is handling the matter. Does that not clearly prove our contention that the freedom with which they can go to the house means that there will be an extension, and not a restriction, of gambling?
That is all right now; he can do that now, provided he does not resort to a bookmaker's office to pay his money over. If he goes to a telephone to place his bets, that is all right. It is an offence only when he 1186 goes to an office. Now we are doing away with the requirement for the street bookmaker, the furtive, undercover street bookmaker, and I believe he will become the accredited agent of a licensed bookmaker in a licensed betting office, or an agent of a licensed agent. That man may well be paid a salary for carrying out his task, or he may be paid a commission.
The noble Lord mentioned a percentage. I believe it varies between 6d. and 1s. 6d. in the £, which I am sure is about the percentage the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, mentioned. I envisage that that is how most of these street bookmakers or runners will do the trade to which they will turn their hands, and which will be quite legal.
§ LORD STONHAM
My Lords, the noble Earl certainly said something which is contrary to my understanding of the present law. He spoke about the agent canvassing at the door being able to take bets legally now. Then he said he could not go to the betting office. Surely, the position is that he cannot go to the betting office with cash. He can transmit those bets without any cash to the betting office perfectly legally now. Is that not the position?
He must not resort to the betting office. Without being an expert, I understand that resorting to the betting office is the crime. I suppose he may send a postal order, but that is going to take a great deal longer. Your Lordships will appreciate how complicated these provisions are. Under this Bill the necessity for deciding whether such actions are legal or illegal will not arise, except if it is done in the street. We do not believe that it will now be necessary to carry out—
§ LORD MERRIVALE
My Lords, I am sorry to interrupt the noble Earl, but there is one point I should like to understand. Suppose somebody comes up to a milkman or the agent of a bookmaker as he is leaving the house, and wishes to place a bet. In that case, would the milkman, agent, or the person who went up to him be committing an offence?—I mean as he was leaving the house and, therefore, had just stepped out on to the street.
If he has stepped down into the street, I fancy that an 1187 offence would be committed. If he was in the garden, or walking down the path, I fancy there would be no offence. I think the best thing to do would be to make quite sure that no official of the law was watching when such a transaction was made.
Possibly that might be so. The noble Lord, Lord Silkin, at the end of his most interesting and, if I may say so, helpful speech, welcomed this Bill and the provisions that were in it. He even gave Her Majesty's Government some considerable praise for introducing it. I said, "at the end of his speech". He himself welcomed the Royal Commission of 1949, which reported in 1951. It has been nine years since this subject has been tackled. As the noble Lord said, it is a delicate subject, and I think the saying. "Fools rush in where angels fear to tread" is right. We are treading, and from the general tone in your Lordships' House I believe we are treading in the right direction.
The noble Lord, Lord Silkin, paid a considerable amount of attention to Stock Exchange gambling. I think it would be a real mistake if it should go out from this House, or that an opinion should go out, that gambling on horseracing or gaming, or any other form of gambling, is akin to investing on the Stock Exchange. I believe it is very wrong, and there is no doubt that people are encouraged to gamble on the Stock Exchange. We are investing on the Stock Exchange, and the purpose of investment is to save money and, indeed, to increase one's savings. They do go down.
§ LORD SILKIN
My Lords, may I correct what the noble Earl has said? I did not devote a considerable amount of time to it; in fact, I dealt with it in two or three sentences, and that is all. I drew a distinction between investing money and merely buying shares for the sake of capital gain. I hope I drew a very clear distinction between the two.
I beg the noble Lord's pardon if I have got him wrong, but it certainly stuck in my mind that 1188 he was making a comparison between the two. I like to remember the words the noble Lord, Lord Ritchie of Dundee, used when we were talking about such matters a little while ago in your Lordships' House. The noble Lord also mentioned Premium Bonds. I think that that is a different case as, indeed, the noble Lord said.
§ VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
My Lords, let us get this quite clear. There is a great similarity in the gambling comparison. If you look at the dealings on the street, night after night in the City of London after the Stock Exchange has closed for the day, of which—I will not say all—a large part are gambling on margins, all to be settled up at a fixed accounting day, whether they are inside or outside street dealings, I think we have more of a case for thinking of gambling in dealing with buying and selling of that kind than perhaps the noble Earl is prepared to admit.
That has made the exact distinction I was trying to make, and I now think possibly the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, was trying to make—the difference between gambling and genuine investment, about which my noble friend Lord Ritchie of Dundee was talking the other day.
I was about to come to the question of Premium Bonds. That, surely, is the lending of money which you get back. I do not think we can class that with gambling or gaming under this Bill. You may have a chance of getting 2 per cent.; you may have a chance of getting 4 per cent.; or you may have a chance of getting nothing at all. But at least you get your money back.
The noble Lord mentioned football pools. They are covered very little in this Bill, but the noble Lord will have noticed that Clause 14 makes it quite clear that the same expenses have to be deducted from each pool, or each competition, that is carried on each day, and the amount of those expenses must be announced beforehand. I have no doubt that that will go a considerable way towards looking after the ills of football pool gambling the noble Lord mentioned.
1189 I have covered to a considerable extent the question of the street bookmaker which the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, and the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, mentioned. I appreciate both noble Lords' great experience and knowledge in these matters, and especially so with regard to the police. But the police have advised my right honourable friend that it would be almost impossible to control legalised street bookmaking; it would be almost impossible to stop a nuisance being caused or congestion being caused on the pavement or carriageway if a collection of bookmakers were allowed to gather. That is their opinion. But we believe that none of this will be necessary. There will be no danger of nuisance being caused because there will be no need for a person to use street bookmakers. A person will either send his friend or an agent whom he knows to the licensed bookmaker's office, or go down there himself on his way to or from work or during his lunch hour. We believe that street bookmaking is used and resorted to now on a very large scale—we are perfectly well aware of that—especially in the South of England, because cash betting off the course cannot be indulged in. It is an interesting point that apparently in the North Country where these illegal betting offices have started, or have been going, I understand, for some time, the street bookmaking problem is much smaller than it is down here in London and in the South and particularly, as I know, the areas the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, was talking about.
Then the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, asked about planning permission. Of course planning permission will have to be obtained for licensed bookmaking premises. These premises will have to be a separate establishment from an establishment which may already be in existence. The grocer's shop has been mentioned. Planning permission will have to be obtained from the local authority if a separate place, which my noble and learned friend described, is wished to be set up in that premises. After all, a local authority must be or should be a fair cross-section of the community. They must take all these things into consideration—how many thousands of people will be serviced by so many licensed bookmakers. They will have to consider the right and proper number.
The noble Lord, Lord Silkin, and the noble Viscount asked especially about 1190 companies. It is quite true that companies will be able to take a lease on one of these licensed betting shops. They will be able to apply for a licence. Naturally, the local authority will decide how many should be necessary, and no doubt if there are other applicants for such licences they will get equal consideration with the company. But that company must hold a licensed bookmaker's permit; their representatives or agents in that shop must also hold licence permits, and again their agents must have authority.
There could be. On the other hand, I envisage that there might be a little co-operative feeling. Possibly some of Lord Stonham's friends would find that it would not pay to stay on the outside, and they would get together to earn a commission as agents for one group. Such a thing could be envisaged, I fancy.
§ LORD STONHAM
My Lords, the noble Earl is doing me too much honour. I did not say that these people I had observed were my friends. Could I put this point to him: many of these street bookmakers already have an office; they conduct legitimate betting in the office, while the illegal transactions are carried to them. If such a person—and this would be perhaps the majority—then applied to the local authority for the premises he now has and is using for precisely the purpose the noble Earl describes to be licensed, would he still have to get fresh planning permission, or would it be likely the local authority would approve?
He would certainly have to apply for a permit. I will let the noble Lord know later whether he would have to apply for planning permission. It may be that the premises are not in the right place or a desirable place. If he wished to license his own office, there would be no reason why he should not apply, and the application would be dealt with by the licensing authority.
The noble Lord also mentioned that a man would send his wife or other people to place his bets and there was a danger of encouraging people to bet who 1191 would not otherwise do so. I think the man would consider pretty carefully whom he would send with his bets and I do not think he would send an inexperienced person; so I do not think that that is much of a bad point. I assure the noble Lord and the noble Viscount, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, that one of the main provisions that my right honourable friend has had to consider is to prevent the exploitation of people who have not placed a bet before, and prevent the encouragement of people who would not otherwise bet.
The noble Lord, Lord Silkin, then mentioned staff meals and also seats. The noble Lord, Lord Stonham, did not want seats. The noble Lord did not want a betting office to be too pleasant. The noble Lord, Lord Silkin, thought it was going to be a very unpleasant place indeed, without seats and meals and so forth. We have had to steer a middle course and have considered most carefully the views of the Churches' Council with regard to this. My right honourable friend felt it was going too far to forbid people to sit down in betting offices, and yet if meals and cups of tea were provided that might cause the inducement such as the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, suggested. Therefore we have aimed to give the tools of the trade, to provide a place where betting can be transacted and no more. My noble and learned friend mentioned that the services of the "blower" would be available. Of course, it would be impossible to run a betting office if it did not have the services of the "blower", because it would be quite impossible for the bookmaker to lay off his odds.
Then there is the problem of advertising. The noble Lord, Lord Silkin, and the noble Viscount both mentioned this problem. There are two courses to be steered. One that might be suggested is that advertising should be forbidden in the case of betting offices. That is one view, and that has considerable backing, both with the Council of the Churches and with the Bookmakers' Protection Society themselves. That is one instance where it really does recommend itself. There is also the course open that all advertising, whether of betting offices or any other betting, should be forbidden. That is contrary to the Royal Commission's finding and I think it is 1192 probably contrary to a lot of people's way of thinking: that it should be forbidden to advertise a trade or profession that is in itself legal. My right honourable friend has an open mind and will look into all that has been said in your Lordships' House, and at another stage the advertising difficulty will be considered.
The noble Lord also mentioned dominoes and cribbage. The noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, also mentioned this point, as to whether we were not getting too facetious in considering such minor items. But they are not minor items when you get down to such people who play such games in a public place, in a bar. It is a very major item indeed, and the difficulty of my right honourable friend is that if he specifies dominoes and cribbage, why should he not specify pontoon, poker, chemin de fer or any other games of chance, in which category dominoes and cribbage fall? He is quite satisfied that games of skill which are easy to define, such as darts and skittles and so forth, should be allowed. But there is another course open: that it should be left to the magistrates to decide what games are right and the manner in which they are played. There are difficulties in regard to both these courses, but my right honourable friend is considering them, and he will ask your Lordships to look into this question again at another stage.
The noble Viscount, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, had a considerable amount to say about casinos, as indeed did the noble Lord, Lord Silkin. Here again, there are two divergent views. Clause 21 was put in on the initiative of the Opposition Front Bench in another place and, with due respect—
§ LORD SILKIN
Not the Opposition Front Bench. It was on the initiative of an individual who was speaking for himself; and he made it quite plain that he was speaking for himself.
I beg the noble Lord's pardon and that of another place; but I understand that it was with general approval from the Front Bench or from distinguished honourable Members of the Opposition. Great consideration has been given to the Churches' Council's views upon this subject. They do not believe that casinos should be 1193 run. That is their view. It does not matter that the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, and other noble Lords share different views. The noble Lord, Lord Silkin, wanted casinos to be run, by local authorities I fancy, or he thought that he could see no great harm if they were run by local authorities. I think I am right there, am I not?
§ LORD SILKIN
All I suggested was that it should be left to the local people to decide for themselves. I did not think that it was for the Government to lay down that even if the majority of the people in a particular area, and of course the local authority, wanted a casino run on proper lines, we should say that they must not do it.
There is the view that the noble Lord has put before your Lordships. However, under this Bill a casino could be run provided that it was not run at a personal profit. Therefore, the only people who could consider running a casino would be a local authority, who could run it at a loss and subsidise that loss through the rates. That may or may not be right. But under the initiative, as I say, of another place, Clause 21 was included in the Bill, and it prevents such a casino from being operated.
The noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, mentioned loopholes with regard to private casinos. In respect of that I shall answer his point when I answer the noble Lord, Lord Meston. I would say to the noble Lord, Lord Meston, who said that he had never been upon a race track or in a public-house, that he displayed astonishing knowledge of both of those industries. He, too, brought up the question of whether dominoes and cribbage should be games of skill or not. In particular, he queried the definition as to whether a game of skill should be deemed to be a game of chance. The reason for the definition in the Bill is that should there be any doubt that a game is a game of skill, then it is a game of chance. Wherever it says that, that is exactly the reason why it is there.
The noble Lord particularly asked me about subsection (2) of Clause 16. That deals with gaming parties and the sort of private casino to which the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, referred. To make it clear, I think I should read this note 1194 first and then explain it. Subsection (2) is a provision which shifts the burden of proof from the prosecution to the defence in proceedings for unlawful gaming under subsection (1). The whole point there is that if people are caught at gaming under the provisions which I shall describe in a moment, it is up to them to prove that they have not in fact committed the offence that the game was a variant of, or similar to, a game capable of being played under the ordinary rules, in such a manner that the chances are not equally favourable to all the players, and that ten or more persons were present at the gaming. That means that if it were the sort of game where one holds a bank and others have no chance, or no fair chance, of receiving the bank, that would be an unlawful game within the meaning of this Act; and it would be up to those persons to prove that they had not in fact been playing such a game.
Another type of game is roulette played with a zero. That would be an unlawful game because there is a bigger chance of the holder of the zero winning the stakes. On the other hand, to get round that for a bona fide party, if the zero is not used, roulette would be legal. Equally, if the stake at the end of the bank could be shown to be split up among all players, that also would be legal. If the bank can go round and if the odds are shown to be fair as between all players, then that game is legal. But it is up to the players, should they be caught and accused of an offence, to prove that they are in fact not guilty and that they have not committed an offence. Then the subsection goes on to say:that a payment of money…was required…to obtain access to the premiseson which gaming took place. That deals with exactly the point of Lord Mancroft. If it was a private party and no payment had passed, then there is no offence. It is up to the players to prove, if payment has taken place, that an offence has not taken place. I hope that I have made that particular subsection clear to the noble Lord. I also mentioned that there have to be ten or more players present for the gaming to be unlawful.
The noble Lord, Lord Mancroft particularly asked about small points. I assure the noble Lord that my noble and learned friend has been through this Bill many times. He will be going through 1195 it again many times, as also will my right honourable friend. We are not certain that there are not such loopholes as the noble Lord fears. But he must appreciate, as I am sure he and other noble Lords do, that when dealing with such complicated features which are not the same throughout the country, and which are wanted in different and varying degrees, it is most difficult to frame a set of words which will deal with all the cases. That is the reason for what seem to be, as I think my noble friend called them, pettifogging requirements.
My noble and gallant friend Lord Norrie, mentioned especially the Peppiatt Report. Alas! he is not in his seat at present, but he will be most pleased to hear that my right honourable friend and Her Majesty's Government accept all the main proposals of the Peppiatt Report. The hour is getting on and I will not weary your Lordships by describing all the particular proposals in the Report; it is, of course, available to your Lordships. I will say that it proposes a Bookmakers' Levy Board which will raise a given amount of money for the benefit of bloodstock breeding, prize money and for racecourses. It proposes also a Central Control Board which will dispose of the levy that is being raised for those purposes.
§ VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
Do I understand from the noble Earl that the Government and his right honourable friend accept this contention of the Peppiatt Report, and that all these things are now to be put into this Bill in this House?
My Lords, the answer is, No. I was just coming to the point—in fact, the noble Viscount caught me by only two words. I would explain that there are many divergent ideas as to how this money should be collected and distributed; and my right honourable friend feels that there has not been enough chance to discuss these proposals either in another place or in your Lordships' House. He believes that it would be much the better course to have full consultations with all parties concerned and to hear all the ideas of those bodies which I described at the beginning of my speech. I have heard, by tick-tack from another place, that my right honourable friend will give an assurance that, because 1196 it will be more satisfactory and tidier, a new Bill will be introduced for this purpose in the next Session and that the timetable laid down in the Report will be adhered to—which means that the first payments under the levy system will begin in July, 1962. To save time I have not outlined the Report, with which your Lordships are probably familiar.
I now come to the point raised by my noble friend the Duke of Devonshire—a complicated and technical point with regard to Tattersall's. Tattersall's is an eminent body, as your Lordships will already have gathered on hearing the noble Duke describe himself as a member; but his suggestion would make that body a statutory body in the eyes of the law, and that proposal will not do. However, when the bookmaker's licence comes up for review at the end of the year it will, of course, be open to Tattersall's, as to anybody else—including a disaffected client—to raise an objection. Equally, it would be open to the bookmaker or anybody else to oppose that objection. I want to make quite clear to the noble Duke that if Tattersall's should put such an objection in the newspapers or elsewhere, they would, of course, be open to a possible libel suit; but if they raise the objection before the licensing authority in the proper manner, as prescribed in the Bill, there will be no question of a libel suit. I should like to look carefully at what the noble Duke has said. It is a most complicated point, and I am quite certain that in the near future I shall be able to reassure him upon all these matters. I will write to him about them.
The last points to which I want to refer are those raised by the noble Viscount opposite who wound up the debate, and who gave a most interesting and thoughtful speech on points that have been raised throughout the debate. He mentioned one subject which I was surprised had not come up before in your Lordships' debate—the question of gaming machines. These have been most carefully considered, as have the views of the Churches' Council upon them. If all these machines were banned the effect would be that there could be none of them at fetes, bazaars or fun fairs. Many of them are quite inoffensive and merely give back a penny or allow another free go; or just add up the score. We have 1197 felt that there is not a case for banning such innocent machines, but we have laid down in this Bill the most stringent protection for the public. The main protection is that no gaming machine may take a coin larger than sixpence; and that they shall not be operated for private gain, and shall not be in a place to which the public have access. The so-called "bell" and "fruit" machines can therefore be used only in a club or, say, a works canteen—perhaps to raise money for a sports fund or some other activity.
My Lords, it has been a long and most interesting debate, and I would assure the House that all the points that have been brought up will be most carefully considered 1198 by my noble and learned friend and by my right honourable friend. Many points will come up in Committee, and we shall welcome the discussion that will then take place. I understand that, if necessary, two days may be devoted to the Committee stage of the Bill—a requirement which will more than meet the special request of the noble Viscount, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough. I commend this Bill to your Lordships and ask that it be read a second time.
§ On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.
§ House adjourned at seventeen minutes past seven o'clock.