HL Deb 31 May 1960 vol 224 cc117-84

3.14 p.m.

Order of the Day for the House to be put into Committee read.

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

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.

[The EARL or BUCKINGHAMSHIRE in the Chair.]

Clause 1:

Replacement of Betting Act, 1853, etc., by new provision

(2) Save as permitted by virtue of subsection (5) of this section or subsection (1) of section four of this Act, no person shall use, or cause or knowingly permit any other person to use, any premises for the purpose of the effecting by that person or, as the case may be, by that other person of betting transactions with persons resorting to those premises; and any person who contravenes the provisions of this subsection shall be guilty of an offence:

Provided that this subsection shall not apply where both the person so using the premises and all the persons with whom the betting transactions are effected—

  1. (a) either reside or work on those premises or on premises of which those premises form part; or
  2. (b) are, or are acting on behalf of, holders of bookmaker's permits which are for the time being in force.

THE DUKE OF DEVONSHIRE moved, after subsection (1) to insert: () It shall be an offence under this Act to bet by post with any bookmaker, other than by way of pool betting with a person registered under the Pool Betting Act, 1954.

The noble Duke said: While I warmly welcome this Bill for widening the scope of legal betting, I very much regret that the new facilities include betting by post. There will be adequate means for legal off-course betting, without using this method. Betting by post is likely to be practised only by those living in rural areas. As it is to be possible, once this Bill has become law, to place bets through roundsmen—the milkman and other similar tradespeople—only those who live in the most remote areas will be unable to place bets in such a way, and for those who cannot do so there is the telephone. It is true that bets placed by telephone are, and will, continue to be credit bets, but the day when credit accounts were the perquisite of the well-to-do are over and past, and bookmakers are only too willing to open such accounts with those who bet in the smallest amounts.

My objections to postal betting are twofold. In the first place it is unlike any other form of betting, in that the bookmaker is unaware of his liability, since he does not receive the bet until after the race for which the bet is made has been run. The second follows from that. Since, as I have said, postal bets are not usually received by the bookmaker until the day following the race on which the bets are made, there are opportunities for fraud by both backer and bookmaker. Cases appear regularly of collusion between backers and employees of the Post Office for the purpose of getting letters containing bets to bear a time stamp earlier than that at which the letters were actually posted. For every case that appears for prosecution for fraud in this matter, from my experience as a member of Tattersall's Committee I know there are a great many others where the Post Office has grave doubts as to the legality of the posting, but has not sufficient evidence to bring a prosecution.

Furthermore, collusion is not always necessary. For example, in many rural areas it is not uncommon for post boxes to be cleared after the stated time of collection. That is to say, letters bearing the 2 o'clock time stamp are actually collected from the post box at 2.10, thus enabling a backer to find out the winner of the 2 o'clock race and post off a letter backing it which will bear a 2 o'clock postmark. If there are opportunities for fraud for the backer, the opportunities for the bookmaker are vastly greater, since all he has to do when called upon to pay on a letter bet which it suits him at the time not to pay is to say that he never received the letter. No one can prove that the letter did arrive. As we all know, letters do get lost in the post. Indeed, letters containing cash or postal orders addressed to bookmakers are a temptation to those who work in the Post Office and are, therefore, the more likely to disappear.

As I said on the Second Reading of this Bill, to try to meet the case by making all letter bets go by registered post will not do, because registered mail is not time stamped, and bookmakers are not prepared to receive bets by registered post. I feel most strongly that with the new facilities for legal betting contained in this Bill, betting by post is not necessary. Anyone who wants to have a bet any day will be able to do so perfectly legally without resorting to postal betting. By making it illegal, as this Amendment wishes to do, a source of confusion of the new betting laws will thus be removed. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 1, line 11, at end insert the said subsection.—(The Duke of Devonshire.)


This Amendment is intended for the protection of bookmakers against possible fraud or abuse by those who bet. I was going to say, "From my experience of bookmakers", but I have not any; but the general feeling about bookmakers is that they are well able to look after themselves. If they find that betting by post is going to be abused, the remedy is entirely in their own hands. They need not accept bets by post, and if bookmakers get together and say that this form of betting will not be acceptable to them, then it will not happen. But why this should be incorporated in legislation, I cannot imagine. The noble Duke would be the last to want to interfere in contracts made between two private individuals. Why should he want to restrict what contracts can be made between a bookmaker and an individual? After all, the final argument he puts up, the possibility of postal orders being stolen, applies to a good many other transactions besides transactions between bookmakers and customers. Generally I should have thought that this was not an appropriate Amendment to incorporate in a Bill of this kind, and I would rather leave betting by post to be settled between bookmakers generally and their customers.


In support of what my noble friend has just said, I would point out that obviously the bookmakers have the remedy in their own hands. I think one would deprecate the suggestion that the noble Duke made that the postal frauds which are detected are believed to be only a small minority of those which actually take place. That is a reflection on the workers of the Post Office which should not be allowed to go unchallenged.

I feel that the main objection to the noble Duke's Amendment is that if it were accepted it would reimpose an injustice when the main object of the Bill is to remove one. At present we have the position that it is illegal to bet for cash. This Bill, when it becomes an Act of Parliament, will remove this disability and will remove what we regard as an injustice to some people who have not a telephone and cannot use credit betting facilities. If the noble Duke's Amendment is accepted, all people in rural areas and other people who have not a telephone, or who have to go to work in the early hours of the morning and want to send their bets by post, will not be able to do so because it will be illegal. It seems to me an extraordinary thing, when we are met together to remove one illegality that is an injustice, that we should do so by imposing another one and making something illegal which is at present legal and generally approved. I hope that the Amendment will not be accepted.


The noble Duke showed how betting, could be carried out through the Post Office, and how it would be possible, by posting at a given time, to get a different postmark upon the envelope. I want to make it quite clear to your Lordships that such an occasion would happen only with the unlawful connivance of a member of the Post Office staff: it could not happen ordinarily just by chance. I am quite certain all your Lordships will agree with me that it is a very rare case ever to happen, and I am quite certain the noble Duke does not mean in any way to cast aspersions upon Post Office staff. I think we can all agree about that.

Under the present law there is no prohibition on sending bets by post. There is a prohibition on cash betting, and postal betting is thus unlawful if the cash for the bet accompanies the bet. That may sound very Irish—and when I say that I do not intend by any means to give a tip for what may happen in to-morrow's big race. On the other hand, depending on whether you go by the horse's name or nationality, your Lordships may draw certain conclusions. Nevertheless, cash betting by post is conducted on a very considerable scale. Many bookmakers with large credit businesses advertise facilities for postal betting, as the noble Duke said, and the Royal Commission thought it improbable that the whole of this postal betting was, in fact, conducted on credit terms. Credit postal betting has always been lawful; in practice, if a person sends a regular sum of money each week for his bet it means merely that this sum is sent one week in arrears. There has been in recent years a growing volume of postal betting on football at fixed odds.

The reason for the noble Duke's proposal that betting by post, on cash or credit terms, other than pool betting, should be prohibited, is that described by him in his Second Reading speech. We have no ground for disputing what the noble Duke says regarding the opportunities that postal betting provides for this kind of behaviour; and, indeed, it is a subject on which my noble friend, as a member of Tattersall's Committee, can speak with great authority. But it is not the view of Her Majesty's Government that this experience affords sufficient reason for making postal betting illegal. The object of gambling legislation, set out by the Royal Commission in paragraph 186 of their Report, which was quoted in his Second Reading speech by my noble and learned friend who sits upon the Woolsack, is: 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. Postal betting, by its very nature, is not one which normally gives rise to excessive betting, as indeed the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, and the noble Lord, Lord Stonham both suggested. In other words, the individual bets in each envelope are probably not very large. Neither the Royal Commission of 1949, which sat until 1951, nor the earlier Royal Commission in 1932 could find any social reason for prohibiting postal betting, and they both recommended that postal betting with cash should be made lawful. Some people may prefer to bet at home on horses rather than betting in the same manner on football pools. This may be especially so in thinly populated areas where probably the post is the only way one can place a bet. For these reasons the Government do not consider that there should be any interference with the right to put a bet through the post.

The requirement in Clause 2 of the Bill for the registration of bookmakers shoud afford some protection to the public against bookmakers who make use of postal methods of betting in an unscrupulous manner, which indeed is the whole object of the noble Duke's Amendment; but I think, as I have said, that it will happen in very rare cases. Under the First Schedule a bookmaker's permit may be refused if a bookmaker is not a fit and proper person, and evidence that he has defaulted on his liabilities can be taken into account by the licensing authority in deciding whether to grant or refuse a permit. It is to this particular provision that I hope the noble Duke will look for an improvement in the behaviour of bookmakers who provide facilities for this form of betting, rather than to the more extreme course of prohibiting all postal betting, which is the purpose of the Amendment.


I am extremely grateful to the noble Earl for his very courteous and full reply to my Amendment. I would like to say to the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, that I fear that in moving this Amendment I put the emphasis wrongly. I am anxious to protect the interests and concerns of the bookmaker, but I agree with him in saying that the bookmaker can look after himself. I am more concerned with protecting the interests of the backer, and it is for that reason that I am very anxious this Amendment should be carried. There is nothing whatever to prevent an unscrupulous bookmaker from tearing up and putting in the wastepaper basket letters which contain bets on which he ought to pay. I should be the last to interfere with the liberty of the individual. Under the new Bill there are plenty of ways of betting for all sections of the community, and by allowing postal betting (which is unique, since the bookmaker does not receive the bet until after the race is run) the Bill leaves the betting laws open to further abuse. It would be creating no hardship to disallow postal betting and so prevent unscrupulous bookmakers and backers alike from exploiting what in my opinion is still a weakness in the new Bill.

On Question, Amendment negatived.

3.30 p.m.

LORD DOUGLAS OF BARLOCH: moved, in subsection (2), to leave out paragraph (a). The noble Lord said: I beg to move the Amendment which stands in my name. Paragraph (a) permits the taking of bets in factories, in workshops and in blocks of flats—


May I interrupt the noble Lord for a moment? Would it be convenient if we dealt with Amendment No. 8 at the same time, because, as I understand it, the present Amendment is a paving Amendment for No. 8?


Yes, with pleasure. It is quite true that Amendment No. 8 goes along with this Amendment. As the Bill stands, it will be permissible for betting to take place on a well-organised basis in offices, in factories and in blocks of flats, provided that the participants either work or reside on those premises. When the Bill was going through another place and when an Amendment was moved with regard to licensing street runners, the Under-Secretary to the Home Office laid down these principles: first, that the street is not a proper place in which to bet; secondly, that any relaxation would allow further solicitation for betting to take place; and thirdly, that it would be difficult to prevent betting with young persons. Exactly the same objections apply if betting is permitted in factories, offices and blocks of flats; indeed, it will be much more difficult to control it because those are premises to which the police have no access whatsoever. It will therefore pave the way to exactly the kind of thing which the Government, rightly I think, have stated is not desirable. It will lead to solicitation for people to place bets; it will lead to invitations to young persons to indulge in betting, and it can quite easily result in a considerable extension of betting. That is not the object of the Bill. Undoubtedly, the Bill is intended to exercise over betting a control of a nature which can be enforced, and nothing can be enforced in premises of that kind, because it is quite impossible for the police to have any access thereto. Not everybody wants to bet. There are some who are disinclined to do so. We do not want to have the milkman or somebody going round our blocks of flats touting for bets; nor do persons in offices and factories necessarily want to be disturbed in that way. Some may like it, but others dislike it very much. After all, if the primary purpose of this Bill is to enable bets to be made in betting offices, just as people might go to shops to conduct other businesses, let that be enforced, and let these other means of effecting betting be stopped.

If I may refer to Amendment No. 8, which is intended to fortify this, it is to confine the receiving or negotiating of bets to premises which are occupied by the holder of a bookmaker's permit, or by the Board, or, of course, upon a track upon which bookmaking may already lawfully be carried on. Therefore, the combined effect of these Amendments will be to prevent shops, offices, blocks of flats and so on from being used for the purpose of betting, and to confine this activity to betting shops or, of course, to the transaction of bets by post, telephone or on the track, and by the pool betting system as is at present allowed. I beg to move the first Amendment.

Amendment moved— Page 2, line 2, leave out paragraph (a).—(Lord Douglas of Barloch.)


I hope that the Committee will not accept this Amendment. Whilst it is true that there will be betting offices in big cities and in medium-sized towns, in a large number of rural areas where people also want to put on their bets, unless it is done by authorised runners or agents who can do it from their homes the Bill will, in my humble opinion, break down. The whole object of the Bill is to make it possible for the ordinary man or woman who wants to put on a cash bet to be able to do so off the street, because it is not allowed to be done on the street; and if you do not give facilities in the rural areas and in the factories (it goes on now, and we are trying to legalise what has been going on illegally for a number of years) the Bill will break down. I hope that these reasonable facilities which have been carefully threshed out in another place, will be allowed, because it seems to me that there is ample safeguard, and unless you allow some type of authorised runner or agent—because you cannot open such offices in every single village—the Bill will not perform its function. I hope, therefore, that this Amendment will be resisted.


I should like to support this Amendment. To my mind the issue is a simple one. When the noble and learned Viscount the Lord Chancellor was addressing us on May 23, he said that the paragraph that we are now seeking to have struck out would allow of betting in factories, in hotels and in hospitals. There was a suggestion at that time that to deny betting to workers in the factories would be an unpopular move. For my own part, whilst I am not a factory worker and never have been one, I am acquainted through my profession with a large number of factory workers, and indeed, I have treated tens of thousands of them. I am by no means certain that to prevent betting in factories would be an unpopular move. There are men working in factories who do not like solicitation by bookmakers' touts. They do not like things made unpleasant for them in the factory if they do not bet on a certain race or event, and my own feeling about the matter is that to eliminate this paragraph and to refuse to allow betting in the factories might prove to be popular both with the employer and with the workman.

I am not so qualified to speak with regard to hotels. It may be that many gentlemen go to hotels and immediately inquire where the betting office is; but I have not come across them. With regard to hospitals, I know that betting has been done and no doubt is being done. If every man in hospital immediately won a considerable sum, I should say it would be a curative measure; but as the vast majority of them lose their money it simply adds to their distress and despondency. For that reason I would oppose the extension of these facilities, and I beg to support the Amendment that has been put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Douglas of Barloch.


The noble Lord, Lord Douglas of Barloch, and his noble friend have chosen to put forward what is probably the most complicated of the Amendments before your Lordships, and I have a long and most complicated answer. If the Committee will allow, I believe I can summarise the reply to the point made by the two noble Lords, which your Lordships may agree is sufficient. On the other hand, I can go through the whole explanation.

By their Amendment the noble Lords wish to wreck a particular principle in the Bill; they wish to forbid runners or bookmakers' agents from operating anywhere except on a race track. If the Amendment were accepted, the anomalies which exist under the present law would continue to exist; and it is the view of Her Majesty's Government that there would be even more street betting. The noble Lord, Lord Uvedale of North End, mentioned particularly factories and hospitals. One of the reasons why I am asking your Lordships to reject this Amendment is that if there were no bookmakers' runners or agents, a man in a factory wanting to place a bet would have to go out to the licensed betting office—which he would have the right to do. If three-quarters of the men in a factory should decide to place a bet between, say, twelve and one o'clock, that would make the position in a big factory very difficult; and possibly it would be difficult to maintain discipline there.

I would ask the noble Lord, Lord Douglas of Barloch, to place himself in the position of a man in a factory such as the noble Lord, Lord Uvedale of North End, has mentioned. Suppose that just before making his speech the noble Lord had wished to place a bet on a race to be run within a few minutes. He would have had to find a friend who could take his bet for him. He might have been lucky. Possibly he could have found the noble Lord who acts as Whip on the Opposition Benches—



—or, perhaps I should say, possibly he could find some other noble Lord. If that particular noble Lord happened to be going to the betting office or to a telephone, that would be perfectly legal. But supposing the noble Lord, Lord Douglas of Barloch, were to indulge habitually in that practice, it would be a great incubus upon his noble friend. When we consider the position in a factory, mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Uvedale of North End, where perhaps thousands of bets are being transacted, such an arrangement would be a very considerable incubus on the man who collects the bets. It would involve a considerable amount of skill and the man must be honest and of considerable standing among his workmates or friends.

I know that the two noble Lords are referring particularly to the Report submitted by the Committee of the Churches for Evidence and Action, to which the noble Lord, Lord Douglas of Barloch, referred. Having referred to the street as being not a proper place in which to bet, that Committee said they considered that a factory would be an even less proper place in which to bet. They said, also: There is much greater opportunity of solicitation in factories, offices and hotels where the same people are together day by day, and where tradesmen call daily from door to door; where the police also have normally no access"; and that: Young people are equally involved in either case. The Committee went on: We are of the opinion that the regulations safeguarding young persons will be reasonably effective inside the betting office, but we are particularly concerned about their position outside it, in spite of the provisions of this clause. In our view the only way to deal effectively with these matters is to confine cash betting off the course, to the licensed betting office. Her Majesty's Government recognise that that is the desire of the Churches' Committee, and they appreciate the views of the noble Lord, Lord Douglas of Barloch, expressed by him and also by his noble friend. Nevertheless, it does not help us to solve the anomaly which exists in the betting laws to-day if that view is accepted. That view is based upon the wish of the Royal Commission to protect workpeople in factories from social pressures which may result from the operation of bookmakers' agents there. In spite of the views of the Royal Commission, the Government reject the Amendments as unworkable; and the noble Lord, Lord Douglas of Barloch, has expressed the view that the present arrangements would be unworkable.

The Government's rejection of the Amendments as unworkable must not be taken as expressing approbation of the collection of bets in factories. At the same time it has been borne in mind that there are some people equally apprehensive about the social effects of too great reliance on licensed betting offices as the only means of collecting cash bets off the course. We believe that, whatever happens, that form of betting will go on, and that people who cannot be at a racecourse to place cash bets will bet off the racecourse. By keeping open the channels of betting through factory agents or bookmakers' runners and, to a much lesser extent, through door-to-door tradesmen (which the noble Lord did not mention much but which is a problem bound up with the Amendment), the Bill seeks to adopt a realistic policy which would avoid reliance on the licensed betting offices as the sole channel for cash betting. I cannot accept the Amendment put forward by the two noble Lords.


May I ask a question? I am not here to comment at all upon this Amendment, but I wonder what the word "premises" means here. Lambeth Palace, I believe, has within it twelve distinct properties or cottages. In this context, is each flat or cottage a separate premise or is the whole Palace one premise? If so, have I any means of seeing that any of the people living on the premises of Lambeth do not start acting as betting agents?


The most reverend Primate can rest assured that, providing nobody resorts to any of his premises at Lambeth Palace and loiters there for the purpose of betting, no offence is committed.


Could not 30 or 40 people loiter among themselves?


They can loiter among themselves, and provided that they then place their bet by telephone no offence is committed. Again, it is all right if one of those persons goes to a betting office and places bets, providing he has not stayed at the premises at Lambeth Palace, referred to by the most reverend Primate, for the purpose of collecting bets. That person can move round but he must not stay in one particular place. I hope I have made that point clear. The same thing applies to a factory workshop or canteen, which is the more usual kind of place for collecting such bets. For example, a person must not stay at a table in a canteen.


I must say, after listening to the answer the noble Earl has given, that it seems fairly clear that the Government are adhering to the particular paragraph we desire to move out because there are two strong views in the country, and they incline more to the strong view in the country which is not the view of the churches. They are not prepared to give way to the kind of ideal which is presented on behalf of the Christian churches in the country. That is how it seems to me. While there are, I dare say, a good many complications to be faced in regard to the present structure of the Bill if this Amendment is accepted—I think that is quite clear and I can understand that point being made—nevertheless, it is necessary, in putting the kind of view that my noble friends have, that we should see clearly where we are going. And if we are to get the kind of answer we have just had all the way through, and there is no hope of getting some concession of Parliament to the considered view of that very great influence in the life of the nation which is exercised by the churches, then we shall feel that the Government are blameworthy.

As a matter of fact, we feel on many points in this Bill that the Bill, whilst it has dealt with some of the old evils, is in sum total likely to lead to an increase, and not a decrease, of betting. After the very illustration used just now by the noble Earl, when he came away from the hospital and the factory and began to talk of the position of the door-to-door agents, who are all to be perfectly legalised in this matter, we feel all the more strongly that the Government have been supplied with a case which is going to be used again and again during these debates against the point of view of the churches. I hope that that is not so. If I thought it was to be so, I should strongly advocate going to a Division on this Amendment.


I should not have intervened on the Amendment if it were not for the serious tone in which the noble Viscount the Leader of the Opposition put his remarks. I want to make quite clear what are our reasons for not accepting this Amendment. There are two. The first is that we think we ought to consider the fears which have been expressed regarding the effect of such a prohibition, if it were successful, upon industrial discipline; and, secondly, the prohibition would not appear to be enforceable. I should like to develop each of these points for a moment. On the first point, one has to consider whether the method suggested by the Royal Commission, that of a group of punters arranging to send out one of their number with the bets of the group without that individual receiving remuneration from the bookmaker, would ever become practical and popular in a factory. That is what one has to face. Are they going simply to send one of their group out?

I do not think that that method would be acceptable. Therefore, unless the law were broken by the continued payment of remuneration surreptitiously (and that would be the effect—the Committee will see my point—if this Amendment was made: you could not have an agent as the paid agent of the bookmaker collecting bets in a factory), I believe it is true, as my noble friend said, that many workmen might leave their factories in the lunch break to visit licensed betting offices, and there is the risk that one is putting the temptation as to their not returning without some delay. The fact has to be faced that, in the present attitude of mind towards betting, there is a considerable number of people who wish to make a bet in their places of work during their work time; and a law which seeks to deny them facilities would be unrealistic and likely to be evaded in some way or another.

The second point, and in my view the main objection to the proposal, is that a ban on the payment of remuneration by bookmakers to factory runners would be unenforceable. Clause 3 as amended by the Amendment would not, in terms, refer to remuneration; a ban would be on a person acting as an agent to another bookmaker by way of business. He could carry out this activity by way of business by receiving remuneration from either side. The Amendment does not seek to make unlawful the transmission of a bet to a bookmaker by one person acting for another. Obviously, it would be quite unreasonable to attempt to make a law which would prevent a person who was going to a betting office to place a bet from, at the same time, placing a bet on behalf of a friend. That could not be done, and I do not think anyone would ever suggest that. But the prohibition would affect a person in a place of work who, for remuneration, regularly received large numbers of bets from his workmates. Let us examine that position. I am trying to put what seems to me a fair case and I should like the noble Viscount, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, to consider it.

This occurs on private premises to which the police do not have access. Therefore, enforcement of such a requirement would. I submit, be impracticable. No doubt the prohibition would be effective against blatant breaches; no employer would be prepared to flaunt the law to the extent of permitting the collection of bets openly, as my noble friend Earl Bathurst mentioned, say at a table in the canteen during a meal break. It would mean simply that the collection of bets by way of business would go on surreptitiously and the employer would either not know of it or find it expedient to turn a blind eye. Without the presence of the police this sort of activity could not be prevented. And it would be just as idle to suppose that the prohibition could be enforced by the police having access to the bookmaker's accounts to discover whether he was paying agents. It would be a very simple matter to dis guise that. The noble Viscount can turn his mind back, as I do, to 1926 and to the attempt of our friend Mr. Churchill to put on the betting tax. He remembers the circumstances and I need not go into them any further. I have dealt with the factory. It would be nearly as impracticable to expect enforcement of a prohibition of the collection of bets by way of business by a tradesman going from door to door.

I want to repeat what my noble friend Lord Bathurst said. We recognise that it is the desire of the churches, based on the Royal Commission's view, to protect workpeople in the factories from social pressure which may result from the operation of bookmakers' agents there. Frankly, from my own experience of human nature, I should not have thought that that pressure was difficult to withstand, but I accept that some may take place and I am facing up to that point. Therefore, I want to repeat to the noble Viscount what my noble friend said: that, in rejecting the Amendment as unworkable, the Government must not be taken as expressing any approbation of the method of collecting bets in factories; but they must face the realities. For too long we in Parliament have sat back knowing very well that millions of our fellow countrymen were being driven into breaking the law and thus bringing the law into disrepute. I put it to the noble Viscount that if you are going to put on a restriction of this kind you must convince this Committee that it will work. I am quite sure that it will not work; and, therefore, I hope that this restriction will not be imposed.


I wonder whether the noble and learned Viscount could answer the question, which I do not think was answered, put by the most reverend Primate with regard to the definition of "premises"? He instanced in that case Lambeth Palace, comprising a number of buildings, of which some were distinct buildings. Of course, that may be regarded as an extraordinary example, but there are many cases where premises would comprise a number of separate buildings, not all within the same curtilage, and yet which might in essence be the same building—for example, factory buildings, or others I could think of and which we may deal with later. The question which was put by the most reverend Primate was: Does this paragraph (a) cover all those premises? In other words, wherever people live in individual buildings, if they bet with each other or with another party outside, are they all covered and all doing it legally; or does the word "premises", in the case of a separate building, whether it is a separate building within the main curtilage or wall or not, not provide that overall facility?

Now this point is going to crop up. If we take the case of Lambeth Palace, is Lambeth Palace the main building, or does it include also, as I should have thought, all the ancillary buildings? If the answer to that is, "Yes, it covers all the buildings", then everybody there is covered, and you could have a bookmaker there. Indeed, one could be in the Palace of Westminster. There are many different buildings here, and there could be a bookmaker right in the midst of all of us who work here every day, and we could quite legally and openly walk about and bet with each other and with third parties. My interpretation of either reside or work on those premises or on premises of which those premises form part; is that a collection of buildings is covered by "premises". If it is not, I think the most reverend Primate's question should be answered quite clearly.


It must be the full premises of a factory. If you have a factory which is in, say, a dozen different buildings, but they all form part of the undertaking, then this applies to the whole undertaking.


So far as this point is concerned, there is a definition in the Bill which says: 'premises' includes any place …", and I should have thought that most of us would say that Lambeth Palace was a place. However, this helps to illustrate the difficulty of the situation, and I am grateful to the noble and learned Viscount for the serious manner in which he has approached this question, because it is a very serious problem indeed. Now what is going to happen? Either the persons who take bets in factories, blocks of offices and Lambeth Palace, possibly, are doing it in their employer's time with their employer's knowledge, and are so depriving their employer of the services which they contracted to give him, in order to serve a bookmaker, or else they are going to be employed by the bookmaker with the consent and agreement of the employer, who in effect is going to help organise the collection of bets in his factory.

That is what the Bill as it stands is going to bring us to—one or other of those alternatives; and I do not know that they are any more pleasant than the difficulties to which the noble and learned Viscount alluded in the statement which he has just made to us. Either way of looking at it leads to very serious difficulties indeed. If you have a factory which is employing thousands of people, you may have hundreds of people who are in the employment of bookmakers collecting bets on their behalf. They will not sit at tables doing it, of course, but they will do it all the same, I suppose. What the Bill now proposes to do is to make this perfectly legal—and, indeed, to encourage employers to agree with the bookmakers that they will release some of their staff to enable them to go round as the bookmaker's runners. I really do not think that that is a satisfactory position, although I admit that there are always difficulties in enforcing any legislation with regard to betting.


Following the point that my noble friend has just made, I wonder whether the Government have considered the situation that might well arise in the case of a large factory: that is, of having a number of different runners employed by different bookmakers, as my noble friend has just said, and possibly conflict arising between these runners—and even the danger of violence. That is not unknown. In the case of, say, a factory with several thousand workers, you might well have 20 or 30 agents acting for 20 or 30 different bookmakers, and the danger of conflict between them can well be imagined; and the possibility, especially when these agents were paid, of their trying to seduce customers from one bookmaker to another.

I wanted to say a word about another aspect of the same question, what is now being accepted by everybody as likely to become a normal institution of our daily life—that is, the milkman, the baker, the newsagent and various tradesmen (and, as I suggested on the last occasion, and I suggest it once more, quite seriously, the postman) all acting on behalf of bookmakers. Instead of delivering our milk, our bread and our letters, we shall find them touting for business and accepting bets. And in this Bill, under this clause, we are deliberately legalising this and making it a part of our daily life. The noble and learned Viscount has, of course, pointed out the dangers of leaving this out, of delaying this provision; and he has made a very good case. But I would submit to him that the case he has made is purely on the practical side. He has omitted altogether the moral side of the picture: the danger that it will lead to in bringing into touch with betting people who have never made a bet before; of doing something which is, in the view of a great many people, quite wrong, simply because he suggests it is impracticable to do the right thing.

I feel that the Government ought to hesitate a very long time before they introduce this new element into the social life of this country. It is true that the milkman can to-day take a bet if he wants to, but the language that has been used this afternoon, starting with the noble Duke, assumes that the milkman will be going round taking bets instead of delivering milk, and probably making more money by taking bets than by delivering milk. The delivery of milk will become a subsidiary business altogether. I think the Government ought to hesitate a very long time before they give so much weight to the practical questions, and ignore altogether the moral side of the picture.

4.10 p.m.


May I apologise to your Lordships for not being present on Second Reading, because I was one of those who pressed the Government to bring in this Bill. I had to go to see someone who was ill and, in any case, I thought that the Second Reading would not be opposed. I cannot help wondering whether the noble Lords opposite have any contact with the working class in present-day conditions. We all know perfectly well that betting goes on widely in factories, in rural areas, in the courts and in these very buildings, through people being obliging enough to help take the betting slips of their friends and putting on their bets. On the whole, it is less destructive of work and life in offices, factories, courts of justice, or anywhere else, that someone should take other people's bets than that everybody should take time off and put on his own. Nothing that your Lordships are going to say is going to change that established fact. I do not think that this Bill is going to extend betting. I do not bet myself, but I know how widely it goes on. I think that we should do better to recognise that under the present situation millions of people have become accustomed to evade and break the law, with the connivance of the police: it would be far better to accept the reality. This Bill is not going to extend betting, but it is going to bring the law into line with common practice and common sense.


I am much indebted to the noble and learned Viscount the Lord Chancellor for the detail into which he went. I recognise the practical difficulties. When I listened to the noble Viscount, Lord Astor, whose connection with the Press is so honourable in this matter, I failed to recognise the principles for which a famous paper he knows very well often stands. I should have preferred to hear something different from him. Believe me, those who have been brought up in the working class and fought for the working class all their lives know a little about the way they live However, I think that the noble and learned Viscount understood that we regard this as a crucial point in the Bill I am obliged to him for the extent to which he has gone to win my noble friends and me away from our view, but I think that it would be better to test the Committee and divide on the matter.


I intervene only because I notice that this debate is turning slightly into a Party debate. I should like to make clear that I certainly have no intention of voting for an Amendment which I regard as wholly unworkable. It is familiar to all (I am not a betting man myself) that betting activities in factories will go on as they are going on now. If there is a risk of conflict in future, remember that that risk has always been there. I would say that the Government are to blame in this matter, in that, on the whole, the Government spokesmen in this debate, and even the noble and learned Viscount the Lord Chancellor, gave the case in support of the Amendment rather than the case against it. I think that this is unworkable, like so many other provisions in the Bill—for instance, that in regard to the abolition of the street bookmaker. There are those of us who regard the Bill as not being realistic. But on this matter some of my noble friends and I are inclined to support the Government.


I disagree entirely with my noble friend Lord Shackleton about any suggestion that we on these Benches are treating this as a Party matter. Throughout all the stages in another place members of the Party to which I belong were perfectly free to express an opinion and I am free to express mine. My own purpose being to restrict, and not to encourage, the volume of betting, my principle objection to the Bill is that I am certain that it does encourage betting. I favour the licensing of street bookmakers and not the setting up of licensed betting shops, which I think are disgraceful. That is why, on this occasion, I am afraid that I entirely dis-

agree with my noble Leader about this Amendment. This sort of thing is going on in every one of my factories, without difficulty, without fighting, without bloodshed or the prospect of it, and in all the five hospitals of which I am chairman. The people who are doing this as a matter of convenience are, in the main, being paid a small salary or honorarium, or a commission on their takings. This clause of the Bill does nothing more than legalise something which is going on and which will continue to go on, whether it is legal or not. I support what the noble Viscount, Lord Astor, said on this matter.


In finishing the debate on this Amendment, all I can say is that the points made by the last two speakers were exactly those which I intended to make. I am certain that none of your Lordships regards this as a Party matter, as the speeches we have heard indicate. Otherwise, I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton.

On Question, Whether the said Amendment shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 16; Not-Contents, 77.

Alexander of Hillsborough, V. Lucan, E. Taylor, L.
Chorley, L. Macdonald of Gwaenysgor, L. Uvedale of North End, L. [Teller.]
Dalton, L. Rusholme, L.
Douglas of Barloch, L. [Teller.] Shepherd, L. Williams, L.
Granville-West, L. Silkin, L. Winster, L.
Greenhill, L. Stansgate, V.
Ailwyn, L. Digby, L. Rathcavan, L.
Albemarle, E. Dovercourt, L. Rea, L.
Alexander of Tunis, E. Dundee, E. Reading, M.
Allerton, L. Ebbisham, L. St. Aldwyn, E. [Teller.]
Amherst of Hackney, L. Ferrier, L. St. Oswald, L.
Ampthill, L. Foley, L. Salisbury, M.
Amwell, L. Forester, L. Saltoun, L.
Astor, V. Fortescue, E. Shackleton, L.
Baden-Powell, L. Freyberg, L. Sinha, L.
Baldwin of Bewdley, E. Goddard, L. Somers, L.
Balfour of Inchrye, L. Goschen, V. Soulbury, V.
Bathurst, E. Haddington, E. Spens, L.
Bethell, L. Hampton, L. Stonham, L.
Brabazon of Tara, L. Harding of Petherton, L. Swinton, E.
Braye, L. Home, E. (L. President.) Tenby, V.
Brecon, L. Jessel, L. Teviot, L.
Bridgeman, V. Kilmuir, V. (L. Chancellor.) Teynham, L.
Buckinghamshire, E. Lansdowne, M. Torrington, V.
Carrington, L. Long, V. Tweedsmuir, L.
Chesham, L. MacAndrew, L. Twining, L.
Colwyn, L. Margesson, V. Waldegrave, E.
Colyton, L. Massereene and Ferrard, V. Wellington, D.
Conesford, L. Milverton, L. Willoughby de Broke, L.
Denham, L. Northesk, E. Wolverton, L.
Devonport, V. Onslow, E. [Teller.] Wootton of Abinger, B.
Devonshire, D. Perth, E.
Resolved in the negative, and Amend ment disagreed to accordingly.

This is a technical drafting Amendment. The reason for it is that we need to separate the restrictions on pool betting from the restrictions that operate on ordinary bookmakers' betting. The effect of the Amendment is that Clause 1 (2) will not apply to pool betting, and it makes it clear that Section 3 of the 1934 Act continues to control this form of betting. As I say, it is a technical drafting Amendment, and I doubt whether your Lordships would wish me to delay you further in explanation of it. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 2, line 5, at end insert ("and, without prejudice to section three of the Betting and Lotteries Act, 1934, shall also not apply in relation to pool betting transactions.")—(Earl Bathurst.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 1, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 2:

Bookmaker's permits

2.—(1) No person shall act as a bookmaker on his own account unless he is the holder of a permit authorising him so to act (in this Act referred to as a "bookmaker's permit") which is for the time being in force; and if any person acts as a bookmaker in contravention of this subsection he shall be guilty of an offence:

4.28 p.m.

LORD SILKIN moved, in subsection (1), after "force" to insert: but nothing in this Act shall authorise a body corporate to be the holder of a 'bookmaker's permit'; The noble Lord said: I beg to move the Amendment standing in the names of my noble Leader, myself and others. Its purpose is to ensure that the bookmaker's permit is a personal permit to the bookmaker himself and is not to be given to a body corporate, which normally would be a limited liability company. Noble Lords will be aware of the vulgar saying that a limited company has "no body to kick nor soul to save", and since the essence of this Bill is that the bookmaker should be a fit and proper person, it is difficult to ascribe that particular quality to a limited company. Over and over again in the First Schedule, in the qualifications that are required of a bookmaker, stress is laid on the fact that he must be a fit and proper person. Objections can be made to the bookmaker on the ground that he is not a fit and proper person to be given a permit. If it is open to a limited liability company to be granted a permit, then it seems to me that this qualification would be of no particular value. It may be said that the directors are fit and proper persons; but, of course, it is open to a company to change its directors at any time. There would be no point, therefore, in assuming that the persons who are responsible for the maintenance of the betting office and for the betting are fit and proper people. That is, quite briefly, my first ground for restricting the granting of a bookmaker's permit to individuals.

The second ground is that it is undesirable that bookmaking should become big business. There is a danger of a large company being formed to run a series of bookmakers' offices all over the country, with no personal touch at all; they would be run by managers or agents, who might or might not be reputable, but who would not be the people who would need to have the permit, and there would be little if any control over them. I put my case very briefly, but I think for those two main reasons, first, that it is impersonal if you have a company applying for a permit and the criterion of a fit and proper person does not apply and, secondly, the undesirability of making this big business and having large concerns running a series of bookmakers offices all over the country, the granting of permits should be restricted to individuals and should not extend to companies. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 2, line 4, after ("force") insert the said words.—(Lord Silkin.)

4.31 p.m.


I am afraid that, in contradistinction to the admirable brevity of the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, my answer is bound to be rather long, and I apologise in advance for that. The reason why it is so long is that the noble Viscount who leads the Opposition said in his speech on Second Reading that he attached importance to the point and, therefore, my right honourable friend the Home Secretary and I have given it consideration. If the Committee will give me the indulgence of allowing me to develop it, noble Lords may think it worthy of consideration between now and the Report stage, and they may come back to the matter if they are not satisfied. That is why I intend to deal with it fairly fully.

The noble Lord, Lord Silkin, will appreciate that the first of this series of Amendments forbids a body corporate to be the holder of a bookmaker's permit. Since no person can act as a bookmaker without a permit, the effect is that no bookmaker can be a limited company. That is our difficulty. We have found it difficult to see a good reason why bookmakers should not be permitted, as persons in other forms of business are permitted, to make use of the Companies Acts. Of course, many existing bookmakers, both large and small, are already limited companies, and if the Amendment were made these companies would have to be wound up. I do not think that that can have been the primary intention of the supporters of the Amendments. Obviously, as the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, made clear, they are more anxious that there should be substituted for the company some single, identifiable individual who could be made responsible in the event of the contravention of the Bill or an offence against the rules of conduct prescribed in the case of a betting office by the Second Schedule.

Taking that point—and this is not a debating point but the noble Lord sees what have in mind that you have companies—the noble Lord would say, "All right; let them change the form of their business and find some individual who would take the place of the company." He knows it is not easy to see how such an individual could in every case be identified. There are, I admit at once, some companies which are really one-man companies and the control of which is in the hands of one particular individual in the sense that he holds the majority of the shares. Whether or not he is concerned with the day-to-day policy is another matter. But, of course, that is not so in all cases. There are no doubt bookmakers who are limited companies of which the shares are held by a number of persons—for example, the members of a family, none of whom has control. It would be wrong in such a case to expect any one person to take responsibility for the actions of the company.

Let me get one point out of the way to my own satisfaction, if not to the satisfaction of the noble Lord. As he knows very the problem of criminal responsibilty in the case of a limited company is a familiar one. It is, in fact, dealt with in this Bill in a manner fully covered by precedent by the provisions of Clause 26 (4). This provides that Where an offence under this Act committed by a body corporate is proved to have been committed with the consent or connivance of, or to be attributable to any neglect on the part of, any director, manager, secretary or other similar officer of the body corporate … he, as well as the body corporate, shall be guilty of that offence and shall be liable to be proceeded against and punished accordingly. Thus, those individuals who are responsible for the management of the company on behalf of the shareholders are made personally responsible for any criminal action of the company committed with their consent or connivance or attributable to their neglect.

Now may I come to the point to which I give the heading of: "Evasion of the safeguards of the Act by someone who has, for example, a criminal record". That was one of the points which the noble Lord had in mind. I quite see that those who support the Amendment may fear that a person who wishes to be a bookmaker and who, perhaps because of a criminal record, is not eligible as an individual for the grant of a bookmaker's permit, may seek to evade the provisions of paragraph 17 of the First Schedule by acting through a limited company. If noble Lords will look at the First Schedule, paragraph 17 (a), they will see that that enables a licensing authority to refuse an application from such a person as an individual if they are not satisfied that he is, or satisfactory evidence is produced that he is not, a fit and proper person to be the holder of a bookmaker's permit.

If he sought to evade this by acting through a limited company as a cloak, the licensing authority would still be empowered to reject the application under paragraph 17 (b). This sub-paragraph enables them to reject the application if they are satisfied that the business to which it relates would be managed by, or carried on for the benefit of, a person other than the applicant who would himself be refused the grant of a permit. That is, if it is carried on for the benefit of somebody whose record would make it impossible for him to get a permit; that can be a ground of refusal.

I come to the next point which the noble Lord made, or rather I think it was later in his speech but it was one he had in mind, namely, the concern of an extended business where you had, for example, several betting offices owned by one bookmaker. The noble Lord's argument would support the views that the licences for those offices should be taken out not by the bookmaker but by the individual managers of the offices. The memorandum circulated by the Committee of the Churches for Evidence and Action relating to the Royal Commission on Gambling says in regard to Clause 4 (2): On both previous occasions we have expressed the view that the licensee should not be a company, but a person"— and by that they mean a natural person— as in the case of a public house, so that the personal responsibility of the licensee for the conduct of the office is clearly established. On the object of plurality, the Amendment would not go the whole way, because it would still be open for an individual to hold the licence for a number of betting, offices so long as he did not form a company.

I would start with the fact that we agree with the view of the Churches' Committee for Evidence and Action that the licensee of a betting office should be personally responsible for the conduct of his office, but we consider that the scheme of the Bill under which the licence is in the hands of the owner of a betting office rather than of a manager is a better way of securing this objective. The Churches' Committee could very well say, "What about public houses? Is that not a good analogy—the licensee of a public House?" But in the liquor trade there are a number of big brewers who own a chain of public houses and the licences for those public houses are in many cases taken out not by the brewer who owns them but the individual salaried managers. But in the case of the brewer he is generally a somewhat remote body from the houses, concerned primarily with the brewing and distribution of beer. In the case of the betting office, on the other hand, the concern of the bookmaker for what goes on in his betting office is a direct one. The bets which are made there are bets made with him, and it follows that if his business is to be conducted properly in his own interests he—and when I say "he" in the case of a company I mean the board of the company or the general manager according to the structure of the company—must take a personal concern in the selection of staff and the management of the offices. Therefore, we consider that the best way of ensuring that betting offices are well conducted is to place the responsibility squarely on the shoulders of the employer and not merely on his staff.

May I make the parenthetical point there, because it will at once occur to your Lordships who have studied the Bill, that the holder of a betting agency permit may obtain a betting office licence, but being merely an agent for, and not the employee of, a bookmaker, the management of the office is his concern. That is the general distinction in law between an agent and a servant. But to return to my argument, under Clause 5 (1) if there is a contravention of any of the rules of the Second Schedule, not only is a member of the staff by whom the contravention is committed liable to a penalty but so also is the licensee. The licensee is thus made directly responsible in terms for any breach of the rules of management and he can only escape from that responsibility by proving under the proviso that the contravention took place without his consent or connivance and that he exercised all due diligence to prevent it". If there were to be a series of convictions for breaches of the rules in respect of a particular betting office or the betting office was misconducted in some other way, then the licensing authority would have cause for refusing to renew the licence by virtue of paragraph 20 (1) (b) (iii) of the First Schedule.

I ask your Lordships to note this point. The result of the refusal to renew would be that the bookmaker would lose his licence and the office would have to close down. If, on the other hand, it was the manager who held the licence, the result would be only that the manager would lose his licence and be dismissed, and the bookmaker would appoint a new manager who would apply for a licence. Thus the bookmaker would only be temporarily inconvenienced. Therefore, the scheme of the Bill provides a much greater incentive for the owner of a betting office to be careful in the selection of his staff and in, exercising all diligence to ensure the good conduct of his office than if the scheme of the Churches' Committee were to be adopted.

I am sorry to have taken so long, but I think it is a very important point, because we are all concerned to have the strongest control over the conduct of these offices. I believe that you would get the stronger control by making the holder responsible, with the addition, which of course we have in the Bill, that the directors or the manager or the secretary would be criminally responsible as well as responsible for the payment of the bets. I venture to say that it is a very serious case that I have deployed, and I would suggest that your Lordships might be good enough to consider it and, if necessary, return to the charge. I am most willing, of course, to deal with it now if your Lordships would prefer it.


I am most grateful for the case that has been put by the noble and learned Viscount, the Lord Chancellor, and which has been quite detailed. I am quite willing to take some time to consider it, say between now and the Report Stage. That does not preclude other Members on these Benches from continuing the debate upon this Amendment. But, personally, I am quite willing to give further consideration before the Report stage. However, I am bound to say that at first sight, while I can see that the net has been spread as widely as possible to catch anybody who is offending and to fasten the responsibility upon the whole organisation, if necessary through persons who are in control of it, nevertheless I come back to my main point. My main point right the way through these discussions has been that the process of legalisation of certain practices to-day is going to increase and not to reduce the amount of betting. I think that that will be the case whether the licences are issued solely to individuals or to limited companies.

But in regard to companies formed with the pure intention of "cashing in" upon the growth of the betting habit, limited companies composed of organisations which are building up great reserves, and which go into heavy betting transactions and the like, I. should have thought that it would have been a reasonable thing to say that we do not want large companies of that kind set up. I do not think that we have yet had what I might call a complete assurance from the Lord Chancellor as to what happens in the case of a limited company which is accused in any operation under this Bill of changing its directors or of a continuous process of setting up new companies after one has been dealt with, and the like. For my part, I want to study rather more carefully what the Lord Chancellor has said, so I shall not myself do anything further on this particular Amendment until the next stage, though I am sure that other Members will want to speak from this side.


My noble friend the Duke of Devonshire, in Amendment No. 6, deals specifically with the changing of control of companies. I intend to deal, again fairly fully, with the point raised in my noble friend's Amendment, and that will, of course, deal specifically with the matter which the noble Viscount mentioned last. I only want to tell him that—I am not avoiding the point—because I thought it arose more succinctly on the noble Duke's Amendment.

4.52 p.m.


I am sure that, like my noble Leader, all Members on this side of the House are grateful to the noble and learned Viscount for the careful explanation he has given in regard to the case put by my noble friend Lord Silkin. We noted that the noble and learned Viscount, in his last intervention, said that he proposes to develop the case rather more fully on the later Amendment put down by the noble Duke.

The noble and learned Viscount will appreciate our difficulty in this matter. We believe that under this Bill the Government are, rightly, making provision to have effective control of those who conduct betting businesses; and we think that it is essential that that control should be exercised if the scheme of this Bill is to be successful. We believe that it is essential, therefore, that the bookmaker is the person who must be licensed. It should not be possible for a bookmaker to form himself into a limited company, with, say, £100 capital, merely for the purpose of taking out a licence; to have that licence taken away from him following an infringement of the law; then to get some other person to form another small limited company with £100 capital and apply for a licence and get it for the premises which are owned perhaps by a parent company, and then, after the licence has been granted, to acquire the capital and become the owner of the company, the company being licensed. The evasion of the provisions of this Bill which can be effected by that means will completely undermine the control which I believe the Government have in mind. I hope, therefore, that the fears that I have with regard to this matter will be further considered by the noble and learned Viscount.


Might I support what my noble friend has just said. I think the danger of an individual gaining control of a large number of establishments is much greater if a body corporate can be licensed. I would remind the noble and learned Viscount that it is possible for an individual effectively to own 50 or 100 limited companies. If those companies were badly run it would be much more difficult to get at the individual behind them than if one were dealing directly with a licensed person. I would submit that if a body corporate is to be granted a bookmaker's permit or a betting office licence—no doubt they will appeal to different authorities in different areas—it is much easier for one person owning 50 different companies to get 50 different betting office licences than it would be for that individual in his own name to get many more than one, because the police would report that he already had a number of licences, and the appropriate authority would therefore not be inclined to grant the application. But if he owns 50 companies they just do not know. Therefore, I think that that point should be looked at. Incidentally, the noble and learned Viscount referred to his noble friend's Amendment, No. 6. As I see it, this, in part, supports our contention in this Amendment, and I should have thought that the reason why the noble Duke thinks it is necessary to take such precautions—and I agree with him—shows that he fears that this sort of thing might arise and that it is much safer not to have a body corporate.

There is one parallel I should like to submit to the noble and learned Viscount. I want to quote an example of which he may not be aware, and which has nothing to do with betting, but where a different course is adopted in a case of this kind. He will be aware that the Corporation of the City of London is one of the oldest legislative bodies in this country. I do not know whether it is older than Parliament, but it is certainly very old indeed. He will also know that they own a number of markets, including, for example, Spitalfields Market, where the rent rating runs into hundreds of thousands of pounds a year. Every renting of a stall at Spitalfields Market is to an individual. Of course, in nearly every case they are companies—they are corporate bodies which run the businesses of market wholesalers, some of them even public companies. But in every case, no matter how high the rent, the only letting—the City Corporation insist on this—is to an individual. Sometimes that leads to surprising results.

The fact that the City Fathers adhere to this practice, although commercial undertakings have a very large business indeed; the fact that they go into the personal antecedents of the stall holder, as he is called, and regard him as personally responsible, has a very sound basis in reason. That is, that it militates against practices in the companies which the City Corporation regard as undesirable in persons or firms renting their property. Therefore I hope that the noble and learned Viscount, in considering this matter, will consider whether that is not an example which can lead him to take the view adopted by the City Corporation: that in relation to ordinary business it is important that licensing should be of an individual. I therefore hope that in his further consideration of this matter he will come more to our way of thinking, because otherwise it is quite certain that if any infringements are made by corporate bodies, they will to a large extent be able, by one subterfuge or another, to get away with them with impunity. If the licence is granted to an individual this will not be so.


In withdrawing the Amendment, I would ask the noble and learned Viscount, as I know he will, to give consideration to the point of view which has been put by myself and by those of my noble friends who have supported me. We think it quite consistent with the idea that a personal permit should be granted to a bookmaker that limited companies should nevertheless exist. We do not want to eliminate limited companies—those which exist or may be set up in the future. All we are concerned with is that there should be personal responsibility with the bookmaker or his agent for the proper maintenance of the bookmaker's office; and that he should be a fit and proper person, as the Schedule requires. But as my noble Leader has said, I feel that we ought to examine carefully what has been said by the noble and learned Viscount the Lord Chancellor, though I hope he will at the same time give consideration to the possibility of securing in some way—not necessarily by the Amendment which I have moved—what is desired by a great many people. I beg leave to withdraw my Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 2 agreed to.

5.1 p.m.

THE DUKE OF DEVONSHIRE moved, after Clause 2 to insert the following new clause:

Further provisions as to forfeiture and cancellation of bookmakers' permits

".If in respect of the holder of a bookmaker's permit the authority which last either granted or renewed the permit receives representations in writing from any person accompanied by a certificate from any such body as may from time to time be prescribed for the purposes of this section that such bookmaker has defaulted upon his liabilities the authority shall notify the bookmaker and may if they think fit after giving him an opportunity of being heard and after hearing such evidence as they may require order his permit to be cancelled:

Provided that nothing in this section shall authorise the authority to enquire into the circumstances in which such certificate was given."

The noble Duke said: The purpose of this new clause is to ensure that the information that any bookmaker has de faulted can with as little delay as possible be put before the appropriate licensing authority who last granted or renewed that bookmaker's permit. As I see it, this Bill, which is designed to regularise cash betting off the course, does not allow any redress at law for the recovery of betting debts, and thus presents a very real problem, in that the bettor is insufficiently protected from the bookmaker who defaults. At the moment betting disputes are settled by Tattersall's Committee, but with the extension of legalised betting, making it necessary for bookmakers to have permits, that Committee in its present state will no longer be adequate to meet this new situation. In making it legal to bet in cash off the course it would be logical to allow backers in disputes over betting to have recourse to law. Failing this, surely at least a statutory body should be set up to deal with betting disputes.

During the debate on the Second Reading of this Bill I was informed that the Government would not consider such a step. I would ask them most earnestly to reconsider this matter, as I am certain that only by establishing a statutory body to hear betting disputes, and with power to cancel a bookmaker's permit at any time, can justice not only be done but also appear to be done to those who bet on horse-racing. If, however, there is not to be a statutory body, what is to happen? Are defaulting bookmakers to be allowed to carry on business, at any rate until the end of the year for which they have a permit? A great deal of harm can be done by one bookmaker within a year. He can default on a great number of people pursuing the perfectly legitimate occupation of betting. They will not be paid and will have no redress whatever.

Then what is to happen should there be an inquiry as to whether or not a defaulting bookmaker should have his licence granted or renewed? I suggest that the case will not be met by saying (as the noble Earl, Lord Bathurst, suggested during the debate on Second Reading) that there will be nothing to stop a member of Tattersall's Committee from attending such inquiries and objecting to renewal of the licence. In the first place, how are the Committee to know when these inquiries are to take place—because there is likely to be a very considerable number of them all over the country. Tattersall's Committee, as at present constituted, have 14 members, and they would spend their time travelling all over the place; and at present there is not even the machinery for paying them expenses. Secondly, even if such a manœuvre were possible, and if a member of Tattersall's Committee were to attend every inquiry, would the representative of the Committee be able to state in public that a bookmaker was a defaulter, without running any risk whatsoever of being sued for libel by that bookmaker? To safeguard the interests of those who bet I very much hope that this Amendment will be accepted.

Which body is to be prescribed to issue the certificate to the effect that a bookmaker has defaulted will be for the Government to decide. I suggest that Tattersall's Committee should be, at any rate, a foundation on which to build this new body; and I hope that, when constituted, the body will be allowed to hear evidence on oath and have parties before them represented by counsel. Should this Amendment be rejected by the Government they will be failing in their duty if, while making betting legal for everybody, they do not at the same time provide adequate safeguards and protection for those who bet on horses. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— After Clause 2 insert the said new clause.—(The Duke of Devonshire.)


If this Amendment were to be agreed to it would mean a fundamental change in the law relating to betting. It has been the law of this country for a very long time that money wagered on bets is not to be recovered by any legal process; and if this Amendment were made to this Bill there would be provided an indirect means of evading that provision and, in effect, enabling anybody to threaten that a bookmaker will be deprived of his livelihood if he does not pay a bet. That is something against which we have resolutely set our faces for a very long time. It used to be possible, by means of certain legal devices, to evade that to a certain extent, but the law has been steadily tightened up, and those devices have now become illegal. Although one understands the motives which prompted the noble Duke to bring forward this Amendment, it is of such a fundamental character that it should not be made at this stage, for it would completely alter the character of the Bill.


I agree with what has been said by the noble Lord, Lord Douglas of Barloch. This Bill does nothing to alter the Gaming Act, and if Tattersall's Committee were to be set up as a statutory body it would be necessary to alter that Act. I see the difficulty to which the noble Duke has referred, but I do not think it is practical to follow his suggestion because that means altering the Gaming Act, which is not the intention of this Bill.


I should like to support the noble Duke on this Amendment. Surely one of the objects of the Bill is to get the rogues and rascals out of the bookmaking business and, if we are giving people a licence, to see that they are people of integrity. We do not want the small criminal element who have been mixed up with bookmaking. They are a very small element, but we want them out altogether. We want to get rid of the deliberately dishonest rogue who bilks; and surely it is sensible that if somebody is found to have defaulted in a large way he should not continue to have a licence to exercise his business of bookmaking as provided for in this Bill. I am not certain whether or not this proposed clause is the right way to do that, but surely the principle is right. We want to get rid of the bad and dishonest element in bookmaking. That must be done in some way, and I hope that this clause, or something similar, will be considered.


This Bill, of course, is rooted in the hypocrisy so dear to the hearts of the English people and of which the noble Lord, Lord Douglas of Barloch is such an eloquent advocate. It legalises betting yet takes no steps to enforce that bets properly and legally laid should be paid in one way or another. I know that it is a magnificent British compromise. I cannot help disapproving of it entirely. I believe that as soon as we legalise betting we should legalise the payment of bets; and it is really quibbling over this whole question not to face up to the issue. If you are going to make one part of the business legal, make the whole of it legal. However, I quite realise the impossibility of that.

I rise to support the Amendment, only because it would at least remove the possibility of a great deal of dishonesty which otherwise might quite easily arise. It is quite monstrous to make off-the-course betting legal in an Act of Parliament and, at the same time, take no steps whatsoever (as this Bill at the moment does not do) to protect the public from the fraudulent bookmaker. This is an attempt, I suggest, to give some protection to the public by allowing Tattersall's Committee, if they have knowledge of the fact that a bookmaker has defaulted in the past, at least to give that knowledge to the appropriate authority. That will give some protection to the public, and I think the public deserve that protection. Therefore I support the new clause.


The point I want to raise is similar to that raised by the noble Lord, Lord Boothby, but from a slightly different angle. I am not concerned with any alleged hypocrisy, but I am concerned about this aspect. If we are putting the cloak of respectability upon the kind of activity which hitherto has been regarded as not the proper thing to do, are we not thereby making any kind of debts arising out of these particular transactions debts which are, in the ordinary course of things, legally recoverable? And if there is any dispute about money between a backer and a bookmaker, whoever is right, surely it should be the kind of case which can go before an ordinary court and be tried as an ordinary debt recovery case. Is that impossible in the present Bill?


As Chairman of Tattersall's Committee for live years, from about 1948 to 1953, I should like most warmly to support this new clause moved by the noble Duke. It seemed to me, when I read through the provisions of the original betting Bill, which I studied at some length, that there was a considerable cause for alarm at the absence of any provision for preventing a bookmaker from applying for a licence—a bookmaker who might have been posted to the Jockey Club by Tattersall's Committee as a defaulter on more than one occasion, and who at the time of his application for a licence might still be on the list of defaulters. As the Committee will know, I think, this list is unfortunately a privileged publication, and it cannot be made public because there is a grave risk that the publishers of the list—namely, the Jockey Club—would be liable: to be sued for libel by anybody whose name is on it. At the present moment the only remedy in the hands of the Jockey Club, or of the governing body of racing in the winter, the National Hunt Committee, is to circulate this list confidentially to the clerk of the course at every racecourse, and anybody who is on this defaulters' list and is found on a racecourse is liable to be ejected.

But this is much more a vital problem than that. This deals with the granting to a bookmaker by a magistrates' court of a licence which, so far as I can see from the provisions of the Bill, will enable him to carry on his trade without let or hindrance. He will have a free run for a year: it will not be until the expiry of that year that people who may, through no fault of their own, have suffered at his hands, who are a victim of this defaulting bookmaker, will be able, when the bookmaker's licence comes up for renewal, to form up in front of the bench and raise an objection. I feel it is putting the whole of the betting organisation and its integrity into serious jeopardy to leave the matter as it is in the Bill. I would most seriously ask Her Majesty's Government to be good enough to reconsider this matter and, if they cannot find it possible to accept the exact words of the noble Duke's new clause, to accept an Amendment on similar lines which will achieve the same purpose.

5.15 p.m.


The Committee will have sympathy with my noble friend the Duke of Devonshire and with the noble Viscount, Lord Astor, and the noble Lord, Lord Willoughby de Broke, who have just spoken with their great knowledge of racing conditions, and especially of Tattersall's Committee, as we have heard. The noble Duke said that as bets are now to be legal it is logical for a punter to have payment of them made enforceable by law. But the effect of my noble friend's Amendment, as the noble Lord opposite, Lord Douglas of Barloch, and my noble friend Lord Wolverton, said, is that the licensing magistrates would become the arbiters of racing debts. I think, as I shall show in a moment or two, that that would be quite out of place and quite impracticable.

The purpose of this new clause is to enable a bookmaker's permit to be cancelled by the licensing authority in the middle of the licensing year if the holder is found by Tattersall's Committee to have defaulted on his betting obligations. Tattersall's Committee are not referred to by name in the proposed new clause, but it is understood to be the intention that they should be the body to be prescribed.


If I may interrupt, I was very careful not to say that. I went only so far as to say that Tattersall's Committee might be considered as a foundation for a new body. I said no more than that.


I note what the noble Duke says. Nevertheless, in the Bill "prescribed" means prescribed by regulations made by the Secretary of State; and I am quite certain that the noble Duke must appreciate there are very few bodies whom my right honourable friend would, in fact, be able to prescribe.

The basis of the licensing scheme for bookmakers in the Bill as it stands is that in the ordinary way the permit runs for a year and is renewable at a meeting of the licensing authority held towards the end of the licensing year, at which objections can be heard and considered. These objections may be received from anyone, and this includes an objection made on behalf of Tattersall's Committee, to whom the noble Duke referred. It also includes one made on behalf of the local bookmakers' protection association; it could also be an objection from the punter, as my noble friend Lord Willoughby de Broke suggested might happen.

Tattersall's Committee could, when considering a particular case, inquire which licensing authority had issued the bookmaker's permit, so that they would know where an objection should be lodged. That was brought out by the noble Duke, and I think he would possibly wish to look at that point later, I after I have finished. They should be able to know where an objection should be lodged if they, the Committee, had decided that the bookmaker was a defaulter. Under the procedure of the Bill, a decision of Tattersall's Committee that a bookmaker is a defaulter will not be binding upon the licensing authority, and they will have to make up their own minds, after hearing such evidence as may be placed before them at the inquiry, whether he is or is not a fit and proper person.

When speaking in the Second Reading debate, my noble friend the Duke was worried about the position of a person appearing before the licensing authority with regard to the law of libel—as, indeed, he mentioned before your Lordships this afternoon. No doubt Tattersall's Committee, or the Bookmakers' Protection Association, would often choose to be legally represented. My right honourable friend does not think—and he has consulted most carefully with my noble and learned friend who sits upon the Woolsack about this—that there is any need for apprehension on this score. The licensing authority will be a public body carrying out a public duty laid upon it by Statute, and in these circumstances anything said for the purposes of its proceedings will be covered by the law of qualified privilege—and I think my noble friend will probably want to look at that. This means that a witness cannot be successfully sued in the courts for anything he says in evidence provided he has a public duty to say it, which he obviously has in this case, and that in what he says he is not actuated by motives of malice.

The Amendment is concerned with the position that if Tattersall's Committee decide that a bookmaker is a defaulter early on in the licensing year, his permit would nevertheless continue to run until it came up for renewal towards the end of the year—and that was the very point made by my noble friend Lord Willoughby de Broke, who mentioned the fact that a bookmaker might have almost a whole year of his licence to run even if he was already an out-and-out crook. The procedure of the Bill is based upon the view that, since a permit is to be granted or renewed after a careful inquiry conducted in a judicial manner by a public authority, it can be properly cancelled in the middle of a licensing year only in limited, specified circumstances on the initiative of an official body. The Bill provides in Clause 8 for the possibility of cancellation—and this is a point that the noble Lord, Lord Greenhill, may wish to look into—on conviction of a limited number of serious criminal offences, the cancelling authority being the court by whom the bookmaker is convicted.


May I butt in here? I am afraid that there is a good deal of unnecessary complication here. In future there will be no defaulters: they will be ordinary, respectable traders. They will incur debts, some of which they will pay and some of which they will not pay, either because they think they are not due or because they are unable to pay. Whatever the reason, if there is a claim against a man in that business, he can go to the ordinary court and treat it as an ordinary debt. There will no longer be any defaulting. If, in the course of his trading, he does things which are offensive to his customers, the backers, then they will simply either cease to trade with him or will report him as being a man with a character unsuitable for the business he is trying to carry on. Why is there this talk of defaulting in an occupation which we are now making respectable?


I appreciate the point of the noble Lord, Lord Greenhill, which is very similar, I think, to the points made by my noble friends on this side; but we must not lose sight of the view with which I am concerned, and with which the noble Lord, Lord Douglas of Barloch, is concerned, whereby under this Amendment, should it be accepted, the licensing authority will be made the arbitrators in a racing debt dispute. I am hoping that, when I have developed my argument completely, I shall have shown that that is not only undesirable, as I am sure your Lordships will agree, but is quite impracticable and, possibly, quite impossible. However, I see the point of the noble Lord opposite, as indeed I appreciate the points of view which my noble friends on this side have expressed and which are very similar.

The cancelling authority would be the court by whom the bookmaker is convicted. Apart from this, under the Bill as it stands a permit must run for the whole of the year in respect of which it was granted or renewed. The new clause—my noble friend's clause—proposes that the licensing authority should be empowered to initiate a review of a bookmaker's permit in the middle of a year if they receive a certificate from Tattersall's Committee that the holder has defaulted. The difficulty here is that it would mean giving official recognition to a body which, despite its reputation in the racing industry—and I assure my noble friends Lord Willoughby de Broke and the noble Duke that there is no dispute over that, of course—is, nevertheless, entirely unofficial. I am certain that the noble Lord, Lord Greenhill, will see that if we allowed this Amendment the licensing authority would be in the position of making an official decision as a result of a finding by the Tattersall's Committee.

Even if this objection in principle were set aside, the new clause raises a further difficulty: that, under the proviso, the licensing authority would not be authorised to inquire into the circumstances in which the certificate was given. It is true that the power to cancel the permit is qualified by the words "if they think fit", but it is difficult to see how the licensing authority would have means of exercising this discretion properly if they were denied the evidence which would be before the Tattersall's Committee. On the other hand, it would seem wrong make the decision of Tattersall's Committee binding upon the licensing authority. They are not an official body and, on the noble Duke's own showing, it could be said that they mete out a form of justice which is possibly "rough and ready"—I think he would admit that.

If the licensing authority are to carry out the task properly, they would have to inquire into the circumstances themselves, and it would not seem right that they should do so except as part of a public inquiry in court which would have been the subject of public advertisement, and in which other persons would have an opportunity to voice objections. That is where the objections of the punter come in, at the public inquiry. As the Bill stands, this is, of course, what would happen at the meeting at the end of the licensing year at which the permit comes up for renewal in the ordinary way, but it would cause considerable practical difficulties if the procedure could be invoked at any time by the new clause which my friend the noble Duke seeks to bring in. Obviously, the bookmaker, for one, would have to come to give evidence, it may be from a long way. Equally, punters would have to come, also, perhaps, from a long way; and there would have to be the collection of evidence, and so forth. It would involve considerable difficulty to arrange for that all through the year.

Her Majesty's Government, for their part, do not take so serious a view as my noble friend the Duke does of the possibility that a bookmaker may be able to continue in possession of a permit for some months after he has been found to be acting in an unprofessional manner. I fancy that the punters themselves will have a very large hand in dealing with that, as I think my noble friend Lord Willoughby de Broke will appreciate. The Minister does not think it is reasonable to expect that the system of registration of bookmakers will provide a 100 per cent. guarantee of their reliability; or, as I have said to the noble Lord, Lord Greenhill, that the licensing authority can be the arbitrators of racing debt disputes. As the Bill stands, it is true that a bookmaker may escape for a few months, but we think that the system provides as good a safeguard for the public as can reasonably be expected. I hope I have made myself clear to the noble Duke and to other noble Lords who have taken part in the debate on this new clause. For those reasons, I am afraid that I cannot accept the noble Duke's Amendment.

5.30 p.m.


There is no question that this Bill would not enable a debt to be recovered. If a bookmaker defaults on Mr. A and Mr. B, there are no legal means of getting that money. We can merely prevent him from continuing to default on money which he would otherwise owe to Mr. C, Mr. D and Mr. E. Secondly, if we do not want defaulting bookmakers to continue in business—a point on which I imagine we all agree—who is going to make the inquiries? Are they going to be made at the end of the year by a body of magistrates, who may be unaware of the intricacies of betting and of reputations? I understand that Tattersall's Committee have to cope with a very technical question. And, at the end of the year, to go into what happened in a bet made six months before is a very difficult business. Is it not far better to accept Tattersall's Committee, a body with very considerable experience, but that the Home Secretary should say that before it is prescribed as a body there should be safeguards—legal representations, both sides should be heard, and so forth? Once that body had the safeguards necessary for a correct judicial hearing, it would be very useful to the magistrates, who have not the same expert knowledge and might make completely different decisions in different parts of the country. I think that these points might be considered.


In the course of his speech, the noble Earl implied that the effect of this new clause would be to transfer sanctions to Tattersall's Committee; that in effect, to them would be confided the right to license or not to license a bookmaker. As I read the clause, it does not transfer authority from the magistrate to Tattersall's Committee. It simply gives the Committee the right, under suitable safeguards and without prejudice, to submit information to the magistrates, which I should think is the proper thing to do.


That is exactly what we find so difficult. If Tattersall's Committee, as they are entitled to do under the new clause, send forward an objection to the licensing authority in the course of the year, that authority would have to make a full inquiry into the matter. They would have to consider whether Tattersall's Committee were right or not. They must hear both sides of the story. Under the clause there would be no chance of that consideration, and it could act unfairly to bookmakers.


In replying to my question, the noble Earl said that there is no recovery of debt; that there is no contract (as it were) for the payment of a debt. Therefore, the man who does not pay is not an insolvent debtor but a defaulter.


May I make it clear to the noble Lord that this Bill does not alter the law, which says that gaming debts are irrecoverable at law. If your Lordships pass this Bill, it is still impossible to recover in a court of law. The English conception, be it right or wrong, outmoded or proper—I am merely telling your Lordships the historical facts—is that when you bet, it is a matter of individual honour and not something about which you have recourse to the courts. That is the view on which our law has been founded and this Bill will not alter that.


I think that the description of the noble Lord, Lord Boothby, is correct.


If a bookmaker who defaults is not regarded as a fit and proper person to hold a licence and can be challenged at the end of the year, why can he not be challenged when he has defaulted?


This is the real difficulty in which we are placed in this matter. What is suggested in the new clause is that the authority—and I ask your Lordships to look closely at the words— … receives representations in writing from any person accompanied by a certificate from any such body as may from time to time be prescribed for the purposes of this section that such bookmaker has defaulted upon his liabilities … I recognise my noble friend's point. I begin, as he suggested, by using Tattersall's Committee as a foundation. Somebody sends to the licensing authority a complaint coupled with a certificate from Tattersall's Committee. The authority, after giving the bookmaker the opportunity of being heard and hearing such evidence as they require, may order his permit to be cancelled.

But then the new clause goes on to say: Provided that nothing in this section shall authorise the authority to enquire into the circumstances in which such certificate was given. That means that on the complaint of a dissatisfied punter, coupled with a certificate of Tattersall's Committee, a licensed authority may have an inquiry. But if the bookmaker says that Tattersall's were wrong or that he was not there or that for some reason or another their decision is incorrect, that is not looked into. There is an immense amount of prejudice at that time.

I suggest that the proper method is that Tattersall's Committee, with the local bookmakers' protection association, should examine the licences that are coming up, and if they find a defaulter on the list of licensees they should raise the matter at the licensing sessions. As we know in regard to public-house licences, every licensing sessions in the country is covered by the opponents of liquor licences, who look out for any default or mismanagement or something to which to take objection. If an objection is raised at the annual sessions, the objectors can give their evidence, the matter has to be brought to the notice of the police, and the licensee in question can answer the objection.

I think that the real question that is worrying your Lordships is that there may be a considerable delay. The first point on that is that before anyone can have a licence, he has to satisfy the authority that he is a fit and proper person. The licensing sessions will probably be held at the same time as the Brewster Sessions, with which noble Lords and I are familiar. If an authority says that a licensee is a fit and proper person on February 14, it is not very likely, but it is possible, that that licensee is going to be found to be unfit and an improper person soon afterwards. But I agree that he may be. He is endangering his licence for the next year. As my noble friend Lord Bathurst pointed out, the Bill is not without "teeth". Under Clause 8 there is a series of five offences in relation to betting. If the bookmaker is convicted of any one of these offences he can lose his licence at once; and if' he is convicted of any offence involving fraud or dishonesty he can lose his licence at once. So that really the only matter that is material is not whether there is any fraud or dishonesty, but whether he has defaulted through lack of funds. I should have thought that the danger of losing their licence at the next licensing sessions would be a sufficient deterrent against people rushing into bookmaking without sufficient funds.

However, if the feeling of your Lordships is that there ought to be a six-months' period I should like to consider that and see how practical it is. It means putting a good deal of additional work on the licensing justices (and we shall be considering that again on other Amendments), but I should be prepared to consider that. I do not think, however, that your Lordships have given sufficient attention, if I may say so, with respect, to the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Douglas of Barloch. The noble Lord knows very well that this Bill does not change the recoverability of gaming transactions, but as I understood him, what he had in mind was the "blackmailing" effect of these transactions. If you give a right to somebody who has a certificate at Tattersall's, for instance, how are you going to deny it to the ordinary person who has a complaint? I think it is very difficult. I do not see how you can give a golden road to the person who has gone to Tattersall's and got the transaction dealt with there, and yet prevent Mrs. Smith, in a back street in Leeds, from making an objection in the middle of the year.

That raises the difficulty which, as I understand it, the noble Lord, Lord Douglas of Barloch, saw: that in effect it would mean that complaints would be made all through the year, with, behind it all, the threat of an immediate cessation of the licences, which is ("blackmail" is a strong word, and I ought to have perhaps used the word "white-mail") indirect pressure to recover a recoverable debt. If I understood the noble Lord correctly, that is what he had in mind. And I think there is a real danger there. However, in view of the mood of the Committee (I always try on Committee stage to see if I can meet the mood of the Committee) I feel that I ought to look into it again, without giving any promise, to see whether it would be possible to have an intermediate period when this matter could be looked into. But I do not see how we could accept the Amendment in this form, for the reasons I have given. I am prepared to look into it, but I cannot give a commitment to your Lordships because I should have to take soundings as to whether it is physically possible.


I apologise for not being here throughout the whole of this discussion, and this point may have been dealt with already. Is it to be assumed that if the debt is irrecoverable the bookmaker has necessarily welshed? As I understood the noble Duke when he dealt with this point on Second Reading, he made it perfectly clear that the Tattersall's Committee meets in private, and that if it issued a certificate after such a meeting it would not give its reasons and (I do not know whether these are the exact words, but I am paraphrasing) that those decisions are not governed by the normal rules of evidence; there is no cross-examination or anything like that. If that is so, I would submit to the noble and learned Viscount that if this Amendment were accepted, particularly with the proviso that the authority shall not be authorised to inquire into the circumstances in which the certificate is given, it would be wholly contrary not only to everything that we know in English justice but to what we regard as ordinary normal fair play.

Take the instance given by the noble and learned Viscount the Lord Chancellor, that the bookmaker comes along to the authority and says: "The decision was given against me, but I was up in Newcastle and it was difficult. I was ill at the time. I did not receive this bet." In such a case—I do not say the explanation is true or untrue, but these are the reasons—the authority is expressly excluded by this clause from going back to Tattersall's Committee and saying: "This is what this man has said. Is it true or not? What is the evidence?" Because Tattersall's Committee could say: "You cannot come back to us, and, in any case, we don't give reasons, but only decisions, and we expect you to take notice of these decisions." And so the man is deprived of his livelihood. We are all against welshers, whether they be bookmakers or punters, and since a betting transaction is supposed to be an honourable transaction on both sides, one must have dishonoured it. Nevertheless, we ought not to agree to something which is contrary to everything we understand about justice and fair play. We may not like bookmakers—and I do not like them—but we are here to see that they get justice.


I am sorry to prolong this debate, but the noble and learned Viscount the Lord Chancellor has, I think, given us very little evidence that he is willing to meet the point of substance contained in this Amendment. Nor do I think real consideration has been given to the wording of the Amendment. There is, of course, ample provision—and I draw the attention of my noble friend Lord Stonham to it—for the authority to consider evidence on the matter. It seems to me that we are confusing a number of analogies from different fields in a matter in which we have to look at the problem as it stands; and here we are in some difficulty because of the "double think" that surrounds this whole subject.

I cannot see any reason why this licence cannot be cancelled in the course of a particular year. There is ample provision in other legislation for this to be done, and admittedly in matters where there is a statutory authority in a position to do it. But this may be one of the defects in this Bill; and perhaps, not for the first time, the Government are regretting that they have embarked on such a hazardous course as introducing a Bill dealing with this subject. We admire them for their courage and determination, but we are asking them to show a little more determination and to face up to this important issue. There may be other reasons why the licensing authority may not be suitable to deal with all matters. If so, I would submit that it is for the Government to find a solution to the problem.

The provisions in Clause 8 under which a licence can be cancelled in midyear are so limited—they are, in fact, virtually limited to criminal offences—that I would strongly urge the Government to consider carefully the noble Dukes proposal to see whether some way cannot be worked out to meet these objections. I am sure that if a real assurance was given by the noble and learned Viscount the noble Duke would be disposed to withdraw the Amendment, but at the moment I do not think that an offer, and a very conditional offer, of consideration at the end of six months meets the points that have been made.

5.50 p.m.


I have listened to this debate with a quite open mind, and I must say that various considerations have been brought before the Committee from all sides which make it difficult for me to make up my mind. I speak also with an open mind on this, because I may say that on the rare occasions that I have backed horses I have always lost, so the defaulting bookmaker is no enemy of mine—none ever defaulted with my money. I am wherever possible against setting up these extra-judicial authorities. We have the finest range of courts in the world, and unless there are very strong reasons for setting up extrajudicial authorities I do not think we should set them up. I consider that what the noble and learned Viscount and the noble Earl, Lord Bathurst, said has a great deal of weight in it. There is only one point upon which neither of them satisfied me. I agree that applicants should go to the magistrates, and that the magistrates should issue licences and consider licences.

But I think there is some point in the issue raised by the noble Viscount, Lord Astor, when he said that there may be a great deal of difficulty if a bookmaker defaults, as it were, at the beginning of the year and is likely to go on defaulting. I do not see that there is any difficulty in allowing the magistrates to consider the licence of a bookmaker straight away. That is the only point I have. I do not think it is necessary to wait a whole year before the question is examined afresh. It is not done with the Brewster licences, because, although they come up once a year, once anything is done by a publican he can be brought before the courts at any time. In fact, he is one of the few people in this country who is presumed to be guilty and has to prove his innocence. He, and a receiver of stolen goods, are the only two people who have to do that.

Therefore, I would ask the noble and learned Viscount whether it is not possible so to amend this Bill that it would be quite practicable, in a case where a bookmaker has defaulted, for the matter to be considered by the magistrates straight away without waiting until the end of the year. It must be remembered that there is something in what the noble Lord, Lord Greenhill, has said. Under this Bill you are giving a certificate of respectability which a bookmaker has never had. Therefore, if a bookmaker has a certificate, it will be assumed by the public for the remainder of that year that he is a highly respectable person. As a Committee, I do not think we ought to allow that to happen. If he has defaulted, it should be possible for the magistrates to deal with the matter straight away. If the Government could meet that point, I feel certain that they would be in a strong position.


I am sorry that I did not satisfy the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, because that was the point to which I was directing my mind. There is an obvious difficulty. In the present state of things my noble friend's Amendment would mean that the magistrates would be entitled to consider the matter if there was a certificate from Tattersall's, but not entitled to go into the circumstances under which that certificate was given. That, I think, is not satisfactory, at any rate to all your Lordships—let me put it that way. A number of your Lordships feel that that is a difficult situation. It seems to me that in these circumstances I have two thing's to consider. First, if it is not limited to Tattersall's, are the magistrates to be under an obligation, or are they to have the discretion to institute an inquiry on any complaint from a backer? I think that that needs a little consideration for the reasons adumbrated by the noble Lord, Lord Douglas of Barloch, and from one's general common sense. The idea that every disgruntled backer can produce an inquiry, or can produce the threat of one, is something I want to consider. I am not going to put anyone under the danger of an inquiry without consideration for the ordinary principles of justice.

I said that I would consider specifically whether one would have intermediate sessions in which cases could be considered, so that one would not have the possible delay of, say, eleven months. I am quite prepared to consider the whole problem, but I could not give a commitment. I think it is too difficult, because the arguments in your Lordships' House have gone both ways on that matter. I could not give a commitment, but I promise to consider it—and I have shown your Lordships the way in which my consideration would be moving. After all, the second part of the Committee stage only comes this Thursday, and there will be some time before the Report stage, because we are adjourning for a fortnight, and we shall all have time to consider what is obviously a difficult point. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, does not think I am being unreasonable, because I am trying to be reasonable. I never regard Committee stages in this House as anything but an opportunity to search together for the best method, and that is what I hope to do if your Lordships will agree.


The Lord Chancellor's objections would be somewhat ameliorated if, when Tattersall's become the prescribed body, it would have to agree with the Home Secretary that there would be a proper inquiry, with the parties represented, with cross-examination and with a public record. It would not be, as it must under present conditions, a private inquiry. It would then become a far more judicial inquiry, with proper rules of evidence and obvious fair play. Surely that would ease the situation.


Yes, but I think equally the noble Duke and my noble friend Lord Willoughby de Broke would want to consider it very carefully before they changed the whole style of inquiry which Tattersall's have. I am not going to ask them to declare themselves now, but I should have thought that they would want to consider that before they agreed to an entirely different form.


I am most grateful to the noble and learned Viscount for what he has suggested, and also to all your Lordships for your contributions to this Amendment. There is one fundamental difficulty which is perhaps not fully appreciated. I understood the noble Earl, Lord Bathurst, to say that on no account could the licensing authorities become arbiters of betting disputes.


On no account "should", not "could".


Unless there is a prescribed body set up, it is inevitable that the licensing authorities will become arbiters in betting disputes, because a bookmaker will apply for a renewal of his licence and one of those who has bet with him will object to it because he has not been paid. The bookmaker will reply that it is quite true that the backer has not been paid, but it was because he was not entitled to be paid. Thereupon the dispute as to whether or not that bookmaker's licence shall be renewed revolves entirely round a betting point. So, with all respect, I would say that if the licensing authorities are not to be arbiters of betting disputes, then there must be set up some central body to hear the disputes. There is no other alternative. The noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, said that he disapproved of special bodies when we have the finest courts in the world to go to. But I feel that in betting disputes the courts are barred. If we could go to the courts, none of this would arise.


What I meant was that the system of licensing will be before the courts. I think there is a lot in what the noble Lord, Lord Boothby, has said: that it would be better if we made the whole thing legal. But we have to take the Bill as it is, and you have to go to the courts for licences.


I beg the noble Lord's pardon. Unless you are going to have each licensing authority capable and fit and sufficiently knowledgeable to undertake to settle betting disputes, some central body must be set up, and in my opinion it would be much wiser if it were statutory. I am most grateful to the noble and learned Viscount. I and my friends will think about it further, and I give notice that we will raise it again at the Report stage. I now beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

6.2 p.m.

THE DUKE OF DEVONSHIRE moved, after Clause 2 to insert the following new clause:

As to bookmakers' permits held by bodies corporate

".—(1) In the case of any body corporate being the holder of a bookmaker's permit—

  1. (a) which is acquired or otherwise comes under the control of any other body corporate or person; or
  2. (b) in respect of which a change occurs among the persons who are directors of the body corporate;
it shall be the duty of the body corporate forthwith to give notice in writing of such acquisition or change of control or change of directors as the case may be to the authority which either granted or last renewed the permit.

(2)If the said authority after hearing such evidence as they think fit and after giving such body corporate an opportunity of being heard are satisfied that such body corporate is not a fit and proper person to be the holder of a bookmaker's permit they may not later than one month from the receipt by them of the notice referred to in subsection (1) of this section cancel the bookmaker's permit held by the body corporate and notify the body corporate accordingly."

The noble Duke said: This new clause, like the previous one, is designed to protect those who bet. As the Bill stands, there is a loophole by which undesirable people can obtain a bookmaker's permit, for a permit held by a company can be transferred either to another company or to an individual; and no matter how disreputable the directors of that company or the individual may be, the permit is valid for the remainder of the year for which it has been granted. In the same way, the directors of a company holding a permit may change completely, yet no new permit is required. Also, unless this new clause is adopted, there is a very real danger that an undesirable individual or company will arrange for a company to whom the appropriate licensing authority could have no objection to apply for a bookmaker's permit, and then as soon as it was granted to have it transferred to himself, or to themselves if it is a company. This new clause would ensure that any change in the ownership of a bookmaker's permit is brought to the knowledge of the appropriate authority, and it creates the machinery for cancelling the permit if the authority is satisfied that the new owner or owners of the permit are not proper people to hold one. I very much hope this new clause will be adopted because it will strengthen the Bill by an additional safeguard for those people who bet on horse-racing. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— After Clause 2, insert the said new Clause.—(The Duke of Devonshire.)


I have the greatest sympathy with the noble Duke in his proposal, but I have the gravest doubts whether the licensing authority is capable of discharging the functions that he wishes to put upon them. It is, of course, quite a different case where there is a national statutory authority like the Independent Television Authority; there is a similar provision with regard to contracting companies there. But whether a bench of magistrates is really capable of finding its way deeply into the intricacies of company law I have the gravest doubts. This new clause would strengthen the case which was made earlier for dealing in a different way with the corporate body. It is extremely difficult—and I am sure the noble Duke would agree—to establish who in fact is the controlling body. It may involve some degree of investigation, and I do not quite see how the justices, especially if they are concerned with a national body which may be interested in a number of different licences, can hope to do this. I am rather coming to the view as we proceed with this Bill that there is indeed a need for some central authority which will be concerned with certain aspects. The debate we had on the previous Amendment has made it abundantly clear that there is a need for this, and I suspect that if the corporate body is to remain as a possible bookmaker it will similarly be necessary for somebody to be able to carry out the sort of investigations that will satisfy the purpose which I am sure all your Lordships wish to achieve.


I am sorry to throw in a word on a matter on which I am not very well-informed. I should like to know whether a partnership in England is a body corporate. I think that it is in Scotland, but I am not sure whether it is in England.


A partnership is not a body corporate. A body corporate is a limited company incorporated under the Companies Act.

I think the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, with great respect to him, has not given sufficient attention to the safeguards that already exist, because the basis for the licensing of bookmakers in the Bill is that the permit runs in the ordinary way for a year and is renewable at a meeting, of the licensing authority held at the end of the licensing year, at which time objections can be heard and considered. I would remind the noble Lord again that one of the grounds for refusal to grant or renew a permit is that stated in paragraph 17 (a) of the First Schedule—namely that the licensing authority 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. In addition, there is an extension of the ground for refusal which is particularly applicable to limited companies in subparagraph (b)—namely, that, if the permit were to be granted or renewed, the business to which it relates would be managed by, or carried on for the benefit of, a person other than the applicant, being a person who would himself he refused … a permit. In the case of a limited company the applicant for a permit is the company, but it is being managed by its directors. If a director was not, in the opinion of the licensing authority, a fit and proper person to be the holder of a bookmaker's permit in his personal capacity, then that would, under sub-paragraph (b) of paragraph 17, be a ground for the refusal of a permit to the company of which he is director.

If we take the Amendment of my noble friend, the first case is where the permit is acquired or otherwise comes under the control of a body corporate, and the second when a change occurs in the persons who are directors of a body corporate. Let us take the change in the directors and consider the kind of change which is envisaged in paragraph (b) of subsection (1) of the proposed new clause; that is, a change in the persons who are directors. Under the scheme of the Bill as it stands, the licensing authority will be able to consider such a change when a permit comes up for renewal towards the end of the licensing year. Paragraph 5 of the First Schedule requires an application for a permit to be made in such form and manner and to contain such particulars as may be prescribed—that is, prescribed by regulations made by the Secretary of State. My right honourable friend is minded to require that an application made on behalf of a limited company shall give particulars of the names of the directors and the secretary. A copy of the application will have to be sent to the police. Thus if there has been a change in the identity of one of the directors this fact will be known to the licensing authority and to the police, and if the new director is found by the licensing authority to be an unfit person then the permit can be refused under paragraph 17 (b) of the First Schedule. Thus the point made by my noble friend in relation to the change of directorship is covered, except in so far as the review of the matter by the licensing authority will occur once a year and not at any time during the year.

My noble friend Lord Meston suggested that a further particular which might be requested was whether a company—and of course this could be extended to include a director or manager or secretary of the company—had ever been posted at Tattersall's as a defaulter. I am quite prepared to consider that. I do not know whether my noble friend has followed it. It harks back rather to the other Amendment. But here, under the provision that I have just referred to—namely, under paragraph 5 of the First Schedule—the application for a bookmaker's permit must be in the form and manner and contain such particulars as may be prescribed. I am meeting the difficulty of my noble friend the Duke of Devonshire by saying that my right honourable friend is certainly minded to prescribe that he will have to say who are the directors, manager and secretary of the company. But it would help in the difficulty that we have just been discussing on the last Amendment if my right honourable friend were to prescribe that the company and each of its officers had to state whether they had ever been posted as a defaulter at Tattersall's. I am quite prepared to consider that, and indeed to consider the matters that may be put in the question.

But we come back to the same point as we have been discussing on the last Amendment—namely, whether the review should be made at any time of the year when a change occurs, whether it should be made only at the annual meeting, or whether one can find some halfway house. One must have regard to the judicial nature of the consideration which the licensing authority must give to the renewal of permits, and one has to consider whether the review which the new clause proposes that they should conduct into the change of directorship should be made otherwise than by a public inquiry in court, which would have been the subject of public advertisement and to which objections could be allowed. I do not think that it could. I do not think that my noble friend would for a moment suggest that you could deal with it in any other way. Of course, in the ordinary way, unless there has been an offence of a criminal nature, that inquiry would occur at the end of the year.

Again, I promise to look into the point as to whether it would be possible to shorten the period. It would obviously cause considerable practical difficulties if the procedure could be invoked at any time; but although we took the view that there would not be quite serious harm from the fact that the permit of a limited company bookmaker may continue in force for a few months after there has been a change of directorship, I am prepared to look again at this point as to whether a shorter period is possible.

Now I come to the second point, which is my noble friend's first point, as to which is acquired or otherwise comes under the control of any other body corporate or person. I see the same difficulties as the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, in regard to that—namely, what test are the licensing authorities to take for control? Is it 51 per cent. of the voting shares? Is it an effective number of the voting shares? Are they to consider the rights that attach to other classes of shares, and so on?

That is a matter upon which there has been a considerable amount of discussion in the courts. As we all know, there are circumstances in which effective control of a company can be acquired by the possession of less than half of the vote-bearing shares. I should have thought that that was really too technical a concept to be introduced into the scheme for the licensing of bookmakers to be operated by magistrates' courts. They would have to get specialised advice on so highly complex a subject, and my view is that a sufficient safeguard is provided regarding the integrity of limited company bookmakers by concentrating on the management of the company—that is to say, the identity of the directors and secretary—and that will be provided for under the Bill as it stands. But again I do not shut my mind.

In an earlier speech the noble Viscount who leads the Opposition mentioned some other aspects which might have to be considered and which I should like to look at again; and I think the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, dealt with the position of the spider in the middle of a web of companies—the man who controlled one hundred companies. I will look at these points. But, broadly, I think that if we have the compulsion, the requirement, in the company to say who are its officers, and for that to be communicated to the police so that inquiries can be made—I shall also consider the question whether each of them ought to state whether they have been posted at Tattersall's—that should be sufficient to ensure that the company starts with a clean sheet. But I will also consider in this relation as in the last, whether it would be possible and practicable to shorten the licensing period from a year. My undertaking on the last applies to this also. Again, I hope that my noble friend will not press this Amendment. I promise that I will give the point the consideration that I have mentioned.


The noble and learned Viscount has quite properly dealt, among other things, with the wording of this Amendment. As I have said on many other occasions, the odds are always against the person who drafts an Amendment, and it is the easiest thing in the world to pick holes in it. There are plenty of holes that one can pick in this Amendment. The noble and learned Viscount has pointed out one in particular—what does "control" mean, and so on? But the essence of this Amendment is that a licence is granted to a particular body with a particular kind of management, and then, shortly after the licence is granted, a change takes place—the kind of change which is set out in the Amendment, although perhaps that can be drafted more accurately and more in accordance with what it would be possible for a bench of magistrates to understand. Surely, if a material change takes place the bench who have granted the licence ought to be informed of that change; and the Amendment provides that they should be so informed, within a month.

It seems to me to follow axiomatically that a bench which granted a licence to "A" may not be disposed to grant one to "B". As the Bill stands, they have to wait until the end of the year. The noble and learned Viscount has undertaken to look at that again to see whether a shorter period can be prescribed, but it seems to me that the bench ought to be in a position to revise the grant of the licence at any time if they find that a material change has taken place. It does not follow that they will, but they should be able to do so. After all, it is conceivable that changes can take place in a fraudulent manner in order to deceive the bench, to put a good face on the application for a permit, the man perhaps then carrying on for the best part of a year with a totally different kind of face. I should have thought, therefore, that in considering this matter the noble and learned Viscount ought to accept the fact that a material change in the conditions under which the licence was granted should be notified within a certain period, and then—perhaps slightly more debatable—consider whether it should be possible to revoke the licence at any time or at a particular period of six months. I hope that the noble and learned Viscount will consider that.

While I have said this, I speak without prejudice to the contention I put forward earlier, on my own Amendment, that in my view it is quite wrong that licences should be granted at all to bodies corporate; and I still adhere to that view. But if, contrary to my view, the Government take an opposite line, then I believe that at least these safeguards ought to be provided.


While I am not particularly enamoured of the form of words in the clause, there is a very practical problem here. We might get a "wrong 'un", a fellow who has been a defaulter or a criminal, the kind of man that we want to keep off the racecourse at all costs. Under the present law he could get control of a bookmaking firm immediately after it has received the licence and go on exercising his profession for another eleven months, and the same thing might happen in the following year. There would be no way of keeping that man out of the business if he could take over company after company at the beginning of a year and continue until the end of the year. As we want to keep racing clean and to keep out the bad element—and while there are not many of them, there are a few—I hope that the noble and learned Viscount will think of some means of preventing a coach and horses being driven through the intentions of the Bill by allowing undesirable people to get a bookmaker's licence in this way.


I am most grateful to the noble and learned Viscount for agreeing to look further into this matter and for his suggestion that the proposal made by the noble Lord, Lord Meston, during the Second Reading debate should be incorporated into paragraph 5 of the First Schedule; and I and my friends would be very pleased if that were to happen. I would only emphasise that I and my noble friends feel very strongly over the matter of delay, because if a bookmaker runs into trouble over paying his debts early in the year in which his permit runs there will be a temptation for him to think, "At any rate, I am bound to lose my licence at the end of the year. I will plunge heavily to try to get back my position, so that when the time comes for my permit to be renewed my affairs will be in order." A lot of damage can be done and many people can lose their money within a few months. On the assurance that this matter will be further looked into, I gladly withdraw my Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 3:

Authorisation and registration of agents by bookmakers and Board

3.—(1) No person shall by way of business receive or negotiate bets as servant or agent to another bookmaker or to the Board unless—

  1. (a) he is authorised in that behalf in writing in the prescribed form by that other bookmaker or, as the case may be, by the Board; and
  2. (b) in the case of a person acting as servant or agent to another bookmaker, that other bookmaker is the holder of a bookmaker's permit or betting agency permit;

Provided that this subsection shall not apply to any person who is the holder of such a permit as aforesaid, or who receives or negotiates bets as aforesaid on premises occupied by the holder of such a permit or by the Board.

6.27 p.m.

LORD STONHAM moved, in subsection (1), to insert as a new paragraph: (a) he is the holder of a permit authorising him so to do (in this Act referred to as an 'agents permit')". The noble Lord said: If it will suit your Lordships' convenience we might also deal at the same time with Amendment No. 9, which is consequential upon this Amendment. I think your Lordships will agree that the whole of our discussions this afternoon have been characterised by the most complete sincerity, no little knowledge and a very great deal of disagreement; but the remarkable thing is that those of us who have agreed on one Amendment have thereupon proceeded to disagree immediately afterwards on the next. I believe, however, that there has been general agreement among us all through all stages of this Bill that, accepting the Government's intention to legalise forms of betting which are at present illegal, we all want that done in such a way that the volume of business is not increased and also so that there is sufficient control to cut out undesirable people and undesirable practices. This particular Amendment is aimed at that very object.

We are now all familiar with the fact that when this Bill becomes an Act of Parliament all kinds of people, if they are authorised by the holding of a bookmaker's permit, will be legally entitled to act as agents in the collection of bets—the milkman, the baker, the grocer, and others. On an earlier Amendment it was agreed that in many respects that will be legalising the present practice. In many cases these people are already acting in this way, but I do not think there is any doubt at all that the practice will be increased and that a great many more of such people will become agents if all that is necessary is for Bill Bloggs, the bookmaker, to write out a form saying, "Harry Jones (or Tom Smith) is my agent in the collection of bets"—because, even though there will no doubt be a prescribed form, that is all it will amount to. It is quite possible that a bookmaker might have one hundred, or even hundreds, of these agents everywhere; and that would certainly greatly increase the volume of betting and would be the opposite of what I, and I hope the Government, want to see come from this Bill.

There is another aspect of this matter. The holder of a permit will be able to appoint people in this way merely by writing a letter or by filling up a simple form; and obviously there is no real supervision. Possibly many people of bad character, irresponsible or dishonest people, will become agents of this kind, and there will be no supervision or control over them. This Amendment in the name of my noble friends and myself is expressly designed to get over that difficulty. In other words, it strengthens the authorisation.

In discussion on an earlier Amendment the phrase "a certificate of respectability" was used in referring to the permit which will be granted to the bookmaker. What we are also asking for in this Amendment—and it will be given if it is agreed—is a certificate of respectability for agents. I am quite sure that it will be argued against this Amendment that it will throw a considerable amount of work on the local authority in issuing permits to agents and in making inquiries as to whether they are fit persons to have such permits. I quite accept that it would mean more work; but I submit also that it would be well worth while doing, and also that there should be a charge, so that if there is work there would certainly also be additional revenue accruing. I think that ought to dispose of the argument.

We ought not to pass this Bill leaving it possible for any bookmaker, though himself a respectable person (because otherwise, presumably, he would not have a permit), to have hordes of people helping him merely through a signature on a form. These people ought to be supervised before permits are granted to them, and they should be supervised not by the bookmaker but by the same appropriate authority as issues the bookmaker's permit. We feel that this is a very necessary restriction. We face even the fact that it will mean restriction of the number of agents, because there will be far fewer agents if they have to have permits in this way; and we think that is desirable. Therefore, in the interests of control, we believe that this Amendment is necessary, and I hope that the Government will accept it. I beg to move.

Amendment moved—

Page 3, line 5, at end insert— ("() he is the holder of a permit authorising him so to do (in this Act referred to as an 'agent's permit')").—(Lord Stonham.)


I am afraid that I find myself in great difficulty on this Amendment and No. 9. If the Amendments were to be adopted, then, before an employee in a factory could take bets from his workmates as an agent for a bookmaker, he would have under the First Schedule, as applied by the second Amendment, first to make an application to the licensing authority; second, to advertise his application in a newspaper; and, third, to send a copy of it to the chief officer of police. Fourthly, he would have to take part in an inquiry before the licensing authority in open court, at which objections, if any, could be heard; and then, and only then, could consideration be given to the question of whether the applicant was a fit and proper person.

In my view, there are three possible purposes of a scheme for the licensing by a public authority of persons to carry on a business. The first is to secure control over numbers; secondly, to secure control over the suitability of individuals; and, thirdly, to provide a sanction in enforcing compliance. So far as runners are concerned, I think that the first, the securing of control over numbers, has very little relevance in the early years. It will take a considerable time to find out what is the appropriate total number of runners. The more attractive suggestion, of course, is to consider securing control over the suitability of individuals. But when one looks at that more closely, would that be of great value as applied to factory runners? Ex hypothesi, and applying one's practical knowledge of life at the same time, the factory runner is, from the fact that he works in the same premises as his colleagues, a man who is well known to them, and it is not likely that they will be ready to give their bets to a man of bad character. The judgment of the factory punters of the degree of trust which they place in a colleague with whom they have daily contact is, I should have said, with great respect, likely to be as effective an instrument of selection as the licensing. If a factory runner acts dishonestly in relation to his workmates in betting matters, that fact will speedily be spread around the factory and he will get no more business.

The third reason for a licensing system is to provide a sanction against misconduct and, in particular, to help in enforcing compliance with the law. It has been argued many times in connection with this Bill that the system of licensing is required to ensure the good behaviour of the runners or, alternatively, to make their principals responsible for their good behaviour. But it has never been stated very precisely what the code of conduct for collecting bets in factories ought to be and in what ways factory agents might misbehave. So far as the punter is concerned, all that matters is that winnings on bets should be paid promptly and accurately. For this purpose they will need to know the identity of the principal bookmaker for whom their factory agent works, so that in the event of a dispute they will know against whom a complaint Should be made. But that is sufficiently ensured by the scheme of Clause 3, which requires a bookmaker's agent to hold a written authority from his principal. The only offence against the betting law which could be committed in a factory by a bookmaker's agent is one against Clause 7, Which forbids the effecting of a betting transaction with a young person. I admit that a licensing system would provide some help as a sanction against this particular offence, because there would be more inquiry into the character of the applicant, but this would appear to be the extent of its value.

I come now to the two substantial objections, and the first is one of principle. I would again remind the Committee that a bookmaker's factory agent is a person who is using his employers' premises, and in some cases his employers' time, to carry on his own private business. In some factories the management give permission for the bookmaker's agent to collect bets during a break time; in others the agent collects the bets, perhaps surreptitiously, during working time. In the latter case, managements either do not know what is going on, or, while perhaps being generally aware that betting is taking place, prefer not to inquire too deeply into how it is achieved. But the question of the use of an employer's time and premises for the carrying on of a private business is a delicate one; and whilst Parliament is justified in removing any legal barrier, it ought not to do anything which involves direct interference in a matter of industrial relationship. It is for an employer to decide whether he should grant or refuse permission to one of his employees to do private business during his hours of employment, or whether he should turn a blind eye to such activity.

The grant of a licence to a would-be runner would, in law, only make it lawful for him to act as such; it would not give him a right against his employer to act as a runner in a factory. Nevertheless, the grant of a licence by a public authority under statutory provision might well make it difficult for an employer to refuse, or—what is just as important—to appear reasonable in refusing permission. There is no suggestion under the Amendments that an employer should have any say in the business of licensing. That is an objection of principle.

The other objection is the practical one which the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, anticipated: the licensing of factory runners would involve a tremendous amount of labour for the licensing authority. It is only necessary to try to contemplate how many factory runners there might be in a heavily industrialised town to realise how formidable the task would be. I hesitate to bore your Lordships with figures, but it is important that we should realise what the problem is. The number of factories in Great Britain in which manual work is carried on is something over 200,000. About two-thirds of these employ ten people or under, and may not have a runner. But the figure gives some idea of the magnitude: and this does not include offices, the number of which is estimated at one million.

Let me take, for example, Birmingham. In Birmingham, the number of factories in which manual work is carried on is 7,700. Of these, 3,000 employ eleven people or more—and, of course, some are very large, and will have more than one runner. To this must be added offices and other places of work. If only a fraction of these places have runners, the task of licensing would in its magnitude be quite beyond the capacity of the justices. Admittedly, Birmingham is the most difficult case from this point of view, but there are many other big industrial cities where the task would be altogether too large.

The Government have carefully considered this point, and I hope I have set out enough of the arguments to show that we realise their importance, although we do not attach so much importance to them as do those supporting this Amendment. But we say that there is a considerable objection in principle to the licensing of employees to carry out private business in their employers' time, and there is a practical objection by way of the size of the task which would be imposed on the licensing authorities, which seems to us to be overriding. I am sorry, but I am afraid I cannot accept this Amendment.

6.42 p.m.


I understand the difficulties which the noble and learned Viscount has brought up, of employing the whole machinery of the First Schedule for this purpose; but he said in the course of his speech that, after all, the bookmaker or the holder of a betting agency permit has to keep a register of the persons employed. But that register is not in any way open to public inspection. It is unlike other registers which are kept in order to control certain things: it is a private register of which, it is true, a police constable can require inspection, but nobody else. I think it might go a long way to meet this difficulty if the register was open to public inspection; or, alternatively—and this is provided for with regard to certain registers; for instance, under the Companies Act—if an official copy of it were deposited by the bookmaker with the magistrates so that the copy could there be inspected. Otherwise, it is open to people to employ very undesirable persons as agents. They may not be entered upon the register unless some trouble arises; and then, in order to safeguard the position, they are. But there is no regular check whatsover upon the register, and if a copy were deposited for public inspection, that would at any rate be some safeguard.


The noble and learned Viscount has explained why he cannot accept this Amendment, but I hope he will accept the fact that some greater control is required over bookmakers' agents than is contained in the Bill itself. The Amendment is an attempt to exercise as much control over them as over the bookmakers themselves; but the question is whether the Government would consider some lesser kind of control over the agents. As my noble friend Lord Douglas of Barloch has just pointed out, the public have no access to the registers which are kept by the bookmakers; and, as I read the Bill, it is not an objection to the granting or the renewal of a bookmaker's permit that any agent that he had acting for him has turned out to be an undesirable person—for instance, has taken bets and has not accounted for them. I think that the Bill needs strengthening in that respect; and if the noble and learned Viscount would be willing to look at this point and see if and in what way the Bill can be strengthened so as to exercise some greater control over the agents, then I think that my noble friends and myself would be prepared to accept something less than the full registration of the agents. I hope that the noble and learned Viscount will see his way clear to considering that.


May I do that? I confess that, until the noble Lord spoke, the idea of somebody continuing to employ agents against whom there was some substantial matter—either that they were dishonest, or that they were continually betting with young people—had not occurred to me. That is an aspect that I should like to consider. It is a new approach to the matter, and I certainly will consider it. I cannot, of course, give any undertaking, but I should like to consider it. It is an interesting point.


I am most grateful to the noble and learned Viscount for that promise to look at it again. He may remember that on Second Reading I raised this particular point about the impossibility of the holder of a bookmaker's permit being aware, or having any real knowledge, of whether young persons were betting in a factory. He would not know that; and there are a lot of points like that. But if the noble Viscount will look at it again, he may be able to devise some way out of it; and in that hope I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.


had given notice to move, in subsection (1), to omit the proviso and to insert instead: and (c) he receives or negotiates such bets on premises occupied by the holder of a bookmaker's permit or by the Board, or on any track on any day on which bookmaking may lawfully be carried on on the track.

The noble Lord said: Having regard to the discussion on Amendment No. 2, I do not propose to move this Amendment.

Clause 3 agreed to.

House resumed.