§ 3.18 p.m.
§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
§ LORD JESSEL
My Lords, in moving the Second Reading of this Bill I should like at the outset to declare that I have no interest in racing either as owner, trainer or shareholder. I enjoy going to the races and it was in 1919 as a schoolboy that I had my first bet. It was 10s. each way on "Grand Parade", which won the Derby that year at the very satisfactory odds of 33–1. For a short time, I was the richest boy in the school. But facilis descensus Averno, which can be translated as "a sucker is born every five minutes"—the motto, of course, of the Bookmakers' Protection Association and the Victoria Club. I should have liked to call this Bill the Grand National Sweepstake Bill, but I was advised for technical reasons that that would make it a hybrid Bill, for which the procedure would be much more elaborate and expensive.
Before I deal with the clauses of the Bill, I should like to say a word or two about Aintree Racecourse and what I call the Topham story. Your Lordships may have read in the newspapers reports of Lord Sefton's case against Tophams, Ltd. Briefly, the story of this is as follows. In 1949, Tophams acquired the freehold of the racecourse and of certain adjoining land. Under the terms of the conveyance, Tophams are restricted from using the racecourse for any purpose other than racing, and the other land for any purpose other than agriculture, during the life of Lord Sefton and of his wife.
Tophams recently entered into an agreement with Capital and Counties Property Company, Ltd., to sell the whole of the land for housing development. Lord Sefton went to court and was granted an injunction restraining Tophams from proceeding with the sale, as being a contravention of the terms of the conveyance. Tophams have appealed against this decision, and the appeal is pending. But whatever the result of the appeal, there will not be any more Grand Nationals after this year. unless something is done. If the 297 appeal succeeds, Capital and Counties will proceed with the transaction, but they will have to obtain planning permission for their proposed development; and if this were refused, the agreement would no doubt be terminated. Should the appeal fail, Tophams have stated that they will discontinue racing and allow the land to become derelict, no doubt in the hope of compelling some action by the local authority.
Mrs. Topham has stated that the racecourse is no longer a paying proposition. I have not been to Aintree for many years, but I am told, on good authority, that the stands are in a deplorable condition and that the whole place has a rundown look. In fact, a large sum is needed to put it in order. This situation would be altered by the passing of this Bill and the authorisation of a sweepstake on the Grand National. The profit to he made from the sweepstake would make ownership of the racecourse an attractive proposition.
In that event, Tophams would have two alternatives open to them. The first would be to sell the racecourse to the actual or potential promoters of the sweepstake, who would be prepared to pay a price calculated by reference to their profits on the sweepstake and the resulting prosperity of the racecourse. The second alternative would be for Tophams to retain ownership, and either bid for the right to conduct the sweepstake or merely reap the benefits which would flow from a sweepstake run by another. Your Lordships will see, when we come to Clause 2 of the Bill, that the sum paid for the right to conduct a sweepstake must be first applied in improving the racecourse. If, as it is reasonable to suppose, the racecourse improvement results in increased attendances, the racecourse will once again become a valuable asset, which Tophams could either continue to run or, if they thought fit, dispose of at a profit.
The Explanatory Memorandum to the Bill sets out the clauses very clearly, and I do not propose to go through them other than briefly. Clause 1 authorises the promotion of sweepstakes, lays down the conditions that are to apply and provides for the nomination of at least one race, and not more than two races, on which it will be legal to conduct a sweepstake. The clause also deals with the purposes to which the proceeds are to be devoted 298 and ensures that the right to conduct the sweepstake will be put out to public tender. This is very important, and I hope that your Lordships will take note of it.
Clause 2 provides that the sums paid by the successful tenderer for the right to promote the sweepstake shall be applied, in the first place, towards improving the racecourse concerned, as well as horseracing thereat, and that any balance shall be passed over to the improvement of horseracing in general. Clause 3 provides that the Secretary of State for Education and Science shall be the authority to decide how the appropriate proportion of the proceeds shall be spent. On what I call some good cause, I have suggested medical research, but here I am open to suggestions. All I want to do is to make sure that the proceeds go to some worthwhile cause, and I am not wedded to medical research, although it is probably as good as any. Clause 4 makes it the responsibility of the local authority concerned to evolve and provide the recreational facilities referred to in subsection (2)(d) of Clause 1.
Your Lordships will note that my proposals in the Bill are that 50 per cent. of the proceeds shall go as prizes to the purchasers of tickets, 25 per cent. to assisting medical research and 2½ per cent. to providing recreational facilities for the public. In tendering for the right to promote a sweepstake, the tenderer will have to estimate how much of the remaining 22½ per cent. he can afford to offer, while leaving sufficient to cover his expenses and provide a profit. I think the competition will be very keen and that any successful promoter will have to give back a large "chunk" of his 22½ per cent. The remaining clauses of the Bill deal with technical details, with which I need not trouble your Lordships to-day.
My Lords, that is the Bill. And we have to ask ourselves two questions. Is the Grand National worth trying to save, and, if so, is this a good way of doing it? The Grand National is part of the British tradition. It gives pleasure to a vast number of people in this country. Many who never bet at all have a few shillings on the Derby and the Grand National every year. I am confident that anyone who has seen the actual race, or watched it on television, will agree 299 that it is the kind of spectacle which helps to build up Britain's prestige, not only in connection with racing in particular, but also the general image of Britain as a sporting nation.
So we come to the question: is the legalisation of possibly two national sweepstakes a year desirable? The Report of the Royal Commission on Betting, Lotteries and Gaming, 1945 to 1951, came out, on balance, rather mildly against national sweepstakes. On rereading their Report, I find their reasoning very out of date. They said that a national lottery would discourage thrift. This rings rather hollow to-day, when we have thousands of betting shops, and when bingo and premium bonds are all legal.
The Report gave some interesting figures in regard to a survey which was carried out at that time by Mass Observation. This showed that about 30 per cent. of those questioned did not know what a national lottery was, but of those who did, not less than 71 per cent. approved of the idea, 4 per cent. expressed no opinion and only 25 per cent. disagreed. I suggest that to-day many more than 30 per cent. would know what a national lottery was, and probably more than 71 per cent. would be in favour of it. My supposition is fortified by the Daily Express of March 11, in which they had the result of a Public Opinion Poll where people were asked two questions. The first was:Would you, in general, approve or disapprove of the idea that we have a State Lottery in Britain if the profits went, for instance, to hospitals, medical research et cetera?The answer was that 88 per cent. approved and 12 per cent. disapproved. The other question was:If there was such a lottery about once a month, with tickets at say 10s. each, do you think you would buy a ticket?The answers were:Every time, 19 per cent. Sometimes, 60 per cent. Never, 21 per cent.We come now to what I call the "thin end of the wedge" argument; that if you allow one lottery, where are you going to stop? This is why we have in the Bill a limit of two national sweepstakes, confined, I hope, to the two great sporting events, the Grand National and the Derby. If one looks at the social 300 side, I think it is hypocritical to give facilities to people to spend hours in betting shops and yet not allow them to buy tickets for a national sweepstake once or twice a year.
To sum up, the Grand National is worthwhile, and it is worth saving. This is a sound method of doing it. The sweepstake will provide money for Aintree local amenities, for racing generally and for some worthwhile cause, such as medical research. We are not thinking in terms of small amounts. If Eire can sell £6 million worth of tickets a year on sweepstakes, I am sure that this country can sell at least £10 million worth of tickets a year. This means £2½ million for a worthwhile cause, and at least £1 million for racing. Nearly everyone I have spoken to about this Bill has been enthusiastically in favour of it. This attitude I take to be endorsed by Mr. Wigg, the Paymaster-General, who is reported to have said yesterday, apropos of the dispute about televising the Derby:It is a grim thought that if this dispute is not solved the end of T.V. racing may be in sight; the pleasure of millions may be threatened.It would be an even grimmer thought if there were no Grand National to televise. The people of this country want this Bill and if Her Majesty's Government actively try to frustrate it, let them beware, because they will find that they have incurred the wrath of thousands of their supporters in the constituencies. I beg to move that the Bill be read a second time.
§ Moved, that the Bill be now read 2a.—(Lord Jessel.)
§ 3.35 p.m.
§ LORD AIREDALE
My Lords, I am sure the noble Lord, Lord Jessel, is to be congratulated upon his valiant and ingenious effort to save the Grand National in this way. I think I must be younger than the noble Lord. Certainly I was not sufficiently compos mentis to be on "Grand Parade" at 33 to 1 in the Derby of 1919. It was not until "Call Boy" won in 1928 that my first schoolboy winning bet took place, and the odds were only 4 to 1. So my facilis descensus Averno was not quite so steep. This surely is not a Party matter: at any rate, I, for my part, speak on my own behalf, and I do not 301 seek to bind other noble Lords who sit on these Benches by what I have to say.
I do not personally feel at all against lotteries, as such, and I do not feel against a lottery for this kind of purpose. But I do feel that perhaps we should examine the avowed purpose of this particular lottery, the Grand National steeplechase. May I straight away get rid of two matters which I am certainly not going to put forward. I am not going to suggest that the Grand National is cruel; and I am not going to suggest that it is Parliament's job to try to teach the racing authorities how horse racing should be conducted. Nevertheless, if Parliament is to be asked to approve a national lottery for a particular horse race, let us have a good look at the horse race and see whether we think it is worthy in its present form of being the subject of a national lottery.
I think the Grand National carries by far the richest prize in the whole of steeplechasing, being worth, I believe, some £20,000 to the winner. One might suppose, therefore, that the finest steeplechasers would take part in the Grand National, and that the horse that won it might have some claim to be regarded as the champion steeplechaser. The extraordinary thing is that this is not the case. Last year, the outstandingly champion steeplechaser in Ireland was "Arkle", and the outstandingly champion steeplechaser in this country was "Mill House". Neither of these horses ran in the Grand National last year. This year, both of these great horses have kept their places as the undisputed champions in their two countries; but neither of them will run in the Grand National. "Arkle" was not even entered for this year's Grand National. "Mill House" was entered, but he was withdrawn from the race a good many weeks ago.
The reason for this is not far to seek. The Grand National, as I am sure all your Lordships know, is a handicap race. The purpose of the handicapper is to try to secure that every horse has an equal chance of winning the race, and a brilliant horse like "Arkle" or "Mill House" is going to be weighed down with such an enormous burden that he will be slowed down to the pace of his much more moderate rivals in the race, and his chance of winning the £20,000 will be brought down to being no better than that 302 of any of his rivals. I should have thought that this was something of a defect. Admittedly, there is the Cheltenham Gold Cup for the champions. But the Cheltenham Gold Cup is worth 2½ times less than the Grand National: I think it is worth about £8,000, as against the £20,000 of the Grand National. This is not just my surmise, because, if I may quote from the racing correspondent of The Times on February 26, he wrote:It is the type of Grand National with no top horse in it this year for everyone to try their luck.For all I know, the authorities who conduct the racing at Aintree may feel along these lines, as I do. They may wish, for all I know, that the Grand National should be a true championship race. But undoubtedly it is a very expensive event to stage, and it may well be that they have to draw in the crowds by making the race a wider open betting proposition, swelling the tote takings, encouraging bookmakers to come in in large numbers and pay large licence fees in order to bet, and so on. So only in this way can the Grand National, as things are at present, be made a financial proposition. If this Bill is passed, presumably the financial worries of the Aintree authorities are going to be swept away; there is going to be plenty of money to finance the Grand National. That being so, has not the time come for making the Grand National a true championship race so that we may say that the horse which wins it has some claim to being regarded as the champion steeplechaser?
THE DUKE OF DEVONSHIRE
My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord whether he is aware how many runners there are likely to be in this year's Grand National, and how many runners there were in this year's Cheltenham Gold Cup?
§ LORD AIREDALE
My Lords, I understand that there were four runners in this year's Cheltenham Gold Cup. I hope that, as I am under examination from the noble Duke, he will put me right if I am wrong—because I am sure he will be able to—but I understand that the number of runners in the Grand National this year is likely to be something over forty. I suppose there will be a cavalry charge to the first fence; I suppose there will be a number of fallers; I suppose that a great many of those 303 fallers will become loose horses which will interfere with the jockeys still in the race trying to win, and I should not be surprised if some cynic, watching from the stands, said to his companion, "You seem to have something of a lottery here already. Do you mean to say you are trying to superimpose a lottery on it?" It seems, with due respect, that the Grand National would be on the whole an improved national event if it were a championship event.
THE DUKE OF DEVONSHIRE
My Lords, I must cross swords once more with the noble Lord. If you turned the Grand National into a championship race, in which all horses carried the same weight, it would cease to be the Grand National. I have every respect for the Cheltenham Gold Cup—it is a magnificent race to win. But the Grand National is known throughout the world, and the Cheltenham Gold Cup is known throughout the British Isles, and that is the difference between the two.
§ LORD AIREDALE
The noble Duke has laid the ground for my peroration in this debate. What I was going to suggest was that the Aintree authorities, having been relieved of the financial burden of finding the prize money for the Grand National, will presumably be able to find, say, £5,000 for the prize money of a handicap race for the second-rate horses —or the second best horses perhaps is a fairer expression to use—to be run over the Grand National course, which would be for the future what the Grand National has been in the past. But let the race for which the lottery is to be conducted be a championship race, so that there is some reward for exercising skill in training your horse to be the best steeplechaser, which will then have the best chance of winning by far the greatest prize in steeplechasing.
§ 3.45 p.m.
My Lords, this is not the first time that I have addressed your Lordships, because I have been guilty of interrupting on previous occasions and I crave your indulgence and forgiveness. This Bill is a simple and most interesting one. It concerns not only England, but the whole of the world, including, I can say, the whole of Rhodesia. The noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack has just come back from Rhodesia. I used 304 to be there many times when federation was going on, and I am sure that even in Zambia or Malawi they still follow the Grand National and will be having their bets. The Grand National is part of our life, and no matter what colour a man may be he will always look forward to it.
My noble friend Lord Jessel quoted a report in The Times. In the Evening News on Friday night there was an even better report; and I think it said that 99 "guys" out of a hundred in London support it. I was talking to a "guy" from Manchester and he said, "If you don't get that Bill through we shall be after you". I will not take up any more of your Lordships' time, except to say that this Bill must be passed, otherwise we shall lose a national institution.
§ 3.47 p.m.
THE DUKE OF ATHOLL
My Lords, first I must apologise to my noble friend Lord Jessel for the fact that I did not hear what he had to say in his speech, but I feel, knowing him as I do, that I would thoroughly support all that he said. Also, I would say that I thoroughly support the principles of this Bill. If I am allowed to assume that one of the selected races permitted under the Bill will be the Grand National, I think it would be a great pity if this Bill were not passed, and that thereby the Grand National as a race was allowed to die. To say that it could be moved to any other course is simply untrue. It is not the quality of the horses which attracts; it is not the distance over which it is run: it is simply the fact that it is the Grand National and that it will always be run at Aintree over the Aintree fences that makes it what it is, and makes it the world attraction that it is.
The amount of revenue which the Grand National brings into this country is already quite considerable. There are American owners and Irish owners. There have been in the past French owners and, I think, on one occasion an Italian owner. They all run their horses in this race. Indeed, there have been Russian owners. The argument is less good there, because on the whole the Russians do not come to support their horses, although I am sure that if they did we should much appreciate the roubles they would bring with them. But 305 the Americans, Irish and French certainly come in very large numbers purely to see this race, and this brings in quite large sums of foreign currency.
In addition, if the sweepstake was started, many of the tickets would be bought abroad. At the moment, I believe that something like 50 per cent. of the tickets taken on the Irish Hospital Sweepstake are taken by people normally resident in this country, and that this money, or the vast proportion of it, ends up in Ireland. Much of this money could be saved from going to Ireland and could be kept in this country if there were a sweepstake on the Grand National on which people could have their little "flutter". If we really put our minds behind this sweepstake, I am sure that many tickets could be sold all over the world. The Australians, I believe, are the biggest gamblers in the world, but many other countries would probably be prepared to take tickets in a sweepstake on a race as well known as the Grand National.
Therefore I very much hope that this Bill will get its Second Reading and will become law without any delay, because delay would be fatal. There are no fixtures scheduled for Aintree after this year, and if there were a year's gap in the continuity of the Grand National the whole point of the Bill, and the Grand National, would in my opinion be lost. I hope, therefore, that it will become law as soon as possible.
§ LORD FRASER OF NORTH CAPE
My Lords, the noble Duke does not seem to have mentioned Scotland at all in his speech.
THE DUKE OF ATHOLL
For the noble Lord's benefit, may I say that the favourite for the Grand National this year comes from Scotland, and we in Scotland are full of hope that for the first time ever the trophy will come North of the Border. We have had several near misses, including the gallant "Wyndburgh" who has run second three times in the last ten years, but we have never yet succeeded in getting a Scottish winner, although we hope that "Freddy" will put that right this year.
§ LORD AIREDALE
My Lords, is it not true, and also very much regretted, that the horse called "Scottish Memories" comes from Ireland?
THE DUKE OF ATHOLL
My Lords, it is owned by someone who lives in Scotland—who in fact lives in Perthshire, I am delighted to say.
§ 3.52 p.m.
§ LORD CRAWSHAW
My Lords, this is the first time I have had the honour of speaking in your Lordships' House and I would beg that kindness which I gather noble Lords always show on such an occasion. It is, in fact, a few years since I took my seat in your Lordships' House, and all this time I have been fully aware that I should be well advised to keep silent unless there was a subject about which I felt fairly well informed. I know I am not as well informed on this subject as many in your Lordships' House, but it is a subject very close to my heart; therefore I felt that perhaps I might be allowed to speak. Had I realised before I came that I should speak under such close scrutiny from the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, I should have been even more awe-struck than I am already.
The object of the Bill is to help in the plight of Aintree, along with its great and unique race. I have been there fairly frequently in the past few years and have been sadly shocked by the increasing drabness that surrounds it. The place needs a great deal of money spent on it which the proposed sweepstake would help to provide. The proceeds from the sweepstake would also help to increase the stakes, which would assist all engaged in racing. As one who tries to train a couple of steeplechasers, without much success, I even hope that the place money may be extended to those who finish fourth, fifth, sixth and so on. The third object of the Bill is for the proceeds to be used for medical research or some other such cause, and I am sure that that is an object which we should all acclaim. I believe it is no crime to invest a small sum in a sweepstake, especially when there are three such praiseworthy objectives for the proceeds.
My Lords, I have come up this morning from a part of England, Leicestershire, where the horse and his rider are held in very high esteem. The hero of all 307 heroes is the winner of the Grand National and his rider. I know the great support there is for this Bill in that part of England as, I believe, there is in all of England. Therefore I would ask your Lordships to give this Bill your solid support and help save the Grand National, as all people well-informed in racing believe that it will.
§ 3.55 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT MASSEREENE AND FERRARD
My Lords, I heartily welcome this Bill, but before I speak about it it is my extremely pleasant duty —in fact one of the most pleasant duties I have ever had to perform—to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Crawshaw, on his maiden speech in this House. Lord Crawshaw was a gallant rider over fences, and I can assure your Lordships that there is no one better qualified in this House to address your Lordships on this subject than the noble Lord himself. The noble Lord's spirit and gallantry is apparent for all your Lordships to see. I should also like to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Greenway, on addressing your Lordships for the first time.
My Lords, we often hear the expression "perfidious Albion". It is very rarely true, but when it comes to our moral attitude to gambling I am afraid it really is rather true; for instance, on the question: when is gambling a sin? The Church of England, I presume, regards all gambling as a sin. What the opinion of the Roman Catholic Church is on this subject I do not really know, but from my experience when I was younger of the number of priests at Irish racecourses I rather imagine that the Roman Catholic Church do not object to gambling. But, surely, gambling is only a sin if people gamble above their means and, therefore, their families suffer. I must apologise to the right reverend Prelates on raising this question, but the attitude of the Church to gambling is a subject which interests me. After all, I presume that the Church to a certain extent does gamble, inasmuch as the Church Commissioners buy shares and, I presume, hope that the shares will increase in value.
The only gambling I do is on horse-racing, and here I have to declare a very small interest, in that I do have an odd horse in training sometimes.
§ VISCOUNT MASSEREENE AND FERRARD
But I have a hopeful one this year. The noble Lord, Lord Jessel, told us that his addiction to betting came in 1919. My own came in 1924 at Punchestown. I was a boy at the time and I had 5s. on a horse. I cannot remember the odds, but they were quite long. Unfortunately I lost the bookmaker's ticket and so was extremely perturbed and was kicking up a row about it. A very nice bookmaker heard me, took pity and paid me out. Of course, I was completely sunk after that, because for quite a few weeks I was inclined to think that all bookmakers were fairy godmothers. I soon realised otherwise.
My Lords, there is also a school of thought that says there is something immoral if you win a big sum of money by gambling. When people win, as they can, I think, £200,000 from the football pools, which is of course a complete fluke, the argument is that it is probably rather bad for their character. Well, of course that depends on the character of the recipient, but there is probably something in the argument. But not all gambling is chance. Some gambling requires skill and great experience and study.
I have never understood why the various Governments of this country have always been against State lotteries, because in this country we have far more pernicious forms of gambling. After all, in a betting shop a man can spend his whole pay packet in an afternoon. I remember reading about a survey by some Americans, who came over here and made a survey of betting shops in this country. The worrying part was, I understand, that when there is a slight rise in unemployment the betting shops do far better. I am not too happy about betting shops on the whole. But if a man takes a 10s. ticket in a State lottery, you cannot call that gambling, because he knows that half that money is going to a worthy cause, and he invests only what he is able to afford. He has no temptation, as he has in a betting shop, to double up. I do not personally call a State lottery gambling, but even if you call it gambling it is a far less harmful form than betting.
We have heard from my noble friend the object of this Bill. It is to be strictly 309 controlled by the Secretary of State. It is only in the first instance to be for one horse-race, presumably the Grand National, and if that experiment turns out successfully, probably two horseraces—the other horse-race, I presume, would be the Derby. Two or three speakers have told us of the great history of the Grand National. Racing generally is, of course, a very large industry. It employs tens of thousands of people. It helps the farmers through the sale of hay and oats. It is a great export industry through the bloodstock industry. It is, in fact, the only industry connected with gambling which helps the economy at all. One cannot say that casinos or football pools or any of those other things—I can think of all sorts of things —help the economy; but racing does. The Government must bear that in mind.
The Grand National is a part of the English scene. It has been going since quite early in the 19th century. We have heard that our tourist industry in this country is growing at a great rate; it is almost our largest dollar earner, I think. Last year we earned about 380 million dollars from the tourist industry, I think I am correct in saying, or something approaching that. If we allow great events like the National to drop out of our calendar, this country will not be so attractive for tourists. We have also heard that if we have a State lottery for the National we shall sell a great number of tickets abroad, which, again, will help to bring in foreign currency.
I ask the Government not to take up the attitude of a Mrs. Grundy on this matter. Logically they have not got a leg to stand on. After all, premium bonds are coming very near a lottery. I agree that one can get the money back, but it is coming very near a lottery. Look at some of the immoral taxation in which the State indulges. If you are going to speak of morals, I would say that it is far more moral to have a State lottery to help hospitals and public facilities for recreation. I agree it is not a Party matter, but I have often thought that the Party opposite are rather looked upon by the public as kill-joys. If the Party opposite would only allow this Bill to go through, I am quite convinced—though of course it is against the interests of my Party to say so—that they would gain tens of thousands of votes, because it 310 would be a very popular act. I heartily support this Bill, and I sincerely hope that the noble Lord opposite—I understand Lord Stonham is going to reply—will not appear in the clothes of a Mrs. Grundy.
§ LORD MOYNE
My Lords, it is perhaps not inappropriate that we should be discussing this measure on the eve of St. Patrick's Day. Though I am not much of a racing or sweepstake man myself, I do know of the immense benefits that flowed to the hospitals in Ireland from the establishment of the sweepstakes there a good many years ago. But if I understand it aright, it is still technically against the law for a British citizen to take a ticket in an Irish sweepstake. While we ourselves, rightly or wrongly, held the view here that it was against public policy to allow people to take part in a sweepstake at all, it was logical to forbid their doing so in sweepstakes overseas. But I suggest to the noble Lord, Lord Jessel, that in seeking by this measure to change the law to allow sweepstakes to be organised over here, he will make us look rather hypocrites if we are still to be left committing an offence every time we participate in a sweepstake across the water.
§ 4.10 p.m.
§ LORD BLYTON
My Lords, I rise to address the House for the first time, although it is not the first time that I have made a speech in this Chamber. I made my first speech here in 1945, and I made many more up to 1950, when we were transferred to "another place". I oppose the Bill. I am not opposing it for any angelic reason, because I do not profess to be an angel. I worked too long in the mines to be an angel. I am no killjoy. I like a game of dominoes or of bingo. I back a horse. I go in for any sweeps that attract me, and I am not opposed to a lottery. But I think that under this Bill the proceeds would be going to an entirely wrong cause. If this Bill had been proposed to assist the hospitals I should have fully supported it. I think that the health of the people is an everyday matter and not, like the Grand National, a once-a-year effort. The sick and the infirm are with us every day, and if there is any money going about I think it ought to be theirs. I see no reason to support this Bill for the maintenance of racehorses or racecourses, or even the Grand 311 National. Next year, if Mrs. Topham wins in court, will see the end of the Grand National.
I am not opposed to a lottery Bill, but I believe that the proceeds of a lottery Bill ought to go to something better than horseracing, or the Aintree course, or anything like that. If the proceeds of the Bill had been to help the sick, the aged or the infirm, it would have had my full support. But I could not vote for the proceeds of a lottery to go to maintain horseracing. I know that £866 million per annum is spent on various forms of gambling in this country—on bingo, horseracing, does, anything you can think of. Any Bill which would take from this sum up to £100 million a year for our hospitals, I would support. Ireland, Australia and France have their lotteries on horses. They run them to help their hospitals in their own country. I do not see why we should not do it here. I want to make my position quite clear. I do not oppose this Bill on principle, but because the proceeds are to be devoted to a cause which I think is a wrong one, and I hope that the Government will oppose the Bill.
§ 4.14 p.m.
§ LORD LEATHERLAND
My Lords, at this moment the nation is wrestling with the huge problem of its balance of trade. At this moment the whole world is worried about Vietnam. But here we are, in one of the greatest Parliaments in the world, discussing the question of horse-racing, and bandying betting tips about the Chamber. I hardly think that this is calculated to enhance the esteem in which we are held in the country.
I do not speak as a killjoy. I do not speak as one who dislikes horses. For many years, I regularly kept two or three hunters. I rode them every day. I took Tuesday off from work every week to ride with the local hounds in my part of the county. I really do like horses; I do like riding, and I have no particular dislike of horse-racing. But I do not want to view this subject from the standpoint of discussing the ethics of gambling. When all is said and done, we live in a world of bingo, of pools, of the Stock Exchange and of the Church Commissioners gambling in equities, of 312 premium bonds introduced by a former Conservative Prime Minister and so on.
There are many people in this country who, as the noble Lord has said, regularly send a pound over the seas for a ticket in the Irish Sweepstake. So I do not want to be any more of a hypocrite than any other noble Lord, or indeed anybody outside this House. But I think we can overestimate the importance of horse-racing as an industry in this country; and I agree with my noble friend Lord Blyton that if there is to be a sweepstake then it should be for a worthy cause. Do not let it in to subsidise what is really a vested private interest—the ownership of the land by a certain family at a certain place.
I was rather struck by an utterance of the noble Viscount, Lord Massereene and Ferrard, who said that racing helps the economy. Well, if you go some day to Newmarket Heath and see thousands of people there, thirsting to join in the drive for more productivity, surely that is—
§ VISCOUNT MASSEREENE AND FERRARD
My Lords, if the noble Lord will allow me to say so, I was referring to the bloodstock industry, which is a great exporting industry. You cannot have a bloodstock industry if you do not have racing to back it up.
§ LORD LEATHERLAND
My Lords, one of my own horses was exported. It was a very fine horse. I bought it from Sir Abe Bailey; so it was a pretty good horse, and it had come from the blood of a Derby winner. But there are even more important export industries than the bloodstock industry. There are steel, textiles, coal. Do not let us get things out of proportion. When we try to pretend on this delightful spring afternoon that the encouragement of the racing industry, and particularly the subsidisation of a particular property firm, is the main thing and the most important thing that this country has to consider—
§ VISCOUNT MASSEREENE AND FERRARD
My Lords, if I may again interrupt the noble Lord, ought we not then to do away with football pools? Football pools serve no useful purpose at all—absolutely none; whereas a State lottery to help racing, would.
§ LORD LEATHERLAND
My Lords, the noble Viscount is jumping up and 313 down like a tick-tack man. May I proceed? As I say, I should not be opposed to a State lottery for a worthy cause. But I do not think this is a worthy cause. Secondly, I should not rush with enthusiasm into a State lottery, even for a worthy cause. But it is not my object this afternoon (I have intervened only at the last moment) to preach a sermon on ethics or morality. I should like to deal only with one small technical point which has come to my notice while reading the Bill. I must confess that I am not too conversant with racing finance, but if your Lordships look at Clause 1(2) you will find that 25 per cent. of the proceeds are to go to research, and 50 per cent. in prizes, and then 2½ per cent., or £150,000, whichever is the greater, is to go to recreation for the public.
Here is the simple and narrow point on which I wish to address your Lordships. If we assume that the proceeds—what are called here "the whole proceeds"—are £500,000, let us proceed to work out the arithmetic of that situation. First of all, we deduct the 25 per cent., which is £125,000. That leaves us with £375,000. Then we deduct the 50 per cent., which is £250,000. That brings us down to £125,000. With £125,000 in our satchel, we march on to the next subsection of the clause, and find that we are committed under this Bill to give somebody £150,000. How do we do it?
§ LORD LEATHERLAND
No. The Bill says,two and one-half per cent. … or £150,000 (whichever is the greater)".And as in the case I have taken the whole proceeds are only £500,000, then the £150,000 would be the greater. So at the end of the two parts of the transaction, we have £125,000 in our satchel. Then we proceed to the third part, and out of that we have to find £150,000. Without walking further down morality lane, I am going to suggest that a Bill which is drawn so carelessly and so irresponsibly as that, certainly ought not to be given a Second Reading by this House.
§ 4.21 p.m.
§ LORD CITRINE
My Lords, I hope that, before the debate concludes, some of us whose names are not down on the list of speakers will be able to put our point of view. I do not know whether 314 or not this Bill had anything to do with Party politics. So far as I am concerned, I hope that it will be entirely free from that. When I was a workman I should have said that the most frequent topic of conversation among my workmates was what was going to win the big race. I saw no particular evidence of immorality about the occasional shilling they put on horse-racing. For myself, I have never been a punter—not because of any moral scruple, but because of the fact that whenever I do bet I generally lose.
My first experience of the Grand National—I forget the year—was the year in which "Poethlyn" was a strong favourite to win. It had won the race the previous year, and the night before the race took place the second year, when his horse was the favourite, the trainer—evidently a kindly soul—walked around the jumps, thought they were stiffer than ever, declared that his horse would have no trouble, but hoped that others would get across, much as he doubted it. On the strength of that very competent prediction, I put £3, which I could ill afford, on "Poethlyn." The race had scarcely started before my acquisitive instincts took hold of me, and I went to a bookmaker and put on another £2. Immediately I had done so, almost as though I had given the signal, the odds against "Poethlyn" lengthened very considerably. I did not discover until later, when I saw the jockey coming in, a mass of bruises and cuts, his clothes in tears and tatters, that "Poethlyn" had fallen at the first jump. My money had really gone to the charitable organisation which maintains the bookmakers.
Nobody can deny that the Grand National is one of our great English spectacles, just as the Derby is. I well remember the dramatic race (I think it was in 1957) when I was able to accompany Mr. Malenkov, who in those days was a prominent personality in Soviet Russia, to see the race. It was a race in which "Devon Loch", the Queen Mother's horse, was approaching the winning post with a clear lead, but through some misfortune—cramp or something of the kind—the horse collapsed and lost the race. I told Mr. Malenkov that if he went to the Grand National every year subsequently he would never see a more dramatic event on that course than that one.
315 The purpose of the Bill is a perfectly sensible one. Here we have a racecourse which quite clearly is falling into decay, partly because of lack of patronage and partly because of lack of resources on the part of the owner to meet any temporary misfortune of that kind. The purpose of this Bill, so far as I understood the very condensed, sensible and logical speech of the noble Lord who moved the Second Reading, is to restore that racecourse to a position whereby it can, to say the least, provide those who go there with comfort and make the course something of what it was in its heyday.
I agree with the noble Lord who said earlier that perhaps the references to the proportions of the money raised by the sweepstake should be revised. I assume that that kind of thing could be dealt with at the Committee stage of the Bill. This Bill, like other Bills, is subject to amendment. The mover has shown no bias, and I should think that he would be amenable to Amendments which would conduce to the general desire of the House. But the first call on the Bill, whatever we say, must be to restore the racecourse. I, for one, think that that is a worthy cause, and it is one that will have my support.
§ 4.27 p.m.
THE LORD BISHOP OF LINCOLN
My Lords, I apologise for not having heard the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Jessel, in introducing the Second Reading of this Bill. Perhaps I may be allowed to say certain things in view of statements which were made earlier; and also because I take my See title from a City which has just lost a racecourse. We shall see at the end of this month whether, in fact, it is possible to transfer the Lincolnshire Handicap to another course with any success. There are those who say that it will be a very much better race run under new conditions. Whether or not that would be so with the Grand National, I do not know, but we should not take too romantic a view about a racecourse, which, admittedly, has been in existence for some years, and think that a particular race can never be transferred without losing a part of our national heritage. That seems to me to be exaggerating the argument for this particular Bill.
316 I suggest that the real debate is not concerned with the morality of gambling. The noble Viscount, Lord Massereene and Ferrard, suggested, to my surprise, that the Church of England regarded this as a sin. I do not know on which of our formularies he bases this somewhat surprising statement. I would suggest that he himself expressed a view—which would be that not only of many members of the Church of England but of moral theologians—that matters such as gambling or drinking are matters for the Christian conscience, provided that it is guided by those admirable principles which the noble Lord himself expressed. It would be a mistake if in this debate we were to become involved with the morality or otherwise of gambling.
While it is proper that we should be reminded that the Grand National is a great race, and one that has played a great part in the social history of this country, I do not think that is the real issue here. I am bound to say that, having listened to the debates, I still cannot see any real justification for this particular proposal. Why, for example, is it not possible for this immensely important industry (as we have been told it is), which is responsible for so much of the transfer of wealth in this country, not to be able itself to put into good order a particular course which is required for the continuation of this particular race? In other words, the Betting Levy Board, surely, is a proper charge.
But ought we not to give serious consideration to the desirability of changing by legislation what, up to now, has been our custom of not having national sweepstakes? I cannot see any reason why, if it were thought fit, in the wisdom of your Lordships and Members of another place, to approve this Bill, we should not be inundated with many other infinitely better causes for sweepstakes. I cannot think that the grounds given are so grave that the only way of meeting them is to set up yet another form of gambling at a time when our affluent society has certainly considerable play in that field. And I should not particularly wish to see the existing opportunities extended.
§ 4.30 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT DILHORNE
My Lords, I have listened with interest to everything 317 that has been said in this debate, and perhaps I had better start in the same way as my noble friend Lord Jessel, by declaring that I have no interest in racing. Of course, I say that using the word "interest" in the purely Parliamentary sense. Indeed, I have never had a horse in training and the last time I rode in a race over fences was in 1939. I will not disclose how much overweight I was.
However, a great deal of this debate to-day has been in relation to the Grand National, and not so very much has been said about the general scope of this Bill. May I say at the beginning that it may be possible for the right reverend Prelate—who no doubt will be watching with interest what happens about the Lincoln—to transfer the Lincoln to Doncaster. But I do not myself believe that one can transfer the Grand National to any other course in the country without a very signal change in its character. We have heard a lot about noble Lords' first speculations. I cannot remember when mine was. We have not had many tips about the race on Saturday week. But I was hoping to be there myself, unless of course the Government, following the bad example set by another place, instead of sitting on Wednesday mornings decide to sit on Saturday afternoons.
It would, I think, be greatly regretted—and I speak for myself personally; this is not a Party matter but one on which, if it comes to a vote, I hope we shall have a free vote—if the Grand National ceased to exist; yet we are told by my noble friend that this year's Grand National will be the last unless something is done. But when one reads the whole of this Bill, one does not see the words "Grand National" in it at all. I make no complaint of that, because I think the case for this Bill can be put in a wider aspect—although I do not expect the right reverend Prelate entirely to agree with me—than the case for reconditioning or refurbishing Aintree.
If one looks at the Bill one sees that it extends to two racecourses; and, if I may say so, I think it is important to bear in mind (without doing any of those careful arithmetical sums of the noble Lord, Lord Leatherland, who intervened at short notice to raise what was really no more or less than a purely Committee 318 point) that one sees from Clause 1(2) that the main objects of a sweepstake held under this Bill will be either charitable or benevolent. Under this Bill, as I read it, a total of 25 per cent. of the proceeds will go to research into illness or mental defectiveness. My noble friend has said that he would be perfectly ready to consider broadening or altering that provision, and presumably he would be prepared to alter the percentage if thought right.
I should like your Lordships to consider that percentage with what will accrue to others under this Bill, if it is carried in its present form. Fifty per cent. of the stake money will go in prizes—whether or not that is too big a percentage I would not know, but take the figure as 50 per cent.; 22½ per cent. will go to the promoters. In addition to paying all the expenses of running the sweepstake—I have no idea what they will amount to—they have to pay to this board, which is going to be set up under Clause 1(5), a sum, and a substantial sum, because the right to run the sweepstake at all will be out to auction. What in fact 22½ per cent. of the stake money will amount to one does not know, but presumably the promoters would have to pay, I would guess, something like 10 or 15 per cent. of what they are likely to get in stake money to have any right to run the sweepstake at all. Also, if I read the Bill correctly, it is only going to be out of this arbitrary figure of 10 to 15 per cent. that any provision is going to be made for Aintree, after deduction of the expenses of this nominated body.
So, my Lords, with the greatest respect to him, I did feel that the objections of the noble Lord, Lord Blyton, to whose speech I listened with interest, were rather misconceived, for this reason. He said, and said very firmly, that he did not oppose the Bill on principle, and that if it was for the support of hospitals he would support it. Bearing in mind that, as the Bill now stands, 25 per cent. will be for hospitals, 2½ per cent. for local authority recreation, and 22½ per cent. for the promoters, out of which they have to pay for the right to run the sweepstake—let us assume that that is 10 to 15 per cent.—it is only out of that 10 to 15 per cent. that anything will go to racing.
§ LORD BLYTON
My Lords, my position is quite clear. I want the whole of the proceeds apart from the expenses to go to hospitals.
§ VISCOUNT DILHORNE
My Lords, the noble Lord made his position quite clear, and I was hoping to prevail upon him slightly to move his position. He and I have known each other for a very long time. I was delighted to be present to hear his maiden speech in this House, although, as he said, it was not the first time he had spoken here because he spoke here when making his maiden speech in another assembly in 1945. I did it two years earlier in this House. I am afraid I do not remember the noble Lord's maiden speech on that occasion, but I am sure it was good, as indeed his speech was to-day, although I disagree with the conclusion to which he came. The noble Lord once tried to lead me down a pit, but then he had second thoughts, thought better of it, and withdrew the invitation.
We have had a really interesting debate with no fewer than three maiden speeches. There was the noble Lord, Lord Greenway, who was quite clear in his support for this measure, and the noble Lord, Lord Crawshaw, who made a very powerful plea for this Bill. I am sure we are all very pleased to see him here, and I hope he will come and join in our deliberations again because we enjoy his presence.
I rise to give my support to this Bill, because I think it is a measure of general importance. I really do not see why we should not have a measure of this sort—I think it is a well drafted measure—which fulfils so many objects. The main object, as I see it, is to provide funds for charitable and benevolent purposes, and why should we not have a sweepstake for that? The Irish Sweepstake has flourished for many years. My noble friend Lord Moyne said that, if we passed this Bill, we should make it legal to take tickets in the Irish Sweepstake. If my memory serves me aright, the whole of our lottery laws started by laws being passed to prevent competition with the Government. I think that is so, and I certainly do not think that this question of purchasing Irish Sweepstake tickets ought to bear one way or another in relation to this Bill.
320 There are two Amendments which I hope my noble friend will consider if this Bill is given a Second Reading. In the first place, although its intent seems fairly clear, I think that Clause 1(3) might be drafted a little more specifically. Secondly, Clause 1(5) provides that,The Secretary of State shall nominate a body being a body incorporated by statute".I think it would be desirable that this Bill in itself should provide for the creation of that body and we should not have to have another Bill to provide for its existence. I agree very much with the noble Lord, Lord Airedale, that this is not a Party matter, but I cannot join with him in expressing any view upon whether the Grand National race should be at all changed. I myself, as a mere spectator, would much prefer to see it remain as it is.
My Lords, I do not propose to speak any longer upon the Bill except to say this. I hope that if this Bill secures a Second Reading my noble friend will consult with those at Liverpool to see whether there are any changes which they may wish to have made to it—and, perhaps in passing, consult the Lord Bishop of Liverpool, to see whether or not he views with equanimity the loss of a famous race from his diocese, which Lincoln, apparently, can suffer without any severe hardship. If this matter is pressed to a Division I will myself certainly support my noble friend. This is a non-Party matter, and I hope that if the Bill does get a Second Reading we can join together in making it an even better Bill than it is now.
My Lords, I think this Bill is skilfully drawn. The noble Lord, Lord Leatherland, seemed to think it was wrong that we should be discussing this subject at all when there are other, more important, subjects to discuss—such as, he said, exports; and I was surprised that he viewed with comparative equanimity the loss of exports in this field, bearing in mind the loss of exports due to Government action which has been suffered in so many other fields. But we are not debating that today. The noble Lord made it quite clear that he intervened solely to raise, as I have said, a purely Committee point, but I do not agree with him that this Bill is carelessly and irresponsibly 321 drawn. I think it is extremely cleverly devised to achieve the object of securing that the greater part of the proceeds of the sweepstake will go to benevolent and charitable objects, and that at the same time provision is made for the carrying on, at Aintree, of the Grand National as it used to be and as many of us hope it will be for many, many years to come.
§ 4.42 p.m.
§ LORD STRANGE
My Lords, I was afraid mine was going to make it a treble, but now I should like to make an accumulator of maiden speeches. This will be my first speech in the House, and I think I am making a forecast, because the point I wish to make is really a Committee point, or it verges on that. Most Members of this House will at some time or other have ridden a motor bicycle and most of them will have ridden a horse. It happens that, at this time, the Tourist Trophy Race in the Isle of Man also contemplates have a sweepstake. The point I wish to make, which I think is really a Committee point, is this. The organisers have decided not to announce the draw until after the race is over, because although in both the Grand National and the Tourist Trophy Race the riders are very sporting riders indeed, as we all know, it is felt that they might be influenced by some sort of bribery.
I think this is a point which should be borne in mind, because it is a new idea in sweepstakes to tell the names of the draw after the race is over. I do not think it has been done before. It has this advantage: that when the people who have bought tickets are watching the race on television they think that every horse is theirs—" This is my horse, and it is going to win". It is only afterwards that they find out it is not.
§ 4.44 p.m.
§ LORD STONHAM
My Lords, the noble and learned Viscount, Lord Dilhorne, like the noble Lord, Lord Jessel, assured us that, in the Parliamentary sense, they had no interest in the subject-matter of this Bill. But I think that, if this debate has made one thing clear, it is that all of us have a keen interest in racing, and I think that is pretty representative of the British people.
322 This has been a quite remarkable debate. We have had no fewer than six late entries as speakers (six chalk jockeys, in racing parlance), and we have had the remarkable number of four maiden speeches—four novice steeplechasers, as it were; divisions one, two, three and four, which I think is more even than they had on Monday at Cheltenham. All the maiden speeches have been welcome. The noble Lord, Lord Greenway, gave us in point of time a sort of five furlong sprint—not delivered quite in that tempo, but nevertheless very welcome. He assured us of the great interest in the National in, among other places, Rhodesia. I can assure him that, in even darker places than that, there is a very keen interest—Her Majesty's prisons, for example, where they have bets in quite strange coinage but, nevertheless, bookmakers as well. We all welcomed very much indeed the first-class maiden speech by the noble Lord, Lord Crawshaw. I am sorry that he waited two years to make his maiden effort, because I am quite sure that all of us hope that it will certainly be less than two months before we hear from him again, and that we shall often have the favour of his contributions.
My noble friend Lord Blyton, twenty years in Parliament. scarcely qualifies for the apprentice allowance, so far as maiden speakers are concerned, but we certainly welcomed his version of the Blaydon Races, and we look forward to his contributions on other subjects. The noble Lord, Lord Strange, made, as he put it, a Committee point. And, although I do not propose to comment on his suggestion (which would have disadvantages that for the moment I will not canvas) at least we are glad that he has broken the ice, and that it was not on the other side of a very tall fence that he broke it.
My Lords, it seemed to me. in listening to some of the contributions. that, when noble Lords described what they called their descent into Averno, their whole attitude towards racing was decided by their initial experience. The noble Lord, Lord Jessel. for example. who backed "Grand Parade" at 33 to 1, was all in favour of this Bill. The noble Viscount, Lord Massereene and Ferrard, had a successful bet at odds that he could not remember, and was paid out only by the kindness of the bookmaker. I hope it was the bookmaker with whom 323 the noble Viscount had the bet, because otherwise it would have been unfair. The noble Lord, Lord Airedale, it seemed to me, was not quite so uncompromisingly supporting, and I rather thought that that was because his first winner was only 4 to 1, and therefore he was not quite so enthusiastic.
If I may deal first with one point which was referred to by the noble Viscount and was also raised by the noble Lord, Lord Moyne, I think, he said that in this country it was illegal to purchase a ticket in the Irish Sweep. I am able to say that, to be precise, neither the 1934 Act nor, indeed, the 1963 Act make it an offence to buy a ticket in the Irish Hospitals Sweepstake; but it is an offence to sell or distribute tickets, or to send out of the country money in respect of the sale of these tickets.
As I have said, this has been a very interesting debate, with a great deal of expertise, and in some ways I regret that I shall have to do my best, I hope not altogether without success, to demolish the arguments that have been put forward. The noble Lord, Lord Jessel, has put before us a highly coloured and alluring prospectus. He put his case, I thought, in a wholly admirable and restrained way, and sincerely believed in the points that he was putting forward. Those I can summarise, perhaps, in this way.
First, the prospectus promised that it would save Aintree for racing and save the National, which, I agree, is worth saving—and I think it was the noble Lord, Lord Airedale, who said that. Secondly, millions of people would get a little extra excitement at small cost, and a few people would win fortunes. Thirdly, medical research would receive large-scale financial help. Fourthly, at least £150,000 would be provided for recreational facilities in the racecourse area. Fifthly (though this was not mentioned in the debate), we should prevent another injustice to Ireland, and, in fact, everyone would be happy—especially, my Lords, the promoters.
So far as Aintree is concerned—and the debate has made it quite clear that, despite the words about the value of the money for medical research, this is the mainspring of the Bill—I give place to 324 none in wanting to see Aintree preserved as a racecourse and for the Grand National to continue to be run there. It engages the excited interest and admiration of virtually the whole nation and a good deal of interest also in other countries. The National, in my view, is the world's greatest contest for horse and rider. It would be regretted by almost everyone in this country if it were threatened. I agree with the noble Duke, the Duke of Atholl, and the noble and learned Viscount, that, whatever we called it, the National on a park course would be just another steeplechase. But I do not accept this Bill as the solution for Aintree. Aintree has been losing money for some years. Understandably, the owner wants to sell and has been prevented from selling only by the fortunate and public-spirited action of Lord Sefton.
But apart from the British people themselves, there are powerful public bodies interested in preserving the course. The Government have no direct knowledge of what they may intend, or whether any direct approach is likely to be made in the matter. There is, in our view, no reason to believe that if the threat to Aintree should become real, or imminent, means will not be found to preserve it. Indeed the present situation might well lead to improvement of the present facilities and fuller development of the course in the public interest so that it could become a paying proposition. To my mind that removes the mainspring and principal attraction of the Bill.
I will deal now with the "fortunes for a few". This is my second objection to the Bill, because this proposal is another addition to the major industry of gambling. I am not now arguing about the morality of gambling; I want to make the point (which has so far not been made in this debate) that it is surely fundamentally wrong to set the seal of State approval on a proposal for a private person to run this monopoly; to set the seal of State approval on this unhealthy octopus of gambling which is spreading its tenatacles among all classes and ages of people throughout the length and breadth of the land. There are football pools, bingo, the dogs and thousands and thousands of betting shops. Of course, it may be argued that 325 it is only another £10 million or another £20 million. You can say, as did the noble Lord, Lord Jesse], that the Daily Express has made its inquiries which show that nearly nine out of ten people are in favour—in favour of something for nothing. The Evening News headline was "It's a Winner!".
But this is not an ordinary sweepstake; it is something to which the Government are being asked to give State approval. Her Majesty's Government feel that at this we should draw the line. According to the estimates by the Churches Council on Gambling, the nation is spending something like £860 million a year, not including what may be spent in gaming clubs. That means that the total may approach £1,000 million a year, or 25s. a week for each family. The other day my noble friend Lord Robens pointed out that this is giving the country a wrong sense of priorities. Some 50,000 people are employed full-time on just taking bets and administering the betting machine. This is as many as are employed in the vital engineering tools industry. Bookmakers alone employ almost as many people as the total of those actually engaged full-time in sport and recreation. Are the Government to make this unhappy situation worse? It is impossible to get people by law to refrain from gambling; but it is possible, when the opportunity arises, to refuse to encourage gambling by Statute; and that is what the Government are asking Parliament to do now.
This Bill is a very different proposition from the Betting, Gaming and Lotteries Act, 1963. That Act, while declaring all lotteries illegal, makes specified exceptions for private lotteries—for example, at dinners, dances, bazaars and similar entertainments. And it allows certain small public lotteries for charitable, sporting, cultural and other noncommercial purposes. All these lotteries are subject to conditions to ensure that they may be conducted only on a relatively small scale, with limited stakes and prizes, and that the proceeds, after permitted deductions for expenses, are devoted to purposes other than private gain. In those lotteries where tickets may be sold to the public, the conditions imposed by the Act limit the price to one shilling, the total value of tickets to £750, total prizes to 50 per cent. of the proceeds, 326 and the first prize to £100. No remuneration may be paid to the promoter, or to any person employed by the promoter, who is engaged in a betting business. The expenses must not exceed 10 per cent. of the whole proceeds. People give cheerfully to these small "swindles", as they are commonly called, in the knowledge, first that they are supporting a cause in which they believe and, second, because no one is making a profit out of it.
This Bill is a totally different proposition. When the Press first noted it, it said that its sponsors quite frankly expected it to gross £10 million; and in my view that is a conservative estimate. But even on that basis the promoters' "cut" would be no less than £2¼ million. It is true that out of this they would have to pay the tender price to the body nominated by Statute (it has been suggested it would be the Horserace Betting Levy Board), and they would have to pay promotional expenses. But at the end of the day its promoters—and it was suggested that Crockford's, the gaming club, might be among those who would tender—would be the big winners, to the tune, probably, of £1 million. This is "nice work, if you can get it".
If it were a wholly private business, no one could raise any objection, provided that it was legal. But this would not be a private venture; it would be a privately-owned monopoly created by the State. Whenever in the recent past such a proposition has been put forward and responsibly considered, it has been rejected. The noble Lord, Lord Jessel, spoke of the Royal Commission who twice considered this matter within the last thirty years. He said that they only mildly condemned it, and that their reasoning was out of date. I am not, of course, actually quoting the noble Lord; I am only paraphrasing his remarks.
§ LORD STONHAM
What did the Royal Commission say? First, the Royal Commission of 1932–33 considered the question of allowing large-scale lotteries, promoted either by or on behalf of the State or a public body, and recommended categorically against them. At the time when that Royal Commission was appointed the Irish Hospitals Trust Sweepstakes were very popular, although 327 the sale of tickets was illegal. The Commission was concerned to find out whether this implied a public demand for such a sweepstake in this country and whether a change in the law to permit such a sweepstake was desirable. It heard evidence from many witnesses on the subject, and in its Report dealt very fully with the questions of principle and the practical considerations involved.
Three different schemes were suggested to the Commission—first, State lotteries for the direct benefit of the Exchequer; secondly, a board set up by Parliament to promote lotteries for charitable objects, and, thirdly, a system of permits to promote lotteries, the profits being devoted to public or charitable objects. As regards lotteries in general, the Commission decided that the main objections were that they represented gambling in its easiest form, calling for no skill or knowledge, and thus appealed to many who would not, for instance, risk their money in backing a horse. There was also the dazzling lure, to the ordinary man or woman, of large prizes. On the whole, the Royal Commission decided that lotteries were objectionable in principle and socially undesirable, as likely to lead to a spread of gambling. Their conclusions covered the alternative proposals and condemned them all. The 1949–51 Royal Commission also considered this question. I will not go into all they said in detail, but they supported the objections of the previous Commission, so these views are not out of date.
As regards large-scale lotteries not conducted by the State—that is, the type we are now asked to approve—the Royal Commission had no hesitation in agreeing that the basic difficulty was that there would be no logical or equitable grounds for restricting the right to promote such lotteries to a strictly limited number of organisations—or tenderers, as under this Bill. It was also their view that, if the number was not strictly limited, it was probable that lotteries would be promoted for spurious objects, and also that many of those promoted for genuine objects would fail. The argument that it would be undesirable for the State itself to participate or be concerned in any way in the promotion of a lottery, as contemplated by this Bill, still holds good to-day. There can be no question about this, and noble 328 Lords who want to support the Bill must face up to this point. Do they agree that the State should approve and authorise a lottery? Do they wish to set the seal of approval on a lottery which is going to be administered by a private person?
As has been said, though little has been made of it during the debate—except by the right reverend Prelate the Lord Bishop of Lincoln, who I hope gets the other half of his double—horseracing alone among sports already benefits from a substantial statutory levy on betting transactions, and is therefore already in a position of advantage. Since the Horse-race Betting Levy Board was established it has distributed, or will be distributing, in accordance with schemes already agreed, a sum of almost £8½, million, a considerable proportion of which consists of direct grants for the improvement of racecourses or of the facilities and services which are a necessary adjunct at racecourses. And, of course, assistance for the improvement or preservation of Aintree would be something that the Levy Board would be entitled to consider. This is important to all who want to preserve Aintree.
It was clearly far from the minds of both Royal Commissions that there could ever be justification for a proposal which would provide a large margin of profit for a commercial promoter enjoying a monopoly right to promote a public lottery, and surely there can never be justification for such an arrangement under Government sponsorship. I firmly believe that Aintree can be saved by other and more respectable means. Funds for medical research can be, are, and should be, provided by the taxpayer and by charitably disposed persons. Stripped of these lures, it means that we are being asked in this Bill to set up machinery empowering the Government to grant, to a private person or persons, what amounts to a licence to print money. I trust that we shall have no hesitation in refusing, and if it should come to a Division I hope that your Lordships will have no hesitation in refusing to give this Bill a Second Reading.
THE DUKE OF ATHOLL
My Lords, before the noble Lord finishes, I understood him to say that the Betting Levy Board have power to give money to all racecourses. I thought that they could 329 give money only to racecourses with security of tenure and that that was the difficulty over Aintree, where in fact no one had security of tenure.
§ LORD STONHAM
My Lords, the noble Duke will doubtless understand that the Levy Board is also aware of these things. I prefer not to make any comment on what he has just said.
§ 5.6 p.m.
§ LORD JESSEL
My Lords, I thank all those who have taken part in this extremely interesting and, at times, amusing debate. I am really flattered because we have had four maiden speakers. I will not weary the House by trying to make a winding-up speech, but there are one or two speeches I would mention. There is, especially, the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Crawshaw, who spoke, I thought, with great sincerity and most effectively. There was also the extremely sensible and measured speech from the noble Lord, Lord Citrine. And I am very grateful to the noble and learned Viscount, Lord Dilhorne, for explaining the Bill and for really getting to the "guts" of the Bill, which, as a trained lawyer, he did far better than I could, and also for dealing with the 22½ per cent., which is going to be at the mercy of the voracious promoter, of whom the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, is so frightened. Only this 22½ per cent. will not fall into their pockets. There will be intense competition. The noble Lord, Lord Stonham, mentioned Crock-ford's as being interested. I know they are. And I am sure that other people such as Littlewoods and Mr. William Hill will be interested and that the competition will be extremely hot.
I would also thank the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, for his extremely amusing and genial winding-up speech. He has shown an extraordinarily intimate knowledge of racing phraseology. I did not quite follow his explanation of the legal situation in regard to the purchase of Irish Sweepstake tickets in this country. I think he made it a little obscure. Apparently it is not an offence to buy tickets, but it is to sell them and send the money for the.
§ LORD STONHAM
My Lords, I am sorry that I did not make the position perfectly clear. It is not an offence to purchase Irish Hospitals Sweepstake tickets. It is an offence to distribute them as an agent and to send abroad for that purpose.
§ LORD JESSEL
In any event, in spite of the obscurity, I understand that a great deal of money from this country does find its way to Dublin. The crux of the objections of Her Majesty's Government to this Bill, so far as I can see, is that small smell of private profit. Are the Government against football pools on principle? Surely there is there a large private profit and I should have thought that it was very much on all fours with what is envisaged in this Bill.
§ LORD STONHAM
My Lords, may I make the Government's position clear? With regard to football pools, the Government have not created a private monopoly. Apparently, anyone can set up a football pool. The proposal here is that the Government should create a private monoply. That is the objection.
§ LORD JESSEL
If the noble Lord's argument is right, then I think the Government should abolish football pools. I suggest that if some private promoter was allowed to handle this sweepstake it would be done much more efficiently; more tickets would be sold at less cost; there would be more money for worthwhile causes and for racing. If I am asked whether I approve that the State should authorise a lottery and give some private organisation authority to administer it and make a small profit, I say, unreservedly, Yes. My Lords, I have nothing more to say.
§ 5.14 p.m.
§ On Question, Whether the Bill shall be now read 2a?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 62; Not-Contents, 46.331
|Aberdeen and Temair, M.
|Massereene and Ferrard, V. [Teller]
|Brooke of Ystradfellte, Bs.
|Mowbray and Stourton, L.
|Grimston of Westbury, L.
|St. Aldwyn, E.
|St. Helens, L.
|Howard of Glossop, L.
|Strange of Knokin, Bs.
|Elliot of Harwood, Bs.
|Jessel, L. [Teller.]
|McCorquodale of Newton, L.
|Gardiner, L. (L. Chancellor.)
|Robertson of Oakridge, L.
|St. Davids. V.
|Leatherland. L. [Teller.]
|Segal, L. [Teller]
|Lincoln, L. Bp.
|Longford, E. (L. Privy Seal.)
|Milner of Leeds, L.
|Cork and Orrery, E.
|Norwich, L. Bp.
|Fraser of North Cape, L.
On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Resolved in the affirmative: Bill read 2a accordingly, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.