§ 4.20 p.m.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 3a.—(The Lord Chancellor.)
§ On Question, Bill read 3a, with the Amendments.
§ Clause 16 [Provision of credit for gaming]:
had given notice of his intention to move two Amendments dealing with the use of cheques in gaming. The noble Lord said: The two Amendments standing in my name were put down for two reasons: first, to avoid large sums of cash being carried about the streets by gamblers; and secondly, to limit the losses of compulsive gamblers by preventing them from drawing cheques in the heat of the game. The second Amendment lays itself open to the objection that it may be obviated by circumvention. The noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor and I have been in correspondence about these Amendments, and I understand from him that they are not acceptable to the Gcvernment. Therefore I do not propose to move them to-day, but I would put forward the suggestion that the Home Secretary should consider devising some way of implementing the second Amendment by embodying it in the rules of gaming clubs.
LORD KILBRACKEN moved Amendment No. 3:
After Clause 17, insert the following new clause:
§ Certificates of exclusion
§ ".—(1) If any person applies to the Gaming Board for a certificate of exclusion, the Board shall grant him such a certificate and shall enter his particulars in the Register of excluded persons, which shall be maintained by the Board.
§ (2) No excluded person shall be admitted to any premises in respect of which a 1icence under this Act is for the time being in force.
§ (3) The Register of excluded persons shall he conclusive evidence on the question of fact whether a person is an excluded person or not.1379
§ (4) The Board shall send particulars of any excluded person—
- (a) forthwith, to the holder of a licence under this Act in respect of any club of which that person claims to be a member; and
- (b) within one month of the grant of any such certificate, to all holders of licences under this Act.
§ (5) A certificate of exclusion shall last five years, but may be renewed on the application of the person to whom it was granted.
§ (6) This section shall not apply to bingo club premises."
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, this is the third occasion on which I have moved an Amendment which has a simple and, as I hope will still be accepted, laudable aim; that is, to help the compulsive gambler to give up this demoralising habit: and not only the gambler who has reached that pathological stage of compulsion but also he who, although he knows it is against all his interests and is destroying his life in many ways, still goes along far more often than his better judgment would allow him to the casinos to play, and in all probability to lose his money.
§ On the two previous occasions when I moved an Amendment along these lines, neither of which I pressed because I was informed on both occasions that the draftsmanship was faulty, my proposals had very wide, if not completely general, approval from Members of your Lordships' House. I had the strong support of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chester, whose absence to-day I am sure we all greatly regret; and the Church itself was aware that my proposal is also strongly supported by that admirable body, Gamblers Anonymous, who try to help those who have this affliction, in the same way as Alcoholics Anonymous try to help those who are afflicted with alcoholism.
My Amendment was supported from the Liberal Benches by the noble Earl, Lord Arran, and the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, and by many noble Lords on the Conservative Benches, including, in particular, the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor—and again I must say how much I regret his absence to-day. In the absence of the noble Lord, Lord Brooke, may I be allowed to remind your Lordships of the support that he then gave to my Amendment, when he mentioned, in particular, that he personally
thought that the underlying purpose of the new clause was thoroughly good. He went on at the end of his remarks to say:
If I am right in sensing that the general opinion of the Committee is in favour of something being done on these lines, I trust that the Government will endeavour to take a less hostile attitude to the proposal and wilt co-operate in trying to put something of this kind on the Statute Book."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 1/8/68; col. 451.]
The hostile attitude to which the noble Lord referred in that sentence was not as hostile as all that. My noble friend Lord Stonham (and once again I have to say how sorry we are that the noble Lord is not here; how greatly we appreciate the extraordinary work that he was doing on several major Bills, including this one; how glad we are to learn that he is now on the way to recovery, and our hope that he will soon be back among us), when I first moved this Amendment upstairs, was so kind as to say:
I am sure we all have sympathy with it."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Gaming Bill Committee, 4/7/68; col. 131.]
And when I moved it again on re-committal, my noble friend said:
I am quite sure, and the debate has made this obvious, that no one would oppose my noble friend's objective."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 1/8/68; col. 447.]
§ Unfortunately, he then went on to oppose it in a way which it is almost impossible to counter, because he said two things.
§ He began by saying that I had not created an offence, and that therefore there was no criminal sanction; it was no more than a statement of good intent. But, having said that, my noble friend towards the end of his remarks informed the Committee that if a criminal liability were put on the proprietor of a gaming house if he admitted an excluded person to his premises this would not be acceptable to the Government. I was therefore left in the position that if I made this a criminal offence the Amendment was ineffective, and if I failed to make it a criminal offence the Amendment was objectionable. That is a situation with which I have found it impossible to deal in a way that might be acceptable to the Government.
It had always been my intention that if a man had applied for a certificate of exclusion, and was admitted to any club
licensed under the Act, the proprietor would be guilty of an offence. So, my Lords, I have decided, particularly as this was clearly the suggestion of the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor, that I should without doubt make it an offence, and that I have done in this Amendment. In my last version I proposed that it should be the duty of the licensee not to admit an excluded person. In my present version, which is otherwise substantially the same as the first version, I say quite dearly in subsection (2):
No excluded person shall be admitted to any premises in respect of which a licence under this Act is for the time being in force.
This has to be read in conjunction with Clause 23, which deals with offences. Clause 23 states that if any provisions of Sections 12 to 20 of this Act—and my new clause, being No. 18, would be one of those—are contravened, then the holder of a licence shall be guilty of an offence.
I would draw your Lordships' attention to subsection (3) of this clause, which states:
Where a person is charged with an offence under either of the preceding subsections…it shall be a defence for him to prove—
§ I think that is important, because if a compulsive gambler feels, "I must go and play to-night", he may go to a club and give a false name. But to begin with, he cannot be a member for 48 hours, and during those 48 hours he can have second thoughts and ring up the club and say, "I am not John Smith. I am Willie Jones. And I am an excluded person." But if some such subterfuge is used by an excluded person it would certainly be a defence under that subsection to prove that the contravention occurred without the knowledge of the proprietor, and so on.
Finally, we come to subsection (4), which states:
Any person guilty of an offence…shall be liable—
(a) on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding £400".
and so on. Of course, a fine of £400 for admitting an excluded person would
be completely excessive, but this is a maximum fine which applies to the breach of any clause of the Bill, including, for example, the admission of a young person under 18 years of age, or the cashing of a cheque—for which, again, obviously, a fine of £400 would be excessive. It is merely a maximum figure which would not be applicable is this case, any more than in the others that I have mentioned.
§ My noble friend Lord Stonham put forward his objection that it would be unfair to put a criminal liability on a proprietor in a matter of this kind. I have given the matter much thought and I really cannot see how that argument is acceptable. A gaming club proprietor is already under many obligations as to the people, the men and women, whom he is allowed to admit and those he wants to admit. Gaming house proprietors have men on the door who are trained, and trained to a remarkable extent, to keep out of the club those people whom they do not want or who are not allowed in. This is already standard practice. They have to keep out non-members; they have to keep out people who are still waiting for the 48 hours to expire; they have to keep out young persons under 18. They want to keep out people whose credit is known to be bad and whose cheques habitually "bounce", or who have got drunk frequently, or have caused disturbances. There is already elaborate machinery in existence to make sure that such undesirable or ineligible persons should not be admitted to the club.
§ If we are going to have proprietors who are responsible, as we must have, and proprietors who see that the law is fulfilled, as we must have—indeed, they will not get certificates of consent unless they are men of that calibre—I do not see how it can present any difficulty to ensure that, to the best of their ability, excluded persons are not admitted to the clubs. This is not a Party matter. This Amendment is in the name of three noble Lords, one from each of the three main Parties. I hope that my Amendment, which will help many unfortunate people, will commend itself on its merits and without political considerations to your Lordships, and that it will find its place in the Statute Book. My Lords, I beg to move.1383
§ 4.34 p.m.
§ LORD DENHAM
My Lords, I should like to re-echo the support my noble friend Lord Brooke of Cumnor gave on Recommittal to the principle behind this Amendment. I hope that the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack may feel able to meet the noble Lord, Lord Kilbracken, on this point, and that unless there are insuperable reasons against it this Amendment will be accepted at this stage in your Lordships' House.
THE LORD BISHOP OF PORTS MOUTH
My Lords, I should like to reiterate the support which the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chester gave to this Amendment at the Committee stage, and to say that while I still feel that there may be extreme difficulties in its application, I am sure that the principle behind the Amendment which the noble Lord, Lord Kilbracken, has moved is the right one.
§ THE EARL OF SHANNON
My Lords, I regret to say that I feel I must oppose this Amendment. I say that I do so regretfully because, without the slightest shadow of doubt, as has been said by all the noble Lords who have spoken so far, the spirit behind it is absolutely admirable. But is it relevant to this Bill? I know, as many of your Lordships know, that this matter was considered in great detail in Committee, and there we had a strong argument, if I remember rightly, to the effect that it seemed to be workable abroad. I had prepared a list of the effects here, but the noble Lord moving this Amendment seems already to have given most of them. This Amendment creates a very unnecessary risk of committing a criminal offence, although I know that under subsection (3) of Clause 23, which will have to be amended if this new clause is included in the Bill, it is a defence to plead that it was committed without the knowledge of the proprietor and that he took all reasonable steps.
The noble Lord, Lord Kilbracken, said that already there is an organisation for excluding undesirable people, but on the whole such people seem to be those who are socially undesirable or commercially undesirable. With the exception, I agree, of being under age, they did not seem to be undesirable as criminals. We are now asked to put the proprietors at very considerable 1384 risk. I would suggest that it is extremely difficult—indeed, almost impossible—to enforce this provision. I think that if we are likely to be swayed by the feeling that we should be doing good for some people—and no doubt we should—we ought also to consider a parallel. Should we allow alcoholics to obtain a certificate? Should such information be transmitted to all publicans and off-licence holders? No; we would not dream of that. Would we do the same for drug addicts? Admirable though it must be, I think that this proposal is quite impossible.
THE EARL OF GOWRIE
My Lords, I too feel a considerable sympathy with the noble Lord, Lord Kilbracken, and his motives in adding an Amendment to this Bill. Anyone who has, as I did as an undergraduate, played Scrabble for a pound a point must feel this very intensely. But I also feel sympathy with the noble Earl who has just spoken, in that I feel that here is a risk of handing over an area of personal morality to the landlord or licensee of such establishments, rather as if one were to decide to give up smoking and wear a button to that effect, acknowledging the right of the police to arrest one should one "light up". The noble Lord, Lord Kilbracken, mentioned the "elaborate machinery" (I think those were his words) which is already in existence to prevent unseemly or upsetting incidents at gaming houses. I feel that his Amendment may require that machinery to bear more than it should reasonably carry.
THE EARL OF ARRAN
My Lords, may I briefly say this? If a man is conscious of his weaknesses, knows what he is, and is strong enough to admit them to himself, if he then performs an act of what can only be described as "self-abnegation" and goes to the authorities and says "Count me out", I think such a man is worthy of support.
My Lords, I feel that if this Amendment were practicable it would fulfil a long-felt want to protect parents. One knows that in this gambling business offspring go very wrong, on occasion, and are probably full of remorse on the morning after: often they would sign the requisite forms, and the parents would be protected, perhaps until such 1385 time as the child came to years of discretion. But whether the Amendment is practicable or not I do not know.
LORD ST. JUST
My Lords, as I put my name down, with that of the noble Lord, Lord Kilbracken, and the noble Earl, Lord Arran, I should just like to say that I fully support the noble Lord. I think I said all that I wish to say on the Recommitment stage in your Lordships' House.
My Lords, as the noble Lord, Lord Kilbracken, mentioned the Liberal Benches, and pointed out that two Members on these Benches had supported him last time, perhaps I may say that there were a number of others who gave him silent support. I am still one of those, but I do not want it to be quite so silent this time.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, and I have given the most careful consideration to this Amendment and we do not think that it is practicable. With three exceptions, it is the same Amendment as was put down and discussed, first of all on the Committee stage before the Select Committee, and then on Recommitment. The three exceptions are that the period within which the Board are to notify licence holders has been decreased from two months to one month; secondly, the certificate of exclusion is to last for five years instead of four, and, lastly, it does undoubtedly create a criminal offence.
In these days we all have great sympathies—and rightly so—with addicts, and we do not say, for instance, "Oh! he is an alcoholic—14 days' 'jug'—jolly good for him." Whether they are alcoholics or drug addicts we realise that it is something rather more of a disease than wickedness, and that if we can protect addicts we should do so. I think we all have great admiration for "Alcoholics Anonymous", and I am sure that "Gamblers Anonymous" are doing equally good work.
But this Amendment is proposing an entirely new principle which, if right, I would have thought ought to be extended to all addicts. That is to say, if an addict likes to write to the Government Department concerned and say, "I am an alcoholic: please put me on your 1386 black list", then the Government Department ought to write to anybody who supplies drink and make it a criminal offence for him to supply anyone on the Hack list. This would be an entirely new principle, because neither in the case of drink nor in the case of gaming would there be any obligation on the addict to do anything at all. There would be no obligation on him to apply for registration on the black list; no penalty for the addict who gives the wrong information to be registered; no obligations or penalty to be imposed, for instance, on the addict who nevertheless continues to indulge in the activity (whatever it is). But by putting himself on the black list he creates criminal offences for which other people have to pay the penalties. It means that any addict has it in his own hands to put at risk the livelihood of those who run the clubs, either it the sense of losing their licences or of being made to pay a fine or to serve a sentence of imprisonment up to two years.
We all realise that the addict is a real problem, and we have to-clay a much more sympathetic attitude to all kinds of addiction than the public have had in the fast; but in the view of the Government this is not a viable scheme for dealing with it. It places no obligation at all on the addict; he can abrogate all responsibility for his conduct, safe in the knowledge that sanctions can be applied only or the licensee. It means that for at least one month after he has written the letter the addict can go on using a club, membership of which he has not disclosed to the Board, or he can go to a fresh club, and be treated as a bona fide guest, in order to satisfy his predeliction for gaming.
I suggest that it is not reasonable to put every club in the country under a criminal obligation to vet all members and guests on arrival against a black list directed to saving a limited number of individuals from themselves. It also occurs to me that, a man having put himself on the black list, the occasion may arise when he cannot resist temptation, and so he will either go to a club of which he is a member or go to one of which he is not a member. That seems a reasonable proposition. So far as the club of which he is a member is concerned, surely his way out is simple: if he can screw himself to sitting down and writing a letter asking to be put on the 1387 black list, he can equally screw himself up to write a letter resigning from the club. If, on the other hand, he goes as a guest, having put himself on the black list, obviously he will give a false name and he will get in under that false name. I do not see how a licensee is going to be able to stop that; and he need not worry if he cannot stop it, because he has only to say that the contravention occurred without his knowledge and that he exercised such care as was possible in the circumstances.
The fact is, my Lords, that I am afraid an addict will always get what he wants in some way if his urge is strong enough. It would be an entirely new principle in the case of addiction, either to drink or drugs, to allow addicts of their choice to impose criminal sanctions, not on themselves but on a particular class of the community. And if one realises that such a man has only to write to his club and resign from it, and if he gets in afterwards as a guest and gives a false name he is not likely to be stopped, it seems that this Amendment is quite unnecessary. The Government do not feel this is a viable scheme, and therefore I hope that my noble friend Lord Kilbracken will withdraw his Amendment.
§ 4.47 p.m.
§ LORD KILBRACKEN
My Lords, I believe I have the right of reply. I would first express my appreciation to all noble Lords who have spoken, whether they spoke in favour of my Amendment or whether they found it impossible to do so. I should like to reply to one or two points that were made by my noble and learned friend on the Woolsack and also by the noble Earl on the Cross-Benches. Both mentioned the fact that there are other forms of addiction and that I might as well propose an Amendment that would exclude an alcoholic from a pub or an off licence, or a drug addict or someone who smokes too heavily from premises where they could obtain what they wanted.
I respectfully submit that those are not comparable, because if I want to go into a public house it is just that—a public house. I can go into it without giving my name, without the landlord's being aware who I am, and it would be completely impracticable (although indeed it 1388 might be desirable in the case of an alcoholic) to have any legislation under which a landlord could conceivably be expected to stop a complete stranger from coming into his public house, any more than it would be possible for a tobacconist or a greengrocer, for that matter, to stop a person from entering his shop. So far as drug addicts are concerned, I should have thought that was not a good example, because they are already under very strict control, and unless a person is a registered drug addict and receiving drugs under prescription from his doctor then any dealing in drugs is already completely illegal and is subject—and quite properly so—to the most severe penalties.
My noble and learned friend thought it would be unnecessary to have this Amendment because all an addict has to do is to write a letter to the club of which he is a member, resigning membership therefrom. But that is a completely unsatisfactory remedy, if my noble and learned friend will excuse my saying so. I have a great many bad friends—good friends who are bad friends—who are members of clubs, and if the urge comes upon me to gamble to-night I have only to ring up Tom, Dick or Harry and say, "What are you doing this evening? Let us go and have a game at such and such a club". I can at once go with them, although I have resigned from club A, and play to my heart's content at club B.
§ LORD STRABOLGI
My Lords, in that case why should not Tom, Dick and Harry be put at risk as well as the club owner?
§ LORD KILBRACKEN
My Lords, I do not quite see how my noble friend's intervention is relevant. Tom, Dick and Harry are members of certain gaming houses. They are entitled to go along and play at any time and take their friends as guests. There would be no way in which it could be ensured that all the friends of a particular person who had been excluded knew that he was an excluded person, and they would take him along in all innocence. The point is that the mere act of resigning from a club is not going to stop that person from finding an extremely simple way to go along there on any future occasion and lose all his money all over again.
1389 Another point that was raised by my noble and learned friend was this. Of course it is a pity that this is so, but it is possible for an addict to go along and give another name at a club where he is not known and thus after 48 hours secure admission. However, there are three points about this. The first is that if the proprietors under this Act abide by the law for a change, as we hope they will, such persons would not be admitted for 48 hours, and during that time they have 24 hours of daylight and sobriety when they can realise what they have done and ring up and say, "I am an excluded person". Secondly, we all hope that proprietors who obtain licences under the new Act will be responsible enough to take some steps, in their own interest, to check the identity of those who apply for membership. And thirdly, if all else fails, this will at least mean that it would not be possible for an addict to go into a club, obtain entrance
§ by false pretences, and then to lose money by drawing cheques—unless of course he went to the additional trouble of opening a bank account also in a false name.
§ So I am forced to the conclusion, and it is my last opportunity, that although this Amendment will not succeed in 100 per cent. of the cases of those who apply for a certificate of exclusion, it will save a great many people from a great deal of suffering and self-destruction; and I really put financial loss last on the list. I feel I must press it to a Division and I ask for your Lordships' support.
§ 4.58 p.m.
§ On Question, Whether the said Amendment (No. 3) shall be agreed to?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 24; Not-Contents, 70.1389
|Arran, E. [Teller.]||Denham, L.||Kilbracken, L. [Teller.]|
|Barrington. V.||Dudley, L.||Moyne, L.|
|Beaumont of Whitley, L.||Falkland, V.||Portsmouth, L. Bp.|
|Bessborough, E.||Faringdon, L.||St. Just, L.|
|Boothby, L.||Gisborough, L.||St. Oswald, L.|
|Byers, L.||Gridley, L.||Sempill, Ly.|
|Craigavon, V.||Hawke, L.||Teynharm, L.|
|Cranbrook, E.||Iddesleigh, E.||Vivian, L.|
|Ailwyn, L.||Glasgow, E.||Morris of Grasmere, L.|
|Archibald, L.||Goschen, V.||Morris of Kenwood. L.|
|Arwyn. L.,||Gowrie, E.||Mowbray and Stourton, L.|
|Auckland, L.||Grenfell, L.||Moyle, L.|
|Audley, Bs.||Hall, V.||Nunburnhome, L.|
|Beswick, L.||Headfort, M.||Pargiter L.|
|Blyton, L.||Helsby, L.||Phillips, Bs. [Teller.]|
|Bowles, E.||Henderson, L.||Rankeillour, L.|
|Buckinghamshire, E.||Henley, L.||Rusholme, L.|
|Carron, L.||Hill of Wivenhoe. L.||Sainsbury, L.|
|Champion, L.||Hilton of Upton, L.||Sandys, L.|
|Chorley, L.||Hunt, L.||Serota, Bs. [Teller.]|
|Clitheroe. L.||Jacques. L.||Shackleton. L.|
|Collison, L.||Jessel, L.||Shannon, E.|
|Cromartie, E.||Kennet, L.||Silkin, L.|
|Daventry, V.||Kirkwood, L.||Sorensen. L.|
|Eccles, V.||Latham, L.||Stow Hill, L.|
|Emmet of Amberley, Bs.||Leatherland, L.||Strabolgi, L.|
|Energlyn, L.||Llewellyn-Davies of Hastoe, Bs.||Strang, L.|
|Eniskillen, E.||Lothian, M.||Summerskill, Bs.|
|Fiske, L.||McLeavy, L.||Teviot, L.|
|Fortescue, E.||Mersey, V.||Wells-Pestell, L.|
|Gardiner, L. (L. Chancellor.)||Meston, V.||Winterbottom, L.|
|Resolved in the negative, and Amendment disagreed to accordingly.|
§ Clause 28 [Restrictions as to terms and conditions]:
§ 5.6 p.m.
§ LORD JESSEL moved Amendment No. 4:
§ Page 22, line 38, at end insert ("or if the machine is used exclusively in such a way that by virtue of section 52(5) of this Act it is taken not to be used for gaming.")
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, this Amendment is rather technical and I do not think it will interest many of your Lordships. It deals with pin-tables. There are various types, but their essential feature is that there is no pay-out mechanism. The only prize that a successful player receives is an opportunity to play a further game on a machine without inserting another coin.
Clause 52(5) of the Bill states:
For the purposes of this Act a machine shall be taken not to be used for gaming if it is used in such a way that no game played by means of the machine can result in a player…receiving or being entitled to receive, any article, benefit or advantage other than…
(a) an opportunity afforded by the automatic action of the machine to play one or more further games without the insertion of any cash or token".
§ It appears, therefore, that in accordance with Clause 52(5), these machines provide amusement only, and that it should be possible to install them on similar terms as such devices as juke boxes, football game tables and so on.
But no, Clause 26 states that Part III of the Act:
applies to any machine which—
§ So a pin-table is caught by Clause 26 and becomes subject to the same controls as for the supply and installation, et cetera of gaming machines. The important result of this is that the person who installs the machine will have to hire it or buy it and will not be allowed to share the proceeds with the owner. These machines do not have the attraction of gaming machines. Their income is unreliable and subject to wide fluctuations, and it would be almost impossible to calculate in advance a fair rent. So I suggest that the right thing to do 1392 is that which this Amendment seeks to do; namely, to permit the installation of pin-tables on a sharing basis. They are not gaming machines, but are used to pass the time in such places as transport cafes.
§ I understand that the Home Office have had representations about this and have taken the line that they must be considered as gaming machines because people can bet on the result. But people can bet on anything if they want to. They can bet about who scores most on the pin-table or the colour of the hair of the next person to come into the café. I hope that Her Majesty's Government will take a sensible view about this. By no stretch of the imagination can these pin-tables be called gaming machines. I beg to move.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
My Lords, the Home Office have of course painfully learned a very great deal of what goes on in the field of gaming, and what we are here concerned with are the considerable evils which have arisen from profit sharing. Clause 28 of the Bill imposes a general prohibition of the supply of machines on a profit-sharing basis—that is to say, arrangements by which, in lieu of rent, the takings of the machine are shared on a percentage basis between the supplier and user. This Amendment seeks to exempt from the prohibition machines used "exclusively" within the terms of Clause 52(5); which are those that give a successful player no more than another "go" or "goes" free of charge or return him his money. While these machines are used only in that way, and no prize is given for winning, they are not treated as being used "for gaming" within the meaning of Clauses 31 to 35 of the Bill, and therefore those clauses do not apply. They are still, however, machines "constructed or adapted for playing a game of chance" within the meaning of Clause 26(1) and, as such, made subject to the profit-sharing ban in Clause 28.
This has been done advisedly. Any machine constructed or adapted for playing a game of chance—such as, for instance, a pin-table—can very readily be used for gaming. Whatever the mechanics of the machine allow, prizes can always be handed to the successful players. We are anxious therefore to maintain the ban on profit-sharing for these as for 1393 the conventional "fruit machines" or "one-armed bandits". Indeed, if we neglected to do so we should simply be inviting evasion of this provision of the Bill. It should be noted that Clause 28(3) already confers an exemption on machines supplied for use exclusively at amusement places, such as fairgrounds, pleasure gardens, arcades and piers. The ban, therefore, applies only to machines used in such other premises as public-houses, coffee bars, shops and restaurants. One of its principal objects is to prevent the artificial stimulation of demands for machines in such places, where they have proliferated to a degree which many people find objectionable and this applies to pin-tables as well as to fruit machines.
My Lords, in explaining why the Government are unable to accept this Amendment may I make it quite plain that there is nothing whatever to prevent proprietors from obtaining machines in any of these places either on straightforward purchase or on hire-purchase, or on rental agreements, because these do not expose them to the commercial—and other pressures which profit-sharing allows the machines retailers to exert. I would hope, if he has given consideration to that, that the noble Lord, Lord Jessel, may feel able to withdraw his Amendment.
§ LORD JESSEL
My Lords, as I know that I shall get nowhere on this, I beg leave to withdraw my Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 31 [Use of machines by virtue of licence or registration.]:
§ 5.13 p.m.
§ LORD JESSEL moved Amendment No. 5:
§ Page 23, line 23, after ("machines") insert ("or such other number as may be specified by an order made by the Secretary of State on the advice of the Board for the purposes of this subsection.")
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, my justification for putting down this Amendment again on Third Reading is that it raises an important question of principle on which I think the House should pass judgment. The whole point of the Amendment is that no arbitrary figure should be put into the Bill. The Amendment seeks to give the Home Secretary power to allow a greater or lesser number 1394 of machines than two on a club premises. My submission is that the Gaming Board will be able to advise the Home Secretary as to the proper number of machines which should be allowed. A club of a thousand members might easily justify the installation of three or four machines; on the other hand, one machine might be quite adequate for a small club. As the noble Lord, Lord Monyihan, pointed out when we discussed this matter in Standing Committee, the Government really must make up their mind as to whether these machines are a social evil or not. If they are, they should be banned altogether; if they are not, there is no reason for restricting the number to two in the Bill.
§ I am sure that the Gaming Board will make regulations as to the "odds on" machine and the percentage which the club will be allowed to retain. I do not want to see rows of "one-armed ban ins" in clubs, but I do not see why this arbitrary maximum figure of two machines should be put in the Bill. As I said in Standing Committee, I have more faith in the judgment of the Gaming Board than apparently the Home Office have. My argument is that after the Board have carried out their investigations they should then lay down the regulations. We all know that "Whitehall knows best", but I would rather wait for the advice of the Gaming Board and not, by this Bill, dictate their regulations it advance. This is the principle on which I now seek the opinion of the House. I beg to move.
§ LORD KILBRACKEN
My Lords, I should like to add a word of support to the noble Lord, Lord Jessel. I regard it as somewhat extraordinary that for clubs of the size we visualise under this Act only two of these relatively innocuous machines should be permitted; and I agree that the number should be left to the decision of the Board.
THE LORD BISHOP OF PORTSMOUTH
My Lords, I can only continue the opposition to this Amendment which the right reverend Prelate and I expressed in the Committee. I do not believe that these machines, "one-armed bandits" or whatever they may be, are a minor social evil any longer; indeed, they have become more and more a real menace in our community. Last Saturday night I was in the public bar of an hotel, among a 1395 number of men I knew very well. I said to them, "What would be the effect on you if these machines were barred altogether?" And to a man, unanimously, they said, "We wish they could be got out of the place altogether". I believe that some control over these machines is an absolute necessity, and I would continue to support the Government.
My Lords, I believe that the right reverend Prelate is dead right in what he has said. The trouble about these machines is, first of all, that they create addiction. Anybody who goes into a club and sees people putting sixpence after sixpence into these machines knows that they have got that addiction. Secondly, they are extraordinarily profitable to the club, and there are a very great many clubs that could not exist without these beastly machines. Two of the golf clubs I belong to each had two. One of them has had the strength of mind to "sack" one machine, but there are still two in one and one in the other. Without the machines I think the clubs could probably not exist without putting up my subscription. The machines make an infernal noise and are a general nuisance to everybody else, but nobody has had the "guts" to throw them out, simply because the clubs exist very largely on the profits that they make. I feel sure that if the Government have the "guts" to keep this provision in the Bill the members as a whole will rejoice.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
My Lords, I think the position has already been accurately stated. There is a good deal to be said for making this particular type of machine completely illegal, but of course, as the noble Lord, Lord Hawke, has said, there are so many small clubs which have become financially dependent on them.
This Amendment differs from that moved by the noble Lord, Lord Jessel, in Committee in that, while it would allow the maximum number of gaming machines permitted in licensed and registered clubs to be varied on the recommendation of the Gaming Board it would provide, in theory, for a reduction as well as an increase. The variation could not, however, be made selectively: a common maximum would still apply to all clubs, from the large licensed 1396 casino to the small social or athletic club specially registered under Part III of the Bill. Partly for this reason, but more particularly because of the great difficulty of removing rights already enjoyed under the existing law, it would in practice be virtually impossible to reduce the present maximum of two machines.
Clearly, what the noble Lord, Lord Jessel, wants is an increase. We cannot agree to abandon the present immutable statutory maximum. The Government take the view that these machines represent unequal chance gaming in its most addictive and least justifiable form. They require no skill; their rate of turnover is exceptionally rapid; they can be left unattended, and so in continuous use; and even if the odds are regulated they will still be highly profitable and capable of extorting very large sums from the players in a very short time. The supply and use of the machines has given rise to more crude criminality than almost any other form of gaming. Fortunes have been made out of it.
The Government have never concealed their opinion that the right given to clubs of all kinds by the Betting and Gaming Act 1960 to install two of these machines each was a serious mistake. They have concluded—with reluctance—that they cannot now go back upon that, but they are certainly not prepared to compound the original error by allowing more than two machines in any club premises. There is no point, therefore, in inserting a power of variation which there is no prospect of using, but which would simply expose the Gaming Board and the Government to continual pressure by the machine interests. Ordinary members' clubs should be very well content with the profits that two machines can bring them. If commercial clubs want more machines then they must make do with amusement machines offering limited prizes, as provided by Clause 32. Your Lordships will remember that the Royal Commission took the view that these should be banned altogether. Unfortunately—nobody is blaming anybody—in 1960, mistakenly, I think, two machines were allowed. The object of this Amendment is to have more than two. For the reasons which I have ventured to give, the Government hope that the House will not accept this 1397 Amendment. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Jessel, having heard the debate, will not take the Amendment to a Division.
§ LORD JESSEL
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Kilbracken, for his support. Other noble Lords who have spoken have not addressed their minds to the principle of this Amendment. All they have done is to say that these machines are bad, which probably they are. My point is that, as they are going to be allowed, the decision should be left to the Gaming Board after it has conducted its investigations. I am not going to press this Amendment to a Division, although I should like to do so. I know that noble Lords have now come into the Chamber who perhaps did not hear my powerful arguments at the beginning. I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 34 [Other uses of machines for amusement purposes]:
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR moved Amendment No. 6:
§ Page 26, line 33, leave out ("one or more tokens") and insert ("a token which is, or two or more tokens which in the aggregate are")
§ The noble and learned Lord said: My Lords, this is a drafting Amendment. In Committee on Recommitment the Government accepted, subject to further examination of the drafting, an Amendment moved by my noble friend Lord Kilbracken to substitute the words "one or more tokens" for "a token" in line 33, on page 26. The purpose of that Amendment was simply to allow the delivery of, say, four 6d. tokens instead of one 2s. one. But, as a result of that change, paragraph (a) of Clause 34(3) might be interpreted as allowing an amusement machine to deliver, in one game, several tokens each exchangeable for a money prize of up to 2s. This Amendment removes that ambiguity. I beg to move.
§ LORD KILBRACKEN
My Lords, I am grateful to the Government, with their great legal knowledge, for improving my Amendment; I am glad to see it included in the Bill.
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.1398
THE LORD CHANCELLOR moved Amendment No. 7:
Page 27, line 18, leave out ("those') and insert ("the further game or").
§ The noble and learned Lord said: My Lords, this is a drafting Amendment. The expression "those games" at the end of subsection (4) of Clause 34 is ambiguous, because it might refer back to the expression "all those games" in line 11 or to the expression "one or more further games" in line 9. In fact, it is the latter which is intended, and this Amendment makes that clear.
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Clause 36 [Removal of money from machines]:
THE LORD CHANCELLOR moved Amendments Nos. 8, 9 and 10:
Page 28, line 35, leave out ("or winnings") Clause 37, page 30, line 11, leave out ("or winnings")
Clause 52, page 43, line 27, after ("includes") insert ("any prize or other")
§ The noble and learned Lord said: If no noble Lord objects, I should like to take Amendments Nos. 8, 9 and 10 together. They are drafting Amendments. Clauses 31 and 34 of the Bill cont tin a number of provisions about what "prizes" a machine is allowed to offer; and it is clear from these provisions that any money or tokens delivered by a machine is being spoken of in the Bill as a "prize". Accordingly, the references in Clauses 36 and 37 to money or tokens delivered by a machine as "prizes or winnings" is inappropriate, and the purpose of the first two Amendments is to delete the words "or winnings" in these two places. A prize is, of course, a form of "winnings", but it would make the Bill easier to understand, particularly in relation to the definition of "gaming" in its application to Part III machines, if that were stated expressly. The third Amendment therefore amends the definition of "winnings" in Clause 52 accordingly. My Lords, I beg to move.
§ On Question, Amendments agreed to.
§ Schedule 11 [Minor and consequential amendments]:
THE LORD CHANCELLOR moved Amendment No. 11:
Page 100, line 14, leave out ("wholly or")
§ The noble and learned Lord said: My Lords, this is a drafting Amendment. 1399 Schedule 11 amends Section 49 of the Betting, Gaming and Lotteries Act 1963, so as to allow premises such as amusement arcades which have a permit under Clause 34 of the Bill to provide amusements of the fairground type without also having to obtain a permit under Section 49 of the 1963 Act as amended by the Bill, which relates to amusements with prizes otherwise than by means of machines. That being the object, the word "wholly" appearing in Schedule 11, page 100, line 14, is a contradiction. If the premises are used "wholly" for the purposes of amusements by means of machines, then they cannot be used for providing amusements otherwise than by machines, and accordingly this Amendment deletes the words "wholly or" in line 14 on page 100. I beg to move.
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR moved Amendment No. 12—
Page 103, line 13, at end insert—
("() In this paragraph any reference to amusements with prizes includes any amusements provided by means of a machine to which Part III of the Gaming Act 1968 applies").
The noble and learned Lord said: My Lords, Part II of Schedule 11 of the Bill substitutes a new Schedule for that at present governing the issue of permits for amusement games under Section 49 of the 1963 Act. It allows the renewal of such a permit to be refused
by reason of the conditions in which amusements with prizes have been provided on the premises, or the manner in which any such amusements have been conducted, while the permit has been in force".
In the context, the expression "amusements with prizes" includes amusements with prizes provided by means of machines to which Part III of the Bill applies, but since we are here dealing with a Schedule to be inserted in the Act of 1963, and since that Act as a result of the Bill will no longer regulate gaming by means of machines, it is important to make it clear that this expression "amusements with prizes" does include amusement by means of Part III machines. This Amendment does that. My Lords, I beg to move.
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ 5.30 p.m.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill do 1400 now pass. My noble friend Lord Stonham, when he introduced this Bill into the House on June 20, explained in some detail what the Government hoped it would achieve and why; and also, since the Bill itself, for all its complexity, is still largely an enabling measure, how the Government intended that the powers it conferred should be used. Since then the Bill has been very thoroughly examined at no fewer than seven meetings of the Select Committee, again on Recommittal and again to-day. It has been tested and probed in the most searching way, and more than 50 Amendments of greater or lesser substance have been made to it. I am sure that in the process the Bill has been much improved, but more important than the actual Amendments has been the opportunity for discussions given to us to explore the reasoning and motives behind the print of the Bill, and the whole philosophy of approach to this most tangled subject.
There has never been much dispute as to the ends. The whole moral impact of the Bill has been immeasurably strengthened by that. As to the means, I hope that your Lordships are satisfied of the Government's ability, through this measure, to carry out the common intentions of the House; and we ourselves have learned a great deal in a practical way from the experience and wisdom of noble Lords, particularly in the Committee. Let me now repeat quite shortly and simply what the objects are. We are in no way concerned with the morality of gaming as a private activity. Gaming commercially exploited is surrounded by great social dangers. The attempt to prevent it altogether has irretrievably failed, as it was bound to do, and it would be quite unrealistic to suppose that it could now be suppressed. But it can be reduced, and it must be controlled, in every shift and aspect, from baccarat and roulette to bingo and gaming machines, if criminal elements are to be prevented from meddling in it and the weaknesses of society remorselessly exposed.
Specifically, the Government intend to reduce the number of commercial gaming clubs providing casino games to a third or a quarter of their present number, and to restrict the more popular game of bingo to what it properly should be—a neighbourly and social activity conducted 1401 for moderate prizes. I do not propose to repeat here all the measures which we intend to take, or which will be open to us, to enforce a reduction in the number of casinos, since they were dealt with in some detail on Recommittal on the invitation of the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor.
I hope your Lordships are satisfied that the Government have been indulging in no idle threats. And it is not only in the case of the clubs that the policy of reduction or containment is to be applied. The Bill will prevent a further proliferation of gaming machines of all kinds. Its aim is to purge every form of gaming and profiteering and dishonesty and to put a stop to the insidious process by which commercial gaming, with all the dangers of which experience should surely have taught us, has come to he spoken of as though it were some form of beneficial fund-raising activity, in support of live entertainment, a sociable life or the balance of payments.
To achieve these objects the Bill assembles a vast and sophisticated apparatus of control, making use of established authorities such as the justices and the police, and reinforcing them by a powerful new central authority—the Gaming Board. This apparatus has been examined in every part during the passage of the Bill. Some of it has been replaced or corrected, but the general design has stood up to the test. Control over its use rests, however, securely in Parliament's own hands. The Government have resisted—I am sure quite rightly—all attempts to make the Gaming Board an autonomous authority in the field of social policy. They have reserved to themselves and to Parliament all final decisions on the subjects to be pursued.
In taking leave of this Bill, your Lordships will by no means be divesting yourselves of further responsibilities on the subject of gaming. There will be numerous Statutory Instruments to he laid before you—on the recommendation, no doubt, of the Gaming Board, but for your final approval—and many of them are bound to raise issues of much social importance. The time your Lordships have devoted to the study of this Bill will, I am sure, serve all of us, and the country itself, in good stead when it comes to the scrutiny of these regulations.
1402 During the whole passage of the Bill, and more particularly while it has been before your Lordships' House, the gaming world has been put into something of a turmoil by certain important judicial interpretations of the existing law and the action of the police in enforcing them. Your Lordships will be fully aware of these developments and that a number of test cases are still pending. It was necessary for the Government to consider before ever the Bill was introduced whether these developments, welcome as they have been to us, removed the necessity of legislating at all. We concluded that they did not, for reasons which Parliament have fully endorsed.
However valiant the attempts to strengthen the fabric of the present law, it is badly outworn and cannot now be made serviceable by the patching of judicial decisions. But the effect of these decisions has been to put the clubs in a considerable predicament, the more serious because it will be at least 18 months before the new law contained in this Bill can be effectively substituted for the old. Let me say that from our own study of the situation as it has developed—and no doubt there are many other developments in store—this interval is likely to work to the benefit of our interests and those of the House.
The great boom in commercial gaining, out of which fortunes were made three or four years ago, has invited just this sort of retribution. I shall expect the more respectable of the clubs, into which considerable resources of capital and skill have been sunk, to survive the interval, though in somewhat straitened circumstances, and I am sure that their own good sense will convince them of the folly of attempting to stray during that time outside the strict limits of the present law, as the courts have established them or may in the future establish them. I shall also expect an appreciable number of the smaller and perhaps less reputable clubs which have mushroomed in recent years to go out of business. Certainly, if they resort to unlawful methods in the attempt to preserve their profits, they can expect to be put out of business as soon as this Bill becomes operative. The general effect of this will, I believe, be to take a great deal of the surplus weight off the industry before the new dispensation has even been introduced. That 1403 would be a healthy thing. It would help to anticipate the very objects that we are seeking.
We shall all have been aware that since the Bill was discussed on Recommittal, my right honourable friend the Home Secretary has announced his intention of appointing Sir Stanley Raymond as Chairman of the Gaming Board. Sir Stanley is already at work with a nucleus of staff familiarising himself with the problems which he will have to face and equipping himself to do so. I am sure that your Lordships will all wish to join with me in wishing him the very best of success in this most challenging task. My right honourable friend is not yet in a position to announce the names of the other members of the Board, though he hopes that he may soon be able to do so.
Although the Bill leaves the number of members entirely at the Secretary of State's discretion, he has paid careful heed to the arguments so ably presented in Committee by the noble Lord, Lord Willis, and I am happy to be able to assure him that there will be at least three members of the Board, in addition to the Chairman. The Board will he officially constituted immediately on the passage of the Bill, and it will then be for it to choose its staff and inspectorate. As I have said, so far as the headquarters staff are concerned—and it is they who will be most urgently needed—much has also been anticipated. We hope to have an organisation in working shape as soon as the Royal Assent has been obtained so that it will start at once in establishing the machinery of control, the first stage of which will be to require certificates of consent to be obtained from the Board by prospective licensees; the remainder to follow progressively on that.
The responsibilities which Sir Stanley and his colleagues on the Gaming Board will require to assume are so important as to character that your Lordships will, I am sure, excuse me if I dwell a little longer on them. During the debates on this Bill, particularly in another place, constant comparisons have been made between the functions of the Board and those exercised by the Jockey Club and the National Hunt Committee. But that comparison is incomplete since the turf authorities, with their wide disciplinary 1404 powers in the field of racing, have no responsibility for the law on betting, while the Gaming Board will become the principal adviser to the Secretary of State and to Parliament on the operation of the much more complicated laws on gaming, and to the justices and police on their administration and enforcement. In addition to this, the Board will have disciplinary powers in the issue of certificates of consent to prospective licensees and certificates of approval to machine retailers and gaming operatives and managers every bit as drastic and far-reaching as those exercised by the turf authorities.
The Government realise that these powers might be thought to trench unduly on the liberties and rights of the individual, and it was not without misgiving that they agreed, at the instance, and indeed on the insistence, of Parliament, that they should be conferred upon the Board. But, that decision having been taken, there is really no room in such a matter for half-measures or weakening the authority of the Board by allowing rights of appeal from its decisions either to the Secretary of State or to the courts. I know that the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor, still feels considerable hesitation over this, particularly in relation to the Board's powers of approval of gaming machine retailers. The Government can well understand his reservations, but there is perhaps an assurance that I can give him.
It is a fallacy to believe that, in the exercise of these disciplinary powers, the Board will be able to act in a completely arbitrary way. They are not, and cannot be, exempt from the obligation to observe the rules of natural justice in dealing with the cases which come before them, and the courts will I am sure be vigilant to see that those rules are observed. It is important that the House should understand what these rules imply. They do not mean that the actual decisions of the Board will be subject to review by an outside authority, but they do enjoin that in reaching these decisions the Board should at least give an applicant an indication of the nature of any objections which have been raised against him, and an opportunity in such circumstances to be heard on his behalf. These are strict powers, but they are not tyrannical.
1405 My Lords, equally I think it is right that I should dispel any misunderstanding there may be over the Board's dealings with the justices. The Bill gives the Board considerable powers, by advice and rights of appeal, to influence local decisions, but these rights are at all points to be openly exercised. Whatever advice on national or local demand, or on other matters, which the Board are fit to give will be producible to any applicant whose case it may affect; and in seeking to oppose a particular application the Board will act openly as a party before the courts, though a party to whose views considerable authority must naturally attach. Saving only the certificates of consent procedure, in which the sole issue will he that of trustworthiness, all the licensing procedures will be conducted in the spirit and the letter in full accordance with the customary tenets of the law.
My Lords, a great deal of time has been devoted to discussion of the Gaming Board's powers and duties, and rightly so in view of the central position they will occupy in the control system. But we ought not, because of this, to forget the importance of the functions entrusted to the justices. We are singularly fortunate in this country to be able to rely upon such trusted and experienced authorities so deeply rooted in the traditions of our law and in the life of our society. Without this, the task of control would be immeasurably more difficult, if not altogether impossible. Nor should we forget the police, on whom the main burden of enforcement must rest and whose frustrations under the present law have not always been as fully appreciated as they should have been. This Bill will, we believe, dispel the worst of these frustrations, and while it will at the same time increase the load placed upon the local benches, we have done our utmost in the transitional provisions of the Bill to spread the load so that it can be properly borne without unacceptably delaying the establishment of controls already long overdue.
The transitional provisions are, I know, complicated, and at first sight not very easy to grasp. It may be convenient if I briefly summarise their effect. All existing clubs hoping to obtain licences will be required to apply to the Board for certificates of consent by an early date to be fixed by order—I hope not 1406 later than the end of February, 1969. Thereafter, they will be required to apply to the justices for licences by a date also to be fixed, somewhat later in that year. The justices will work through these applications as they come, and we hope that the work may be completed by the spring of 1970. As soon as it has been completed, the substantive provisions of Parts I and II of the Bill will be brought into operation. Any club which is unable to apply to the Board for a certificate of consent by the date appointed—that is, by February next or thereabouts—will have to wait for a full year or more before doing so, and the applications will not be capable of being considered by the justices until May, 1971. This enforced pause between the great bulk of initial applications for licences and the second flight of applications front newly-formed clubs is essential it the Gaming Board and the justices are to be able to handle all the work which will fall upon them, and also to turr their attention to other aspects of their duties.
§ LORD KILBRACKEN
My Lords, would my noble and learned friend permit me to interrupt him for a moment? Did he mean to say May, 1971, or May, 1970?
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I meant to say May, 1971. February, 1969, is the date for applying for licences to the Board. Then they will be required to apply to the justices for licences by a date in 1969 but, of course, later than February. It is hoped that the justices will work through all those and complete them by the spring of 1970. Then Parts I and II will be brought into operation.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
Then I went on to say that any club which is unable to apply to the Board for a certificate of consent by the date appointed—that is, by February next or thereabouts—will have to wait for a full year or more before doing so, and those applications will not be capable of being considered by the justices until May, 1971. This enforced pause between the great bulk of initial applications for licences and the second flight of applications from newly-formed clubs 1407 is, as I said, essential if the Gaming Board and the justices are to be able to handle all the work that will fall upon them, in addition, of course, to their other duties. These will include the issue by the Board of certificates of approval to machine retailers and the special registration by the justices of the numerous small sporting and social clubs which wish to use gaming machines. The provisions of Part III cannot be brought fully into operation until this side of the work has been completed. It is too early yet to predict exactly when that may be, but at a guess it will be towards the end of 1970. Ample notice will be given to all concerned at each stage in this process.
What your Lordships are now being asked to approve, therefore, is the final blueprint for a machine which will take something like two years to construct in every part. The plans themselves have been constructed with the most painstaking care and with the best and most expert advice available to us. We have been greatly encouraged by their reception in this House and in another place, and we are indebted to all those of your Lordships who helped in examination of the Bill in the Select Committee. It is perhaps invidious to mention names, but I should like, if I may be allowed to do so, to thank in particular the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor, and the noble Lord, Lord Jessel, for the patience, wisdom and understanding which they brought to our discussions from the other side of the House; and the right reverend Prelate the Lord Bishop of Chester, for expressing so ably the Church's views on this subject and for raising certain issues of substance which merited the fullest possible debate, even though our conclusions on them were not in all cases identical.
I should like also to acknowledge the contributions made, from his great store of experience, by my noble friend, Lord Kilbracken, and, though perhaps in more restricted fields, by my noble friend Lord Strabolgi and many others. The Government are indeed fortunate in the combination of talent assembled in Committee, and gratified by the friendly and constructive atmosphere in which the debates were carried on. The interests of the country have been well-served by 1408 this House, and I believe that we may all of us feel confidence, and perhaps a modest pride, in this measure as it now finally leave us. My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill do now pass.
§ Moved, That the Bill do now pass.—(The Lord Chancellor.)
§ 5.50 p.m.
§ LORD DENHAM
My Lords, my noble friends Lord Derwent and Lord Brooke of Cumnor are extremely sorry that they are unable to be here to-day to welcome the concluding stages of this Bill through your Lordships' House. In doing so on their behalf I should like to say one thing. We on this side of the House have the feeling that Her Majesty's Government perhaps consider gambling to be evil of itself. We feel that only uncontrolled and dishonest gambling is evil. We hope that the Gaming Board will make the same distinction that we do. If the Board were to disapprove of all gambling there is the danger that they might feel they must cut the profits to such an extent that respectable people would have to go out of business, leaving a black market open to the less scrupulous. It is the job of the Gaming Board to control what games should be played and how they are to be played. It is perhaps even more important that they should ensure that the most suitable people run the games. My noble friends and I welcome every attempt to control gambling and to make sure that it is run by responsible, honest people. To what extent this Bill will succeed remains to be seen. It certainly deserves to do so.
§ 5.52 p.m.
THE LORD BISHOP OF PORTS MOUTH
My Lords, may I say how grateful I am to my noble and learned friend on the Woolsack for the words that have been spoken and the explanations given and also for the very generous tribute to the right reverend prelate the Bishop of Chester, which I shall certainly pass on. My own feelings about this Bill, I think, are still somewhat mixed. It is a relief that action is being taken after years of neglect of what has become an increasingly dangerous situation. There must be profound regret that it is necessary to enact a new law to establish commercialised gaming for high stakes partly only because a previous law has presented so urgent a problem; and to 1409 have to legalise what is in fact a social evil is perhaps a rather doubtful procedure. I think it must be said that had action been taken earlier a much better solution might have been found; and my noble and learned friend agreed with this. As it is, we have had to take as our starting point not what we would wish for the nation but the necessity of the situation that exists at the present moment.
I congratulate the Government on the firm line they have taken throughout the debates, and I join in the very warm tributes which have been paid to the careful work of the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, and to the Government's determination not only to exclude the criminal element and exercise control, but also greatly to reduce the number of clubs and to contain the spread and volume of gaming. On these grounds we welcome the prohibition of advertising gaming clubs. I think the promoters know that this prohibition can be effective and that the purpose of advertising is really to increase and encourage gaming. For the same reason I hope that, following the discussions with the Gaming Board, the Home Secretary will make regulations to the effect that gaming and other activities, such as cabaret, are not to be mixed. This point came up in Committee, and I would ask that it should be very much in the minds of the Gaming Board.
My Lords, I wonder whether I might be allowed to make what may seem to be a slightly personal explanation. The fact that the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chester and I have supported this Bill through its processes has been interpreted by some people as the Church's giving approval to the licensing of gaming clubs. I think the attitude of the Church has been modified in the face of events. For some years it asked one Home Secretary after another to legislate to achieve Parliament's original intention of making commercialised gambling illegal. When Her Majesty's Government accepted that it was necessary to legalise gaming to prevent its going underground, the Churches' Committee and the Church in general endeavoured to help to achieve the best possible legislation for the good of the nation.
1410 At this point one comes up against the hard fact of life that although the motive may be to legalise gaming for those who now wish to take part, and particularly for the minority willing to attend illegal gaming sessions, the Bill must set up licensed premises and put people in business with a real interest in promoting gaming. And here there are obvious and apparent dangers. The Churches' Committee realised that once the decision to license gaming clubs had been taken consequences which they considered undesirable were inevitable.
When, as Home Secretary, Mr Roy Jenkins circulated his first proposals to interested bodies limiting profits to admission charges for four-hour sessions, gaming club proprietors said that they were impracticable because they could not make enough money that way. The Churches' Committee said that the proposals were unenforceable because club proprietors would probably consider themselves compelled to resort to cheating to increase profits. So we accepted that, albeit under close control and within limits, the Gaming Board would have to recommend the Home Secretary to make regulations to allow profits to be made from the play itself. The Committee would wish me to emphasise that it very greatly regrets this and to say that precisely to avoid this state of affairs it urged each Home Secretary to legislate in time.
My Lords, having said that, may I raise the matter of what I see as the very difficult stage between now and the implementation of the new Bill. What is going to happen? I think it is to be regretted that this Bill was pubished on the same day as the decision of this House in the case of Crickett v. Kursaal Casino Limited was announced. The impression was that although the existing law had now been shown, to the embarrassment of the gaming club proprietors, to be enforceable, a new law was being enacted in order to put things right for them and many have suggested that it is unfortunate for the police to be asked to suppress an activity which, soon enough, is going to be made legal. But my noble and learned friend stressed—and I was grateful for it—that a considerable reduction in the existing number of clubs will obviously greatly assist the successful operation of this Bill. I might all most pose this question. Were all to close, 1411 would the Board recommend the Home Secretary to delay indefinitely the remainder of the Bill?
I have congratulated the Government on being firmly resolved to reduce and contain gaming, as well as to clean up and control it, but I wish I felt convinced that even this Bill will achieve the Government's purpose. The Gaming Board will do obviously as good a job as possible, and I join in promising Sir Stanley Raymond every possible support in the task that he has taken on. Nevertheless, it seems to me that both the Board's powers and their resources are to be limited and that the dimensions of their task will be very largely determined by the local licensing committees. The Board have powers to help them limit the number of gaming clubs over which supervision will have to be maintained, but I think that what worries is that there is no guarantee that no more clubs than can be adequately supervised will be licensed. For this reason the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chester moved in Committee that the Board, and not the local justices, should grant licences. To my mind this question is of fundamental importance to the success or otherwise of legislation which depends, as this does, on government by regulation. It is essential—and I make this plea strongly that any situation which requires the promulgation of a regulation should immediately be noticed and acted on by the police or by the Board and that there should not be weeks of uncertainty.
Furthermore, as soon as the regulation is made it must be known that it is universally and effectively observed. Any time of uncertainty, which might quickly lead to the belief that once again the law on gaming is uncertain, will create a state of affairs worse than the first. Therefore I am bound to say that though I value all the powers embodied in this Bill and the firm stand which the Government have taken in putting through the legislation, I still have doubts whether this legislation will work. But I wish this Bill well, as I am sure all noble Lords do, and assure the Government that the Church and the Churches' Committee on Gambling Legislation will give support to the Board in their attempt to reduce, contain and control gambling.
§ 6.2 p.m.
THE EARL OF ARRAN
My Lords, in supporting the right reverend Prelate I shall be brief. My only justification for speaking at all is that I had the good fortune to be a member of the Committee "upstairs" and that I am now sure of one or two important things; first of all, that this Bill will not work. Your Lordships may remember that I divided the House on recommittal. I regarded the powers of the Gaming Board as inadequate and those of the local licensing authorities as being too great. I still think so. I divided the House, and I was defeated by 58 votes to 4, which I think was a record. Have no fear, my Lords, I do not seek a similar trouncing to-day. Suffice it to say that I still view the excessive powers granted to the local licensing authorities with inspissated gloom. To-day I propose to launch a brief, but much sharper, attack on the essence of the Bill itself. It is now clear to me that what we are doing is throwing out of the window an Act which works but which has not been enforced—no names, no pack drill—and putting in its place an instrument which deliberately encourages the continuing growth of gaming clubs throughout Britain.
It is true that we now have a Gaming Board, the efficacy of which remains to be proved. True, there are many provisions in the Bill which we must all welcome, as the right reverend Prelate did. But what is going to be allowed in the way of gaming and what is not depends upon the Secretary of State and his regulations. Heaven alone knows what they are going to be, though I can assure the right honourable gentleman that some of us will be watching them like hawks!
We are told that the purpose of the Bill is to contain and control gambling, and more especially to reduce the number of gaming clubs. Is this going to happen? Certainly that august body, the Gaming Association, has misgivings with regard to the present Act, the 1963 Act. In a moving passage from its memorandum following the decision of the House of Lords last December it talked:of the possibility of all gaming clubs in England being obliged to cease playing games of unequal chance, which means that the larger clubs will have to go out of business.1413 My Lords, I find myself feeling like the Walrus in Alice in Wonderland who, if you remember, before swallowing the oystersWith sobs and tears he sorted outThose of the largest size,Holding his pocket-handkerchiefBefore his streaming eyes.Could this mean, temporarily, the end of Crockford's, of Aspinall's, of the Clare-mount? What a disaster for Britain!
Now we come to the point. The Gaming Association points out:The delay before—I repeat "before"the coming into law of the Gaming Bill—this Bill—would probably destroy the industry.With great respect, I would point out that the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor used the word "industry". I always think about industry in terms of the cotton industry or the coal industry. In other words, the Gaming Association is clearly looking forward to this Bill in the belief that it will allow games of unequal chance, in particular, roulette with the zero.
My Lords, the only real justification put forward by the Government for this Bill is that unless you have some sort of gambling measure to allow games of unequal chance to he played, the "industry" will go underground. I am not in the least impressed by this argument. It is an argument based on pessimism and failure. We had it in the Street Offences Act, your Lordships will recall. Well, prostitution may or may not have gone underground: I do not know. All I know is that London is a cleaner and a healthier place because of it. Gaming might go underground, hut what are the police for except to take action against such subfuse activity? Have we lost all faith in our police and in the offices of the law? Can we not rely on them to do their duty? No. my Lords, by this Bill we are playing straight into the hands of the gaming clubs, and the Government must know it. We are simply admitting that it is tiresome and difficult to implement the old Act, therefore let us have a new one, even if it means knuckling under to the professional gamblers, the makers of vast and immoral fortunes. No doubt they look forward to the imp- 1414 plementation of the Bill with relish., "God bless the Government!", they must be saying. "Our millions, our tens of millions, will be safe."
My Lords, after that it may seen mere lip service to wish the Bill well, but wish it well I do. We all wish it well. But let me warn the House in advance, as said before, it is not going to work. I propose putting down Questions in this House every three, or at the moss, every six months, about the number of gaming clubs in this country. My forecast is that so long as the present Gaming Act remains in force, and is enforced— a very different thing—the number of the clubs will drop considerably. But once the Secretary of State puts the proposed Act into effect, and the new machinery of Gaming Board plus local authorities starts to grind its weary way, the number will reach to the sky. To use vulgar language, the gaming clubs are going to "have a ball". My Lords, to quote the right reverend Prelate, the last stage of the man will be worse than the first. But at least this House will have been warned.
§ 6.9 p.m.
§ LORD KILBRACKEN
My Lords, if I may follow the noble Earl, Lord Arran, it will enable me to abbreviate my remarks to some extent if I say, with regret, that I find myself sharing almost all his apprehensions and that I agree with almost every word he has said except that in some cases my feelings of apprehension are stronger than those he as expressed. On Second Reading, those many months ago, I put forward certain feelings of apprehension that I had at that time, and in the interval, after much deeper study of the Bill and after listening to many hours of debate and in the light of circumstances that have taken place outside your Lordships' House, I can only say that my apprehensions about the success of this Bill, rather than being diminished, have increased.
We have to ask: what is the situation at the present time in Britain so far as gaming is concerned? For some five years now illegal gaming—gaming which, to anybody who knew anything about the games being played and the law, was clearly against the law gaming which, as my noble friend Lord Arran showed, the clubs themselves know to be illegal—has been taking place throughout Britain on an immense and increasing scale. It has now reached a turnover 1415 of something like £1,000 million a year, giving a profit of something like £50 to £70 million a year to the casino operators. For five years they have successfully defied Parliament; they have defied the police; they have defied the Court of Appeal. Now the Government are taking the view that this cannot be prevented, and they are saying in effect to those who have been blatantly breaking the law for five years: "We have found it impossible to stop you from doing this and so we are going to make lawful the games you have been playing and from which you have been making immense profits in blatant defiance of the law."
When I say that the Government are going to allow the playing of these games, unfortunately I am speaking in the dark. That is one of my criticisms of this Bill. We do not know the games that are going to be played and—this is a vital point—under what rules. Under the Bill as it stands at present all casino games, including even chemin-de-fer, which is supposed to be so innocuous, start off by being illegal. It is only when regulations are made by the Secretary of State that a game is permitted. We do not know what games are going to be permitted, although various rumours have been running around. At present I understand that most, if not all, the recognised casino games are going to be allowed by the Home Secretary. Under what rules? We do not know. If roulette is permitted, will a stake on the even money chances be lost or go into prison when zero comes up? If blackjack is allowed, how many cards will the player be allowed to draw if he doubles his stake or splits? If craps is permitted, will "lose" bets be "stand-offs" if the first roll is "snake-eyes" or if it is "aceydeucy"? These are technical points but they are relevant in deciding whether a game is being played in a fair way or not, assuming that the game itself is a fair one, which in many cases I do not believe it to be.
Gaming is thus being considered by the Government as an inescapable evil, which we cannot stop, but we must try to reduce its volume. Again and again my noble friend Lord Stonham expressed his confidence in reducing the number of clubs from the present figure of somewhere between 1,000 to 1,200 to a figure between 200 and 300. I have grave 1416 doubts, shared by my noble friend Lord Arran, about whether this will succeed. Even if it does succeed, I do not believe it will have the effect of substantially reducing the volume of gaming, because all that will happen is that members will transfer from the clubs that close down to the clubs granted licences, who will thus have three or four times as many members and whose profits will be three or four times higher.
Will the number of clubs come down from 1,200 or whatever it is, to 500, 400, or 300? I must say that I remain unconvinced by the arguments put forward by my noble but absent friend. In fact, the Gaming Board have little control over this matter. The first step towards getting a licence is an application to the Gaming Board for a certificate of consent. Here at once we have an extraordinary paradox. In deciding whether to grant a certificate of consent the Board shall have regard only to the question of whether the applicant is likely to be capable of and diligent in securing that the provisions of this Bill and of any regulations made under it will be complied with. In 99 per cent. of cases the applicants for certificates of consent will be those very proprietors who for five years have been blatantly disregarding the 1963 Act by playing games that are clearly against the provisions of that Act. I do not know how it could happen that anyone who applies for a certificate could possibly be considered one who is likely to see that the new Act is enforced. So perhaps no certificates will be granted and there will be no applications for licences. But if they are granted, the next step is to apply to the licensing authority, who are beyond the Board's effective control.
It is true that there exists what my noble friend Lord Stonham referred to as "the clincher"—Clause 22, under which the Secretary of State may by regulation provide that a licensing authority shall refuse to grant or renew a licence under this Act in such circumstances as may be prescribed by the regulations. I cannot conceive of the kind of circumstances under which such regulations could be made to cut down the number of clubs, unless it be that a licensee must have blue eyes or that his name must begin with Z. It will be impossible for the Board to refuse a licenceto a single 1417 club; and I do not understand what kind of category can be included in such a regulation which will result in the exclusion of a large number of clubs. We are given to understand that clubs where there is a cabaret will not be granted licences. My feeling is that this is simply a handy package of about 400 clubs or so which can be refused licences and the total reduced by that number. But I myself feel that clubs where there is some other activity should be encouraged, and that nothing is more miserable than a club where all you can do is to go in and win or lose your money. Where there is a cabaret, it can be refused a licence—and in my opinion it is a category which rather than being excluded should be encouraged.
My Lords, the main point I want to raise, and it has been referred to already, is this. The Metropolitan Police have at last, after five years' delay, been taking action against clubs that are breaking the law. Several dozen clubs—I have not the exact figure, but it is something in excess of 50—have been prosecuted, or are to be prosecuted, and in almost every case a conviction has been obtained. But this has proved totally ineffective, because all that happens in each case is that the club pays a fine of £100 and goes on playing next day.
This state of affairs was considered in the Court of Appeal in the case of Regina v. Metropolitan Police Commissioner ex parte Blackburn last July, and the three learned judges on that occasion clearly and unanimously suggested the remedy for this state of affairs, where a club, despite conviction, goes on playing illegal games. The suggested remedy was that the time had come to seek injunctions against clubs breaking the law. I should like to quote what the noble and learned Lord, the Master of the Rolls, said on that occasion. After a letter in which the Director of Public Prosecutions had been asked to take action along these lines, in reply to which the Director wrote:I do not think it appropriate at this stage to ask the Attorney General to institute civil proceedings for an injunction",the noble and learned Lord went on to say:The words 'at this stage' should be noted. Maybe the stage might come, or might already have come and passed, when it would be 1418 appropriate. The clubs must not think they could continue indefinitely with their inlawful gaming so long as they paid the fries, for if they did, they might find that the Attorney General might intervene. But it was not for the Court to decide whether or not he should intervene… That could only be done in Parliament".Well, my Lords, here we are in Parliament. I want to ask my noble and learned friend on the Woolsack, when he comes to reply, whether it would be possible for him to say that the Attorney General is now, at last, going to instruct the Director of Public Prosecute His to seek injunctions against clubs which continue to defy the law. If this wenh done, there is every possibility that illegal games—that is to say, games of unequal chance—which are still being played, as everybody knows, in almost all the clubs in the country, would totally cease within 3 months of to-day, either because injunctions were granted against those clubs, or because clubs stopped playing the games through the fear that if injunctions were granted against them they would not be granted certificates of consent under the new Act.
If that happened, there would be two results. We now know that it is not until 1971, two and a half years from now, that this new Bill will become effective. In the meantime, of course, on this matter of the games that my be played, the 1963 Act remains effective. During those two and a half years or thereabouts we should have time to find out whether gaming would in fact be driven underground. Like my noble friend Lord Arran, I do not myself believe for one moment that they would be. The second point, my Lords, is that if during that long period of over two years these games of unequal chance, which are really pernicious games, have been stopped by injunction, then surely my right honourable friend would not propose regulations—because they are liable to be approved by both Houses of Parliament—permitting games the playing of which had ceased throughout that period.
My Lords, I finish by quoting from "the Gamer's Bible", Scarne's Complete Guide to Gambling. He refers to what happened in the United States in 1950, when the Senate Committee, led by Senator Kefauver, investigated gambling in the United States. As a result of that investigation, illegal gaming in many 1419 States came to an end; in particular, in Florida, New York, New Jersey and Ohio. What happened was that, once the law was enforced, the illegal operators moved to the State of Nevada. John Scarne quotes one of them as saying to him:I love that man Kefauver. When he drove me out of an illegal casino operation in Florida and into a legalised operation in Nevada, he made me a respectable law-abiding citizen—and a millionaire.My Lords, that is what will happen here. The 1963 Act gave the proprietors a millimetre, and they took a yard. I regret and fear that the present Act will give them a yard—and they will take a league.
§ 6.27 p.m.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
My Lords, I have listened with the greatest attention to everything that has been said by noble Lords, but I do not expect the House will want me to reply in any detail. I appreciate the difficulties about the hiatus: indeed, it was precisely because of that that I thought it right to take up a litle time explaining exactly what the timetable was and why it could not be shorter. I quite agree that a lot of things depend on regulations. That is why the regulations are subject to Parliament, and why we shall so much value the assistance of all noble Lords on the regulations when they are put before us.
With regard to the present law, and the matter of whether more prosecutions should take place, this is not a matter for the Government. It is entirely a matter for my right honourable friend the Attorney General, who in this capacity acts independently, and it would be quite wrong for me or any of my colleaugues to attempt to put any pressure or bring any influence to bear on him.
For the rest, my Lords, I am quite sure that my noble friend Lord Stonham, whose absence to-day we so much regret, will read everything that has been said. I appreciate that the noble Earl, Lord Arran, and my noble friend Lord Kilbracken take a somewhat pessimistic view as to what the Bill will do. I know that my noble friend Lord Stonham has confidence in the Bill. I am sure that, having considered everything that noble Lords have said this afternoon, he will give my right honourable friend the 1420 Home Secretary such advice on it as he thinks fit. I am, in any case, grateful to all noble Lords who have spoken.
§ On Question, Bill passed, and returned to the Commons.