§ 2.47 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF MANSFIELD rose to call attention to the Report of the Interdepartmental Working Party on Lotteries (Cinnd. 5506); and to move for Papers. The noble Earl said: My Lords, I beg to move the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper. The subject of gaming in general and lotteries in particular is one which from time to time occupies the attentions of Parliament and frequently occupies the attentions of the courts. The position has become increasingly unsatisfactory over the last few years, partly because the law on a number of aspects of lotteries and pools betting has become uncertain, but more especially that in the field of charitable and other noncommercial lotteries many highly respectable, and indeed worthy individuals and organisations do not know exactly where they stand as regards fund raising activities which they would like to undertake; while many other organisations, with the best of motives, in one respect or another flout the law and continue to promote lotteries and the like outside the rules.
§ The practical result is that certainly well over £1 million per annum—and this is a conservative estimate—is lost to charity every year. I use the word "charity" in this connection somewhat loosely, as I include many good causes which are not, strictly speaking, charitable but are certainly not conducted for private or commercial gain either. The position was even worse than it is now prior to the Pool Competitions Act 1971, as a result of a case called Singette and Others v. Martin. As a result of that case a number of charitable pools and prize competitions were declared illegal, with the result that in effect the Government came to their rescue and provided a temporary legal umbrella. However, that Act is only intended to be of purely temporary effect, that is to say, for a period of five years from July 27, 1971; and moreover, it is applicable only to organisations which were, so to speak, in the field in July, 1971. There is no provision for new entrants, and that fact alone makes the present state of affairs unsatisfactory.
§ The situation is, therefore, that charities of all kinds and sporting organisations, which between them collect many millions 372 of pounds annually, are presently existing only on sufferance, and that sufferance is, as I have described, of a temporary character and is due to run out in 1976. Many other organisations are not allowed to participate in this lucrative field, and that of course is unsatisfactory too. This debate in your Lordships' House therefore has perhaps a more urgent flavour than some Wednesday debates, and for that reason, if for no other, I am grateful to the Government for providing time for the matter to be ventilated this afternoon.
§ It was against the background and circumstances that I have described to your Lordships that in 1971 this Working Party was set up, and the results of its labours came to hand in December of last year. It is instructive to look back on the debates in your Lordships' House on the subject of lotteries. The noble Lord who is now the Leader of the House introduced in 1971 what is now the Pool Competition Act. He had a much rougher ride in 1969 when he moved the Second Reading of the Lotteries (Greater London Council) Bill. That was in February of that year, and very nearly five years have gone by.
§ I fully appreciate that to many of your Lordships the whole idea of gaming is anathema, and many noble Lords will not accept that a lottery for charity, or akin purposes, can be morally justified. I respect that point of view, although I do not share it. It was Rowland Hill who asked, "Why should the devil have all the good tunes?" And I feel bound to ask why the devil, in the form of the commercial gambling interests, should have all the good lotteries. I see no harm in a good, honestly conducted lottery devoting its profits to charitable, sporting, or cultural purposes. It may be interesting this afternoon to see whether, in the intervening five years (all but a fortnight or so) which have elapsed since that last debate was held, any of your Lordships' attitudes have changed.
§ The Report of the Working Party discusses its conclusions and recommendations under a number of heads, and I propose to do the same. I should say right away that so far as large lotteries are concerned I am in total agreement that only charitable, cultural, amenity or sporting organisations should be able to benefit. I say that in the first gasp, as 373 it were, because I have no doubt but that many of your Lordships will be primarily concerned with this one aspect of the Report—that is to say, large lotteries. The Working Party took the view apparently that there is what I might describe as a "kitty", or pool of money, which is devoted by the public to lotteries, and that if a new breed of lottery, if I may so describe it, is to come about and to attract custom and prosper, it must be at the expense of the commercial football pools already existing. It should be noted that to that end the Working Party proposes to restrict the size of a dividend to £100,000 in commercial football pools. I emphasise that fact. There are other restrictions which would apply, and I think that the figure of £75,000 is suggested in the case of large lotteries. I suppose that the idea is that the commercial football pools would thereby be rendered less attractive to those who go in for them, with the result that money would flow in a new direction—that is to say, to these proposed new large lotteries.
I am not happy as to the ethics of curbing the success of highly reputable private enterprises (the commercial football pools), in order to give a share of what I have described as the "kitty" to other organizations, however worthy they may be. But I will concede at once that the idea has attractive features. I am not even sure that I entirely believe that this pool, or "kitty", is so immutable as the Working Party likes to suppose. That is certainly a view which was not shared by the late Lord Stonham when he was speaking in the debate on the Second Reading of the Lotteries (Greater London Council) Bill on February 18, 1969. At column 719 of Volume 299 of the OFFICIAL REPORT he said:
All past experience points to the fact that the introduction of any new form of gambling results in an increase in the total volume.
There was a man of very great experience. One perhaps did not agree with everything he said, but that was his conclusion.
§ Speaking personally for a moment, after I put down this Motion I asked a number of people in different walks of life who go in for the commercial football pools whether they would have any adverse reaction to a limit of, say, £100,000 in the top prize. I have to 374 declare what I might describe as a long interest in this field. As a university undergraduate I went in for the three draws for five weeks at five shillings a week, because I was told that great riches might accrue to me. At the end of the fifth week I did indeed get three draws, and my dividend was 6s. 9d. Thereafter, I decided that it was not quite as profitable as I personally should like. But that is over 20 years ago. Ceasing my digression, it is fair to say that all the people that I have asked were in no way dismayed at the idea of a limit of £100,000. Equally, they were enthusiastic about the idea of going in for some form of charitable lottery. They were a bit hazy as to how they would split up their betting money, if I may so describe it, but certainly they did not say that they would cease to go in for football pools if there was no prospect of winning half-a-million pounds.
§ At this moment I think I should say that I entirely agree with what I believe to be the conclusion of the Working Party; that is to say, I reject the idea of a State lottery. Quite apart from the administrative difficulties, the choice of worthy causes to benefit from such a lottery, and the amounts that they would receive, would be impossibly invidious, and in my submission would lead to a large amount of public dissatisfaction. This is of course always supposing that the profits from the State lottery would go to worthy causes and not merely into the coffers of the State. I can see no justification for having a State lottery merely to enrich the State. If there is one part of the Report that I would criticise it is the use of the terrible word "hypothecation" which is made towards the end of the Report. Hypothecation—and I am never going to refer to it again—would bring about many attendant difficulties.
§ Where do we get to in the question of large lotteries? As I see it, the chief difficulty would be the selection of organisations which are permitted to run large lotteries. The proposal of the Working Party in this matter is set out in paragraph 19 of their Report at page 10. The difficulty is that a national charity, for instance, of little public appeal would be able, and entitled, to go in for, and promote, a large lottery, but a huge local authority, such as the Greater London 375 Council, would not. Equally, for instance, a large and successful football club, such as Manchester United—and I use that club because it is a long way from where I live and therefore I cannot be accused of partiality, but I know that it has followers all over the country—would equally not be allowed to use the means of a large lottery in order to promote its funds.
§ Indeed, my Lords, if these proposals were adopted, both the Greater London Council and Manchester United would be confined to lotteries with a maximum turnover of £3,750, and I do not suppose that that would satisfy Manchester United. Perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Fiske, will tell us whether it would satisfy the Greater London Council. I doubt whether it would. I do not wish to be facetious over the matter, and I use my words in that way merely to point out the very real and attendant difficulties.
§ I appreciate that local authorities, for instance, could band together but it is difficult to see where they would stop. In the same way as I object to a national State lottery, with the profits being taken by the State to alleviate the taxpayers' burden, I object to a very large lottery set up by a number of local authorities with the avowed purpose of relieving their ratepayers. It seems to me that lotteries of this sort must be promoted with a definite view in mind which everybody can appreciate. Furthermore, if a number of local authorities were to band together it is difficult to see how they would achieve a share-out. Would it be done acording to population, according to the sale of tickets in the area, or how? Basically, my chief criticism of this part of the Report is that the Greater London Council, which has approximately 20 per cent. of the population of this country within its area, will not be given the means to raise money by a large lottery. It is absurd if a purely sporting organisation of very small interest, except to its own devotees, can scour the whole country for funds, whereas a very large but local organisation of much greater significance cannot.
I have a further reservation about the distribution of tickets for these large lotteries, the proposals about which are contained in paragraph 26(f) on page 12. The Working Party said that,
The Post Office could not reasonably be asked to undertake the responsibility of selling lottery tickets",
and as their proposals would, in effect, rob the commercial football pools companies of their revenue they suggested as a sort of douceur, that the pools companies be appointed as agents to those who hold large lotteries.
§ Your Lordships who have read the Report will have observed that no tickets are to be sold in shops or in public houses, and that they will be sold only on a door-to-door basis. I suppose that the object is to protect widows, or the very young and the very old, from succumbing to temptation. But it is ludicrous to prevent a publican, who has probably had a pile of pennies for the spastics or the lifeboats for years and years on his counter, from selling tickets for a large lottery for those causes when at the same time agents employed by the pools firms are rapping on the doors of the back streets trying to persuade the widows to part with their mite in order to buy these lottery tickets. This is something which will have to be rethought, but I cannot help feeling that the population of this country is more sophisticated and better able to adjust its cash spending than the Working Party appears to think.
§ I should have thought there could be devised some means by which tickets for these large lotteries could be on sale at, for instance, check-points in supermarkets. I am here discounting those noble Lords and right reverend Prelates who say that no lottery tickets should ever be on sale anywhere. I appreciate that there are tremendous problems of accountancy, and there is no way of knowing whether the tickets on sale at retail outlets will be returned to the organisers to be included in a sweep. But that problem could be overcome if there were some form of share in the prize for the person who sold the winning ticket. That happens frequently on the Continent and it ensures that the seller of the ticket is very keen to see that the counterfoil goes to the right authority. These proposals on large lotteries will therefore have to be re-thought, and I shall make one or two suggestions in a few minutes.
§ No action is contemplated as regards small lotteries—which, for the technically minded, are covered by Sections 43 to 377 46 of the 1963 Act—which are incidental to entertainments and, with respect, I agree with the Report. The Working Party proposed an increase in the amount of cash which can be spent to buy prizes at such entertainments and this, too, is quite unexceptionable. However the Working Party proposed that private lotteries under Section 44 of the 1963 Act should be abolished. This would have the bizarre result that if a social club in a factory wanted to run a Derby sweep and make a small profit to send children to the seaside for the day, the organisers would have to seek the approval of the Gaming Board which would supervise the operation of the lottery. There, again, there will have to be some rethinking. It seems to me that the esoteric type of lottery which is confined to the members of a club or organisation or factory must be not the concern of the Gaming Board, but I fully understand the concern of the Working Party that there should be control of nearly all forms of lottery.
§ As regards small publicly conducted lotteries, which come under Section 45 of the 1963 Act, the Working Party envisaged that such lotteries suitably adapted might be the chief vehicle for local fund-raising efforts. I have already suggested that a total turnover of £3,750 is not big enough, nor is a maximum prize of £500. These limits are too small for any organisations, except very small ones. Where do we proceed over this question of lotteries? I suggest that there has to be considerable re-thinking on the part of everybody concerned. One of the matters which no doubt troubled some members of the Working Party—to wit, those who represented the Customs and Excise—was the possible loss if certain small lotteries, or lotteries which did not attract duty, were allowed to flourish at the expense of the pools promoters who, of course, have to pay duty. I would suggest that in some ways it would be better if the revenue was clawed back, if you like, from the customer in a way different from that in which it is done at the moment.
§ On large lotteries, I should like to see a very generous allowance to run large lotteries made to organisations which feel that they have the resources and the capabilities to do so. The matter involves a little bit of supply and demand, 378 but I am pretty certain in my own mind that although, after the floodgates went up (if I may so use the phrase), there would be a lot of lotteries, in due course many would be unsuccessful and, especially if they were still subjected to the betting duty, would be forced out of business within a comparatively short time. I suggest that. Section 45, which deals with small publicly conducted lotteries, should be amended, but the limits should be made very much bigger than they are at the moment; and I suggest the Inland Revenue should forgo the tax on these lotteries. If, for instance, the maximum turnover was made £20,000 but no duty was attracted, then the medium-sized institutions, clubs or charities would turn, I should imagine, to that sort of lottery. They would not be concerned with the large lottery, partly because, as I say, they have not got the resources to run one and partly because they would not want to pay the duty. Private lotteries, I suggest, should remain as they are.
§ My Lords, the only other part of the Report of the Working Party upon which I would comment is that about "Spot the Ball". Here again, I am speaking from personal ignorance. I have occasionally looked at the photographs in the newspapers, and the players are all looking one way while the ball is always apparently in quite the opposite direction. Whether that speaks much for the skill of the average football player I know not. When I played cricket I was always told to keep my eye on the ball, but they certainly do not do that on the soccer pitch. At any rate, the Working Party were fairly brief in their recommendations on this side of matters. They apparently want to abolish this type of competition except in the case of newspapers, or where there is a purchase of articles on general sale and no further entry form, or anything like that, is required on the part of the would-be gambler. For myself, if people want to mark a piece of paper with a cross and thus acquire a chance of winning a lottery rather than just buying a numbered ticket, I really do not see why they should not; but I do suggest that this form of lottery should be subjected to as tight a control as any other. Whether or why newspapers should be singled out as the only recipients of this sort of largess, I really 379 do not know, and I am inclined to suspect such a recommendation.
§ My Lords, I have, I dare say, criticised this Report in a certain amount of detail, but I have done so only to throw out ideas for your Lordships to destroy. In conclusion, I am sure I express the feelings of all of us when I thank Mr. Witney and his Working Party for having made a thoroughly workmanlike job of considering the present rather uncertain state so far as lotteries are concerned. Their Report deserves every consideration by the Government, and I hope it will get it. My Lords, I beg to move for Papers.
§ 3.14 p.m.
§ LORD GREENWOOD OF ROSSENDALE
My Lords, I congratulate the !noble Earl, not so much on having raised this fascinating problem as on the excellent and constructive speech to which he has treated the House this afternoon. It may be that the world will perhaps think it a little odd that at a time of grave crisis we are occupied in debating a subject which, whatever intrinsic interest it may have, is unlikely to make any real contribution to the solution of our national problems; but we shall undoubtedly pass an agreeable afternoon, especially if we regard this discussion (if I may put it in these words) as simply a preliminary canter round the course so that we can get the measure of the jumps.
The noble Earl is right in asking us all to do some rethinking, and I think that that rethinking must be complemented by a process of consultation and public argument before most of us will feel able to give a final judgment on this controversial, readable, scholarly little Report—and I join the noble Earl in thanking the authors of it for the debt under which they have placed us. I know that the National Council for Social Service is considering the Report already: so is the Board for Social Responsibility for the General Synod—and perhaps we shall hear more from the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London on that later in our debate—and I have no doubt that the local authority associations and many charitable bodies will be following their example. I hope that when they do so they will take into 380 account the most constructive suggestions that the noble Earl offered in the course of his speech. Many of them I think merit the most careful study, and certainly I know that none of us in the House this afternoon would wish to destroy anything that the noble Earl has said, as he suggested that we might.
It is fortunate, my Lords, that there is no Party line on this issue on this side of the House, for I confess that I myself am almost out of court. I like to believe that gambling is the only thing about which I am really bigoted and narrow-minded. I have only once backed a horse, and that was when I was still at Oxford; I have only once played poker dice, when I made the mistake of playing with Prince Ali Khan, whose infrastructure was more substantial than my own; I have never filled in a pools coupon; and in the days when I attended far more political and charitable functions than I do now I could only just bring myself to buy sweepstake tickets or to call the numbers at bingo. I could never persuade myself that the new Jerusalem could be built on a basis of bingo. I have had the good fortune never to go to Las Vegas, but I have inadvertently found myself watching gaming in many parts of the world, and I have watched with deep pity the addicts who seem so lacking in any sense of enjoyment.
Nor, my Lords, do I feel all that happy about a society in which we spend over £2,250 milion a year on the various forms of gambling. Your Lordships may have noticed the leader page article in the Financial Times on Saturday. From that I learned that every year we spend £1,250 million on horse racing, £450 million in the casinos, £330 million on bingo, £265 million at the dogs and £200 million on the pools; that £34 million goes into fruit machines, and that on top of that there is an unspecified amount which goes into lotteries.
§ LORD WIGG
My Lords, will the noble Lord permit me to interrupt him? He rightly confessed the very obvious fact that he knows nothing about this subject, but he need not stress the point by taking the figures in the Financial Times return. To take a simple illustration, if four men sit down to play pontoon and they have £5 each, although the sum wagered if they play all night will run into thousands 381 of pounds, the amount involved is £20. If my noble friend would apply that reasoning to the figures he has quoted he will realise what nonsense they are.
LORD GREENWOOD OF ROSSENDALE
My Lords, knowing nothing about a subject has never precluded the noble Lord from expressing his opinion. The fact that this is one subject on which the noble Lord can speak with authority makes me all the more surprised that he has not put his name on the list of speakers in your Lordships' House this afternoon. The point which seems to have escaped the noble Lord is that we are spending sums of that magnitude on something which is wholly unproductive at a time when our hospitals need money, when the Government are saying that the growth of our universities must be slowed down and when many of us are saying that we cannot afford prestige projects like the Channel Tunnel. As a people, my Lords, there is something very wrong with our Priorities.
The Home Secretary and the Secretary of State for Scotland are right in emphasising in their introduction to this Report that it raises large questions of moral and social judgment. But, surprisingly, it is only in paragraph 3 of Appendix 3 that the Working Party address themselves—if "address themselves" is the right term—to the moral issues. There they say:The moral arguments against State involvement in gambling are perhaps too well known to require restating. The sort of arguments used might be seen from Lord Soper's speech in the Lords Debate on the G.L.C. Bill on 18th February, 1969.As a television interviewer would say. "So much for the moral arguments". Nevertheless, having given voice to my own prejudices. I have to consider—indeed all of us have to consider—what is the right course to adopt in an imperfect world and in our attempt to help the nation, which will await the results of to-night's soccer matches much more eagerly than it will await the OFFICIAL REPORT of this debate.
Certainly the Report of the Working Party provides us with a great deal of valuable information and exposes very effectively the morass into which our laws on the subject have fallen. There is obviously a case for reform. If I may 382 adopt the splendid phrase which I heard used by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Birmingham in our debate on Immigration, we have gone beyond what he so delightfully calledthe reasonable toleration of irregularities.So I accept that there is a prima facie case for tidying up the present mess, for it is wrong that good causes should be deprived of resources because the promoters respect bad laws. The extent of that tidying up, however, will need the most careful consideration. I think the noble Earl and I are in agreement on that. After all, previous attempts at tidying up have been patchy and very hit-and-miss. Indeed, sometimes they have made things worse. Gaming, for example, was never wholly eradicated, but it only flourished commercially after the Betting and Gaming Act of 1960 provided it with a loophole. A further Act was needed in 1968 to bring casino gaming clubs and bingo clubs under control. The present Government's stop-gap Pool Competitions Act of 1971, to which the noble Earl referred, had to be rushed through to correct the intolerable situation in which bodies like the National Spastics Society had been placed by the House of Lords' decision in Singette and Others v. Martin.
In regard to casinos, too, the 1968 Act has produced dubious features. The Times on August 1 published an interview with Sir Stanley Raymond, who told Mr. Ross-Davies that. Gaming Board inspectors, posing as players, had been inducing casino doormen to admit them as members' guests—apparently with considerable success. I cannot feel that that is a feature of our society which reflects any credit on existing legislation, or that it is calculated to inculcate a respect for the law. I concede therefore, that there is need for reform and I shall study with an open mind any proposals Her Majesty's Government ultimately produce, for I consider that bad law and contempt for the law are more damaging than gambling itself. For me therefore this really is a preliminary canter around the course and I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Wigg, for cheering me on my way.
§ LORD GREENWOOD OF ROSSENDALE
I think "the flat" is probably the only description of the noble Lord's intervention.
I can sum up my first reactions to the recommendations in the Report quite briefly. I agree entirely, with respect, with the Working Party that a national lottery is a non-starter—partly because its potential yield is so unpredictable; partly because much of the money it brought to the national coffers would have gone there anyway as receipts from betting duty or in the form of premium bonds; partly because it would be extremely expensive to organise and partly because, as the noble Earl observed, it would be almost impossible to decide who was to benefit from it: but I think mainly because, in the words of The Times, "the role of huckster is not one for the Government" For much the same reason I am doubtful about the Working Party's recommendation that local authorities should be empowered to promote small lotteries. If I may quote The Times again—The suggestion that local authorities should promote small lotteries is not one that commends itself. The likely rewards are not on a scale to offer any prospect of mitigating the problem of council revenue, and the public impact would be bad.But no doubt the authorities and their associations will pronounce on the matter in due course, and this afternoon I shall listen with special attention to my noble friend Lord Fiske.
I am. I fear, unenthusiastic about the proposals for large lotteries which seem to me to be terriby difficult to put into effect, but I shall listen with close attention to the arguments advanced in their support in this House. I will simply say at this stage that I am utterly amazed at both the courage and the credulity of the Working Party in proposing, as the noble Earl reminded us, that pools prizes should be limited to £100,000 in order to make large lotteries viable—and to protect premium bonds. I cannot understand why the very able civil servants who wrote this Report regard prizes of £500,000 as "altogether inordinate" while an arbitrarily fixed prize of £100,000 is 384 presumably "ordinate". I am sure that the Economist had a point on December 15 when it said—It does not seem very sensible to suppose that people who stop doing the pools because the first prizes have been reduced will put their money into lotteries where the prizes are even lower.I agree with that conclusion. Before I leave the subject of pools, I would add in passing that I cannot follow the process of reasoning which leads the Working Party to believe that there is more scope for "true judgment by the competitors" when the matches are in the United Kingdom than when they are in Australia. That is, I believe, a real piece of well-intentioned nonsense.
But I believe, as the Working Party advises, that there may well be a strong case for liberalising the law relating to small lotteries if to do so would increase the flow of finance to deserving organisations. In that I agree with the noble Earl. In the words of the noble Earl, "Why should the devil have the best tunes", and in the words of the Daily Telegraph—The forces of Light cannot afford to dispense with such involuntary help as they may get from those of Darkness.My welcome to the Report, my Lords, is, therefore, a qualified one, but I suspect that the public itself—and perhaps even this noble House—will find it hard to pick its way without faltering through the minefield which this Report has laid; and I shall be surprised if the Government themselves really concentrate their thinking before they have to seek the support of the public at a General Election.
§ 3.30 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT NORWICH
My Lords, I too, before I go any further, should like to congratulate this Working Party on their extremely careful and workmanlike, and also extremely entertaining Report which I personally enormously enjoyed reading. I should like also, as I am sure all your Lordships would, to thank the noble Earl, Lord Mansfield, for having drawn it to our attention this afternoon.
We are not this afternoon to have the pleasure of hearing the noble Lord, Lord Soper, in this debate. Although I am perfectly certain that the views he would have expressed would have been almost precisely contrary to those which I myself intend to express. I have an enormous 385 admiration for the noble Lord and I know just how important a contribution he would have made to our debate. I am very sorry that we shall not be hearing him. I was going to say how sorry I was that we would not be hearing the noble Lord, Lord Wigg, but now I realise to my delight that we shall be hearing him, I trust on several occasions during the course of the debate, so that part of my speech can go by the board.
Obviously the first question which we have to decide is the basic desirability, in a country where it might very well be argued—and indeed is argued in this Report—that there are more possibilities for gambling than in any other country in the Western World, of extending those possibilities even further. I am quite sure that there will be other noble Lords, as well as the noble Lord, Lord Greenwood of Rossendale, who will argue very strongly and cogently that we should not. I do not take that view. It seems to me that the enormous advantages of having millions, possibly hundreds of millions, of pounds made available, voluntarily rather than compulsorily contributed by the general public, easily outweighs the rather shaky moral or ethical considerations which might be said to militate the other way.
There is another point which I think is worth bearing in mind; that the system of national lotteries is far less conducive to the ruin of the compulsive gambler than are the horses or the dogs. If a man loses his all on the 2.30 race, he may well borrow double his all and stake it on the 3 o'clock race in the hope that he will not have to go home to his wife saying that he had lost everything. He cannot do this with the national lottery. He has to wait for the following week, or month or year, by which time he will probably have cooled down a bit. He will probably not buy many more tickets in 1975 than he did in 1974. So, from that point of view, quite apart from any others, the moral problem is considerably less persuasive than it might be said to be in, for example, horse racing or dog racing.
If we accept as obviously I am going to do for the purposes of my speech, that lotteries as such, given certain safeguards, are desirable, then obviously the question follows: How are we to organise them? Here the Report sets about the problem 386 in an admirable manner. It is perfectly right, first of all, to draw a hard and fast distinction between large lotteries and small lotteries in which totally different considerations apply. Where small lotteries are concerned I agree completely with the recommendations that they make. They seem to me to be admirable. In fact they raise very few problems. It is with the large lotteries that we must be principally concerned this afternoon, and in particular with the degree of possible competition, or even conceivably—though I do not believe so—conflict that these large lotteries may have with the pools.
I suspect that the authors of the Report are wrong when they express their belief that the large lotteries will seriously damage the already existing long-odds forms of gambling which exist at present, like the pools. There are a great many of us—I suspect that there are a large number of your Lordships present this afternoon who also fall into this category—who, although we may have occasionally experimented with them, do not regularly do the pools. First of all, we find them extraordinarily complicated and cannot understand them very well. Secondly, we find that the amount of time and trouble they require is out of all proportion to the probable profit which will accrue. By the same token many of us, though possibly slightly fewer of us, are not tremendously interested in the horses; rather fewer still, I suspect, may be interested in greyhounds; and very few indeed, I pray, are interested in bingo. Nevertheless, that does not mean that we have any particular moral objection to gambling as such. It simply means that we are perfectly prepared to have a "flutter" if the "flutter" is made agreeable and easy for us. That is where the lotteries would come in. A great many of us would go for the lotteries whereas we would not dream, except in very unusual and extraordinary circumstances, of going for any of the other forms of gambling available to us.
If on my way to the office and while waiting for my train there was on the station a stall selling lottery tickets I for one would find it impossible to resist. Without any doubt at all I would buy one for 25p and I would have great pleasure in looking in the newspapers the following Wednesday morning, or 387 whenever, to see whether I had won. I should not mind if I had not won, but I would be delighted if I had. Certainly I would buy my ticket the next week regardless. When I am abroad for more than a week at a time that is precisely what I do.
I believe that the Report is wrong and if I am right in this, it would mean that the large lotteries, if they were to be instituted, would have a considerably better chance of success and of making a lot of money than I believe the authors of the Report think. Nevertheless there can be no doubt—and here we must not fool ourselves—that to be allowed to run a lottery, on whatever scale, will never in my view be in any sense of the word a licence to print money. It is therefore extremely important that any organisation, any charity or any institution, which is given the enormous responsibility of running a large-scale lottery should, certainly in the early days, be very carefully supervised and controlled. It is also quite obvious that the Gaming Board is the organisation best qualified to supervise, to control and indeed select those institutions which would be allowed to run a lottery.
But even then that is not quite enough. I would go further and say that the Gaming Board should strongly urge, if not actually insist, that those organisations so singled out should be forced to use the services of professional lottery organisers. To run a national lottery efficiently is, I am certain—though I have never tried it myself—an extremely complicated technical operation and the responsibility of taking money from an enormous number of people and then being forced to award prizes to the prize winners is far too great for any completely inexperienced organisation to be able to undertake.
This leads me on to another very important point. I think that certainly in the first few years there should be no question of any lottery organiser offering a given sum in prize money, particularly if the organisation was a charity. If the lottery proved a terrible flop it might well mean that many voluntary contributors to the charity would find their money going to pay off prizewinners because the lottery had not been sufficiently profitable to provide the prizes. 388 Clearly this would be unthinkable. It should be clearly stated that for the first five years the prize promised would be in terms of a percentage of the takings. That should be made absolutely clear until it was known how things were going. There might be no prize money at all, or there might be an enormous amount, but it should be calculated wholly in percentage terms. A professional lottery organiser should take a small percentage. If he made no money he would get no percentage; if he made a lot of money then there would be a percentage for him: that would be his problem. Only after he had had his cut should the prizewinners be able to take the stipulated percentage promised to them.
How then are the tickets to be sold? I was rather horrified to read in this Report that the authors envisaged that the principal ways of selling the tickets would be either by door-to-door salesmen or through the post. To be badgered by door-to-door salesmen to buy lottery tickets would be absolutely intolerable. I am already badgered far more often than I wish by people trying to sell me subscriptions to magazines or singing the first line—not the first verse—of "Good King Wenceslas" or for any other of the spurious reasons for which people bang on my door. If people are now going to bang on my door and ask to sell me lottery tickets all the time life will become intolerable. It would be only slightly less intolerable if I received an endless supply of envelopes—more than I do already—containing appeals to me to buy lottery tickets and to sign a postal order or to write out a cheque and send them back at 3p a time. And moreover, at the moment we have an appalling paper shortage. Conceivably, it would do something for the Post Office revenue and stop the price of a normal first-class letter going up to about fifteen shillings, which is the rate at which I think it very soon will be.
To me the only sensible way to do this, and the only way by which the non-gambling but willing to gamble section of the population, which I referred to earlier, could be tapped would be to sell tickets as they do in France, Italy and most other foreign countries that I have visited—from little kiosks on street corners. In this way there is no importuning and no problem about getting the 389 money to the right quarter. People pay on the nail and get a receipt and a counterfoil is given in. The operation is easy. People do not have to spend time filling in forms or addressing envelopes or anything like that. A very important point is that having people selling lottery tickets at street corners, or wherever it might be, would provide welcome employment for a large number of elderly, bored and lonely people, of whom there are millions in this country, who desperately want jobs and an opportunity to get out and talk to other people. By this innocent and easy means they would be able to do so.
The Report talks a good deal about the protection of premium bonds. I think that we ought to keep a sense of proportion about premium bonds. They have served a most admirable purpose for a great many years but they were instituted basically as a means of very genteel gambling within the laws as they existed at the time. If the laws are to be completely changed, as they are—at least for the purposes of this argument—there is, in my view, no purpose in continuing the premium bond scheme. Let us keep them on for a short time to see whether anyone continues to buy them. Perhaps one or two people who have won in the past may want to continue to buy them, and if so, they could continue to be sold. But do not let us try desperately to hedge them around with protective devices. If we start to have a national lottery, which I suspect would make much more money for the Government than premium bonds have ever done, let us thank premium bonds very kindly for all they have done for us and then bid them a polite, "Goodbye".
The Report is much against the idea of a national lottery. My Lords, I am not, and I should like to urge your Lordships to think once again about this question. As I said before, the chance of millions possibly hundreds of millions, of pounds coming in through voluntary contributions, something which is in no way compulsory, as is taxation, seems to me not only admirable in its own right but also a perfect way to solve from time to time that age-old problem, do you give the public what it wants or what you think it ought to have? If, for example, we had a great Government lottery the profits from which went to the arts, that would seem to me 390 an admirable way to get more public money for the arts. There comes a time when you cannot spend the taxpayers' money on the arts as so many taxpayers do not want their money spent in that way. But money raised through a special lottery could be spent on the arts, and competitors could not complain, because they need not have bought lottery tickets had they not wanted to. In that way a great many new things could be provided: new rehearsal stages at Covent Garden, for instance, and I do not know what else—the possibilities are endless. What a marvellous opportunity would be provided to do this sort of thing. Should we turn it down?
In paragraph 17 of the Report the authors take what seems to me a slightly "prissy" line. They say that to do this would be committing the Government to support projects which, however desirable, would not ordinarily be financed by the Government. This seems to me to be arguing in a circle. If the projects are desirable, the only reason they are not financed by the Government is that the Government do not have the necessary money. By means of a lottery the Government would have the money, so why on earth should they not go ahead with it? It seems to me a sort of wild mad hatter's tea party logic which, if I think about it too long, causes me to wake up screaming in the middle of the night.
On this point about a national lottery, I think that we ought to look a little more closely than the authors of the Report have done at the experience in other countries. I am well aware that the authors have discussed other countries; it appears in Appendix 3 to the Report. They point out what a small percentage of the ordinary revenue of central Government accrued to those countries as a result of a national lottery—usually much less than one per cent. That is admirable, my Lords. I should hate to be a citizen of a country where the majority of the national income came from gambling by its citizens; that would seem to me to be all wrong. Nevertheless, the nine countries listed in the second list of the third Appendix to the Report, where it gives the percentage of the gross ordinary revenue provided by the income from lotteries, give an average percentage of 0.66 per cent. It may not sound very much, but in this country that percentage might amount 391 to something like £100 million. However small the percentage, can we really afford to turn up our noses at £100 million from the voluntary contributions of members of the public to be given for a stipulated purpose, an admirable charitable or amenity use? I do not think that we can.
Finally, I come to what is possibly one of the thorniest of problems and one which is unique in this country: the question of the pools. The first thing we have to remember about the pools is that they serve a tremendously useful purpose in this country, if only because they provide £60 million a year in revenue to the Government. For this alone I am grateful for the pools. The more the pools give to the Government, the less I have to give and this seems to me admirable. But in dealing with this problem the Working Party have got themselves into a certain degree of confusion. The noble Lord, Lord Greenwood of Rossendale, has already pointed out this curious anomaly by which they decided to stipulate a maximum first prize for the pools, suggested as £100,000—a pretty arbitrary maximum in any case. The idea of course is to give the lotteries a chance. But it has been established over and over again, principally by the pools but also by many other organisations, that what really attracts people to the pools is the prospect of making overnight very much more money than they could make in the whole of their working life. This may be right, it may be wrong; but it is human nature and it is what we have to live with.
If the amount is deliberately limited to one-fifth of what it is at present, it is bound to diminish substantially the amount of income going to the pools and, ultimately, to the Government. But if you say you are going to do that in order to give the lotteries a chance, and then impose on lotteries a maximum amount that is only 75 per cent. of the diminished amount allowed for the pools, it will not take away any pools punters. This is an admirable thing I believe—though perhaps the Committee may not agree with my view—because the more money that goes to the Government, the better for the rest of us. The simple fact of the matter is that if lotteries are going to be a success they will be a success not at the expense of the pools but on their own merits. Of this I am entirely con- 392 vinced, though I well understand that the pools organisers are worried. They have every right to be.
To some extent, all of us are talking out of the top of our heads, because nobody knows what the final effect will be. We do not know what will happen if lotteries are allowed. It may be that I am wrong in what I say and that the pools will lose a great deal of money. This being so, the suggestion made in this Report that the pools organisers should actually run the lotteries seems to me to be little short of grotesque. Only the other day a representative of the pools said:Even assuming that the pools wished to commit hart-kiri, it seems particularly unlikely that they would offer the maximum efficiency and co-operation to arrange this.This, it seems to me, is what the Report is suggesting they should do. Surely if the pools do suffer considerably from competition with the lotteries then the only sensible thing to do is to protect them—though I hope it will not be necessary—by slightly diminishing the already swingeing amount of duty, 33⅓ per cent., which they have to pay at present and proportionately increasing the duty on other forms of gambling.
I am sure the noble Lord, Lord Wigg, will correct me if I am wrong, but I gather from this Report and from the Financial Times that horseracing actually takes in £1,250 million a year. This does not seem to me to be the equivalent to the £20 which might be staked, say, by five men betting £4 each, or with four men betting £5 each: this is the actual amount of money which is paid every year. If the horseracing world manages to attract that kind of money per year and if, as I gather is the case, the Government receive from them between 4 per cent. and 6 per cent. in duty, while receiving from the pools (which take less than one-sixth of the amount that horseracing takes) 33⅓ per cent., then there is plenty of scope for adjustment between the two activities.
Then there is this extraordinary question about Australian football. As the noble Lord, Lord Greenwood, has said, it is particularly odd to say that we cannot continue to allow pool betting on Australian football because there is no possibility for true judgment by the competitors. We are now talking about 393 instituting lotteries which, by definition, imply pure chance, where there is no skill at all. This is denying what was said earlier in the Report, that pools are also a question of luck. In fact, they are the only form of gambling I know where it actually pays to know nothing about football at all, because if you know about it you will bet on probabilities, which means that you will never win the big money. The big money goes only to those people who close their eyes and stick in a pin. Therefore, this curious stricture on Australian football seems to me to be utterly nonsensical.
There is a final point that I should like to raise. It is suggested in the Report that the Gaming Board should be in overall control and supervision of all these activities. I am all for the Gaming Board being in control of lotteries or competitions such as "Spot the ball" and heaven knows what, but I think it would be pointless and dangerous to put them in control of the pools. The pools have been running now for some decades, and running extremely well with scrupulous honesty, supervised by the local corporations involved. The system has worked admirably and I see no reason to change it. The Gaming Board was set up very largely, if not wholly, to deal with what might be called the "Casino Mafia" and that has nothing in common with the organisers of football pools. I feel there might well be frictions, even with the best will in the world on both sides, and that something that is working so well and has given so much pleasure to so many people for so long should be allowed to continue as it has done in the past.
I should like to make one final plea: that whatever decisions are taken as a result of our deliberations this afternoon and whatever laws may finally be enacted, those laws will contain a provision (for example, as was done in the case of the death penalty) for a trial period of perhaps five years to see how things go—because, as I said earlier, we are all rather like the successful pools punter, shutting our eyes and poking about with a pin. We do not know what will happen. Let us hedge our bets and try this for five years, and then make such adjustments as may be necessary.
§ 3.59 p.m.
THE MINISTER OF STATE, HOME OFFICE (VISCOUNT COLVILLE OF CULROSS)
My Lords, it may perhaps help if I spoke at this stage of the debate and tried to set it (in so far as it has not already been done) in its proper context. Some review of the law, as has already been mentioned, is inevitable in the fairly near future. Then we have the general complexities and technicalities of it all and there are, as has been rightly pointed out, the moral issues. The Government also thought that the arguments for and against national lotteries ought to be open for general public discussion, and I was very glad to hear the noble Lord, Lord Greenwood, agreeing with that.
That is the main point of this debate, and I think that we are having a very helpful and constructive debate on these issues—which is what the Government want. But we also thought that a satisfactory discussion could take place only if it were set against the background of a set of proposals which looked at the choices which were available, together with the implications of those choices, and tried to devise a possible scheme on which we might proceed. That is what the Report of the Working Party has tried to do.
It starts from the assumption that changes in the law to allow national lotteries for deserving causes ought to be considered—certainly everybody who has spoken to-day seems to think they ought to be considered—and it examines the kind of changes which might be practicable against the background of the existing volume of gambling in this country and the laws which regulate it. As the Foreword makes perfectly clear the Government themselves have so far taken no views on these recommendations; but they are anxious to secure the widest possible reaction to them, both on the general issue as to whether a change in the law of this kind is desirable at all, and on the individual aspects of the scheme that the Report proposes. I am delighted to hear from the noble Lord, Lord Greenwood of Rossendale, about all the other bodies studying it, and I hope there are more that he did not mention or know about. I am glad there is this interest because it is very welcome indeed to us.
395 It may be helpful if I mention a few of the salient features of the problem which faced the Working Party. I will try not to repeat some of the points which have already been made. Gambling is a subject that very many people in this country are interested in and appear to discuss regularly. There are widely conflicting views; some people say none should be allowed, that there should be no gambling for moral reasons. Other people think that any legal interference is bureaucratic and unnecessary. Moreover, it is a highly technical subject, as I am learning to my cost in the course of some of these debates. The underlying philosophy of the present law seems to be to steer a middle course between these extreme views by imposing restrictions which are aimed at preventing fraud and abuse in an area where the complexity of the subject makes these particularly real dangers because it involves a lot of money. At the same time we have to recognise that some of the provisions in the law—and a good deal of this law is consolidation from a long time ago—reflect earlier attitudes. In other respects too the law has failed to keep pace with changes in developments in a highly volatile subject.
There are some important distinctions to be made at the outset which apply to all fields of gambling. I must say I had not taken note of this as well as I should have done. One is the distinction between gambling between private individuals where the chances are equally favourable on the one hand, and commercially organised gambling on the other, which is promoted with the deliberate, and usually highly successful, aim of making large profits out of the punter. There is also another important distinction, although one which is perhaps not so well known, and that is the distinction between gambling at short odds and long odds. In short odds gambling the chance of winning or losing large sums of money is possible only if the stake is very large—and I think this is the point raised by the noble Viscount. Lord Norwich, to some extent—and this imposes a natural restraint on this form of gambling—or one hopes it does. The characteristic of long odds gambling is that very large prizes are available for very small stakes. It follows that stakes from a very large number of entrants must be obtained, all 396 but a handful of whom are bound to be disappointed. Experience shows that long odds gambling turns into a circle, which some people would describe as vicious. The larger the number of stakes the larger the number of prizes that can be offered and so the larger the number of entrants, and so on. This goes on increasing.
The simplest form of gambling is an ordinary lottery. There are countless other forms of gambling which are not technically lotteries but are very similar to them. Here the law is in a dreadful muddle and full of the most appalling technicalities which I am going to spare your Lordships because it would take a long time even to try to explain them, and in any case some of them are probably inexplicable. Despite the similarities between lotteries and some other forms of long odds gambling, the law, and the principles on which it is based, apply in different areas and in different ways.
So far as lotteries are concerned the main provision in the Betting, Gaming and Lotteries Act 1963 is that, subject to limited exceptions—some of which my noble friend Lord Mansfield mentioned—all lotteries are unlawful. There are some small exceptions, again with complicated rules. That is the provision, even with the exceptions, and it seriously restricts lotteries whatever the object of their promotion. But this basic principle seriously contrasts with provisions in other fields of gambling, Pool gambling, both on and off-course, although also subject to provisions and restrictions which are intended to eliminate abuse, is by contrast generally lawful. In the case of horseracing, as the noble Lord, Lord Wigg, knows so very well, it takes the form of a non-profit-making monopoly run by the Horserace Totalisator Board, surpluses from which go to the betting levy to benefit horseracing generally. In the case of dog racing an on-course monopoly is conferred on the operators of the individual tracks. In the case of other forms of off-course betting, the law permits commercial interests to promote this form of betting subject only to controls designed to ensure that it is conducted fairly and that the profits and expenses are publicly disclosed. So pool betting is generally lawful, it has been carefully worked out and regulated, and it is in the hands of a comparatively few people.
397 Then there is gaming where, as the noble Lord, Lord Greenwood, pointed out, restrictions have been tightened up. But there is still no absolute ban. Commercially promoted gaming, in which the odds favour the house, is permitted in licensed clubs but is subject to provisions which stipulate the bets available and the odds payable. In the case of bingo, which brought a note of near hysteria to the noble Viscount's voice, the form of gaming which most closely resembles a lottery, the scale of the gaming is necessarily controlled by the size of the premises; and—ultra horror perhaps!—the games which are played in a number of premises at once linked together by cable systems are limited by a maximum on prizes of £1,000 a week. So that is lawful but subject to controls.
VISCOUNT COLVILLE OF CULROSS
My Lords, if I were to go into the minutiae of all these matters it would make an intolerably long speech. The noble Lord, Lord Wigg, is right and I would never quarrel with him on any of these matters. I am trying to condense a rather large area of the law and restrictions into something which is palatably short and, I hope, to the liking of the House.
I should like to mention the law relating to prize competitions because this is relevant to the Report we are looking at where perhaps the situation is the most unsatisfactory of all. This law was originally evolved to deal with newspaper crosswords with multiple answers and other similar competitions where the element of skill was small and the degree of chance substantial. The Betting and Lotteries Act 1934 accordingly sought to outlaw competitions of this kind—having lottery characteristics—by providing, in the case of competitions run through a newspaper or for the promotion of some trade or business, that these should not be lawful if they included an element of forecasting or if they did not involve a substantial degree of skill. From that rather haphazard beginning has grown a body of law which is no longer in the least apposite 398 to take account of more relevant developments in prize competitions of one sort or another. This just shows how it has fallen into disrepute because it has been dealt with on an historically expedient basis.
My Lords, it is not very easy to extract a general principle from these provisions because, as I have just indicated, they reflect different stages in the development in the law of gambling, of all sorts. A general principle that perhaps underlies recent legislation is that the law should not try to prohibit absolutely various kinds of gambling, but should ensure that when facilities are provided commercially there is an adequate system of control, to prevent crime, cheating, and other abuses in the conduct of gambling, and to see that the odds are not unfairly biased against the punter. Another aim of the law is to secure that commercial facilities are not provided in excess of the natural demand, and that attempts to stimulate this artificially should be restrained. These principles have been applied most thoroughly and consistently in the case of gaming. Their application is less comprehensive in the case of betting, and still less in the case of pool betting, where apart from the Department's restrictions on the use of premises for pool betting transactions, there is no effective control of volume based on genuine demand.
As I have said, the provisions relating to prize competitions are most unsatisfactory and cannot be left as they are. These provisions do not even recognise prize competitions as a separate form of gambling. They impose restraints, notably the requirement of a substantial degree of skill, but this is virtually unworkable, certainly in regard to criminal proceedings. They impose no other system of control. In the case of competitions which are not conducted in a newspaper, or for promotional purposes, it is doubtful whether they are subject to any degree of restraint whatever. This, therefore, makes it possible for them to be used for commercial profit without restraint. This has recently started to happen. It is therefore understandable that, faced with these anomalies in the law, there has been pressure in various quarters for relaxation to permit lotteries in aid of deserving causes. The pressure has been to raise funds by means of lotteries, in the same way that commercial interests, whether devilish or not, 399 are permitted to profit from very similar forms of gambling. The pressure has been in Parliament (over the last six or seven years there have been a number of discussions in both Houses), and there has been pressure from outside.
All these moves, I think, have demonstrated a fairly widely held view that lotteries should be legalised for deserving causes of one kind or another. Now, what we have to decide is, if that is going to be so, how? My Lords, that is really what the Working Party were set up to consider. I do not want to discuss their recommendations in detail, but perhaps I may draw attention to a few features of the law. The Working Party did not argue the moral issues. Perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Soper, could hardly have a higher commendation than that the whole of this aspect should have been summarised in an adoption of a speech which he made in this House. It was used by the Working Party as a full and sufficient comment, an exegesis of this matter. I promise the House that the Government and the Working Party do not overlook this, though we thought it had been very well argued on other occasions.
My Lords, we are really faced with a Report which started from the assumption that there was an agreement that the law should be changed, and that their task was to evolve a working scheme. They were, as of course we all must be, very concerned with protecting the public interest in respect of some of the features such as the dangers of excessive proliferation of lotteries, possible public nuisance, and the need for a statutory system of controls that would eliminate fraud and abuse, which already underlies the rather better organised areas of the law of gambling. In considering the proliferation problem, the Working Party looked at the likely scope for raising money in this way. This one can see in paragraphs 10 to 24 and in Appendix 3 of the Report. The Working Party—and this has already attracted comment this afternoon—were impressed by the fact that if duty were payable, the income from a lottery would rarely, if ever, be likely to exceed 20 per cent. of the turnover.
Their examiniation of the evidence also suggested—and this has attracted even more attention which may even have developed since the speech of Lord 400 Stonham, to which my noble friend referred—that there is not a limitless kitty. I am very interested in the views that have been expressed on this point this afternoon. I am particularly interested in the attitude of the noble Viscount, Lord Norwich, which I think undoubtedly reflects that of a number of people in this country. He is also perfectly right in saying that he thinks that no one knows how many. Nevertheless, the Working Party thought that we do not have unending resources to draw on, and that the kind of gambling that we are talking about (these sorts of lotteries) have to be financed in a sensible way; and that the scale of existing gambling may very well have to be tapped in order to face up to the fact that it takes nearly, if not all, the existing funds that are available. How much more there is of course is very difficult to tell. At any rate, they tried to face that problem on the evidence that they had. They concluded that, far from the introduction of national lotteries leading to an undesirable increase in the total volume of gambling, the likelihood was that a substantial volume of the lottery turnover would have to be drawn away from existing gambling turnover. Unless the new lotteries could be made sufficiently attractive, their chance of competing successfully was thin; and that any hope of raising substantial funds in this way would be doomed from the start. This is a matter of judgment, but it is obviously a very important one.
In the course of this examination, they looked at the possibility of a single State-run national lottery, but rejected it for the reasons given in the Report. I am interested that my noble friend agreed and the noble Lord, Lord Greenwood, agreed and the noble Viscount disagreed. I hope that this discussion will continue, because this is exactly what we wish to encourage as a result of this Report.
In examining the existing law relating not only to lotteries but to other forms of gambling which are closely similar to lotteries, the Working Party were impressed by the fact that the law appeared to be biased in favour of commercial interests and against the use of lotteries for raising funds for good causes. Their main recommendations, therefore, were that this balance should be redressed so as to give the good causes a chance to raise money in this way equal to that 401 already afforded to commercial interests. They thought that that aim was likely to be achieved only if some curb was imposed on the football pools in the form of a limit on the maximum individual prize. This is argued in the Report, and I understand it to be controversial. I am not expressing a view one way or the other; I am just showing the way in which this holds together in the argument of the Working Party's Report. But they went on to suggest—I know not whether this is naïve, or whether it is in fact something that would work—that the losses the pools might suffer that way could be set off by allowing the pool organisations to act as agents for the proposed lotteries, presumably with a commission.
One thing I must emphasise is the importance of realising that the recommendations in the Working Party's proposals are very closely interlocking. There has been some comment already on the Report which has singled out, for instance, this proposed limit on pools prizes as being unnecessarily restrictive and based on inadequate evidence. So be it; it may be so. But the Working Party thought—and I would wish to have strongly reasoned arguments to the contrary to put forward a contrary view—that it was an unavoidable corollary to any proposal to introduce national lotteries for good causes, that some curb should be placed on similar commercial gambling in other directions running in direct competition to it. This is a choice, and a view, which was dictated by the evidence they had, and it is one that I hope the House and the public will weigh up and attempt to help on, with all the experience and the information that is at everyone's command.
There were a number of other recommendations in the Working Party's Report both to prevent proliferation of national lotteries, and to secure satisfactory supervision and control—and that brings in the question of the distribution of tickets, where I have noted already the views that have been expressed by my noble friend and by the noble Viscount, and where I can say that there are fairly strong arguments in both directions. They are not fully developed in the Report; and, again, the Government will be extremely interested in views both for what the Working Party put forward 402 and also against it. Nobody's mind is closed about this issue.
§ VISCOUNT NORWICH
My Lords, I gather from what the noble Viscount says that there are very strong objections in this connection. The way in which it is actually spelt out in the Report is as follows:open to objections and inconsistent with the gambling laws".That is all the Report says. It does not actually say what those objections are, or in what way it is inconsistent with the gambling laws. I should be most grateful if the noble Viscount could enlighten us on this matter.
VISCOUNT COLVILLE OF CULROSS
My Lords, I can; but I am aware of the fact that I have been speaking for 24 minutes already and some fairly complicated issues are involved in this matter. I tend to think that it might be better if the noble Viscount would be so kind as to put down a Question, perhaps for Written Answer, on this point so that I can attempt to summarise the points rather more fully than perhaps I ought to do this afternoon. But there are arguments both ways—I would emphasise this—and our minds are by no means closed upon it.
I was saying that there were some other recommendations, including this one, and there are also of course the proposals to control and enlarge the scope of existing lawful small lotteries, so as to introduce the two-tier system in which local interests would be able to avail themselves of small lotteries, while truly national causes could promote lotteries on a national scale.
Finally, the Working Party looked at prize competitions. Here their proposals are to the effect that the only form of prize competitions which might lawfully be used directly as a means of fundraising by commercial interests should be those run on behalf of newspapers (in fact, I suppose, "Spot the ball") and subject to controls comparable with those applicable to pool betting. My noble friend criticised this proposal. There are, however, the practical facts that newspapers say that in some cases these competitions have been largely responsible for their continued existence—the local newspapers; and the local newspapers are undoubtedly a valuable form of social asset which one would not wish to see 403 jeopardised. But, again, if this is not right, and there are countervailing arguments for extending it or restricting it, then I shall be glad to hear about them. In other areas the Working Party thought that prize competitions should be permissible for promotional purposes whether or not substantial skill is involved, but subject to the restriction that there should be no stake payable other than buying the article, a newspaper, tin of beans or whatever it might be, and no single prize should exceed £500. That at any rate is a rationalisation of the situation on prize competitions.
The Government hope, as I have said, that these proposals will be looked at very carefully by everyone interested. We are going to embark soon on formal consultations. There will be many respects in which interested organisations may well take a different view from the Report's proposals. In some respects, particularly in regard to the precise figures that the Working Party proposed for various limits, it may well be that this is open to adjustment. There is no fixed mind on this. It should, however, be emphasised just once more that this scheme in the Blue Book constitutes an inseparable whole and we cannot, at any rate very much, pick and choose between different parts of it without doing some substantial damage to the structure on which it is based.
I would finally remind the House that whatever views may be held on different aspects of these proposals, the existing situation is that we must take a decision in the course of the next two years, certainly on prize competitions, to resolve the anomalies of the existing law and particularly to establish what we are going to do about the charities, the spastics, and so on, whose income was temporarily saved under the Pools Competition Act 1971. So there is a certain amount of urgency involved. It is a good opportunity to clear up an area of the law which has developed in a very haphazard and rather unsatisfactory way. Therefore, my Lords, I am delighted that my noble friend has introduced this debate. I am very grateful to noble Lords for taking part in it, and I and my colleagues and advisers will study the views of all those who speak. I am sure that this will prove to have been a very valuable debate.
§ LORD ROBBINS
My Lords, before the noble Viscount sits down, I wonder whether he could tell the House if there is any chance of there being made accessible the more objective parts of the evidence on which the Working Party based their recommendations. In saying that, I do not in the least wish to peruse evidence bearing on the morals of this question either one way or the other—whether the placing of a "bob" on a lottery is wrong or a prerogative of a free citizen. I am thinking rather of the quantitative estimates, to which the noble Viscount alluded in the course of his speech—when, for instance, it was argued that, let us say, the institution of a lottery in favour of the purchase of a picture by the National Gallery would encroach, must necessarily encroach, on funds available for betting on greyhounds. Did they have quantitative evidence of that kind based on surveys, or was this just a "hunch"?
VISCOUNT COLVILLE OF CULROSS
My Lords, this is where one begins to get into the very difficult area of the distinction between long-odds and short-odds betting. I appreciate that some betting on greyhounds, if it is pool betting, has an element of long odds in it, but it is nothing like the long odds you get in, for instance, football pools or in the kind of large lottery we are speaking about. I think that the area of encroachment is much more between a national lottery, or a series of national lotteries, and these immense football pools, than with any other particular area of gambling. The evidence here is fairly small. There is a certain amount in the Report about it, but it depends to a quite considerable extent upon the effect of voluntary limits that the pools put upon their own maximum dividends in the 'fifties, and the resultant drop of revenue and participation, and the result of increasing prizes as the years have gone by.
Again it is rather a complicated matter, and I think that is really the only area of evidence—if evidence it be called, rather than judgment—that is involved in this. I do not quite know how to come back to this for the noble Lord, but I will see what I can do to get it spread out in a rather more elaborate form than perhaps the Report does, and see what I can do to satisfy him of its worth, and whether it deserves to be taken into 405 account. Perhaps I had better not try to do that this afternoon.
§ 4.30 p.m.
§ LORD FISKE
My Lords, one thing I have learned this afternoon is that if I had fully understood the complexity of all these laws I probably should not have had the temerity to put my name down to speak. But since I have one or two proposals that I want to put forward I will continue; and I should like to begin by expressing my gratitude to the noble Earl for bringing this matter before us to-day.
It is plain that a debate of this sort is bound to divide into its two branches: those who see gaming as being immoral and, on the other hand, those who want to deal with it as an extremely practical issue, which is what I want to try to do this afternoon because my interest in this is that for many years it was my duty to find alternative revenues for the support of local government. A local lottery was always a hot favourite and the Greater London Council, and the London County Council before it, was often in this House or in another place and before the Government on this particular issue. In the past there have been snags, which I think to a great extent are now disappearing.
The most important change is the reform of local government which takes place on April 1 and which, for the first time, gives us something approaching regional government. Because while the G.L.C. and, in the old days, the L.C.C., used to make the approaches, it would have been grossly unfair to give the powers only to the capital city. But it would have been extremely difficult to give them to anybody else where the boundaries, even of the largest and most influential cities of the kingdom, were very circumscribed. All that is swept away, and under the new local government set-up it would be possible to create a number of regional centres where local lotteries could be held I will come in a minute to the subject of the holding of lotteries, but first I want to say a word or two about the use of the results of a lottery.
As many of your Lordships will know, there are many things that a local authority wants to do, for which either it has no power or it has no money. Often they are extremely desirable things, falling 406 under the heading of amenities. It might be a sports centre; it might be a concert hall; it might be an opera house. It is extremely difficult to find the money for that sort of project, and if there were a fund like this which was at the disposal of local authorities, and which it was quite clear could not be spent on the ordinary statutory business of the local authority, then I think we could bring about sweeping improvements within the areas of our great cities and increase their amenities.
I have been trying hard to think of a good example, and I have thought of two. The Crystal Palace Sports Centre did get built, but in the end it was built because the money had to be forthcoming. When the London County Council took over the trust deed it was under a legal obligation to provide something there. It did not say what, but something of a sporting or physical or artistic nature. After exhaustive inquiries the sports centre was decided upon, so that was paid for (but only very narrowly) out of local funds. That could have been missed. And what a miss it would have been, not only to London but, I have no doubt, to a great many of the athletes who are now so successfully competing on our behalf in Christchurch, New Zealand.
The other example is one that did not come off, and one which I personally, as the then Leader of the G.L.C., was urged to undertake by no less a personality than the noble Lord, Lord Wigg; and that was to provide Greater London with its own racecourse. I should have been very glad to do that, but there were no funds. So that racecourse, which I am told London still badly needs, has still not been provided. Your Lordships may not think that a racecourse is a very good example, but it is schemes of that sort which are the first casualties of any contraction of local authority activities. This is coming. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has already announced a contraction of local government expenditure during the coming 12 months. The first things that will be squeezed out are the sports grounds, the parks and the other things which can be put off. We are told that even the the schools are to be held back a bit this time. So if the schools are to be held back it is a safe bet that nothing of an amenity nature can possibly get 407 through; and for that reason these funds would be invaluable.
My attitude towards a lottery is this. I am surprised to hear that it is so mixed up with gaming. When it is explained to me I can see that it is so, but I always regard a lottery as a contribution: a contribution to an old people's home, to a political Party or to this, that or the other. I do not see it in any way as gaming, and therefore I do not think it should be tied up with any existing gaming organisations. I believe that if the Government could accept my theory of putting this in the hands of the large local authorities, they would be the people to run it and to allocate the funds in a suitable way.
My Lords, the phrase, "a suitable way" needs wide interpretation. I think the biggest enemies in this regard will be the Government themselves. If in fact these lotteries were successful, the Government could ask for a 30 per cent. or 40 per cent. duty, as they have done with the football pools. They could also see that any odd bits of money that lie about could pay income tax, and when we got to the end of that they could say, "Well, of course you will now need less money in your general grant". In fact, the whole amount of money, if not carefully handled as between the Government and the local authority, could disappear into the Exchequer. This is what I think would be wrong, and this is why I think the national pool would be wrong. So let it be regional; let it be administered locally on some trusteeship basis in a charitable way; and let the local authorities do it.
§ 4.40 p.m.
§ THE LORD BISHOP OF LONDON
My Lords, I am glad to add my thanks to the noble Earl, Lord Mansfield, for initiating this debate, and also for the opportunity to congratulate the Interdepartmental Working Party on the excellent Report which they have produced. In my view, this Report takes a sensible and moderate line in analysing the situation with reference to lotteries. In so doing it is forced to take a wider view of the overall problems of large-scale gambling, and uncovers some of the illogicalities that we have inherited from piecemeal legislation on gambling, 408 which all too often is sought hastily to remedy abuses rather than to control and contain the problems from the start. As the Report points out, the result has been that we have in this country the unenviable reputation of providing opportunities for gambling more prolific than in any other country, certainly in the Western world.
My Lords, on the general subject of gambling, I find myself standing shoulder to shoulder with the noble Lord, Lord Greenwood of Rossendale. I do not share the view of the noble Viscount, Lord Norwich, for instance, that the pools promoters are angels of light occupied in bringing joy and happiness to innocent citizens. I have no doubt that they are honest and admirable people. But let there be no doubt that they are extremely skilful, hard-headed businessmen who have lit upon an admirable way of making very large sums of money for no creative effort whatsoever. They take money in small amounts, they take their cut, they pay their taxes, and then they dish out the rest on a system which is fairly fortuitous. I find the whole paraphernalia of mass gambling extremely distasteful. I believe it is socially undesirable to effect a distribution of wealth by taking very small sums of money from vast numbers of people, and giving it in vast amounts to a very few people. If this is socially undesirable, then the Government are perfectly within their rights to examine the situation and, if necessary, to control it further.
My Lords, I find the proliferation of off-course betting through chains of betting shops throughout the country very degrading. I have seen and heard enough of the misery caused by compulsive gambling, spurred on, as it undoubtedly is, by the number and variety of opportunities for gambling, to wish there could be far greater control and far fewer occasions for putting temptation in the way of those who have not the strength to resist its blandishments. At the same time, one must be a realist and accept the fact that we have allowed the erection of vast structures providing gambling opportunities and that, for the most part, the ultimate aim of this system is private gain. If then, this huge gambling empire has come to stay, there is at least a good case to be made out for directing the 409 profits from this business to be channelled towards healthy and creative ends, rather than permitting those profits to find their way into private pockets. Again, I confess that I find the prospect of financing admirable and desirable things from gambling in one form or another, however respectable, rather repugnant. I am sorry that the noble Lord, Lord Fiske, is no longer in his place. I was rather surprised to hear him suggesting that lotteries are just contributions to good causes. If they are that, they are a very expensive form of contribution. If I am contributing to a good cause, I do not want a very large percentage of it to go into someone else's pocket; I want it to go for the cause in which I am interested.
My Lords, I could wish that sporting activities could be financed from sources other than sponsorship by commercial firms, because I do not like sporting activities to become what they virtually are in many cases, just adjuncts to the advertising business. And so one could wish that charitable, artistic and sporting activities could find the funds that they need other than by lotteries. It would be healthier if worthier causes could be helped, for instance, by a reduction in V.A.T., which is crippling a great many admirable and healthy activities; or that the Government would plough back some of the very large sums that they take one way or another out of sport, for instance into much greater grants in aid for these activities. But if appeals do fall on deaf ears, as seems to be the case, if lotteries and pool betting are here to stay, then it would seem to be logical that the balance should be redressed and, if possible, the money involved be directed to more deserving ends. If at the same time there could be greater control over the conducting of lotteries and pool betting, and the encouragement of people to partake in forms of gambling less likely than those which are likely to form compulsive habits, then there will have been considerable gain. The proposals in the Report for small lotteries appear to be sensible, and since their impact is minimal the increase in prize money seems to be unobjectionable, though I would not agree with the noble Earl, Lord Mansfield, in suggesting it ought to be greater than is suggested in the Report.
410 I am less easy about the proposal to allow local authorities to run lotteries. I did not find the arguments of the noble Lord, Lord Fiske, in the least convincing. In paragraph 48, the Report admits that lotteries run under Section 45 of the 1963 Act are open to abuse. The local authorities will not be exempt from the possibilities of abuse. I hardly think they will be interested in a turn-over of £3,750 unless the lotteries are very frequent indeed. Nor do I think that lotteries should be used, as the noble Lord, Lord Fiske, suggested, to relieve citizens from paying what is their proper due through the rates. I should be very sorry if lotteries were used in order to create what is really an unreal situation, by persuading people they can have things for which they are not ready to pay. To place the burden of supervising Section 45 lotteries in a general way on a Gaming Board, and to give the Board a particular and direct responsibility for local authorities would, I believe, require an impossible task of the Board. So I think it would be better to keep local authorities right out of the business.
My Lords, the proposals regarding greater control of football pools are, in my view, excellent. The prize money has now become ludicrously high, with the corollary, as the noble Viscount, Lord Norwich, pointed out, that the lesser the skill the larger the prize. If, as I believe rightly, society is becoming impatient with those who are making huge sums of money in business with the minimum of effort, it should not tolerate the equally undesirable system whereby prizes of half a million pounds can be won on a wager of a few pence. The limiting of individual prizes will, I think, have a doubly desirable consequence. It will produce a system which is more desirable socially, and by taking some of the steam and the attractiveness out of football pools will give a greater opportunity for big national lotteries for worthy objects.
I applaud the new powers proposed for the Gaming Board in registration, scrutiny and control. What then of the large lotteries? Personally I regret that we should have come to a state where they seem to be so necessary, if only for the reason that in order to attract customers a large proportion of the takings must go in prize money and the benefits 411 to the cause are proportionately less. Let us be in no doubt that raising money for good causes by lotteries is a wasteful form of money-raising so far as the charity is concerned.
The controls in the Report are, I think, right. The causes that may benefit should be defined carefully. The prize money should be limited, thus diverting money into less compulsive forms of gambling, and the Gaming Board should be given wide powers of control. This policy of providing for large lotteries run for charitable purposes is, I think, necessary and under the circumstances reasonable. It is likely to be opposed by the pools promoters, since the betting habits of the public seem to be pretty well established, and I myself am convinced by the argument in the Report that betting habits will have to be changed at the expense of the pools if the lotteries are to succeed. The stronger control of pools will not come amiss, and I hope that if the Government think it is necessary this House will support them in bringing in the measures necessary to that end.
There is one interesting and significant feature to be found in this Report. I refer to the repeated recognition of the value attached to the work of the Gaming Board and the intention to add to its duties. The Gaming Board has been the great success of the 1968 Act, and much credit is due to Sir Stanley Raymond and to his staff for the effectiveness of its operations. But has not the time now come for something more comprehensive? May it not now be desirable to create a gambling board which could be the instrument for—to adopt the words of Sir Stanley when he was given the job of Chairman of the Horserace Betting Levy Board—the rationalisation of public policy in a field where the interests of gambling, entertainment and sport overlap? In view of the success of the Gaming Board, I suggest there is now a need for a gambling board which could take overall responsibility for control of the whole field of gambling, and if by so doing it can direct revenue into profitable channels, then it may make the large lotteries unnecessary.
§ 4.54 p.m.
§ BARONESS STOCKS
My Lords, I am not an addict of Party politics, and my 412 noble friend Lady Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe may remember that I am not always amenable to her Whip. But sitting on this side of the House I am able to confront the Party which has let loose on this country of late some of the most evil forms of gambling, though attempts have been made by the Gaining Board to mitigate some of their worst effects. We have been given of late years bingo clubs, fruit machines, betting offices, and, worst of all, casinos. The result was referred to by the right reverend Prelate who has just spoken, the Bishop of London, but it is more specifically stated in paragraph 9 of the Working Party Report, which runs:We know of no country, certainly in the western world, where the opportunities for gambling are so prolific as they are here. A further major relaxation, in favour of large-scale lotteries, will not be to everybody's taste.It certainly is not to mine: nor I gather, to that of the right reverend Prelate.
I used at one time to know a great deal about gambling, partly as a magistrate in Manchester during the great depression, where I had to assist the police in the harassment of street bookies whose operations were illegal. I got to know where their stands were and why their turnover of runners was so rapid. I got to know something of the effects of their operations on the family incomes and the general morale of the people. I got to know something about the needs of the people in those dark days for a minimum of excitement and anticipation which was not satisfied by any legal form of betting then obtainable to them. Partly perhaps as a result of that experience, but I think largely because I happened to be one of half a dozen statutory women known to the Government as available to sit on Committees, I found myself a member of the Betting and Lotteries Royal Commission of 1933, from which I learned a lot more.
I learned for instance that horseracing, as we all know, was a great centre of corruption and violence, such as one can read about in Graham Greene's novel, Brighton Rock, but that in the middle of that surrounding corruption there were a number of ladies and gentlemen—noble Lords such as the late Lord Derby or the late Lord Astor; indeed members of the Royal Family—who owned horses and loved them and took an interest in them, and who had no contact whatever with 413 the surrounding corruption. I learned that that, though true of horseracing, was certainly not true of greyhound racing. Having met and taken evidence from the lords of the greyhound racing track, I think it is possible to say in this place, where one is privileged, that there was not a gentleman among them. I learned that our whole system of gambling was class divisive, and required reforms to permit legal and reasonable betting facilities for those who wanted them and who could not afford to deal on the telephone with offices. I learned a great deal more than that.
But, of course, it was true at that time that one of the motive forces for appointing the Commission was the enormous sums of money which were being sent to Ireland in connection with the great Irish Sweepstake, and it may interest the noble Viscount. Lord Norwich, to know the very ingenious way by which the coupons—or should I say counterfoils?—for that enterprise were put on sale. It was done in this way. You wrote for a book of six coupons, six shillings each, but you received a book containing seven coupons. Therefore, one of the coupons was, as it were, your commission for selling the other six. The result was that large numbers of decent and middle-class housewives made quite considerable sums of money by acquiring these books and persuading their friends to buy lottery tickets, which I think they regarded as giving good value.
One of the recommendations of the Royal Commission was that that should be stopped, and that the importation of these books should be made illegal. That in fact was done, and these respectable women, who were not criminals at all and did not wish to act as such, were deprived of what was for them possibly a valuable source of pocket money. We are again faced here with similar problems. I heartily agree with everything that has been said by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London. It is regrettable that money should be raised for charitable purposes by means of lotteries and sweepstakes.
Finally, my Lords—and when I say "finally" I really mean it—it was alleged at the time of the Dublin sweepstake that the large sums of money going to the Dublin hospitals brought about a drying up of charitable donations and bequests. 414 I greatly fear that if we promote lotteries for what are described as "deserving purposes" the same thing may happen here. If it does, we shall be attacking what St. Paul described as the greatest of human virtues; namely, charity.
§ 5.2 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF DROGHEDA
My Lords, I hope that the noble Baroness will forgive me if I do not follow her into the moral arguments, because really what she said makes one feel that the only sensible thing is that all forms of betting and gambling should be banned by law. She might be entirely right about that, I do not know, but the fact is that it is not going to happen.
§ BARONESS STOCKS
My Lords, I never said any such thing, nor would I say it. It would be a most foolish thing to say.
§ THE EARL OF DROGHEDA
My Lords, I only said that the logical deduction from her remarks seemed to me to be that all these forms of gambling should be banned. If I misunderstood what she said, I will wait until I can read the OFFICIAL REPORT tomorrow.
§ BARONESS STOCKS
My Lords, the noble Earl certainly has misunderstood what I said. I hope that my general intelligence would not allow me to say anything so silly in this House.
§ THE EARL OF DROGHEDA
My Lords, I deeply apologise to the noble Baroness, and I stand corrected. Except for the noble Earl, Lord Mansfield, I am the last speaker. We are most grateful to the noble Earl for having introduced this debate. Two of my colleagues on the Board of Covent Garden, the noble Lords, Lord Goodman and Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge, have both been obliged to scratch, but they know roughly what I am going to say, and they are in sympathy with it. At the present time, it is difficult to think far beyond the immediate desperate crisis in our nation's affairs. One can only hope that life is going to go on, and that reason will prevail. In the meantime, it to be of value to some of the charitable is helpful to us all to discuss something which possibly in the future is going activities of the country.
415 The Report of the Committee of Officials, presided over by Mr. K. P. Witney of the Home Office, is a masterly document; it is concise and clear, and its recommendations deserve careful study, although I do not, as I shall say in a moment, go along with all of them. I have a personal interest because, for a few months longer, I shall be Chairman of the Royal Opera House, which is the first example given in the Report of the type of major cultural organisation which might be empowered to run a lottery on its own account. I like to see Covent Garden named in this manner, because we have a major problem of redevelopment before us involving large sums of money.
Nevertheless, I am not terribly happy about some of the difficulties I see in the proposal for large lotteries made in the Report. There are two main difficulties. First of all, the Report recognises that there must be some system for limiting the number of organisations which are qualified to run their own lotteries. They estimate a figure of 150—I do not know how they arrive at that figure—which they think might be reduced to 75, as the sort of number of organisations which might wish to take advantage. This is a very high figure indeed: 75 bodies running lotteries, advertising, calling door to door, sending out circulars and so on. A fairly chaotic situation might develop, and the individual prizes, and the gains to the charities, might be unattractively small, and they certainly would not offer anything to vie with the formidable football pools.
Here I come to my second difficulty. The Report suggests, partly on moral grounds and also to give the charitable lotteries a chance, that the gigantic prizes distributed by the pools should have a legal ceiling of £100,000 imposed upon them. I suppose in order to compensate the pools promoters, it is suggested that they should be entitled to act as organisers for the large-scale charitable lotteries. This is a concept which has an appeal of sorts, because of the pools vast experience and administrative know-how. But I very much question whether they would willingly go along with the proposal. There is no indication in the Report that they were consulted, and honestly I doubt their acceptance of the proposal.
416 Having stated my difficulties, I should now like to put forward, in a few words, a practical proposal. As the right reverend Prelate said, one has to be realistic, and I think that there has been a change in the climate of opinion. I was impressed by what he said about V.A.T. in relation to some of the organisations classified as charitable. I can say that, so far as Covent Garden is concerned, the introduction of V.A.T. has had a pretty terrible effect. This is not because it has reduced the number of people coming, but because the natural increase in the seat price that we should have been able to introduce has been introduced but has all been paid over to the Government.
The Government previously did not want to tax places like the Royal Opera House or the concert halls—in fact, they did not tax any theatres—but now they are putting 10 per cent. on all of us. Some rather obscure words were used by the Chancellor of the Exchequer as to how we might be compensated, but the interpretation of those words seems to me to be enormously obscure. If we are going to have lotteries—and leaving aside the pros and cons of the lotteries—the idea that they should be used to help charitable (including artistic and sporting) activities has much to recommend it. I do not propose to discuss the methods of regulation put forward in the Report because, as the noble Lord, Lord Greenwood of Rossendale, said, this is so much a preliminary canter, and there are many words to be spoken before anything happens at all.
My suggestion, which I do not think runs absolutely counter to what the noble Lord, Lord Fiske, suggested, is that when we get some legislation, which I trust we shall do some day, there should be three main lotteries launched with active encouragement from the Government of the day. I suggest that the first of these lotteries should be designed to help the Arts in the broadest sense; the second should be designed to help sporting activities in the broadest sense, leaving aside horseracing which looks after itself very well; and the third should be designed to cover a wide range of humanitarian causes. I know that at the moment there are certain medical charities, notably the Spastics Society, which raise considerable sums from the 417 pools which they are permitted to organise by the Pools Competitions Act 1971, but I believe that that Act continues only until 1976 and it has no bearing upon any organisation which was not already running a pool of the type specified when the Act was passed. So it is of no help to new organisations. There should be some means found of helping recognised medical charities to run their own show but beyond that, to have dozens of organisations running competing lotteries, pools or whatever they might be called, is a rather daunting thought. Therefore I suggest the encouragement of three principal charitable lotteries.
In the case of the Arts charitable pool, it might be desirable for any net proceeds after deduction of prizes and running expenses to be applied only to approved projects of a capital nature, rather than to financing the normal running deficits which are taken care of by the Arts Council from their annual grant. The proceeds of the Arts lottery might helpfully be administered by the Arts Council itself, which at any given moment is aware of the major needs for new buildings, or for the improvement of existing buildings. In the same way, I suggest that the administration of any monies raised by the sports lottery should be placed under the Sports Council, of which Dr. Roger Bannister is the chairman, although I am afraid that I am lamentably ignorant of the work of the Sports Council. The third lottery, designed to assist broad humanitarian purposes, might be placed under the National Council of Social Service which has a very wide-ranging knowledge of the needs of most charities.
The football pools make only a very small percentage profit—under 3 per cent.—on a very large turnover indeed. The expenses of running the pools are around 27 per cent. of the turnover and around 37 per cent. is distributed as prize money. The remaining 334 per cent. is taken by the Inland Revenue and if our new charitable lotteries—if we get them—are to have any chance of getting off the ground and of offering attractive prizes and leaving something for the good causes, then the Inland Revenue must take a lenient view about the rate of tax which they will pay. Initially, they might take far less than the 33⅓ per cent. which is taken from the football pools' turnover, although 418 there might be provision for some kind of sliding scale of tax rates, rising as the lotteries become more efficient and grow in importance. There might be some modest loss of revenue to the Exchequer but there would certainly be substantial benefits to the community. I am quite sure that many of those benefits might never otherwise be experienced by the community.
The total turnover—I shall not say "money spent", in view of what the noble Lord, Lord Wigg, said earlier—on gambling of all kinds is £2,500 million a year, of which the turnover on the pools is a mere £200 million. Virtually all the present forms of gambling are commercial and are run for private gain, so I ask, following the right reverend Prelate who said that we ought to be realists: why not let charity have a look in as well?
§ 5.16 p.m.
§ LORD WIGG
My Lords, I did not intend to speak but I saw two noble Lords scratched, if I may use a racing term, and the noble Lord, Lord Greenwood of Rossendale, looked askance because I had not put my name down. I decided to weary your Lordships with my view. I should explain why I did not wish to speak then. I have an interest to declare. I was a member of the Racecourse Betting Control Board and perhaps I should explain the circumstances in which I joined that Board. I was sent for by the then Labour Chief Whip, who said that it was customary to have a member of the Labour Party as a member of that Board. But having asked me, he then said it was his advice that I should not accept, because I sat for a non-conformist constituency and it might have an adverse effect upon me politically. That is the kind of remark which does not worry me and I promptly accepted, but that would be, of course, a very active consideration for the noble Lord, Lord Greenwood, as I shall show in a moment.
I was nominated by a Conservative Minister of Agriculture and, as I generally do, I played what part I could in the framing of the policy that led to the legislation which a Conservative Government subsequently put on the Statute Book. I always regard it as one of the highest compliments ever paid to me that, during the passage of the betting legislation through the Commons, the Bill was amended to 419 make it possible for the noble Lord, Lord Butler of Saffron Walden, the Conservative Home Secretary, to put me, a Labour Member of Parliament, onto the Horse-race Totalisator Board. Subsequently, I was appointed for a second period by another Conservative Member of Parliament Mr. Henry Brooke, who is now the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor, who certainly had no cause to love me. But I served on the Horserace Totalisator Board and I did what I could. Subsequently, Mr. Wilson, then the Prime Minister, appointed me Chairman of the Horserace Betting Levy Board. So I have a continuing interest, and in regard to that interest I have said what I wanted to say about betting legislation so many times that I did not want to say it again for I was afraid of becoming a bore. But I will say it all over again for it seems necessary to do so, and as the hour is young, I have plenty of time in which to have my say.
I pay tribute to Mr. Witney who has produced a scholarly document of great excellence, but of course it is a phoney Report. The Report has been written by civil servants because the Government do not have the guts to face up to two very difficult problems. As Ministers do not have the courage to tackle social problems, what do they do? They sweep them under the carpet; they let them fester; they let them become grave social ills and then they appoint a group of civil servants to write a Report to which the Government remain completely uncommitted. The one remark which the noble Lord, Lord Greenwood, made this afternoon which was true was that there will not be any legislation before the next General Election.
I have a very bad background. I have none of the attributes of nearly every speaker in this House this afternoon, who are much more civilised and morally much better than I am. I am one of the humble undeservingly poor. I have always kept clear of middle-class morality, particularly when it takes on the kind of humbug that comes from the mouth of Lord Greenwood. I am undeserving. I am unworthy. I gamble? No. I never gamble—but I bet. I have had two bets recently. I found a "mug" to lay me 2 to 1 that Mr. Heath was going to have a General Election. I had £10 on that, so I am £20 up. I then 420 had another bet. I have taken £50 to £20 with Ladbroke's that the Conservatives will not get a majority in the next House of Commons. So there are a couple of bets based upon judgment. I do not gamble, but bet. Plenty of people gamble but do not bet.
If I want to illustrate the story of humbug before I really get into some infighting, let me tell a story about my old friend James Chuter Ede, who was Home Secretary and a Unitarian. I happen to share his views. I took him racing. His sister died the other day; I had taken her racing, too. If they had 10 shillings on a horse it was very odd. But during the course of a debate in the House of Commons, Chuter Ede got into an argument with Mr. George Thomas, now the right honourable George Thomas. As usual, George, putting the moral point of view, had got his facts wrong, and Chuter Ede got up and corrected him. George Thomas said, "All right, Chuter—I cast my bread upon the waters". Chuter Ede, with that penetrating eye for truth, said, "There is no bigger gamble than that"; and that is about right.
Now I come to Lord Greenwood. We have had a long moralising diatribe about the evils of gambling. He has never had a bet. When he went round the constituency he could hardly buy a ticket for a lottery, so overwhelmed was this good man. But what happened in 1964? A Labour Government was faced with an enormous deficit. Nothing like the deficit to-day, of course: a deficit running at a mere £1,000 million a year—mere chicken feed! Lord Greenwood was a member of the Cabinet. The Government wanted revenue because they were going to increase old age pensions. The Prime Minister said, "We must look round for revenue." I said to him, "Well, Harold, why not tackle social evils? There is a record of the Tory legislation. They have boxed it up at every point. It has turned out quite differently from what they thought it would turn out. What about looking at taxation in this field?" So a subcommittee was set up. I do not suppose I should be breaking my Privy Council Oath if I said that the chairman was the Chancellor of the Exchequer. There were high officials, and me.
421 The first argument that was put to us was, "Oh!, but Mr. Churchill failed". I do not share my fellow countrymen's views about Mr. Churchill: he failed in lots of things. It is true that he had imposed a tax on turnover. At any rate, we tackled the problem in 1926. There was plenty of time for Mr. Greenwood to act in 1966, before the General Election; he was a member of the Cabinet—this noble righteous man. Mr. Callaghan, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, went to the House of Commons in March, 1966, and forecast that if he put a tax on turnover of 2½ per cent. as from October, 1966, he would get £2½ million in the first six months. He got £11 million. He forecast that in a full year he would get £11 million. He got £31 million. I told Harold Wilson that if the problem was handled properly he would get at least £100 million a year.
Noble Lords should get rid of the habit of reading only The Times or the Financial Times and go and do their homework. If they read the latest Custom and Excise returns they will see that for 1973–74 the general betting duty will be just on £100 million. I said my grumble in this is that the noble men, these righteous creatures, do not mind taking the rewards of sin, provided that some other sinners do the sinning to get it and that they can then claim the virtue of spending on widows and orphans—this money which has been got from sinning by the sinners. My word for that is "humbug".
Now I want to turn to the Bishop of London. He is another example. He finds great sin in betting shops. "Easy money", he says; "great gains for small amounts. Betting shops, football pools—all of them are the way to hell". My Lords, what about the Stock Exchange? What about the gambling on commodities? What about the gambling on tin, on cocoa, on wheat? What about the gambling on the commodities which people eat and which clothe them, on the raw materials by which they earn their livelihood? If it is sinful to gamble with one, it is sinful to gamble with the other.
§ THE LORD BISHOP OF LONDON
My Lords, if the noble Lord listened to my speech he will remember that I drew the attention of noble Lords to the fact 422 that there were other ways that were undesirable, and that I equated those two together.
§ LORD W1GG
I quite agree, my Lords. The Bishop spells out the one in detail and then he tosses the other aside as "other means". If you are going to spell the one out, spell out the other. I have spelt out both. I say that gambling in this country goes even wider than people think. If one takes the turnover as it is expressed by the Financial Times in their terms, the figure, including illegal gambling, is in my judgment not less than £3,500 million a year. It is by far the biggest industry of any.
I interrupted Lord Greenwood (but he did not understand) to bring this point out. The facts are that the amount gambled is not the same as the amount of the turnover; and I gave the homely illustration which I have used to convince bookmakers on a number of occasions. I have learned my economics playing pontoon; it is the only game I really know. If you play pontoon all night and four of you have got five shillings each—I said £5 each, but that is a rather ridiculous figure because in my day five shillings was a fortune—the total amount that can be taxed, the total amount involved, is £1. But if you gambled all night and you had an Economist writer over one shoulder and a Financial Times writer over the other, they would say. "Here are these four wretched people, and the turnover is £500". This is unmitigated nonsense.
If you are going to tackle the problem of raising a levy you have got to get down to basic figures. Here, if I may just pray it in aid, let me say that I inherited from the noble ones of this land bills a yard long and a levy of £2,300,000. When I left it was a levy of £7 million, which is just about right. But let us turn to the history of betting legislation The 1959 Conservative Manifesto contained the provision—they called it a pledge by Mr. Butler—that if they won the Election they would deal with two social evils. Prostitution was one—the girls on the streets. That led to the Street Offences Bill. The second was illegal betting.
The reason for this legislation—and I cannot understand why the moralists do not grasp this—was that there was 423 a greater social evil than gambling spreading in our land. It had its roots in Scotland. There were illegal betting shops long before the passing of the 1960 Act, and there was every sign of protection rackets. Mr. Butler here showed his wisdom. I believe he was right, and I backed him. I voted five times against my Party on one night on his legislation, because I do not believe in saying one thing at one time and another at another time. Basically Mr. Butler was right, he put his legislation through, but then the nobles of the land turned round and said—what? They were Members of your Lordships' House, not members of the undeserving poor like me. They were noble men in the aristocratic technical sense of the word. They said, "If you rare going to put your snout in the trough we want our snout in, too". So we had the Betting Levy Bill. They said they would not support the Government on the original legislation unless there was a Betting Levy Bill.
So we had the Peppiatt Committee, the Committee which was set up under the chairmanship of Sir Leslie Peppiatt. The sum of £3 million was asked for, but in the event this sum was quite inadequate. The only person in this land who has a right to complain about it is not I: it is Mr. Enoch Powell. Mr. Enoch Powell was the only Member of the House of Commons who objected in principle to that legislation—and he was right. He said. "If you hypothecate you bring in its train the smell, the pressures which ultimately lead to corruption. As chairman of the Horserace Betting Levy Board, by Heaven I learnt that lesson over five stormy years! This is why our 18th century forefathers would not have it: this is why Mr. Enoch Powell would not have it. If you start raising taxation for specific purposes pressures will grow. They may stem from the noblest of forces but they will ultimately grow until they become almost irresistible. They reach the point when Governments cannot act.
Let me now move forward to the current issues. I have no proof, but I am convinced that among the largest subscribers to the Conservative Party funds are the pool promoters. In making that statement I base it on form. See what happened in the Maudling Budget of 1963. With a stroke of the pen fixed-odds 424 betting vanished; it has gone. The safest bet on the cards was to bet on three draws, 65 to 1. But once the pool of betting on fixed odds was raised to 25 per cent. and pool betting was reduced from 33⅓ per cent. to 25 per cent. they were equal fixed-odds bets. It was a pool promoters' bonanza. I noticed again when I left the Horserace Betting Levy Board that there was a crack-brained proposal. May be many of your Lordships who like to lose your money in pleasant ways had subscribed to the roll-up. I knew it could not last; it was based on a load of nonsense. But the Home Office had done this under pressures from the pool promoters.
In putting it that way I think I am not being absolutely fair. I think that the Home Office were landed, and are still landed, with a Horserace Totalisator Board, which, may I mention, is a Government monopoly, which at one stage was making a loss. This is almost incredible, but it is true. Now it is going from weakness to weakness. I was a member of it with Mr. Astor; Lord Derwent was a member for a few weeks, and the turnover on the policies that we adopted rose by £40 million per annum. It has now sunk to between £26 million and £27 million. Last week I saw an announcement in the Daily Mail that they are not even satisfied with that. Having failed to do the two things which by Statute they were required to do the Government are now going to do something else. They are actually going to appoint Mr. Bruce to bet on the rails on the racecourses.
I should like the Minister to tell us if, as will probably happen, the losses incurred by the Totalisator Board exceed their assets, this will be a charge on the Consolidated Fund? I am sure all the pundits who bet with the Tote and set any old price above the odds will expect to get paid, and if there is no money in the Tote kitty they will have to go to the Home Office for it. I shall look forward to that day with some interest. The Home Office certainly had been given figures which were not strictly accurate, and that made them take stampede measures to pass the Betting Levy Act of 1972. There was no justification for it in fact.
Let us go on with this particular story. What is the dilemma of the Government at the present time? Why did they set up 425 this Committee? I interrupted the noble Viscount. I did not want to embarrass him. I am, as I say, a member of the undeserving poor; and therefore of a kindly disposition. He was telling us that there is £1,000 a week maximum by linked prizes. That is right. But what about the other limits? There is another limit for a betting proprietor, a bingo proprietor: and this proviso does not depend upon Statute; that is to say, it may be altered by the Home Secretary. Section 20(8) of the Gaming Act 1968 reads:Provided that the Secretary of State may by order provide that this subsection shall have effect with the substitution, for the reference to £250,…Here is the dilemma. The people who play bingo are working-class people. It is the undeserving poor who go there; not the clients whom the noble Baroness, Lady Stocks, talked about; not the well-off; not the members of the Jockey Club; not the Etonian or Harrovian, or other public school men. For those who play housey-housey—that is what we called it in my barrack room days—there is a limit: no more than £1,000 if the prizes are linked; no more than £250 added in any one week. But for the pools promoters, the subscribers to the Tory funds which caused the Conservative Government to put their fixed-odds rivals out with a stroke of the pen—no limit.
The football pools depend upon people winning a very large amount with a minimum outlay. It is in fact a lottery. The noble Viscount, Lord Norwich, said that the more you knew about football the less was your chance of winning. This was brought out in the Royal Commission's Report. They gave tables; they employed mathematicians to demonstrate the fact that football pools are a lottery, yet the contribution of the football pools to the sport on which they depend is a miserly £2 million a year. Here I take the noble Viscount, Lord Colville of Culross, with me; I think he shares my view on this. The Football Association and the Football League ought to go together and bang on the table and say, "We want £20 million". I support him, and I shall support him not only with my voice but with my vote. There is no case for the Football Associations coming to the Government and kicking their door in until they have first of all tried to squeeze the 426 football pools promoters and order that they should hand over a great deal of money.
I do not believe that this or any other Government—certainly if they are wise—will ever again repeat the Horserace Betting Levy Act. That was a once-for-all operation. It was in the teeth of the opposition of the Treasury, and I pay my tribute to Mr. Powell—he was right. For God's sake do no repeat it. If you carry it to its logical conclusion you will have the Home Office deciding whether a race shall be five furlongs or six furlongs. That would indeed be ridiculous. I think the way forward is for the Government to act where we failed. As a Minister I tried to get conversations going between the Home Office on the one hand and the Treasury on the other, because the separation of policy throws up a very grave problem. Mr. Butler and his successors at the Home Office have a responsibility for what I would call the social implications of their policy. The Home Office must be concerned about corruption of the young and the old. If gambling is the corrupting influence that it is supposed to be, I am prepared to believe that there are cases of abuse just as there are cases of abuse of anything, then remedial action must be taken. But what? The social consequences rest with the Home Office.
The decision that was taken by a Labour Government, even though the noble Lord, Lord Greenwood of Rossendale, appears to be unaware of it, was a very right decision. Taking their cue from Mr. Butler—and I certainly share Mr. Butler's views on this point—we decided not to suppress, we sought to control, not through the courts, but through financial control. Mr. Butler's reform was to take the punishment of gambling from the courts with the absurd spectacle of bookmakers lining up to decide whose turn it was to be fined. This week this man and next week it was to be somebody else. Take that away and give the job to the Board of Customs and Excise. Give the job to the Treasury. That was the Labour Government's policy but it did not go far enough.
The difficulty is that the Treasury are responsible for taxation. They are a law unto themselves. For example, under the advice of the Board of Customs and Excise Mr. Jenkins and his officers made 427 the extraordinary mistake of imposing the rateable value tax. Of course it did not work because it meant that a bookmaker who was taking £20,000 a week in a shop, and a fellow round the corner who was taking only £500, were placed on terms of equality. That was ridiculous and it lasted only for a year. Not all the wisdom, and sometimes not very much of the wisdom, rests in the Treasury. But wise or not, responsibility for the imposition of taxation rests with the Chancellor. And then the wheel turns; responsibility for the social consequences of what the Chancellor does, rests with the Home Secretary. Divide responsibility and both go their separate ways.
I freely admit that we failed to solve this problem. So far as I was concerned, it was not for want of trying. But what I want to say is this: like so many of our problems the problem with which we are now dealing is a reflection of the state of the country as a whole. This is a class problem. Legislation was operated for a century or more on a class basis. If you were well off and had references you could pick up a telephone and could bet on credit with any bookmaker, within the law. Of course, if you were not and did not have references or a bank account and went round the corner and put sixpence each way on a horse, you could be arrested and the man who took it could also be arrested. Mr. Butler—and again I pay my tribute—abolished all that. He did it under the pressure of events. But it has started again. To-day we have listened to a debate sublime in its remoteness from reality. Noble Lords are going to lay down the law that governs the habits of millions of our fellow countrymen. You can lay down a law but they will please themselves whether or not they obey it.
If you are foolish enough to try to do some of the things that have been talked about to-day, what you will do is to drive betting underground. That is already happening with gaming. The Gaming Board, despite the panegyrics of the Bishop of London, is not an independent body. Its staff is borne on the establishment of the Home Office, which appoints the Board. The Board is required to carry out what is laid down in the Act, but its ultimate master is the Home Secretary. The point is made in Section 428 28. This is by order of the Secretary of State, and the figure of £250 was probably sense in 1968, but with the erosion of the value of money it is nonsense today—absolute nonsense. It was the practice of some bingo proprietors to send old people on trips to America on the "Queen Elizabeth". As part of the prize they gave prizes in kind. They cannot do that any more because the cost is too great. The Secretary of State can alter that provision if he wants to, but he does not want to because pressures from those who feel this do not make themselves felt.
My introduction to housey-housey was in the Army—and a pretty dishonest introduction it was, because the technique we employed was to get half a dozen cards and pay for only one. Provided we were not spotted it was a profitable evening and that meant a supper in the canteen. If it was not successful we probably got kicked out, and if the fellow taking the money was bigger than us we probably got a black eye. Housey-housey has now become bingo but it has also become part of the social expression of the times. If I were the Bishop of London—and thank God I am not!—I would be saying of the bingo clubs and betting shops that this was the price of my failure. That is my failure, and the failure of men of my cloth to set before the ordinary people of this country an example that would make them do more worthwhile things than spend all their time playing housey-housey or standing around in a betting shop.
The betting shop to-day plays the part that the public-house used to play. Many people to-day—and perhaps they may even be the deserving poor—cannot afford to go in and buy a drink but they can go into a betting shop. There they have the newspapers. In a public library the list of probable starters is pasted over because it is regarded by those governing our affairs as immoral that people should be able to see it in the public library. So they go into a betting shop. There it is warm, light and they can mix with their cronies.
The trend to-day—if I may almost philosophise—is that the young people want to become involved. They want to do things in association. But we live in a society that pays people to atomise them, make them think that they are 429 better than the Joneses next door: have a washing machine, colour television, a car; be different! But the great urge is for people to come together, and they find the expression of that urge where they can. They found it at the end of the last century in the gin palace, in the pub. Now it is bingo. Now it is the betting shop. What I tried to do as Chairman of the Horserace Betting Levy Board was to encourage the use of racecourses. Long before I became Chairman, or even dreamt of taking on that responsibility, I wrote a memorandum in association with two Conservative Members of Parliament, Mr. Richard Stanley and the late Captain Dance, in which we argue that racecourses should be developed and used for purposes other than racing on non-racing days.
I argued the same case in the debates on the Crowd Safety Bill and argued that football grounds should get grants and be assisted, if necessary, by public money for the same purpose. Because one wants social centres and places not necessarily where the public can go to gamble. I am dead against gambling, dead against drinking and dead against smoking, if it is in excess. But this is a free society. People do what they want to do. But they should be given an opportunity to live a better life and I say, not on my own behalf—because in this matter tonight I speak only with reluctance—but on behalf of all those like Lord Butler who fought this out and acted as they did. They were trying to do the best they could in difficult circumstances.
I wish I could say the same about the Home Office to-day. They have hidden behind this Report. They have hidden behind it because they do not have the courage to do what ought to be done; that is, to put a limit on the size of the football pools and to leave the door open for the Football Association and the Football League to squeeze more money out of them in the interests of sport. That is what ought to happen. I go further. The whole of this problem needs to be looked at again. In saying that, I certainly do not deride the efforts of Mr. Witney and his friends. I have received too many kindnesses from Mr. Witney when I had responsibility at the Home Office for the Levy Board activities to say anything that is critical, but what is obvious is that the legislation of 1960, however noble the purpose—and I pay 430 my tribute—has worked out quite differently from what was anticipated.
My Lords, let us reflect for a moment. The legislation as originally drafted prohibited loitering. It was illegal to loiter. Betting shops were to be astringent. People were to walk in and walk out. But the police turned round and said, "Sorry, we cannot police that". So this kind of betting shop emerged. The legislation provided that there should not be radio or television. But, of course, the drafters of the Act, and the Home Secretary, under-estimated the ingenuity of modern technology. So now you have the commentary, and before you know where you are you will get pressure for closed circuit television which will again popularise the use of the betting shop. These things were never envisaged.
There is something else, my Lords. Nobody ever dreamt for a moment that betting shops would become as numerous or as popular as they are. At present there are over 14,000 of them. Noble Lords need not rely on my figures or on the Financial Times or the Economist. The figures may be found in a Report, sent out by the Home Office about three weeks ago, which sets out the number of betting shops. There are about 7,000 viable businesses. Another great change is taking place. A very limited number of big businesses, probably fewer than 150, pay more than 50 per cent. of the total levy; that is 150 out of between 6,000 and 7,000. The price of a betting shop now is very high. And, be it noted, among the big operators the ratio of betting to the total volume of their business is falling all the time, because the attraction of a betting shop is that it has a large cash flow. Sir Charles Clore—not a member of the undeserving poor—bought Hills. What for? Because he is interested in racing? Not on your Nelly! Why did the heirs of the late Mr. William Hill sell? Because they got paid in paper, and paper which could be turned into cash; shares in Sears which, if they took it in that way, avoided the payment of capital gains tax. William Hill is only a small part of the total of that business.
These big proprietors must begin to ask themselves a question. What is the return on the capital? If the return is 15 per cent., they can go and lend the money to the building societies, I am told, for 18 per cent. So the thing is changing 431 yet again. What we should be doing here is not moralising and particularly about half-baked, ill-thought out facts which have no relevance at all to the realities of the situation. The Government should not hide behind their civil servants. The Government, and it should be done at the highest level—by the Prime Minister—should set about trying to see how they can breach the dichotomy in policy which exists in our time, and has existed for the last decade and a half, between the needs, demands and duties of the Treasury on the one hand and the duties of the Home Office on the other. They should take a forward view and be prepared, after the General Election. Of course, I should not be addressing them; I should be addressing the noble Lord, Lord Greenwood of Rossendale, the future Home Secretary. He should be prepared to go to Parliament with a new measure which takes into account the social practices of the time.
If noble Lords are interested, I would beg them at some time to do a study of the way in which people bet on horses. In essence there are only three kinds of betting, win, place, and "any to come". But under "any to come" betting there are included "doubles", "trebles", "Yankees". "round the clock","up and down"—a list as long as your arm—whereby the lads who bet on racing are doing just the same as the lady with a pin does on Friday night with her pools coupon. They are trying to win a lot of money with a small stake, and that is why bookmakers get rich and football pool promoters pay large dividends. Our job here as wise men should be to recognise that there is gambling in all societies"—I repeat, "all societies". It is no accident that the Lord's Day Observance laws relating to gambling stem from the age of the Puritans. It was rife then.
Gambling exists in all societies. I remember being in East Germany with my noble friend Lord Shinwell. We were "going the rounds"; he had been invited out and I went with him. It was in 1951 and we were staying at an hotel. The noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, noted a continual stream of men going in and out of another building, and he became curious. I think that possibly he thought the building was a brothel. I was much younger, and so the noble Lord, Lord 432 Shinwell, gave me the job of going to find out what it was all about. I discovered that it was a betting shop. In East Germany, my Lords, I actually backed the winner of the English 2,000 Guineas and drew the money before the weigh in—something that I could not do in a betting shop in this country. I have been racing in Moscow, and they bet there. It is part of the human make-up. My Lords. I am so far debased that not only have I actually owned a racehorse, but I have ridden one. No one would believe that once I rode at ten stone four, but I did, and I got great pleasure from it. I never won a race, but I had great fun.
I can tell noble Lords this, and I would tell it to the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London. If you own a racehorse if you are interested in racing, it is the most civilised of all occupations. Men go on a racecourse and they bet with large sums of money. There are no contracts, no lawyers, no accountants—it is just their word. The number of times in the course of a year that men and women break their word is very small. This could happen only in England. This is a very English trait. I have derived a great deal of enjoyment from racing, and my last word is that if you own a racehorse and you are interested in racing the one thing you will never do is commit suicide, because you live on hope.
§ LORD COLERAINE
My Lords, before the noble Lord, Lord Wigg, sits down I wonder whether he would clarify my mind on one point. I did not want to interrupt—indeed I did not dare to interrupt—the flow of his eloquence, which, which was so enjoyable and which, if I may say so, combined common sense and common nonsense in a most admirable fusion. But about halfway through his speech, that is to say a little more than 20 minutes ago, he said that there was absolutely no distinction to be drawn between the pools promoters and the speculators in commodities or foodstuffs. He criticised the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London because he had drawn such a distinction. But surely there is a very real distinction. As the right reverend Prelate said, the pools promoter gains a great fortune without performing any economic function whatever. But the speculator in commodities, whether he knows it or whether he wants 433 to do it, does perform an economic function, in as much as he tends to stabilise prices over the long term; and that is very much to the benefit of the consumer, is it not?
§ LORD WIGG
My Lords, I do not apologise for speaking for 40 minutes. I was the last person to speak, I was invited to speak and therefore I took advantage of the invitation, and there is no apology on that score. As regards the pools promoter, he really is a bit of a chap. The richest man in England is said to be Mr. Moores, who has a fortune of £600 million. No wonder he subscribes to the Conservative Party! I entirely agree that he performs absolutely no function at all. But he grew up almost overnight, and whenever his needs have been found to be in need of protection, a Conservative Government have always protected him, right down to this Report. The speculator of course does perform a function: he wins and he loses. But so does the punter. He also plays an essential part in teaching the undeserving poor, like myself, economics. The speculator plays a very important part in a capitalist society; but basically, like the pools promoter, he is a parasite, and both are protected by a Conservative Government.
§ LORD COLERAINE
—and I do not know whether this gentleman, whose name I have forgotten, contributes to the Conservative Party funds or not. But could the noble Lord give an absolute guarantee that he does not contribute to the Labour Party funds as well?
§ LORD WIGG
My Lords, I cannot guarantee; I can only hope. I can only say this, that according to this Report, whenever the pools promoters stand in need of legislative help they always get it. The Maudling Budget of 1963 is the classic case. This Report now is the last smokescreen to protect the pools promoters. I know of no similar action by a Labour Government, and certainly do not believe that a Labour Government containing people like the noble Lord, Lord Greenwood, would for a moment protect the pools 434 promoters—or, for that matter, any other type of gambler.
§ 6.2 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF MANSFIELD
My Lords, may I thank all noble Lords who have taken part in this debate this afternoon, and that must include the noble Lord, Lord Wigg. I am not sure whether the noble Lord actually mentioned my Motion, but he did wave the Report to which we have been referring. I am sure the House will forgive me if I do not summarise what each speaker has said. My late father always used to say that one should leave the table after a meal still a little hungry, and that is how I suggest we should adjourn this afternoon.
There is a dichotomy—certainly a difference of opinion—as to whether large lotteries would have a useful function in the future, although everybody agrees they must be subjected to fairly rigorous safeguards to protect the public and, not least, the charities which they are supposed to be helping. Several noble Lords who advocated this were keen on large lottries but unable to quite see how they could be brought into operation without there being a tremendous duplication. So far as national lotteries are concerned, I think we varied in view from those who did not want them at all to those who, like the noble Earl, Lord Drogheda, wanted no less than three. I would merely say that a national lottery, or three national lotteries, would have certain advantages, but I still do not understand who would be the arbiter of how the "goodies" would be shared out at the end of the day and how that could be achieved without a great deal of ill-feeling.
§ THE EARL OF DROGHEDA
My Lords, would the noble Earl forgive me? I did make suggestions as to who should be the arbiter and how the money should be shared out. I will not repeat what I said, but I suggested that the Arts Council, the Sports Council and the National Council of Social Service should be brought into action.
§ THE EARL OF MANSFIELD
My Lords, I am much obliged to the noble Earl and I must apologise to him—I thought he had gone to the opera. But he did make a suggestion, and if I say that I did not think a great deal of it I 435 am sure he will not think I am too offensive. The other point, as to how to stop the unpleasantness which inevitably will result, the noble Earl did not touch upon—and indeed he could not have done so without a great deal of thought. The noble Viscount, Lord Colville, summing up the present law, mentioned a great many of the pitfalls, some of which, it must be confessed, are not in the Report at all. These include matters concerned with the sale of tickets and how the accountancy is to be done, and also the regulations to be adopted if there was a new Act. These are interlocking and in fact interacting.
One thing which is apparent is that there is a change of opinion which has certainly come about in public feeling and, I venture to suggest, also in your Lordships' House since the 1969 debate. I would make a plea for the general public of which we all are a part—and this applies to the noble Lord, Lord Greenwood, and to the right reverend Prelate equally: I do not believe that the public at large are so venal or so selfish as perhaps has been made out. Many of the people to whom I spoke before and after putting down my Motion have told me they would be quite prepared to go in for a lottery and to have a flutter, not so much for what they could get out of it but resting content in the thought of what they were putting into it. While this may be a wasteful method of raising money for good purposes, that does not in any way detract from the motives of those who go into it in the first place.
§ LORD GREENWOOD OF ROSSENDALE
My Lords, the noble Earl has attributed certain views to the right reverend Prelate and myself. I cannot think of a sentence in the speech made by the right reverend Prelate which would justify the deductions that the noble Earl has made, and I cannot remember one in my own speech either. If the noble Earl would like to write to the right reverend Prelate and myself to-morrow, indicating to which passage in our respective speeches he was referring, I think the right reverend Prelate and I would be much obliged.
§ THE EARL OF MANSFIELD
My Lords, I am sorry that the noble Lord does not ask me to tell him verbally in the 436 bar afterwards, but I am quite prepared to write to him about this—I have it in my notes. The noble Lord, Lord Greenwood, asked why it was, if pools are to be restricted to £100,000 by way of a first prize, so to speak, that people should turn their eyes from the pools to a large lottery for the sake of some charity or other, when the limit of prize money was only £75,000. My answer is that they would do it because they would want to do it and that they would want to aid a good cause. That is why I say that the public are perhaps a little less venal than might be inferred—and I have not even got a drink out of that! May I again thank all those who have taken part in this debate. I am sure that your Lordships' House, as it always does, has provided Government Departments with plenty to think about in the years to come—
§ THE EARL OF MANSFIELD
Meanwhile, I would ask that, as the Government make up their minds, they should try to get out of this sour habit of always trying to condemn things which may be enjoyable and frequently are quite innocent. I conclude by quoting from Section 41 of the Betting, Gaming and Lotteries Act 1963:… subject to the provisions of this Act, all lotteries are unlawful".What a sad phrase! Could we not get a new Statute and a new section which says in effect:… subject to rigorous safeguards and periodic review, certain lotteries shall be lawful—and please enjoy them"?Meanwhile, I beg leave to withdraw my Motion.
Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.