§ 3.4 p.m.
§ Lord SPENS rose to call attention to the need for a national council on gambling to be established to take over the work of the Churches' Council on Gambling, which is now being wound up; and to move for Papers. The noble Lord said: My Lords, the Churches' Council on Gambling was wound up two days ago after some 45 years of activity during which time no fewer than three Royal Commissions have reported on the very complex subject of gambling, the last of which—the Royal Commission under the chairmanship of the noble Lord, Lord Rothschild—reported in July of this year. I shall be referring to various aspects of that report and I propose to refer to it as Rothschild.
§ I have to declare three personal interests in this subject. First of all, "My name is Michael. I am a compulsive gambler" That is the introduction that is made by a member of Gamblers Anonymous to his fellow members. I am a member of Gamblers Anonymous and that is my first personal interest. Secondly, as the result of attending various meetings of Gamblers Anonymous, I came into contact with the Rev. Gordon Moody who has just retired from being the secretary of the Church's Council on Gambling. The Rev. Gordon Moody twisted my arm and invited me to become chairman of a newly formed charity, the Gordon House Association. This association was formed in April of this year, although it had been operating under a different name before it received charitable status. It runs a hostel for compulsive gamblers and concentrates mostly on those who have served a prison sentence as a result of their compulsion. The Home Office gives a very reasonable grant to help us run the hostel and I am very glad to be able to say that we also have a very useful annual grant from the British Casinos Association.561
§ Thirdly, I have recently become chairman of a country club which runs a very successful weekly instant lottery to help recoup the cost of a considerable expansion of its sporting facilities. So, my Lords, I am not against gambling. It is a human activity in which a very large percentage of our adult population indulge themselves, although there is a woeful ignorance of the extent to which people over-indulge to the serious detriment of themselves and their families.
§ How much gambling is there in Great Britain? Rothschild used a sample survey made in the spring of 1977 in connection with their investigation into the potential market for a national lottery. You will find the details, my Lords, on page 11 of Volume I of their report. This survey showed that 94 per cent. of the adult population, some 39 million people, engaged in some form of gambling but most only admitted to doing it occasionally, except for football pools where 35 per cent. make regular weekly stakes. The survey also showed that of those who admitted to being regular gamblers, there were twice as many men as women. In their opening chapter, Rothschild shows on page 3 a table of gambling finance in 1976. This shows the total staked during the year amounted to £7,100,000, of which £4,000 million were staked in casinos, £2,000 million in betting, off course and on the course, or £233 million on the pools, £299 million on bingo and £420 million on slot machines.
Of the £7,100 million staked during 1976, £6,300 million was returned to the punters as winnings; but it is assumed by Rothschild that most of those winnings were rapidly put into circulation as stakes and only £873 million was actually lost. That, for 39 million gamblers, is just a little more than £20 per head per year. Rothschild admits, on page 2 of Volume 1, that:
There is, therefore, a serious lack of quantitative information about certain classes of gambling…".
A little later on, on page 4, it is stated that:
Not enough work has been done, for example, to enable us to say with any certainty (or known degree of uncertainty) how many addictive or pathological gamblers there are in this country; nor even whether the number is large enough to cause national anxiety".
§ I received a letter from the national secretary of Gamblers Anonymous on Monday, and in her letter she writes of hundreds of thousands of compulsive gamblers. I rang her up because I thought that sounded like an exaggeration, but she confirmed on the telephone that that was her view of the number of compulsive gamblers. Whether or not it means just more than 100,000, I do not know.
My Lords, before the noble Lord goes on, could he tell us exactly what a compulsive gambler is? Is it, for example, a person who must fill in his pools coupon every week? Is he a compulsive gambler? If so, there must be many more compulsive gamblers.
My Lords, it is very difficult to define a compulsive gambler. I know what happened to me: I felt I had to go on gambling and I could not stop. I believe that is the real definition of a compulsive gambler. I do not propose to worry your Lordships with lurid stories that I have heard from Gamblers Anonymous about what has happened to compulsive gamblers. I will just say this: staking the rent or the housekeeping money is only the start of compulsive gambling, and it goes on from there.
At this point I think it is opportune to pay tribute to the Churches' Council on Gambling, which has operated for the last four or five years. The Council has never been anti-gambling; it has not been interested in private gambling. It has never studied the practice of gambling by itself, but only in the context of its effect on people's lives. During these four to five years it has acted as a watchdog and drawn the attention of Government to abuses. Through its very energetic secretary, the Reverend Gordon Moody, it has kept in touch with all the latest forms of gambling, and in particular, through his efforts, it introduced the concept of Gamblers Anonymous to this country from the United States. I am glad to say that now, some 14 years after it was first introduced, there are about 60 branches of Gamblers Anonymous throughout the country, doing a very good job of work. The idea behind it is very similar to that behind Alcoholics Anonymous. It is a means of self-help 563 not only for compulsive gamblers, but also for their wives and families, and, as I say, I am very glad that they are carrying out a marvellous job.
I think it is quite remarkable that the British Council of Churches, which represents all Churches except the Roman Catholic Church, should have managed to achieve a measure of fundamental agreement on this subject. It must have caused great difficulties and aroused very different feelings as between the liberal and conservative elements in the various Churches. When you read Rothschild you will find a large number of references to the British Council of Churches' report, or to their submission to Rothschild, although Rothschild has not accepted all their suggestions. Now that Council has gone and we have a vacuum, although the very first recommendation in Rothschild is that a research unit should be set up by the Home Office. That recommendation is made because right through the report attention is continually being drawn to areas of ignorance about gambling.
I think this is the moment to distinguish the position of the Gaming Board. It is not a gambling board; it is a statutory body set up under the 1968 Gaming Act and has specific responsibilities dealing with casinos, bingo, slot machines and other amusements. Later on, in 1971, it was given the task under the Football Promotions (Competitions) Act of approving licences to football pool promoters; and in 1975 and 1976 it was given additional responsibilities under the Lotteries and Amusements Act.
It is, as I have said, a statutory body and has no concern with other types of gambling; nor really with the effects of gambling on gamblers. Indeed the Gaming Board itself, in a recommendation to Rothschild—your Lordships will find it in Chapter 16—suggested that an overall gambling authority should be established. This view was supported by the Churches' Council on Gambling and by many other bodies, but Rothschild rejected it and, I think, rightly so, because it would have become much too bureaucratic. Rothschild says that the overall authority on gambling is the Home Office. I should like to say at this point that I have taken note of the statement that was made just under a fortnight ago in another 564 place by the Minister that a new unit has been set up in the Home Office to study the effects of Rothschild.
There is another general aspect of gambling that should be mentioned: the fact that gambling implements are becoming modernised and very sophisticated. With the advent of the computer chip, who knows what new methods of gambling will not be introduced, to interest and attract people who now do not gamble very much in the traditional ways? I am here thinking particularly of women, most of whom gamble only on bingo, but few of whom, apart from bingo, are regular gamblers. They seem to offer a very large target for enterprising gambling operators to shoot at with some new-fangled computer chip gambling idea.
The advent of the computer chip may also bring about another change in the pattern of gambling. I am one of those who believe that our country is likely as a result of the new industrial revolution that we are now about to undergo, to be faced with a far more serious problem of unemployment than anything that we have met before. However that problem is solved, I believe that it is bound to cause more leisure time for more and more people, and, in more leisure time, I think that more and more people will take up an interest in gambling, just because there is nothing else for them to do. Here, again, I believe that women are possibly more likely to be affected than men, as it seems to me that many women may find themselves facing difficulty in finding a job in the conditions of the new industrial revolution.
Rothschild is extraordinarily comprehensive and has produced some 303 recommendations. Among matters which are of general interest and possibly of some concern is the question of improvements in the amenities of betting shops—Chapter 7, Recommendation 9—and there is also the problem of the numbers of permitted areas in which casinos may be licensed, and their possible extension, which is dealt with in Chapter 18. Those are both subjects on which the views of a national council on gambling would be very useful.
The position, then, as I see it is this. There are still very large areas in the gambling field of which we know very 565 little, especially in relation to the extent to which gambling is harmful to those who indulge too much, and also in relation to new electronic gambling processes. With the demise of the Churches' Council on Gambling, there is no continuing group organised to study the possible harmful effects of gambling on our society, nor is there any recommendation in Rothschild to establish such a group. At present there is, therefore, no pressure group to goad Government into taking any action at all on the 303 recommendations of Rothschild. I am not saying that the Government will not do so of their own free will. I hope that they will do so, and they have indicated that they will, but there is no organised group to press them on that.
A number of us believe that there should be some such special pressure group, and a working party under the auspices of the Churches' Council on Gambling has been meeting. It has held five meetings this year and has produced a draft constitution, of which I have a copy here. Its objects are to advance the education of the public about the incidence and effect on society of gambling in all its forms; to promote and undertake research into such incidence and effect and publish the useful results thereof; to relieve the poverty and sickness of those members of our society whose development and participation in society is in any way impaired by gambling, and to discourage gambling in excess.
This working party included representatives of the British Council of Churches, the National Council of Social Service, certain women's organisations and the social service departments of the 33 London boroughs. It has also received support from the Roman Catholic Church and the Office of the Chief Rabbi. I should like to see the gambling operators themselves associated with a national council. I believe that if we are to form such a council, we have to go full circle and have them all sitting around the table. The working party has estimated that to establish a national council with a full-time director-secretary—someone who is paid to make contact with all the types of gambling that are going on—is likely to cost about £20,000 a year.
I have a letter from the representative on the working party of the departments 566 of social service, and I think that it is rather striking. He said:It is evident that, whilst gambling is a problem to a number of clients, social workers have little or no knowledge of the dimensions of the problem in society. They, and others in the helping agencies, are slowly recognising that compulsive gambling is a greater problem than has been acknowledged up to now".He therefore supports the establishment of a national council, and I was very pleased to welcome him yesterday evening as a member of my management committee of the Gordon House Association.
That is the situation. There is a vacuum at the moment. There have been three Royal Commissions, and the most startling recommendation from the latest is that a research unit should be established. There is at present no body that can talk to Government on behalf of gamblers themselves. There are various gambling operators' organisations, which will no doubt be talking to the Government very strongly. I ask your Lordships, by your speeches, to give approval to the concept that a national council on gambling should be established. I also ask the Minister to give us his blessing, and I should like to say one final word. Rothschild cost £585,000. That would keep a national council on gambling in being for very nearly 30 years. My Lords, I beg to move for Papers.
§ 3.28 p.m.
Lord ST. JUST
My Lords, I am very glad that the noble Lord, Lord Spens, won a place in the ballot for his Motion this afternoon. I admire him for declaring what I might call his interest as a compulsive gambler. I do not pretend to be a compulsive gambler, although I occasionally enjoy having a flutter. But I shall concentrate entirely on the question of casinos.
There always seems to me to be a certain amount of difficulty about figures which are given in reports of various kinds. One figure which was given was that fewer than 300,000 members of a population of 41 million play with any regularity at casinos. Casino clubs are now in a good position. In various ways, they have been through some difficult times. The law has been changed to allow them to choose their members. The rule is that there has to be a 48 hour delay before they accept a member, whether he is of 567 British nationality or whether he comes from abroad. Apparently, this causes a certain amount of difficulty among many people arriving from abroad because they think that they can walk straight into a casino, as they would be able to do in France or anywhere else, and start playing. Because of the structure of our casinos, I am certain that the situation is perfectly right and that it should remain as it is.
There is a certain amount of debate in the Rothschild Report concerning the drinking hours which should be allowed in these clubs. As many of your Lordships probably know, none of these clubs is allowed to have floor shows. It has been suggested that they should be allowed to extend their drinking hours. It is interesting that over the years the number of casinos in this country has dropped from over 1,000 to 121. There is a demand now for new casinos to be allowed to open in certain parts of the country. In the Rothschild Report it is suggested that places like Bath might be willing to open casinos.
I was extremely interested in what was said by the noble Lord, Lord Spens, about the question of compulsive gambling. In 1968, there was a very interesting debate in your Lordships' House during the Committee stage of the Gaming Bill. Lord Kilbracken, a few other Peers and I tried to get a register formed, which could be circulated to all casinos in the country, of people who were, or who admitted that they were compulsive gamblers. The late Lord Stonham, who was then answering from the Government Front Bench, was very interested in the idea but, quite understandably, we found that it was impossible for this register to be formed.
I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Spens, is quite right in his view that a national council on gambling would probably be an extremely good idea. There are many different forms of gambling and it would be very good to have a watch dog to look at the whole situation and at times to prod the Government. However, it is most important that a national council on gambling should not step in any way on the toes of the Gaming Board. The Gaming Board have now established themselves as an important body. They undertake their responsibilities very well 568 and the seedier side of the bad gambling clubs has been dismissed forever more.
§ 3.35 p.m.
My Lords, everybody in this House will thank the noble Lord, Lord Spens, for introducing this subject in an admirable way. He began by saying that his name is Michael and that he is a compulsive gambler. My name is Patrick and I think I can say that I am a compulsive non-gambler. I should like to take that as a tribute to my own virtue, but I cannot do so because I want to put up a defence of gambling. However, perfectly legitimate gambling can lead to a great many troubles if it is mixed with other things. That is why, before I say anything else—which will be confused—I should like very much to support the noble Lord's suggestion regarding the Council of Churches. Mr. Gordon Moody did wonderful work on this Council. I believe that I am right in saying that he is a Methodist, but it is quite irrelevant to me whether he is a Methodist, an Anglican or a Roman Catholic. However, the Council of Churches representatives clearly differ on whether gambling in itself is wrong or whether it merely leads to wrong in others. That is the subject which I should like to pursue for a few moments.
The noble Lord mentioned that there are 303 recommendations in the Rothschild Report. I shall not pretend that I have read the report from cover to cover. However, it contains a fairly comprehensive account of gambling in its various forms, ranging from games of skill that contain some element of chance to games of chance that contain no skill. I am not speaking on behalf of anybody except myself. This is a difficult question. There are, however, some easy questions. One was put forward in the Daily Express this morning by Mr. Osbert Lancaster. It referred to the Liberal Party. One of my favourite characters, Maudie Little-hampton, asked, "What sort of Christmas card is the Liberal Party going to send out?" I thought that was an easy question to answer. The sort of Christmas card that any political Party would send out would say, "We wish you a Happy Christmas and a happier New Year". To a Christian, and to a Member of the Liberal, Conservative or any other Party in this House, that would seem to me to be 569 a fair answer. However, it does not get one very much further.
I see that the noble Lord, Lord Soper, is in the House. I know that the noble Lord, Lord Soper, and others believe that gambling in itself is quite wrong. They regard it either as one of the Seven Deadly Sins or as forbidden by the Ten Commandments. I know that the noble Lord, Lord Spens, is a reader of the Old Testament. I remember him mentioning— although I forget when it was—the ten plagues of Egypt and, rather optimistically, saying that although seven of them do not threaten us now the three which still threaten us are a horror of great darkness, rivers of blood and the death of the first born. If the noble Lord was gambling on those assumptions, I think that he was right.
That is slightly off the point. May I say that I have not yet been convinced that gambling in itself is wrong, and I should be very glad to hear any other speaker in this House say so. On the other hand, arguments have been put up by, among others, a former Member of your Lordships' House, recommending it as a virtue. I think it was the first Marquess of Montrose who said:He either fears his fate too much or his desserts are smallWho dare not put it to the touch, to win or lose it all".That is what I should call a cavalier approach to gambling and we have to face the fact that that particular cavalier carried it out because he was hung, drawn and quartered and I do not think anybody would be ashamed of having taken the line that he did, whether they were monarchist or republican.
To take one other defence of gambling from somebody who was certainly not a cavalier in that sense and who might possibly have been Poet Laureate because he was a very popular poet at the time: I do not like the particular poem more than some of his others but I think he was hedging his bets because the poem is called "If" and it possibly holds the record for being the longest single sentence poem that I know of. He was clearly not a cavalier in the sense that he said:If you can keep your head when all about youAre losing theirs and blaming it on you".570 He then goes on in the middle of the poem to say:If you can make one heap of all your winningsAnd risk it on one game of pitch and toss,And lose and start again from your beginningsAnd never breathe a word about your loss".At the end of the poem it is clear that he is favouring that as somebody whom he does not despise, if I may put it like that. Women's Lib, would not like the end because I think the last lines are that if you can do all of these things,Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it, And—which is more—you'll be a Man, my son!I do not know what Women's Lib, would say about that but they would include it as a human being. I do not particularly like the tone of that poem if it is addressed by a Scout Master to a Wolf Cub or even by a school mistress to a hockey pupil. I think it is only tolerable if it is addressed by a fond father to his son, when it would have to be punctuated rather differently "And what is more, you'll be a man—my son".
That is where Christianity comes into this problem of gambling. How far is it justified to gamble with your own money or your own life or your own soul and how far with other people's money or lives or souls, with or without their permission? This is a short debate and it would take a very long time to go into that, but I think most of us would agree that without their permission it is not justifiable to gamble with their souls or their lives or their bodies, whether it is by a defaulting trustee or a Pope who has made errors or even a leading Presbyterian. Other people's souls are to some extent their own, as is their money and so forth. What we are considering here is what are the dangers that follow on from being a compulsive gambler.
I am very sorry that the Churches' Council has come to an end, and I am quite sure that it is absolutely right and proper that some sort of council should take its place, and one that on the one hand does not regard gambling as a deadly sin and on the other hand does not regard it as being something which it is safe to do, for people who know nothing about it. The immense amount of interest in the various forms of gambling that go on is a tremendous temptation to people who want to make money for themselves 571 without doing any work for it, if they can fool other people into doing it.
One would like to speak for 45 minutes on this subject. I have spoken for 10 minutes already, and that is perhaps too much, but I should like to make this distinction between ordinary forms of gambling. First, whether they are legal or illegal; secondly, whether they are right or wrong, and thirdly, whether they are fair or unfair. Any kind of council on this subject does not concern itself so much with whether it is legal or illegal, as has to be done in the very famous gambling case of Shylock v. Antonio in Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice.That was an interesting case of somebody who was not a gambler. In fact, his sin, if he had a sin, was avarice. He made a bet against somebody who was a highly respectable merchant of Venice at the time and whose sin, if he had one, was arrogance, or perhaps pride. He did not behave very well towards Shylock but it led to some very difficult decisions having to be made; and they were made in that particular play (and of course it might not happen in real life) by the only female character who, by a mixture of Women's Lib, and what would now be called transvestism, intervened and made it into a comedy instead of a black comedy. Shylock's first proposal was going back on all his own feelings of safe investment. The odds had been written down to 3,000 ducats. Owing to the perhaps justifiable, perhaps unjustifiable, fact that he had a chip on his shoulder, he made it a joke:…in a merry sport, if you repay me not on such a day,In such a place, such sum … let the forfeit Be nominated for an equal pound Of your fair flesh.Apparently he had not an earthly chance of winning that bet, but he did win it, and there had to be a decision as to whether he won it justly or unjustly. I know that sounds a little fantastic. I have spoken for 13 minutes now and I wish to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Spens, on introducing such an interesting debate on the 13th of this month.
The last point I wish to make is that lotteries, which are the most complete form of gambling—although one could be very much cheated by the operators because there is no question of skill in 572 them—were not entirely disapproved of by the early Church because when there was a question of one man being invited (as one might call it) to join a rather exclusive group of 12 people who had been chosen by what I think Christians would call "divine authority", the method chosen was to put it to the lot and the lot fell upon Mathias. If there is a patron saint of gambling I should like to put up a prayer to Mathias—not to be confused with Matthew—to support the contention put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Spens.
§ Lord SOPER
My Lords, before the noble Viscount sits down I should like to answer a point that he made in kindly reference to me. The Methodist position is that gambling is not one of the Seven Deadly Sins but it is to be found in the appendix. The other point about the Ten Commandments is that it seems to me to be prohibited in terms of the last of those Ten Commandments. I only wish that I did not have a previous engagement which will prevent me from attending further to this debate, but I am sure the noble Lord will understand. I only wanted to put that point right on behalf of the Methodist Church.
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Soper, told me yesterday that he was unable to take part in this debate. I was very glad to see him here; otherwise I should not have mentioned his name. I shall certainly think hard about the last Commandment, as to whether it does or does not prohibit gambling. I am very grateful to him for his intervention.
§ 3.50 p.m.
The Lord Bishop of ROCHESTER
My Lords, the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London, who was a Vice-President of the Churches' Council on Gambling is, unfortunately, not able to be here this afternoon, and it therefore falls to me to speak from these Benches in this debate introduced by the noble Lord, Lord Spens. Like several other good things now taken for granted in the life of the Churches of these Islands, the Churches' Council on Gambling owed its origin to Archbishop William Temple. It was set up in 1932 to prepare and submit evidence to the Royal Commission 573 on Gambling appointed in that year. It remained in being after that Royal Commission had reported, and it continued for over 45 years to offer information and advice on the impact of gambling and on the merits of proposed legislative changes. It was, I think, the particular achievement of the Council to give close attention to the facts of a changing situation. It had the services of a number of full time Secretaries, who not only mastered the statistics and the statutory basis of gambling but also achieved a unique position of trust among the peoples and bodies associated with gambling. These men included Mr. Benson Perkins, later a distinguished President of the Methodist Conference, and none have been more effective in the task than Mr. Gordon Moody, whose recent retirement has in fact precipitated the present discussion.
My Lords, it is a matter for some regret that, as your Lordships have already heard, the Churches and the other voluntary organisations have not felt able, with all the social issues that they have on their plate at the present time, to continue to finance a body that served the nation every bit as much as it served the Churches. I think the Churches' Council offered a unique example of the contribution which can be made to the analysis of public affairs and to the evolution of policy by a disinterested voluntary body. Its emphasis has been on achieving practical improvements rather than on making heavy denunciations. The Council quickly found such an approach sterile and it has always aimed to promote the wise public regulation of gambling, to prevent excesses of corruption and, in particular, to show concern for the protection of the vulnerable, so that the chance of making easy money by exploiting human weakness was minimised.
Many of your Lordships will, I know, agree that the public regulation of gambling is of some importance. We all know that we cannot control people's behaviour by Act of Parliament, though by it we can promote conditions which further the common good or which hinder it. But, as legislators, we know we have to be aware that while we can be a little ahead of public opinion we must not be too far ahead if respect for the law is not to be undermined. A body like the Council on Gambling was very important in 574 helping to form public opinion which then helped us all to legislate for the common good.
I think it has to be said that the work of the Churches' Council has not always been as much appreciated as it should have been, just because it has sought to be a national council and not a specialist lobby. The council has been concerned with the handling of gambling as a phenomenon within the structures of human life in which the Churches and individual Christians of all denominations were inextricably involved with other institutional structures and with fellow citizens of all kinds. And yet the council drew upon the Christian morality of grace, which cannot be structured but which can let loose creativity, spontaneity and imaginativeness in the world, with effects that are often profound, if indirect. It has, therefore, been possible for the morality of grace to help raise the general level of morality and to help ensure that institutions of our common life work in a humane and just way. I do not think it is too much to say that the Churches' Council on Gambling showed by its actions that the nation needs some such body to think on behalf of the public generally about this important matter.
As we have heard, the Council founded Gamblers Anonymous in 1964. As a result of consultative conferences which the Council arranged between 1971 and 1977, an independent learned society, the Society for the Study of Gambling, was formed. It was also the Council that was responsible for launching the Gordon House Association, which provides a hostel for homeless compulsive gamblers and of which the noble Lord, Lord Spens, has told us he is the Chairman. Throughout its life, the Council gathered and published information about gambling in this country, and with its demise there is no organisation equipped with the necessary staff to continue this work, which is particularly important when legislation is under consideration.
Your Lordships have already been reminded that the recent Royal Commission proposed a gambling research unit funded by the Home Office. Although this would not meet all the requirements of an independent body, one can presume that its annual reports to Parliament might make apparent the need for particular 575 changes in public policy in the way that the Council has done up till now. I hope, therefore, that the Minister will tell us that the Government are sympathetic towards this suggestion. If, when they finally announce their views on the Royal Commission's proposals, they do not agree to the proposal for a research unit, then I think that the case for an independent national council will be that much stronger. There are a good many precedents for pioneer work of the Churches being taken over and developed by the Government in the service of the nation. I hope that this will prove to be the case with regard to the national council on gambling.
§ 4 p.m.
§ Lord ROBBINS
My Lords, the debate this afternoon has ranged over a very wide area and has witnessed some interesting and patently personal expressions of opinion and predilections. However, I suggest that it would be no exaggeration to say that, whatever the occasion which gave rise to the Motion of the noble Lord, Lord Spens, the fundamental reason for debating the subject this afternoon arises from the publication of the extremely important report of the Royal Commission on Gambling, whose chairman was no less a person than the noble Lord, Lord Rothschild.
Therefore, I hope that your Lordships will not regard it as a dereliction on my part if my very brief remarks focus largely upon subjects which have been touched on by that splendid report. It is certainly a report of which the public in this country may be proud. Doubtless the fact that it makes so many recommendations will provide endless opportunity for any proposed national council on gambling to mull over those recommendations for years and years to come. However, there is one matter dealt with in the Royal Commission's report which I believe is of greater urgency than many of the other matters—namely, the situation of lotteries and the situation which has arisen as a result of recent legislation on lotteries.
I do not propose to expatiate at any length on the abuses—indeed, the scandalous abuses—which the report of the Royal Commission has disclosed. I have no doubt whatever that those abuses 576 should be checked and that the loopholes in legislation which have given rise to them should be stopped. However, the main point which I want to emphasise in my brief remarks concerns a matter about which the report is unequivocal and unanimous, and that is not merely its condemnation of the abuses of lotteries, but also its recommendation that there should be a national lottery and that such a national lottery could serve a good purpose. This matter has been discussed in your Lordships' House on an earlier occasion. I remember that a speech by the noble Lord, Lord Wigg— in which he alluded to the problems arising in this connection—certainly set me thinking in a far more subtle way than I had had occasion to do previously.
However, I suggest that the substance of the recommendation of the Royal Commission provides clarification in two ways. First, it certainly recognises the fact that objections to national lotteries may have been genuine in the distant past, although I am disposed to qualify that admission by drawing your Lordships' attention to the fact that we owe no less an institution than the housing of the British Museum to a national lottery, and Westminster Bridge—which many of your Lordships may use every day— must surely be regarded as a beneficial institution.
In the main, I hope that most of your Lordships will agree that, in a world which has licensed the totalisator; licensed betting; premium bonds; and all sorts of trivial lotteries of one kind or another, launched by particular societies or by small local government authorities, it is surely a little ridiculous that the case against a national lottery should still be argued in terms which have long ceased to be applicable to the ethos and the practice of the present situation.
Therefore, in a negative sense, I regard the chapter on the national lottery in the report of the Rothschild Commission as being valuable. I also regard it as valuable in a positive sense. The Royal Commission lists three good purposes which could be achieved through the agency of a properly organised national lottery—contributions to sport; contributions to other beneficial fund-raising activities approved by general opinion; and contributions to the arts.
577 It is as regards the last matter that I should like to ask your Lordships to bear with me for a few more minutes. I ought perhaps to declare a certain interest in that matter for reasons which I shall disclose in a moment. Let me first take an example in which I no longer have an interest; namely, the question of the enlarged acquisition by the nation as a whole of supreme examples of visual art. Many of your Lordships will remember the furore which accompanied putting on the market what, in the opinion of many well-qualified people, was the supreme example of a serious-minded cartoon; namely, Leonardo's Cartoon—which, at that time was in the hands of the Royal Academy—of St. Anne, the Virgin, the Christ Child and St. John. Many of your Lordships who were acquainted with him will know that the late Lord Crawford laboured incredibly to raise the money for the acquisition of that cartoon by the nation. Although he did not succeed in raising all the money that was necessary, at any rate he succeeded in raising enough to persuade a recalcitrant Government that this was a case where Government intervention was desirable.
However—and I am not quite sure whether the noble Lord, Lord Brown, who, in a recent debate, rebuked me for extravagance of language concerning the relevance of art to society, is in his place—the result was that millions of people have filed through the National Gallery. Last year over 2 ½ million people filed through and enjoyed a supreme example of visual art in any country. Had there been in existence at that time a national lottery, the extreme urgency and concern which the late Lord Crawford and those associated with him displayed need not have been so exacting; I shall not say that their efforts would have been unnecessary.
I now come to the instance in which I have to disclose a present interest. To my great good fortune, I am still a member of the Board of Governors of the Royal Opera House. I shall not expatiate on the complexities of the present position of the Royal Opera House, which bears the adjective "Royal", but which in point of fact is still owned by a private company. However, your Lordships may recollect that owing, I believe, to the initiative of the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, when he was Minister for the Arts, a sum of money 578 was set aside for the purchase of the freehold of the sites surrounding the Royal Opera House. And about time too!
The inconveniences under which the Royal Opera House labours at present, in what in the opinion of many is the most beautiful auditorium in Europe, are beginning to be publicly recognised. The Opera and orchestra have to rehearse in a disused cinema in the Mile End Road, which used to be the Roxy cinema. The ballet rehearsals have to take place at the ballet school out at Hammersmith. Those of your Lordships who have been conducted round the quarters in which some of the most distinguished singers and dancers in the world have to robe, disrobe and perform the other operations which take place behind the stage, will know that they are a disgrace to any civilised country.
The first stage of an extension and rectification of these disabilities has been planned. Stage one will extend the Royal Opera House westward and, in some measure although by no means completely, will rectify some of the worst evils of the present confinement of its activities. Such an extension will cost many millions of pounds and in due course some public appeal will be made for support of such an enterprise. However, were a national lottery in existence on the scale contemplated by the Rothschild Report, the anxieties which the present position must cause—not only to the Board of the Royal Opera House but also to the various Ministries concerned, including the DOI and the Department of Education and Science—would be obviated.
Most of your Lordships will know that an opera house—whatever may be the acoustic merits of the presentation of operatic dramas (and these have come under severe criticisms)—which is architecturally regarded as one of the glories of modern architectural art has been built in Australia, largely by a continuity of lotteries which, so I am informed, have now raised between £30 million and £40 million. Were there such a prospect in this country—and the report of the Royal Commission suggests that a properly managed national lottery might even secure something like £100 million a year—all these anxieties would vanish.
I have already spoken too long. This is a subject which, as noble Lords can 579 imagine, is very close to my heart. I shall conclude simply with some exhortation to speed in this matter. This is not a controversial recommendation in the sense that some of the other recommendations of the Royal Commission are controversial. It is a positive proposal for action which, in the present lull of controversial legislation coming to your Lordships' House and, to some extent, besetting the other place as well, when they have time to pay attention to the legislative process, could quite easily be managed this Session. What a relief that would be to the standing of the Royal Opera House. It must be remembered that we have only had a national Opera House since Covent Garden was rescued from being a dance-hall at the instigation of the late Lord Keynes, by private enterprise—Messrs. Boosey and Hawkes.
If some such alteration could be made in the law as to permit the setting up of a national lottery, not only would it relieve the apprehensions of the Board of Covent Garden, in which I have an interest, but it would relieve the apprehensions of all those hundreds of people who work under the auspices of Covent Garden. It would be a powerful reinforcement to the tourist trade. Last but not least, how much would it relieve the anguish of the two Ministers who chiefly answer questions of this sort in this House— I allude to the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, and the noble Baroness, Lady Birk—when we badger them with our complaints and reproaches for things which I am quite sure in their hearts they profoundly long for.
§ 4.20 p.m.
§ Lord WIGG
My Lords, I cannot think of any cause nearer to my heart than wanting to relieve the spirit of the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, of anguish. Much as I am devoted to that cause, and much, if I may say with equal sincerity or perhaps more sincerity, as I am devoted in my admiration for Lord Robbins, I am sorry to tell him that of all recommendations of the Royal Commission the deadest duck of all is the duck for a national lottery. If I allow myself time I will explain to him, and perhaps to noble Lords who care to listen, but if I cannot do it publicly I will do it privately.
580 My first task is to thank the noble Lord, Lord Spens, for introducing this Motion this afternoon, and for his kindly correspondence with me in inviting me to take part. It gives me particular pleasure to follow him because perhaps the most enjoyable period of my membership of the House of Commons was the two and a half years I spent as a member of a Select Committee on the Army Act. This was a measure that was born in acute controversy, and from the time the doors closed upon us to the time we finished there was complete agreement on Party lines; when there was disagreement, it cut across both Parties. The success of that was wholly due, if I may say so, to the wisdom and essential goodness of his father. I also therefore am glad to say that I find myself in great agreement with what he said today, and the common sense that he has generated.
Now I come to a more unpleasant task. I have never wanted to bore your Lordships with what, in my barrack room days, was called "throwing my service about". That is to say, recalling where I served; long stations abroad in this regiment, and that one. But unfortunately I have been rebuked by no less a person than the noble Duke, the Duke of Devonshire, at an inconvenient moment in a speech because I had not regaled your Lordships with my murky past. Even the Daily Telegraph have taken me to task for the same thing. So I must tell your Lordships that I am not a compulsive gambler. I am not a gambler; but I bet. I have had a substantial win this year, I am very glad to say, on the decision of whether Mr. Callaghan would hold an election or not. I know Mr. Callaghan very well. I am one of those individuals who never look at the crystal ball when I have got the form book—and I have got the form book. Mr. Callaghan, to my certain knowledge, has never made his mind up about any subject in the world until he was completely and utterly convinced that the winner was past the winning post. Therefore, on that day when he was going to tell the election date, and cheer Mrs. Thatcher up that he was going to take his great decision, I found one of the big bookmakers offering 10 to 1. I took it. I took it, and I do not regard that as gambling; I regard that as taking money from the innocents. My barrack room experience 581 has always taught me never to neglect the chance.
Since I became a Member of the House of Commons, I was a member of the Racecourse Betting Control Board appointed by a Conservative Minister; I was a member of the Horserace Totalisator Board appointed by a Conservative Minister, and reappointed by a Conservative Minister; I was chairman of the Horserace Betting Levy Board appointed by a Labour Home Secretary and re-appointed by a Conservative Minister. I am at present the President of the Betting Office Licensees' Association; an organisation which I joined. I assured them that I retained my complete independence. I gave evidence to the Select Committee, with your Lordships' permission, with my bola colleagues, but on my own behalf as well. I did precisely the same thing in connection with the Royal Commisson, and today what I have to say are my own views. I have consulted nobody as to what I am going to say, and on one major issue I disagree with my bola colleagues and I shall not hesitate to say so. What I am saying is what I believe based, if I may say, on the form book; based upon experience.
I want first of all to turn to the Royal Commission itself. I want to say to your Lordships that one of the interesting things about this subject is that, so Rothschild tells us, 94 per cent. of our fellow countrymen and country women indulge in this so-called pernicious habit of "having a bit on" when it suits them, and that is that. But it is universal. So what happens is of tremendous importance both, may I say, from a political point of view and from a sociological point of view, but also from an economic point of view. It is of tremendous importance. How we treat these matters has very profound consequences.
Let me once again pay my tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Butler, who introduced the early legislation. He did it not because he wanted to help racing; and he did not do it because he was a compulsive gambler; he did it because he became convinced that for social reasons the law on this subject had to be changed. It required an act of some political courage, because public opinion then was not as it is now. But he did it. The fact that it worked differently is neither 582 here nor there. The point is that he did it, and it took away the stigma of breaking the criminal law when somebody had a shilling each way, and made it look respectable. It has grown, and it has demonstrated that this is a social act.
Now may I say a word to my noble friend the Minister who is to reply. Be warned. My reading of history is that the demise of the Liberal Party and its hold upon the masses in this country dates from the time when they started to monkey with the liquor laws. The rise of Tory democracy arises from the errors of the Liberal Party in this particular field guided, if I may say, by very well-intentioned people. They all meant well. But what were the consequences? We have fortunately, in addition to Lord Rothschild in his report, a speech by Lord Rothschild given in the dying days of the period just before the Commission died. It was a speech to the British Academy. Lord Rothschild spelt out in this speech what a remarkable way we have in this country of doing things. I shall read his words. He said:It is some 3 ½ years since I left Whitehall, so I am inevitably rather rusty about Whitehall procedures, particularly those involving the right hand of a Department not apparently knowing what the left hand is doing. It is therefore hard for me to understand what was the point of setting up [by the Home Secretary] a Royal Commission to study gambling sponsored by the Home Office if that Department at the same time mounts an investigation into gambling under the guise of a review of gambling literature, which incidentally was excellent, about the same time we published our results independently. I have just mentioned two hands, the left and the right, but in this case there was a third hand. While our Royal Commission was labouring, parturition which occasioned much labour, a Select Committee of the House of Commons made an investigation in depth into one important aspect of gambling, the Tote".Can we do better than that? Lord Rothschild goes on to point out that the instrument of a Royal Commission itself was an instrument born of the leisured class, which had the public spirit and the intelligence to devote their time and energy to studying a very complicated political subject. But that situation does not operate today. So Lord Rothschild points out that he and eight other gentlemen with varying experience, knowing nothing about the subject, are called upon to sit down for two and a half years, often at the end of the day's labour because two of them were practising barristers and 583 could not come along until half past four at night. They spent two and a half years studying this very complicated subject at the very time when the Home Office was undertaking a quite independent study. The results of those joint efforts are to be found in Chapter 4, "Information about Gambling and its Psychology". About that Rothschild says:The conclusion is inescapable. Both from the work of the Royal Commission and that of the Home Office, there is a serious shortage of reliable and accessible information about gambling in the United Kingdom".What an indictment! But that is not the end of the story. We turn to the first chapter in the second volume, where he is examining the proposals made not by many bodies but by the Gaming Board, and I pay tribute to the work of the Gaming Board, particularly under the chairmanship of the noble Lord, Lord Allen of Abbeydale, a wise and good Permanent Secretary at the Home Office. Indeed, since he left, the handling by the Home Office of problems in this field has gone down and down. The thought that comes to my mind is that they are on the level of the Stationery Office, but I would not say that because it would be a libel on the Stationery Office.
No matter what the field or the subject —be it prisons, television or anything else—the handling of the matter by the Home Office will be inept in the extreme, and there is a clear reason for that. What does Rothschild say? He examines the prosposals of the Gaming Board, the Churches' Council on Gambling and the Royal College of Psychiatrists and he says that there are two separate issues. The first comprises certain forms of gambling which, it is suggested, require additional supervision by some central Government agency. Dealing with that, he decides against it. On the other hand, in paragraph 16.24, he returns to the main theme of whether there should be some central body with overall responsibility, and he says they must have added resources. That is why in the chapter to which I referred—I need not go into the details because they have been fully dealt with—he recommends the setting up of a central research agency, and there is no earthly reason why that should not have been done a long time ago. After all, the report was published six month 584 ago but still nothing has been done. He then says, and this is particularly interesting:Although they may not recognise the description, the institution"—which is the central body—is the Home Office and its subsidiaries the Tote Board, the Gaming Board and the Horserace Betting Levy Board".I do not want to be unfair to Rothschild —because the Committee had only two and a half years—but in my view that is not very wise to juxtapose those three bodies, because they are different. The Gaming Board is borne on a subsidiary Vote of the Home Office, and its staff and policies are the latter's direct responsibility. It handles the Board's affairs through a wide range of regulations which come before this House and another place.
When we come to the Tote, we come to the wisdom of Butler. Butler, having set up the Tote and the Levy Board, wanted to keep the whole thing as far away from the Home Office as possible, so all he did in respect of the Tote was to appoint a board. What has happened as a result? Here we have Grandmother Home Office appointing the Tote, obviously with the Home Secretary taking personal responsibility for those he selects to serve on it and the policies they pursue. It was brought into being as a result of the 1928 Act and subsequent legislation. What was its fundamental task? The answer is simple: to run pool betting.
There is no single bet placed in any Tote office nor through any bookmaker operating under the authority of Section 14 today which finds its way into a pool. The Tote has been allowed—I am not suggesting that this has been done in any hole-in-corner way, nor do I suggest that they know what they are doing; least of all do I suggest that they face up to the consequences of what they are doing—to become the national bookmaker. If they were to run into a spell of bad luck or even a spell when there was no racing, who would have to pay the bill? The answer is that you, my Lords, would have to pay as representatives of the public.
I forecast that sooner or later, as a result of the policies they are adopting, the Tote cannot fail to end up in Carey Street, because, if they cannot run pool betting, in which they take no risks but 585 simply take a cut out of the pool—in other words, they cannot lose—and make a profit under the present dispensation, what are their chances of running the business of bookmakers when they are paying betting shop prices that none of the Big Four would pay? This is a policy which is completely independent of the Home Office.
I have dealt with the Gaming Board and I now come to the Horserace Betting Levy Board, of which I was chairman. The statutory link there is Section 25 of the Betting, Gaming and Lotteries Act, which requires that any activity or scheme must be approved by the Secretary of State. From the time the Board was set up until I became chairman in 1967, that was completely ignored. It took me from November 1967 until May 1970 to work out in full detail an Instrument, which the present Prime Minister signed as Home Secretary, which made lawful the actions that had been taken by the Levy Board all through those years; he signed the Instrument and it had retrospective effect. The point I am making is that the Home Office, which had the ultimate responsibility to Parliament, never raised a finger to put matters right.
In coming to the question of lotteries, I must warn the House that one needs a sense of humour. In 1974, a Private Member's Bill came from another place. I know full well that it is against the tradition of your Lordships' House that a Bill should be rejected on Second Reading, but that Bill was such a piece of nonsense—every Home Office official knew it and I knew it—that, having consulted nobody, I came to your Lordships' House and opposed its Second Reading. I did it successfully, though afterwards I was told it was a constitutional monstrosity on my part. Nevertheless, I did it and I stopped that Private Member's Bill in its tracks.
The Government then introduced a Bill of their own, though it was not very much better; it was a stop-gap. I repeat in the presence of the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich—because I was in correspondence with his Home Office colleagues on the subject—that it was only a stop-gap measure. Unfortunately, they did not listen and I had considerable correspondence with Dr. Shirley Summer-skill last summer on the subject.
586 The Home Secretary published a consultative document. He consulted all the parties concerned as to how lotteries would work, though he did not circulate everybody. As a result, there were protests in another place and the matter was debated. The various issues were pointed out, just as they had been pointed out in correspondence. Then we had a Royal Commission. Every hot subject that the Home Office did not understand—which meant, by definition, that there was a considerable list—was referred to the Royal Commission. "Oh", said Dr. Summerskill, "we can't make up our minds. "Yet they had a consultative document, and the mistakes that had been made were pointed out to them. They said, "We will have to wait for the Royal Commission". The Royal Commission sat.
Many of your Lordships have very considerable experience in public affairs. Have any of your Lordships ever read such a condemnation of a Government on an issue of such major public importance? Dr. Summerskill herself had said that it was their duty—she used those words—to supervise and put right the situation. Have any of your Lordships ever heard anything such as is stated in paragraph 12.134:Despite the good work being achieved through many lotteries, the situation we have discovered is scandalous. There is wholesale disregard of the law which is inadequate and confused, commercial exploitation to a totally unacceptable degree, gross lack of security, and, we strongly suspect, a good deal of plain dishonesty".Is there anyone among your Lordships who has ever heard stronger words about a Government than the words issued by the Royal Commission? Yet our noble Press and our even nobler media—who operate under the umbrella of the Home Office—uttered hardly a word. It is said to be a scandal and gross dishonesty, yet nothing is done.
Then there was a debate in another place on 1st December. What happened? First, I should mention at this stage that on 2nd August the Home Secretary, in reply to a Question for Written Answer, said that the subject of lotteries was a matter of urgency. Therefore one assumed that it was to be given priority. After all, six months had passed and the matter had gone on for a considerable period of time. On 2nd August it was said to be a 587 matter of urgency, but on 1st December, Dr. Shirley Summerskill, in the course of a debate, says that the Royal Commission divides itself into three phases: lotteries and pool betting, gaming, and betting. Lotteries are to come first. What are they going to do about lotteries? They are going to issue another consultative document. When is it proposed to issue it?—sometime next year. Yet in August the Home Secretary had described the matter as urgent. That is how lotteries are to be handled.
When it comes to casinos, gaming, and racing, a special unit is to be set up. We have heard about this today. The noble Lord, Lord Spens, welcomed it. In this respect we have to rely upon the Press. The Observer, a reputable newspaper, reported what the special unit was: one lady had reported for duty on 31st October. What was her vast experience in this complicated field, which had beaten a Royal Commission of nine members, and which had been the subject of a survey into gambling, and had been considered by a Select Committee? She had been seconded from the Prison Commission. This is a subject for laughter, but it is also a subject for tears, because the way in which the matter has been handled is not unique.
May I hasten to add, for the comfort of the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, that the situation would not have been much different had he been on the other side of the House and noble Lords opposite had been on this side. This kind of thing is inherent in the Home Office. The approaches of the Home Office were born in another century. The noble Lord, Lord Spens, is right; in the 20th century we are moving into a society which has a great amount of leisure. We do not have all the resources we want. We must make do with what we have. The first lesson to be learnt is from field service regulations: time spent on reconnaissance is never wasted. One needs to master facts and to bring into active consultation all the interests involved in the hope that an acceptable solution can be found. When that has been done, there is a chance of making progress. That is what Lord Butler did. I was a member of the Racecourse Betting Control Board, and at the suggestion of the Home 588 Office a small sub-committee of three of us met from time to time, quite unofficially, quite informally, and offered our experience. I am now pensioned off. I am outside this matter, but there are many people in all the fields of activity which are covered by the report who are only too anxious to help.
Before I close and make way for other speakers, I should like to make one point to the noble Lord, Lord Robbins. The reason why a national lottery will not work is that we already have a national lottery which other countries do not have, in the form of football pools. That is a national lottery. It does exactly the same kind of job as what is proposed. Here the Royal Commission makes an error. In paragraph 1.18 the Royal Commission discusses hypothecation. The Commission's report quotes Mr. Harold Lever speaking in a debate on a national lottery—which he was anxious to carry through, but on which he was beaten in another place—as saying that on behalf of the Treasury there was no objection to hypothecation. Obviously, Lord Rothschild and his colleagues have taken up that point, and have reached the conclusion that the Treasury was withdrawing its traditional objection to hypothecation. However, when the matter was read in its context, it was perfectly clear that Mr. Lever was speaking in relation to a national lottery, not in relation to hypothecation per se. So I corresponded with the Chief Secretary, and it became very clear that so far as the Treasury is concerned it is going to have its pound of flesh. It is in business— quite rightly—to protect the national revenue. So if there is a national lottery, there will have to be paid the same duty as the pools pay. Once it is necessary to pay the same duty as the pools pay, and meet the cost of administration, the candle is not worthwhile.
I want to stress a point here because it involves a difference between myself and those who, no doubt well-intentioned, hold the view that in connection with racing the levy should continue. I am quoted in the report, quite rightly, as I voted against my own Party five times in one night. What else could I do? As a member of the Racecourse Betting Control Board I had supported a levy, but I changed my view. I remember the occasion very well when the matter 589 was debated. The one person who spoke up for financial orthodoxy was—as your Lordships may expect.—Mr Enoch Powell. I thought that he was wrong. I certainly thought that racing needed a subsidy, and I believe that on that point I was right.
Rothschild points out that one of the insidious consequences of using hypothecation is that it now has become a subsidy, and the judgment is made in the report that racing now has a subsidy, and that if the subsidy were withdrawn it would collapse; and so it must not be withdrawn. One of the by-products of Rothschild is that every sport in the country—and indeed bodies far beyond sport—is now looking to a national lottery, or to some organisation, to provide it with easy money. I say to the noble Lord, Lord Robbins, with the utmost respect: please grow up. There is no easy money in this world, except that which comes from a brush-over by confidence tricksters. Anything you get you pay for. The time has come that if one starts to hypothecate, one gets into very murky fields. Racing has got a levy. Football wants one. The dogs want one. Cricket, particularly if we withdraw the pool Competitions Act 1971, will want one. What would then happen to Warwickshire Cricket Club, and all the other clubs around it?
Perhaps I may say that if your Lordships were to have a look at the troubles of the BBC it would be seen that three-quarters of their financial troubles are because the fee that they get is hypothecation. Here, I believe—steadfastly now; and perhaps, at least on this issue, I ought to cross the Floor and go from here over there—there is nothing on the cheap, and you cannot have hypothecation in total without the most disastrous financial results. The best paper that was submitted to the Royal Commission was the brilliant paper, in my judgment, of the Board of Customs and Excise, who said that if they are to be helped it ought to be a direct charge upon the Revenue, as is the case with the Arts Council. Therefore, you make out the case for the money that you want; and, as to how you spend it, it should not be spent, as I say, through any grandmotherly control. We do not want racing run by the Home Office—heaven forbid! Imagine the terrible consequences of letting the Home Office decide whether a race should be 590 five furlongs or six furlongs! Nothing could be worse than that. We do not want it run by the Home Office; and the noble Lord, Lord Robbins, does not want art run by the Ministry of Education. No—the Arts Council set-up is possibly the way in which we ought to try to go ahead.
Now, may I have just one minute more? This morning the senior steward of the Jockey Club made a speech. I have worked with senior stewards, and I always remember with gratitude and gratefulness the periods I worked with General Sir Randle Fielden when he was senior steward and I was chairman. Yes, we had our rows, but we got on well and we achieved much. I have always worked agreeably with Lord Howard de Walden. He has given great services to racing, and when he goes I hope he will be followed by as good a man as he is. If so, racing is lucky. But he makes exactly the same point as I make. We have got to make do with what we have; we cannot get any more. My Lords, what does the Royal Commission say? It says that the combined rate of taxation and levy, at £8.5 million, is now running dangerously high. There can be no more. Despite whatever the Home Office rulings may be —and they have been pretty foolish in the past—the next levy, the eighteenth, is going to be £14.6 million. If, then, you try to squeeze out of it as much prize money as has been squeezed out, £9,370,000, there will be nothing left for anybody else. That is the simple logic of the situation, and there is no escape from that logic. There is only so much money, and Lord Howard de walden recognised it this morning. If you try to take more, then what you will do is recreate the very social evil that Butler set out to avoid, and that is a social consequence which must not happen. There is only so much.
The way ahead so far as racing is concerned is through a Racing Consultative Council through which the Levy Board, on behalf of the Home Office, should seek its authority, though I do not believe it needs it because (and I played a part in drafting the actual instrument in May 1970) I believe it was drafted in such a way that a consultative council could be financially supported and could be set up with an independent chairman and an independent secretary, and that all the major bodies 591 affected by the levy would be there to play their part. If that is done, that would be a pattern.
My Lords, let me conclude by saying this. I pay tribute to Lord Rothschild and to those who worked with him. There are many points with which I do not agree—as I say, I do not agree in regard to a national lottery—but what I do recognise is that, although they were using an imperfect instrument, they did their best in the public interest, and you cannot ask any more than that from any man.
§ 4.54 p.m.
§ The Earl of AVON
My Lords, when I entered your Lordships' House last year I little thought that I should be speaking from this Box today, or that I should speak first on the subject of gambling. It is, in the parlance of this debate, such an unlikely double that a bookmaker would have offered very long odds indeed on such a happening. I have studied Annex B of the much-quoted Royal Commission Report. In Annex B—it is called "The Odds", and goes on for some 30 pages—there is something called an off-course forecast. I am not quite sure whether or not that relates to my presence here.
My Lords, we are all sorry to hear that the Churches' Council on Gambling has been wound up. It has done excellent work over the years, particularly under the guidance of Mr. Gordon Moody. I must confess myself surprised that the combined power of the Churches cannot continue such a council from their resources, and feel it strange that they should allow it to be wound up. If I may say so, everything that the right reverened Prelate said convinced me even more of its value, and what a pity it is that they found it necessary to wind it up. To draw from the Commission, I should like to quote a remark from Cardinal Hume:Gambling can become wrong when it is inconsistent with our duties or when it is carried to excess".While many Churches are opposed to gambling in principle—and we have heard the view of the Methodists—Cardinal Hume's view is more moderate. But even that view would seem to call for some monitoring by the Churches of the 592 level of gambling. We have had some statistics already. One which I drew out perhaps proves that gambling has no Party boundaries. My Lords, 17 million people fill in the football pools each week. This compares with the 11 ½ million people who voted Socialist in the last Election.
However, to come back to it, if the Churches' Council on Gambling is not to be, we have to consider the suggestion of the noble Lord, Lord Spens, that a National Council on Gambling be established. It is a most useful suggestion, and we are grateful for the opportunity to discuss it. I have been interested in the aims of this national council, and, as I understand it, it is a council for the protection of gambler—a kind of watchdog for the general public—and it is also to come to the aid of compulsive gamblers. If I am wrong, perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Spens, will correct me when he winds up.
The Royal Commission has been much quoted. In six paragraphs it discusses the case for a gambling authority with powers to supervise the whole gambling field. The noble Lord, Lord Wigg, has already referred to it. The Commission states firmly that no new such authority is needed as the Home Office is already the supervisor. Again, we have had the theories of the noble Lord, Lord Wigg, on this. I should like to read the paragraph's conclusion. It says:It is highly desirable that the body directly answerable to Parliament and in a position to promote legislation should not be too cushioned from the subject for which it is accountable".In fact, my Lords, it sounds to me like, "no QUANGOs". It goes on:To achieve success in this field, two factors are of great importance:I should like to ask the noble Lord the Minister, who is speaking next, first, whether the Home Office accept this view; second, whether adequate resources are now available, or are being made available; and, third, whether the Home Office have started to collate and publish more information on gambling.
- (i) that adequate resources are made available in the Home Office to deal with gambling;
- (ii) that the Home Office recognise that they have a vital, and not only responsive, role to play, particularly in stimulating, with the Social Science Research Council, efforts to gather and publish information about gambling".
593 Noble Lords have already mentioned Chapter 4 of the Commission's Report, which refers to information about gambling and its psychology. The Commission here uses the words "essential" and "urgent" when recommending to the Government the establishment of a gambling research unit. This is to monitor and study the incidence, sociology and psychology of gambling. It further recommends that the unit be funded by the Home Office, and that it should liaise closely with the gambling boards. I am sure the noble Lord the Minister, in his speech, will let the House know what progress has been made in this field. We have therefore advice on two fields of improvement that can be made without the necessity of a National Council on Gambling.
My Lords, to look back at the aims of this council, I should like your Lordships to consider whether help for the compulsive gambler should not come more aptly from the National Council for Social Services. They have the network, the field workers and the organisation already in operation. Would the national council consider it? Would the Government be prepared to approach the National Council for Social Services about this? Perhaps the Government would even consider a separate grant to fund this added work. I understand that the charity has already offered a sum and they might be prepared to match it.
My Lords, I am always nervous of new councils and particularly those dependent upon charity. One wonders why the national council would succeed where the Churches' Council cannot survive. I am a trustee of a number of charities, as I am sure are many noble Lords here. Over recent years, we have seen expenses rise and salaries, cost of running offices and profesional fees increase while we have seen income static and money more hard to find. I do not know whether the Charity Commissioners have any yardstick about the ratio of running costs to charitable gifts in a charity's turnover, but I know it is a fact uppermost in the minds of many trustees. The point that I am making is that with the National Council for Social Services we have a ready-made organisation which, with Government help, could take on this task with minimal extra expense. I have now learned in the course of this debate of 594 Gamblers Anonymous and their active work, who could obviously work hand in hand.
Except for making this point, I find myself in broad agreement with the right reverend Prelate in my conclusions. If the Home Office is accepting a Royal Commission's advice on making adequate resources available to oversee gambling, if they have set up a gambling research unit, the need only remains to help the compulsive gambler. Adequate protection is already available for the punter against the large gambling organisations. This compulsive gambler perhaps could be best helped through Gamblers Anonymous and the National Council of Social Services. If, however, the Government have not followed, and do not intend to follow, the advice of the Royal Commission and do not set up a research unit, then the proposal of a National Council on Gambling should be seriously considered and given the wholehearted support of the Government.
§ 5.3 p.m.
§ Lord HARRIS of GREENWICH
My Lords, I am sure that the House will welcome the opportunity that the noble Lord, Lord Spens, has given us to consider the work of the Churches' Council on Gambling, the work they have done in the immediate past, and the situation as it is now because the Council's existence has been terminated. I think there are also a number of other reasons. Speaking for myself, I am glad to have had this debate, first, for the opportunity of hearing the speech of the noble Earl, Lord Avon, speaking for the first time from the Front Bench opposite. We welcome his appearance on that Bench and I know what pleasure it would have given his distinguished father to have seen his son sitting on the Front Bench in this House. We look forward to hearing him again on many occasions speaking from that Bench.
Another reason why I think we deserve to look back on this debate with pleasure is that we had the benefit of hearing my noble friend Lord Wigg on the subject of gambling, which I know is a matter close to his heart. One of the pleasures of listening to my noble friend is that he believes in the broad sweep approach. He ranged from the demise of the Liberal 595 Party—unfortunately in the absence of any representatives of that Party who were temporarily out of the House; and we welcome them back. I know that they will study Hansard tomorrow with interest —to the Home Office. I have to say this because it was said in the absence of the noble Lord, Lord Allen of Abbeydale, who was with us a few moments ago and who I hope is still here. I know that it will give him pleasure that he was excepted from the censures to which my Department was subject. He was excluded as was the noble Lord, Lord Butler. Apart from that, I regret to hear my noble friend say that the Home Office was inept in dealing with any issue. No doubt he made some exception for the period in which the Home Office appointed him chairman of the Levy Board; and I am sure that he would make exception to the handling of another issue in this area, the affairs of the Tote. I was slightly surprised to hear from my noble friend the apparent criticism of the Tote and the way it did its work. I have tried to check what was the profit situation of the Tote, and it is not too bad. In 1976–77, the profits before tax were £400,000; in 1977–78 they were £1,300,000; and in the present year the situation is even better.
§ Lord HARRIS of GREENWICH
My Lords, with great respect to my noble friend, he did address the House for 33 minutes in a debate which is limited to 2½ hours and it is not unreasonable that I should be allowed to answer him. I am sure that he would want to join with me in congratulating the Tote on the excellent record that they have managed to put up—to avoid any possible misunderstanding which might arise from the things that he said in the course of his speech.
Having said that, I would now return to the subject, in the more tranquil waters—if I may mix metaphors—of the Churches' Council on Gambling. As the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Rochester has reminded us, the Council's origins can be traced back to the time of the Royal Commission on Lotteries and Betting of 1932–33; but I think it is the work of the Council in the last two decades which is of particular relevance for the 596 purpose of this debate. That period has covered legislation, consolidated in the Betting, Gaming and Lotteries Act 1963, which legalised off-course cash betting, the Gaming Act 1968, which established the present controls over gaming and, most recently, the lotteries legislation consolidated in the Lotteries and Amusements Act 1976 which empowered local authorities to promote lotteries and raised the limits on lotteries promoted by voluntary societies.
In this period, the Churches' Council on Gambling has considered developments in commercially-based forms of gambling, their relationship to the requirements of the law and their social impact. It has also endeavoured to maintain contact with the commercial promoters, the statutory boards and all the other people and organisations working in this field. On this basis, the Council has offered advice to the Home Office in the hope of helping to secure the best framework of law in the interests both of those involved in gambling and of the country as a whole.
I think it is right to say that the vigour of the Council's work and its emphasis over the last 20 years owes a great deal to the Reverend Gordon Moody who was appointed General Secretary of the Council in 1958. I think it right to say that it is somewhat remarkable that we are having this debate entirely because Mr. Moody has indicated that he has to resign his present office. I should mention that he was instrumental in bringing about the establishment in this country of the organisation, Gamblers Anonymous, to which the noble Lord, Lord Spens, alluded at the beginning of the debate.
The situation is that Mr. Moody has now just begun a well-earned retirement and the Council has in recent years had to function without a London Office. The appointment of new staff based in a London office would entail a larger expenditure than the modest £5,000 to £6,000 which has been spent on the Council in the recent past. As the right reverend Prelate has said, the Churches cannot see their way to meet that increased expenditure. It is this situation that has led to the proposal that there should be established a national council of gambling financed substantially from secular sources.
The question which therefore confronts us is whether there should be some 597 successor body to the Churches' Council on Gambling, and, if we were to have such a body, how it might be financed. It can. I think, be argued that there have been some developments over the past 20 years which have lessened the need for such an organisation. Some information about horseracing and betting is now provided in the annual reports of the Horserace Betting Levy Board and the Horserace Totalisator Board which the Home Secretary is required to present to Parliament. There now exists in addition, as my noble friend Lord Wigg has reminded us, the Gaming Board for Great Britain, charged with keeping under review the extent and character of gaming in Great Britain, and this Board is also required to produce an annual report for Parliament. However, I must add—and this is common ground because a number of speakers have pointed this out—that the Royal Commission on Gambling have made a number of recommendations on this matter.
In their report they said there was a serious shortage of reliable and accessible information about gambling in the United Kingdom. The Commission recommended the establishment of a Gambling Research Unit to be responsible to the Social Science Research Council. The Commission also urged that adequate resources should be made available in the Home Office to deal with gambling, and that the Department should recognise it had a vital role to play in stimulating efforts to gather and publish information about gambling.
The noble Earl, Lord Avon, perfectly reasonably said the Royal Commission having recommended that, what about the question of the additional resources within the Home Office? I must unhappily say this right at the outset. We are obviously looking at this with all the other recommendations which the Royal Commission have made but we have to approach this matter with some degree of caution. Every Government Department is faced with a whole range of recommendations saying that there should be more resources for this or more resources for the other, and I carry a distinguished former Chancellor of the Exchequer with me as I say this. But at some stage we have to face up to the difficult question about whether we are prepared to have a larger and larger public service.
598 The consequences in terms of taxation and a whole range of other questions is a very serious matter indeed. So, as I have said, I cannot today give any clear answer to this question, but it would be unreasonable to expect a very substantial increase of the staff of the Home Office in this area. It could only be at the cost of substantial cutbacks in other areas, be it prisons, which were referred to by my noble friend Lord Wigg or the Police Department, for which I have some personal responsibility, and so on. The Government have to approach this in terms of looking at all the calls on public resources and not simply as an isolated question in terms of the issue of gambling, however important that may be.
Having made these references to the Royal Commission, I think it only right that I should express now the appreciation of the Government—and I know it is common ground in all parts of the House —for the work which the chairman of the Commission, the noble Lord, Lord Rothschild, and his colleagues have done in surveying the whole field of gambling. The Government have asked for comments on the report from all interested bodies and persons by the end of this year—indeed within a relatively few days —and will wish to consider these before reaching decisions on the Commission's many recommendations.
Given the commercial interest involved and the strong views held on some of the matters dealt with in the report, it is not surprising that the Commission's recommendations have not met with universal approval. Even today we witnessed a slight disagreement between the noble Lords, Lord wigg and Lord Robbins, on the question of a national lottery. There are similar disagreements in many other areas so far as the recommendations to the Royal Commission are concerned.
As I have indicated, the Government have not yet reached any decisions on these matters. Certainly my right honourable friend the Home Secretary has defined two particular issues which require some priority. My noble friend Lord Wigg referred to this. One is the question of lotteries. This point was raised by the noble Lord, Lord Robbins. There has been a substantial amount of disquiet which has been expressed since the passage of the relatively recent lotteries legislation. 599 This is something which my right honourable friend regards as a matter of some priority and he will give it that attention. Secondly, there is the question of the future of the Pool Competitions Act 1971. In regard to the other matters, he will await the comments we have asked for and there will be full consultation with those concerned in each particular field of gambling before any action is taken.
I return now to the question of a successor body to the Churches' Council on Gambling. I can say that it is the Government's view that the Council has in the 'sixties and 'seventies provided a valued source of information and advice, and that its usefulness has owed a great deal to its independence of both the state and also of course the various gambling interests. We think there will be undoubted gap now that the Council has ceased to exist, and this gap will be the more noticeable because of the need to consider the 303 recommendations of the Royal Commission. We welcome therefore the proposal that there should be a national council on gambling to help fill this gap and hope that some of the philanthropic foundations are prepared to assist with financing such a venture.
But having said that, I must also say —in answer again to the noble Earl, Lord Avo—that we are not convinced that it would be appropriate for the Government themselves to contribute to the income of the proposed national council. We want to look at that question a great deal longer. We think there are several considerations to be taken into account here. In the first place, I am sure that a great deal of the effectiveness of the Churches' Council on Gambling rested on it being wholly independent of the State. I am certainly not arguing that a measure of State help is inconsistent with independence of view or criticism of Government policy; I think a national council ought to be assured of a substantial measure of support from sources other than the State.
Secondly, we think that before the Government could properly consider giving any aid to such a Council, there should have been full discussion of the recommendations of the Royal Commission, in particular the recommendation in favour of a gambling research unit, and 600 that the Home Office should play an enhanced role in the supervision of gambling. The Government will therefore wish to avoid taking any final view on this matter of financial assistance until it has been able to form conclusions on the Royal Commission's report. I repeat that we sincerly hope that this will not discourage others from offering help forthwith, for we are in no doubt that a National Council on Gambling would be of value in the period immediately ahead when the recommendations of the Royal Commission are under consideration. I conclude by saying once again how indebted we are to the noble Lord, Lord Spens, for having raised this issue which has given us the advantage of having a stimulating short debate.
§ 5.19 p.m.
My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, for what he has said. In my opening speech I carefully did not ask for any money for this national council from the Government although of course it would be welcomed. What I asked for was support, and the noble Lord has given us that very happily. We have had a very interesting debate. There is not time for me to run through all the remarks that have been made by the speakers but there are one or two that I should like to mention. First of all, the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord St. Just; he referred to the 48-hour rule. As a compulsive gambler, particularly in casinos, I believe that that 48-hour rule is absolutely imperative: it keeps me out of them. I should hate to see it removed. I was very glad for his support for the Motion. I was a little doubtful about his suggestion for a register of compulsive gamblers because it is very difficult to get people to admit that they are compulsive gamblers, and if you are to compile a register on some third person's idea of whether or not someone is a compulsive gambler you could run into trouble.
I was grateful also for the support of the noble Viscount, Lord Barrington. He does not think that gambling is wrong; nor do I. I think that gambling in reasonable amounts is perfectly all right. It is a form of entertainment and in some ways also a form of challenge. It is only when people go over the top that the dangers occur.
601 I am extremely grateful to the right reverend Prelate for what he said about the history of the Churches' Council. My only knowledge of it stems only from my acquaintance with its last Secretary, and it was very interesting indeed to hear him say that the Church's view is that it has served the nation as well as the Churches themselves. I know the reason why the Council has had to be wound up: the last Secretary showed me a balance sheet only last night. I will not quote from it, but it was in the red: that is the sad thing about it. The point remains that without the Churches' Council there is this gap.
The noble Lord, Lord Robbins, talked about lotteries. I did declare that my country club runs a lottery and my only hope, if a national lottery is introduced, is that it will not detract from the takings which my local lottery at the moment manages to obtain. However, I should like to draw his attention to the remarks made in another place on 1st December at column 999 on an adjournment debate, when the Member who introduced the subject talked about the creation of a board, or whatever it might be, that would decide how to divide up the takings of a national lottery and said that this would be "absolutely autocratic despotism." I wonder how the noble Lord would feel it it was decided that the Royal Opera House was not to be one of the recipients. It depends so much on how a body of that kind is controlled.
I am most grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Wigg, for his very kind remarks about my father. He had spoken to me about him before, and my father has told me of his association with the noble Lord in that Select Committee—was it?— and of the very useful work they did together. My interpretation of the noble Lord's speech is that he supports us, because he was certainly blaming the Home Office for being very lax, or very slow, in doing various things that he thought they ought to have done. Indeed, if there is no ginger group to press them, they may eontinue to be as lax.
I am most grateful also to the noble Earl, Lord Avon, for his remarks. Regarding the question he raised as to why the National Council for Social Service do not do the job of looking after compulsive gamblers, perhaps they 602 could. They are in fact one of the bodies sitting on the working party trying to draft a constitution for a national council on gambling. They have given a great deal of help and are still doing so; but what is really needed, we feel, is a body which can employ a paid expert who can go round and make contact, as did the Reverend Gordon Moody, with the various gambling interests and can keep the Council up-to-date on what is happening and be their expert adviser—because the Council itself would be sitting really voluntarily. Without that paid expert staff, nothing would come of it at all. The working party thinks that it is going to cost about £20,000 a year. We very much hope we shall be able to find the funds to start it off, and I am quite certain that your Lordships' support today is going to make it that much easier for us to do so. My Lords, I beg leave to withdraw my Motion for Papers,
Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.