HL Deb 14 July 1983 vol 443 cc910-3

4.24 p.m.

Second Reading debate resumed.

Lord Mishcon

My Lords, all of us will want to pay a tribute to the pertinacity and indeed the expert speed with which my noble friend has operated, because on 9th May this year (at col. 377 of Hansard) he concluded the proceedings on the Second Reading of this Bill in that Session with the words: I cannot hope that the Government might find time for the Bill before the end of this Parliament, but I will certainly be back with it in the next Parliament". And here he is moving this Bill for which he has taken responsibility.

The issue is a very simple one but a very real one, certainly for printers in the United Kingdom. It is this: whereas lotteries are controlled in this country when they are run in this country, and they are controlled by legislation, and whereas foreign lotteries not within the control of this country are forbidden to operate in this country, we have by some mismanagement of legislation procured a position where printers in this country cannot without breaching the law—indeed, without committing a criminal offence—print lottery tickets or advertisements for lotteries which are run abroad.

It is interesting to see how this sort of thing can occur and go on for a long period of time. My noble friend indicated that the source of the trouble was an Act of 1823. It so happens that there was an Act in 1976, and your Lordships might have thought that the matter would have been raised then. But the 1976 Act was a consolidation Act, and, as your Lordships will know, consolidation means consolidating what is there and not amending what is there. There was an Act previous to that, in 1975, but that dealt purely and specifically with the instruction of local authorities in the management of lotteries, so that was not a suitable Bill to deal with this. Before that there was an Act in 1963, and that, too, was a consolidation Act. so that was not a medium for putting right this wrong, either.

But I should not like your Lordships to think that in the past we have been so unintelligent or so lacking in initiative as not at least to raise this problem in the 20th century. It was in fact raised in 1934, on a Bill which dealt with lotteries and gaming. by none other than the Duke of Atholl. On that occasion, on 31st May 1934 (at col. 719 of Hansard), the Duke of Atholl raised the matter on a Bill which dealt with these matters and said: Supposing there was a sweepstake in some foreign country: there is no reason why our printers should not print the tickets so long as they are honest people and it is not against the law in this country. I am not quite certain whether it is covered in a later Amendment I am going to press.". The Marquess of Londonderry was in charge of that Bill for the Government, and he was completely put off by a noble Lord who had the title of Viscount Bertie of Thame. He interrupted his line of thought by an entirely different question which your Lordships may not think was in the slightest degree relevant. He said: May I ask the noble Marquess whether foreign premium bonds which might be printed in this country for foreign Governments would not come under this Bill? That seems to have put the Marquess of Londonderry completely off of his stride, because he said that he would make inquiries into both matters.

I have tried to do some research, but no answers to those inquiries seem to have emerged in 1934. So, as I ventured to say on a previous occasion, that is a lesson for all of us in your Lordships' House: when you ask a Minister a question, it is rather necessary, especially when he says he is going to look into it, and especially so when that occurs on Committee or Report stage, to bear in mind that that may only be an excuse for seeing that your question is never in fact answered or your amendment never dealt with. That was the lot of the Duke of Atholl when he raised this matter in 1934. Here we are, 50 years later, trying to put right what, if only his question had been answered then, might have been dealt with on that occasion.

There is no doubt that it is right that this Bill should receive a Second Reading. I do not think I need add anything to the remarks of my noble friend to persuade your Lordships to vote for the Second Reading.

Lord Elton

My Lords, I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Irving of Dartford, on introducing this Bill, and, on grounds similar to those already adduced, I am glad to inform the House that the Government support both its purpose and its content.

When the noble Lord introduced a similar Bill last Session my noble friend Lord Glenarthur said that the Government supported the Bill in principle but that there were some amendments they would wish to see made. The noble Lord pronounced himself willing to accept these and they are incorporated in the Bill now before your Lordships' House. The noble Lord has been kind enough to proffer his thanks for the assistance he received. I should emphasise that the amendments do not alter the purpose of the Bill.

There is little new I can say about the Bill. As the noble Lord, Lord Irving of Dartford, has told your Lordships, its purpose is to remove a restriction in the Lotteries and Amusements Act 1976 to enable printers in Great Britain to print and supply lottery tickets and associated lottery material such as advertisements for use in the promotion of a lottery wholly outside Great Britain. It is, at present, an offence under the 1976 Act to print any ticket for use in a lottery promoted, or proposed to be promoted, except as provided for in that Act. Lotteries promoted outside Great Britain are, as provided by the Act, unlawful. This is not a new restriction but is one that has existed, as the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, said, for many years.

The restriction on the export of lottery tickets no doubt made sense when such export was perhaps the first stage before re-importing the tickets to this country as spurious foreign lottery tickets. However, such a restriction no longer seems appropriate when many countries run large national lotteries of their own; lotteries, moreover, which require specialised printing of a kind which British companies can provide.

The existing legislation was never intended to prevent or restrict legitimate commercial export activities; indeed, we are anxious that it should not. But it is important that any relaxation in the law, such as that proposed in this Bill, should not undermine the controls which protect the public. We therefore had to be satisfied that there were adequate safeguards to ensure that tickets for foreign lotteries could not be distributed in Great Britain or simply exported and then imported. That has been achieved. We have consulted the Gaming Board, which has no objection to the proposals in the Bill.

Although this may appear to be a modest Bill it is one which nevertheless could serve a most useful purpose by opening up a potential export market for some sectors of the British printing industry. That can only be good.

I leave it to the heir of the Duke of Atholl, to whom the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon referred, to convey any necessary thanks to him for his comments. I conclude by again congratulating the noble Lord, Lord Irving of Dartford, for introducing the Bill, and I wish it a safe passage through your Lordships' House and through another place.

Lord Irving of Dartford

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Elton, for his support of the Bill and for the felicitous terms in which he has given that support. Like him, I hope that the Bill will have a safe passage through this House and through another place.

On Question, Bill read a second time, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.