HL Deb 10 May 1984 vol 451 cc1072-85

7.10 p.m.

Lord Crawshaw

My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time. In so doing I wish briefly to explain why it is that I am forgoing the delights of your Lordships' restaurant at this hour to introduce this modest Bill this evening. In spite of the fact that this is the second time in two or three years that I have introduced a Bill on roughly the same subject, I do not altogether wish to give the impression that I am a compulsive and inveterate gambler on horses or any other appropriate and available medium for a bet. Nor do I wish to encourage others to indulge in this exercise beyond reasonable bounds.

A few years ago, during the 1970s, a Back-Bench committee consisting of members of both Houses and of the three major parties was formed with the objective of trying to help all aspects of racing. In those days the main problems were VAT and stable lad unrest. Inasmuch as these matters are still problems, we cannot claim unrivalled success; but at least we have provided a forum and made a bridge between Parliament and the racing authorities and those who work in the racing industry; and that includes the large number who work in the bookmaking industry.

Therefore, when I was asked to move the Second Reading of the Bill, before agreeing I asked myself two questions. First, will it help racing in the broadest sense? To this I believe the answer is, "Yes". Secondly, will it be for the public's advantage or will it make them into betting addicts and lead them into the depths of depravity? As I say, this Bill is essentially modest and I believe it is to the public advantage.

As regards the racing industry, it has always been the wish to attract more people back on to the racecourses, which are in dire need of increased patronage. One of the main purposes of the Bill is to improve considerably the amenities which could be offered in betting shops, and I wondered whether this might adversely affect racecourse attendances. After taking expert advice, principally from the Jockey Club, I am satisfied that racecourses would not suffer. Indeed, the extra interest, if stimulated, might eventually encourage people to see the real thing. Of course, racing does receive a small cut (through the levy board) of every legal bet struck.

As regards the public, the Bill is a sequel to the 1963 Act of the same name which brought under the control of law an occupation which had hitherto been conducted illegally. In this minefield caution was very much the key word and strict regulations were enacted. But almost a quarter of a century later off-course bookmaking has shown itself to be, on the whole, mature and responsible, and an important part of our recreation. It is of course also a substantial contributor to the Revenue. I do not wish to moralise or pontificate but I believe that a bet on a horse in reasonable proportions can be looked upon as a healthy interest and no more depraved than investment on the Stock Exchange or membership of a Lloyd's syndicate.

This Bill seeks to remove some of the original strict regulations by providing the Home Secretary with the means to enable bookmakers to offer their clients the type of service they require—which can indeed already be found in illegal shops—while keeping the whole operation within the law. These powers are an important feature of the Bill and I hope will mean that we need not go into too great a detail in the Bill because these details may have to be altered fairly frequently. I am sure that my noble friend Lord Elton will confirm that the Home Secretary's order would not be made without wide consultation and Parliament would then use the affirmative procedure to confirm the order.

Apart from the racing authorities, this Bill is supported by the Bookmakers Off-course Licensees Association and by the smaller bookmakers. It seems strange to me to be making a speech on this subject without the scrutiny of the late Lord Wigg over my right shoulder! But it is fairly rare for anything in this field to have this wide support. So far as the smaller bookmakers are concerned, their welfare was an important point in the debates in the other place. They tend to operate in the larger villages and smaller towns where the bigger chains do not think it worth their while. I went to see the admirable Mr. Worth last Monday in Kegworth, which is close to my own home, near Loughborough. He was looking forward to the improvements that he will make to his distinctly bleak premises if this Bill becomes law.

I now turn to the clauses of the Bill to say a few words on the major clauses. Clause 1 deals with the provision of these improved amenities such as tea-making machines and coffee-making machines, but as your Lordships will see from subsection (1)(b) this specifically excludes the sale of liquor. The present EXTEL commentary—commonly known as the "blower"—will continue. This purely provides information on prices from the courses and an oral commentary. The Bill will allow the installation of television sets to show the running of races live to the customers. That will dispose of the rather silly present situation where sets can be installed for the staff to watch but a customer can only do so by being invited round the back of the betting office. The size of the TV screens could be a slightly controversial issue; but that is the kind of consideration which could be included in the Home Secretary's order. Habits change fairly frequently in this field. These modest creature comforts will still leave the premises essentially a place to have a bet. They will not in themselves entice the ordinary thirsty British tea or coffee drinker or the square-eyed television addict into the shop only to find himself promptly fleeced by irresistible temptations to bet on the races.

Clause 2 deals with advertising. The present situation is totally confused and interpreted in various ways by betting shop owners, the courts and the police. This is particularly true in the case of window displays. This clause will enable the Home Secretary to rationalise the present confused situation. Displays inside betting shops will also be considered and more information made available in the shape of publications such as Timeform. and so on.

Clauses 3 and 4 are, I think, self explanatory inasmuch as clauses in any Bill ever are; and that is really saying something. I therefore simply conclude by commending this modest Bill to your Lordships. I beg to move.

Moved, That the Bill be now read a second time.—(Lord Crawshaw.)

7.19 p.m.

Lord Mishcon

My Lords, we are all grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Crawshaw, for the way in which he introduced the Second Reading of this Bill, and for his light-handed touch in explaining its provisions and his own personal position in regard to supporting such a Bill. One feels that this is a Bill—and I speak personally since this is a Private Member's Bill—which ought to have a Second Reading; but there are some points which the House ought to bear in mind.

May I say first of all that I believe that another place did a service in regard to the Bill as originally presented there, in two directions. First of all, it then had the name, "Specified Premises Improvement Bill", which was not a title which gave everybody a very clear indication as to what the Bill was about. I think therefore that when the title was altered to the one which comes before us it was a very sensible thing to do. The second thing that was done in another place was to remove what was then Clause 3 of the Bill. Clause 3 of the Bill was going to permit young people over the age of 16 to be employed in licensed betting shops. The other place in its wisdom at the Committee stage decided that that was not an acceptable clause and it was removed.

I think that the House can certainly obtain a great degree of comfort from what the noble Lord correctly said, which was the assurance that was then given on behalf of the Secretary of State; namely, that there would be very wide and deep consultations before the regulations were made. If I may quote from the Minister. Mr. Douglas Hurd, at column 19 of Standing Committee C's proceedings in another place on 4th April of this year, he said: If the Bill is enacted and the powers are conferred on my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary, the next step will be consultation. It would clearly be wrong for the Government to indulge in a headlong rush to make an order under the new Act without consulting widely. I give an assurance that there will be consultations. Parliament would then use the affirmative procedure to approve the order, so it would not be abdicating from future involvement.". That ends the quotation.

This consultation is very necessary. There was a Royal Commission on Gambling which reported in 1978 (Cmnd. 7200) and which dealt with the very matters (among, of course, many other things) that this Bill deals with. It would be obviously wrong to ignore the recommendations of that Royal Commission when considering whether orders should be made by the Secretary of State, and, if so. the nature of those orders. Very briefly, as I promise your Lordships, I shall refer to some of the relevant considerations which 1 am sure the Secretary of State will bear in mind.

The first one that I would refer to is the lack of statistics and other information of a very necessary kind which the Royal Commission found in regard to matters affecting bookmakers and generally in regard to gambling. One of the recommendations which was made by the Royal Commission (and I am reading from page 20 of Volume One of its final report) was: We therefore believe it both essential and urgent for the Government to establish a Gambling Research Unit to monitor and study the incidence, sociology and psychology of gambling.". Although that was an urgent recommendation which was made in 1978, we are here considering a Bill some six years later without such a research unit having been set up.

The Royal Commission referred specifically to the question of licensed betting offices in connection with the necessity for research. I am looking at recommendation 8 which was made in paragraph 7.22: the Government should commission a study of bookmaking finances in about three years' time". Three years has certainly elapsed and that recommendation has not been carried out, although here we are considering a Bill which affects bookmakers and what ought to happen to their licensed premises.

In regard to the special provisions of this Bill, let me refer to recommendation 9 to be seen in the summary of recommendations at page 425, this time in Volume Two of the Royal Commission's report: Betting offices should not offer any facilities which might induce people to enter them for any purpose other than to bet". Then it goes on: they should, however, be allowed to provide vending machines for light refreshments and non-alcoholic drinks, which are forbidden by law at the present time". That is a recommendation which is carried out in this Bill, but of course there is the general question of the facilities that might induce people to enter premises for any purpose other than to bet. Obviously one has in mind in this connection the television and other facilities and general entertainment which are provided for under this Bill if the Secretary of State sees fit to make regulations. One hopes, therefore, that all the caveats that were entered by the Royal Commission will be taken into account before the Secretary of State deals with that aspect.

Lastly, there is the question of the signs which can appear outside, as well as inside, licensed betting premises. Again the Royal Commission made recommendations here which one hopes the Secretary of State will bear in mind. I am looking at recommendation 10 which is reported at page 426: The provisions concerning signs and notices visible from outside the premises of a betting office should be revised and simplified". That is referred to in paragraph 7.54 of the report. Recommendation 11 is: Provided a code of consumer protection is instituted, the restrictions governing notices and signs visible inside a betting office should be revoked and paragraph 4 of Schedule 4 to the Betting, Gaming and Lotteries Act 1963 (encouragement to bet) should be repealed so far as it applies to signs and notices". That means obviously that consideration has to be given again to what the Royal Commission had in mind in that connection.

Subject to those matters, as I said, I think that this Bill, which was so gracefully introduced by the noble Lord, should certainly have a Second Reading.

7.27 p.m.

Lord Airedale

My Lords, I join with the noble Lord. Lord Mishcon, in thanking the noble Lord, Lord Crawshaw, for his excellent explanation of this Bill. I think he has got hold of a rather slippery customer. It is a purely enabling Bill. It does practically nothing itself. Owing to the strong convention in this House of never rejecting a statutory instrument, this Bill gives the Home Office pretty well a free hand to do what it likes regarding the amenities in betting shops.

I am conscious that I am not coining a phrase when I say that betting is a mug's game. It always has been and it is more so now than ever before, now that we have the betting tax and the betting levy. I think that the best advice you can give to a young person who thinks he is going to be able to make money backing horses is, "Remember, my boy, that only one horse is running for you and all the others are running for the bookie". That sometimes makes him think.

But even betting is not all bad. It does at least give employment not only to the bookmaking industry but to the horse racing industry and in the oganisation of all the other events upon which the betting takes place. Nevertheless, it seems to me that it is no business of governments to encourage mugs to play games, but rather they should control the circumstances in which mugs play their games if they must. No doubt it was right in 1963 to have the Act which introduced the betting shop, because illegal betting was rife; the law was in total disrepute and here was a measure to control which brought under control something in which people were going to indulge in any event. But this Bill would undoubtedly permit the Home Secretary to encourage betting by enormously improving the amentities in betting shops.

This brings me to make a point about the betting tax. There seems to be a two-sided argument here. On the one hand, if people are slowly getting rid of their money, which is what the average punter is doing for 99 per cent. of the time, it is no bad thing that he shall be made to throw a percentage of it into a fund to relieve the hard-pressed taxpayer. But on the other hand I do not relish the thought of the Chancellor of the Exchequer going to the Home Secretary and saying "Look here, you have got a chance here enormously to popularise the betting shops and increase the betting turnover and increase the revenue from the betting tax". I hope that, if that conversation takes place, the Home Secretary will be very cautious about accepting an invitation along those lines. I am glad that there is to be—we are told—extensive consultaton before any statutory instrument is going to emerge as a result of this Bill and I do hope that the Home Secretary is going to proceed very cautiously indeed along this path.

7.32 p.m.

The Marquess of Ailesbury

My Lords, I am particularly grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Crawshaw, because this is the first time I have dared to attempt a Second Reading speech. But unfortunately I am not sure that too much gratitude is going to manifest itself in this speech. I am reminded of that sad little wartime story to the effect that when Luftwaffe came over the British troops got into dugouts and put on tin hats. When the RAF planes came over, the Germans got into dugouts and put on tin hats. When the American Air Force appeared, everybody got into dugouts and put on tin hats. I am afraid I reach hastily for my own tin hat when I see politicians overflying this particular area.

I shall be brief, so I hope that I shall be forgiven if I recall just one example of the kind of thing which has tended to happen on previous sorry occasions. There was a Chancellor of the Exchequer—not very long ago, although he is now dead—who noted to his great satisfaction that the football pool industry is able to bear a fairly high rate of tax. He therefore acted—he did not just fly a kite, he acted—on his assumption that the fixed odds football industry would similarly be able to bear a fairly high rate of tax. By his action he brought that industry to a complete standstill at a stroke (a phrase very popular in those days).

Obviously, he failed to appreciate that these two sections of the industry cater for totally different sections of the betting public. One section is so mesmerised by the mirage of instant wealth that it is not deterred even by the fact that for every pound that goes into these pools a miserable 30p comes out again, while the other section is interested, of course, in a calculated risk and a modest profit. One really would have thought—would one not—that the difference would have been well within the comprehension of this intelligent man and his battery of advisers; especially since, if only one of them had grasped the point in advance, presumably the whole fiasco would have been averted. But, no, evidently that was asking too much.

Now this season on the flat, the form is working out pretty well. The question for us this evening is whether the political form is working out equally well. In other words are the politicians doing it all wrong again? Yes and no, but predominantly yes. The sad thing is that if one managed to take a sufficiently narrow and blinkered view, the Bill is so manifestly benign that one would feel inclined to criticise it for not going far enough. In what other country in the world could it have been enacted that one may have a betting shop but one may not make it comfortable nor attractive lest someone should be lured inside to bet? Sometimes I feel surprised that we cannot legislate to make pubs uncomfortable and unattractive lest someone should be lured inside to drink. Really, this mentality is the wonder of our enemies and the despair of our friends.

So what is wrong with the Bill? In isolation, as I have said, nothing. Only this: I think it will seriously unbalance and thus undermine the whole structure of the betting industry upon which racing relies. I am not one of those who depict the owners of the big betting shop chains as the villians of every piece. I say only that this Bill will give them enormous scope for indulging their strong and unhealthy monopolistic urges. This Bill will do their work for them by seriously weakening the on-course betting market.

Far fewer people, I think, will choose to bet on the racecourse rather than in these much improved shops. This will enable the big betting shop chains to denigrate, far more convincingly than they already do, the state of health of the on-course market. They already dislike it, with its cut-throat competition from which the betting public so greatly benefits. Now they will claim that it is so enfeebled as to be irrelevant, and that they are the people to determine what ungenerous rate of odds their customers may in future receive. It will be most ironic if this Bill, so loaded in favour of large monopoly against small private enterprise goes through under this particular Government.

If I may end on a constructive note by revealing what the politicians ought to do but will not, the Government ought to balance this Bill by abolishing the on-course betting tax. If they were to do that—that is, if pigs were to fly—then one could welcome this Bill.

7.37 p.m.

Lord Mancroft

My Lords, I hope my noble friend Lord Crawshaw will forgive me, after the very genial way in which he has introduced this little Bill, if I tell him I do not like it at all. I had better declare an interest at once and explain why. I am and have been for the past seven years the chairman of the British Greyhound Racing Board, which is a democratically elected body embracing all walks of life in the greyhound world, including that of the bookmaker. So I am not to be heard as speaking against the bookmakers in the few remarks I wish to address against this Bill this afternoon.

I think it is going to do our sport great harm. It is going to take the punters away from the greyhound racing track and take them into the betting shop. We have no betting levy in the greyhound racing world, unlike in horse racing. We rely on the money that is passed to our totalisators on the track. The Bill will take it into the shops and put it into the bookies' pockets. I am not going to be dog-in-the-manger or greyhound-in-the-manger and say that I want the betting shops to be untidy and uncomfortable and improperly regulated. Of course not. It must be done properly. So what am I worrying about?

Our sport, the greyhound racing sport, is in an anxious state of health. Therefore any further threat—and I regard this Bill as a further threat—is very unwelcome. After soccer, we are the second biggest spectator sport in this country. We are a modest sport. We are a family sport and, importantly in these terrible events we have read about recently, we are a law-abiding sport. We do not pull down the barricades or throw broken bottles at the police.

Any decline in the attendance at our sport I think will be a serious national handicap. There is a decline. About 4½ million people a year attend greyhound racing at the moment, and the number is declining. A large sum of money finds its way into the Treasury and that is declining. Tracks are closing. Our best known track, the White City, is to be closed almost immediately. Your Lordships will have seen, and it gives me great pleasure, that Mr. Isadore Kerman and the GRA are proposing to build another track over by Wormwood Scrubs, and I am very grateful to know about that. But there are threats to other tracks: Harringay. Wimbledon, Leicester and Manchester are all in danger. In switching over to horse racing, I have to remind your Lordships that there is no horse racing track in the centre of London. There are three within bicycling distance of the Eiffel Tower. In London we have none nearer than Kempton or Sandown. Nor is there any horse-race track in Birmingham, Manchester, Cardiff or Glasgow, of the bigger cities. Why? Because they were too expensive and it was more attractive to put up offices and factories there. I see further erosion in this Bill.

We are primarily an evening sport. The betting shops are open until about 6.30 in the evening and people can bet in advance on the races that evening and on the races that frequently take place in the afternoon. They are putting money not into the greyhound sport but into the bookmakers' pocket. As I said, we have no levy. I remember this vividly because for four years I was chairman of the Tote and I served on the levy board. I remember the debates that went on at the time; the noble Lord, the Minister, will also remember. As 1 say, the bookmakers make a contribution but it is a minuscule contribution Some of the more generous ones put their hands into their satchels and make a voluntary contribution. The Home Office well know that this is a laughable contribution because recently they introduced it in Northern Ireland, where it did not exist before, and made it very much bigger, thereby acknowledging the point that we have to make here.

The Minister knows all about this. He knows it because I make an annual visit to the Treasury, with my supporters around me, trying to get the betting tax made a little bit less ridiculous. It is ridiculously balanced against our interests. I have not had very much success. We have been trying to get other amendments made to the betting laws. The other day the noble Lord, Lord Newall, introduced a Bill into the House and another is in contemplation to try to put this matter right. I am not speaking against the bookies. I am not saying anything against horse racing. I am not suggesting that the betting shops should be made uncomfortable in any way. What I am trying to bring home is the fact that by luring more and more punters away from our tracks and across to the betting shops the Bill is gravely imperilling a sport which already is seriously in danger.

Of course, I shall not divide the House against this Second Reading. The House does not look very full at the moment. The noble Lord, Lord Airedale, raised an interesting constitutional point. We also had a slightly more controversial Division earlier in the day. Lord Wigg never hesitated to divide the House on a Private Member's Bill, because he thought that what happened to some of our Bills in another place merited their Bills occasionally being divided upon here. I shall do no such controversial thing.

1 shall merely ask the noble Lord to be good enough to take us fully into consultation and to remember our plight and our danger and the necessity, for the reasons I have given, to support the greyhound racing track and sport. In anticipation of the favours to come from the noble Lord, I might suggest to him that he should cast his eye favourably on the prospects of "Disco Duchess" in the 10 p.m. at the White City this evening. I cannot do better than that.

7.43 p.m.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Elton)

My Lords, it may be right for me to indicate now the Government's attitude to this Bill—though not to the odds quoted so kindly a moment ago by my noble friend—and explain how we would proceed if this Bill were enacted. First, may I make it clear that we support the Bill. My right honourable friend the Member for Chesham and Amersham has done the industry a service in taking the Bill through another place and I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Crawshaw for his readiness to take it through this House, in one of his rare and brief speeches. Both rarity and brevity are virtues in legislation and I congratulate him on both, although I wish we saw him more often. He introduced a useful measure. My noble friend is a courageous horseman and a good deal better at cross-country than some I can think of who do not suffer his handicap. I hope that on this occasion your Lordships will give him an easy ride.

We think the law governing signs and notices outside licensed betting offices is unsatisfactory and that the time has come to clarify and simplify the existing confused situation. We have been considering what may be exhibited and displayed inside the licensed premises and we have also given thought to relaxing the restrictions in the facilities available in licensed betting offices. It is this last point which has attracted most attention and it is dealt with in Clause 1 of the Bill. This would enable the Secretary of State to lay down by order what facilities may be provided in licensed betting offices. Such an order would of course have to be approved by both Houses of Parliament before it was made.

Your Lordships will wish to know what sort of changes might be proposed. None, I must emphasise, would be brought before Parliament in an order until there had been full consultation with the various interests. Every one of your Lordships who has expressed an interest in the Bill has expressed an interest in that aspect of it, and I am glad to reassure noble Lords. These consultations would extend beyond the racing and betting industries. For example, changes in the controls on the conduct of betting offices will affect the justices who license them, the local authorities who are responsible for planning and other controls, and the police who enforce the law.

Nor would any changes made override the relevant provisions in other legislation. As far as the Secretary of State is concerned, this is an enabling clause in an enabling Bill. But the only legislation it enables him to vary, by order and under parliamentary supervision, is betting legislation. It does not enable him to set aside the requirements in legislation about other things such as the sale and supply of food or drink, and the licence holder and his premises would have to satisfy them as well if he provided facilities affected by them.

It has for long been understood that the various statutory controls and restrictions on gambling are designed to prevent the stimulation of demand for gambling facilities. We have no intention of departing from that principle when drafting orders under this Bill. But why, your Lordships might ask, should there by any change at all in that case? The existing restrictions were imposed when there was no experience of cash betting offices in the United Kingdom. They were designed to discourage continuous betting, loitering and inducement to bet. Since the 1960s experience has shown that some of the fears entertained before cash betting offices were legalised were without foundation; that perhaps the greatest inducement to bet is the simple existence of such facilities; and that the restrictions at present imposed may be unnecessarily restrictive.

The bookmakers' associations have asked for a relaxation in the controls on the conduct of betting offices, in particular for removal of the prohibition on television broadcasts and on vending machines for non-alcoholic drinks. Moreover, it has been suggested that these restrictions in particular provide an incentive to illegal betting in places where such facilities do exist, and that has caused us some concern.

The noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, quite rightly referred to the final report of the Royal Commission on Gambling; I am obliged to him for notice of his intention so to do. He referred to the fact that it suggested that information on the statistics of gambling should be brought together in one place. I think I should refer the noble Lord, although I am sure he must have seen it, to Command Paper No. 7897 which was published in 1980 for that very purpose. This was an occasional publication, as my now noble but then right honourable friend the Home Secretary said in the debate on the report. I think the noble Lord will find it useful.

On the finances of bookmakers, the Royal Commission also concluded that bookmakers did not make excessive profits. Provided they operate within the law we do not see reason, from the standpoint of gambling control, for such a study to be made. Issues such as monopolies would be for the Office of Fair Trading and the Monopolies and Mergers Commission.

Returning to the Bill and the need for it, we also need a little flexibility to keep legislation up to date with technological change. The power contained in this clause would give us that flexibility and enable us to deal with changing conditions such as further developments in audio-visual technology. Moreover, the clause is not a device that can move in one direction only. The enabling power would mean that restrictions could be tightened as well as relaxed, if that should ever become appropriate.

As I have said, no order would be brought forward without wide consultation. But there are limits to what we would consider, even within consultation. I can assure my noble friend Lord Mancroft in particular that there is no question of turning betting shops into some form of leisure centre with cabaret or entertainment; nor will they become general gambling centres.

It is not our policy to mix different gambling activities. The business of a betting shop will remain the effecting of a betting transaction. Any change in the restrictions on facilities would therefore be made with that very much in view. What we have in mind are, first, facilities genuinely related to the betting transaction (such as the facility to see a televised race) or, secondly, those which might be regarded as a reasonable incidental facility (such as vending machines dispensing tea or coffee). That, I think, is quite in accord with Recommendation 9 of the Royal Commission, referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon. These are not inducements; they are scarcely even embellishments.

However, I can say to my noble friend Lord Mancroft that we do recognise that there is concern that the introduction of television in licensed betting offices could adversely affect attendances at greyhound races without the compensation of increased levy income which would result from any increase in off-course betting. I entirely understand that. In fact, the British Greyhound Racing Board will be coming to see Home Office officials in the very near future to discuss the problems facing greyhound racing and their proposals for possible changes in the law.

In the context of this Bill, the board would be one of the bodies we would consult about any order proposed under Clause 1. They will, therefore, have the opportunity to comment on any proposals and to suggest measures which would safeguard their interests. I think that that is the assurance that my noble friend was seeking. I cannot, of course, give him any assurance about changes in the level of taxation, which fall to the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Indeed, that is a point which I also make to the noble Lord, Lord Airedale.

We have had some preliminary consultations already. If this Bill were to be enacted, our further consultation would cover much greater detail. For example, in considering whether television should be allowed it would be necessary to decide whether there should be any restriction on the number of sets, or the size of screens, or on when they could be switched on. Any such detail, if aproved, would be contained in an order made under this clause. So there is no question of any headlong rush to provide additional facilities in betting offices. Proposals for change will be considered carefully, and Parliament, as I have already said, will, quite rightly, have the final word. I hope that the noble Marquess, Lord Ailesbury, will recognise that this is a fairly effective safeguard, and one which involves his own supervision as well as that of others; and I hope he will perhaps be persuaded with great caution eventually to remove the metaphorical tin hat which he donned on the approach of my noble friend over the target area.

Clause 2 deals with the signs and notices outside licensed betting offices. The law on these has, as I have said, been recognised as unsatisfactory for some time. This clause, which seems to me to be in accord with Recommendation 10 of the Royal Commission, amends the 1963 Act to bring the publication of all advertisements and notices visible outside licensed betting offices under the control of regulations made by the Secretary of State. The regulations would relate to the content and manner of display of the advertisements. They would apply to notices or advertisements which were inside the betting shop but visible from the outside (for example, in a window), to those which were in premises giving access to such an office, and to those on the outside of the office premises or on the outside of premises in which the betting office is situated. They would not apply to notices or advertisements visible only inside a betting office. These are already subject to control under Schedule 4 to the 1963 Act.

Preliminary consultation has indicated a fair measure of agreement as to what might be permitted by way of signs and notices outside licensed betting offices. We think this might include the company or individual's name, a description of the business (which might be licensed betting office, bookmaker, turf accountant, or something similar) and the telephone number of the premises. Two provisions might be made mandatory: we might require, first, the display at the entrance to the licensed betting office of a notice, clearly visible and legible to anyone seeking to enter, stating that persons under the age of 18 are not admitted or would have to go out again; and, secondly, a notice giving the times of opening.

Whatever might be agreed would still have to comply with planning regulations. One of the matters to be pursued in further consultations, before any regulations were made, would be the extent to which the manner of display should be left to the planning authorities. Window displays have caused some confusion in the past. There has been doubt about whether they constitute an inducement to bet. But it has been suggested that they are aesthetically more acceptable in a shopping area or high street than a simple blank or painted out window. This, again, is something on which planning authorities will have a view. Our initial view, and one which has the general support of the local authority associations, is that it would seem reasonable to permit the display of pictures, photographs, cartoons or other matter associated with events on which betting takes place, but to prohibit any text.

I do not want to go into too much detail, but I might just add that notices of staff vacancies might be a reasonable exception to this, and there might be others. I say that simply to show that we have given a good deal of thought to this matter already. But we do not propose to permit the display of the odds available on the Grand National or the Derby, or the animal which my noble friend recommended to me earlier and whose name I shall have to ask him for later—

Lord Graham of Edmonton

My Lords, it was "Disco Duchess".

Lord Elton

My Lords, I am much obliged to noble Lords better informed than me, because Hansard would come too late to my rescue!

As with any changes which might be made under Clause 1, there would be widespread consultation before any regulations were made. Clause 3 of the Bill allows the Secretary of State to vary certain fees by order. Under the 1963 Act the fees payable for the grant or renewal of a bookmaker's permit, betting agency permit and betting office licence are payable to the Clerk to the Licensing Justices. There is no power to vary these fees at present. This clause provides that the Secretary of State may vary the fees by order subject to the negative resolution procedure. It is important that they should reflect the cost of the work involved in administration and issue. We shall be considering what the appropriate level should be.

I hope this explanation of the Government's attitude and intentions has been helpful. As I have tried to explain, this Bill would not mean that on Royal Assent betting shops could simply go ahead and install television sets and drink machines in their premises. I would stress again that there would be widespread consultation before any proposals were brought forward. Because such proposals are likely to represent a considerable social change, the Bill provides that any order with respect to the facilities that may be provided in betting offices will be made subject to the affirmative resolution procedure. We feel it is right that such changes should require the specific approval of both Houses of Parliament.

With those comments, I commend my noble friend's Bill to your Lordships' attention.

7.57 p.m.

Lord Crawshaw

My Lords, it remains for me to thank all noble Lords who have spoken in this debate for their interest in the subject. The Bill has had something of a mixed reception, but nevertheless it has been an interesting debate. I can only hope that the speech of my noble friend Lord Elton will have reassured those who think rather like the noble Lord, Lord Airedale, because I accept that the Bill does put quite a lot on the Home Secretary's plate. I also hope that my noble friend reassured the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, with his fair points about the recommen-dations of the Royal Commission. That came over fairly strongly in the speech of my noble friend Lord Elton.

I enjoyed the speech of the noble Marquess, Lord Ailesbury. I must admit that initially I thought along the same lines, but I must tell the noble Marquess that the racing authorities support the Bill, and they are the people who I suppose would be affected if racecourse attendances dropped significantly. I should like to join him in his message to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, because if we could reduce the on-course betting tax it would meet his point considerably.

I point out to my noble friend Lord Mancroft that I, too, am interested in greyhound racing and very much enjoy it, and I in no way wish to damage it. I very much hope that he will take advantage of the communication which I understand his association is having with the Home Office. I, personally, have never quite understood why the greyhound racing industry has not got a similar scheme to that of the racehorse industry, but I am sure that my noble friend will look after that aspect.

One way and another, we have to deal with the facts of life as they are, and, as I have said, since 1963 betting shops have been functioning mostly responsibly. It does not seem to me that we can expect them to go on in rather archaic conditions. I feel that they ought to be brought up to date to cater for the customers of 1984. For that reason I hope that your Lordships will give this Bill a Second Reading.

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

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now adjourn during pleasure until nine minutes past eight o'clock.

[The Sitting was suspended from 8 p.m. to 8.9 p.m.]