HL Deb 09 December 1987 vol 491 cc276-98

7.48 p.m.

Lord Wyatt of Weeford

My Lords, I beg to move that this report be now received.

Moved, that this Report be now received.—(Lord Wyatt of Weeford.)

Lord Kimball

My Lords, I think this Motion is the right moment for your Lordships' House to consider what are the realistic prospects for this Bill after completing all its stages in your Lordships' House. This Bill will go to another place as a public Bill which has not been introduced by the Government. Even if taken up by another MP (as the noble Lord, Lord Wyatt. assures us it will) it goes on the Order Paper of another place below the line. Whatever day it is put down for, it will never be reached.

In the last full Session of Parliament—the 1985–86 Parliament—eight Bills passed through all their stages in this House; five of them were tabled in another place and succeeded. They succeeded because they were put down on one of the six Fridays set aside for the remaining stages of Private Members' Bills. However, there was no single objection to any one of those five Bills. In fact they passed through another place with the unanimous consent of the whole House.

That is hardly the case of a Bill such as this one. It is not, I submit, practical politics to believe that there would be no single objection to this Bill in another place. It could never pass on the nod; it would have to have a Second Reading debate. It would have to have a closure Motion. If one looks at the programme in another place at the moment, one sees that there are six Second Reading Fridays set down on the Order Paper. In racing terms the declared runners on each of those Fridays already fill the field with seven or eight Bills, all of which would take precedence over this Bill when it goes to another place.

I hope that I am not misquoting the noble Lord, Lord Wyatt, when I say that he has indicated to some of his friends and his supporters that there is a prospect of government time for this Bill. Is that a realistic assessment? In an overcrowded Session, when it is thought that we shall be debating throughout the long hot days of August and be summoned hack early in September in order that the Government can achieve even its full programme, is it realistic to believe that the Government will give time to a controversial Private Member's Bill?

Of course there are precedents. There is one particular precedent in the administration which the noble Lord, Lord Wyatt, himself supported. Highly controversial legislation which the Government would not and did not dare put into their own programme was passed in another place by virtue of giving time to Private Members' Bills. It was rather a bogus argument to say that the House must be given an opportunity to come to a conclusion early on a Saturday morning, having sat through the whole of Friday night.

I think it is important at this stage that we should say that it is quite unacceptable to give time to Private Members' Bills. There are checks and balances in the parliamentary procedure in both Houses which protect the minority rights in this country. Perhaps the most important check is the fact of time itself. Time is the weapon of any opposition, as your Lordships know well. By extending time one reduces the opportunities for defending the rights of minorities.

I find myself in a very difficult position, in that I am a supporter of this Bill but I must also ask my noble friend who sits on the Front Bench to make it perfectly clear to his department that many of us have fundamental objections to government time being given to Private Members' Bills.

I believe that the whole problem is compounded by another rule. I think that it is a very misguided device to have put down in another place a No. 2 Bill which is set down for a Second Reading and has drawn second place on 29th January. Whatever status the Bill of the noble Lord, Lord Wyatt, possesses when it leaves this House—and I have no doubt that it will complete all its stages in this House—in another place it will clearly be labelled as a Private Member's Bill. That strengthens my request that we should hear loud and clear from the Government that in no circumstances will time be given to Private Members' Bills. Many mistakes have been made. Why was not a higher place obtained in the ballot for the No. 2 Bill? Was the Jockey Club present at the ballot? One could continue endlessly dealing with such matters, but I do not believe that it is to the advantage of anybody to list in public all the proper manoeuvres that should be performed in order to succeed with legislation such as this. All I can say is that in my opinion that course has not been properly followed. I wish this Bill well but I want to see it running its parliamentary course under the correct rules of parliamentary procedure and Private Member's legislation and not, as I rather suspect, as a ringer.

Lord Wyatt of Weeford

My Lords, I feel rather as the noble Lord, Lord Kimball; must often have felt when he was a master of foxhounds and accosted by a hunt saboteur. I think that he must have learned something from such tactics.

Of course it is quite impossible to say at this stage whether government time would be given to this Bill if it passes through this House. The Government may say one thing at one time and another at another time, and they have frequently been known to change their mind. I have not given up hope that if this Bill passes through this House there may be a feeling in some quarters of the Government that we might as well modernise the law in relation to Sunday sports and therefore there is no reason not to give this Bill a little time. After all, some great privatisation measure such as the privatisation of water might suddenly be withdrawn. There may be another collapse of the Stock Exchange. The Government may have time on their hands and wish to use their Back-Benchers in some useful manner.

In any case, to get this Bill through this House is a start. It is a kind of blueprint for a Bill which, if it does not come immediately from another place will, I think, come one day. It is rather unfortunate that the noble Lord, Lord Kimball, should speak as though the procedures of this House were quite useless. If what he said were correct, there would be no point at all in anybody ever moving a Private Member's Bill here unless it were totally uncontroversial. I think that the noble Lord, Lord Kimball, concedes that there have been many Bills passed in this and the other place which were controversial and which were Private Members' Bills. That was done by a far-sighted Labour administration which was then a party with more foresight than it has today. Maybe the Tory Government, over which I have no control—and perhaps the noble Lord has—might become equally as far-sighted as their predecessors in libertarian matters. In any case, it is not the same Bill as that to which the noble Lord, Lord Kimball, refers and which is due to be moved in another place on the 29th January. It is not the same. One Bill has had nothing to do with the other.

If some Member in another place picks up this Bill, it will have its own life. I do not think that it is a good idea to stifle an embryo before it has had a chance to develop. I hope that we may receive this Report.

On Question, Motion agreed to: Report received.

Clause 2 [Removal of restrictions on betting on Sundays.]:

Lord Wyatt of Weeford moved Amendment No. 1: Page I, line 12, at end insert— ("(b) for paragraph 1 of Schedule 4 there shall be substituted— 1. The licensed premises shall be closed—

  1. (a) throughout Good Friday, Christmas Day and every Sunday on which racing on an approved horse racecourse does not take place;
  2. (b) before the hour of twelve noon on every Sunday on which racing on an approved horse racecourse does take place; and
  3. (c) at such other times, if any, as may be prescribed, and shall not be used for any purpose other than effecting of betting transactions".").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I shall try to be as brief as possible because I know that many of your Lordships would like to go home at this late hour. I beg to move the amendment standing in my name and that of the noble Lord, Lord Manton. This amendment should have been moved at the Committee stage but it became procedurally impossible to do that after the provision for the general opening of betting shops on Sundays had been defeated.

This amendment is not an attempt to reverse a defeat. It is aimed at introducing a new element as a concession to those who are worried that betting offices might be opened on most Sundays if not all. Indeed, the noble Lord, Lord Elton, gave a preliminary welcome to this amendment when he remarked at Committee stage: if there is later proposed, very sensibly in my view, permission to keep the betting shops open on Sunday only on days when there is racing…"—[Official Report, 5/11/87; col. 1138.]

That is precisely the effect of this amendment. It would allow betting offices to be opened only on Sundays when approved horseracing takes place.

A major reason for this is that without betting offices being open on a Sunday when there is horseracing there will be an upsurge in illegal betting. That was also the prime reason for betting offices being legalised in the 1960 Act. On the Second Reading of that Bill, Mr. R. A. Butler, one of the better Home Secretaries, gave the official estimate that seven times as many people were illegally betting in cash off the course as there were legally betting on credit by telephone.

He said on 16th November 1959: The object of these offices would be to prevent the present illegal practice".

Mr. Butler went on to say: The existence of a restrictive law which is outmoded and unpopular cannot but lead to attempts to corrupt the police by street bookmakers."—[Official Report, Commons; cols. 810–811.]

The 1960 Act was aimed at reducing the criminality connected with illegal betting which the Government recognised was bound to increase if legal outlets were not available to meet the demand for cash betting.

Exactly the same arguments apply to the demand for cash betting on Sundays when there is racing. If it is not met by legal outlets, it will be satisfied by criminals. Today the arrangements for betting on Sundays are elitist. They militate against those in the lower income groups. That point was made very strongly by Mr. Butler in regard to weekday betting before the 1960 Act. He said at col. 809: This has led to differential treatment for different social classes of the community.

You can bet legally on credit on a Sunday by telephone, but 20 per cent. of households have no telephone. Moreover, millions in the lower income groups do not wish to have credit. They like to bet their small amounts in cash so that they know where they are as they go along. They do not want to be tempted by credit accounts into building up losses higher than they can afford, which is very prudent of them. It makes betting a harmless entertainment with no social ill-effects, and this is a habit which should be encouraged in people in the lower income groups who cannot risk a lot of money. However, if the House does not pass this amendment we shall be pushing such people either into the temptation of unwilling extravagance through credit accounts, or into illegal betting.

Recent technological advances make this ever more probable. Already there are three firms offering a telephone service giving prices of horses before the race and a commentary on the race itself. It is easy to put amplifiers on telephones and to set up an illegal betting office tax free, using the commentaries provided which cost 38p a minute on weekdays but only 25p a minute on Sundays. Two firms are considering setting up similar systems. Altogether it is estimated that before very long such telephone services will be taking 10 million calls a year. So the scope for increasing illegal betting on a Sunday by this means and others is obvious.

The 1978 Royal Commission on Gambling commented that illegal betting is a serious and rising danger. That remains true. The evidence for prosecutions is difficult to get. No one complains against the illegal bookmakers except for the legal bookmakers. The participants in these crimes are happy to get away without paying 8 per cent. duty and an extra 1 per cent. or so payable to the levy board.

Since the on-course betting tax of 4 per cent. was abolished, there has been an increase in betting with the legal bookmakers on course. There is no longer any advantage in betting with illegal bookmakers, so the legal bookmakers get back the custom that they should have had all the time. That is strong evidence in itself that illegal bookmaking is impossible to control, that it was a very serious matter on the course and that not all the security officers of the Jockey Club could do anything about it.

We all know that prosecutions against drug pedlars have nowhere near ended this pernicious trade—it rises persistently and that is despite prodigious efforts by the authorities. There are not enough Customs and Excise staff or police to make remotely the same efforts to stamp out illegal betting. This is regarded generally by the police and the authorities as a minor crime, although in spreading it becomes more vicious.

In a letter to the Betting Office Licensees Association of March 1984, Mr. A. M. Fraser, chairman of Customs and Excise, said that the number of convictions does not necessarily bear any relation to the level of duty evasion. In that letter he described the enormous difficulties of securing convictions and the practice of having compound settlements to avoid prosecutions altogether. In the last month the Betting Office Licensees Association has had 23 bookmakers reporting 85 allegations against illegal bookmakers. There would be far more such reports if it were possible to do more about bringing the criminals to justice. Racing on Sunday without betting offices open would vastly increase the criminality.

I have been asked why the Republic of Ireland has Sunday racing with betting only on course and with the betting offices off the course being shut by law. First, Ireland has a population of only 3 million compared with our 55 million and the problems are very different. Also the structure of betting in Ireland is such that most of the bets in betting offices are laid on English racing. Irish racing is not such a great attraction to the Irish punter unless he is an enthusiastic racegoer.

However the Irish racing authorities are now getting very concerned about illegal betting on Sundays. The noble Lord, Lord Killanin, headed a commission of inquiry into the Irish breeding and racing industry. On Monday in Dublin he called for the Sunday opening of betting offices in Ireland to counter illegal off-course betting. If there is anything we may learn from the Irish example, it is that having tried keeping betting offices closed when there is Sunday racing, they now realise the need to have them open.

The noble Lord, Lord Elton, at the Committee stage seemed to be saying that it did not matter if there was illegal betting on Sunday. That surprised me because he was himself a Minister at the Home Office, which takes a very different view. The Home Office is so frightened of an increase in illegal betting that it will withdraw its benevolence towards this Bill if the betting offices are not open on Sundays when there is approved horseracing.

I do not think that your Lordships need be worried about this causing fearful disturbance. I would not expect much more than half of the 10,000 betting shops to be open on a Sunday, as many are in places deserted on Sundays and they would not be worth opening. Those betting shops which were open on a Sunday would scarcely be noticed among the 150,000 establishments selling alcohol and the multitude of shops open legally or illegally on a Sunday. Nor would it be viable to have Sunday racing throughout the year as my noble friend Lord Manton will explain.

In Committee the noble Lord, Lord Elton, was sympathetic to limiting the opening of betting offices to Sundays when there was approved horseracing. I hope that he and your Lordships' House will now agree to this vital amendment because without it the whole Bill will founder. Charging admission for sporting events on Sundays will remain as illegal as it was in 1780 when the Sunday Observance Act was passed.

The failure of this Bill would doubtless encourage many to institute prosecutions and the holding of sporting events on Sundays would be far more under threat than it is today. We must not forget that this Bill is not merely about racing but about the holding of all sporting events on a Sunday with admission charges being allowed. I am afraid that if we do not allow this Bill to go through the people who want to stop all kind of sporting events on a Sunday will feel that they have been given new ammunition and a new zest for their antediluvian crusade.

The Deputy Speaker (Baroness Cox)

My Lords, I call Amendment No. 2 as an amendment to Amendment No. 1.

Lord Airedale moved, as an amendment to Amendment No. 1, Amendment No. 2: Line 6, after ("noon") insert ("or during the period of British summer time two o'clock in the afternoon").

The noble Lord said: The noble Lord, Lord Wyatt of Weeford, said that he was going to be brief. I would not mind having a bet with him that I shall be more brief still. I must make it clear at the outset that this amendment is not motivated by any desire at all that betting offices shall open at 2 o'clock in the afternoon whenever there is horseracing on a Sunday. Rather, this amendment is intended as a measure for restraint in the event of the noble Lord, Lord Wyatt of Weeford, securing his main amendment and persuading your Lordships to allow betting offices to be open on Sundays when there is horseracing, and if, wanting that so much, noble Lords are prepared to go against the decision that the House arrived at in Committee when it decided that it did not want betting offices open on Sunday at all.

The amendment would insert not a 12 o'clock opening but a 2 o'clock opening so that, quite apart from everybody else, the 40,000 people who work in betting offices shall continue to have the chance to spend time having Sunday lunch with their families. I should not mind betting that that is a privilege they enjoy very much and that they would be sorry to hear that they might lose.

The noble Lord says that only half the betting offices would be open on Sunday. That would mean 20,000 employees losing the chance to have Sunday lunch with their families if betting offices were allowed to open at 12 o'clock. I can see no reason why the offices need open before 2 o'clock. My researches into the sporting pages show that 2.30 p.m. is a perfectly ordinary time for a race meeting to begin. If one goes to the races I do not suppose that one can put a bet on the 2.30 with a bookmaker before 2 o'clock. So what is the point of the betting office opening before 2 o'clock? I see no reason for that.

The amendment refers to British Summer Time and that is because I must concede that if it were desired to hold a Sunday race meeting in the middle of a Christmas holiday in mid-winter, the hours of daylight would not permit of a 2.30 p.m. start to the race meeting. That explains the reference to British Summer Time. I beg to move.

8.15 p.m.

Viscount Tonypandy

My Lords, I always listen with great pleasure to my noble friend Lord Wyatt of Weeford. We spent many years together in another place and I have admired both his facility in writing and his ability in speaking. He would never try to hide the main thrust of the argument that he had in mind. When the noble Lord is mellifluous he is dangerous. Of course I mean that in a nice way. That is the time when all of us need to weigh carefully the words that he has addressed to the House.

As I look at the serried ranks from the Jockey Club who are with us tonight—outnumbering the bishops, it is true—it is clear that there is a larger attendance in the House for this Bill than there was for the earlier debate on the international agreement between the communists and the United States of America. So, clearly, your Lordships' House is aware that big issues are at stake. This is not a puffing Bill at all. It is only small in size. Never mind the length, note the quality. This Bill has major consequences for our country.

The noble Lord, Lord Wyatt of Weeford, dismissed gambling as though it was unimportant in our society. He needs only to talk to any parish priest, any social worker or any policeman and he will soon find that gambling, like drugs, which he mentioned, is a social evil. To increase the opportunity for gambling, which is the main purpose of this amendment and indeed of the Bill itself, is, I believe, not conducive to the common good. I like the noble Lord's suggestion that the working man would be cheated of something if the betting shops were not open. That is like the poor widow idea that was always brought forward in another place in a defensive argument about proposed legislation.

The truth is that working people in Britain are not crying out for betting shops on Sundays. Working people in Britain like the British Sunday. That Sunday has played a great part in the formation of the British character. I know that noble Lords may well be protected from betting shops. I am very fortunate in that there is no betting shop near my bungalow. But even so I know the problems of those in my former constituency who lived near betting shops. I know the effect on family life that gambling has had in working-class areas.

My first objection therefore to the amendment of my noble friend Lord Wyatt of Weeford is that to increase gambling, which is the purpose of the amendment, is anti-social. To increase the opportunity for gambling would be unworthy of your Lordships' House. Who are the people who want it? Apart from the highly respectable and distinguished members of the Jockey Club whom it is not often my pleasure to address, I know also that the bookmakers call for it. That is nice company for noble Lords to keep. The Betting Office Licensees Association was quoted quite understandably by my noble friend Lord Wyatt of Weeford. They want Sunday betting, and not for any high moral reason. Let us not pretend. They want it because they think they will make more money. That is the sordid motive behind the request of the bookmakers of Britain that this House should push over another 'little protection for our people.

The second objection that I offer to your Lordships' House is equally important so far as I am concerned. I spent nearly 40 years in another place. I love that House. All who have served in it, with all its faults, will love it. It is the place in which Members are elected by the people. They are answerable to the people. This House is about as answerable to the British people as is the Jockey Club. The elected representatives who have to face the people threw out the suggestion of changing the character of our British Sunday. It is significant that those who have to face the electors resolved, contrary to the will of their own Government, against that change. The other place taught the Government a very important lesson: that people who make their way quietly on Sunday to the parish churches and to the chapels and those who just enjoy Sunday in pullover and slacks with the family are all against submitting Sunday to those who want to exploit it for their own greed.

The quiet Sunday is an essential strand in the fabric that represents our heritage in this land. The amendment drives a coach and four through the protection of Sunday. If betting shops are open, we know that everything else will follow. That is why I say that the amendment is a way of getting around the will of the elected representatives of the people which was expressed in another place just a year ago.

I honestly believe that it is because noble Lords realise the issues that are at stake that so many have foregone their dinner engagements tonight to come here and wait for me to sit down so that they can vote the Bill through. I beg noble Lords to realise that there is much more at stake than the interests of the Jockey Club or the bookmakers.

My third objection to the amendment is the totally undemocratic nature of the mechanism by which it enables the Bill to operate. The noble Lord, Lord Wyatt, in proposing the amendment, referred to the Jockey Club as deciding on what days racing should be allowed. Under his Bill it has an unfettered right. If it wants to choose 52 Sundays in the year, it can do so. The House should be aware of that. To whom is it answerable? A local authority is at least elected by the people in the area. It is in touch with the will of the people. If it does not fulfil that will, it is thrown out. The same argument applies in another place. However, the Jockey Club would enjoy unfettered power to race on 52 Sundays a year if it wished. It will in effect be given the power to dictate both the nature and the future aspects of Sunday trading.

We shall be giving to the Jockey Club the power that ought to belong to Parliament. Parliament should have the right to decide what our Sundays shall be like. Sunday trading should not depend on the will of the Jockey Club. It will be an affront to parliamentary democracy if we hand over the right to decide on what Sundays there shall be betting in this land. That is what is proposed.

The House is aware that I feel strongly about Sunday. To me, it is a precious day. I am not alone. None of us can say that we speak for the majority in this land. However, I know that at the very heart of our nation there is a tenderness towards Sunday which noble Lords will underestimate at peril to our national interests. By God's mercy, I hope that this House tonight will still be a guardian of our Sunday. I oppose the amendment.

Lord Manton

My Lords, I rise with the greatest diffidence to reply to the noble Viscount, Lord Tonypandy. He is a difficult man to answer. I do not have his particular vernacular. I should like to congratulate him on backing his first winner tonight in that he has won by a short head in respect of the number of Jockey Club members in the Chamber as compared to the strength on the Bishops' Benches. I think that he has won by nine to eight.

However that may be, he has said tonight that it is the Jockey Club which wants Sunday racing. However, the Jockey Club is only the fulcrum. It has taken a census of all the pressure groups within racing. It is those pressure groups, whether they be of trainers, jockeys or owners of racehorses, who have supported the concept of Sunday racing. While it is probably true to say that individual members of the Jockey Club support it, they are supporting what is best for the industry. It is clear that what is best for the industry is some Sunday racing.

I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Wyatt, on bringing your Lordships' attention to the very real dangers of illegal betting and the criminality which would undoubtedly take place were betting shops not open when there was horseracing. I support everything that he has said along those lines.

Perhaps I may tell your Lordships how the Jockey Club tries to control the fixtures list. There are 59 licensed race courses, all of which would presumably like to operate on the plum days that are allowed at present, such as Saturdays and Bank Holidays. At York, where I am chairman of the racecourse—as such, I declare an interest—we have 16 days' racing a year. However, only three of those days are Saturdays. The Jockey Club has a criteria for the allocation of fixtures. It tries to allocate such days as fairly as possible.

Were Sunday racing and betting on and off-course to be allowed, the Jockey Club policy would be to allocate probably seven Sundays on which racing could take place in the first year. If that experiment was found to be a success, possibly 12 Sundays would be allocated over the next two, three or four years. That is still less than 25 per cent. of the available Sundays. On each Sunday when racing was permitted there would be three race meetings. In year I there would be 21 race meetings, progressing, if successful, to about 36 race meetings.

Because of the increased costs in staging a fixture on a Sunday, successful marketing by the individual racecourse would be most important and it should centre on a fun day out for the whole family, with entertainments and displays for the wives and for the children. Sunday racing would be very much a special day for racecourses, and if what happened in Ireland is anything to go by attendances would increase dramatically. It is not true to say that the general public do not want Sunday racing. We believe very strongly that everything we have looked into indicates that the general public needs Sunday racing.

However, I do not feel that Sunday race days would proliferate, owing, as I have said, to the very special nature that they have. They are expensive to put on. They are a day out for the racegoer. I do not see them taking place at Christmas time or on murky Sunday afternoons in November. I think this is really a summer pastime.

Racing is unlike other sports such as football and cricket on at least two counts. Whereas in league football there are at least 40 first-class matches every day and a considerable number of first-class cricket fixtures, as I have already said, there will be only three race meetings on a Sunday that has racing fixtures. Moreover, a great majority of racecourses are in rural areas and so would not cause the traffic and noise problems which some of your Lordships referred to at previous stages of this Bill.

There are fewer than 10,000 betting shops in this country and I feel sure that not all of them would want to open on a Sunday—certainly not those which are situated to serve commercial centres. The noble Lord, Lord Wyatt, has already referred to this. We are probably talking of no more than 5,000 to 7,000 betting shops being open on perhaps 12 Sundays in the year. I am informed that the average number of employees per shop is four, of whom two-thirds are part-timers.

When one realises that there are 150,000 licensed premises and restaurants open every Sunday, not to mention bingo halls and casinos, one hopes that Sunday racing with betting shops can be seen in its true perspective. I support the amendment.

8.30 p.m.

Lord Graham of Edmonton

My Lords, I begin by saying that if this was a boxing match I believe the other side would have thrown in the towel by now, because what we have heard from the noble Viscount, Lord Tonypandy, is in my view not only a demolition job on the amendment but a stout defence of the character of the English Sunday. The noble Lords opposite are perfectly entitled to believe that there is a clamour, that there is a desire and that there is a need to have racing on Sunday. I have seen extracts from the surveys and the statistics which can be used or abused. The case will not rest upon statistics.

I believe that this amendment should be rejected on the three grounds which the noble Viscount, Lord Tonypandy, mentioned. It is the thin edge of the wedge in regard to the character of Sunday. I will refer to the intentions of the Government to change the character of Sunday with a Sunday trading Bill. The amendment passes power to the Jockey Club and it is unnecessary for the purposes of this Bill.

I remind the House that the noble Lord, Lord Wyatt, in the first three-line Whip I have ever seen in The Times, which appeared on Wednesday, 2nd December, said, beneath a headline reading, A final hurdle to livelier Sundays: At the committee stage it was also agreed that betting may take place after 12 noon on Sundays on the grounds where sporting events are held. This was conceded by those opponents of the bill"— that is me, and others— who on the whole are against paid admission to any sporting events on Sundays"— not true— a generous if tardy recognition of the changes in public opinion since 1780". The noble Lord, Lord Wyatt, went on: If the Bill were to go through the Lords and Commons as it stands now there would therefore be a substantial improvement over the present position. Sunday betting at grand prix motor racing, at Lord's, at Wimbledon and at race tracks would become legal". That is what has been achieved by the Bill, not approved but tolerated by those like myself who have certain stances. I said at the Committee stage that I certainly have attended race meetings and entered betting shops, but what we are being asked to believe is that the 1780 Act bears down most heavily not on horseracing but on many other sports. The Bill lists them, and we have seen the writings.

I agree that it is nonsense to have an Act of 1780 which makes illegal the charging for admission to cricket and football matches and many other activities. That is the purpose of the Bill. It is also the purpose of the Bill to extend sport on Sunday to racing. I support that. The Bill also says that one should allow on-course betting. That is in the Bill, and so far so good. That is the Bill as it stands and that is the Bill which the noble Lord, Lord Wyatt, said was a vast improvement.

To be fair to the members of the Jockey Club, I accept they are a catalyst for a point of view. As the noble Viscount, Lord Tonypandy, said, that of itself is a dramatic change. It is said that unless in addition you inflict upon the communities that I know in Edmonton and Enfield, every other industrial town and the suburbs and the streets around them, the possibility that the betting shops will be open, then we do not want any of the other facilities.

A pistol is being held to the heads of people like myself who are prepared to seek compromise and go halfway in the great issue about the nature of Sunday. I believe that this amendment is unnecessary. The noble Lord, Lord Wyatt, pleads in aid of his case the change of heart in Ireland. A great deal has been made of the prospect of illegal betting if the betting shops are not open. The noble Lord, Lord Wyatt, told us in an article in The Times last week that already it is estimated that illegal betting runs at something like 15 per cent. to 20 per cent. of the total. Apparently, that is tolerated or understood. I do not know what it is suggested is going to happen on a Sunday if on every other day of the week collectively we are told that that is the situation.

I should like to say something about the thin end of the wedge. In 1986 the Government brought forward their plans to radically alter the character of the English Sunday by introducing a Bill to deregulate shopping. It was rejected. In the manifesto of 1987 the Government said they were going to present a Bill, no doubt in the next Session, to go back to something like complete deregulation.

In 1988 we shall have in the Queen's Speech the possibility that the Government and their advisers may initiate enormous change. In the Bill and this amendment we are being invited to anticipate—and I suggest to prejudice—free discussion of the issue. if the Sunday trading laws had been changed last year, the noble Lord, Lord Wyatt, would have said, "Why do we not do it for racing?" Equally, if we do do it for racing this year it will be said, "Why not do it for shops next year?" In my mind both the issues hang together. I look upon this as a stalking horse for the main issue.

The other issue is equally important, and that is the power that the amendment will give to the Jockey Club. I accept all that the noble Lord, Lord Manton, and his friends have said: it is an experimental period, and that they want between seven and 12 Sundays of racing in the next two to three years. They cannot tell me what decisions they will take next year in the light of the success or otherwise.

What about the organisers at a racecourse who may look at another racecourse 50 miles away and say, "Just a moment, you have licensed them to open on a Sunday, so what about us?" There will be pressure upon the Jockey Club to respond. If the noble Lord says that it is not subject to pressure, then it is a different kind of Jockey Club from the one that I know. Noble Lords will have to listen to the arguments. The Jockey Club ought not to be given the power to change in that way.

Three main groups of people stand to profit from the Bill. The first is the bookmakers. They had a £4 billion of turnover last year, 80 per cent. of it off course, and £750 million profit. They want to have a little bit more. That is the nature of the beast. Then there is the Totaliser, with more than £3 million profit last year, and it will have a little share of the action. Then there is the Government, who receive a tax. They will want a little share of the action.

The House is considering whether, on the narrow issue of allowing betting on a Sunday, it wishes to take these enormous steps against the background that next year the country may be faced with the major issue. I believe that this is not the time, that it is not necessary and that the amendment should be rejected.

Lord Rawlinson of Ewell

My Lords, I must declare an interest. I am not a member of the Jockey Club although once I represented the bookmakers, but then, in my time, I have also represented murderers. I hope that I shall not be identified with either of them because in my professional life I once acted on their behalf.

Listening to the remarkable speech of the noble Viscount, Lord Tonypandy, who is always enjoyable to listen to, I wondered where his bungalow was and whether it was in Wales, because the Welsh Sunday may be different from the English Sunday that I see. I see an English Sunday, certainly in London, as a day when a shop of every description is open in Brompton Road or Fulham Road. I find it difficult to move my car because of all the cars coming to the cinema nearby; I am blocked in by people flocking to the cinema.

I remember hearing the great debates as to whether cinemas should be opened. It was said that it would be the end of the British Sunday because cinemas were going to open and because there might be public entertainment. It was the same with cricket. Now people go to a cricket match. Are they so much more wicked? Are those who go racing in other countries so much more godless than our people? With respect to my noble friend, I do not believe that this will destroy the British Sunday. Certain parts of the British Sunday are now utter hypocrisy because all kinds of commercial activities go on under our noses and around us everywhere.

With respect to the noble Viscount, whose sincerity and attractiveness of presentation have always stirred my heart, I do not believe that the world he paints so attractively today is the world in which we live. I believe that we should go ahead with the amendment.

Lord Elton

My Lords, in a remarkable speech the noble Lord, Lord Wyatt, was successful in giving your Lordships the impression that I approve of the proposal in the amendment. I hasten to disabuse your Lordships; I do not. He quoted a passage in which I said that it seemed to have some sense in it. That was perfectly true when the alternative was to have the betting shops all the time, which was the case in accordance with the Bill then presented to us. But I followed the noble Viscount, Lord Tonypandy, with far less eloquence, in attacking one particular issue in the Bill. That is the issue that my noble and learned friend Lord Rawlinson has addressed in terms that I regard as damaging to my cause.

It was said from the Opposition Front Benches on Second Reading that, if the Bill went through, it would make a complete change to the grounds on which we treated the matter of Sunday trading. We have to look at it in that light. There are other issues concerning the other things that the Bill does. That most racecourses are situated in the country does not alter the fact that the Bill licenses activities that are not racing in the middle of towns. However, I do not address that issue.

I address the issue of the effect that this would have on the diminishing part of the British traditional Sunday. I think that there are two aspects of this to consider. The first is its actual impact in the terms of what happens immediately and what happens as a consequence. The second is how your Lordships' House is seen to address the larger issue: what is Sunday for? On the first issue, we have been reassured by my noble friend Lord Manton that it is the intention of the body to which Parliament is invited to entrust the decision of which Sunday shall be used for this purpose only to use it for this purpose initially for seven, later for 12 and perhaps after that for more occasions. That sits very oddly with the reply that the noble Lord, Lord Wyatt, gave to my noble friend Lord Kimball, when he said that governments give undertakings as to what they will do and one cannot rely upon them because they will change their views as the result of public pressure upon them.

I do not think that the Jockey Club or any other institution is proof against those pressures any more than are Her Majesty's Government. I therefore ask your Lordships not to assume, whatever is said by anybody, that the effect of the Bill would be other than to open the whole of our Sundays to the whole of the betting industry. If that were to happen, as the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, predicted and indeed as I and noble Lords on both sides of the House have predicted, it would be the end of any approach to the consensus treatment of the Sunday trading issue that the Government and Back-Benchers everywhere are seeking to achieve.

It is a most untimely proposal. In its untimeliness it is suggested that your Lordships regard issues about how society is to treat its day of rest as though they were subordinate to one part of the sporting industry, and that not the most numerous. This is an untimely amendment. I am not in favour of it, as has been suggested. Your Lordships may by now even have gathered that I am passionately against it.

The Lord Bishop of Southwark

My Lords, I had come here tonight not intending to make a speech. When I was having dinner, one of your Lordships asked, "Which of you bishops is going to say something tonight?". I said, "I have no idea, I am sure someone has been briefed." I have done a little inquiring along the Bench and discovered that nobody has.

I have to confess that the kind of thing that I should have wanted to say on my own behalf, possibly on behalf of all of us, has been said a great deal better by many of your Lordships already tonight, particularly the noble Lord, Lord Elton. I am not sure that there is much more that I ought to say or can say except to express something on behalf of those of us who are sitting here—running on the other side of the course, as it were.

Two things it is worth putting in slightly different ways. It may be thought—it would be quite wrong if it was thought—that we bishops are here because we object to any extension of sport on Sundays. This is certainly not my position. I do not intend to vote against the principle of the measure in that regard. But I do object very much to the introduction of one change—a major one at that—and then being told, as some of your Lordships have already pointed out, that I have to accept something else hanging on the tail because of that change because some people may decide to use this added opportunity to so some illegal betting off course or whatever it may be.

I accept that there is a different problem about which I know much less than some of your Lordships, but to argue that we must do this and that because some people might otherwise behave in a way that they should not behave is not a sound argument, especially when we do not know how widespread the betting will be, how many Sundays it will affect and how many shops will be open. I do not know how many people would be able to place their bets at another time or in another way. The whole issue is clouded with a great deal of uncertainty and it amounts to a weak case.

Another point has been stressed strongly, but it must be made again and again. Because many of us are deeply anxious about the constant erosion of what is essentially an important part of our culture and our life—there are, among others, religious reasons for wishing to keep Sunday special—that does not mean that there is no room for further discussion in an attempt to reach some kind of consensus about how best Sunday may be observed for the benefit of the majority at the end of the century.

I am certain that we must work at this matter again. I am well aware of the present inadequacies and nonsenses of the present operation of some of our legislation. But that does not mean that we must accept the argument expressed by one of your Lordships a few moments ago, that because other people are opening shops, restaurants or off-licences on Sunday, we must do more and more. That constitutes a rolling argument which eventually brings us down to the point where in effect we have decided that Sunday is to be open for any and every kind of trading everywhere.

I have to say—I have said it in the House before—that I sometimes feel that some of those who are most in favour of everything opening everywhere are those who live in places where that will not affect them very much. That is not the case for those of us who live beside big high roads, who are subjected to all the pressures of trading six days a week. We do not want to see it on the seventh day as well.

Earl Attlee

My Lords, I have the greatest respect for the noble Lord, Lord Elton, and a long and abiding affection for the noble Viscount, Lord Tonypandy. I have many vices, but I do not gamble. I live within a quarter of a mile of a racecourse. I never go there. I do not bet on horses. But if people want to do that, they should be allowed to do so. There is no reason to stop them because it is Sunday. People may say, "You must go to church first". I see the shaking heads on the Benches opposite, but many people do not go to church these days. That is unfortunate. If there is horseracing or anything else, they will do it. Sunday is not a good enough reason to stop them.

If I were a gambler I would support the Bill, but I am not a gambler. I do not like gambling, because it is a mug's game. One always loses. The bookmakers are the only people who go to the bank. Having said that, I still support the Bill. I am very sorry. There must be enough freedom to allow people who want to go to church to go to church. If they do not want to go to church but want to waste their money gambling, let them do it.

Baroness Strange

My Lords, many of your Lordships have spoken much better than I shall and have made the point which I wish to make much better than I can make it. I shall quote from the higher authority. I shall quote from the higher Lord who created us and this world in six days and rested on the seventh. With all its joys and pleasures and everything else, it was created in six days and on the seventh day He rested. Verse 15 in Chapter 31 of the Book of Exodus states: Six days may work be done; but in the seventh is the sabbath of rest, holy to the Lord". Let us follow divine precepts and have one day which is different, one day devoted to rest and recreation.

Baroness Ewart-Biggs

My Lords, I shall say only a few words because in this company I may not be considered qualified to speak as I am a non-betting and non-racing person, and not even a very rabid sabbatarian in the strict sense of the word. I believe in having occupations on Sunday. I believe in racing on Sunday. For lonely and depressed people, Sundays can be the saddest of days. I therefore have nothing against Sunday racing.

I should like to look at the arguments put forward on the amendment. The Opposition have a free vote on the amendment. My noble friends will no doubt be looking at the arguments to see what they think about them.

The noble Lord, Lord Wyatt, painted a terrifying picture of what would happen if the amendment is not accepted. His major argument was that without the amendment there would be illegal betting. He described that in lurid terms. He said that the Home Office was so frightened that it would withdraw its support for the Bill, and yet the Home Office is to change the licensing law. However, I understand that public houses are to be shut on Sundays. The Home Office would therefore be viewing this measure differently from the way it views the licensing laws.

The noble Lord's other argument was that if we did not accept the amendment it would be unfair to working people. But he did not mention working people who work in betting shops. That point was not brought up in his strong speech. He explained that Ireland's habit of having on-course betting for Sunday racing was to be changed and that that no longer provided an example. I find it hard to understand his reasoning. He said that there was a smaller population, but I am still trying to work out what effect that has.

My noble friend Lord Tonypandy made a powerful speech because he cares greatly about the matters he mentioned. He pointed out unequivocally who would benefit from the Bill and in particular from the amendment. That is an important point to remember. The noble Lord, Lord Manton, said that everyone wanted the Bill. I think he said that the horses wanted it! I am not sure how even the noble Lord, Lord Manton, could have found that out.

When considering this amendment, I think of myself as a representative citizen. I find that the logic of on-course betting for Sunday racing is strong. It is a pity that the noble Lord, Lord Wyatt, wants to endanger the reasonably good idea of racing on Sunday by insisting on the amendment. I know that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Rawlinson, said that Sunday would not be destroyed by the opening of a few betting shops. It will not be destroyed. I do not think anyone has said that. We understand that many people care about their Sundays. They want to keep Sunday in a particular way. My noble friend Lord Tonypandy and the right reverend Prelate described that feeling.

I support the concept of bringing in sport on Sundays, which will bring extra life into the lives of many people. However, I cannot see why it is necessary to have betting shops open when it is perfectly possible to place bets on-course on Sundays.

9 p.m.

Lord Newall

My Lords, almost everything has already been said, but I should like to add one further element to this argument. I speak as the chairman of the British Greyhound Racing Board, which is involved in this matter. We all know what this amendment says; there is no need for me to go through it again. However, the approval for the races depends on the betting levy board, which, in turn, as has already been said by the noble Viscount, Lord Tonypandy, depends on the Jockey Club. This gives the Jockey Club the inherent right to stipulate the days when betting shall take place.

I appreciate all the reasons for the amendment in this form. The more betting that takes place off course the greater will be the levy for horseracing. That is very good in its way. However, during the debate on the Second Reading of this Bill I set out in rather great detail the case for an all-sports levy so that all the sports on which betting takes place might be beneficiaries from off-course betting turnover in the same way that horseracing is a beneficiary now. That is still my position. I must point out once again that greyhound racing is involved as it is the second largest betting sport in the country. It does not receive any levy whatsoever from off-course betting.

There is therefore quite a good case whereby, if this amendment were to be adopted, the betting offices should be confined only to taking bets on horseracing on those Sundays and not on any other sport. I am sure that the proposers of this Bill would be happy to agree to this proposal because there is no justification whatever in the betting offices, even on a limited basis, being entitled to take bets on other sports without any form of levy being paid back to those sports. It is a farcical and fundamentally unfair situation and one which should be considered seriously by your Lordships. The situation that this amendment proposes is far from perfect, but it is an improvement on the original proposal at Committee stage.

Greyhound racing cannot be expected to welcome any increase in off-course betting for the reasons that I have explained. But limiting the opening of betting shops to horseracing Sundays is a more acceptable, if somewhat irrational, compromise.

The Earl of Arran

My Lords, the view that the Government take about the matters raised by the amendment has been well rehearsed on other occasions and can be put quite simply. We believe that the way to legislate for Sunday racing is to recognise the desire of many members of the public to bet on those races and to allow the licensed betting industry to cater for that demand. Clause 2 of the Bill does part of the job by providing for betting to become lawful at racecourses after noon on Sundays. The amendment we are now discussing completes the task, as we see it, by providing for betting offices to open on those Sundays when racing takes place. No one is suggesting that we can predict precisely the level of illegal betting that there would be if there was Sunday racing and without betting offices being allowed to open. Our view is that since we now have the opportunity of avoiding the problem, we should take it. We therefore welcome the amendment.

The only other point I wish to make is this. The appearance of two Bills this Session on Sunday sports does riot represent a stalking horse for the Government in our plans for Sunday trading legislation. We have looked at this question separately and on its own merits. As your Lordships will know, we intend to return in due course to Sunday trading; but that is another quite different story and there will be every opportunity for debate again. I ask noble Lords to consider this Bill therefore, as we have done, on its merits. My view would be that the passage of this Bill would not make a jot of difference one way or the other to our future debates on Sunday trading.

Lord Airedale

My Lords, having listened to a most interesting general debate, I have to remind your Lordships—and I shall be corrected from the Woolsack if I am wrong about this—that the question still before the House is my amendment to substitute two o'clock for 12 noon. I have to decide what to ask the House to do about that. My impression is that at this moment noble Lords are not anxious to wrestle with the nicety of the question. Your Lordships wish to come to a decision on the main amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Wyatt. My wisest course at this moment is to ask your Lordships' leave to withdraw my amendment, but giving notice that if the noble Lord, Lord Wyatt, succeeds with his amendment, I shall be back at Third Reading to urge not 12 noon but two o'clock in the afternoon. Subject to that, I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Wyatt of Weeford

My Lords, I am half Welsh. I therefore half understand my noble friend Lord Tonypandy. The half I understand is his delicious lyrical idealism. The half that I do not understand is his logic. He is a very keen moralist and I appreciate that. I know it well. But I cannot see the morality of having racing on Sunday with betting allowed only on the course. Those who are not willing to risk having credit accounts and to waste their substance in that way would have to go to illegal bookmakers.

Noble Lords


Lord Wyatt of Weeford

My Lords, certainly they would. The noble Lord, Lord Graham, disagrees. If we are to allow racing on a Sunday, and betting on the course—and that applies also to Wimbledon, or Lord's, or motor racing, and so on—but do not allow betting shops to open, one is driving the ordinary person to bet illegally. He may not have a telephone, and may not wish to have a credit account. He does not wish to risk his substance by betting £5,000 or £50,000 by credit, as some mugs do. That is a social evil in my view; I am not very keen on that. I am the chairman of the Tote and we do not have such large punters. The essence of resisting this amendment is to say to ordinary people who are interested in racing and betting that it is not a reasonable occupation and a harmless amusement. They may bet £15 a week. Statistically they cannot lose more than £3.30 a week because they always get back 23 per cent. of their money.

Lord Graham of Edmonton

My Lords, at the moment betting shops are closed in the evening. The ordinary person who wants to bet on an evening can bet because the runners are declared. He goes into the shop and places a bet. If racing took place on a Sunday, the runners would be declared on Friday, they would be published on Saturday and the bets would be placed on Saturday. The noble Lord seeks constantly to impress upon the people the desire of people to act illegally. They do not have to act illegally. They can act perfectly legally by the present system.

Lord Wyatt of Weeford

My Lords, unfortunately the noble Lord does not understand human nature. It is ludicrous to suppose that people will go in on a Friday to place bets for a Sunday.

Lord Graham of Edmonton

I did not say that.

Lord Wyatt of Weeford

Or on a Saturday, even. My Lords, as regards evening racing, there may be some illegal betting. I do not know how much. Shops may remain open until 6.30 p.m. The first or second race will have already taken place by then. In any case, people will have had a full afternoon's programme of betting and so they would not necessarily be interested in a programme of evening racing. We are talking about ordinary Sunday racing of a standard that they expect during the week and during a weekday afternoon.

However much the noble Lord, Lord Graham, dodges the question, he is saying to ordinary people, who do not have telephones and do not wish to risk their substance by being tempted into spending more than they can afford on credit accounts, that the only way that they shall do their cash betting, limited to £2 or £3 a race, is by doing it illegally. This is my real fear. We do not know by how much illegal betting will go up. I have been given information which suggests that it is between 15 per cent. and 20 per cent. now. I suppose that on a Sunday without betting shops open it would rise to 40 per cent. or 50 per cent. This would be dangerous for the police and the law generally.

Lord Elton

My Lords, will the noble Lord give the House one piece of information which I do not think we have? Can he tell your Lordships whether Sunday racing would be viable and therefore take place if there was no legal Sunday betting from which the levy would be drawn? Does that not bear on this question?

Lord Wyatt of Weeford

My Lords, it would be in one sense viable if it took place without betting off the course, but it would create illegal betting. That is the danger. What is being said will drive people without much money and without telephones into illegal betting. One could certainly run race meetings on a Sunday and have betting on the course. That would be a viable thing to do; but it would be an elitest thing to do. It would be anti-working class and would not be democratic.

My noble friend Lord Tonypandy spoke about democracy. He asked, "Who are we to decide what the nation shall do? We are not elected representatives". However, he will know that if the Bill passes through the House it will go to another place where there are elected representatives. They will have the final say. There is no question of our deciding arbitrarily as autocrats what the nation shall do. We do not have the power to do so. I am surprised that my noble friend Lord Tonypandy should suggest such a thing.

The hour is late. I am sure that we would now like to move to a Division on this proposition.

9.13 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 1) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 78; Not-Contents, 61.

Division No. 1
Ailesbury, M. Macleod of Borve, B.
Allenby of Megiddo, V. Manton, L. [Teller.]
Allerton, L. Marlborough, D.
Annan, L. Merrivale, L.
Astor, V. Monson, L.
Atholl, D. Munster, E.
Attlee, E. Northfield, L.
Barber, L. Onslow, E.
Benson, L. Orr-Ewing, L.
Bolton, L. Pender, L.
Campbell of Croy, L. Peyton of Yeovil, L.
Carnarvon, E. Plummer of St Marylebone, L
Carlisle of Bucklow, L. Raglan, L.
Chapple, L. Rawlinson of Ewell, L.
Clinton, L. Reay, L.
Craigavon, V. Rees, L.
Dudley, E. Rennell, L.
Fairhaven, L. Renwick, L.
Fanshawe of Richmond, L. Ridley, V.
Fortescue, E. Romney, E.
Fraser of Kilmorack, L. Roxburghe, D.
Gainsborough, E. Rugby, L.
Gisborough, L. Saltoun of Abernethy. Ly.
Glenarthur, L. Scarbrough, E.
Greenway, L. Shaughnessy, L.
Grimston of Westbury, L. Shrewsbury, E.
Grimthorpe, L. Simon of Glaisdale, L.
Halifax, E. Strathcarron, L.
Hanson, L. Strathclyde, L.
Henley, L. Suffolk and Berkshire, E.
Howie of Troon, L. Thomas of Gwydir, L.
Hutchinson of Lullington, L. Thomas of Swynnerton, L.
Hylton-Foster, B. Trevethin and Oaksey, L.
Kimball, L. Trevor, L.
Leverhulme, V. Ullswater, V.
Lindsey and Abingdon, E. Vestey, L.
Lonsdale, E. Ward of Witley, V.
McIntosh of Haringey, L. Wise, L.
MacLehose of Beoch, L. Wyatt of Weeford, L. [Teller.]
Airedale, L. Gallacher, L.
Ashbourne, L. Gloucester, Bp.
Blease, L. Graham of Edmonton, L.[Teller.]
Brentford, V. [Teller.]
Brightman, L. Hampton, L.
Buckmaster, V. Ingleby, V.
Carlisle, Bp. Irving of Dartford, L.
Carnock, L. John-Mackie, L.
Carter, L. Kagan, L.
Chester, Bp. Kirkhill, L.
Coleraine, L. Lauderdale, E.
Cox, B. Lockwood, B.
David, B. Longford, E.
Elton, L. Mackie of Benshie, L.
Elwyn-Jones, L. McNair, L.
Ewart-Biggs, B. Morton of Shuna, L.
Faithfull, B. Mountevans, L.
Murray of Epping Forest, L. Stockton, E.
Newcastle, Bp. Strange, B.
Nicol, B. Swinfen, L.
Oram, L. Taylor of Blackburn, L.
Parry, L. Tonypandy, V.
Rea, L. Tordoff, L.
Ritchie of Dundee, L. Trafford, L.
Robertson of Oakridge, L. Tranmire, L.
Rochester, Bp. Turner of Camden, B.
Ryder of Warsaw, B. Underhill, L.
St. Albans, Bp. Vaux of Harrowden, L.
Seear, B. Winchilsea and Nottingham, E.
Soper, L.
Southwark, Bp. Ypres, E.
Stewart of Fulham, L.

Resolved in the affirmative, and amendment agreed to accordingly.

In the Title:

Lord Wyatt of Weeford moved Amendment No. 3: Line 1, leave out from ("to") to end of line 2 and insert "exempt races, athletic sports and other sporting events from the entertainments and amusements to which the Sunday Observance Act 1780 applies and to allow betting to take place on Sunday afternoons on tracks and on certain Sunday afternoons in licensed betting offices and to make provision as to the rights of established employees concerning Sunday working.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this is a tidying-up amendment and gives a more full account of the purposes of the Bill. In particular, it pays attention to the provision for the protection of those workers already established in jobs connected with racing and it draws attention to the schedule thereto. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.