HC Deb 06 December 1951 vol 494 cc279-80W
Mr. Swingler

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what general advice he and his predecessors have given to the police on the subject of the prosecution of promoters of whist drives and bridge clubs; and on what dates this advice was given.

Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe

On 26th July, 1937, the Secretary of State caused a circular letter to be sent to chief constables in the following terms:

"Whist Drives

I am directed by the Secretary of State to refer to the Home Office Circulars on the subject of whist drives dated 18th June, 1928, and 20th February, 1930, and to forward for your information the appended copy of a recent Question and Answer in the House of Commons on the subject.

I am, Sir,

Your obedient Servant,


The Chief Constable.

Sir COOPER RAWSON asked the Home Secretary whether any discrimination is shown in police prosecutions in respect of whist drives between those run for personal profit and the normal drives organised by various clubs and associations; and will he make some clear pronouncement on the subject to allay the existing disquiet?

Sir S. HOARE: There have been a number of judicial decisions to the effect that whist drives held under certain conditions are unlawful. It has, however, always been recognised that, as ordinarily conducted, whist drives are an innocent form of amusement and free from the element of mischief which accompanies gambling. Accordingly, while the Home Secretary has no authority to give instructions to the police on a matter relating to the enforcement of the law, chief constables have been advised by the Home Office to the effect that, in the view of the Secretary of State, the police should not institute proceedings except where there is reason to believe that a whist drive is a cloak for gambling or for profit-making out of gambling, that the police should limit their interference to cases where they have reason to think that actual harm is being done, and that whist drives held as a purely incidental part of their various social activities by members of bona fide clubs or institutions would not usually come within the mischiefs aimed at by the law. I have no doubt that the police generally are guided by this advice."