§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ 3.27 p.m.
§ The SECRETARY of STATE for the HOME DEPARTMENT (Sir John Gilmour)
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
This is a question which has no party meaning but in regard to which, of course, there is a very different outlook on the part of Members of all parties. Perhaps it is not infelicitous that it should be dealt with by a National Government. It is said in some quarters that it is a risky thing to touch it at all. Through the history of our country and through the history of Parliament, even if you go back to the times of 1400 and 1600, Parliament has always had to deal with this kind of problem. It has been found expedient for the State from time to time to make regulations to deal with matters that touch the social life of our people. Without going into past history to any great extent, I should like to draw attention to the fact that the Government were faced with a problem of an acute nature in this matter in 1932, and, feeling that it was a matter of considerable complexity, they set up a Royal Commission to investigate it. Whereas previous Governments have had to face problems of one sort or another, whether street betting or on-the-course betting or lotteries, nearly all these matters came to a head, not singly but collectively, in 1932. There was, on the one side, the multiplication of the problem of lotteries as instanced, of course, by the Irish Free State Hospitals lottery. There was the increase of greyhound racing which led to a consequential increase in the opportunities afforded to the people of this country for betting. There was the mushroom growth of tote clubs in London and in the other large towns.
I think the House will agree that, whatever views they may take upon the various aspects of this question, no Government could afford to disregard the situation which was then presented. That was no doubt a difficult problem for the Royal Commission. They were appointed in June, 1932, and seven months after 1138 their appointment, namely, in January, 1933, they issued an interim report in which they recommended that the use of the totalisator in clubs and on greyhound tracks should continue to be illegal as had been decided by the High Court in the case of Shuttleworth and the Leeds Greyhound Racing Association delivered on the 16th December, 1932. As regards the use of the totalisator in tote clubs, they recommended that they should be illegal, and the Government, having taken the matter into consideration, accepted that view, and so announced to the House of Commons. On the question of the use of the totalisator on greyhound racing tracks, the totalisator was only one form of the betting facilities provided on greyhound tracks, and the Government postponed their decision until the whole question could be studied by the Royal Commission and they could study the problem as a whole. The final report of the Royal Commission covering the rest of the field of their inquiry was issued in June, 1933. It is worthy of note that, however difficult these problems may be and however diverse the opinions which are held both inside and outside the House, the Royal Commission were able to make a report which was in fact unanimous. The reports of the Royal Commission cover a very wide area. They cover the whole field of lotteries, betting, gaming and cognate matters, and a Bill which would cover the whole of those questions would have been a Bill of much greater length than that which I present to the House today.
Before I deal with the details of the Bill, I want to indicate the general principles upon which the proposals of the Government are based. I am one of those—and I think that I speak for all my colleagues in the Cabinet—who have taken up the attitude that in regard to the organised provision of betting facilities usually for private gain considerations arise which are different from those which apply to private betting between individuals. We have nothing to do—and I do not propose either to pledge myself or the Government to interfere—with what any single individual may do with another individual. We give the greatest freedom to the individual. Most moderate people will agree that the State is not justified in interfering with private gambling, but when it comes to the exploitation 1139 of gambling for private gain different considerations arise. We have not approached this matter from what one might call the moral point of view. Private morals are a matter for the individual conscience and the improvement of individual behaviour must be left to education and the influence of such bodies as the churches. I want to emphasise that the Government of this country, whether it be composed as it is to-day, or whether it be a Government of any other composition, is solely concerned with the effect of gambling upon the social life of the country. The main principles of the Bill do not interfere with private gambling, but only deal with such matters as may be regarded as of serious moment to the country.
The, Bill is in two parts. The first part deals with betting and the second part deals with lotteries and prize competitions. To take the first part—betting—I think that it will be admitted on all sides that the recent development and particular growth of greyhound racing demonstrates the need for special measures to control on-the-course betting. Until comparatively recently on-the-course betting was virtually confined to horse racing, and as the House knows this takes place on comparatively few days yearly on racecourses scattered throughout the country. They are in the main not connected with or close to the great public centres in the country, and they are under the control of bodies which ensure that horse racing is not in the main conducted for betting purposes or for commercial profit.
The position as I see it, and as the Government see it, has been materially changed by the development of greyhound racing since 1926. There are only seven horse racecourses within 15 miles of Charing Cross, with 187 days' racing, whereas in the same area there are 23 greyhound tracks, with over 4,000 days' racing within the year. In the City of Glasgow there are no horse racecourses, but there are five greyhound tracks with 1,400 racing days in the year. Greyhound racing has brought on-the-course betting facilities, often as an almost nightly event, into most of the large urban districts of the country. The Government are satisfied, as the Royal Commission were satisfied, that these opportunities and facilities for continuous 1140 betting on dog tracks are having undesirable social effects in the country. The Royal Commission called particular attention to the evidence which they received as to the general deterioration of character among young persons in poor neighbourhoods due to the circumstances which were allowed to operate.
The Bill embodies the principles recommended by the Royal Commission, namely, that there should be some limitation of the occasions on which organised betting facilities are provided, and that in certain respects the locality should determine the places in which these betting facilities are permitted. As regards the limitation of betting days, the Bill proposes the restrictions recommended by the Royal Commission, first, that there should be a statutory limitation of the number of days in any calendar year on which betting facilities, can be provided at any course, and, secondly, that in order to avoid the provision of continuous gambling facilities at different courses in an area, the days on which betting facilities can be provided shall be the same in any given area.
Clause 1 accordingly provides that betting, by way of bookmaking or by means of the totalisator, shall not take place on any track—on which races of any description, athletic sports or other sporting events take place—on more than 104 days in the year, and not on any Good Friday Christmas Day or Sunday. I would remark in passing that these racing concerns have been operating on all those days, in certain circumstances. Clause 9 provides that the licensing authority shall be the county council or the county borough council, as the case may be, and that they shall fix each year the 104 days on which betting facilities may be provided on licensed tracks in their area, and that the days shall be the same in each area. The restriction of betting to the days fixed by the licensing authority will not apply to horse racecourses approved by the Racecourse Betting Control Board or to tracks used for sporting events on not more than eight days in a single year, but the annual statutory maximum of betting days will apply to all racecourses and tracks alike.
The proposals that there should be a yearly maximum of 104 betting days and that the betting days in any area should be the same for all tracks in that area have been made the subject of strongly 1141 adverse criticism, particularly by those who are interested in the greyhound racing tracks. Those interests demand that there should be opportunities for betting on at least 156 days in London on greyhound tracks, and on 208 days on tracks outside London, and that the betting days should be left entirely to the discretion of the interests concerned. I should like to dispose, in the first place, of the proposal that the betting days should be left to the individual choice of the management of the tracks concerned. If each track were allowed to choose for itself how it could dispose its betting days throughout the year, the effect would be that there would be practically no limitation of betting days in any area in which there were two or more tracks. From the point of view of the social effects, the important factor is not so much the amount of betting facilities afforded on each track as the amount afforded by all the tracks in each locality, and any proposal which would not limit the betting facilities in localities as distinct from tracks would be worthless from the standpoint of minimising the main mischief which is arising from continuous organised betting facilities. I hope the House will agree that it is impossible to depart from the principle embodied in the Bill that the betting days should be the same for all tracks in any area.
I turn now to the suggestion that the number of betting days should be increased to 156 days in London and 208 days outside London, according to the proposal of the greyhound racing interests. There are 20 odd tracks in the Metropolitan Police District and about 200 in the outside areas. The effect of that proposal, if it were carried, would be that on by far the greater number of tracks there would be opportunities of gambling on an average of four nights per week. Whatever may be thought of this problem, if the House desires to accept the principle that excessive gambling is a social evil, then it would strike at the root of this Bill if it were decided that there shall be the extension suggested by these particular interests. No other sport—and I emphasise the word "sport"—finds it necessary to provide betting facilities for anything like an average of four nights a week. If we take football, during the season matches are not played 1142 more than once or occasionally twice a week. Horse racing—which the greyhound racing interest say has been specially favoured—does not take place on any racecourse for more than a few days in the year. In fact, as the Royal Commission have pointed out, if one looks at the problem solely from the sporting point of view, a maximum of something like 50 days a year would be amply sufficient to meet the needs of any legitimate sport. It cannot be over-emphasised that the Bill does not impose any limit on the number of days on which greyhound racing can take place. Greyhound racing can take place on every day of the week if they so choose. What the Bill does seek to do is to prevent commercial organisations from providing organised facilities for gambling to a degree which experience has shown to result in serious consequences to the social life of our country.
I now turn to the question of local control. The Bill proposes in Clauses 2, 4, 5 and 6 that the occupier of any track who wishes betting facilities to be allowed there shall be required to obtain a licence from the county council or the county borough council, as the case may be. Horse racecourses approved by the Racecourse Betting Control Board and courses used occasionally only, that is, on fewer than nine days a year, are not required to obtain a licence from the licensing authority. The issues involved in the provision of gambling facilities are essentially national and not local in character and should be settled by this House and by Parliament, but the general principles having once been settled by Parliament, it seems to the Government that the application of those principles to the peculiar and particular circumstances of each locality is a matter for the local authority. That is the object of the local control in the Bill. After all, this problem is a problem for the local authority in that the situation of any particular course in any particular place, in the vicinity of a public school, a hospital or any other institution, is a matter upon which the local authority should judge.
During the passage of the Bill through another place this particular problem was discussed, and I think it was evident, and I have ample information and authority for saying, that the local authorities desire to have this power. It is perfectly 1143 clear that some who spoke ostensibly for the local authorities exceeded the brief which the local authorities had given them. The local authorities are, in my judgment, the suitable authorities, and they desire to operate this function. The County Councils Association and the borough councils also have represented their desire to have this power. The Bill makes it possible for them to operate it, but in the discussions in another place a point of view put forward strongly was that they should be allowed to delegate their functions to the Standing Joint Committee. The Government have accepted that Amendment, and it will be possible in England and Wales for them so to do. The position in Scotland is slightly different, because Standing Joint Committees do not exist in that country; but we have every reason to believe that the provisions of the Bill relating to the licensing authorities are now in a form which meets with the approval of all the local authorities concerned.
The scheme has been criticised on the ground that if local authorities are made the licensing authorities for betting undesirable things will be introduced into local politics. I would point out, however, that the Bill minimises these potential dangers by making the licence last for seven years, instead of for one year, and by removing questions relating to the morality of betting from the purview of the licensing authority. All that a local authority will have to consider at the end of seven years is the position of any particular track or how a particular track has been conducted. With regard to existing tracks, the Government have felt, and I think rightly, that in view of the outlay involved in their erection, they should not be unduly disturbed at the outset. We have, therefore, in Clause 6 provided that the licensing provisions shall not immediately apply to these tracks; that they shall have a five years' run, provided they are run on sound and proper lines. Clause 7 proposes that they shall have a moratorium of five years. The special licence for existing tracks will, however, only authorise the provision of betting facilities in respect of the same kind of sporting events as those for which the track was being used in 1933. Clause 7 is of more immediate practical importance than 1144 Clause 6, since few greyhound tracks are now being erected and all existing tracks presumably will apply for the special five years' licence.
The effect of the provisions of the Bill is that betting facilities on licensed tracks may be provided by bookmakers, and, in the case of greyhound tracks licensed under the Bill, a totalisator may be operated subject to a system of control. The Royal Commission pointed out that if managers of a track have a strong financial interest in betting on the track there is a tendency for tracks, which are little better than casinos, to be multiplied. There are provisions in Clauses 12 and 13, and in the First Schedule, which are intended to limit the profits which may be derived by the management of a track from betting. The Royal Commission recommended that the use of totalisators elsewhere than on approved horse racecourses should be prohibited. The Government have considered this matter, as I indicated earlier, and have been impressed by the force of the contention that, if betting on greyhound tracks is to be allowed, the backer should not be deprived of this alternative method of betting, and we have therefore made provision to allow totalisators to be operated on greyhound tracks. In Clause 10 the Bill proposes that the use of totalisators on dog racecourses, which are tracks licensed by local authorities should be legalised, subject to conditions designed to secure, first, that the element of private profit shall be limited as far as possible, and, secondly, that any element of State responsibility for the conduct of the totalisators shall be avoided. In regard to the latter, I cannot emphasise too strongly the view which I take on that subject.
The main features of the scheme proposed by the Bill are that the occupiers of greyhound tracks which hold licences for betting from local authorities, or any person authorised by them, can operate a totalisator on the 104 appointed days prescribed by a local authority, provided that the totalisator is a mechanical or electrically operated apparatus which complies with such conditions as the Secretary of State may prescribe. The operation of the totalisator is made subject to supervision by a duly qualified accountant, assisted by an experienced mechanician to act as his technical 1145 adviser. If the local licensing authority are satisfied, on a report made to them by the accountant or upon the refusal of the accountant to give the certificate prescribed for under the Bill, that any totalisator has been maintained or operated otherwise than in accordance with the provisions of the First Schedule, the licensing authority are empowered by Clause 15 to revoke the licence for betting on the track. The scheme of the Bill provides for a limitation of the amount which the operators of a totalisator may deduct from the totalisator pool. This was discussed in another place and having heard all the arguments—the original suggestion in the Bill was a 3 per cent. deduction—for and against this suggestion, the Government decided that they were prepared to allow the 3 per cent. to be raised to 5 per cent., and that in paying out winnings fractions of 3d. should be disregarded. That is a material concession on the part of His Majesty's Government to the interests concerned, and I beg to draw the attention of the House to the fact that those who spoke for the National Greyhound Racing Society in another place gave an undertaking that they would not ask for a further increase. I trust, therefore, that the undertaking given by one section of the greyhound racing interest will be adhered to and that this will be regarded as being final.
I turn to the problem of pari-mutuel betting. Part I of the Bill deals with on-the-course betting, and Clause 3 prohibits all forms of pari-mutuel betting on the course, except pari-mutuel betting conducted through the totalisator on horse racecourses or through the totalisator on licensed dog tracks. Pari-mutuel betting off the course is not affected by the Bill, except in the case of totalisator clubs. The mischiefs arising from totalisator clubs, to which people resort for the purpose of betting, proved to be so serious that I think the whole House accepted the announcement which the Government made on that problem, and all we are doing in this Bill is to see that no possible loophole exists in the present law. Clause 17 deals with the Racecourse Betting Control Board, and the only provision to which I need call attention at this stage is that which makes it clear that the board are empowered to pay commissions to bodies such as the Totalisator Investors Limited which collects 1146 debts and transmits them to the board's totalisators on the racecourse. There was a recent case of the Attorney-General v. The Racecourse Betting Control Board, in which the High Court decided that the payment of such commission by the board was lawful under the existing law, and the provision in this Bill is merely declaratory of the law as laid down in that judgment. This is one of the points on which the Government have again departed from the recommendations of the Royal Commission. The Government in coming to the decision to maintain the legality of these payments were guided largely by the fact that unless this were permitted, it would seriously affect the collection of the necessary money which we all desire to see used for the purpose of horse-breeding.
There is the problem in Clause 14 of dealing with juveniles and betting. The Clause prohibits betting on a track with a young person under the age of 18 years. The Clause also prohibits the employment on a track in connection with betting of any person under the age of 18 years, and I hope it will be generally agreed that young persons should not be encouraged to take part in these betting activities.
Part II of the Bill deals with lotteries and prize competitions. I do not think I am wrong when I say that I believe a large number of people both inside and outside this House do not appear to realise that under the existing law all lotteries from the largest to the very smallest are illegal, and I want to emphasise that point in view of the kind of criticism which I have seen arising from time to time in certain quarters. The law makes no differentiation between large and small lotteries or between public and private lotteries, and it is immaterial whether it is a lottery for charity or for private gain. The law does not operate satisfactorily in two respects. On the one hand, it has not proved to be effective in dealing with the sale in this country of tickets in lotteries promoted abroad, notably the Irish Hospitals Trust Sweepstakes. On the other hand, the law has been long recognised as too drastic so far as concerns certain innocuous forms of lottery, and for many years the police authorities throughout the country have not set the criminal law in motion against private lotteries confined to 1147 members of a genuine club or against raffles at bazaars and similar small lotteries.
The main problem is the situation created by the sale of the Irish Hospitals Trust Sweepstake tickets. It has led to a demand in certain quarters for the legalisation of large lotteries in this country; and indeed, it may be doubted whether but for the Irish lotteries anyone to-day would seriously propose the establishment of large lotteries in this country. The Royal Commission, in paragraph 484 of their report, say that at the outset of their inquiry they approached the subject of lotteries from the point of view that present circumstances seemed to call for a considerable relaxation of the existing prohibition of large-scale lotteries in this country, but that, after close consideration of the subject, they reached the conclusion that a relaxation of the existing prohibition of large lotteries was undesirable, and was not called for. The Government are in accord with the view expressed by the Royal Commission, and I would only say that I think that lotteries promoted by the State for the direct benefit of the Exchequer, or by a statutory board for charitable objects, or by individual charities under a system of permits, are socially undesirable.
As regards State lotteries, I think history shows that only those countries which have proved to be incapable of raising the money by ordinary means, whether it be by taxation or subscriptions, have adopted that kind of method, and if you turn to the problem of assisting hospitals in this country, apart from any view which I may, personally, hold, it is, at any rate, worth the consideration of this House to observe that the hospitals throughout this country do not desire to enter upon this field, and they do not desire to enter upon this field of speculation since at the present moment they are receiving contributions from every working man in every works throughout the country, and they are receiving contributions from individuals throughout the length and breadth of the country. In those circumstances, I venture to say that the Government, having decided against the, legalisation of large-scale lotteries, are right in taking that view and stating it emphatically to this House. I think, of course, that whatever 1148 view we may take about large lotteries in this country, it is still necessary to deal with the sale of tickets for lotteries which are promoted abroad.
We have to consider the ineffectiveness of the existing law, and we propose to strengthen it. It has to be remembered that the law dealing with this problem is well over 100 years old. In form it is largely out-of-date. The Royal Commission make all sorts of recommendations designed to make more effective the prohibition of the sale in this country of lottery tickets, and the Government are in agreement with the measures proposed by the Commission. Clause 19 accordingly re-enacts the general prohibition of lotteries other than certain small schemes which are dealt with later in the Bill. Clause 20 enumerates the acts in connection with the promotion of lotteries which are illegal. The majority of the acts specified in Clause 20 are already illegal under the existing law, but the Clause also contains the following new provisions strengthening the law for the purpose of dealing more effectively with large-scale sweepstakes.
The Government hope that these new provisions will go a long way in the direction of discouraging people in this country from participating in lotteries promoted abroad. One of the most effective measures for this purpose is the prohibition of newspaper publicity, and the provision 1149 in this Bill has been welcomed by nearly every section of the Press in this country.
- (1) It prohibits absolutely the publication of lists of prize winners.
- (2) It prohibits the publication of any other matter relating to the lottery, being matter of a nature calculated to act as an inducement to persons to participate in lotteries.
- (3) It makes it an offence to bring into this country any tickets or advertisements of a lottery for the purposes of sale or distribution.
- (4) It prohibits the sending abroad by agents in this country of counterfoils or money derived from the sale in this country of lottery tickets.
- (5) Clause 28 provides that a court before which a person is convicted of an offence against the law relating to lotteries shall forfeit any money in the hands of the police which is shown to the satisfaction of the court to represent subscriptions to an unlawful lottery.
I turn to private and small public lotteries. While the Government have taken the view that large lotteries are not desirable, and should not be legalised, they recognise that the existing law, which declares illegal all lotteries down to the very smallest, carries the prohibition too far, and, as has been indicated, the law is not at present set in motion in England and Wales against private lotteries and such small public lotteries as raffles at bazaars. The Royal Commission recommended that these schemes should be legalised, and Clauses 21 and 22 effect this purpose. There has been some criticism of the restrictions imposed on these small schemes. It must be remembered that at present these small schemes are entirely illegal, and that those who participate in them are now securing under the Bill the substantial advantage of legalisation. The Government, further, while attempting to reduce to a minimum the restrictions on the promotion of exempted schemes, have had to have regard to the possibility that, without adequate safeguards, they might bring about the legalisation of schemes on a large scale after they had expressly decided not to approve of them. Those, of course, are problems which are more for the Committee than they are for the present time.
With regard to competitions, Clause 24 prohibits certain types of prize competitions of mixed chance and skill promoted by newspapers or trading firms. The Joint Select Committee which sat in 1908 on the Lottery Laws proposed restictions on newspaper competitions, and Bills were introduced from time to time in this House in successive sessions to give effect to this recommendation. The outbreak of war in 1914, of course, put all that aside. The Royal Commission found that there had been a marked increase in recent years of these competitions, and particularly in the amount of prizes which were offered, and that, in fact, as they grew in size, they tended to become almost indistinguishable from large lotteries. The Commission accordingly recommended that Parliament should impose certain restrictions on newspaper competitions and on similar competitions sometimes promoted by 1150 trading firms. In the first place, it is proposed that competitions for the forecasting of events should be unlawful. This prohibition is, for the most part, merely declaratory of the existing position. The second prohibition in the Bill is more important. It is proposed to make it unlawful for any newspaper or trading firm to promote any competition, success in which does not depend to a substantial degree upon the exercise of skill. A wide field will remain for the promotion by newspapers of competitions which provide entertainment for their readers, and the more skill there is in them, of course the more entertaining they should prove.
Part III of the Bill contains certain general provisions dealing with offences and the Scottish application Clause. Clause 29 provides for the application of the Bill to Scotland. The licensing authorities in Scotland under Part I will be county councils, or joint county councils, or the town councils of large burghs. Those authorities will be entitled, if they so desire, to combine in delegating their functions to a joint committee consisting of members of the constituent councils.
Such, in brief, are the provisions of the Bill. I make no apologies for bringing this Bill before the House, since I feel assured that there is a wide measure of feeling in this country that we have reached a stage in this problem which demands the consideration of Parliament. I should be greatly disappointed if it were thought that this effort of His Majesty's Government to deal with this complex problem were directed in too grandmotherly a manner against any interests in this country. I am very anxious to see the greatest measure of liberty given to the enjoyment of any form or branch of sport in this country, but I make bold to say that there is a vast difference between an orderly, regulated measure of control and complete licence. It is because of that, that I submit this Bill to the House, very conscious as I am that there will be critics, very conscious as I am from my postbag of a kind of organised criticism; but we in this country, if we feel that we are moving in justice to give as much freedom as we can to every one of those interests concerned, I hope that we may regard this Parliament and this House 1151 as capable of putting through a Measure which will give adequate freedom and adequate effect to the general feeling, not only of the Royal Commission and of the Government, but what I believe to be the general feeling of the population throughout the country.
§ 4.15 p.m.
§ Mr. T. WILLIAMS
In the first place I would like to congratulate the Home Secretary upon what has been perhaps the fullest exposition of a controversial Measure that I have heard in this House for a very long time. Both detail and general principle were dealt with fairly adequately, and I am convinced that most hon. Members who knew little about the Bill before will now be much better informed that they were. Perhaps there is some justification for the right hon. Gentleman and myself participating in this Debate. At least for some part of the last three years jointly and severally we have been doing our best to eliminate gambling in the agricultural industry. Now that gambling on the grand scale is before the House it is perhaps appropriate that the right hon. Gentleman and myself should participate in the discussion. While I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman with sincerity on his speech, and indeed on a good deal of the contents of the Bill, I feel that that cannot be said with regard to some of the concessions that the Government have granted in another place. The Government started with a display of great courage that was really very estimable, and then they surrendered to interests, as the right hon. Gentleman has stated.
I cannot claim to speak for every member of the party to which I belong. All I can do is to express my personal feelings and to hope that at all events the majority of Members of the Labour party will feel that the case for the Bill, when certain amendments have been made in Committee, is such as not to require opposition to the Second Reading. An acute problem arose in 1932, because of recent developments, and, as the right hon. Gentleman said, the Royal Commission was established. They were advised to inquire into the existing law relating to lotteries, betting, gambling, and cognate matters, and to report what changes, if any, were desirable and necessary. I think it was one of the fairest 1152 Royal Commissions that any Government ever set up. They were 12 Commissioners of undoubted ability and without any prejudice, and almost on every point they reached unanimous agreement. Their recommendations, therefore, ought to be taken into very serious consideration, whether the Government have embodied those recommendations in the Bill or not. The first thing the Royal Commission did was to recognise that gambling was a fact and that it was increasing with serious social consequences. In paragraph 233 they state:Public opinion generally would not support legislation based solely on ethical objections to gambling.They proceed, stating the matter broadly:We think that the general aim of the State in dealing with facilities for organised or professional gambling should be to prohibit or place restrictions upon such facilities, and such facilities only, as can be shown to have serious social consequences if not checked.They interpret "serious social consequences" in paragraph 189, where they refer to—impoverishment of homes; deterioration of character; inducements to crime; the prevalence of fraudulent practices; the loss of industrial efficiency, etc.I think that that interpretation is a very fair one, and one which most hon. Members will be prepared to accept. The Royal Commission proceed to tell us in paragraph 221 that they were not called upon to deal with private gambling, but with organised gambling for private gain and inducements thereto. They draw a sharp distinction between action which involves interference with individual liberty, and action directed against organised exploitation of the gambling propensity for private gain. Their definite conclusion, after having consulted every section of the community, was as follows:Legislation as to gambling must necessarily contain a considerable element of practical compromise.The Bill contains a very large element of practical compromise. With regard to private lotteries the law certainly has not been strengthened. Small lotteries are permitted. Perhaps the Home Secretary may see his way in Committee, while excluding altogether any consideration of gambling in lotteries, the possibility of slightly modifying these Sections where perhaps the prize may be increased in 1153 value. So long as it is brought within well defined limits, some slight modification may take place there. The recommendations with regard to the large lottery, either the foreign or the homemade variety, were all regarded as inevitable. We, therefore, agree with the right hon. Gentleman's broad general principles in dealing with large lotteries.
On football pools and coupon betting we shall take an opposite view to that of the right hon. Gentleman and of another place. The Commission said, with regard to coupon betting, that there could not be unanimity. Three Commissioners felt that their colleagues had not given full weight to the evidence of the Football Association. As there was no possibility of unanimity no recommendation was made by the Commissioners. But with regard to football pools, organised definitely on a basis of profit, there was a unanimous recommendation, and this is what the Commission said:For the reasons indicated we recomment that office totalisator or pari-mutuel betting should not be allowed.In the first place the Bill contained a prohibition of such pool betting, but in another place, and not because all sides of the case had been put, the noble Lord who moved the Second Reading intimated, in the first speech that he made, that the football pool betting provision was to be withdrawn. Later, of course, the whole of Clause 3 was deleted and in its place was put the Clause 3 that we now see. We shall be very interested to know why the Government changed their mind. Particularly do I want to know what the Minister of Education thought about the change, or what the learned Attorney-General thought about it, and whether they were in favour of allowing football pools to continue. I have here a cutting from the "Sunday Dispatch" of 29th April, and this is what it says about the Government's attitude:The Government's decision to exclude football pools from the Betting and Lotteries Bill has had two immediate effects. It has encouraged promoters of other forms of betting to press for freedom from control similar to that enjoyed by the pools; and it has given more rope than ever to rascally pool promoters whose sole object is to fleece the public. The unscrupulous promoter—at whom the Bill was aimed and who actually is the only person to escape its penalties—stands to win every time. He has been allowed to juggle with the pooled money of innumerable backers without hindrance. He can pay whatever dividend he 1154 likes, for he is not tied by the fixed prices of the old betting lists. The backer is in the position of a man buying a pig in a poke. He does not know how much he stands to win, even if he is successful. The promoter takes his money. He makes any deduction he thinks fit for expenses. It may be 10 per cent., and it may be 90 per cent. Nobody but himself is any the wiser.Why the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues in the Cabinet should have surrendered to that element was a mystery and will remain a mystery until he tells us about it. He has been telling us something about publicity. The pool people are experts at that. They send all sorts of circulars out to all sorts of people, inviting them to do what?Show the Government that the British working man will never give up the liberty of action for which he and his forefathers have fought so well.They enclose a card and they tell the recipient that he must be strong in his protest and address the card to his Member of Parliament. Then they say:Send the card to us with your next football coupon.If ever there was a piece of ingenious advertising for business purposes this was it. They say in effect: "Send the protest, but be sure you send a football coupon," which means more money going into the coffers of the proprietors. Then they say:Do not stamp or date the card. We do not want you to be out of pocket; therefore we will stamp all the cards ourselves.They ought to have added the words "out of your money" since all the expenses are deducted before the poor, wretched investor in football pools get a chance of receiving anything at all. I had a, personal experience quite recently when I was residing temporarily in a hospital. Because we had nothing to do for 24 hours a day three other patients and myself decided to speculate 6d. a week each. When the pool came to us it was to be, say, 150 to one, or 600 to one, or some other fabulous figure. We decided that we would all share that we got, and that when we retired from the hospital we would go away and recuperate. It is a personal confession that I make. We invested 6d. each, and we did not get a sou the first week. The second week one of us was lucky, and we got something. When we sent the money away it was 170 to one or 150 to one, but on the following Monday we were told it was six 1155 to one. So we got 3s. 6d. back for our 4s. It is well known that there is no sort of restriction upon these football pools. I do not care if every football enthusiast in my Parliamentary division suggest that I should support the continuation of these pools, nor if it means my losing my seat at the next election, I shall refuse to be pressed into that support by them. Of all swindles the football pool is perhaps the biggest of any.
We come now to the question of the greyhound totalisator. It is difficult for one acquainted with all the facts relating to greyhounds and the totalisator to take a dispassionate view. Here again the Government, recognised, as they must have done as a result of the Commission's report, that the development of greyhound racing had reached an alarming position. The commission issued an interim report, definitely recommending that the totalisator ought to be abolished at once, not because they had personal interests, but merely because they were doing the work for which the Government had established the commission.
The Government, apparently, have ignored the Royal Commission in this vital particular. I want to ascertain from the right hon. Gentleman why, having dealt with the sweeps, the Government allowed themselves to be shuffled into supporting what is generally recognised to have been a public scandal during the past four or five years. The use of the totalisator in connection with greyhound racing is a recent development. The right hon. Gentleman has told us how many horse race days there are within a 15 miles radius of Charing Cross and how many greyhound racing days there are within the same area. The Commission recognised that a continuance of that development would have serious social consequences and, the totalisator on greyhound racing tracks having been made illegal, one would have thought that the National Government, a Government with all the strength and courage which we are led to believe it possesses, would have left the totalisator on greyhound racing tracks illegal. But no, the right hon. Gentleman proposes to legalise the totalisator on greyhound tracks. He wants to provide alternative methods of betting. He does not want to be unfair.
1156 I think it would not be out of place at this juncture to try to dispose of a great deal of that nonsense which is talked about discriminating between the rich man's sport and the poor man's sport. The Betting Control Board which was established in 1928 has nothing to do with organising horse racing. They have the power to visit racecourses and where they discover courses on which there is racing on a sufficient number of days to justify the establishment of machine betting, merely as an alternative to ordinary bookmaking, they establish the totalisator on that course. But, having established it, they do not advertise it throughout the universe or do all the things which the greyhound people have done, to induce people to go to that course in order to gamble. They simply establish the totalisator. If the amount of money passing through the machine represents a profit at the end of the period, the people who run the totalisator do not walk off with that profit. They do not make any profit out of it. It goes into a pool which is used to help horse breeding.
The greyhound track on the other hand is owned by a company. The company own the machines, they own the dogs, they run the betting transactions. They are the people who offer inducements to men, women and children to attend the track. They even make special arrangements for the children. Of course, when the machine has been operating on seven or eight dog races and a profit accrues, be it large or small, the owners of the track walk off with it. I propose to show presently how much they walk off with in the profits on these transactions. Therefore, all that we hear about the rich man's sport as against the poor man's sport is so much undiluted nonsense and no hon. Member ought to countenance it for one moment. In 1928 when the Betting Control Board was established, the then Chancellor of the Exchequer the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) during the Second Reading of the Debate on the Bill made this statement:I am glad that the promoters of the Bill have not included dog racing within its terms because if so I am sure the Government would have been obliged to oppose the Second Reading."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 16th March, 1928; col. 2349, Vol. 214.]Then, after an interjection, he said, referring to dog racing tracks that they 1157 were "animated roulette boards" and "nothing more than casinos." The right hon. Gentleman, on occasion does hit on the truth and I think he hit on the truth that time. Therefore, the Government of 1928, a boldly Conservative Government, were against totalisators on greyhound racing tracks. Are we to understand that it is the Liberal influence in the National Government which has led to the change indicated by the present Bill? If the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary is going to tell us that, we shall doubtless hear something from the Liberal party before the conclusion of the Debate. Certainly the influence which has brought about this change cannot have come from the Prime Minister because the Prime Minister has written pamphlets and books of an anti-gambling tendency. Nor can I imagine that the Secretary of State for the Dominions with his known hostility to all forms of gambling would support the right hon. Gentleman's proposals in this particular. The people whose hearts are bleeding for the poor working man and his sport have not been remiss in sending out documentary evidence to show why totalisators should be permitted on greyhound race tracks. Here is one document which has been sent round. It is entitled "Kicking the Dog." I wonder who is the dog. It seems to me that some of the people who own the dogs have not been kicked as hard as they ought to have been. In this document greyhound racing is described as beingas fair, clean and honest as any sport in the country.Later on in the document it is pointed out that because there is no control board the public isinadequately protected … against the fraudulent practices of unscrupulous managements.Yet he tells us that it is as fair, clean and honest as any sport in the country I wonder who are these "fraudulent managements." He does not tell us. Then there is a publication called the "Greyhound Express," which contains an open letter to the National Government written by the editor. He tells us that he voted against the National Government. He voted for a Socialist but he adds that the Socialist had not any chance of being elected. Now he proceeds to tell the National Government what a 1158 good Government they are—the best of modern times, or at any rate the best since 1931. The Betting Bill, however, has disturbed the editor of the "Greyhound Express." He lays down a scheme, and he suggests that certain things should be done and that certain people numbering five ought to rule the sport. Who these wise men are to be I do not know. Referring to tracks, he says:I would have Government licensing of greyhound tracks just as public houses and hotels are licensed to-day. I would make the conditions under which licences were granted so rigorous that large numbers of existing tracks for which there is no justification and many of which are dishonestly conducted would cease to be operated.But the gentleman who wrote "Kicking the Dog" and who is, I suppose, in the same stable, states that it is as fair and clean and honest as any sport in the country. Then the editor of the "Greyhound Express" goes on to establish in his own mind the sort of machinery whereby the sport would be run and he suggests that certain people should be represented on a committee. Ho says that this system of licensing would effect a reduction in betting facilities, which is what the Government seeks, and he adds:Over three-quarters of the greyhound tracks in this country would fail to get (a) the architect's certificate as to structural suitability, (b) the certificate of the racing member of the board that the sport provided conformed to his standard rules of racing, or (c) the certificate of the member of the board representing the public interest.In other words, three-quarters of the tracks at present in existence would go out of existence if this supporter of greyhound racing had his way. It is obvious that he writes for the Greyhound Racing Association. That association, of course, want all greyhound racing to be within their control. All the people who do not happen to be affiliated with them are, according to their view, committing fradulent practices. But in any case, they convict themselves, because they show that the sport is not honest, that it is not clean and that it is unworthy of any single concession being made to it by this House.
We know the meaning of all this publicity. We have heard already something about the widow's mite, about the poor investors who, when the totalisator was put out of existence on greyhound 1159 tracks, lost all their money. The people who stand on a high pinnacle and who think so seriously about social consequences but who argue that there are no serious social consequences attendant on excessive gambling—what have they done towards cleaning up their own sport? So long as they can organise gambling for profit, the bigger the attendance and the more money passing through the totalisator, the bigger the profit. Of course they are entitled to do as they like, but what have they done. I read that at Carntyne track, Glasgow, the proprietors have established a nursery adjoining the sixpenny enclosure so that mothers can leave their children in the nursery while they go in to gamble. At the Aberdeen Stadium, Dens Park, Dundee, there has also been established a nursery. Then, what do we find at Harringay Park, in this city of all cities? Here is a quotation from "Sporting Life":The enterprise of the Greyhound Racing Association"—These are the people who do not know the meaning of dishonesty, the real prime ministers of greyhound sport—has promoted an experiment which seems destined to add to the already great popularity of their Harringay track. Recently they have built and equipped a children's playground at the North London track and here parents may now leave their children instead of being compelled to take them, as hitherto, into the enclosures. While evening racing is in progress the playground is illuminated by scores of multi-coloured lights. Two see-saws, a roundabout, a slide and a large sandpit complete with spades and buckets are some of the amusements provided for the kiddies.This playground beside the Harringay track is established apparently so that children may be taken there between the hours of 8 p.m. and 10 p.m.—when most respectable mothers would contemplate having their children in bed. But if the Greyhound Racing Association has anything to do with it, if providing multi-coloured lights and swings and roundabouts can have any effect, we shall reach a state of things in which the child will insist on the mother going to the greyhound track instead of the mother taking the child. I have a list of shareholders in a track which was established in Dundee in 1933. There are 18 women shareholders each holding anything from one share to 10,000 shares. Of these 1160 women investors in this track, 13 are London ladies. I wonder if these London ladies agree with the provision of nurseries to encourage mothers to go to greyhound tracks. Lady Mary Mills or Lady Mary somebody else or Miss Stout or Miss Thunder—they are all investors, but I wonder have they ever paused to think whether it is worth while to extract a profit out of the poverty and misery and destitution of these mothers?
Why has there been so much publicity about the totalisator on greyhound tracks? I am no better than anybody else. I do not want to see the Irish Sweep abolished, until I win it twice, but I would not disagree with any Government who was making an effort to deal with this matter. I suppose that if I owned a greyhound track I should be almost as silly as those who own such tracks now, and want to destroy the nation so long as a profit was made for me. What has been the finance of these tracks? Referring to one in Manchester, the original investment was £14,000, which soon ran out, so more thousands were found, which came back very quickly, and the first £14,000 was wiped off. Some shilling shares which were then created have paid 22s. 6d. per annum ever since. The company itself, which, remember, started with a capital of £14,000, in 1931 declared a dividend of £212,000. One man invested £100 and has been paid £6,000 a year ever since. Another guaranteed the company at the bank for a few thousand pounds, and he has drawn over £7,000 a year ever since. These fellows ought to be on the means test and know the meaning of poverty. King Solomon's mines cannot compare with the money that has been raked out of greyhound racing, and yet these people tell us that it is as clean, honest, and fair as any other sport. Mr. H. Garland Wells, who writes on greyhound tracks as if they were his own children and the Government were about to strangle them, tells us on page 4 thatthe return on the total capital invested in licensed tracks has averaged only 5 per cent.The House has heard the figures that the "Sunday Chronicle" gave, and Somerset House tells that South London Greyhound Racecourses, Limited, in 1928–9 made a profit of 14.5s per cent. They had only just got on the way then, but in 1929–30 they made 50 per cent. 1161 dividend; in 1930–31, when they were just beginning to appreciate the job which they had taken in hand, they made 60 per cent.; and by 1931–32 the dividend was 125 per cent. This fair, honest fellow, this clean fellow, talks about "kicking the dog" and a 5 per cent. average return. Here is 125 per cent. profit, and one could give many more figures. On one track in Glasgow these were the figures for one night's supposed entertainment—one ordinary night, in late autumn, not a specially fixed occasion: The totalisator took over the counter £3,550 8s., and the people who owned the track and the totalisator took away £387 14s. 9d. They were running that track six times a week before it was rendered illegal. There is an income of £120,000 per annum, raked off the totalisator. Is there any wonder that these people want the totalisator back? Is there any wonder that sport is secondary and profit-making primary? There is no comparison between the horse racing totalisator and the greyhound totalisator. Then they tell us they cannot exist on 104 days a year.
Some hon. Member may not agree with me when I say that we have the largest racecourse in the country at Doncaster, where I happen to reside. I am a shareholder in it, because the corporation own it. That is one of my few privileges. It is one of the most important racecourses in the country. They have eight days' racing in the year, and it pays, I am delighted to know, annually. I think they knock off a few coppers from our rates as a result of the eight days' racing. This gentleman who talks about fair play says, on page 5, that horse racing could not survive under such conditions, that is, the 104 days' limitation. Doncaster manages very nicely on eight days, with nobody complaining, because there is nobody there who wants any profit out of gambling. We know that because horse racing takes place gambling also takes place, and I am afraid that, if this were a day and a place for confessions, I should have to make a confession, but the essential point is that the huge racecourses have only a comparatively small number of race days in the year, and they carry on their business very nicely. They do not interfere with gambling at all, and they are not an inducement to gambling in that sense. While this El Dorado of the totalisators 1162 was possible, tracks were springing up like mushrooms overnight, but the moment the totalisator went out of existence, this is what happens, and this is the real explanation of the attack on the right hon. Gentleman by all these dissatisfied constituents of the greyhound track owners.
Some benevolent gentleman sends me a copy of the "Financial Times." I have never had the money to make an investment, but I am interested nevertheless, and I am particularly interested in this copy because the shares of greyhound racing concerns on the 30th December, 1932, and on the 29th December, 1933, are recorded therein. I need quote only one or two. The 5s. shares of the Clapton Stadium, Limited, stood at 19s. in December, 1932, when the totalisator was running, and by December, 1933, they had dropped to 10s. 9d. The Greyhound Racing Association Trust 1s. shares in 1932 stood at 1s. 10½d., and by 1933 they were down to 9d. The South London deferred 1s. shares in 1932 stood at 6s., and by 1933 they had fallen to 3s. 4½d.; and, of course, that was merely because the totalisator was always a winner to the track owners, and it was the biggest inducement for people to attend the tracks.
I suggest that the right hon. Gentleman and the Government certainly started off very well to render a real service to the general community. We welcome the coming of some control by local authorities over where these tracks should or should not be, and we welcome the limitation of any profits at all, but we lament that there is to be the totalisator, because it is not to be put up for a reason; it is only going to be put up as an excuse. We welcome the fact that the Government are paying attention to the big lotteries and so forth. We shall try in Committee to improve that in certain small particulars, and to allow certain outlets for certain people for certain very small purposes, always remembering that profits must be eliminated. We think it is a disaster to exclude the football pools. They ought to have been suppressed at once. We think that newspaper competitions might very well be limited, and we have no objection—at least, I have none—to that, although I should like to have won one of those 1163 competitions that gave a world tour free of charge and £5 per week for life.
We welcome the good points in the Bill, but we regret that the Government have already seen fit to make concessions to a body of people who would destroy the social fabric of this country if they were allowed to flourish unchecked. The fact that they have established nurseries at greyhound tracks between 8 and 10 p.m., and provided sandpits for children and children's mothers, ought to be the one thing that should stiffen the back of the right hon. Gentleman from raising either the percentage allowed to the operators of totalisators from 3 to 5 per cent. or breakages from 1d. to 3d. He must know that these breakages mean more than another odd percentage; they mean more profit for the very people who are not entitled to it. In conclusion, I will say a word concerning Tote Investors, Limited. Leaving Tote Investors, Limited, in existence provides an excuse for leaving football pools in existence too. If I had to deal with both of these problems, I would have endeavoured to do what the Bill of 1928 intended to do, namely, to keep the totalisators from taking bets at the street corner or anywhere else. Having now-established Tote Investors, Limited, the right hon. Gentleman runs a very grave risk of further extensions being demanded, which will develop bit by bit, but with certainty, into limited liability company office gambling, where perhaps the second position will be infinitely worse than the first. That is a thing that we lament, but we welcome the Bill for the good parts in it, and we shall not oppose it this afternoon.
§ 4.56 p.m.
§ Mr. ISAAC FOOT
I should like to express my thanks and, I am sure, the thanks of the House to the hon. Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams) for his searching examination of this Bill. He was not able to speak for the whole of his party. We are dealing with a subject on which there is a good deal of division in the parties. The right hon. Gentleman will find that there are some exceptional cleavages in relation to this Bill, and that there will probably be divisions that are not the ordinary party divisions, but I think I am speaking mainly for the 1164 party with which I am associated when I say that we intend to give this Bill our support on Second Reading, reserving, as I suppose all hon. Members will, freedom to deal with Amendments in Committee. I think the House ought to be unanimous on one thing, and that is in expressing its gratitude to the members of the Royal Commission for a very remarkable piece of work. They met under the presidency of a very experienced man, one who was well qualified to judge of the value of evidence, and there were 12 Commissioners altogether. They examined, as far as I can see, nearly 100 witnesses, who were able to speak of conditions in every part of the country. They carried on their sittings during the whole 12 months. It is a very fortunate thing that they were able to be unanimous on their main recommendations, and I think we have to thank the members of that Royal Commission for their very clear declarations. There is no rhetoric in their report, but a plain statement of their con-elusions, and they have given us generally the grounds upon which they have relied.
There have been a number of reports dealing with this question—I was concerned with one of the committees that sat some years ago—but this Report is of the highest value as dealing with the special circumstances of our own time. It is true that the Bill is based generally on the recommendations of this Royal Commission, but I wish that it had been more largely based upon those recommendations. I think the Government would have been in a much stronger position if they had taken the recommendations of the Commission and, while not adhering to them rigidly, adopted them more widely. I think the comment made by the "Times" newspaper when the Bill was introduced was perfectly justified. They said, speaking of the Bill:It does not offer that full revision and consolidation of the law which many had hoped to see, and which a National Government was excellently qualified to undertake. … It leaves in its present condition of scandalous ruin the law which applies to street betting, and it does not avail itself of the constructive policy of tolerance and limitation which the Commission proposes. Thus it continues a distinction fatal to respect for the law.In the following week the same newspaper made this criticism:If the Government had had the courage to undertake a measure, much overdue, 1165 of consolidating the whole law of gambling, there would have added little to their difficulties. The opposition would have been just what it is. Ministers would have had more weight to their plan and—by rationalising the law of street-betting, for example, and abolishing the indefensible distinction between cash and credit betting off the course—they woud have strengthened it against those who are fancifully trying to discover discriminations between rich and poor where none exist.It is a pity, therefore, that the Government, in making the effort which is bound to be a big effort, did not include some of the other proposals. In some instances the Government have actually departed from the recommendations of the Royal Commission, notably as to the installation of the totalisator on dog tracks. I want to give some warning against the danger of weakening the Bill. I want to associate myself with every word that has been said by the hon. Member for Don Valley about football pools. I do not know much about them myself. Like most Members of the House, I have to rely for my information upon the evidence that was given to the Commission and by such information as reaches me. We were informed in a communication which was sent to all Members of the House of the extent of football pool betting, in which the writers plead the subvention that they give to the State through the Post Office. We are told that the Post Office reap an advantage from the circulars dealing with football pools, and that £145,833 6s. 8d. is the weekly yield to the Postmaster-General from football transactions, which multiplied by 37, the number of weeks of the football season, shows a gross revenue to the Postmaster-General of £5,500,000. Hon. Members who are more closely in touch with great industrial districts may regard those figures with no concern, but it strikes me as an amazing fact that upon something that is a new development—we are not dealing with the old traditional horse-racing betting, but a new development—there should be in postal charges alone £145,833 paid in the course of a single week for 37 weeks.
§ Mr. FOOT
But that surely does not lessen the very serious fact that so large a sum should be spent even in the distribution of circulars. The hon. Member may look at it as a matter that can be 1166 regarded with equanimity. I regard it as a matter of apprehension. It was a matter of apprehension to the 12 Commissioners, who looked upon the vast expenditure in this direction as a matter to alarm the economist, let alone the moralist.
§ Mr. FOOT
I am not sufficiently acquainted with the matter to draw the deduction which the hon. Member wishes to draw. I am simply referring to the advantage that accrues to the Post Office, and I say that that is an indication of the scale upon which this is done. I am informed by those who are able to advise me that there are bookmakers dealing with this class of work who are employing 800 to 1,000 people, and that at the end of the week the number of people employed is frequently doubled and trebled; also, that there are some firms of bookmakers who have thousands of agents distributed throughout the country. Hon. Members can look upon that from their own particular angle. I associate myself absolutely with the alarm that is expressed by the 12 Commissioners as to this diversion of money into this barren channel and at the economic burden which the country has to carry, and there is no doubt of its moral effect in the deterioration of character. I regret the Government did not stand by their first proposal. They must have had grounds for dealing with football pools in the first instance, and we are entitled to know why the Government, having drawn upon themselves the fire of criticism by making this proposal in the first instance, failed to carry through their policy later. It was not done as the result of Debate. It never even came before the other House, and it was never brought before this House. I hope that during the discussions an Amendment will be put down to enable the Government to state their position on what is an alarming development of our social life.
There was a further weakening that arose from the increase of the 3 per cent. allowed to the totalisator on dog tracks to 5 per cent., with an alteration in the 1167 breakage, which I understand represents another 1 per cent.
I want to impress on the Government this fact. They cannot get this Bill through except they have the support of a great body of public opinion that is not organised, that is not articulate, that is not able to bring its opinions to bear like the vested interests can. The interests that are threatened in this matter can act within 24 hours. The great body of people in this country who are concerned for our good name and reputation and for clean and wholesome living are not able to express themselves so quickly, but they are very powerful. The right hon. Gentleman will have to rely on that body of opinion if this Bill is to survive criticism. I beg of him not to consent to any further weakening that will alienate that body of opinion, because it is very certain that he will have to go a long way before he can placate the vested interests. If there is a further weakening he will deprive himself of that body of public opinion to which I have referred, and at the same time will have against him the organised enmity of those whose personal interests are at stake. Therefore, let him stand without any further weakening, and I hope that some Amendments that will be proposed by us and by those who want the Government to take their original stand will receive his sympathetic consideration.
The Bill deals with what I suppose most people without controversy will regard as one of our outstanding social evils. It is a remarkable thing that every time a committee has been set up to investigate it they have always come to the same conclusion. The recent Commission was not the first that has been appointed. I had the honour of serving with some who are still in the House on the Select Committee which was set up in 1923 to deal with the betting law. It sat for the greater part of the summer of that year and examined 38 witnesses representing every part of our national life. I as a West countryman unacquainted with the great cities was amazed when I had revealed to me the extent to which gambling was carried on in this country. I do not think that nine Members out of ten know the extent to which the gambling practice is carried 1168 on. Some, of course, are acquainted with the big cities and know their own neighbourhood, but on that committee we had the advantage of getting experience from every part of the country. We were told that the turnover was not less than £200,000,000 a year. There was a case in Edinburgh the other day before the court concerning football coupons circulated by a firm of bookmakers, and it was shown in evidence that in February, 1930, the firm sent out 110,000 each week. It was shown that the takings of the bookmaker for the first week were £920 and that, after payment of prize money, commission and expenses, the profits were £476.
It is not necessary in this House to dwell on the consequences of this vice. Everybody knows it is the most prolific source of crime and that it poisons every sport it touches. In the evidence before the Royal Commission the football associations of England, Wales and Scotland all spoke of the efforts they had continually to be making to defend the football game from the poisonous effects of betting. One reason why they asked that football pools should be suppressed was the preservation of that sport, which is one of the best elements in our national and social life. This evil is ruinous to home life, and the worst part of its effects is the deterioration of character. I have read all I can of what has been said by those who have spoken of the effect of the gambling evil, and they all agree that this thing more than any other effects a deterioration of character by a sort of atrophy of mind. [An HON. MEMBER: "More than beer?"] Certainly. I am speaking of the peculiarly evil effect that the gambling habit has on any individual. Once a man has become the victim of this habit, he loses his interest in everything else. He becomes no use to his trade union, or his political party, or his church. [Interruption.] I am speaking of the man who becomes a victim of the gambling habit. I do not know why there is this interruption. I do not know anyone who has made a study of this subject who has not come to that conclusion, and the main emphasis of the Royal Commission was on the deterioration of character. I am not speaking of the man who indulges in casual betting, but of the man who is a problem in our social life to the extent 1169 not merely of thousands, but of tens and scores of thousands, who loses his sense of citizenship and becomes a burden on the community.
§ Mr. FOOT
I am speaking of the man who is a victim of the gambling habit, and I should have thought that I was occupying common ground.
The general position has been made worse of recent years by the tote club and the totalisator. A great many people bet through a totalisator who would not bet with a bookmaker. A woman will bet more readily with a totalisator than with a bookmaker. There are people who in no circumstances would bet through a bookmaker, but who will do so through a totalisator because to them it is an unobjectionable thing. I suppose most people will be agreed that a marked feature of recent years has been the increase of betting among women and children. We found that in our 1924 inquiry, and it is upon that fact that the Royal Commission lays its emphasis. It is not enough to meet this case by saying that it is an attack on the liberty of the subject. The circular to which the hon. Member for Don Valley referred, signed by Mr. Garland Wells, who has a letter in to-day's Press, appeals to all Members of Parliament and to those "who have some regard for the liberties of the subject." I am as concerned for liberty as any man in the House, but I never understood liberty apart from social freedom. I want social freedom, and I never knew anyone who fought for liberty who did not press for social freedom, a freedom that is only made possible by regulation and by fair play between one part of the community and the other.
The State has got to step in. The Royal Commission suggests that the State must step in when two things happen: first of all when there are serious social consequences, and, secondly, when there is an exploitation of a propensity of the people for the purposes of private gain. If we have those two conditions the Government is bound to act. Have we got the "serious social consequences"? Anyone who has studied the report of the Royal Commission will know that that phrase is used not once but again and again. It is used, I suppose, a dozen 1170 times—if not the precise phrase, reference is made at least a dozen times to the social consequences of excessive gambling and continuous gambling. As to "exploitation for private gain" this is a phrase to which I beg the House to give attention:The gambling instinct of the population at large is being increasingly exploited by persons for their own private gain.If the House and the country are satisfied that those two things exist, the serious social consequences and the exploitation for private gain, it is not a question of the Government being entitled to act, but the Government, any Government which takes upon itself the responsibility for affairs, is obliged to intervene.
To-day, in particular, we have dog racing. According to the Royal Commission, there were then 187 tracks, and at the time they made their report 55 were about to open. Later figures give 220 tracks. Of the 187 tracks 130 had totalisators. The Government are running a very big risk in going contrary to the recommendations of the Royal Commission by allowing the totalisator upon the tracks, but I admit very readily that in allowing the totalisator to be upon the dog tracks for only 104 days in the year they have instituted a very strong resriction. I am very glad they are not allowing a young man or a young woman to bet upon dog tracks. Is it suggested that we should allow infants to bet? Is it suggested that we should allow boys from school to go there and bet? Personally, I think it would be wise to exclude them from the tracks. There is no sport at dog tracks. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] I understand from those who go there that the actual sport lasts but a few minutes in the course of the whole evening, and that the real attraction is the betting, as is admitted by those who are responsible for dog racing. If it were not for the betting the tracks would be derelict. Dog racing is being carried on at very great cost to the community. According to a gentleman writing to the "Daily Telegraph" this morning, and to a circular issued to this House, 20,000,000 persons a year are attending the dog tracks, there are 40,000 registered greyhounds, 20,000 persons are employed, a capital of over £1,000,000 is invested in greyhounds and £4,500,000 is invested in the tracks. I say there is another side to that balance sheet, and the other side 1171 is expressed in the suffering and wretchedness of a great many people who have to bear the burden of the gambling losses.
Before I close I want to say a word upon lotteries, because I am very much interested in the Motion put down in the name of my hon. Friend opposite and others in this House. Behind lotteries we have a long history. Here, again, it is a remarkable thing that whenever an inquiry has been made into lotteries the same conclusion has been arrived at. In no instance in the last 100 years where there has been an inquiry into lotteries have the investigators come to any conclusion other than this, that the thing is a pestilence, that the thing is a public nuisance, that the thing has in itself such possibilities of disorder that it is impossible to work a lottery scheme without its resulting in disaster to the State. What has happened in relation to Ireland has gone on far too long, and I do not know why the Government have not previously intervened, instead of allowing vast sums to pass over the channel. I understand that those who are now associated with the lottery movement are not anxious to support hospitals by it. I was struck by the absence of any reference to hospitals in the Motion on the Order Paper. The hospitals have asserted their position, and I am very glad that these great ministries of healing are not to rest upon these shifting sands of cupidity and chance. I am very glad that our hospitals are not to run the risk of depending upon what may prove to be a craze. They might for a year or two, if the craze succeeded, find some substantial advantage, but the mania may pass, and they would find then that the springs of charity had dried up.
I am glad the Government have taken a definite line about lotteries and will cut at their roots by depriving them of publicity. We are not going to have the publicity which sets out all the wins and says nothing about the losses. It took two pages of the "Times" newspaper to give the names of the winners in one of the big sweepstakes. If we had had the names of the losers they would have occupied 24 pages of the "Times" for 100 successive issues. We get a publication, intended to whet the appetite and the cupidity of people, of the fact that some unemployed man has won a big prize, but what about the unemployed who 1172 have contributed to that prize and upon whose homes the loss falls? Ask those who are in the front line of social activity, who are right up against poverty and distress in the big towns, and they will tell you where the burden of the loss falls. I ask the House to think not of the few winners but of the great burden that is borne by the multitude of losers.
I want to inform the Minister that I and some of my friends are putting down an Amendment which will extend to this country what Scotland enjoys to-day, and that is a limitation upon the employment of boys by bookmakers. That legislation was passed by this House in 1928, and when the chief constables of Scotland gave evidence before the Royal Commission they said it was a Measure which had worked with great success and that there had been only a few contraventions The chief constables of this country asked in their evidence for a similar law for this country. The Royal Commission recommended that the Measure should be applied to England, and I hope the House will agree that, whatever else may be said about betting, those engaged in it ought not to employ boys. The greatest authority upon boy life in this country, Mr. C. E. R. Russell, who was chief inspector of His Majesty's Reformatories, said that a month spent by a boy in selling "racing specials" ruined him. We ask that our Amendment should be put in the present Bill.
We shall give our support to this Bill. I would rather have this Bill than nothing, very much rather, but if Amendments are to be proposed from the other side our Amendments will be there as well. We shall ask for them the sympathetic consideration of the Government, and we shall resist any weakening of this Bill. I would like to express my thanks to the Government not merely for the Bill but for the fact that the Bill is introduced. I think a real advantage will come not merely from the terms of the Bill, from what is actually on paper, but from its effect in directing the public mind to a great evil, something worse than any disease, worse than any plague. No disease in our history has made such ravages as have been caused by this evil. I hope that the discussion upon this Bill will so stimulate public interest that there will be a demand for a fuller Measure. 1173 I agree that we cannot legislate in advance of public opinion, but let us try to get a quickened public opinion, let us know the facts about this great social evil, and so stimulate public opinion that a fuller Bill may be brought along. This Bill is an instalment and no more than an instalment, but as an instalment in the right direction it will have my support.
§ 5.27 p.m.
§ Mr. BUCHAN
I intervene in this Debate because one section of this Measure, that dealing with greyhound racing, concerns a matter about which I have for long been anxious. Six years ago, when the sport was new, it seemed to me that it was bound to increase rapidly, and that tracks were pretty certain to be built adjoining the great centres of population, and I was alarmed about its unregulated extension. I introduced a small, modest Bill providing for the licensing of tracks by the local authorities. That Bill passed its Second Reading in this House by a very large majority, but disappeared upstairs in the morass of Committee. Had it become law I believe that some very undesirable developments would have been prevented, Since that day we have seen a large extension of the tracks, some of them licensed and well conducted, under the aegis of unofficial bodies like the Greyhound Racing Club and the Greyhound Racing Society, a good many unlicensed and a considerable number ill-conducted. It is high time the Government intervened, and I would like to congratulate my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary upon a bold and comprehensive Measure to all the principles and purposes of which I cordially assent.
I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Bodmin (Mr. Isaac Foot) that gambling is one of the major scourges of our country, but I think it important that we should realise just exactly where the mischief comes. I do not bet and never have betted, not because I think it wrong but because it does not interest me; but I hope I shall not be accused of moral laxity if I say that I see very little harm in an occasional bet. Betting is one of those practices which only become a vice if it be carried beyond a certain point. Our business is to limit excesses, prevent undue extension, and, above all, the placing of opportunities too liberally in 1174 the way of those who may be inclined to take advantage of them. I think that is the function of Government in this matter, as my right hon. Friend admirably pointed out in his opening speech. It is admitted that the betting habit is very deeply ingrained in our people, that prohibition is impossible and that all we can do is to regulate and prevent excess. That was also the policy of a very typical Englishman, Oliver Cromwell, if in mentioning him I am not poaching upon a preserve of my hon. Friend the Member for Bodmin. I would remind my hon. Friend that Cromwell was among many other things the best judge of a horse in England, the founder of the blood horse in England, and the father of English horse breeding. If he had his rights his statue would not be only outside the Palace of Westminster; it would be at Newmarket. His bust would be in the hall of the Turf Club. If the hon. Member for Bodmin will cooperate with me, we might get something done. When Oliver Cromwell was in Scotland he spoke some sound words to the Scottish Ministers who were violent prohibitionists. He said:Sirs, it will be found to be both an unjust and an unwise policy to deny a man that liberty which he hath by nature on the supposition that he may abuse it. When he hath abused it, then judge and act.That I take to be the policy of His Majesty's Government in this matter. You cannot prohibit the practice, but you can prevent excess. If that be admitted, I do not see how there can be any discrimination against the particular kind of betting which you have in greyhound racing to-day. It is no worse or no better than any other kind. Greyhound racing in recent years has become clogged with very undesirable commercial associations, and mixed up with gambling on the Stock Exchange—a thing which I hope has now gone for ever. It is perfectly true that without betting it could not exist. That is universally admitted. But when you have said that you are bound to admit that there is in greyhound racing an element of sport which attracts many people who cannot afford to go to an ordinary race meeting. I have not been to greyhound races very often, but I have seen on a fine summer evening the very pleasant spectacle of men and women enjoying the fresh air, and there was far less of the ugly side than you find in 1175 most race meetings. It is true that a large volume of betting is done on the greyhound race track, but it is only about one-tenth of the betting at horse races and considerably less than half of the betting on that most dismal of all forms of gambling, the football pool. It does not become those who are addicted, shall I say, to nobler sports, to be too supercilious and snobbish in their attitude towards this modest form of relaxation.
I think the Government have recognised that, because they have granted to this humbler sport some of the privileges which are granted to horse racing. With the provisions of the Measure on this subject, and with its purpose and principles, I wholly agree, but I am not quite so certain about the machinery of this part of the Bill. The Bill proposes that greyhound tracks shall be licensed by a local authority which, of course, has by far the major interest in the matter. The Bill proposes that the number of days racing on which betting is allowed shall be strictly limited and shall be apportioned by the local authority. It provides also that only a fixed proportion shall be deducted for management expenses from the sum received. With the purpose behind those provisions I entirely agree, but I confess I am a little doubtful about the machinery.
I will suggest a proposition which I hope will be acceptable to the House. It is this: You cannot have a sport well conducted unless there is a reasonable chance of its prosperity. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Air said in another place that there was no obligation on the Government to ensure the prosperity of greyhound racing tracks. I entirely agree, but is there any obligation to ensure the opposite? The danger seems to be that if you put undue burdens upon this sport it will be compelled, in order to pay its way, to incite people to bet and to press on the betting element to try to get the maximum of betting, and that will surely be undesirable. There is a danger that it might become in many cases a struggling, impoverished, and rather badly-conducted enterprise, in which there was only a minute element of sport, and in regard to which the public were not properly protected. There is a danger of even good tracks sinking to the level of the present ill-conducted 1176 tracks—and that is a very low level indeed—if the burdens upon them are too heavy. It is an old and a good principle of English law that a measure should not both approbate and reprobate at the same time. The danger that I fear about the machinery of the Bill is that with one hand it will legalise greyhound racing and provide for its control in the interests of good conduct, and with the other it will lay down conditions which may make good conduct extraordinarily difficult.
Take first the question of licensing, which is to be in the hands of the local authorities. It does not matter what form these local authorities take. There must clearly be licensing, and we are all agreed about that. In my modest little Bill I proposed that licensing should be done by local authorities. The sport was then in a very early stage, but to-day, when it is nation-wide, I am not sure that that is the best method. One reason is that local authorities have different interests, different tastes, and different points of view, and, if a system of licensing is to be equitable, it should be uniform, and under this system uniformity would be very hard to attain.
My second reason is more important. The licensing body should also be the regulating body, but there is no provision in the Bill for any serious control by the body that authorises tracks, except the power to suspend licenses. That is not power of control but only power of ultimate punishment. The Bill provides for very little regulation or supervision of tracks. The totalisator is to be supervised by a mechanic and an accountant appointed and paid by the management. I can hardly feel that that is adequate protection of the public. I agree with the spirit behind the strict limitation of the number of racing days in the year when betting is to be permitted, and the apportionment of those days, and a definite sum for management expenses, but I should like to see a little more elasticity in those provisions. Tracks vary very much in their interests and needs. Tracks with a large population round about them, very big tracks, might be able to carry on with a small number of days in the year, while smaller tracks in more sparsely peopled districts might find that more days were necessary. I will recur to my principle: A sport will 1177 not be well-conducted if it is always on the verge of insolvency.
I suggest to the Home Secretary with all modesty that it would be wise to follow the analogy of horse racing, and to make a national controlling body the central part of his machinery. Horse racing 100 years ago was in an appalling condition in this country, until the famous Admiral Rous took it up. Since then it has been managed more honourably and equitably, I believe, than anywhere else on the globe. Horse racing has the Jockey Club, a non-statutory body which, from long tradition, has very great powers of control. It has also to-day a statutory body, the Racecourse Betting Control Board, which supervises the totalisator and has very elastic powers. I suggest that if this Measure is to fulfil its purpose, that analogy should be more carefully considered. I want to see a national central authority with power to licence and to regulate, it being understood that the views of the local authorities and the very valuable instructions set out in Clause 6 of the Bill were to be determining factors in the decision. Only in that way can we get what is essential, an equitable and uniform practice and policy. I would like to see such an authority controlling the totalisator, making rules for its conduct and seeing that those rules were enforced. I believe that only in that way can you provide protection for the public.
I would like to see such an authority with power, within a statutory maximum to fix and allocate the number of racing days in the year and to fix the amount of deduction for the expenses of management. I should be inclined to raise the statutory maximum a little higher than is proposed in the Bill. Only if you give a certain amount of reasonable elasticity, with due regard to the facts in each case, will you prevent a system arising where even well-intentioned managements are compelled, in order to keep going, to resort to practices which may be legal but are certainly undesirable. Such an authority, composed of reputable people with no financial interest in the business, would be able to keep a really tight hand on the sport. It might be a special ad hoc authority, but, if there be objection to new machinery, why should the Racecourse Betting 1178 Control Board not be used, with certain additional members to represent the greyhound interests? Let us remember that greyhound racing is a popular sport, very largely followed by poor men, and that that kind of public needs especially to be protected, for it is not so able to protect itself.
I would press my suggestions upon the right hon. Gentleman not so much as criticism of the Measure as suggestions for machinery for better fulfilling its purpose. With that purpose I wholly agree. I could wish in some respects that it was tightened, for I fail to understand the logical reason for granting concessions to betting on football pools. I am especially anxious to prevent what might be a perfectly reasonable and more or less innocent form of popular entertainment degenerating into a public nuisance. If that is to be prevented, you cannot put burdens upon the sport so heavy that in order to pay its way it will have to resort to practices which, as I have said, may be legal, but are certainly undesirable; and above all, in the interests of the public—of public morals and of public decency—it should be subject to a strict, uniform and equitable national control.
§ 5.45 p.m.
§ Mr. LOGAN
When this Bill was introduced in another place, the Noble Lord who introduced it mentioned that no Government could put a stop to gambling. It is very strange, but it cannot be disputed, that the Bill as it now comes before this House would never have come here in the shape in which it is if a true verdict had been passed on the true presentation of the case. Those who were present in the other House when the Bill was discussed will remember, or, if they cannot remember, they will find it in the OFFICIAL REPORT, that it was stated on the authority of those interested in greyhound racing, that as far as the London greyhound racing tracks were concerned, two days a week was considered quite sufficient. That was agreed upon, but the strange part of the business was that later in the evening that was contradicted, and the statement was said to have no foundation whatever. Not only was it contradicted in the first place when a certain place was mentioned, but it was also contradicted when another was mentioned, 1179 and the Noble Lord who introduced the Bill had to admit the contradiction in regard to those two places.
I want to compliment the hon. Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams) on the magnificent way in which he dealt with this subject to-day. I am not in agreement with him, and it must be understood that there is no question about the independence of the opinions that may be expressed from these benches with regard to this particular matter. The hon. Member has spoken his mind, and I am going to speak my mind on a subject which interests me in connection with the locality from which I come. I do not gamble. The hon. Member for Don Valley said that, if confessions had to be made, I would have to make some confession, but, if anybody in my neighbourhood heard that I was having a flutter I am afraid they would not believe it. I would call the attention of the House to the following item which appeared in the "Daily Express" of 7th June last:For the third time in recent years Derby Day coincided with the meeting of the Convocation of Canterbury. 'A regrettable collision,' remarks the 'Church Union Gazette' bitterly.I went along to the Church House after lunch. Convocation was sitting—but only its lower House. Upper House—the Bishops—deferred resumption of business until a quarter of an hour after the end of the big race.The correspondent went on to say:A few minutes later a messenger came in. He carried a piece of paper to the Press table. It was passed from hand to hand. I detected a distant quickening of interest. One of the younger deans smiled. I did not venture to ask what was on the paper.I went down to the Upper House (which is, confusingly, on a lower floor). In the hall two reverend fathers were smoking cigarettes, discussing Windsor Lad. 'Were you on him?' said one. 'Only a dollar each way' said the other.In the "Daily Post" of 11th June there appeared this item:Dr. C. H. Golding-Bird, Assistant Bishop of Guildford, won £9 in a Derby sweepstake last week.I know that in this House certain Members become very enthusiastic on certain things about which it is easy to be enthusiastic. If it were a question of a great Debate in regard to poverty, we should not find so many interesting state- 1180 ments made as in a Debate of this kind, when it does not matter which way you speak. I am not a betting man, but during the last few weeks—it is essential for the information of some of my colleagues that I should mention this—I have been moving about this House with men concerned with betting, and, as a representative of a certain city, I do not need to ask the sanction of anyone in this House as to whom I go about with as long as I am able to get the information which is necessary and to put it honestly before the House. It is essential for me to say that because of a little word that I heard uttered yesterday within the precincts of this House.
As regards the Central Control Board and the opinions that have been expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Don Valley, I am in thorough agreement as to the many evils that can come about in connection with this particular sport, and my interest during the last week has been to see if I could reconcile diverse views, inside and outside the House, which are held by those interested in this particular sport, and I think I am justified in trying to reconcile those views and to find a common point of view, so that if anything is passed by this House we may agree upon it. I do not agree that a controlling body should be set up in this country giving vested interests. There is a difference of opinion as to whether the local governing body is the better body, or whether the licensing bench would not be the better of the two to decide a problem of this character.
About four months ago, by the courtesy of a certain body in London, I was invited to go to see the dogs, and I went; and I say here and now that I have not seen anything cleaner in any sport, and I saw nothing on that particular track in London that could offend anybody. Many people wax eloquent about the abuse of dog tracks, but there are many evils that are not being tackled in this Bill. I am not going to say anything about the concessions that have been made, but, if I know anything at all about sport and betting, this Bill will have no effect in doing away with betting. I know something of the people with whom I live, and I also know something of the tracks that they frequent, but I find that not 1 per cent. of the ordinary men and women who engage in street 1181 betting ever frequent the dog tracks in the city of Liverpool. I know that as a fact.
I hold no brief for the dog tracks, but is it not better that, if a man wants a night's sport, he should take it in the open air? I do not see any sport or anything to entice a man to look at a dead hare being chased by a dog, but other people do, and, if a place of that kind is properly conducted and properly regulated, it is surely better than spooning in cinemas and looking at some of the rotten pictures that are shown there. Let us take a commonsense point of view. If I find something that is not good for my boys or girls at home, I tell them not to go, but I have seen nothing up to the present in connection with dog racing that would make me ashamed that my girls and my boys should go there. I should be more shocked by some of the pictures that are shown than by anything that can be found on the two dog racing tracks that I have visited. I went there specially to see if I could find anything wrong—as a sort of "Nosey Parker," poking about to see what I could, and I was not able to find anything wrong.
I would say to the Home Secretary and to Members of the House that it is no use our being puritanical and pretending that we are goody-goodies when we are not. I went to one dog track, and found there Members of the Front Bench. I am not going to mention names, but Members of the Front Government Bench were present at the meeting; and I have not noticed that their morals have been any better since they went there, or any worse. I mention morals, because that is the first essential for the Front Bench. Drink is sometimes spoken of in this House. I do not drink in the alcoholic line, but, when we speak of drinking, we are attacked and told that we all have to be teetotallers, and when dogs are spoken of we are told that hell lies in the direction of the dogs. But hell can lie in church if you do not do your duty. What is wrong with horse racing or dog racing is the abuse of it.
Look at this from any angle you like. If you boast of equity, you have to deal fairly with interests which have been carried on. The licensed trade has been open to abuse, but it has been placed under proper supervision. You give it licences and see that it is properly conducted. 1182 If young men and women want to see a clean sport properly organised and want to get out into the open air, have you any right to say they must not go because you do not want to go? I do not think there is any sense of freedom or fair play in that. The question of regulation and of a supervising or governing body to see it legitimately carried on ought to be your function, but I have never yet learnt that in a matter of private enterprise you have any right whatever to interfere from those benches, though it might be a good contention to come from these benches. Is it to be said that no one must make any money in sport? What is there wrong with dog racing? You may say that gambling is wrong, but that only applies in a limited capacity to dog racing. I read that 250,000 people go in one day to the Grand National, the whole traffic of the city is held up and everyone has a flutter, not only in England but all over the world.
We are told by the Home Secretary that there is racing at Doncaster only on eight days in the year but, if you go along the road, you will see that the placards outside the newspaper shops contain very little news but a good deal of racing information. You are not going to touch horse racing, because you dare not, the interest is so great. When the Bill was introduced in another place we were told that the Government did not want to get rid of the sport but to legalise it and to put down gambling and bring restrictions into play, and everything in the garden would be lovely. I may be the only bad lad on these benches but this business, if it is properly conducted, is not a public danger. If it were, it would be logical to say, "This has got to finish." If it is an evil, it ought to be stopped, but if it can be regulated and knocked into shape, you have no right to say you are going to kill it. I speak very strongly, because in the first place I have no interest whatever in dog racing, but it has found jobs for two or three people in whom I am interested who were not able to get work after they came back from the War. This sport, if properly supervised, will give many people pleasant evenings and be conducive to a better standard of health. I do not agree that children should be brought in, nor do I agree with young men and women being on the tracks. I do not think any good management requires that type of people, any more than 1183 licensed victuallers want on the premises a drunken man, who is a confounded nuisance, and is likely to bring the name of the place into bad repute. I shall move Amendments and shall fight for them because, taking it all round, I do not think this is a fair and proper Measure, but I am anxious to see some kind of Bill brought in. I hope that the Home Secretary will take note of some of the Amendments, and will knock the Bill into better shape than it is in to-day.
§ 6.8 p.m.
§ Mr. CADOGAN
I share the opinion of most Members in having received since the introduction of the Measure a considerable amount of propaganda from promoters of dog racing, and that, I think, is the reason why so much of the discussion has turned on that issue. Its authors are, apparently, single-minded in their solicitude for the welfare, physical and moral, of the working classes. That is a subject in which I have taken a humble personal interest in the industrial districts of London and, therefore, when I observe any anxiety, even in unexpected quarters, to provide recreation for the working classes and suggestions as to how that end is to be achieved, I examine them closely. It is suggested in these pamphlets that, if you limit dog racing to 104 meetings in the year, you will deprive the working man of a solace without which in his few spare hours he will find the time hang very heavy on his hands. If such a plea had been pressed upon me 25 years ago, I should have been disposed to agree, as in those days the recreation provided for those living in industrial districts was certainly exiguous. But I cannot resist the conclusion that those who press it to-day are deliberately misrepresenting the facts, or do not know as much about the subject as I do. During the last 25 years, in the East End of London—and I have no reason to think that the conditions in other big industrial towns are any different—there has been the most amazing revolution in the provisions of facilities for healthy recreation for the young and the middle-aged alike.
To give a few concrete examples of this phenomenon, the councils provide magnificent swimming baths beside which the baths of Caracalla fade into insignificance, which can be floored over at short notice and turned into equally magnificent 1184 dance halls or boxing arenas or can be used for any other purpose of recreation. There are cinemas in almost all the main streets and extremely good theatres and music halls where, for very small sums, you can see the very best artists. There are public parks and open spaces which provide facilities for cricket, football, tennis and running tracks and, thanks to the Daylight Saving Act, all these amenities can be enjoyed for an hour longer than they could a quarter of a century ago. Clubs of all kinds for men and boys provide enormously increased facilities for healthy recreation. Above all, there is quick and cheap transport, which enables the working man to travel to almost any quarter within a reasonable range where he can see first-class football and cricket matches and suburban race meetings and the particular shows with which we are familiar at Wembley and other centres of pleasure. It might be contended that during the financial depression the working man could not afford to pay for these benefits, but that would be no argument for increasing the number of days for dog racing meetings. No one will say that dog racing increases the purchasing power of the working classes.
Another peculiar feature of these pamphlets is that, horse racing is spoken of as the rich man's sport in contra-distinction to dog racing. I quite agree that it would be very difficult to imagine horse racing existing without the expenditure of a vast amount of capital which, when the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps) is in charge of our destinies, will be provided by the taxpayer. But is it really contended that horse racing is exclusively the rich man's sport? Probably 80 per cent. of those who go to Liverpool, Epsom, or even Ascot, are poor men. But this by the way. I do not believe for a moment that by restricting dog racing meetings to 104 you are going to prejudice the health, wealth or happiness of the working classes.
This leads me to endeavour to answer the question why gambling should be restricted or regulated at all. Why should not the Englishman be allowed, literally or metaphorically, to go to the dogs if he wants to? I think the correct answer is rather a simpler one than has often been given. In my opinion it is this. We are regulated and restricted in everything 1185 we do from morning to night, and I fail to see why dog racing should not be subject to control and regulation just as much as any other amusement or occupation that we indulge in. It is just because we are regulated and restricted in everything we do that the greatest good to the greatest number is secured. Human nature is human nature everywhere, and if it is not regulated and restricted, the tendency of the majority is towards excess. At least I know that that is my tendency, and I do not imagine that other human beings are any different from myself. It is true to say that there is a minority, who are moderate and are restricted, and regulated unnecessarily, but they are none the worse for that.
I will give the House two illustrations of the restrictions to which I refer. Take public parks and open spaces. We all enjoy them immensely, and therefore it might be argued, why should there be any restrictions or regulations as to the times of opening or any other regulations incidental to their use? We all know that it is absolutely essential for our proper enjoyment of them that these regulations should be made and observed. Another example is the consumption of alcoholic liquor. Suppose there were no regulation with regard to the opening of public houses and no restriction through prices having risen owing to causes with which we are familiar, is anyone going to say that there would not be an enormous increase of drunkenness and consequent crime? It is because there are restrictions and regulations that the vast majority can enjoy the consumption of alcoholic liquor without any deleterious effect upon themselves or without making themselves a nuisance, and possibly a danger to their families and the community at large.
In all these matters, and especially in gambling, logic has only a limited application. The result is that our laws on these subjects represent anomalies, but I do not take exception to them on that account. The syllogism with which we are confronted is that this evil must be obliterated; gambling is an evil, and therefore gambling should be obliterated. But the premises are not quite correct. Gambling, as an hon. Member who spoke earlier said, is an evil only when indulged in immoderately and beyond the individual's means. I think that the complete prohibitionist 1186 is as wrong in his view as the man who holds that all restrictions should be removed. I endeavour to find a path midway between these two points, and I congratulate the Government that in this Bill they are endeavouring to do the same. I believe that it is a path in the right direction. You may not be able to make the people moral by legislation, but you certainly can make them moderate, and it is moderation in all things which makes for the greatest happiness of the greatest number. I do not believe that moderation necessarily means compromising with the devil. Excess of virtue, as we know by reading our history, often has as dire results as excess of anything else. I welcome the Bill and congratulate the Government upon it, although I have no doubt that it may yet be subject to salutary Amendments. I welcome it with all its anomalies, because I do not believe that its anomalies are its defects. I believe that only by anomalous processes can you deal with the hopelessly anomalous lives which most of us live to-day.
§ 6.20 p.m.
Captain ARTHUR EVANS
I do not propose to follow my hon. Friend the Member for Finchley (Mr. Cadogan) in his last argument, although I support him in his plea for moderation, particularly in this Bill. I propose to approach the Bill from a different angle from that of my hon. Friend. I welcome it because it is a recognition of the principle for which some friends of mine have been working a very long time, and that is equalisation, as far as facilities are concerned, for those members of the public who desire to witness a sport, whether that sport is horse racing or dog racing, and avail themselves of certain betting facilities afforded by the law as it is at present. Although the Bill finds its foundation in the report of the Royal Commission, I was very pleased to hear my right hon. Friend say that His Majesty's Government have had the courage to ignore certain important recommendations in the report of the Royal Commission because they do not feel that the conditions prevailing in the greyhound racing world at the present time justify the recommendations which were made by that body. I have no doubt that the example of previous speakers of quoting the Royal Commission in favour of the Bill, or as opposed to certain 1187 arguments which have been submitted for consideration to the House, will be followed by subsequent speakers. I propose to approach the problem from a different point of view and not to regard the recommendations of the Royal Commission as the basis for the arguments I desire to submit.
In February, 1933, I ventured to say in this House, on a Motion which was submitted by an hon. Friend sitting opposite on the question of dog racing, that I did not feel then—and I do not feel now—that a Royal Commission was a proper body to investigate and report on a problem of this kind. I felt that especially when I looked at Appendix I of the report of the Royal Commission and saw the long list of important organised bodies which had been called together to submit evidence, and found such people as the "Times," the Christian Social Council, the Commissioners of Police, the Showmen's Guild, the Football Association, the Jockey Club, the Gaming Laws Reform Association, the Anti-Gambling League, and the Salvation Army, not to mention the National Greyhound Racing Society, which was represented by no less an authority than my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Twickenham (Brigadier-General Critchley), whom, I am sure, we all welcome as a man of courage and achievement. But I failed to observe in the impressive list the name of Mr. John Citizen, or anybody who could claim any relation with him, the representative of the 25,000,000 people who last year thought that greyhound racing was a sufficiently good sport to patronise regularly. If the Chairman of the Royal Commission had asked my right hon. Friend the Under-Secretary to go down to Clapton, or to Wembley or the White City and pick out the first two intelligent, respectable men he saw and asked them their views on this problem, he would have got a normal, fair and reliable view. He would have had the view expressed of those people who are only concerned with enjoying their leisure in as entertaining a manner as possible, having regard to the limits of time and money at their disposal.
The people who frequent greyhound racing to-day and who have frequented it in the past are not organised in any way, and their only method of approach 1188 to the Government is through the elected representatives of the people. It is because of that, that I think a Member of Parliament has just as much right to express an opinion on this subject as any Royal Commission. I do not share the view of the hon. Member for Bodmin (Mr. Isaac Foot), who rather inferred in his speech that the Royal Commission was an infallible body. After all, the evidence to which they paid regard came from a series of organised bodies, and they were not in touch with public opinion in the same way as Members of this House, or at least as Members should be. It is that body of opinion which I venture to express this afternoon. I make no attack on Royal Commissions as such. A Royal Commission is generally composed of a body of patriotic people who, for no other reason than that of a desire to serve the State, come forward unselfishly and place their services at the disposal of the Government of the day, and I think that on certain questions of a technical nature they are a proper body to whom to submit problems for consideration. But on a problem of this kind, which touches the daily life of the people, I think that the Government have sufficient information at their disposal in the records at the Home Office, or the views expressed by Members of this House in favour or against, to formulate their own proposals
If the Government feel that betting is wrong, their legitimate course of action would be to take means to suppress betting as a whole. It may be said that owing to pressure of Parliamentary time, and owing to the shortness of time between now and a General Election, it is not possible for the Government to introduce an omnibus Measure to deal with betting in all its forms. That is an argument which we might appreciate, but it is certainly illogical to say that betting which is only responsible for a turnover of £18,000,000 is social mischief, or, as described in another place, is a social evil, when they do not take any steps at all to deal with other forms of betting which, from the race track point of view, run to £150,000,000 a year and from a football coupon point of view amount to £40,000,000 a year. There is an inconsistency about that attitude which I do not understand.
1189 The Government and the right hon. Gentleman are very anxious to take a middle course. I think that the right hon. Gentleman has been so very anxious to take the middle course in order to meet the anti-gambling view on the one hand, and to placate the people who support greyhound racing on the other, that unless he is very careful in accepting reasonable Amendments to the Bill at later stages, he may find that the course of compromise may result in weakness and generally end in disaster. During the course of this controversy in Parliament, in the Press and up and down the country, very lurid pictures have been drawn as to the social evil of greyhound racing in the country at the present time. I was one of those who listened to and admired the very excellent and sympathetic way in which the hon. Gentleman the Member for Don Valley Mr. T. Williams) presented his case this afternoon. I congratulate those who are opposed to the view which I hold upon selecting such an able Member to present their point of view to the House. But when we come down to facts and figures, we find that this social evil has resulted in the average expenditure of a person frequenting the greyhound track amounting only to 1s. 8½d. per meeting per head. Surely, it must be assumed that the average person who frequents this sport knows full well whether he or she is able to afford that amount of money.
Is there any real reason, therefore, why we should dictate to 25,000,000 people the form of entertainment which they should enjoy best? We may not think so, but there is a very large body of opinion in the country who sincerely believe that greyhound racing is just as much a sport as dirt-track racing, or a football or cricket match, and as adequate a diversion as a theatre or cinema. That is not the view shared by the hon. Member for Bodmin, but it is held by millions of people in the country to-day.
§ Mr. ISAAC FOOT
Surely the hon. and gallant Member would not contend that there is anyone in the country who would put on a level as a sport what takes place at dog racing and cricket and football matches?
That is a point of view. If people who frequent and patronise football matches are anxious to have a bet on the result of the match, 1190 they have such a bet. The facilities of the bookmakers are at their disposal. People who go to greyhound racing need not necessarily bet, but if they want to bet they are at liberty to do so. There is a large body of opinion which feels—and I share that view—that a greyhound race is much more interesting to witness than a football match. Apart altogether from social ethics, I ask myself whether His Majesty's Government are wise to sit plumb on the top of a safety valve, because that is what it means. If we take steps in this House to overtax the entertainment of the people, or to take any other steps to prevent them from exercising their ordinary discretion in the way they desire to do, we shall be very ill-advised. Surely we are not doing anything wrong in taking all the steps we can to brighten the lives of the masses and to make their days a little more exciting, rather than concerning ourselves with being fussy about other people's business. No Government, however anxious they may be to do the right thing, can completely remove the burden of life from the shoulders of the individual to that of the State. If hon. Members on the benches above the Gangway assume power, as probably they will one day, and endeavour to shoulder entirely the burden of life and remove it from the shoulders of the individual to that of the State, they they will find it a very unprofitable task.
It is very difficult for me to understand why a large number of people residing in the middle of my constituency of Cardiff should not have the same privileges which I enjoy, because I happen to reside in London. In Grangetown, in the City of Cardiff, we have the biggest greyhound track in the Principality of Wales, the Welsh White City, and during 1933 there was an average attendance there of my own constituents of over 1,500 every night. Why these people should be deprived of the privilege and the facilities which I enjoy is something which I cannot understand. In another part of Cardiff there is another greyhound track, known as Arms Park, which also has a similar attendance. It is fair to say, therefore, that in the City of Cardiff, with a population of 250,000, at least 3,000 people feel that greyhound racing is a sufficient entertainment to them to justify their attendance whenever the opportunity offers. I cannot see myself 1191 going down to Cardiff and telling those people from a public platform that it is right for me to go to the Derby, to Ascot and Harringay, but that it is bad for them to avail themselves of the same facilities if they desire to do so.
In common with every other sport, greyhound racing rests on an economic and a financial basis. The entrance money has to be suitably small because it is catering for a class of people who cannot afford to pay a high price. Adequate prize money has to be offered. It is true to say that last year the National Greyhound Racing Association alone distributed not less than £500,000 in prizes to the private owners of greyhound dogs. It is obvious, too, as my hon. Friend the Member for the Scottish Universities (Mr. Buchan) said, that if this sport is to be allowed to continue, economic conditions must obtain to enable it to pay its expenses and to be conducted on a, proper and reasonable basis. The argument that because horse racing is carried on on particular tracks for only a few days in the year greyhound racing should only take place on certain days, is an argument that has not been justified by my right hon. Friend or by the Noble Marquess in another place. Horse racecourses in this country charge a much higher entrance fee and their takings from a day's meeting are invariably higher. One day's takings at Newmarket, for instance, are more than the average takings of a greyhound racecourse for at least six weeks. Only last week we witnessed at Ascot a turnover of 3,000,000 2s. units by the totalisator. That alone amounted to £300,000, exceeding the takings of all the greyhound racing courses put together in the whole country for six weeks.
It has been stated that greyhound racing enterprises make immense fortunes. That is far from the case. As has been pointed out by previous speakers, the profit paid during last year by the greyhound tracks controlled by the National Greyhound Racing Association amounted to only 5½ per cent. Another argument which has been submitted is that the number of days available for greyhound racing and the betting days far exceed those available for horse racing. In another place the Minister responsible for introducing the Measure compared 700 days horse racing with 1192 20,000 days greyhound racing. I do not think that is a fair comparison. Under this Bill in any particular licensed area there will be only 104 days upon which betting upon greyhound racing may take place, while there will be over 300 days on which betting on horses may take place. The hon. Member for the Don Valley spoke of Doncaster, and drew attention to the fact that that racecourse operates only on eight days in the year, but he forgot to tell the House that on those eight days it is not only the people of Doncaster who have facilities for betting there but that betting comes from every quarter of the country and a very large amount of money passes, sufficient to make it an economic proposition for the track to continue.
I do not think it is an exaggeration to say that during the Committee stage it can be proved to the satisfaction of the Government that the proposal of 104 betting days is an uneconomic one. Associated with certain of my friends, I propose to move an Amendment, as the Home Secretary has stated, to fix the number of days in the Metropolis at 156 and in the Provinces at 208, because we can prove to the satisfaction of my hon. Friends and the Government that anything under those figures would be uneconomic and would mean that a large number of tracks, particularly the smaller ones, would be unable to carry on. There are various other points to which I should like to allude, but, in view of the very large number of hon. Members who are anxious to address the House, I will content myself by alluding to one other point, and that is the question of the totalisator as such. I think that I can fairly claim to speak with some authority and knowledge in this respect, because, as I have explained to the House, particularly in February, 1933, I hold the appointment of paid executive chairman of British Totalisator Manufacturers. That is an association which has as its constituent members all the firms engaged in the manufacture of fully electrical and mechanical totalisators in the United Kingdom, the members of which have supplied all the machinery required by the Racecourse Betting Control Board, and for many tracks abroad.
I make no apology to the House for dealing with the subject in my personal capacity, because I feel that the knowledge of the industry and of this particular 1193 equipment that I have gained in the office I hold will be of value to hon. Members in deciding the issues at stake. It is because of that knowledge, and because of a realisation that the fully mechanical or fully electrical totalisator is the only fair means of safeguarding the interests of the betting public, that I welcome the proposals of the Government to make it imperative that that kind of totalisator shall be used in accordance with the First Schedule to the Bill. For the benefit of hon. Members who are perhaps not au fait with the technical details of totalisators, I might explain that hand-operated totes are nothing more or less than a series of rolls of pre-printed and pre-numbered paper tickets, with or without any adding device, or hand-operated total figures which are turned over by the seller of the tickets.
It is not an advertisement. It is important to show that under the proposals of His Majesty's Government, if the Bill goes through in its present form, the machinery which they suggest should be used is an adequate means of protecting the public against any fraudulent practice.
I am submitting these arguments because I know full well that at a later stage in the Bill proposals are being made that totalisators of a fully electrically or mechanical type shall not be used, and I am endeavouring to show that these particular totalisators are the only means of adequately protecting the public against fraudulent practices, I do not desire to develop that point beyond saying that in another place it was stated by an influential speaker that a certain form of betting, named double-event and forecast pool betting, should be allowed to be operated by the pre-printed ticket system instead of through an electrical tote. If it is submitted that it is desirable that betting on the greyhound tracks should be through the fully electrical totalisator, surely it is reasonable to say that one form of betting should not be singled out for the hand-operated system as against the ordinary standard form of betting. So far as the case for this 1194 particular equipment is concerned, it can be shown that the figures submitted in another place are a gross exaggeration, and have no relation to facts. I welcome the Bill, and I honestly believe that if a reasonable case can be made out for certain Amendments which will have the effect of making it possible for the industry and the sport to carry on upon an economic and a fair basis, my right hon. Friend and the Government will give sympathetic consideration to those proposals.
§ 6.43 p.m.
§ Mr. J. JONES
I do not think the House has had an opportunity very often of listening to such a magnificent advertisement on the part of any hon. Member of something in which he is personally interested as that to which we have just listened. I think the Greyhound Racing Association when they want a publicity agent could not do better than appoint the hon. and gallant Member to that position. I am speaking as representative of a purely industrial centre in the East End of London. We have in that constituency one of the largest greyhound racing tracks in the country, the Custom House Stadium. It is not merely 1,500 people a night who enjoy the sport there. I have been twice, and I have not enjoyed myself much, because I am not an expert on dogs, except dirty dogs and I have met a lot of them. In connection with that particular stadium, there is an attendance of 30,000 people when greyhound racing takes place. Why do those 30,000 people attend greyhound racing? Because they are interested in it, and I have no right to say that they should not be interested in it. They do not do anybody any harm. Sometimes they may do themselves some harm financially, but those men and women have as much right to enjoy their evenings at the Custom House Stadium as any man or woman has the right to go to the Derby, to Ascot or anywhere else where they can afford to go. It is no more a crime for a man to put a shilling on a dog than to put a shilling on a horse,
If we cannot get the things we like, we must remember that other people have their likes and dislikes. The men and women in my constituency are quite as good, quite as moral, as any other people. The evils of gambling are only 1195 discovered when working men start gambling; then it becomes a moral offence. I can go to Throgmorton Street to-morrow morning and see a more respectable kind of gambling; nobody thinks of calling it street betting. In some streets in my division I can see detectives busily at work picking up an odd man here and there who is taking betting slips. The other people can gamble with impunity. Those who put a shilling on a horse are heading for Dartmoor, but those who put thousands of pounds down are not gambling at all; they are only acting in a businesslike way. The Bill does not go so far as I should like it to go. If gambling be wrong, why not deal with it properly, on a wholesale scale, and let all gamblers go where they ought to go. Most of them would not like the climate. There ought not to be one law for the rich and another for the poor, which is the case to-day.
I went to the Derby this year, and I saw any amount of gambling going on openly. I came away after the race, and later I saw a man being arrested because he had put a shilling on a horse. The day before hundreds of pounds were put on inside the racecourse. Why that difference? Why should it be a crime for a man to put a shilling on a horse in a street and perfectly respectable to put hundreds of pounds on inside a racecourse? I would treat all alike. In this House we always do things by compromise. Dog racing has grown vtry much in the last few years. Thousands of people now go to greyhound courses. Therefore, it has become so big that we cannot abolish it. But we can control it, and I want to see it properly controlled. I agree with the hon. Member for the Scottish Universities (Mr. Buchan) that the time has arrived when we should not leave this matter to local authorities. It is too big a thing to be under the control of small local bodies. One local authority may grant a licence and the next, within a penny tram ride, may refuse a licence, and we shall have confusion worse confounded. I think a national board should be established, local authorities properly organised, and all people interested be given a voice in the matter. We should then have one uniform regulation covering the whole of the country.
1196 We shall claim the right to support certain alterations to the Bill which will not interfere with its main principles. Whether we like it or not, we cannot say that we have a right to interfere with the liberties of the people in a matter of this character. When some people put thousands of pounds on a race it is called a bit of a flutter, but when a workman puts a shilling on a horse it is gambling. Some people are not happy unless they are trying to make other people miserable. What we cannot abolish we should try to control. As far as the Bill is concerned, we shall support it in its main principles, but at the same time reserve to ourselves the right to support certain Amendments.
§ 6.51 p.m.
§ Wing-Commander JAMES
It was quite refreshing to hear an hon. Member who did not start by saying that he welcomed this Bill and then go on to pick it to pieces and damn it with faint praise. For my part, I like the Bill as being potentially a thoroughly good Measure. It has been subjected to the grossest misrepresentation, and probably the Government expected, until the dust of controversy had blown away, to get more kicks than halfpennies. They have trodden on the corns of vested interests who know how to kick, and I have not the slightest doubt that in the later stages of the Bill some of these vested interests will be found not to be niggardly with their halfpennies in certain directions. The Bill certainly is not directed against sport. It is sheer hypocrisy to say that it is. If it were, I for one should not support it. Nor is it directed in any puritanical sense, or in any sense at all, against gambling. If it were, I should not support it. I have no great objection to betting, I do not bet, because I know enough about it to know that if I take six to four I am getting much the worse of the argument. If I am offered six to one about an even money chance, I take it every time, but that only occurs to anyone about once in every five years.
The opponents of the Bill have not given the Government sufficient credit for the fact that they legalise little petty illegalities which have hitherto been anomalies in the law. I am glad that the Measure legalises the totalisator on dog courses. If it had not done so, then a charge of discrimination might have 1197 been sustained. As to the limitation to 104 days, my own reaction to that is that any person who can go to a form of racing which they like for 104 days in a year deserves nothing but envy. In regard to the arguments advanced for extending the number of days upon which betting is to be permitted on dog race courses, there is only one which to me appears to have any possible validity, and probably on examination it will be found to have no validity at all. It is the suggestion that by some small increase making it 130 days it might be possible to avoid a certain amount of casualisation of the labour which is employed on dog racing tracks. I do not say that the argument really is a sound one, but it appears to me to be the only one in favour of extending the days which will bear any scrutiny. It is possible in the case of small lotteries for hospitals, and so on, that some slight relaxation in the restrictions may improve the Bill, I do not know.
I really rose to ask two rather critical questions. The first question concerns the regulations under which it is proposed to legalise the totalisator on dog racecourses. In his speech the Home Secretary said that in this matter Government responsibility must be avoided. I do not see how the Government can avoid responsibility if it is going to sanction dog racing totalizators. I am certain that the terms under which it is now proposed to legalise dog racing totalisators is going to pave the way to the gravest possible abuses. It is proposed to legalise the use of totalisators on dog racecourses subject to two supposed safeguards, first the type of totalisator to be employed, and, secondly, an audit. Assuming that on a track which was being dishonestly run, as some of them are, the management were unable to find a chief mechanician or accountant who was corruptible—a pretty big assumption—then, with only six animals running and those animals under the control of the management to the extent they have to be, fraud would still be too easy for words. It may be that there are arguments against any other form of safeguard, but the Government must recognise that the safeguards they are presenting are worthless. Is it not possible for totalisators on dog racecourses to be under the control of a board, either a separate control board 1198 for dog racing or a branch of the existing body? There may be arguments against that proposal—I do not know—but they must be balanced against the certain disadvantages of the proposed worthless safeguards.
There is one point in the Bill which surprises me. I cannot imagine why the Government have ignored the unanimous recommendation of the Commission, that bookmakers should be registered. I am not talking about licences. This was a very strong impartial Commission, and a request for the registration of bookmakers was made by the bookmakers themselves and by the police, and would certainly be welcomed by the racing public. I can see no disadvantage in the proposal. I recognise that the Government in this Bill are avoiding dealing with off-the-course betting, and they may say that they cannot register only a section of bookmakers. I submit that the small overlap between off-the-course bookmakers and those who stand on the course should not be an obstacle to the registration of on-the-course bookmakers. Here, I think, we come to a type of betting which can be called really sporting betting.
Take, for example, the local point-to-point races, which are held all over the country in the spring, nearly 200 of them. To many people these point-to-point races are a genuine day's outing and sport. They go to see the local horses and local people competing. To many of them it is the only day's racing, or perhaps two days' racing, in the year. Their lot, compared with that of these unfortunate people we hear so much about, the poor sportsmen who are reduced to a beggarly 104 days a year, must surely require some sympathy. They are at present hopelessly fleeced. We all know that it is outside the power of the management of the meeting or of the local police to exercise any control whatever over the local blackguards who come along, stick up an umbrella and collect the half-crowns, offer prices which would make an ordinary bookmaker turn green with envy, and bolt if they do not win. Here is a section of the racing public which really deserves protection, and receives none whatever. The Government might consider whether at a later stage they cannot contemplate the registration of bookmakers which is so badly needed. Subject to these two very 1199 minor reservations, I welcome this excellent Bill, and I hope that the House will treat it as what it is, a genuine and valuable instalment of social reform.
§ 7.2 p.m.
§ Sir ALFRED BUTT
If one may judge from the correspondence one sees on greyhound racing in the Press and in letters from one's own constituents, one might think that this Bill proposed to take away from the public something in regard to gambling and betting which they had previously enjoyed. In fact, it will grant them the legal privilege of betting on greyhound racing in circumstances in which they have not previously enjoyed it. One can contend that for the last five or six years the public have been able to bet on the totalisator on the greyhound tracks without interference, but that has been because the Government have not thought it expedient to insist upon the law being observed. If the promoters of greyhound racing have had that advantage for five or six years, it ill becomes them now to pretend they have a grievance.
I do not propose to deal at the moment with matters of detail in this Bill, because there will be many opportunities on the Committee stage. I was, however, much impressed with what the hon. Member for the Scottish Universities (Mr. Buchan) said in regard to the authority who will deal with the licensing of greyhound tracks. I do not know whether it is a sport which will last. It is very young in this country; it has been in existence only for six or seven years, and it is not fair to compare it in any way with horse racing, which has been in existence for hundreds of years. It may well be that greyhound racing has come to stay and that there is an interest in it apart from the gambling which is attached to it. I make no apology for saying that I am interested, as a breeder and owner, in horse racing. I have been to see greyhound racing, and I have not been able to find that there is the same sporting interest in it as in horse racing. If others think otherwise, the Government are quite right to give them proper and reasonable facilities for enjoying the sport. If it is going to remain a permanent sport, however, the local authorities are not the proper body to control it. It is impossible for a local authority to have any expert 1200 knowledge in regard to greyhound racing, or for it to be fully informed about the various technicalities in regard to running the tracks.
The hon. Member has already referred to the fact that in horse racing there exists the Jockey Club, which has grown up as a result of nearly 200 years of experience. The Jockey Club is a body which is not associated in any way with the promotion of horse racing for profit. If we could bring into being some such body to control greyhound racing, it would probably be very desirable in the interests of the sport itself. It might then be possible not to have everywhere a rigid 104 days a year. Above all, it would be desirable to avoid competition. That can hardly be done by local authorities merely licensing isolated tracks for their particular areas without regard to adjacent areas. If there were some responsible authority that was wholly independent, impartial and in no way financially interested in greyhound tracks, it might be allowed a much greater measure of discretion and might insure against what is otherwise a great danger to the present machinery—devices and abuses which will bring greyhound racing into disrepute.
Before I sit down, I want to refer to Clause 17 (2). It is quite clear that this has nothing whatsoever to do with the Bill as a whole and is, in fact, an amendment of the Racecourse Betting Act, 1928. The Home Secretary has been good enough to say, quite frankly, that it was introduced so as to avoid any possible doubts hereafter as to whether it is legal for the Racecourse Betting Control Board to authorise agents to collect bets for the totalisator away from the racecourse. My right hon. Friend was good enough in his opening speech to say that one of the principal reasons why that is necessary was that if the Racecourse Betting Control Board did not have legal facilities for collecting bets for the totalisator away from the course, it was very doubtful whether they would be able to realise the objects for which they were brought into being, that is, the assistance of horse racing and, of course, breeding. I do not challenge that explanation at all. Referring to the annual accounts, I see that the Racecourse Betting Control Board are in a position where there is no likelihood—I would almost say no possibility 1201 —of the totalisator remaining solvent unless they get some material assistance from outside. I make their capital liability something like £2,300,000, and their assets, if a reasonable sum be taken for depreciation for the last five years, are certainly £1,000,000 less than their liabilities.
I opposed the Racecourse Betting Control Board and the totalisator, because I felt at the time that conditions in this country were different from conditions everywhere else, and that the totalisator could not be made to pay and could not produce those benefits that were claimed for it unless all betting were compulsorily passed through the totalisator. Unhappily, that has proved to be the case, and now it is proposed by this Bill to allow the totalisator, by its agents, to open offices throughout the country for the purpose of collecting bets to remit to the totalisator. The agency has already, in anticipation, opened at least 12 offices in large cities. They do their work admirably and I have no criticism to make of them; it may well be desirable that the totalisator should have offices in every important city throughout the country. That may be the only way to provide sufficient funds to make the totalisator a financial success.
I wish, however, to warn the Home Secretary and the House of the probable consequences of this policy. I anticipated that when we had the totalisator on horse racing we should not be able to resist it for greyhound racing, and this Bill is the logical outcome. If you allow the totalisator—and I do not say that it is wrong; I merely point out the consequences—to open hundreds of offices throughout the country—and there will be hundreds in the next two or three years—how can you logically, morally or equitably refuse the same privileges, in the same offices, to people who want to bet on greyhounds? I can see no reason why you should allow an office to be opened in Cardiff for the purpose of betting on Hurst Park and should refuse the community the privilege of going into that same office and betting on greyhound racing in Cardiff. When you have taken that step, which you will sooner or later have to take, surely the next logical step, if you have hundreds of offices throughout the country accepting bets on horse racing and greyhound racing, will be to consider the question of how you can refuse 1202 to allow people to go into those same offices and place cash bets. I am a man who has betted frequently; I own race horses, and I draw this distinction. Everyone has the right to have a bet, and betting becomes a social evil only when a man risks more than he can afford. To say that a man goes to Ascot and bets £10 while another man is deprived of the opportunity of betting ten shillings of course shows an inequality, but whereas the man who bets £10 can probably afford to lose it, the man who bets ten shillings has to take it out of a very small income, and that becomes a serious social evil. I am very apprehensive that what we are doing to-day is taking the first step towards recreating the conditions which brought about the Betting Act, 1853.
I hope that during the Committee stage we shall have opportunities of altering and amending this Bill. I believe it is a sincere effort on behalf of the Government to deal with a very embarrassing situation, but I want to warn the Home Secretary and the House that we are, under Clause 17, proposing to permit the setting-up all over the country of houses for the receipt of credit betting and that it will be only a short time before we shall not be able to resist granting the same facilities to people who want to bet for cash.
§ 7.14 p.m.
§ Mr. T. SMITH
Whatever might be said for control of greyhound racing by an independent body, I welcome the control laid down in this Bill as an improvement on the existing position. I am not hostile either to greyhound racing or to horse racing, nor would I debar the ordinary working man from having his bet just as he wants to. But I certainly have hostility to any group of people coming and setting up a grey hound track without regard to the conditions or amenities of a district. In so far as the Bill sets up control I welcome it. Further than that the power to revoke licences in case of a greyhound track is not run properly is a very necessary thing in the Bill.
The hon. Member for Balham and Tooting (Sir A. Butt) spoke of betting. I have often heard it said that gambling is a "mug's" game. I prefer to call it a game that "mugs" should keep out of. That remark applies both to betting 1203 on horses and on greyhounds. With regard to the stipulation of 104 dog racing days in a year, I want the Home Secretary to make it clear whether it means that there are to be 104 days racing only or whether it permits 104 matinees in addition to the meetings at night. Would it permit a greyhound company to say, "Seeing that we are restricted to two nights per week we now propose to run meetings in the morning to catch the men on the afternoon shift"? There is a good deal of confusion on this side as to what exactly the 104 days mean. One hon. Member has said that he intended in Committee to move Amendments that would give a larger number of meetings to the provinces. I say to him and to the House that whatever happens to the Bill I believe a number of provincial greyhound associations will go out of existence.
Take the history of the totalisator on greyhound tracks. When greyhound tracks were carrying on with a totalisator nobody knew the amount of money they were taking as take-offs by way of percentages. The only thing that one knew was that one paid, say, a shilling, and saw a dividend declared. One had no check at all. A man had to take the figures given to him. When the recent decision was given in the courts a good many greyhound tracks held on, believing that Parliament would restore the tote exactly as it was before the court's decision. Because they were hoping for that to be done, some of them have been waiting ever since for Parliament to legalise the tote. The attendance at some provincial dog tracks has been showing a decline of late years. Depression, bad times and unemployment have made it absolutely impossible for those who went to the dogs in more prosperous times to go in recent bad times. Unfortunately, too, a large number of people have become disgusted with the running of some of the dogs on provincial tracks. For the life of them they could not understand why there was so much in and out running. Therefore, in my opinion, some of the tracks will cease to exist.
With regard to the percentage of off-takes, in the Bill when it was first introduced there were to be 3 per cent. and a fraction of a penny. I have no data to 1204 enable me to reach a conclusion whether 3 per cent. or 5 per cent. is sufficient, but I have read sufficient of the Debates in the other House to know that it was the Government's intention to have 3 per cent. in the Bill, and I would like the Home Secretary frankly to tell us what led the Government to put 3 per cent. in the Bill, apart altogether from the merits of the question whether 3 per cent. or 5 per cent. is enough. The Bill allows an off-take of 3d. I believe that is too much. If we concede 5 per cent. as a fair percentage to be paid to the occupier of the track, why should we allow 3d.? What does it mean? In my opinion it will be giving too much money to the owner of the track. In practice it means something like this: You have 1s. on a dog, No. 2. Your tote works out at 1s. 11½d., and you get 1s. 9d. The hon. Member for Attercliffe (Mr. Pike) disputes that statement. What the Schedule to the Bill says is:Where the amount payable to a person winning a bet includes a fraction of threepence, that fraction of threepence may be retained by the operator.I think it is too much. There is another thing. Undoubtedly the legalising of the tote will increase the number of people who bet. I say franklly that I have no sympathy at all with the man who bets out of his pocket when he cannot afford it. I understand something about betting. Frankly I am sometimes disgusted when I see boys with their sixpences and shillings trying to find a winner either among the dogs or on the racecourse. I have no sympathy at all with people who do that. At the same time I think honestly that the restoration of the tote will increase betting in this sense: The tote at Ascot or on a dog track is mainly used by the small better. The big better on the racecourse would never dream of going to the tote to put on his bet. He would go to Tattersalls or to the enclosure and get the best odds he could for his money. He would know that if he went to the tote and planked down a huge sum he would by the sheer weight of money depreciate the odds. Therefore, he keeps away from the tote. The reason why small people will sometimes not approach a bookmaker with their shilling or two shillings at the dogs or on the racecourse is that in the hurly-burly of the meeting the bookmaker does not want to be tormented 1205 with small bets. People who make small bets, rather than risk a rebuff from the bookmaker, do not bet at all.
The Home Secretary made a point that betting on greyhound tracks was to be prohibited to people under 18 years of age. That proposal will not be a remedy in itself. I would not encourage and never do encourage young people to go to racecourses. But suppose that three young men go to the dog track at the White City or even in Doncaster, and that two of them are 17 years of age and one 19. The two younger men allow the eldest to put their bets on the tote. I assume that they are within the law? If those two young men of 17 go to the man of 19 with their shillings, and he puts their money on the tote, would those two young men be guilty of an offence, or is it an offence only if they themselves approach a bookmaker or the tote? The lads will find a way of getting their shillings on the tote if they want to.
There is one thing I regret, and that is that football pool betting is not included in the Bill. Someone said that there was no difference between a greyhound track and a football match. Personally I would rather see the football match. Those who go to a football match do not generally bet on the match. You do not find bookmakers dealing with a single match, except in the case of the cup final. But in football pool betting you have an entirely different set of circumstances. I know lads who bet on football pools, and I would not debar them, but I want to see that they get a square deal. In football you have to bet on credit. You send in the football coupon on the Thursday or Friday night, without any money. You do not send your money until the next week. At the week-end you get an announcement that the odds in the pool are 500 to one. How can the promoters say they are 500 to one? In the first place they have not received the money and there must be at least 10 per cent. of bad debts in the case of the people who forget to send their money.
Therefore, how on earth can the people inside decide what are the proper odds? What they do say is this: "We declare the odds to be 100 to one, or 1,000 to one." They usually get an accountant to state that those are the odds that have been paid. But the accountant's statement 1206 does not say how much came in, how much was deducted for working expenses or how much was returned to the punters. As a rule they employ their own accountants. They do not make dishonest statements, but they do not show a return of what they have received and paid out. How can it be worked? Suppose that business is slack in certain parts of Sheffield and there happens to be a steel worker or miner who has struck a lucky line one week. He gets 200 to one odds. In the steel works next week everyone is saying, "Dick Brown got 200 to one from So-and-So," and in the following week there are 10 times as many bets going to that firm. But that lad when he got his 200 to one may have had 300 to one due to him if the thing had been worked fairly.
There is a good deal of suspicion among Members of the House that the Bill is not being planned fairly when it excludes football pool betting. Sootier or later football pool betting will have to be controlled. Reference has been made to propaganda. In my big industrial constituency the people know as much about betting as the people of any other constituency, and I have had one single letter in reference to the football pool question and that was sent out by a firm engaged in that form of betting. There is a suspicion that the lads who engage in football betting are not being dealt with fairly and that football betting ought to have been included in the Bill. We do not propose to oppose the Second Reading of the Bill, but we propose in Committee to put forward Amendments which we regard as necessary. Whether we shall carry those Amendments or not, is a matter for the future. For the present I content myself by saying that there are certain features of the Bill which I want and there are certain things which I am sorry the Government have not included in the Bill.
§ 7.31 p.m.
Mr. JOHN RUTHERFORD
I do not venture to address the House often, but I feel that this Bill is one which we ought to scrutinise most carefully, since it deals with what is a fundamental human vice or virtue, according to the way you look at it. I think the instinct for gambling is probably a virtue because it is the parent of all that desire for adventure which in the past has done 1207 such great things for mankind and particularly for this nation. One thing certain is that the English as a nation—the British as a race—are gamblers, and that it is useless, as has been said already this evening, to attempt to stop gambling altogether. The Home Secretary admitted that all his efforts to stop the traffic in Irish Sweep tickets had hitherto failed and that bears out my statement. Therefore, we must follow the traditional Tory idea of attempting to control and regulate this volume of betting—to "canalise" it is, I believe, the fashionable term at the moment—in such a way that it will not overflow the banks and do harm to the nation.
Adverting to that portion of the Bill which deals with greyhound racing, I take it that the Bill is meant to put an end to greyhound racing in this country. It seems to me that that must be the purpose behind the Bill. It has been disputed that that is the fact, but either it is the fact, or else the advisers of the Home Secretary have not taken the trouble to find out what anybody with knowledge of these matters could easily have told them, namely, that if greyhound racing is confined to two days a week and if those two days are to be the same in every district, that it means the end of most of the greyhound racing tracks in this country. Supposing these tracks are closed down, a number of people who are at present employed in connection with them may fall out of work and may have to turn to activities which will certainly be less profitable to the State. I think it is obvious that what is wanted is some kind of control board such as has already been suggested. We ought to let that control board decide on how many days it is advisable to have racing. The board might have the benefit of advice from residents in a district as to the conduct of a local greyhound track, but, for Heaven's sake, do not let us put it into the hands of the local authority. If I may say so respectfully, I think the right hon. Gentleman misled the House when he maintained that he was safeguarding local elections from the possibility of being conducted upon such issues as whether a track should be licensed in a particular vicinity or not. In proof of that I would point to Clause 15, Subsection (1), which provides: 1208A licensing authority may at any time, after giving to the holder of the licence an opportunity of being heard, revoke a licence in respect of a track in their licensing area—What would be more likely than for an election to be fought on the issue, "Do you want a dog track here or not?" Those who were in favour of having the dog track would vote for one candidate while those who were against it would vote for his opponent. You would thus have the absurd situation of local elections being conducted on matters having nothing whatever to do with the true function of local authorities, which is the administration of the law and not the making of the law or decisions of policy. That, in my judgment, would be fatal to local democracy which unfortunately is at present in danger of falling into disrepute. There is one other matter which has not hitherto been mentioned in this Debate, and that is the question of Sunday racing. Clause 1, Sub-section (1, b), provides:
- (a) if they are satisfied that the track has been conducted in a disorderly manner or so as to cause a nuisance."Betting by way of bookmaking or by means of a totalisator shall not take place on any track … on any Good Friday, Christmas Day or Sunday.In my humble judgment the Government have set about this problem in the wrong way. They have not taken into account the main distinction which matters when dealing with greyhound tracks, namely, the distinction between the small track and the big track. There is the track where dog racing is respectable, where there are amenities of various kinds, and everything is rather like Drury Lane on a small scale. On the other hand, there is the small track where there is real sport, enjoyed largely by working men who train and run their own dogs. There is a vital difference between the tracks used by those who train and run their own dogs and the tracks to which dogs are sent to be trained, in some cases by a person who has been appointed by the track owners. It is perhaps right to say that as regards the big tracks Sunday racing is not wanted. But when we turn to the case of the small tracks we have to consider the working man who is working probably until midday on Saturday and who owns and trains his own dog and brings it to the track himself. Surely Sunday is the very best day for him. It 1209 is indeed the one day which he can afford to go off and enjoy the sport. There are tracks which would be ruined by the prohibition of Sunday racing. We know the ingenuity of people in cases of this kind and one supposes that the Government have already considered the possibility of ways being found to get round a prohibition of this kind. If betting is not allowed at these tracks on. Sunday they cannot afford to remain open. It may be that those working men who own, train and run their dogs do not themselves bet very much. They may be content to try to gain the prize money, but in order that a track shall pay, people must attend it in sufficient numbers, and the people will not go in sufficient numbers unless betting is allowed.
I think it would be better if the hon. Member were to explain what he really means in regard to greyhound racing. Does he advocate greyhound racing on Sunday?
I certainly advocate it for the smaller tracks, which, as I say, are largely used by working men. I not only advocate greyhound racing on Sunday for those tracks, but also that betting should be allowed on those tracks on Sunday.
Owing to the efforts of the National Government a great many of them are now working during the rest of the week. One feels on coming into this House for the first time how easy it is in it to become divorced from public opinion outside. Practically all the speeches made to-day have approved of the principle of the Bill. Yet I guarantee that if one were to walk down any street in my constituency or any other hon. Member's constituency and to ask the passers-by their opinion, one would find that the vast majority were against the Bill. We are in danger of getting out of touch with the opinion of the average working man. I venture to bring these views and particularly what I have said in regard to Sunday racing for the smaller tracks to the notice of my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary in the hope that they will receive some consideration.
§ 7.44 p.m.
Marquess of TITCHFIELD
I am sure that all Members in this House regardless of party are anxious to put the betting laws of this country on a satisfactory basis, but I think we must own that up to the present we have been unsuccessful in our efforts in that direction. There are three schools of thought in this country on the subject of betting. There is the school of thought which sees no wrong in betting. There is the school of thought which considers that all betting is inherently wrong. There is a third school of thought which realises that betting is inevitable, which is desirous of allowing it to go on, but, at the same time, is anxious to safeguard the public from its worst aspects. I belong to the third school of thought. I realise that there are aspects of betting which are undesirable. At the same time, of all people in the world whom I detest, I think I detest most the spoil-sport. Therefore, I am anxious if it be possible for the Government to take a middle course. I know also that the middle courses are often dangerous and that by taking the middle course one may please nobody and offend all. But, if my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary proves pliable during the Committee stage, I believe we shall be able to go a considerable way towards solving this admittedly difficult problem.
I think it is about a year ago that I ventured to make a few remarks on this subject, and I asked my hon. Friends in all parts of the House not to be hypocrites on this matter. I said that we, in our wisdom or in our unwisdom, had made totalisator betting legal on the racecourse, and that we should be hypocrites if we did not allow it on the dog racing tracks. I am delighted to find that the totalisator is to be allowed to operate on the dog racing tracks, and I think it should be our object, now that the Government have made this decision, to see that our legislation is fair to all concerned. My hon. Friend the Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams) talked about race tracks making a large profit, and quoted the nurseries that were being set up on dog tracks. Frankly, the idea of nurseries on dog tracks shocks me, and I hope that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary will amend this Bill in such a way that nurseries on dog tracks will be impossible.
1211 My hon. Friends opposite have a sort of horror of anything that makes money. They have made a sort of eleventh Commandment: "Thou shalt not make profit out of anything for any purpose." I do not mind one little bit whether some dog racecourses are making large profits or whether they are not, so long as the betting that takes place on those courses is clean and straight. To my mind, that is the only thing that we must insist upon. What I think we want, and what I believe the National Greyhound Racing Association would like, is to have a Betting Control Board set up by the Government for dog racing, in exactly the same manner as the Government have set up a Betting Control Board for horse racing. I should like to congratulate the Government on the fact that they have raised the percentage of the takings of the totalisator from 3 to 5 per cent., because we must remember that the totalisator did not operate last year and also that it will have lost the whole of the dog racing season of this year, owing to the date on which the Bill will become law.
We must also remember that, although there are many more days' dog racing than horse racing, and although the number of bets is infinitely greater on the dog racing, the turnover is considerably less, owing to the very small sums that are wagered. There is also the fact that odds given by the bookmaker and by the totalisator are so short that really it hardly makes betting worth while. If you look at the winners and their starting prices, you almost invariably find that you have to invest 6s. in order to get a 5s. dividend. Some time ago I visited the White City with a very prominent Member of this Government, and after due consideration we decided that the investments were so poor that we would rather save our money for a better investment at Epsom. My money I am afraid passed into other hands, and I can only hope that the Noble Lord who went with me was luckier than I was. There is one more thing which is favourable to dog racing and that is that there is practically no off-course betting, which reduces the amount, and means that any betting done is done on the course and is, therefore, very easily controlled. Just a word on the matter of the number of races per week. I do ask my right hon. Friend not to cut these down unduly. I 1212 do not know whether 156 or 121 is right. I have not the foggiest idea—it is his job to find out—but I ask him not unduly to cut down the number of days' racing in the week, because, if he does, many managers will be forced to make betting even more attractive than it is at present, by other means, and that would be a very bad thing for the country.
With regard to the licensing of tracks, I hope the Government will give this power to what I call an unprejudiced body I understand from the statement made by my right hon. Friend that the licensing of these tracks is to be done by the county councils. I have been on a county council, with my hon. Friend the Member for Mansfield (Mr. C. Brown). We have ben on this admirable county council for some years, but I am sure my hon. Friend will agree with me when I say that our county council is not very unprejudiced. Therefore, I should like the licensing of dog tracks to be put, not in the hands of the county councils, but in the hands of some body like the licensing justices. We who have been in politics for some time know how easily a purely local matter can blind and prejudice the electors when great matters of moment have to be decided at an election. Do not let us have the whole outlook clouded and prejudiced by some purely local point of view, which, as we know, very often, in the excitement of party strife, drowns or warps matters of far greater importance. Therefore, I ask the Home Secetary to see if it be possible for the licensing of tracks to be placed outside the range of party politics. I believe my hon. Friends opposite will agree with what I have said, because if they will read the admirable speech, if I may say so, of a very revered and respected ex-Member of this House, Lord Snell, who now occupies the very important post of Chairman of the London County Council, they will find that, speaking on behalf of the county council, he advises measures of this kind. I do not know whether my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has read that speech, but if not, I hope he will get hold of the OFFICIAL REPORT of the House of Lords and read it immediately.
My last word to hon. Members all over the House is this: Do let us consider the Government's proposals with an open mind. I have been in opposition two or three times, and one is very apt to get 1213 into the mentality that any Bill produced by a Government must necessarily be bad, and should be slaughtered immediately. I know that that is the mentality of the ordinary Opposition—I have had that mentality myself—and, quite frankly, the Bill, to my mind, requires a good deal of amendment, but I believe that if my right hon. Friend will be pliable, as I said about five minutes ago, we can to a great extent get the betting laws of this country out of the absolutely chaotic and ridiculous position in which we find them at the present time. To those in this House who sincerely believe that any form of betting is bad, I say, "I revere your honest opinion, but above all do be realists and realise that you cannot prevent it."
When I was returned sick from. France, I was put in a ward with other officers. When the nurse came round at seven in the evening, we each put a shilling in the pool, and the man who had the highest temperature won the whole lot. I should like to know from my right hon. Friend whether that form of betting under this Bill is illegal. To those who think that betting is wrong, I say, "Be realists, and help my right hon. Friend eliminate the very worst elements of it." To those who say that there is really nothing very much wrong with betting, I say, "Get hold of the report of the Royal Commission and read some of the evidence given before that Commission, and after you have done that you will realise that there are aspects of betting that ought to be eliminated, and you will want to help my right hon. Friend cut them out." I believe that if we in this House can discuss and amend the Bill in that spirit, the six or seven hours which the Government have given us for the discussion of the Bill to-day will have been far from wasted.
§ 7.56 p.m.
§ Mr. McGOVERN
I think it is a splendid thing that we can occasionally have an evening, which might be designated a pleasant Wednesday evening, when most Members of the House are in complete agreement on the Bill that is before the House; but, in listening to the speeches, I have found that there has been a certain amount of reservation in the minds of a number of the speakers who have given general approval to the Bill. Most of them have approved of 1214 the Bill and have then stated that no doubt in Committee they could find useful Amendments to improve it. I am afraid that to-night is the calm before the storm, and that we shall discover, when the Committee stage arrives, that we shall be inundated with Amendments, which, if the House were to take the advice contained in them, would make the Bill altogether different from the one that is now before us. I listened to the introductory speech of the Home Secretary, and I thought it was a very fine explanation of the terms of the Bill. If one had not read the Bill at all, it gave a very good idea of the Clauses contained in it, and he did not waste a single word. The speech of the hon. Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams) was, if I may be allowed to say so, one of the best speeches that I have heard him make in this House. It was a splendid speech, and gave much food for thought to every individual who heard it, no matter whether he approved or disapproved of the Bill.
I am sure that no one can find any fault with the general tone of the criticisms that have been made in the discussion. I have no interest in greyhounds or in betting, because, as an ordinary individual, while I have certain human traits and failings like every other individual, I neither drink, nor smoke, nor gamble. At one time I had a little flutter, but my experiences were of the character that made me discontinue anything in the line of betting. With regard to this Bill, there is no doubt that no person can disagree with the Government's desire to control and put betting and greyhound racing on a proper legal and honourable basis. I think the Bill is bound to have the approval of members of all parties in so far as it attempts to do that and to put greyhound racing, if we are to have it in the country, on a proper basis which people can respect instead of being antagonistic to it. The hon. Member for Don Valley mentioned one of the most degrading aspects that I know of greyhound racing. He mentioned a track which is operating in my division where they have set up nurseries for the children. I have seen women going to that course with children in perambulators. I thought that at that time my children would have been in bed trying to get some rest and preparing for the troubles that lay ahead by 1215 building up mental and physical reserves. That was one of the most degrading sights I have ever witnessed in connection with greyhound racing. If that were to continue, I have not the slightest hesitation in saying that I would be one of the greatest opponents of the continuation of greyhound racing in any form.
I have visited two greyhound racecourses, one in London and one in Glasgow, and I did not see anything of a great sporting character. I felt cold and calm, and I thought there was nothing it it compared with racehorse running. There was nothing that could generate heat in any individual, and I did not find the sport in it that some people seemed to find. The audience consisted of ordinary working men who were gambling on dogs to the extent of 1s. or 2s. here and there. I did not see any excess or any disorder and the crowds conducted themselves in a proper manner. People came away rather gloomy in appearance if they had lost, and rather cheery if they had won. One must expect that in any racecourse, or even during election times, according to whether your candidate has lost or won.
One objection I have to the Bill is that it places the control of licensing in the hands of local authorities. In our area there was an attempt a year last November by a greyhound racing candidate, the manager of the local track, to get into local politics for no other purpose than to attempt to rouse opinion in the city against the action of the Government in closing down the totalisators. His attempt to get on the council was a complete failure and fiasco; yet I have never seen in all my 25 years' experience of politics such a lavish display of money in any election as I saw in that attempt to introduce the greyhound betting question into politics. I would like to see some form of national control. I believe that there are many aspects of local control, apart from the introduction of politics, that is bad. I can see an extension of the old bribery and graft system growing up in local politics by the introduction of local licensing of greyhound tracks. I can see everything that is evil entering into local politics, and I plead that the right hon. Gentleman should give grave consideration to the licensing by local authorities and to 1216 place the supervision of all greyhound racecourses under a national board, with a separate board for Scotland.
The right hon. Gentleman in dealing with lotteries and prize draws, mentioned one aspect of the Irish sweepstake and said that it was proposed to prohibit the publication by newspapers of any news appertaining to these lotteries. I can only say that if I were an individual who had won £10,000 in a lottery I would welcome the right hon. Gentleman's action in having no publication of my name, because it would save me from the deluge that I am told such people have of appeals from charitable organisations and individuals in distress. I believe that the Government will be backing a loser in every effort they make to suppress the Irish sweepstake. The more they try to suppress it the more it will be driven into underground channels. In Glasgow any person who is in the know can get hundreds and thousands of pounds worth of tickets, and they can be bought in every area. There is a desire on the part of people to have a gamble. There has never been an Irish Free State sweepstake in which I and members of my family have not had tickets. I remember the late John Wheatley, when I was a boy of 16, reprimanding a man who was backing horses. Wheatley said, "I think you are making a great mistake, because the bookie is always bound to win." The man looked at Wheatley, and said, "Look here, John, you do not know what life is. Some people keep rabbits, others keep pigeons, some indeed keep white mice, but my way of enjoying life is occasionally to have a bob or two on a horse. I do that and get a certain amount of enjoyment from it. Don't take it away from me." If there be a desire on the part of the people to have a gamble on a sweepstake, why not sanction a national sweepstake or some form of competition and devote the money derived from it to some useful purpose like hospitals? The right hon. Gentleman said the Government had tried to abstain from grandmotherly legislation, but in this respect they are adopting the grandmotherly touch.
I have never believed that mankind is essentially bad. The evidence given before the Royal Commission was all put in a wrong way, and the deductions were in many cases wrong. In Glasgow hundreds of young men every six months 1217 are brought up in the courts and charged with housebreaking and petty offences, not because they are bad, but because they have too much leisure and too little money. They are unemployed. I am not going to allow people to say that because they go to greyhound tracks they have derived some immoral instinct or training. There are 101 reasons why these youths fall into crime. I am delighted that the Government have seen fit to exclude completely the outside totalisator from legalised betting. I have seen the totalisator in operation in Bridgeton and Parkhead, and it was a disgraceful sight to see the hundreds of women with children in their arms clamouring outside two disused picture theatres waiting for the results of certain races and to draw their money. It was demoralising in every way, and I am delighted that the Government are dealing with that question.
I do not say the Bill is perfect; no Bill is ever perfect. So far as I am concerned, I apply ordinary reason to this problem. I am not a spoil-sport at all. I remember the first gamble I ever had when I was a young man of 20. I put 2s. on a horse and the name always lived with me. It was Raeberry, and it came in at 33 to 1. I was handed £3 6s. and my 2s. back. I thought it was a grand thing, and I was tempted to go on. The next event was to win £ 18 12s. I was rubbing my hands with glee and planning a splendid holiday when next morning I went for my money, only to discover that the bookie had moved off. I found that gambling was not the tempting thing for me that it had been previously. After a period I recovered from that and had another gamble. I backed two horses, Calligula and Nutcracker, and had a 5s. double. Two other friends also had a 5s. double, and we won £25 each. When, we went for our money, we discovered that the bookmaker had stopped paying out for a period. That ended my desire for betting.
§ Mr. McGOVERN
They had, and if it had been to-day I might have come to the Government and asked them for a Bill to give me power to collect the money from the police or somewhere else. I do not envy the right hon. 1218 Gentleman his task of attempting to placate all the interests concerned in the Bill. I recognise that individuals of all parties have different points of view on this question. I only desire to see the working man, if he wants it, have the opportunity of putting a shilling on a dog or a horse. I have the utmost contempt of the individual who goes to a racecourse and spends his relief or his wages and leaves his family stranded. That is a contemptible thing, and one of the things that makes gambling degrading. People sometimes jump at a feature like that and condemn the whole practice, but that is only an extreme case. I think that the Government realise that there is the desire to carry on sport in this country. Exaggerated language is often used, and I once heard a Member at a protest meeting describe greyhound racing as becoming Scotland's national sport. I said I did not regard it as that. I went to one racecourse in Glasgow and saw a dog win a race and the number of another dog put up. We want to stop that kind of trickery which is undoubtedly going on on many courses, and a form of control is absolutely necessary. I have no great prejudices with regard to this Bill. I am not influenced by the opinions of other people but form them on my own observation, and my only desire is to see fair play for every section of the community. I welcome the restrictions, I welcome the legalisation, but I think certain improvements can be made in the Bill if the Government have a desire to accept improvements, and discussion is absolutely necessary. I welcome this first step towards placing betting on a proper basis in this country, with legalisation and proper supervision.
§ 8.16 p.m.
§ Major COLFOX
The right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary cannot complain of the reception which has been accorded to his Bill. I have been waiting in the hope of hearing an hon. Member condemn it, but Member after Member has declared himself a supporter of the Bill, though, indeed, many have qualified their support. Thus I find myself in a very strong position—in a minority of one in condemning this Bill. I think it is a bad Bill. It has two parts, both of which are bad, though not for the same reason. The first part, which deals with betting, seeks, in spite of what the 1219 right hon. Gentleman said in his peroration, to make the people of this country good and happy by legislation. I do not consider that to be possible or, if it were, that it is the function of Parliament to compel people to avoid the risks and dangers of life. Our function is to make sure that the public get a square deal and are not swindled, and also to see that one section of the community, in exercising its liberty to enjoy itself and follow its own wishes and amusements, does not become a nuisance to other sections of the community. Therefore, I welcome those parts of the Bill which provide for the licensing of tracks in such a way that no nuisance can be caused, and no damage done to the amenities of a district, and that there is no risk of traffic congestion or breaches of the peace.
It also seems right that no one should be allowed to hold a licence who has been convicted of fraud or dishonesty, because such a person is not likely to give the public fair play. Steps should also be taken to make certain that the betting public receives everything that may be due to it as winnings and pays up everything which may be owing as losses. Beyond that I do not think we ought to go. One cannot indefinitely save a fool from his folly. Whatever legislation Parliament may pass, if people wish to bet they will do so; they will find some way or other of betting, particularly when public opinion says very definitely, as it does at present, that there is no harm in betting. In the matter of betting the job of Parliament is to prevent swindling, as far as we can. The limitation of the number of days of racing on dog tracks is quite unjustified, as being an unwarrantable interference with the liberty of the subject. I think it is quite right that dog tracks should be licensed, and in all probability the licensing authprity—the county councils or the standing joint committees—are the right bodies to grant licences; but whether dog racing should be controlled by one body or another is no concern of either Parliament or the Government. Parliament did not set up either the Jockey Club or the Marylebone Cricket Club, or any of the other bodies which control various branches of sport in this country. Such bodies have been a natural growth, and if the people participating 1220 in dog racing find that some similar body is necessary in the interests of their hobby there is no doubt that such a body will grow up spontaneously; certainly it should not be imposed from without.
Part I of the Bill will not, I fear, have the effect of reducing betting, and, except in those respects which I have mentioned, I think it constitutes a totally unjustified interference. Part II, which deals with lotteries, seems to me to have no clear principle at all. It tries to reconcile the irreconcilable. It starts by saying that all lotteries are illegal, but goes on to say that if they are small enough they shall be legal. I can understand people arguing that lotteries are right or that they are wrong, but to argue on both sides, as this Bill does, is an impossible position. Whether a lottery is a large one or a mall one cannot affect the moral question, though clearly it does affect the number of people concerned. Therefore, before we can proceed with the consideration of how to deal with lotteries we have first to decide whether lotteries are right or wrong, and whether we wish them to continue or to be stamped out. When we have decided that we ought to treat them all equally under the law. I do not consider lotteries to be morally wrong, and if we decide, as I think we ought, that they should not be stamped out, because they are merely a legitimate exercise of the freedom of the individual, then our duty is to see that the general public know what they are paying for and get what is due, and we ought to do everything in our power to prevent any swindling. If, on the other hand, we decide, contrary to my personal judgment, that lotteries are wrong and ought to be abolished—and clearly the Government think that, at any rate as far as large lotteries are concerned—we have to admit that the present Bill is quite ineffective, largely because public opinion wishes lotteries to continue. When legislation runs counter to public opinion it is bound to fail in its professed object; more than that, it is bound to bring the law into contempt.
If we decide that lotteries ought to be wiped out—apparently, that is the Government's view—it is our duty to attack the cause of them and not merely the symptoms, and to do that we must reply to the question: "Why do lotteries exist to-day?" The answer must be that they 1221 are a source of great profit to individuals and to corporate bodies. If we wish to stamp out the organisation of lotteries, we have to arrange that lotteries are no longer profitable either to organisers or the public who buy the tickets. I believe that this can best be done by first legalising them and then taxing them so that they are no longer profitable. If an organiser of a lottery knew that he could only retain a definite small percentage of his takings for his working costs, and further that, say, 80 per cent. of whatever remained after the payment of working expenses and prizes, would have to be handed over to the Treasury, very probably he would think that it was not worth while to organise any more lotteries and sweepstakes. Then, if the right hon. Gentleman or I were to win under the present law a £30,000 prize in the Irish sweepstake, he or I, or whoever might be the winner, would get that sum net, without any deduction for Income Tax, Surtax or anything else, because it was an illegal transaction.
§ Major COLFOX
No, but if it were made a legal transaction, the prize money would be subject to the payment of Income Tax and Surtax.
§ Mr. MACQUISTEN
Might I point out that the money would be a casual profit and not for services rendered, and that there could be no tax upon it, whether it was legal or illegal?
§ Major COLFOX
That may be true, and I would not attempt to dispute a point of law with the hon. and learned Gentleman, but it does not invalidate my argument in the least. It is perfectly possible for the Government to alter the law to that extent, and to make the prize money subject to Income Tax and Surtax. It is also perfectly possible for them to make it subject not only to those two taxes, but to some special lottery tax or sweepstake tax to the extent of, say, 80 per cent. or thereabouts. If anybody winning a prize were to know that the great bulk of the winnings would be taken in that way by the Treasury, that person might well consider it not worth while to go to the worry, expense and risk of winning a prize, and the practice would therefore stop.
1222 I know that the hon. Member for Bodmin (Mr. Isaac Foot) and those who think with him would oppose any such proposal, just as they opposed the introduction of the Betting Tax. Their argument, as I understand it, is that a tax on betting would increase the quantity of betting; but those same hon. Members are just as strongly opposed to the consumption of alcohol as they are to betting and lotteries, and they have never suggested, so far as I know, repeal of the taxes on alcohol. They have rather gone the other way and have frequently suggested increasing those taxes in order, in their judgment, to decrease the consumption of alcohol. Their argument, therefore, appears to be that taxation of alcohol decreases consumption, whereas taxation of betting increases the quantity of betting. I believe that that is not the case and that the same rule holds in both cases, which is that high taxation must always act as a deterrent. Only by tackling the matter in some such way as that can the Government succeed in stamping out, or at any rate largely reducing, the evil—if it be an evil—of lotteries in this country. The principle to go upon is to make it no longer worth while for anybody to organise, or to take part by ticket in, a lottery. I believe that the problem would be solved in that way if the Government really wished to find a solution, and would not rather continue lotteries in existence.
I am forced to the conclusion that Part II of the Bill is also of no practical use, because it neither admits the right of the public to take part in lotteries if they wish, nor does it take effective steps to prevent them doing so. It is a weak-kneed attempt to make the best of two opposing principles. It professes to tackle an admittedly difficult problem which can only be dealt with in a courageous manner, and the Government have not taken their courage sufficiently in both hands to deal with it. I fear that the Bill is not likely to achieve the result for which the Government hope, and that it must be reckoned as a blot on the otherwise very fine record of the National Government, who have done, and continue to do, so very much good for our people.
§ 8.35 p.m.
§ Mr. LOUIS SMITH
Many Members must have come to the House to-day with 1223 mixed feelings when they realised that it was necessary to discuss a Betting and Lotteries Bill at this time in the Session, and wedged in between very important legislation. Although the Bill may be looked upon as a very controversial Measure, the speeches to which we have listened to-day make me feel that we shall not have to waste a great deal of Parliamentary time in discussing it, but shall be able to dispose of it in a very short period. I think that the concluding words of the Home Secretary's speech, when he said that he was in full sympathy with those who believed in the greatest possible amount of freedom for the subject, may encourage us to believe that he will be willing to accept reasonable Amendments when the Bill reaches its Committee stage.
Although in general I welcome the Bill, believing it to be a necessity, and certainly considering that it has been improved in another place before it reached this House, I am still of opinion that there is room for improvement, and I shall hope to see removed from it certain restrictions which I believe would interfere unnecessarily with the freedom of the subject. Unlike the hon. Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams), who would regard what I should look upon as improvements as being the reverse of improvements, and who would wish to handicap still further those who enjoy the pleasures or the recreation of greyhound racing, I am of opinion that, having regard to the fact that 20,000,000 people in this country look upon dog racing as an interesting and amusing recreation or sport, it is not our duty as Members of Parliament to say to them that they can spend their time in much better ways, and that we must interfere with their freedom to attend that sort of entertainment. I consider that it is our duty merely to see that, by participating in this recreation, they do not make it possible for others who are not interested in that particular sport to be in any way handicapped.
I thought that the speech of the hon. Member for Silvertown (Mr. J. Jones) was an extremely useful one, and I, for one, should wish to make it impossible for any difference at all to exist between the arrangements made for those who are less well off and the arrangements made 1224 for those who are able to visit the larger race meetings, such as the Derby and Ascot. It is our duty as Members of Parliament to see to it that equitable arrangements are made for all classes of society in this country. I speak as a Member for a Yorkshire constituency. In Sheffield we have two very well conducted dog-racing tracks, and, although I must admit that my time for visiting dog-racing tracks is extremely limited—I think I have only attended two meetings during the time they have been in existence—I should like to say that, when I visited one of the tracks in my own city, I found absolutely nothing that one could find fault with. Everything appeared to me to be conducted in a most fair and most suitable way, and I certainly felt then that, if it is a pleasure for 20,000,000 people in this country to visit these dog-racing courses, we in this House should merely make sure that their doing so does not interfere with the rest of the community, and that those 20,000,000 people have a square and fair deal.
§ Dr. SALTER
Is not the hon. Member confusing 20,000,000 people with 20,000,000 attendances, which is a very different matter?
§ Mr. SMITH
I admit the difference, but, having in mind the figure of 20,000,000 attendances, I think one must realise that it represents an exceedingly large number of people.
There are, in my opinion, two points in the Bill that should be very carefully considered before it is passed. The more important is that of control. I do not look with pleasure on the suggestion that the courses in this country should be under the control of and licensed by local authorities, because I have not confidence enough that all the local authorities in this country have sufficient information on so complex a question as that of betting and racing to make sure that these courses are adequately and suitably controlled. I should certainly support the suggestion of the hon. Member for the Scottish Universities (Mr. Buchan) as to the advisability of having some central body, not only to control the courses when they are set up, but also to look very carefully into the necessity or desirability of setting up a new course in any area in the country. I consider that the licensing board should also be the controlling body 1225 though I could not support the suggestion, which I believe has been made, that the board should consist of four representatives of local government, the president of the Institute of Chartered Accountants, a representative of the College of Veterinary Surgeons, and six representatives of existing greyhound racing organisations. I consider that that would be a most unsuitable constitution for the control board. I think that the first qualification of any member of such a board is that he should have no interest whatever in and no connection whatever with greyhound racing organisations.
If a national control board were set up to look after these new greyhound racecourses, I think it would be considered by fair-minded people in this country to be an endeavour to see that the interests of those who choose this particular recreation or entertainment are looked after in a similar way to that in which the country has looked after the interests of those who go to horse races. It would appear to me to be most desirable, also, that this control board should have an opportunity of consulting with the board which is at present responsible for horse racing. In this way we should, as the tendency of the times changes and the habits of the people change, be able, through these control boards, to secure adequate protection for the different interests concerned.
Then I consider it unwise to state in the Bill the number of days on which greyhound racecourses should be allowed to have betting. It would be far wiser to set up a central control board and leave it to decide what number of race meetings should take place on each course that is under their control. The limitation to 104 days all over the country, probably in a city where there are three tracks all three running on the same day, will be found an unsuitable arrangement. If you had a single track in a single city, 104 days might be enough, but in a city where there are several tracks I feel certain that a control board would make arrangements other than those laid down in the Bill. I feel encouraged, from the way the Home Secretary brought the Bill before the House, that we may have many Amendments very carefully considered. 1226 I certainly hope this will not be regarded as a party matter. I take it that we are out to protect those who choose a certain way of taking their pleasure and to make sure that they have a fair deal, and I trust that Members in every part of the House will see to it that the Measure will not be treated on party lines. I hope that no more Parliamentary time than is necessary will be taken up in this busy Session. Although we have had it intimated to us that the Bill is to be taken on the Floor of the House, may we appeal that it should be sent to a Committee upstairs, allowing the time of the House to be devoted to more important things?
§ 8.48 p.m.
§ Mr. BANFIELD
This Bill came here from another place. It has already had a very searching analysis. Concessions have been made to interested parties, and we have it now in a very different form from that in which it was first introduced. If it is to achieve the purpose for which it was brought in, the Government should stand to their guns, and say to whatever opposition there is from the greyhound racing people that no further concessions shall be made to them. It is argued that the power of licensing should be taken out of the hands of the local authorities. Surely the people in the localities are entitled to say whether they want greyhound tracks or not. I have been astonished to hear Members speaking as if local authorities were not to be trusted. It has been suggested that they are without certain information and certain knowledge. Surely it will be admitted that the art of administration is simply common sense applied to everyday affairs, and local councils are in a position to declare more definitely than anyone else as to the locality of a greyhound racing track. What is the alternative? The argument has been put by many speakers that we should have a national control board which should decide as to the licensing of tracks. What knowledge would people sitting in Whitehall have of the circumstances in any particular locality? What would be said in many provincial towns if they had a think like this foisted upon them against their will by gentlemen sitting in Whitehall? They would want to know in rather strong language who these people were and what right they had to interfere with their local affairs.
§ Mr. L. SMITH
It is unlikely that a course would be foisted on any particular locality, because, if there were a central control board, the natural course of events would be to have an inquiry at which the local authority would be able to bring evidence, and it is unlikely that any course would be opened if the local authority had a good case.
§ Mr. BANFIELD
That seems to me a very strong argument for leaving the local people to do all that without the trouble and expense incurred by the, method suggested. This question of the location of dog racing tracks is of the utmost importance to the population of our towns and cities. A new Member for Twickenham, who is interested in this side of the Bill, has taken his seat to-day. There was a suggestion made to put down a dog racing track in his division, but the people objected very strongly. Apparently, they said: "Go and take this thing somewhere else out of our sight. We do not want it here." Their influence was sufficient to stop the track being put there. Those of us who have served on local authorities know that with all their faults they represent in the main the considered opinion of the majority of the people. Surely there is no Teal argument for taking the control out of their hands. Then we are told that 104 days are not sufficient. We are not opposing dog racing, and we are not arguing the rights and wrongs of betting. The point we have to consider is whether we are giving the people we represent the liberty of which so much has been heard and whether in our opinion 104 days are sufficient for dog racing. Some analogies have been drawn, I think wrongly, between dog racing and horse racing. If you applied precisely the same conditions to dog racing as are applied to horse racing, we should be thoroughly satisfied about the matter. I think that 104 days racing is quite sufficient. The argument, apparently, of the hon. Member for Hallam (Mr. L. Smith), who thought that 104 days was not sufficient, was that if there were three dog tracks in a particular city each of them should be entitled to 104 days per year. He would like to see in that city not 104 but 312 dog racing days.
§ Mr. L. SMITH
If the hon. Gentleman recalls what I said when referring to the 1228 104 days' limitation, he will find that I stated that it would not be suitable in every district, and that it would be far better for the arrangement of the number of days to be left to a central control board which I recommended to decide in each district what number of days would be suitable for the particular district. I am not saying that 312 days would be a suitable number. I merely said that in a single-track town 104 days might be enough. It might not be suitable in a city where there were three tracks to have the three tracks running on the same days.
§ Mr. BANFIELD
With all due respect to what the hon. Gentleman had in his mind, the fact remains that in a city with three tracks it might be possible to have dog racing on 312 days a year. He, apparently, wants a national board to arrange this kind of thing, which, in my opinion, would be altogether wrong. I want the House to realise that some of us are very much concerned about the tremendous growth of gambling among men and women. It grows almost day by day, and certainly year by year. I am satisfied that gambling, particularly among women, grows more and more, and that it is anti-social and against the best interests of the community. This House has no right to do anything to increase the prospect of private gain at the expencse of the best interests of the community. Some of us who have devoted a portion of our lives to doing what we can to uplift men and women have a right to declare that, while we recognise that it is foolish to say that gambling can be prohibited, we believe that we are right in saying that, as far as some forms of gambling are concerned, and particuarly dog racing, we have justification for limiting the possibilities of its growth.
We feel that the Bill is only in the nature of a compromise. It is obvious that when you come to deal with gambling and betting, whatever you may do, you create a whole lot of anomalies. The problem is such that it cannot be dealt with, apparently, in a clear, clean-cut way, and you have to do the best you can to satisfy what appears to be part of human nature—the desire to gamble—and at the same time to do what you can to safeguard the interests of the community as a whole. The Bill, however short it may be of some of the things 1229 which we would like to see, is a step in the right direction. We heard this afternoon a speech by the hon. Member for Edmonton (Mr. Rutherford) in which he boldly declared that Sunday dog racing was the right and proper thing. We heard him distinctly say that working men had no time on other days of the week, and that it was necessary that they should be able to go to the dogs on Sunday. Anyone can see that, given unbridled licence and liberty in this matter, we might have a terrible state of things in this country.
§ Mr. ISAAC FOOT
It was not merely the running of dogs on Sunday, but the hon. Member specifically stated that there should also be betting on Sunday.
§ Mr. BANFIELD
In some measure I think the hon. Member was speaking the mind of certain people who are absolutely indifferent to what may happen to the moral state of this nation as long as they are in a position to get dividends and profits to an unlimited extent. When people talk about the sport of dog racing they cannot really mean sport in the way that some of us look upon sport. We recognise horse racing as a sport, but dog racing is a very limited idea of sport when you consider that a race is over in 29 seconds. The reason why people go to dog racing is fundamentally and primarily to bet. If there were no betting, there would be no dog racing. We have, apparently, opened a kind of casino where people can congregate together for the only purpose of betting. While it may be said that people must be allowed to do it, I and those hon. Members who have some regard for the welfare of this nation believe that if ever there were a case in which this sort of thing should be limited, and in respect of which a certain number of days should be the maximum, it is dog racing. Surely, the argument in favour of more days does not come so much from the general public as from the shareholders and the interested parties in this so-called sport.
Someone has said in the course of this Debate that if they asked the man-in-the-street they would find that the majority of people would be very much opposed to the Bill, but I am satisfied that the good sense of this nation would support it. The happiness of the people of this nation depends upon the 1230 happiness we can bring into their homes. If we could restrict dog racing we should do something towards taking temptation out of the way of people and checking the gambling spirit which is pandered to by all sorts of people, by newspapers, lotteries, dog racing, and horse racing. There is an idea that somehow or other people must get rich as quickly as possible, and that they must gamble because they want to obtain economic-security. The spirit of gambling has grown far too much, and it is time that some voices were raised to bring home to the people of this nation that gambling and dog racing are pot the way to happiness and prosperity.
I was very much interested in the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for the Scottish Universities (Mr. Buchan). He made a very clever speech. While on the one hand he supported the Second Reading of the Bill, every argument he used was really against the fundamental principles of the Bill. I came to the conclusion that there seems to be some idea that if you commercialise sport, if you make it pay and if you give your backer what is termed a square deal, that is all that is absolutely necessary to be done by this House. I protest against that. I believe that it is altogether wrong. Let us come back to the question of dog racing. Do not forget that here is a so-called sport which is chiefly followed by poor people. I am not one to say that necessarily the poor man should be debarred from gambling his 6d., his 1s. or his 2s., but what I do say is that it is a thousand pities that people should be ready and willing to support this kind of thing. Is it in the hope that it is a sort of dope and that while they are under its influence they will not be thinking of something more serious or better? I suggest that Members of this House would be better advised to realise that so far as our people are concerned this so-called pleasure is neither pleasure nor happiness.
Why do people go to these races? They get no real pleasure at a dog race. They go there to gamble, and to get something for nothing. There is nothing fine, nothing ideal about it; there is something rather low in the scale of humanity so far as this matter is concerned, and it is because I believe that the Bill does attempt to deal with it in a reasonable 1231 way that I support it. I hope that the Government will have the Committee stage of the Bill on the Floor of the House. I have gathered sufficient this afternoon from those people who have supported the Second Reading of the Bill, with reservations as to what they will do in Committee, to realise that if the Bill goes upstairs every possible effort will be made to kill it. I think that it ought to be brought on to the Floor of the House. Let us fight it out here. If the Government are really in earnest about the Bill, and I believe they are, if they wish to see it put on the Statute Book, if they wish to use their position as a National Government to do something outside party politics, it will be well worth their while to spare time to bring the Bill on the Floor of the House to get it through and place it on the Statute Book as early as possible.
There is one great blot on the Bill which I want to mention. It is one of those things which creeps into a Bill, one of those pious things which mean nothing. I refer to the Clause which says that young persons under 18 shall not be allowed to bet on a dog track. The point has already been made, and I want to emphasise it, that if you admit these young persons to dog racing tracks you will have them gambling by some means or other. No right-thinking man in this House would agree for a single moment that young persons of that age should be on a dog racing track. I am positive that everybody who wishes the youth of this nation well would not like to see them frequent such places. We ought to prohibit them going in. That is the only sensible and proper thing to do. People of good will of all political parties who take any interest in the problem of young people, will agree with me that they would be better away from race tracks. If we do let them go there we are deliberately putting in their way temptation which in after days may have very ill effects. I hope that we may get some consideration of that point of view.
We shall be very unwise if we do anything to grant further facilities for betting and lotteries than are allowed in the Bill. The Bill is a real attempt to meet the point of view of all sorts and conditions of men, I am satisfied that gambling is a bigger curse to this nation to-day than drinking has ever been. Gambling 1232 has got into the hearts and minds of men and women, and children are brought up on it. It does more damage inside working class homes than anything that I know of, and I speak from experience. I live among working people; I am one of them. I know precisely the things that they do and I should be unworthy of my claim to be a leader of men among working people if I did not be bold enough to say here, what a good many people might have said this afternoon, that gambling is a bad thing for our people and that we should not give it unrestricted facilities. I hope the Government will do their best to get the Bill through, because I believe that it is the best thing they can do in present circumstances.
§ 9.12 p.m.
§ Mr. ANSTRUTHER-GRAY
I agree with much that has been said to-day, and I agree with all that was said by my hon. Friend the Member for the Scottish Universities (Mr. Buchan). I welcome the legalisation of the tote on greyhound tracks, but I wish that it had been coupled with some sort of control on the lines suggested by my hon. Friend. Further, I wish that in some way as with the totalisator on horse racecourses it had been possible to devote a small percentage of the rake off from the profits of the tote to some good cause connected with dog racing. The cause that immediately springs to one's mind is veterinary surgery. With regard to limiting the betting days to 104 in a year, one must agree that limitation of some sort is reasonable, because every sport has its close season. Whether the period of 104 days is sufficient, is a different matter. Providing we prevent dog racing becoming the be-all and end-all of a person's existence, I think the less we interfere with other people's amusement the better. For that reason I shall support those who press for an increase in the number of betting days. With regard to sweepstakes, I recognise that the Bill legalises small sweepstakes. That is a minor matter. The real point at issue is that of big sweepstakes on the Derby and the Grand National. During the past few years we have found many millions of people showing a desire to take part in these sweeps. When I know that millions of my countrymen want to do a certain thing, the natural reaction upon me is to 1233 let them do it, provided that it is feasible and does not hurt other people.
So far as letting the present state of affairs continue is concerned, we are faced with the difficulty that the money is going over to Dublin and there are not very many Members who are in favour of that. The only alternative is to legalise a large sweep in this country. Incidentally, that is the only effective way of stopping the flow of money to Dublin. When one talks about legalising a large sweepstake in this country one is met with the contention that the hospitals do not want the money or that the State cannot demean itself by drawing revenue in such a way. To my mind what happens to the profits is a matter of entirely secondary importance. I would not mind, if the sweepstake was run on the level, if there were no profits at all. My anxiety is that people should not be deprived of a form of amusement.The world has not so many forms of fun,That I would hurry to abolish one,as A. P. Herbert wrote, and I do not see why the Government should abolish this form of fund. It does not hurt other people and I do not believe it hurts the participant himself. I have heard of a man putting his shirt on a horse but I have never heard of anyone putting his shirt into a sweepstake, or of a man committing suicide for having bought a ticket in a sweepstake. I read in the paper the other day that a man who was in a small business as a chimney cleaner sold it and realised a capital of £50, which he put on Colombo at 13 to 8 for the Derby. The horse did not win, and the man jumped over Waterloo Bridge and drowned himself. Surely, no such thing as that can conceivably happen in the case of a sweepstake. A man who will starve his family in order to get money enough to buy a ticket in a sweepstake is going to have his recreation in any case. In my opinion a sweepstake may provide better recreation and give better value for money than any other form of gambling. I wonder whether the opponents of sweepstakes realise that when a man buys a ticket in a sweepstake with his own money he is doing nothing more or less than buying hope, which is one of the most precious things in the world.
§ Mr. ANSTRUTHER-GRAY
No one despairs because they do not happen to win at a million to one chance against, but the effect of having bought a sweepstake ticket makes him look forward to the day of the draw in the hope of drawing a horse, and if he does, will the horse win; all the time he is looking forward to something. I think that is the best way of making a dreary day's work pass. He can look forward in the hope of winning £30,000 or £10,000. In this world the chances of the average man getting any such sum are minute, and yet every holder of a sweepstake ticket has the opportunity, and he hopes against hope that it may be his. For my part, I know that most of the pleasure in life, very often, is in looking forward to a thing, which sometimes is disappointing when you get it. I am not thinking of the well-to-do. I have never bought a ticket in the Dublin sweep, I have always had other things to think about, but I represent one of the hardest hit industrial districts in Scotland, and many of my constituents have not got too much to which they can look forward. I appeal to the Government to think carefully before interfering with any of their small forms of fun. I do not want it to be thought that I am blaming or criticising the Government for their attitude in this matter. They have listened to the Report of the Royal Commission and to organised bodies on this subject, but I would ask them not to make the mistake of thinking that they have necessarily heard the true voice of the country. The average person is not organised, he is not vocal, on a subject like this. They like a bit of fun and I believe that one could carry a resolution in favour of an occasional sweepstake at most public meetings in this country. I may be wrong, but all I ask is that the Government should make every endeavour to assure themselves that they are not going contrary to national feeling in this matter, and I suggest that the best way to assure themselves on this point would be to allow the House in Committee a free vote on this one particular subject.
§ 9.20 p.m.
§ Captain HEILGERS
The hon. Member for Wednesbury (Mr. Banfield) has said that the Bill is a compromise, I think it is a piebald proposition, black in spots and white in spots. It touches the 1235 industry of my constituency, horse racing, in two particulars, and in both cases to the great advantage of the horse racing industry. The first point is that of totalisator investors. I was surprised to hear the hon. Member for Balham (Sir A. Butt) a well known racing owner, oppose the Bill so far as totalisator investors are concerned. For my part I congratulate the Government on having had the courage to dissociate themselves from the report of the Royal Commission on that point. The argument of the hon. Member for Balham was that if we give it to horse racing it will at once have to be extended to greyhound racing. I think it extremely unlikely, and for this reason, that in horse racing there is an enormous volume of off-the-course betting while in greyhound racing there is hardly any off-the-course betting. Totalisator investor is entirely off-the-course betting and, therefore, it will be a long time before greyhound racing is in a position to challenge comparison with horse racing. Besides, the totalisator invester has made a success of the totalisator, the totalisator is just beginning to make profits, which are being devoted to horse racing, horse breeding and, under the Bill, to provide further facilities for the prosecution of veterinary science. That is a proposition which is greatly to be welcomed.
In regard to sweepstakes, and looking at the matter from a racing point of view, I not only hate the idea of the Irish sweepstake but I hate sending so much money to de Valera by which he is able to make up his balance in trade by the invisible exports we are sending him as a result of the Sweep. But I hate still more the fact, I regard it indeed as an insult, that these sweepstakes are based on the results of races in this country intead of on Irish races, and the fact that there are these great sweepstakes on our paces is an inherent danger to racing in this country. Up to the present we can undoubtedly claim that our racing is the cleanest and fairest in the world. I find myself also in agreement with the hon. Member for North Lanark (Mr. Anstruther-Gray) as regards the question of State lotteries. If you are going to take away the Irish sweepstakes then I think you must put something in their place, because whatever may be the particular provisions in this Bill the inveterate 1236 gambler will nearly always get round them in some way or another. He will send his money to France or some other foreign country. Are the objections to a State lottery so very great? I know it is said that the State should not provide any organised facilities for gambling. I know it is urged, too, as the right hon. Gentleman suggested, that only States whose position is financially rocky indulge in these things. Look at the States which do; some of them are the best-known countries in the Continent of Europe. It is said that State lotteries are ephemeral, and that nations outgrow them. They went on in this country before 1823 for 250 years, and when they flickered out in 1823 the reason was that we were then in a financial position similar to that in which we found ourselves in 1931: we were suffering in 1823 from the aftermath of the Napoleonic Wars.
I am not sure that the man in the street feels quite so enthusiastic about the principles of this Bill. The principles, as I understand them are: first of all, that we are out to prevent the individual from being exploited by organised interests for private gain; and secondly, that we are out to protect that individual from the social consequences of indulging in any form of gambling with those organisations. The average man, however, is anxious to take risks. I do not believe he really minds if the odds are against him. A good many hon. Members in this House go to Monte Carlo; they know that the odds are against them and yet they are willing to take the risk. There is a good deal of the same spirit in the average man in the street. He does not want to be saved.
§ Captain HEILGERS
I am sorry to say that the hon. Member for Bodmin (Mr. Isaac Foot) shakes his head, but I have listened to him for many hours, and I put this to him. If a man goes and has a gamble, he has a sporting chance of making something. Very few bookies—I do not think that the hon. Member can mention more than two or three—die rich men.
§ Captain HEILGERS
Every man who bets regularly wins or loses a little. If, 1237 however, that man has his facilities for gambling reduced, he will find himself reduced to going to the cinema and spending his 6d. or 1s., which will be gone once and for ever; he will stand no chance of any gain. I could multiply instances of that.
§ Mr. ISAAC FOOT
From the experience generally of the hon. Member, does he know any working man who, over the course of time, has been better off as a result of habitual betting?
§ Captain HEILGERS
If the hon. Member would come down to my constituency and visit the town of Newmarket on a non-race day when there is only the population of the town and no strangers, I think he would say, as another hon. Member said, that the population of Newmarket looks the happiest, healthiest and most contented of any town in England. There is one point I wish to make about greyhound racing in particular. There are a great many shady tracks in this country which ought to be suppressed. On the other hand, there are a number of good tracks that deserve encouragement. If the Government are anxious to suppress these shady tracks, as I believe they quite honestly are, this Bill will fail to do so, because they are treating the good and the bad tracks alike. Both good and bad are being confined to the same number of days; they are both having a moratorium for five years and are being placed under the same conditions as regards the totalisator. There ought to be discrimination between the good and the bad. I do not know how that is to be achieved. We have heard a great deal about a statutory committee, and such a proposal I unhesitatingly support. That, however, cannot come from within the industry itself. Greyhound racing is a young sport. It took 100 years for the Jockey Club to get control of horse racing, and greyhound racing has been going for eight years or so. I cannot imagine that anything can be done effectively within the industry itself. I hope that the Government will agree with the many suggestions that have been put forward to-night that there should be some statutory control of the industry.
The other thing to which I wish to refer concerns Part II. I have sat here during nearly all the evening, and it has been extraordinary that there has been no 1238 reference whatever to Part II. I feel very strongly on this subject. The Home Secretary has told us that he has done a great thing: he has made, as regards draws and lotteries, a much wider form of legalisation than was ever legal before. But I submit that he has not gone nearly far enough. Although he makes things more legal than they were before, as a matter of practice the average police force in this country has winked its eye at a great deal more than is made legal in this Bill. I feel particularly keenly about it because it is a much bigger proposition than the dogs. One per cent. of the people of this country go to the dogs, but 75 per cent. take tickets in sweepstakes. I should like to see the hospitals of this country given a fairer chance as regards lotteries.
§ Captain HEILGERS
I said that 75 per cent. of the people of this country take tickets in sweepstakes, draws or lotteries, whereas only 1 per cent. attend the dogs.
§ Captain HEILGERS
It is simply based on the numbers that take part in the average draws that are raised for charitable purposes in this country to-day. I think the hon. Member will agree that it is not very far out. I know that Sir Arthur Stanley has opposed the proposal that hospitals should share in any form of State lottery. I do not believe that Sir Arthur Stanley was entirely justified in speaking as he did. It may be noticed that in the Report of the Royal Commission he asserted that 80 per cent. of the replies which he had received up to the time of giving his evidence had been against State lotteries for hospitals. He did not say that 80 per cent. of the hospitals of this country were against State lotteries. I believe that a great percentage of the country hospitals are in favour of being allowed to run lotteries for their benefit. I, myself, for several years before I came to this House, ran a big hospital fete in the country. We used to gain £700 a year from draws. The important point is this: When it was a wet day on the day of the fete, unless we had these draws, 1239 at which we took at least £500 before the day, we had no insurance at all against a wet day; we had already spent £500 in expenses, and we would have lost the whole of that but for the fact that with the draws we had taken that money beforehand, and so had an insurance that the hospital would not be out-of-pocket.
Unless the hospitals are allowed under this Bill to sell tickets beforehand and to send them through the post on a chance of getting such insurance as I have referred to, that insurance will be wiped out once and for ever. I suggest to my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary that he should consider whether special licences ought not to be issued once a year to all hospitals which wish to avail themselves of permission to organise charitable draws at fetes or fairs and so forth, and to sell the tickets before the date of the fetes. They should be able to get a licence from the chief constable of the county for permission to hold the draws.
My last point is, this: There is a good deal of feeling among football clubs, cricket clubs and horticultural societies regarding the provisions of Clause 22 and the draws that they may hold. A most unpleasant provision requiring them to seek permission from the police was removed in another place. But though a; draw is legal—I understand that a member of any society which holds a sweepstake or draw may sell tickets to non-members—there is a terribly confining regulation that the prize money has to be paid out to the particular member to whom the ticket is sold. Although the intention may be good, I think that that will undoubtedly prove to be a very cramping feature in the case of the average small society which relies on its annual draw for funds to enable it to keep in being. I ask for the consideration of the Home Secretary to that particular case of clubs and societies.
I feel that the Bill is animated by very good intentions. I believe that the Government have brought it forward with the great idea of trying to set the betting laws of the country in order, but honestly I do not feel that I can enthusiastically support a Bill which, first of all, fails to discriminate between good and bad greyhound tracks; and, secondly, makes the condition of draws, sweepstakes 1240 and lotteries far too confined; and I hope that in Committee the Bill will undergo very drastic emendation.
§ 9.40 p.m.
§ Sir WILLIAM DAVISON
The Debate so far, with the exception of the last two speeches, has ranged almost entirely over the first part of the Bill, which deals with dog racing. I suppose that that is only to be expected, as dog racing is a highly organised sport. I desire to put the case of a still larger section of the community. Even if my hon. Friend the Member for Bodmin (Mr. Isaac Foot) disputes the figure of 75 per cent. mentioned by the last speaker, at any rate I can say that a majority of the community desire a national lottery with proper safeguards. But by reason of the fact that they have no organisation their case is likely to go by default—by default until the next election, but when the next election comes, woe be to the Government that stood in the way of the national lottery.
The burden of the complaint which has been made to me in hundreds of letters, as well as in dozens of conversations I have had, is roughly this: "You Members of Parliament are hypocrites in endeavouring to prevent millions of citizens from doing something which the great majority of you Members of Parliament do not consider wrong and which the majority of you indulge in." That is as near as I can put it. Consequently, the greatest possible resentment is felt by the people of this country against what they consider an organised hypocrisy. They have said to me again and again, "Why should you by law prevent us from doing something which you yourselves do not consider to be wrong?"
The Government have emphasised the fact that in introducing this Bill they were not concerned in any way with the morality of betting or gambling; and, secondly, they have said that they did not desire in any way to interfere with individual liberty. What the Government do desire—such is the statement made on behalf of the Government—is to find a solution of the problem which would commend itself to the great mass of public opinion. That is the Government case. I believe that the overwhelming majority of Members of the House will agree that the Government have signally failed in securing that object. [HON. MEMBERS: 1241 "No!"] I know a considerable number of hon. Members of this House, having been a Member myself for some 16 years, and they speak quite frankly to me. I am not going to give away any individuals; they are not confined to anyone party, and they agree that the Government have failed in that object. It is a remarkable coincidence that this idea that the Government have failed in the object I have quoted and are likely to pay for it at the next election, is confirmed by the concord of applause with which Members of the Opposition parties have greeted this Bill. This is one of the few Government Measures since I have been a Member of the House that has met with so much initial support from the members of both the Socialist and the Liberal parties, although, of course, they reserve to themselves the right to criticise the Bill in detail.
I have said that the Bill is unpopular. It is, naturally, unpopular because the man in the street resents interference with what he regards as his own personal affairs and his personal liberty. Questions of the National Debt, of balancing the Budget, of great international affairs—these he considers to be the business of those who form a Government in this House, but when it comes to interfering with their private affairs, that is something which every person in this country resents, unless it is a case of preventing harm being done to other members of the community. The Royal Commission has well expressed what the aim of this Bill ought to be, and the undesirability of interfering with private affairs. They say:Stated broadly, we think the general aim of the State in dealing with facilities for organised or professional gambling should be to prohibit or place restrictions on such facilities only as can be shown to have serious social consequences if not checked.Then, in paragraph 236 of the report, they say:We regard it as of the utmost importance that no more prohibitions should be made than are absolutely necessary. Every new prohibition, however desirable the object may be, must be set in the balance against the evil which it is sought to diminish.At a meeting which I attended the other clay a speaker said that this was supposed to be a democratic country governed by the opinions of the majority of the electorate, but when we come to deal with a 1242 question such as this, the question of whether or not the people of this country are to have a national lottery with all proper safeguards, we find that we are not governed by the desires of the majority. We are governed by the expressed opinion of a very vocal minority. I have so frequently in this House voiced the claims of minorities that I will not be regarded as unsympathetic to minorities as such. But it is one thing to be sympathetic with the claims of minorities, and to see that minorities are not trampled upon, and it is quite another thing to say that the views of those minorities should be imposed upon the nation and the majority made to acquiesce in them.
The point as to the immorality of lotteries has been abandoned by the Government. This is admitted by the fact that they have legalised small lotteries and raffles. If it is a question of forbidding the citizens of this country to subscribe to foreign lotteries, it is essential to give them the outlet of enabling them to subscribe to some form of lottery in their own country. Otherwise, as the Home Office and the Police said in their evidence, it is impossible to stop money going out of the country. If any proof is desired of the demand for such a lottery one has only to look at the fact that during the last four years between £40,000,000 and £50,000,000 sterling has gone out of this country to lotteries abroad and in the Irish Free State. You cannot, with all your espionage and opening of letters, stop that unless you give the community a chance to have a lottery of their own. If you do that you will have popular sympathy and support behind your regulations. The people will say: "The Government have given us a lottery of our own and we stand by the Government in preventing money going out of the country."
The Government having admitted that there is nothing inherently immoral in lotteries, the only question at issue is the propriety of a State lottery and whether or not it will have, in the words of the Royal Commission, "such serious social consequences as will be demoralising to the community." That, I submit, is the only issue we have to decide. I say, without fear of contradiction, that there was no evidence given to the Royal Commission which showed that any State 1243 had been demoralised by national lotteries. The evidence given by churches, the Salvation Army, social workers and similar bodies did not show that any social demoralisation, involving the breaking up of homes or the ruin of individuals, had been caused by the taking of tickets in lotteries. Indeed, we know there has been no such result in France, Italy, Spain, Germany, or the Irish Free State. I cannot go through the enormous volume of evidence in the time at my disposal but I would mention the evidence of one body which has a special concern with the welfare of the poor, namely, the Charity Organisation Society. The secretary of the society said that its fundamental object was to study the causes of poverty and direct its energies towards removing them. After many paragraphs dealing with the increase of betting and its harmful effects, the society's evidence concludes with these words:In conclusion the society desires to emphasise that it has not expressed any opinion as to whether sweepstakes should or should not be legalised.That is a society which is specially concerned with the welfare of the poor and which knows the influences that bring people to poverty. If it thought that lotteries and sweepstakes were a main cause of poverty and the downfall of people, would its representatives content themselves with saying that they did not desire to express an opinion on the matter? In the course of the examination of the secretary of that society the chairman of the commission asked him:Which does more harm, sweepstakes or betting?The answer was:I should say betting.Yet in this Bill street betting is passed over, but a national lottery is not provided. As an hon. Member speaking, from the Labour benches pointed out earlier in the Debate, we have our papers, from early morning until evening, filled with betting news and betting odds and information of that kind, but we propose to allow this and prohibit the publication of the results of foreign lotteries. I would be all in favour of that if the Government also permitted us to have a lottery of our own, but it is most incongruous, inconsistent and absurd to say that the papers are not to publish news about 1244 lotteries when they are filled with racing and betting news. A real cause of demoralisation is the form of betting known as "doubling up," by which a person who puts 2s. an a horse or a dog and loses, then puts on 4s. and proceeds possibly to put on 8s. and 16s. in successive bets and so on, until perhaps a man has lost one-half of his week's wages. That is the kind of thing which demoralises people. But who has ever heard of people buying ticket after ticket in a lottery in which there are millions of tickets, in the hope of having a better chance of winning? Hon. Members know that such an idea is absurd.
A man in order to indulge that instinct which is common to all mankind, and is especially found among the British people, will take one or two tickets in a lottery and will be content with that. He will wait for half a year until another lottery occurs and take another chance, but he does not go on "doubling up" in the way I have described, as is the case with those who indulge in ordinary betting. A national lottery would not encourage betting. It would be a direct discouragement to betting. I have heard dozens of men and women say, "We like something in the nature of a little flutter, but we would rather not put money on horse races. We would prefer to take a ticket in a lottery." I say even to the hon. Member for Bodmin—and I am sure he agrees with me—that it is far less demoralising to take a ticket in a lottery than to go on doubling bets on horses. Another great object which the Government state they have in view is the prevention of the exploitation of the gambling propensity of the population for private gain, but how can they stop it if they do not give the people of this country a national lottery of some kind? It is essential that they should provide a national lottery. You may say, "Very well then, let us see what your proposed national lottery is." The hon. Member for Bodmin said that a lottery is a pestilence, and a public nuisance, and that a lottery cannot be worked without disaster to the State.
§ Mr. FOOT
I shall be within the recollection of the House. I said that wherever an inquiry had been made they had always arrived at the same conclusion, and that the report of the Royal Commission in 1880 came to the conclusion that it was a moral pestilence and that these evils were inseparable from a, lottery.
§ Sir W. DAVISON
Whether it was the report of the Royal Commission of 1880 or the hon. Member himself, I will deal with it and prove it utterly untrue. Under my proposal, a 10 shilling ticket could be obtained at a post office, the same as in the Lotterie Nationale in Paris, and a beautiful little ticket that is. Five shillings would be divided among the subscribers for prizes, and the other five shillings would go to the State. There is no exploitation for private gain, there is no commission, there is nothing of that kind. It would be divided into blocks of £1,000,000. Instead of sending £50,000,000 out to the Irish Free State and to foreign countries, out of every £1,000,000 subscribed by our people, £500,000 would be divided in prizes and £500,000 would go to the State. My hon. Friend the Member for Bodmin would not know it, but he would be benefited all the same, and he would not object to it any more than he objects to being benefited by the taxation on liquor. Public opinion would be behind the Government instead of hostile, to them if that were done.
Now let me deal with one other matter. The question of horse racing has been referred to by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Captain Heilgers). As he rightly said, horse racing has been the cleanest and finest sport in this country for a couple of hundred years. The Jockey Club are gravely concerned as to these enormous prizes, amounting to hundreds of thousands of pounds, on the result of our horse races. They are gravely concerned about keeping this great sport clean, as it has been in the past. If you have a Post Office lottery such as I have described, all that difficulty and danger will be wiped out. I said that it would be popular, and you may say, "What is the evidence of that?" First of all, I would remind the House that two years ago I introduced a little Lottery Bill into this House for a national lottery under conditions to be approved by the Secretary 1246 of State, and the House gave it a First Beading by a very substantial majority. That was in this very Parliament. Secondly, only last week I was present at a meeting of the London and Home Counties Conservative Clubs, representing some 214 clubs with a membership of nearly 70,000 people, and the proposal made by one of the members there, that some form of national lottery should be allowed, was carried unanimously by acclamation. A few weeks before some 850 delegates from Conservative clubs in Liverpool, Lancashire, Cheshire and Westmorland, with a membership of 116,000, again approved this proposal, with acclamation. I have received hundreds of letters from all parts of the country saying, "For goodness' sake, urge the Government not to commit suicide, but to allow us to have a lottery as we desire." Here are extracts from three typical letters. The first is from Bath:The public are disgusted at Members of Parliament pretending to object to lotteries when scarcely any of them consider them dishonourable and most of them take tickets themselves.Here is a letter from Wales:Every success to your lottery scheme. The Government are apparently trying to commit suicide with their Betting Bill.This afternoon, since I came into the House, I have received this:It seems people cannot spend their own money as they like, but the Government wishes to control what we do with our earnings. Surely this is interfering with the liberty of the British public. I am a Conservative voter, but I expect fair play and justice.If I may, I will tell the House a story as to what happened to me a fortnight ago. I was talking to a bricklayer on a building, in Berkshire. He seemed to have got wind that I was a Member of Parliament, and he said to me, "Sir, you toffs at Westminster seem to think you know more about what a working man ought to do with his savings than we do ourselves. Will you tell your friends when you get back to Westminster that they are greatly mistaken, and that if we want advice as to what we should do with our money, we will ask the missus, and she will know a jolly sight better what we ought to do with it than they will." That is true, and it is that feeling which is emphasised in this House. There is no body in the world that is so susceptible to the knowledge of whether or not a 1247 Member is genuine, whether he believes that the thing which he condemns is something which he himself opprobriates, or whether he is acting with some ulterior motive, in order to square someone and get his vote when he does not think the thing he condemns is wrong. The letters that have been sent to me resent what they consider to be the hypocrisy of Members of Parliament in saying that the public shall not do things which they themselves do not believe to be wrong.
In conclusion, may I again remind the House that the Government state that their aim is to find some solution of this social problem which will commend itself to the great mass of public opinion, and may I also remind the House of the Government's further admission that social legislation which does not receive general support cannot in the long run be in the real interests of the community? The simple scheme which I have envisaged to the House would, I believe, fulfil both those requirements. It would commend itself to the great mass of public opinion, and it would meet the universal instinct for an occasional flutter, without increasing, indeed curtailing, the inducement towards betting and gambling. It would prevent the exploitation of the gambling propensity of the population for private gain, and it would restore at a stroke the popularity which the National Government have forfeited by reason of the prevailing opinion that they hypocritically desire to interfere with the private lives and liberties of individual citizens.
§ 10.3 p.m.
§ Mr. RHYS DAVIES
We have listened on several occasions to the hon. Member for South Kensington (Sir W. Davison) pleading the cause for State lotteries which he has to-day tried to espouse, and what amazes me about the attitude of the hon. Member is that he speaks in a language something like this: "We must not interfere with the home life and personal affairs of the individual." Whenever we have argued in that way in challenging the means test, the hon. Gentleman has always been on the other side. We shall quote his language in support of our case when we are condemning the means test in future. If he wants to know the opinion that I hold about interference with the personal habits of 1248 individuals who gamble and drink, I will put it to him in this way: If those who run dog tracks and manufacture totalisators, and those who make and sell strong drink, could be called upon to maintain the men, women and children whom they ruin out of their profits, there would be something to be said in favour of the argument of the hon. Member. But because the dire effects of gambling and drinking fall upon us all alike, we are entitled to say something of the personal rights of individuals who gamble or drink. Let me call the attention of the hon. Member for South Kensington to what the Royal Commission said on public lotteries. I do not know from where he quoted, but the Royal Commission said:Lotteries depend for their success upon the blatant advertisement of large money prizes. They tend to exalt the results of chance and to encourage a belief in luck, while the draw and the announcement of the results give rise to an unwholesome excitement.The House of Commons ought to put its face against the prevailing idea among a large number of our people that they can get something for nothing. It is against that conception that we are fighting in this Bill. I was very delighted with the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary, and I hope he will not be offended when I say I was even more delighted with the excellent speech of the hon. Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams). This discussion has brought us all face to face at last with the problem of gambling. There are hon. Members in the House to-night who were members of the Committee upstairs many years ago when we faced very nearly the same issue as that which now confronts us. I remember when the Bill was before Parliament to set up the Betting Control Board the fight waged in favour of establishing the totalisator on horse racing tracks. We were assured then that if we allowed totalisators on horse racing tracks it was never the intention of anybody even to suggest that totalisators should ever be established on dog racing tracks. That has now come to pass, however, and we have it in this Measure. That is the first criticism I want to make of what is otherwise an admirable Bill.
The greatest condemnation of gambling as such lies in the simple fact: there is not a Member of the House, with the exception 1249 of the hon. Member for South Kensington, who has said a single word in favour of gambling. Nobody has stated that gambling in itself is desirable. My objection to gambling has always been this. I object to a group of persons combining together and collecting money to form companies with the avowed intention of exploiting for their own personal gain the known weaknesses of their fellows. That is my simple objection to all these dog tracks and the manufacture of totalisators. I shall have something to say later about the speech of the hon and gallant Member for South Cardiff (Captain A. Evans) on that score. When we established the Betting Control Board for horse racing we were informed very definitely that we should never hear of any suggestion about putting totalisators on dog tracks. I was very much afraid then that we should get into the state in which we are now. I warn hon. Members that there were tendencies showing themselves in the Debate to-day which lead me to the view that once we establish totalisators on dog-racing tracks there will be other attempts later on for this instrument to be set up in connection with football and other sport as well. I do not think this is the end of the problem. That is why I wish the Government were a little more definite and generous in favour of those millions of people who do not like the evil tendencies that are showing themselves in this direction.
In to-day's Debate we have not been Liberals, Conservatives and Socialists. I have divided the House of Commons to-day into three categories. There are those who are concerned with the welfare of the State and the standard of honour of our people, and I am willing to think that the majority of Members of all parties fall into that category. Then there are those who are only concerned with the interests of those who have invested money in dog tracks, and they have been pretty well in evidence to-day. In fact, I have not at all liked the tendency in some speeches delivered from that type of Member. I would almost have been ashamed to deliver one of the speeches that was made on behalf of those concerned in these private ventures for making money. Finally, there are those who think that our social fabric is of no concern of Parliament at all. The hon. Member for South Kensington said we ought to emulate France and have 1250 public lotteries. I travel parts of Europe from time to time, and I have always been informed that the French people are the poorest Income Tax payers in the world. They dislike paying taxes to the State in any circumstances. An eminent statesman gave me the explanation. The French people he said are so accustomed to public lotteries that when Parliament calls upon them to pay taxes they always turn round and say, "Why not run a public lottery?"
Consequently, it is a dangerous thing to suggest to the nation that taxes could be raised except by direct means so that the people may know exactly what the money is for. We are confronted in this Bill with the attempt to put down as far as we can the conception in the minds of some people that they can get money for nothing. The right hon. Gentleman said there was no party cleavage on this issue. I should imagine from the speeches we have heard that there is a good deal of cleavage between Members of different parties. We on this side of the House shall support the Second Reading of the Bill, but there are one or two small points which we would like to amend. Shall I mention one which has not been referred to in this Debate? The point about keeping young persons under 18 off the dog tracks entirely has been mentioned, and I shall support an Amendment to secure that object; but what I had most in mind was the arrangement under which the accounts are to be made up and audited. Hon. Members who were in Parliament when we dealt with the question of the Sunday opening of cinemas will remember that it was left to the local authority to determine the amount to be given to charity from the proceeds of a Sunday performance, and that for that purpose the accounts were to be audited by an accountant appointed by the local authority. In this case it is the owners and operators of the totalisator who are to determine whom they shall employ as accountants. I am not going to make any criticism of accountants, but I have a sufficient knowledge of accounts and accountancy to say that if the State wants to have a clean bill on this score it had better not let the people who run dog tracks appoint their own accountants. I shall have something to say on that point in Committee.
1251 Then there is the suggestion to set up a national control board. That is not a new idea; it has been floating about in Committee rooms upstairs for several years past. I hope Parliament will not accept that suggestion. What is there in a dog running after an electric hare to warrant the creation of a statutory national body to control the business? It is the most ridiculous proposal that I have ever heard. I do not take much interest in sport, but I know just a little about football and cricket. If we are to have a national statutory board for sport, what is wrong with setting up one for foot ball or cricket, or for sport as a whole? Have not those hon. Members in their minds, when putting forward this suggestion, not a board representing the community but a board made up of their own noble selves, to see that their own industry is safeguarded as against the community? So far as I have any say in the matter, it shall not come to pass.
The idea has grown recently that we ought to make dog racing a respectable industry. It has a new title now. It used to be a sport, but in this Debate it has become an industry, and, lo and behold, some hon. Members have put forward the plea that we must be careful to safeguard the employment of the persons at present engaged in the industry. They talk of decasualising labour in the industry. If they want to decasualise labour let them start with the mining industry in Lancashire, in South Wales, in Durham or Yorkshire; let them come to the textile industry of Lancashire, and they will see what casualisation means there. In my view these hon. Gentlemen—and I hope they will not be offended when I say it-have got their fingers so deep down in profit making that they cannot see anything but their own aggrandisement. I was very proud to hear speeches from all sides of the House denouncing the conception that some hon. Members have about this business—that we must have dog racing and give it a statutory colouring and clothing, while all the time hon. Members know that a few Members of this House are making piles of money out of it. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] Hon. Members know that, and if any proof were wanted the hon. and gallant Member for South Cardiff (Captain A. Evans) 1252 was bold enough and honest enough to say that he was chairman of some association of people making totalisators.
Captain A. EVANS
I am sure my hon. Friend will allow me to make this explanation. In the first place, I regarded it as my duty to disclose frankly to the House my interest as far as the manufacturers were concerned. The only people I represent in this House are my constituents; they are the only people I have the right to represent. In view of the fact that it says specifically in the Bill that a certain type of totalisator only is to be allowed by the Secretary of State, surely the opinion of the people who will have the work of manufacturing those totalisators is of value to the House in deciding the issue at stake.
§ Mr. DAVIES
I do not dispute a single word of what the hon. and gallant Gentleman has said, and certainly he has not disputed what I said.
§ Mr. MACQUISTEN
May I remind the hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies) that he made a remark in which attention was called to the hon. and gallant Member for South Cardiff (Captain A. Evans), who has been fine and honest about it? The hon. Member ought to acknowledge that, and not lecture the hon. and gallant Member about it.
§ Mr. DAVIES
I never meant to lecture the hon. and gallant Gentleman at all. I quoted his own words and paid him a tribute for being honest enough—
§ Mr. DAVIES
I do not want the hon. and learned Gentleman to get annoyed, because he can be very critical when he is in that mood. I want to proceed with my argument. It is well that it is the Home Office which has introduced the Bill, because that Department has the task of scrutinising the statistics as to crime and all the rest of it. I am sure it is known to the Home Secretary, and it ought to be known to all Members of this House, that magistrates in several parts of the country, as I have seen reported in the Press from time to time, make a new qualification when they put young persons on probation for offences against the law. One of those stipulations is that the 1253 offender must never go on to dog tracks again. I do not think the number is very numerous, but there are cases of the kind, and I say therefore that if that be a stipulation laid down by the magistrates in the courts of law in order to keep young persons away from dog tracks, the State ought to lay it down in the Bill that young persons should not go or be tempted to go there at all, at any rate under 18 years of age.
Let me give another objection which I have to the gambling spirit which is abroad in this country. The gambling spirit has developed among the people who can least afford to spend money on betting. I have taken an interest, in a small way, in helping to build up the social services of this country, such as national health insurance, unemployment benefit, widows' pensions, old age pensions and children's allowances. It offends me, therefore, that there are people who occupy offices in our large towns running football betting pools, or something like that. They send communications to the people who are unemployed and pensioners too in an effort to get sixpences and shillings by luring advertisements that the recipients may win £5,000 next week, and all the rest of it. I object to that type of person living like a parasite on the social services that we have built up during the last quarter of a century. That is one of the strongest points in favour of the Bill, so far as the curbing of betting is concerned.
With regard to the local authorities, we are told that they would have political prejudices and that we ought to give the task of providing licences for dog tracks to an outside body with no political bias. I have been looking for 30 years for a body of that kind, and I have never yet found one anywhere. He would be a wonderful person, or that would be a wonderful group of persons, that had no political bias of any kind on anything. I consider, therefore, that it is a very good thing to give to the local authorities the right to decide for themselves about these tracks. Hon. Members will recollect that the hon. and gallant Member for Blackburn (Sir W. Smiles) brought before the House a Bill to deal with this one issue which was killed in Committee upstairs. Quite frankly, that is why I do not like the suggestion that this Bill should be sent to a Committee 1254 upstairs, because, in Committee upstairs, our speeches somehow or other get lost; but, when a Bill is taken on the Floor of the House, hon. Members have to recollect that their speeches are noted, and the way in which they vote is so much different from the manner in which they vote in Committee. Consequently, I would like to see this Bill taken in the open on the Floor of the House, so that the electorate and the constituencies may know how we vote and talk on this matter. I do not think that political bias in local authorities is so strong either way that it would affect any of them in determining where a dog racing track ought to be. I live in Manchester, where there is a very big track, and, were it not that the local authority has some town planning power, there would have been more than one there. I welcome the power that local authorities have in connection with town planning schemes, apart from the powers that may be given to them by this Bill. I think that the Government are perfectly right in throwing this duty upon the local authorities.
If I may turn again to the hon. and gallant Member for South Cardiff, I was very interested in his statement that there were 1,500 people at a dog track one evening in Cardiff. He seemed to think that that was a tremendous factor in the situation as affecting this Bill. If he will come with me to Neath during the first week in August, I will show him 25,000 people sitting every day in the week, not to see dogs running after an electric hare, but to listen to probably the finest community singing in the world, and nobody is making a penny of profit out of the transaction. They do not manufacture totalisators and things of that kind for the Eisteddfod. I repeat that I am offended beyond measure that there are men and women in this country who have not sufficient honour to see that, when they combine together in a capitalist group to exploit the known weaknesses of their fellows for their own personal profit, they are doing an injury, not only to this nation, but ultimately to the human race as a whole.
§ 10.28 p.m.
§ The UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE for the HOME DEPARTMENT (Mr. Douglas Hacking)
I think I can say quite 1255 safely that seldom if ever before in this House has there been a more comprehensive Debate on the subject of betting, gaming and lotteries. Many different views have been expressed during the Debate. Some hon. Members have demanded greater laxity than we have provided; others have requested greater stringency; but, having listened with close attention to practically the whole of the Debate, I have personally formed the quite definite opinion that, whether the Government had moved further to the right, or whether they had moved further to the left, in neither event would they have received one-quarter of the support which will be given to the proposals contained in this Bill if and when we proceed into the Division Lobbies after our discussions have been concluded.
There has been much criticism. Of course, one expects that; that is the object of a Second Reading Debate. Some Members appear to be a little worried by the harsh speaking that there has been. We in the Government do not expect the Leader of the House to give seven hours of Parliamentary time in order that we may be able to pat each other on the back. The Bill was put down for discussion to-day for the very purpose of hearing criticism, and, if possible, of answering some of the larger attacks that might be made upon it. For one thing the Government are exceedingly grateful. In the main the criticism throughout the day has been fair. We have not heard repeated here many of the gross misrepresentations which have been indiscriminately flung about outside frequently by persons who ought to have known better, and in the main by parties who have been interested, and financially interested, in the so-called sport of dog racing. During the whole of the 16 years that I have been a Member of the House I have never known more deliberate misrepresentation in connection with any Measure with which we have had to deal, starting with some degree of moderation it is true, but unfair accounts of what the Bill purports to do have become more and more exaggerated as time has gone on. I have no hesitation in saying that the maxim of these unscrupulous prevaricators appears to have been, If at first you do not succeed, lie, lie, lie again. I do not intend to waste the time of the House in dwelling 1256 upon the propaganda of the greyhound racing interest. I will even pass over lightly the mass production of protests against Part I of the Bill, protests manufactured at headquarters—I believe there are at least six different forms—and forwarded to constituents to pass on to their Members. I believe that Members of the House are getting just a little tired of this form of propaganda.
I should like to deal with some of the major points to which attention has been directed. I may say, in passing, that I was a little amused at the hon. Member for the Scotland Division of Liverpool (Mr. Logan) apologising for the division of thought in his party on this subject. I must admit that I have not noticed complete unanimity in my own party, and I sympathise with him in his troubles. The hon. Member who spoke last asked me where the Bill would go after it passed its Second Reading, and the hon. Member for Sheffield, Hallam (Mr. L. Smith) asked definitely that the Committee stage should not be taken on the Floor of the House. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] The hon. Member made that request. He asked that the Committee stage should not be taken on the Floor of the House. Let me inform my hon. Friend that this Government acts very quickly, and his representations were met even before he made the request. The Bill will not be taken on the Floor of the House but will be taken upstairs in Committee. [An HON. MEMBER: "Why?"] I should have thought the hon. Member would have known one very obvious reason, and that is the congestion of Government business.
The hon. Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams), who rightly has been much congratulated on his speech, asked why football pools were taken out of the Bill. We have nothing to hide in that connection. I will not deny—it would be foolish to deny—that representations were made to the Government, but the fact is that this was the only part of the Bill which proposed a change in the existing law in respect of off-the-course betting. There are other aspects of this side of the betting problem. One, to which reference has been made in several speeches, is the very important one with regard to street betting. There were obvious disadvantages in dealing piecemeal with the complicated and unrelated aspects of off-course betting. That was the main reason why the 1257 Government were only too ready to delete the original Clause 3, and it is the sole mystery which the hon. Member desires that I should clear up. An hon. Member asks why it was put in in the first instance. It was put in because we hoped that it might be all right to get this portion of the off-the-course betting cleared up. When representations were made—I have not denied that there were representations—we were only too ready to fall in with the views expressed, because we always felt that it was perhaps not a desirable thing only to deal with this portion of off-the-course betting, and that it would be better to deal with the whole problem at the same time.
My hon. Friend the Member for the Scottish Universities (Mr. Buchan) said that, although he had never had a bet in his life, he saw no harm in limited betting. It was, he said, a question of degree. It was only an evil, I think he said, if it were carried to excess. Speaking personally, I am inclined to agree with that view. I would point out that in the same way arsenic in small doses does one no harm—in fact, I am told that it is considered to be a tonic—but an overdose of arsenic might be fatal. I, myself, believe that betting in small doses, far from doing any harm, is also sometimes a tonic, and is only fatal in very large doses—those very large doses which this Bill desires to make impossible. My hon. Friend the Member for the Scottish Universities also said that he was doubtful about the fitness of the machinery to license and control greyhound tracks. He said that the treatment, if equitable, should be uniform with regard to the licensing of tracks, and then he said, almost in the same sentence, that tracks in small districts could not exist if treated in the same way as tracks in largely populated areas. I am not sure how my hon. Friend associates the one statement with the other. It is difficult even for my Eon. Friend, whose opinion I always sincerely respect, to have this matter both ways. He was not sure that there was sufficient protection to the public if chartered accountants were paid by the management of tracks, and the hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies) made the same inference. He thought that it was wrong that chartered accountants should be paid by the management.
§ Mr. HACKING
I am willing to accept the correction, but I would remind hon. Members that chartered accountants are appointed and paid by other public companies to audit their accounts, and I fail to see that there is very much difference between a company which is running a greyhound track and other public limited liability companies.
§ Mr. MACQUISTEN
Is the right hon. Gentleman not aware that in connection with limited companies the auditor is appointed by the shareholders to check the directors? It is a different matter where the auditors are to be appointed by the companies.
§ Mr. HACKING
The hon. and learned Member is right. They are appointed at the shareholders' meeting, but I do not think that I have ever heard of a case, and I do not think that my hon. and learned Friend has ever heard of a case, where the auditors, who are always suggested by the directors, have been turned down by the shareholders. Therefore, in practice, the auditors are actually appointed by the directors. In any event, I have greater faith in the integrity of chartered accountants than certain hon. Members of this House appear to have. I do not think that, for the sake of their profession, they would be likely to fail in the way they conduct their business.
I now come to the main attack upon the Bill made by my hon. Friend, and this was also the criticism made by the hon. and gallant Member for Wellingborough (Wing-Commander James) and other hon. Members. Those hon. Members were not satisfied with local authority control of greyhound racing. It must be impressed upon the House that a licence can only be refused by a local authority upon certain definite and clearly defined grounds, which are found in Clause 6. These grounds are mostly concerned with the amenities of the neighbourhood, with the congestion of traffic, and with such matters as the proximity of schools, hospitals and other institutions. The grounds for refusal, therefore, are, in the main, matters of fact rather than matters of opinion, and I should have thought that the local authorities were obviously the best bodies to deal with those facts.
The power of delegation from the county councils to standing joint committees 1259 has now been agreed upon, and we have given satisfaction to the associations of local authorities who have been directly concerned in this side of the problem. I understand also, from information that I have recently received, that the London County Council also agree with these latest proposals.
Then we come to the alternative. I have never appreciated the argument in favour of a statutory body to control the whole of this form of racing. Such a statutory body has been advocated in a great number of speeches to-night. As the hon. Member for Westhoughton correctly stated, there is no statutory authority controlling any other of our great national sports. Cricket, football, both Rugby and Association, golf, tennis, horse racing, all control themselves very effectively and very efficiently from within, and I cannot see why the State should acknowledge and indirectly adopt greyhound racing. Even if greyhound racing were described as a sport, it is surely not of so much greater importance than the other forms of sport which I have mentioned as would warrant it being placed upon a high column, to look down upon our other great national games. There can be no doubt that if this privilege were to be meted out to greyhound racing all the other associations of sports, football, cricket and the like, would desire equal recognition, and the State finally would be called upon to control practically every form of sport in the country.
I am not certain from some speeches to-night that greyhound racing is primarily a sport. I think the greyhound racing interests themselves acknowledge it to be an industry. It is not primarily a sport, and we on this side of the House, who for years have voted against the nationalisation of industry in general, are not now, I hope, going to agree to the nationalisation of a particular industry, especially when it happens to be the greyhound racing industry. The hon. and gallant Member for Wellingborough and the hon. Member for Newark (Marquess of Titchfield) wished to have the control of the totalisator taken out of the hands of local authorities and out of the hands of the individual track or company. They desire to vest this power in some body 1260 analogous to the Racecourse Betting Control Board. What are the objections to that? The analogy of the Racecourse Betting Control Board is not, I submit, quite relevant. Parliament in 1928 took the view that horse breeding was a great national interest and, consequently, that betting on horse racecourses ought to contribute something in the national interest. There is, I submit, no corresponding national interest in the case of greyhounds, and the Government feel that the House should hesitate before they set up another statutory body, even if it be restricted to the control of the totalisator on greyhound tracks.
The House must remember that this statutory body, whatever it may be called, would be an independent body and would be the sole arbiter as to how much betting would be allowed and the conditions under which betting should be conducted. There can be no doubt that some form of control is desirable, and the Government believe that the plan they have submitted in the Bill is the best in the circumstances. This is a question which is sure to be raised again in Committee upstairs, when there will be fuller opportunity to advance the arguments on either side, and I will, therefore, leave it without going into it in more detail. A few words on the limitation of betting days. This matter was fully gone into by my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary in his speech. He told the House of the undesirable social effects of continuous betting on dog tracks. This is a form, of temptation which is, so to speak, brought to the very doors of persons living in various parts of the country, and it is a temptation which those who are not strong minded may find it hard to resist. I have had many instances of that kind. The Government, therefore, insist upon a severe limitation of these organised betting facilities, if only in the interests of those people who are compelled to put up with the nuisance by having to live in a particular neighbourhood. This sport, if it can be so described, may take place on any day of the week, including Sundays, provided there are no betting facilities available.
§ Mr. HACKING
The number of meetings per day is not limited; it is 104 per 1261 year, and this will only be limited at the discretion of the local authority.
My hon. Friend the Member for South Kensington (Sir W. Davison) made a great appeal to-night for State lotteries. This Bill, as he knows, allows small lotteries, but does not legalise big national or other large lotteries such as those promoted in the so-called interests of hospitals and other institutions. I note that my hon. Friend is not satisfied with the decision of the Government on this matter, but I notice from the Motion that he put on the Order Paper that he has discontinued his demand for hospital lotteries. I think there can be only one reason. I suppose I am right in assuming that it is not his enthusiasm which has abated, but that the hospitals themselves do not desire to have this form of assistance.
§ Mr. HACKING
Then my hon. Friend still imagines that hospital lotteries would be good for the people. Lotteries of any kind, including hospital lotteries, he says, would be good for the people. As those who control the hospital finances no longer desire this help, for that reason alone I take it that he does not press his demand. I would beg of him to apply the same form of reasoning to State lotteries. However desirable his suggestion may be so far as the people are concerned, I take it that if I can convince him that those who control the State finances, in the same way as those who control hospital finances, do not desire lotteries to help the State, then he will also drop that demand. I can give ray hon. Friend that assurance.
My time is nearly up, but before I conclude I would make an earnest appeal to hon. Members of this House to think long and furiously before deciding to upset the present balance of this Measure. I appeal to them to think of the present position—a position of anomaly and uncertainty. The anomaly is in the fact that totalisators are legal on horse racecourses, but are illegal on dog racecourses. Very few people—nobody, I believe, who has spoken in this House to-night—think that such a situation should continue. Then we turn to the uncertainty. No raffles, no sweeps, no lotteries are at the present moment allowed by law. Sometimes the law is disregarded; sometimes the law is upheld. 1262 There is, terrible uncertainty, and this makes it exceedingly difficult for the police and very annoying for the public. Nobody desires that the present conditions should prevail indefinitely. We all agree, then, that something must be done. Nobody in this House to-day has denied that some form of legislation is necessary, that something must be done.
What is that something? There are two extreme opinions. There are those who desire complete and absolute freedom for all to bet and to engage in lotteries at their own free will, and that such lotteries shall be either for private or public gain. Those people would, metaphorically speaking, desire that we should all have the fullest possible opportunity of going to the dogs. Then there is the other extreme of thought—that of those who would desire to take away all our liberties and would insist upon so many restrictions and limitations that gambling would, in fact, become impossible. That extreme would compel us all to become grandmotherly spoil-sports and pussyfoots. Those are the two extremes. Both have been advocated in this House to-day. Surely there is room in between. The Government, be it noted a National Government, has attempted to steer a middle course. We are trying, in fact, to be reasonable in all things. It is true that we are making legal what has in some cases been definitely illegal in the past, but in this Bill we are also clearing away much doubt that exists at the present time. We are wiping out an anomaly which few, if any, would defend.
These are some of the advantages to be obtained from this Bill. Frankly and obviously, the Government never expected to satisfy the extreme mind, but we do appeal with confidence for the real and practical support of the more moderate and the more reasonably-minded men and women of all sections and of all parties in the State. An opportunity is presented to the House to night to put right many matters which are definitely unsatisfactory at the present time. The whole problem of gambling is difficult and exceedingly controversial. Undoubtedly, such a complex subject as this can best be dealt with by a Government comprising many different shades of opinion. Such a favourable chance as this may not recur for many years to come. Here is the opportunity to do a great deal that is 1263 desired by the general public. Here is the opportunity, and I would ask the House to seize it.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill read a Second time, and committed to a Standing Committee.