§ [SECOND READING.]
§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
THE LORD BISHOP OF HEREFORD
My Lords, I rise to move the Second Reading of a Bill intended, and solely intended, for the restriction of the betting trade—a trade which, I think your Lordships will acknowledge is mainly noxious and mischievous. About ten years ago I ventured to introduce a Betting Bill. Your Lordships did not agree with that Bill, but you appointed a Committee to consider the subject, of which Committee the noble Earl, Lord Durham, was chairman. That Committee took a great deal of valuable evidence and presented a Report which resulted in Lord Davey's Street Betting Bill, which passed through both Houses and became law. That Act has produced, I think every one will allow, very valuable results, but it only touched the fringe of the question and left many mischievous operations undealt with. Conscious that that Act only touched the fringe of the question, we have since then waited patiently in the hope that His Majesty's Government would take up the further legislation necessary. We applied to the Home Office as long ago as the time when Lord (then Mr. Herbert) Gladstone was in charge there, and were told that he had a Bill on the stocks. Consequently we waited with patience for that Bill to appear. We are still given to understand that the Home Secretary has a Bill on the stocks, but the delay has been so long that we have some of us almost come to believe that Ministers live on hope deferred and expect us to do the same. Consequently I have ventured to introduce this Bill, for which I am now asking a Second Reading.
I should have hesitated to introduce this Bill because I am conscious that I have no influence with your Lordships, and I am an old man and increasingly disinclined to take any part in matters of controversy; but I have been led to introduce it on the suggestion of one of the greatest and most distinguished of English living jurists, Sir Edward Fry. The first draft of this Bill was his draft. I have modified some of the provisions and added some others, but the whole of the Bill, I think I may venture to say, has Sir Edward Fry's sanction, and it is on that high authority, my Lords, that I ask you to give it a Second Reading to-day. 409 I desire noble Lords to bear in mind that I am asking no more to-day than that the Bill should be read a second time. I am well aware that there may be this or that particular in the Bill to which some reasonable objection may be taken, and I should like to say at the outset that I would welcome any reasonable Amendment. The Bill has a good deal of popular support behind it.
I think it is not necessary for me to detain your Lordships by dwelling upon the need of some such Bill. I have in my hand a letter which I received yesterday from a gentleman in Manchester. Not long ago an Anti-Gambling League was formed for Lancashire and Cheshire and the neighbouring district, and hearing that I intended to introduce this Bill they asked to see a copy of it, and in the very short interval that has intervened they have secured no fewer than 21,000 signatures in support of the Bill, and the secretary informs me that if he had had a little longer time he could have got 100,000 quite easily. He also informs me that the Manchester Guardian and the Manchester Evening News, two of the most important newspapers in the country, and nearly all the Lancashire and Cheshire journals are giving the Bill their support, so that I think I may fairly ask your Lordships to note that in the only part of England in which opinion upon the Bill has been taken it has received a very large amount of influential support. This support comes, I am told, from employers of labour, from the various churches, from the wage-earners, and, in fact, from every class of society in Manchester and the neighbourhood. With regard to the need of such a Bill, I am sure your Lordships would feel that it is not necessary for me to take up your time with any lengthy remarks on that subject. I will only on that point refer you to what the same writer says with regard to Manchester and the neighbourhood. During the last three years, he says, they have had no fewer than ninety-five cases of women bookmakers and betting agents carrying on a considerable business with other women and with boys and girls in Lancashire and Cheshire and the Midlands. He mentions that in order to show that this is not only an evil but a growing and spreading evil, and one that is likely to do more and more harm if we leave it unchecked.
As to the provisions of the Bill, I should like to say that its central and essential 410 part is contained in the first subsection, which deals with advertisements and similar notifications with regard to any betting business. Then, again, it deals particularly with betting odds and starting prices. With regard to most of these provisions it deals, of course, with prospective events—information which is given with a view to induce persons to bet on coming events. It is necessary, however, if the great evil of popular betting and gambling and the craze of it is to be put an end to, that starting prices should no longer be published after a race is run because they thus become instruments of gaming. Another provision deals with lotteries and such like gambling competitions. I think it possible that a good many of your Lordships may wish the word "competition," as being possibly liable to certain ambiguity, to be omitted. If the Bill should reach the Committee stage and any one will show that it will be an improvement to omit the word "competition" from the Bill or to substitute the words "gambling competition" I shall be quite prepared to accept an Amendment to that effect.
The concluding portion of the Bill deals with perhaps a more difficult and delicate matter—I refer to the clause under which the Postmaster-General is given power, where there is reasonable ground to believe any person or persons to be engaged in receiving money, and so on, and to be spreading inducements for betting, to refuse the facilities of the Post Office to such person or persons. It may be thought that the Post Office should be entirely neutral in such matters, but I venture to think that this abuse in connection with a great Department of State, provided by State means for the good of the people at large, ought to be stopped. Your Lordships probably know better than I do the sort of abuse to which betting agents put the Post Office, but some little time ago there came into my hands two entirely mischievous circular letters. One had been sent to a great Manchester engineering firm and the other to a great engineering firm in Hull. Those circular letters set forth all sorts of attractive inducements to working men to bet, and each of them was addressed to the foreman fitter in that great firm and the inducement they held out in each case was that if the foreman fitter would become their agent in the firm he should have so much per cent. of all the takings. I venture to think that that is 411 an abominable kind of trade, and I cannot but feel that it would be reasonable for the Postmaster-General to have power to stop persons conducting that kind of trade from availing themselves of the facilities of the Post Office.
I have also added a clause with reference to the facilities of the telegraph and telephone service. I am told that it is quite common in connection with races for special telegraphic arrangements to be made chiefly for the benefit of bookmakers and betting tradesmen, and I am told also that the telephone, on the occasion of certain races, is practically monopolised by the betting fraternity for the greater part of the business day, thus interfering with the natural operations of wholesome and useful business; so that I think there is a very strong case made out for some action which should restrict the use of the Post Office by these betting traders. Again I venture to say that if the Bill reaches the Committee stage and any one has a better proposal to suggest than that contained in Clause 4, I for my part shall gratefully accept it. Those are the main provisions of the Bill. I am well aware that the Bill has been called in certain quarters a drastic Bill, but, my Lords, the word "drastic" only means effective. If a Bill is to be worth anything it ought to be effective, and not a mere pretence or sham or a thing that could be easily evaded, and what may seem to be somewhat sweeping in some of the clauses is really only an endeavour to stop the loopholes of evasion and to secure that the bookmaker and the betting agent and all that class of persons shall no longer be free without restrictions to pursue their trade.
I know it may be said by some persons that we have here an attempt to stop betting by Act of Parliament. I venture to think that this Bill does nothing of the kind. It is aimed simply at the betting trade; it leaves every man, to whatever class of society he may belong, perfectly free to ruin himself if he likes by betting, and I venture to think that it interferes with no reasonable liberty on matters of sport. It is not in any way directed against English sport. Its aim is to purify and cleanse our English sport. There are no greater sportsmen than many who belong to this House, and they are particularly careful, every one of them, to have their stables and 412 their kennels thoroughly cleansed and purified, and I venture to think we ought to do no less for the atmosphere of our public life. Therefore I would press this point, that this Bill is simply intended to restrict the operations of the betting trade, which is mainly a noxious and parasitic trade having no real virtue or benefit in it at all. I venture to put it to your Lordships that it is the business of the Legislature to make wrong-doing harder and a good and honest life easier. That is no sentiment of my own, but an old sentiment that Mr. Gladstone uttered long ago upon some occasion.
I observe that three noble Lords have given notice of their intention to move the rejection of this Bill to-day. I have observed it with some surprise, because I feel that any one reading the Bill with a dispassionate mind will see that if there are any lines in it to which he objects they could be easily cut out without interfering with the substance of the Bill. I venture to think that those noble Lords who thus take up an attitude of uncompromising opposition are, if they do nothing more, assuming a grave responsibility in view of the evil for which this trade is responsible amongst the masses of our people. Two of the noble Lords who have given notice of an Amendment to reject the Bill are well-known patrons of the Turf. They are great authorities on all matters connected with the Turf, and your Lordships will naturally be inclined to give more weight to their views than to mine. I make no complaint of their opposition to the Bill on one condition, but on one condition only. If they oppose my humble efforts and frustrate them, then I say they are in honour bound to produce something better to cure the evil. They are well acquainted with the mischief which this noxious trade is doing in our public life. They are bound, I say—noblesse oblige—to do something to cure the mischief if they will not allow other people to do so. That is my plea to those noble Lords who, as I understand, are about to move the rejection of this Bill. And I will make the plea in the familiar words of a Roman poet whose authority I venture to think may be placed very high. My plea to each of them is simply this—Si quid novisti rectius istis,Candidus imperti; si non, his utere mecum.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(The Lord Bishop of Hereford.)413
§ THE EARL OF DURHAM had given notice, on the Motion for the Second Reading, to move "That the Bill be read a second time this day six months." The noble Earl said: My Lords. I deeply regret that I left school so long ago that I cannot translate the concluding sentence in the right rev. Prelate's speech. I am disappointed that the right rev. Prelate spoke with so little conviction. I did think that in bringing forward a Bill like this he would show to your Lordships that he entertained some belief that it was a good Bill and one to which the House might accord a Second Reading; but all that I could gather from the Lord Bishop's speech was that he had consulted certain persons in Manchester and that these persons had expressed their approval of a Bill which he has not submitted to the approval of any one else in the United Kingdom. I suppose he was acting on the old saying that what Lancashire thinks to-day England will think to-morrow. The right rev. Prelate said that if longer time had been allowed the writer of the letter to him could have obtained 100,000 signatures in favour of the Bill. I have not canvassed for any vote against the Bill, but I venture to say that I could without any difficulty have obtained 500,000 signatures against it. I attach no importance to the fact that Sir Edward Fry is more or less responsible for the clauses of this Bill. I think I shall be able to show your Lordships that the Bill is not only drastic, but is tyrannical and preposterous. The right rev. Prelate made the appeal that he did not wish to enter into controversial matters at his age, and he said he knew that his views were not, perhaps, acceptable to this House. I do not wish to be offensive in any way to the right rev. Prelate. As he informed the House, I served on the Betting Committee with him for many months and we were on those terms on which two gentlemen should be with one another; but I am afraid I must charge him with disingenuousness in introducing this Bill. He has brought forward the Bill to destroy a great evil. What is the evil which he wishes to destroy? I presume he wishes to destroy betting.
§ THE EARL OF DURHAM
But this Bill is a Bill dealing with advertisements. Bookmakers and other people do not live 414 on advertisements. Their trade is to bet with other individuals. Yet the right rev. Prelate tries to induce this House to accept a Bill which deals with advertisements, competitions, and so on, inflicts grave penalties on the unfortunate people who run newspapers, and imposes upon the Postmaster-General a new statutory duty. I am no authority on law, but there are other noble Lords in this House who are great authorities and whose judgment in that respect I accept. I would remind your Lordships that when Lord Davey brought in his Betting Bill in 1903 I moved the rejection of that measure and my Motion was accepted. Towards the end of that debate the then Lord Chancellor, Lord Halsbury—and I am very glad to see the noble and learned Earl here to-day—made a very short but effective speech, and I would ask your Lordships to allow me to read a short portion of it and what I am going to read will bear me out in the statement I made that the right rev. Prelate is disingenuous in bringing forward this Bill. Lord Halsbury said on that occasion—It is said the Bill proceeds on the principle of abolishing street betting; and against that practice there is much to be said, for it comes within the ordinary description of a nuisance. If it were confined to this object I would have some hesitation in voting against the Bill; but it is not so confined, and the authors of the Bill have not the courage of their opinions. If they mean to make betting an offence to be visited with penalties, why do they not bring in a Bill to prohibit betting? It is an extremely awkward thing to impose a number of penalties with ludicrous conundrums for His Majesty's Judges to solve, because the framers of the Bill will not say what they mean. If betting is to be made an offence, why not say so? The authors of the Bill have not the courage to say what they really mean; and the House is asked to go into legislation not dealing with the substance of a subject, getting rid of the responsibility for dealing with the substance, and going about the edge of it without touching it. Whether betting is right or wrong is a question I will not discuss—I will only say that betting is not the only form of gambling, and if we are going to make it an offence for any person to do something ancillary to betting, which is not an offence, treating him as a rogue, then we are embarking upon a very objectionable species of legislation; and I shall unhesitatingly vote against the Second Heading of such a Bill. I protest against the idea that after discussion among the members of a divided Committee the House should give a Second Reading to a Bill on the understanding that two-thirds of it should be struck out.The right rev. Prelate has invited Amendments. He said he would be quite prepared to accept Amendments so long as the House agreed to the principle of the Bill.
415 I was surprised to hear him say "we" did this; "we" submitted this Bill to Manchester. He did not say who "we" were. We do not know who his supporters are; we do not know who drew up this Bill except that he named in that connection Sir Edward Fry, whom I have never seen on a race-course. When the right rev. Prelate was serving on the Select Committee on Betting he had some advisers there who are well known to a good many people, and they used to supply him with the information he required, and amongst other things they gave him their advice upon tipsters' advertisements. There is no man in this House, and I do not think there is anybody outside this House, who dislikes what are known as tipsters' advertisements more than I do. I think they are most objectionable, and I should like to see them abolished. That was the feeling of the whole of the members of the Betting Committee. My noble friend Lord Newton is here, and he will remember perfectly well that we all agreed on that Committee that these advertisements were objectionable and ought to be suppressed. It is easy for the right rev. Prelate to say that this is an innocent Bill. It is nothing of the sort. He confounds these tipsters with the men who write in the high-class newspapers and give expert information on various events which are of popular interest. It is ridiculous to confound the two. The right rev. Prelate ought to know that as well as anybody, because he constantly came to the meetings of the Betting Committee with his pockets stuffed full of tipsters' circulars. One well-known gentleman who gave evidence at great length and very fairly before that Committee was Mr. John Hawke, the hon. secretary of the National Anti-Gambling League. The right rev. Prelate used to be very fond of the Anti-Gambling League—
§ THE EARL OF DURHAM
Then I withdraw that statement. I understand that the right rev. Prelate does not sympathise with the National Anti-Gambling League.
§ THE EARL OF DURHAM
Well, if the right rev. Prelate has no opinion on the Anti-Gambling League, that League has certainly got an opinion about the right rev. Prelate. For only yesterday I received this letter from Mr. Hawke, the hon. Secretary—DEAR LORD DURHAM—You may possibly remember my evidence before the House of Lords Select Committee on Betting in 1901. I notice by The Times of the 4th instant that you are opposing the Bill to be introduced this week, and on going through it I am not in the least surprised, for although we look upon you as one who wishes to curb the system of professional betting, which, now that it has got a firm hold on football, is worse than ever, we could not expect or wish you to concur in a measure that apparently subjects any boy selling a newspaper describing Henley Regatta or the Bisley Rifle Meeting to a penalty of £100 or hard labour. You would do prudent reformers a service if you would make it clear, should you speak upon the subject, that the League deprecates the bringing fore and of this ill-drawn Bill.The right rev. Prelate gave a sketchy account of this Bill and made out that it was harmless and would not have any deterrent effect on people who wished to ruin themselves by betting. It is misleading to call this a Gambling Advertisements Bill only, because it is not confined to advertisements in the ordinary acceptance of the word.
The right rev. Prelate also, in the very first subsection of the first clause, departs from the recommendation of the Betting Committee. There again he may be right, and the remainder of the Betting Committee may be wrong. We thought it was not in the interests of morality that starting prices should be abolished, because it was thought that fraudulent bookmakers would thereby be enabled to mislead the public. We on the Betting Committee therefore thought that the publication of starting price odds should not be prohibited. Then the right. rev. Prelate provides that no one shall advertise or describe any competition for which the prize or reward exceeds £5 in value unless he obtains the consent of the Home Secretary or the President of the Board of Trade. I do not think the right rev. Prelate can contradict me when I say that this clause would prevent advertisements for competitions for entrance scholarships to public schools unless they were authorised by the Home Secretary or the Board of Trade; and as to racing, it would be absolutely impossible for any newspaper to advertise any race, for no race is run of less value than £100. It 417 would be impossible, therefore, for anybody to know what races were taking place, and the result would be that horse-racing would be abolished altogether.
What is the good of abolishing horse-racing after all? The right rev. Prelate's object is this. He thinks that if he can destroy horse-racing he will destroy betting, but he has only to study contemporary history to know that he is quite wrong. Recent legislation has practically stopped horse-racing in the State of New York, but the effect has not been to suppress betting. I read in a newspaper the other day that betting took place in a house in New York as to which lady had the greatest number of gowns. These ladies proceeded upstairs and appeared at intervals in different gowns, and one lady who made her fifty-first appearance in a decorated nightgown was given the prize on condition that she wore it for the rest of the evening. If the right rev. Prelate by this Bill were to put a stop to horse-racing there might be betting on ladies' dresses. And then his course would be quite clear. He would have to bring in a Bill to this effeet—"Be it enacted that on and after a certain date women shall wear no clothes." That would be a very effective way of stopping a good deal of speculation. Clause 4, imposing a statutory duty upon the Postmaster-General, is really so astounding that I hope His Majesty's Government will not express their approval of it. It is not a discretionary power which is proposed; it is a duty to be imposed upon the Postmaster-General to deprive me, if I wish to bet with a bookmaker, of the facilities of the Post Office. Again, taking these wretched boys into custody for selling newspapers is really an action which I should hardly have thought a dignitary of the Church would propose. Does the right rev. Prelate expect every boy who sells newspapers to read through the newspaper from one end to the other to see whether it contains any advertisement which is a misdemeanour under this Bill? It is incredible that anybody should suggest such a thing. Yet these boys have to be their own Press censors, and the police can arrest them summarily and march them off to the police station.
The right rev. Prelate attacks every event that takes place in this country—racing, games, sport, competitions and lotteries. He has inserted most absurd restrictions. I hope your Lordships will 418 not accept such a foolish Bill as this. There are a great many social, economic and industrial questions which have to be solved, and it will require all our patriotic co-operation with all classes to carry these out satisfactorily. I am one of those who are sanguine enough to think that we shall be able to solve them, and I base my belief on my faith and confidence in the love of fair-play which is characteristic of the British nation. That love of fair-play has been fostered and encouraged for generations by free and honourable indulgence in sports which the country loves so much. Our very language shows what an influence these sports have had upon our national character. If you say that a politician is "hitting below the belt," everybody understands the allusion. If you mention that we are to have a "fair field and no favour," every one knows what that means. In bringing forward a Bill like this, attempting to stop an evil which he describes as the gambling trade but which I prefer to call by the shorter name "betting," the right rev. Prelate is disingenuous. He is trying to get your Lordships to pass what he says is a harmless Bill, but in reality he wishes to prohibit betting and make it a crime. I ask you to tell the right rev. Prelate to leave these amusements to the people who understand them, to those who are anxious and active in trying to keep these sports up to a high standard, to those in whom the people have confidence, to those who by their high sense of honour are trying to keep up the reputation we have throughout the world as straightforward, honest sportsmen. I also ask your Lordships not to sanction such a Bill as this, which imposes such restrictions on our Press. Our Press is the most reliable and the most independent and most decent in the world. Why are we to impose upon them all sorts of foolish restrictions? Speaking in the House of Commons yesterday Sir Edward Grey said that in Western countries there is a general understanding that there is to be freedom of the Press. "I do not like," he said, "Press prosecutions; I should like them to be as few as possible." I venture to say that we should have endless Press prosecutions if we accepted this reactionary Bill. Many of us are fortunate enough to be able to afford to hunt, shoot, and fish. We cannot, in the nature of things, share these recreations and indulgences with hundreds of thousands of other men who are just as good sportsmen as we are ourselves. But in racing, in football, in cricket, and in other 419 sports we do share our recreations and we all meet on common ground. We are in common sympathy with exhibitions of skill, pluck, and endurance. One motto unites us all, and that is, "Let the best man win." I ask your Lordships not to break up that fellowship by passing this Bill. I beg to move.
To leave out ("now") and add at the end of the Motion ("this day six months").—(The Earl of Durham.)
§ LORD ST. DAVIDS
My Lords, I am sure that the right rev. Prelate was actuated by the most excellent motives in bringing in this Bill, and that he intended it really to hit at gambling advertisements. He very kindly offered to accept Amendments, and if that really was the intention of the promoters of this Bill and the people behind it I should say it certainly needed amendment. I have been reading the first clause of the Bill and endeavouring to understand it. What it does, among other things, is this. It says that whosoever shall print, publish, &c., any newspaper or document which advertises or describes any competition offering money or valuable things as prizes or rewards exceeding the sum of £5 in value shall be guilty of a misdemeanour. What does that cover? I have been trying to think what it does not cover. It certainly covers the advertising of every single race of every kind where a money prize or reward is offered. In other words, if you want to get up athletic sports or races you must not advertise the fact. Then if you get up a cattle-show there is, of course, a competition for prizes, but if this Bill passes you must never advertise your local agricultural show. Down in Wales we have a great national institution which we call the Eisteddfod which involves contests for money prizes for singing, &c., but if this Bill became law we could never hold an Eisteddfod again. These illustrations alone show that this Bill does stand in need of amendment at any rate.
The noble Earl who moved the rejection of the Bill spoke in favour of sport as a whole, and it is not necessary for me to add a word to what he said upon that subject. But I should like to say this. Those of us who go racing know that the great bulk of private people who bet do not bet with any idea of making money in the long run. They put on small sums—if they are poor 420 men, a few shillings; if they are rich men, a few pounds—they put this money on as an expression of their individual opinion. If you asked nine out of ten or nineteen out of twenty of the men who make bets, they would tell you that they know that in the long run they will lose money by it, but it amuses them. They lose a little on balance, but it is an amusement to them as an expression of opinion. That is what betting is with the great bulk of the people who go racing. I submit to your Lordships that betting which constitutes a very small item in a man's expenditure is a perfectly harmless amusement which ought not to be stopped.
§ LORD ST. DAVIDS
The right rev. Prelate says this Bill will not stop it. In that I differ from him. What is the object of the Bill if it is not to stop it? I think it will stop it, because a man who wants to go racing and to have a few shillings on a horse is not to know when a race is to take place, for advertisements of races are to be put an end to. The right rev. Prelate stated that he would allow any man who wanted to bet in a big way to ruin himself. My view is that a man who bets in a small way is doing a harmless act, but the man who bets in a big way is doing a foolish act. But you cannot stop him. If you prevent his betting on horses he will bet in some other way. The right rev. Prelate said he had support for this Bill, and he gave us an illustration from Manchester. My view is that the love of sport, and particularly the love of racing, which this Bill would hit, is deep-seated among the people. For years before I was a member of your Lordships' House I represented a Welsh constituency in another place, and in that constituency during those years I bred horses, trained horses, and raced horses, and not one single person all those years ever objected. I believe that the bulk of the people of this country, whether they bet or not, like racing, like sport, and like the opportunity of a man putting a few shillings on a race if he chooses.
This Bill, if passed, would undoubtedly stop all speculation that took the form of betting, and, if so, it must undoubtedly stop racing. Racing is a very expensive amusement for owners of race-horses. It is a very expensive amusement even now 421 when stakes are large, but the giving of high stakes for races is only possible because you have a large attendance of the public. If the public are not allowed to have a little money on a race when they go racing the attendance of the public will cease, there will be no funds available for the sport, and racing will undoubtedly dwindle away in this country as it has dwindled away in parts of America where betting has been made illegal. The right rev. Prelate spoke with great admiration of the Street Betting Act, with which I myself bad a certain amount of sympathy. I think it is not at all a bad thing that street betting, which gets hold of a number of poor people, should be made at any rate somewhat difficult. But I would like to tell your Lordships an experience of my own. During the winter after the Street Betting Act became law I went to a steeplechase meeting in the Midlands. The weather was singularly unpleasant, and I was surprised to see, in spite of the weather, a much larger attendance of the general public than I had ever seen at that particular place before. I asked one of the officials why it was. "Oh," said he, "we have to thank the promoters of the Street Betting Act for it." He said that before that Act was passed workingmen in the Midland towns used to put a shilling on with a bookmaker when going to their work in the morning, but now that they were not allowed to do this the men knock off work one or two days in the week and went racing where they could bet as they liked. That is one of the results of the Street Betting Act.
I would point out to any noble Lord who is thinking of supporting this Bill that it is not only racing you have to think about. If you are to stop people betting you must stop cricket, football, foot races, and every form of athletics. People will bet on one thing or another. I cannot argue in favour of betting any more than I can argue in favour of any other form of speculation. The instinct to speculate is in the human race. Why is it any more wrong to have an opinion on a horse and to back it with money than to have an opinion on stocks and shares, or on iron or tin or sugar or any other article of produce and bet on that? because that is what you can do in the City any day to any extent. Betting is one of the humblest forms that the desire to speculate takes among mankind. I used to know a gentleman who made a large fortune by speculating in cotton. He had 422 a most pious horror of betting. He regarded it as the device of the evil one. Yet he carried on operations in cotton compared with which the wildest betting would be conservative business. What is the good of trying to stamp out a thing that is in the open The betting trade has not much sympathy; but, after all, the bookmaker is only the medium between hundreds of different people who want to make bets but cannot conveniently bet with one another. If you were to altogether stamp out betting in the open, what you would do would be to drive it indoors. We know that in London there are plenty of places where foolish people gamble at cards all the afternoon and evening, and gamble probably at very unsatisfactory odds with the chances all against them. You can stop betting out of doors if you like, but the result will be to drive it indoors.
If this Bill were to pass, any newspaper that published the betting on, say, an election in America could be prosecuted. There is a Presidential election about to take place in America. You constantly see in the English papers that the betting on one of the two candidates is so and so. If that announcement appeared in a newspaper after this Bill had become law it would be illegal, and the editor might be sent to prison. But you could go to Lloyds, and, if you liked to pay a premium, they would give you a policy against the contingency of a particular one of the two candidates winning that election. That would still be left by this Bill. And when you think of that, can you wonder that foreigners, watching our English way of conducting our affairs, say that we are the most astounding race of hypocrites the world has ever produced? There are many other reasons for voting against this Bill. I rejoice that the rejection of it has been moved and seconded from this [the Liberal] side of the House, because I for one should be very reluctant that people outside should believe that the Party to which we belong are a party of kill-joys.
As a whole it seems to me there is too little pleasure and amusement in the world, not too much. We take our pleasure in different ways. People outside may think that the members of your Lordships' House are largely occupied in racing and in amusements of that kind. Those of us who go racing know that the members of 423 your Lordships' House who indulge in this form of amusement are very few indeed. It is a very small minority of this House who are ever seen on a race-course. I am afraid that the majority of you are like the psalmist in that you have no pleasure in the strength of a horse. I hope, whether your Lordships care about racing or not, you will vote against this Bill, and will take the advice of an old poet and not—Compound for sins you are inclined toBy damning those you have no mind to.
§ LORD NEWTON
My Lords, it is pretty evident that a Bill which unites in opposition to it my noble friend Lord Durham, the noble Lord who has just sat down. Mr. John Hawke, and the Anti-Gambling League is one which is not likely to be crowned with much success, and, to make use of sporting parlance, the chances of the Bill are represented at the present moment by that 1,000 to 3 figure with which some of us are familiar. But the harsh and unfeeling manner in which this Bill has been received by the two political associates of the right rev. Prelate impel me to discover whether there is not some good in this measure, and I am bound to say that so far as I am concerned it appears to me, whatever its demerits may be, to be a perfectly honest and straightforward measure. Now the public attitude towards gambling and betting is the exact opposite; it is not honest and it is certainly not straightforward.
Consider for a moment the method in which we act. We enact with great pomp and solemnity that although betting is not a penal offence, a gambling house is a thing which ought not to be allowed to exist; that gambling in public places ought to be prohibited; and that incitements and facilities for betting in public places should be severely punished. In pursuance of these views we harry street bookmakers and prevent them plying their trade in streets and places of that kind. But, on the other hand, we tolerate betting on race-courses because, owing to some ingenious legal jugglery, a racecourse is not a "place." We tolerate betting offices on the ground that you do not "resort" to them if you confine your operations to letters, telegrams, and telephonic communications instead of paying money over the counter. And, in addition to that, we allow every kind of inducement 424 to every kind of gambling and betting to appear in the most public place of all—namely, in the columns of the daily newspaper. We go further, because in order to give still greater facilities for gambling the Post Office, as was pointed out by the right rev. Prelate, places all its facilities at the disposal of people who want to make bets.
But the most striking instance of national hypocrisy was afforded lately by an organ for which I expect the right rev. Prelate entertains considerable admiration—namely, the Daily News. The Daily News is a paper which considers that it has a special mission to elevate mankind, and a considerable portion of the Daily News was, at all events up to a short time ago, devoted to denouncing the vices and the sins of gambling; yet the proprietors of the Daily News were at the same time the proprietors of a paper called the Star, which is solely a journalistic success on account of the successful advice which it is supposed to give to speculators. I do not think you can discover an instance of more slimy hypocrisy than this. Here is the Daily News able to denounce gambling on the one hand, with the satisfaction, on the other, of being able to make a large profit out of gambling intelligence and gambling prophecies. This burden of hypocrisy eventually proved too great even for the Daily News to bear, and this paper I observe has fallen from grace and now publishes racing news and starting prices like every other unregenerate organ; and I think the only thing they draw the line at is that, so far as I know, they do not own a sporting prophet. As a matter of fact, the solitary journalistic worshipper at the anti-gambling shrine is the Manchester Guardian, and I think that paper, much as I dislike it, is entitled to a certain amount of admiration on that score.
For my part I am quite unashamed in this matter. I sat on the Betting Committee with the noble Earl opposite, and I came to the conclusion, as every other member did, that betting could not be stopped however much you tried to stop it. If you cannot stop betting, and admit, as we all did unanimously, that it is not a crime in itself, then it seems to me that the obvious thing to do is to recognise the fact and to regulate it, and, I am not ashamed to say, tax it; and I should like 425 to tax it to such an extent that the revenue of bookmakers would be very much reduced. It is argued that if you did this people might be encouraged to bet more than now because there would be greater responsibility attached to the person they bet with. Therefore the main argument in favour of our present hypocritical system is that it is a good system because a number of people may bet who run the risk of being welshed and swindled.
To return to the Bill—and I apologise for my excursus—the Committee of which I was a member came unanimously to the conclusion that, whilst betting was not a crime in itself, there was a great deal too much of it, and that its spread was largely due to the advertisements and to the help so largely given to it by the Press. Even my noble friend opposite, Lord Durham, agreed, if I remember right, to those words. There was certainly a general agreement that betting, if possible, should be confined to race-courses. I will go further and say that everybody on that Committee was agreed that betting and gambling were really made far too easy for the general public. Everybody knows what the position is at the present moment. We are all, even respectable persons like myself, inundated with circulars, and judging from the number that we receive ourselves it can well he imagined what numbers are received by the rising generation. Then, as has been pointed out, there are innumerable inducements to bet upon all sorts of games. There are innumerable guessing competitions of a singularly futile character, and which I think are not infrequently won by the staff of the paper which organises them. On the top of this you have temptation literally staring you in, the face in the shape of the daily Press and the halfpenny so-called evening newspapers which appear in the middle of the day and which are really nothing but racing sheets. The newspapers, whatever may be said, really teach people how to bet, and they make things as easy as possible for people who want to bet.
With regard to the particular point of sporting prophets and racing tipsters, nobody that I have ever encountered has had a single word to say in favour of this class. If they were only fairly accurate there would not be the same feeling against them, but I remember an instance in which 426 a certain noble Duke, a member of this House, followed the advice of one of these prophets for a considerable time and found himself a heavy loser at the end. Luckily he was a person of substantial means, and it made no difference to him; but nobody that I have ever discovered, on the Turf or off it, has had a single word to say in favour of inducements of this kind; indeed they have been severely condemned by the noble Earl, Lord Durham, this evening. If this Bill dealt only with these forms of inducement it would be very difficult to oppose it, and for my part I certainly should not oppose it. But this Bill does a great deal more than that. This Bill, whether the right rev. Prelate realises the fact or not, is directed against racing itself. We have been told to-day what a good many of us knew before, that racing and betting are inseparable; and I am afraid it is a painful fact that the so-called sport of kings would come to an end if there were no bookmakers to keep it going. This fact has been recognised by the law, and if the Anti-Gambling Acts which have been quoted were really enforced in, the spirit in which they were intended racing would have come to an end long ago. It was only because legal pundits were turned on when it was recognised that racing was in danger and we were able to obtain these extraordinary definitions of "places," "resorts," and so on, that the cause of racing was saved.
If this Bill became law it is evident that racing would not go on in this country much longer. I do not know whether the right rev. Prelate realises that fact, but I am sure anybody who has the slightest practical acquaintance with racing would bear out what I say. In conclusion, it is hardly necessary for me to point out to the right rev. Prelate that it is no good to try and go in advance of public opinion. It is perfectly evident that the vast majority of the people of this country do not want and are not going to allow racing to be abolished. Therefore if the right rev. Prelate would allow me I would venture to offer him this advice, that he should try again, and try on a much more modest scale, and that he should not spurn advice even if it comes from the Anti-Gambling League and should not place too implicit confidence even upon the judgment of Sir Edward Fry, to whose reputation he seems to me to have inflicted a disastrous blow this evening.
§ THE PAYMASTER-GENERAL (LORD STRACHIE)
My Lords, the House would no doubt like to hear what view the Home Office takes of this Bill. The Home Office view is this, that the Bill goes a great deal too far, however good the intentions are—and the intentions of the right rev. Prelate are undoubtedly very good indeed. As regards stopping gambling advertisements and illegitimate forms of inducement to bet, we are entirely with the right rev. Prelate; but I venture to say that the Bill mixes up two distinct questions. If you look at the first clause you will notice that, it deals with lotteries and prize competitions and also with betting on horse-racing. I think it would be better to deal first of all with lotteries and prize competitions. The Home Office would be perfectly ready, following on the recommendations contained in the Report of the Joint Committee on Lotteries and Indecent Advertisements who reported in 1908, to deal with advertisements connected with lotteries and competitions of an undesirable nature founded on mere chance and having nothing whatever to do with skill of any kind. This Joint Committee made two recommendations as regards lotteries and prize competitions. Recommendation No. 7 was as follows—The Committee consider that the provisions of Section 41 of the Act of 1823 should be made to apply both to the publishing and printing in this country of any circular relating to a foreign lottery, and also to the sending or causing to be sent through the post or by any other means the distributing or publishing any circular or advertisement relating to a lottery in this or any foreign country.Recommendation No. 15 ran—They recommend, therefore, that it should be made illegal for any proprietor publisher or editor of any newspaper or periodical to charge any form of entrance fee, including the purchase and return of coupons, for prize competitions ill his paper.If the Bill now before the House had only dealt with questions of that sort the Home Office would have been quite ready to give it their support, but as the Bill is mixed up with other matters which they certainly could not support it is very difficult for them to take the line of supporting the Bill generally owing to the enormous difficulties there would be in dealing with it even if Amendments of a drastic nature were inserted.
Subsection (3) of Clause 1 deals with questions of competitions of a lottery 428 nature, and also with competitions of an educational, scientific, or literary character. It is difficult to exactly know what that subsection means, but I take it that it would have the effect of preventing Art Union lotteries. As regards that question the Joint Committee to which I have referred reported that they were not prepared to recommend the repeal of the Art Unions Act of 1846, although they were of opinion that the Board of Trade should exercise a stricter supervision over the proceedings of Art Unions. Therefore again I find myself in antagonism to the proposal contained in this clause. If, however, it was only a question of lotteries and competitions founded on mere chance that would be a different matter, and I expect the majority of your Lordships would be only too anxious to do everything possible to stop those objectionable circulars and advertisements which are spread throughout the country and encourage the desire for gambling and speculation. As the right rev. Prelate has said, there has been on the stocks for some time at the Home Office a Bill dealing with these lotteries and competitions, and I think that a Bill of that sort would find general acceptance in this House.
Then subsection (2) of Clause 1 prohibits newspapers publishing the betting upon races. I ask myself this question, How is it possible to say that newspapers are not to be allowed to publish betting odds as long as betting is allowed upon racecourses? It seems to me that that is a matter which can only be answered in one way. No difference is drawn in this Bill between newspaper articles written by men who have a knowledge of horse-racing and the productions of racing tipsters. As regards that it would, of course, be impossible to prevent, say, The Times or the Morning Post from publishing the odds upon the Derby or upon the Oxford and Cambridge boat race, or to make it such an illegal offence that any person selling the newspaper containing those odds could be arrested without a warrant. It is clear that a great distinction has to be drawn—and it is not drawn by this Bill—between what might be described as legitimate speculation upon a race-course and the Stock Exchange in contradistinction to illegitimate speculation in lotteries and bucket-shops. This Bill goes out of its way to prohibit what I think is legitimate—namely, the publishing of 429 racing odds in the great newspapers. I desire most cordially to recognise the good objects of the right rev. Prelate, and to express my regret that, although his aims are admirable and deserving of support, yet the provisions of the Bill are drawn in such a way that it is impossible for the Home Office to give it their support.
My Lords, after what we have just heard from the representative of His Majesty's Government I have no doubt that the right rev. Prelate will think that he has served his purpose in having brought this matter to the attention of your Lordships. I venture to think that the majority of your Lordships will not agree with the statement which has been made in the course of this discussion that betting in itself is a very harmless recreation, and that any one who can afford to lose is perfectly entitled to carry on any amount of betting. One noble Lord suggested that there was a good deal of betting on cricket, on ordinary 'Varsity sports, and on amateur races. I venture to demur very much to that. I doubt whether there were many bets made at Lords on Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday, or whether there will be many made on Friday or Saturday. I submit for your Lordships' consideration that there have been sports in which betting has come in; the consequence has been that those sports have died out as sports in which any large proportion of the population takes any interest. Though the wording of this Bill apparently does not commend itself to your Lordships at all events the principle of it is deserving of attention, and I am glad to hear that we may possibly expect a Government Bill on the subject in another session. The noble Lord who replied on behalf of His Majesty's Government said nothing about Clause 4 of this Bill, which lays an extra duty upon the Postmaster-General in this matter.
My noble friend who represents the Post Office will state the view of his Department regarding that clause.
The sport I know most about is football, and attached to that is the danger that those who carry on the betting trade at which the Bishop of Hereford aims are doing what they can to spoil that game, and their efforts are 430 largely helped by the Post Office. These people have been turned out from many well-ordered towns in the north of England, and, being unable to carry on their coupon business there any longer, they go abroad, and from Belgium or Holland or Switzerland they send out these well-known circulars by the hundred thousand. The Post Office know them perfectly well, but I understand that they do not consider that they are justified in stopping them. They have occasionally done so, but they do not carry out a consistent policy in the matter. I can only say, on behalf of the Football Association, that we thank the Department for the little help they have given us, and we hope that they will do a great deal more in the future. Sympathy was expressed by Lord Newton with some of the provisions in this Bill, and I venture to hope, if the right rev. Prelate withdraws it now, that the Government will take the matter up, and that before long steps will be taken to put a stop to what I am convinced is doing a great deal of harm to true sport. We call upon the Government to help us to keep our sport clean and pure.
THE LORD ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY
My Lords. I desire to interpose for a moment only. I awaited with the keenest interest the statement which we should hear, and now have heard, from the Government Bench upon this really important, and, in my judgment, very urgent matter. Ten years have passed since the Report of the Select Committee which sat on this subject was issued. That Report, as has been mentioned to-night, while it did not recommend the kind of legislation, certainly not in detail and possibly not even in principle, which is embodied in the Bill presented to-night by the right rev. Prelate, did contain perfectly definite recommendations that legislation on some of these points was necessary. We have been told to-night and on previous occasions that there is a Home Office Bill on the stocks. It has been a long time on the stocks; and I venture to say that we are entitled, when opposition is taken to proposals brought forward, wise or unwise, such as those which my right rev, brother has brought forward, to join in the appeal which he made to those who oppose him to know what are the steps which they propose to take to give effect to the recommendations definitely made by the Select Committee.
431 I honestly confess that I cannot accept this Bill in the least as it stands. I did not know anything of it until it was published and circulated. It seems to me to go far in advance of public opinion, probably in advance of what public opinion will ever actually reach. The Post Office provisions seem to me absolutely out of the question, and there are other provisions in the Bill which I would rather characterise as ill-drawn because I cannot suppose that their intention was what appears on the surface. But, while I say that, I entirely endorse the appeal made by the Bishop of Hereford to-night to those who are opposing him as to whether they do or do not intend to take any steps to give effect to the recommendations to which their names are attached. It seems to me unfair that a discussion in this House should be shelved by the reference of the matter to a Select Committee, and when that Committee make a Report containing perfectly definite recommendations that then those who signed the Report should leave it to others to bring forward legislation while they themselves do nothing whatever to give effect to their recommendations.
The difficulty aimed at in this Bill is far larger and far more grave than most of the speakers to-night have recognised. We are not really dealing with what Lord St. Davids, with a guileless simplicity which surprised me greatly, described as the wholesome custom of betting in the healthy open air. We are dealing with the insidious mischief which is permeating our factories, our workshops, and our schools—even the elementary schools—by the mischievous circulars which are being spread broadcast, which this Committee recommended the stopping of, and which no step has been taken for bringing to an end by what I agree with the Bishop of Hereford in thinking must be necessarily drastic legislation on that subject. It does seem to me to be not quite fair simply to criticise proposals because they go too far. It has been said more than once that some amendment of the law is necessary and that a Government Bill is on the stocks, but in the meantime nothing is being done. Therefore while I could not possibly vote for this Bill as it stands, I do endorse my right rev. brother's appeal to those who are opposed to him to-night that they will take the matter into their own hands—for it must be experts who do it—and endeavour to frame a measure which will put the 432 desired amendment of the law into practical shape.
§ THE EARL OF DURHAM
The most rev. Primate insinuated that, though I was a member of the Select Committee on Betting. I had taken no steps or made no suggestions whatever for reform, and that therefore I ought not to have opposed this Bill. No doubt he was led to that by the observation of the right rev. Prelate this evening, that those who oppose this Bill must accept the responsibility and themselves bring forward a measure on the subject. The Bishop of Hereford knows that I wrote a letter to him a few weeks ago on the matter. He sent me a draft of this Bill and asked my opinion upon it. I replied that the measure was too drastic, and that I should be obliged to oppose it; but I added that he could do some good if he brought in a simple Bill dealing with tipsters' advertisements which we all agree are objectionable and should be stopped. Therefore the most rev. Primate is not entitled to say that I am indisposed to do anything towards remedying the evil.
THE LORD BISHOP OF ST. ASAPH
My Lords, I rise to make an appeal to my right rev. brother the Bishop of Hereford. I entirely sympathise with a great part of what he has in view, but I hope he may be induced to withdraw this measure, which does not seem to meet with support from any quarter of the House. But I should be sorry if this debate should leave in the mind of the country any idea that this House is prepared to defend betting in all its aspects. I am thankful to his Grace for having brought forward the point of the vastness of the evil brought about by betting. It was with dismay that I listened to the speech of Lord St. Davids, in which he talked of the thing being purely art amusement and of the people putting money on horses not caring whether they won or lost. The betting evil among those who cannot afford to lose a shilling is deep-seated, and has, to my own knowledge, done infinite harm. I earnestly hope that the result of this debate will not leave upon the mind of the country the impression that this House is unconscious of, or still worse indifferent to, the magnitude of the evils which gather round betting at the present time. I admit I could not possibly support this Bill as it stands. I was sorry to hear Lord St. Davids say that if you did not have betting you could not have horse-racing. I should 433 hope that the sport might live without betting. I hope the right rev. Prelate will consent, in the interests of the objects he lots at heart, to withdraw the Bill to-day.
THE EARL OF LIVERPOOL
My Lords, as regards Clause 4 of this Bill, which concerns the Post Office, I am desired to say that the Postmaster-General feels that this duty of discrimination ought not to be imposed upon him. He thinks it would be absolutely impossible to discriminate, for instance, between the various betting code telegrams and those code telegrams which have nothing to do with betting. Further, he does not see that it would be possible for the officers of the Post Office to determine what individuals ought to be refused the use of telegraphic and telephonic facilities, and what letters ought to be stopped.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
My Lords, I desire to say one word, and one word only, in defence of the vote which I shall give if the right rev. Prelate asks for a Division on the Second Reading of this Bill. In the first place, I am sure he will not doubt my sincerity when I tell him that I am much in sympathy with what I conceive to be the object of his Bill. I venture to agree with the most rev. Primate when he told us just now that in his opinion there was in one or two of the speeches to which we have just listened—I refer notably to the extremely able and interesting speech delivered by Lord St. Davids—a tendency to make too light of the public evil and scandal which arises from betting, particularly by people who cannot afford to bet. I am under the impression that many homes have been ruined in consequence of betting, and that if you were to ask those who have the best means of knowing they would tell you that betting is answerable for a good deal of the crime which prevails in the days in which we live.
But, my Lords, for all that I cannot support the Bill of the right rev. Prelate. It seems to me to be, in the first place, open to the great objection that it is an ineffectual Bill. It is a Bill aimed at betting, but if this Bill were to become law betting would still survive with this difference only—that it would have to be carried on in secrecy. I cannot believe that it is an advantage to drive evils of this kind, if they be evils, below the surface. Again, the Bill is ineffectual because it fails altogether to touch other forms of gambling every whit as reprehend- 434 sible as the particular form of gambling at which the Bill is aimed. Gambling by card playing and that extremely pernicious form of gambling to which reference has been made—I mean gambling by means of margins on securities—would be untouched by this measure. Apart from that, this Bill is, I cannot help thinking, framed in a much too vexatious and unrelenting spirit. I do not think I at all exaggerate the combined effect of the clauses of this Bill when I say that if any quite respectably-conducted newspaper were to publish a paragraph on the eve of the University Boat Race to the effect that the odds were three to two, let us say, upon the University of Oxford, the publisher of that paper would find himself liable under the penal clause of this Bill to a penalty which might amount to a fine of £25, or, at the discretion of the Court, imprisonment with hard labour for a month. That seems to me to be a monstrous possibility; and it is not made less monstrous when further on in the Bill you find that the perfectly harmless person who might be hawking the newspaper in question for sale in the streets would himself be liable to be summarily arrested by a constable without warrant. It is also remarkable that both the public Departments concerned in the administration of the law affected by this Bill—the Home Office and the Post Office—have come forward through their representatives to tell us that in the view of those Departments the Bill is an unwisely framed Bill and not one for the administration of which those Departments would care to make themselves responsible.
If I may sum up my view of the measure, I would do so by saying that in my belief the love of sport is innate in the people of this country, and that in the minds of many of them you cannot entirely dissociate the idea of sport from the idea of wagering upon that which in the language of this Bill is called "an event"; and I am persuaded that although it should be our object in any legislation of this kind to enlist public opinion on our side, the effect of passing such a Bill as this would be to alienate public opinion and that you would find it bitterly, and I cannot help thinking rightly, opposed to us. For this reason I venture to support the entreaty which has been addressed to the right rev. Prelate that he will not ask the House to divide upon this Bill, reserving, of course, to himself full liberty to return to the subject at some future time.
THE LORD BISHOP OF HEREFORD
My Lords, after the weighty words to which we have just listened and the suggestions made by the most rev. Primate I have no desire to put the House to the inconvenience of dividing on this Bill. At the same time I should like to be permitted to say that I scarcely recognised the Bill in the description of it which was evidently in the minds of the first two speakers in opposition to it. I could not but feel that they had set up a sort of caricature of the Bill in their minds, and of course it was easy to knock it down. I desire to repeat that this Bill in its essentials is not intended in any way to interfere with English sport, but to cleanse and purify that sport and make it worthy of the country to which it belongs. We are all agreed, I think, that English sport is preyed upon by a trade which is both parasitic and demoralising. As there seems to be a general disapproval of the Bill which I have ventured to put before the House, I would appeal to your Lordships to take some positive steps to cure the mischief which is eating into the vitals of the country in this connection and which experienced people say is a growing evil. After what we have heard from the noble Lord who represents the Home Office I have a hope that that Department may take some early steps and produce a Bill which will, at any rate, do something to lessen the evil and to lessen the temptations to gambling with which so many of our fellow-countrymen are beset.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.