§ 8.1 p.m.
§ Lord Wyatt of Weeford
My Lords, I beg to move that the Bill be now read a second time.
I must declare an interest. If the Bill were passed, it could in some degree beneficially affect the activities of the Tote, of which I am chairman.
This is a harmless little Bill. It can hurt no one. It is designed to strengthen respect for the law. Every Sunday sporting events take place at which the 1106 Sunday Observance Act 1780 is flouted by the charging of admission whether for cash, tickets sold in advance, car parking or other means. It is unseemly that the most august persons in the land are often obliged publicly to condone these unlawful asemblies by their presence. The 1780 Act describes such gatherings as disorderly houses or disorderly places. That may surprise some of the eminent persons who attend them. The organisers of such sporting events are liable to fines and/or imprisonment.
The Sunday before last the Wimbledon finals were attended by members of the Royal Family and our law-abiding Prime Minister. The organisers hoped that, by charging not for admission but for reserved seats on the centre court, they would escape the talons of the Sunday Observance Act. That was the ruling in the case of Williams v. Wright in 1897. But Wimbledon also charged for standing room, and it is difficult to see how struggling for a place to stand can be the equivalent of a reserved seat.
Last Sunday there was a horse show in the Silver Ring at Ascot. Admission was charged at the turnstiles. Members of the Royal Family played a prominent role in the activities of this disorderly house or place. Also last Sunday there was the British Grand Prix at Silverstone, to which many thousands paid admission.
As recently as 1956 there was a Sunday motor cycle scramble at Cuerden Park, Lancashire, for which admission was charged. The organisers lost their appeal in the Queen's Bench against conviction and fines for keeping a disorderly place. The law is still liable to pounce on Sunday sport. It may look dead, but it has fangs which can bite, and occasionally do.
An organiser who persists in putting on Sunday sports charging admission after conviction and fines would soon run into a situation in which he would be in contempt of court if the court had ordered him to desist. He might then, like Mr. Scargill's National Union of Mineworkers, have his assets sequestrated.
Cricket, football and rugger matches at which admission is charged are held as a matter of course on Sundays. Some organisers, particularly at Sunday golf tournaments, try to get round the law by making spectators one-day Sunday club members. Others, as at Wembley, have one free gate which they hope will be hard to find. When it is found, there is room for only a few hundred. Such transparent devices would founder if tested in court. Some sporting organisations which do not have the muscle of some of the big sports are frightened to stage events on a Sunday, although they could do with the money.
Since the First Reading of the Bill, I have had letters of support from organisations whose resources are too small to allow them to risk court cases which might follow their breaches of the Sunday Observance Act. Many who take a chance with the law live uncomfortably with the knowledge that they are breaking it. They also do not care to be known as keepers of disorderly houses or places. The national authorities of sports like cricket, football, motor racing and tennis have all assured me of this. We have consulted most of the sporting organisations in the country. They strongly wish to 1107 be made officially the respectable persons which their friends suppose they are.
When a law is widely and repeatedly broken in the presence of millions who see no harm in the breaches, it must be right to adjust it to prevailing morality and to remove the threat of penalties. That is what happened in 1932 when the Sunday Entertainment Act at last allowed singing, music and like kinds of entertainment to charge for admission. Forty years later the Sunday Theatre Act made a similar provision. Sunday cinema shows have gradually been made legal.
Sport remains the major victim, although things have improved slightly since the Sunday Observance Act of 1625. That made it illegal for people to engage in sport outside their own parishes on a Sunday. This prohibition was ended at last by the Statute Repeals Act in 1969 because it was felt to be obsolete.
I hope that we do not have to wait another 344 years before there is general agreement that the law against charging admission to Sunday sports is obsolete and ought to be repealed.
This Bill has nothing to do with the Sunday Shops Bill, which was passed in this House but rejected in another place. It would not allow a single extra retail shop to open on a Sunday. One can be against general Sunday trading and, with consistence, be in favour of freedom for Sunday sports.
One of the major arguments against Sunday trading was that it would spoil the special nature of Sunday with high streets and shopping centres turning Sundays into a weekday. This does not apply to Sunday sports. Most of them take place on grounds away from centres of population. Even when they do not, as at Lord's, which is just over my garden wall, the random applause does not shatter the peace of Sunday. It is a friendly summer sound reminiscent of a well-attended Sunday village cricket match with perhaps the parson keeping wicket—provided of course that admission has not been charged to raise funds for repairing the church spire!
A favourite sport of millions is racing. Racecourses by their nature are not in built-up areas. Their opening on a Sunday would no more destroy the special nature of Sunday than the opening of historic houses, garden centres, safari parks and museums. But there is a special factor connected with racing. That is betting.
Your Lordships will know that gambling on a Sunday has long been legal. Bingo halls and casinos are open on Sundays. Jackpot machines are allowed to skin the public on a Sunday by taking 29 per cent. off the punter. The more modest bookmaker is lucky to keep 22 per cent. of the punter's money. As I explained to your Lordships on 11th May, a punter who lays out £15 a week may expect to lose only £3.30 of that over a period. This tiny expenditure gives him considerable intellectual satisfaction. He contemplates the form of horses, jockeys, trainers and owners and makes a careful judgment of all the factors which may affect the running of a horse on a particular course or day.
People are seldom more innocently occupied than in placing bets on horses. Those interested in the 1108 outcome of racing or any other Sunday sport can bet with complete legality by telephone on a Sunday if they have a credit account. But there is a nannying restriction left, directed mainly at the less rich sections of the community. These are people who may not have easy access to a telephone or who do not bet enough to make a credit account worth while.
Like so much legislation of this kind, its impetus is the belief that what used to be called the working classes cannot be trusted to behave with the same restraint and self-discipline as those who are better off and who thus feel themselves to be morally superior. I think the recent general election rang the final bell for such notions. It is clear that most of the so-called working classes do not even consider themselves to be working class any longer. They certainly resent middle class moralists lecturing them on the dangers of betting on Sundays.
It is obvious that if horseracing or greyhound racing were to take place on a Sunday and betting was not allowed on the courses or in licensed betting offices, there could be an upsurge of illegal betting. Horseracing without betting would be like Big Ben without its chimes, or an orchestra without any instruments. There are less than 10,000 licensed betting offices in England and Wales. There are nearly 150,000 public houses, restaurants and other premises open on Sundays and licensed to sell drink. There are many thousands more cafes, pizza bars and eating places not selling drinks which are open on Sundays. There has been no clamour that such places spoil the special nature of Sunday. Indeed, closing them would be thought by millions to destroy much of the Sunday they treasure.
Opening a few licensed betting offices would not detract from the spirit of Sunday. Their positions, regulated by magistrates, are well apart from each other. Nor are they the dingy dens filled with evil-looking Damon Runyon characters which many imagine them to be. Today, most are pleasantly equipped, and that is making them more popular even to lady customers. I recommend any of your Lordships who doubt this to visit the Tote betting shop in Margaret Street just off Cavendish Square. There you will find courteous staff in attractive uniforms and customers happily pursuing their inexpensive pastime, even though they do not always win.
§ Lord Mishcon
My Lords, I interrupt only on a point of order. Is advertising permitted in your Lordships' House?
§ Lord Wyatt of Weeford
My Lords, of such a religious kind, I should have thought so!
This Bill would not permit any betting on a track or cash betting off the track to begin before 12 o'clock noon on a Sunday. Everyone would have ample time to go to church before betting began and after it ended. As in the rest of the leisure industry on Sundays, no one would be asked to work six or seven days a week. There would be shift systems with compensatory payments for working on Sunday.
So far as concerns the Tote, only volunteers would work on the racecourses or in our betting shops on Sunday. Our credit service is frequently in action on 1109 Sundays now. It is manned entirely by volunteers. In fact, we have three volunteers for every position available on a Sunday.
There has been some worry as to the position of stable lads in racing who might have to do extra work on Sundays, though there is already a system of alternative Sunday working. Mr. Bill Adams is the secretary of their association. He has begun talks with the racing authorities. He assures me that satisfactory arrangements can be made.
Jockeys are accustomed to ride on Sundays in France, Italy, Germany, Ireland and other countries more enlightened than ours. Likewise, trainers are happy to take their horses anywhere on Sunday if they think there is a chance of winning. I am sure the same accommodation can be made with transport drivers who move horses if they get what they feel is adequate compensation.
As I understand it, the Sabbath was ordained so that man could be certain of one day off from his labours to refresh himself to deal with the labours of the following week with greater enthusiasm. It was meant to be a rest for the body and the mind. Somehow the original intention of Sunday got obscured by the theory that its main purpose was to be a dull day composed only of churchgoing, prayers and spiritual uplift. No one would wish to eliminate the religious element of Sunday. But it is equally important for the Sabbath to be a day of joyous recreation as is confirmed in the New Testament.
There is nothing sacrilegious about sporting events which charge for admission on a Sunday. They let people forget for a time the daily work grind. This Bill has the support of just about every sporting organisation in the country, including racing. Basically, it makes legal what is already happening and it removes the threat of penalties. The Home Office has given much help in the drafting of the Bill, for which I am very grateful. I hope its support will run to the Government giving time for the Bill should it pass your Lordships' House and reach another place. It is 50 to 100 years late in coming.
There will be much surprise and indignation in the country if the Government let the provisions of the Sunday Observance Act 1780 continue to apply to sporting events in 1987, though they no longer apply to any other form of entertainment. My Lords, I beg to move.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read a second time.—(Lord Wyatt of Weeford.)
§ 8.20 p.m.
§ Lord Fairhaven
My Lords, I am delighted to use the occasion of my maiden speech to support the noble Lord, Lord Wyatt of Weeford, in introducing the Sunday Sports Bill in your Lordships' House.
Following the short debate initiated just before the general election he has lost no parliamentary time in bringing forward this measure, and I wish it and him every success.
I should like to declare my interest and remind the House that I have the honour of being the present senior steward of the Jockey Club. The noble Lord, Lord Wyatt, was, of course, a member of the Jockey Club's working party on Sunday racing and his wide 1110 experience of both horse racing and politics was of enormous value. Tonight he has advanced his arguments in a most effective way, and I hope that his call for reform will be heard not only in this House, but also throughout the country and in another place.
The Bill before us rightly goes wider than the issue of Sunday racing and seeks to legalise all sporting events to which admission is charged on Sundays. The report of the Jockey Club's working party on Sunday racing, which was published in January this year, drew attention to the fact that many sporting bodies were holding events on Sundays which were in open defiance of the spirit of the Sunday Observance Act, if not in breach of it. Your Lordships have already heard tonight of some of the events currently held on Sundays. Obviously, successful sporting events must be staged when the public is available to attend and sporting events on Sunday have, in recent years, become a regular part of the British way of life. What is more, they are often televised by the BBC, ITV and Channel 4. Many of your Lordships will have been to see some of these illegal events or watched them on television, most probably without even realising that they were illegal.
In fact the Sunday Observance Act is constantly and openly flouted on many Sundays throughout the year. What concerns the Jockey Club is that the general public can take their families to every other kind of sporting fixture on Sundays but they are not able to go to a race meeting because betting, with the exception of credit betting, is also illegal on Sundays— and racing without betting is, quite frankly, a non-runner.
I fully support Lord Wyatt's Bill because racing is being discriminated against as compared with other major sports in not having meetings on Sundays. I remind your Lordships that Great Britain is the only major racing country in the world, apart from New Zealand, without racing on Sundays. France, Ireland and Italy—all good Catholic countries—hold major race meetings on Sundays. Moreover, British punters, who are considered credit-worthy by the bookmakers, are able to bet on those foreign races because credit betting is not illegal in Britain on Sundays. More importantly, Sunday racing will offer another entertaining family leisure opportunity to the British public.
The experience in Ireland has shown what fun and what a success a Sunday race meeting can be. Sunday racing was introduced there in 1985 with six meetings, followed by 12 meetings in 1986. Average crowds doubled. British courses are now eager to provide a wonderful day out for the family with picnic areas, bands and sideshows to complement the traditional racing. Racing must be allowed to compete fairly with other sports and leisure activities. To maintain racecourse attendances new impetus is needed to win new audiences and increase enthusiasm for the sport.
The Jockey Club working party on Sunday racing spent two years on detailed research, soundings and deliberations before publishing its report. Its findings received an encouragingly wide measure of support from the representative bodies and associations within the racing and betting industries.
1111 In the debates in your Lordships' House on 11th May, my noble friend Lord Manton, my predecessor as senior steward of the Jockey Club, outlined some of the major findings of the report. For the benefit of your Lordships who were not present, I should like to summarise them again very briefly. First, the market research commissioned by the working party indicated a clear demand among racegoers and punters for racing on Sunday. Secondly, the concept of Sunday racing with on-course betting only—which, as I understand, might be a more attractive proposition than, for example, greyhound racing —was rejected by the working party because of the danger of promoting illegal off-course betting. This concern is certainly shared by the Home Office. There would be a clear demand for off-course betting and market research indicated that if betting shops were not easily available considerable illegal betting would take place.
Thirdly, the report suggests that Sunday racing should start on a very limited number of Sundays to "test the water". Although, if successful, the number of racing Sundays could expand, the Irish experience suggests that to be profitable Sunday racing needs to be a very special occasion. This in itself will impose limitations on the number of Sundays involved.
As I am sure noble Lords are aware, the Jockey Club maintains strict control of the fixtures list and our intention is to start with racing on six or seven Sundays, perhaps with three meetings on each day to provide a geographical spread of opportunities. In the light of experience we may increase the number of Sundays to 12 in due course.
The report recognises that Sunday racing will not succeed without the willing co-operation of those employed in the racing and betting industries. The Jockey Club is willing to discuss and consult with any body or organisation which so wishes. We have held informal talks with both the Stable Lads Association and the Transport and General Workers' Union, but wages and conditions are negotiated through the national joint council for stable staff which comprises the National Trainers Federation on one side, and the Transport and General Workers' Union and Stable Lads Association on the other.
As regards the betting shop employees, decisions must be taken by the bookmakers but I was delighted to hear the chairman of William Hill say at their annual lunch that:those whose lives will be most affected by the Sunday racing proposals must not be overlooked and their co-operation must not be taken for granted. Certainly this will not happen at William Hill".I believe that the time for Sunday racing has come and I hope that on considered reflection there will be many who will come to the view that the opportunity of a little racing with the family on the occasional Sunday could only be of benefit to the British way of life.
In conclusion, may I say to those churchmen who are apprehensive of the effects of proposed legislation that I am a very regular churchgoer and I will have no difficulty in going to church and then going racing afterwards. To those who say that they want to keep Sunday special I say, "Let us in the racing world 1112 show you what a very special event Sunday racing can be. It is a wonderful day out for the family". I wish the Sunday Sports Bill well in its passage through this House and another place.
§ 8.30 p.m.
§ The Lord Bishop of Leicester
My Lords, I have the happy privilege this evening of speaking between two maiden speakers and while I look forward to hearing the noble Viscount, Lord Head, speak from his experience with racehorses, I should like to express my great appreciation of the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Fairhaven, with his experience in that field, which was lucid, interesting and, within the boundaries which he set himself, most compelling.
Enthusiasm for anything good in itself is always infectious and I caught something of the enthusiasm of the noble Lord, Lord Fairhaven as he was speaking. I am reminded with pleasure of the national pride we have in our British bloodstock and its reputation throughout the world. It is very important that I should be able to say these things because the noble Lord, Lord Fairhaven, would be very surprised if I agreed with him or with the noble Lord, Lord Wyatt.
The noble Lord, Lord Wyatt, has made it fairly clear in print that he expects the Church to cause him difficulties. May I first of all compliment him on his theology. As far as it went, his theology of the sabbath was excellent. A theologian would have to go rather further and in particular speak about the sabbath as a community observance and not a personal one. That will be the main drift of what I have to say.
Realising, however, that today in this country anyone who speaks for the Church is definitely in a Catch 22 situation, I have a choice of appearing either as one who upholds an outdated sabbatarianism or of being a modern wishy-washy bishop who will not make a definite statement. I see no reason why I should be either, and I will try to be neither. First, let me make it quite clear that the Church has no objection to Sunday sport in itself, least of all to racing on horseback. It has no objection to people being happy on Sunday and I believe that most church people take great pains to see that they have a happy Sunday.
Although noble Lords who have spoken say that it has nothing to do with the case, we are in fact facing the same public question that arose over Sunday trading. The issue is so perceived by many people—the same number, I imagine, who are already indignant at what they believe to be, and what has been described as, a broad wedge or back door for getting round the problems left following last year's debates on Sunday trading.
Our laws are not good. One hardly needs even to bother to say that again. They cannot be cured by fraying at the edges. It is just that fraying at the edges, formal and informal, which has got us into the desperate situation in which we all admit we find ourselves. It is quite clear from the fate of the Shops Bill last year that the majority of people are not ready to have the whole of Sunday observance swept away. That, in fact, is what will happen if the Bill before us 1113 goes through. One might say that the attempts to cure the problems of tennis by making a major change in Sunday racing is a bizarre piece of logic; and so it is in fact perceived. Surely something better can be done, though I know there is much despair over whether this is possible.
Is it true that the race-going public at the moment is shrinking? If so, then this debate is about an equation which is hard to solve. No-one will deny that it is hard to solve. We have all the good which sport of all kinds brings to the community. We have the economic problems of sport on the grand scale whether it be association football or racing. Then we have the problems of maintaining that weekly rest day which is the intention of the sabbath theologically and the intention of Sunday observance legally. The balance is much harder to work out than has been suggested so far, either in this House or outside.
Some will say that very few islands of peace remain on their Sunday. I am rather surprised to hear that all racecourses are away from where people live. I live in the middle of a city but it is about half a mile from a racecourse. When there is a race meeting we are affected. At the very least we are affected by the impediment to our traffic going in and out of where we live. There must be many others for which that is true. Indeed, the problems that are associated with racing at the weekend can be greater than those in the week.
I received a report on two summer Saturday meetings last year in York. At one of them 587 coaches arrived. Many of those on the coaches were drunk when they arrived and it is doubtful whether they ever saw a horse. Pubs and supermarkets were closed or had ceased the sale of alcohol. Additional police had to be brought in from outside in order to cope with the problems. Taxi drivers perhaps suffered more than many people living in York. There may be other ways of coping with these problems. But the problems are there and have to be faced. The fact that it is Sunday does not make people behave better, particularly if it is a time when they can more readily get away and spend much money.
I find myself more than a little distressed at bringing the family into this, because the family is becoming a sort of emotive red herring. We need to care for the family but we need to do something far more drastic than provide more opportunities for different kinds of Sunday activities. Not until we get to grips with the way in which we treat personal life and the way in which we regard and respond to scandal of all kinds shall we stand a hope of doing anything about our families and their needs.
I said that we are going to face the same problems that we faced with the Shops Bill; indeed we shall. Not all betting shops are as elegant as those the noble Lord, Lord Wyatt, described and they are scattered around in our towns. They are among the shops and they will be seen as a way of getting all shops open. Many would think that to be a good thing but I should like to remind your Lordships that a large number of people maintain the attitude which they had over the Shops Bill and will not accept that this Bill can be taken in isolation from it. Nor must one simply quietly accept—and here perhaps I do 1114 speak out as a bishop— the idea that betting has no moral dangers in it, that a few pounds changing hands is all that happens, or that there is some intellectual pleasure in following form. Betting always opens a door—perhaps not very wide, but it can always be opened wider—to covetousness and covetousness is viciously self-destructive. Many of us who have worked pastorally know how destructive it can be. We do not under-rate it; but we do not use this fact as the mainstay of our concern about the Bill and our opposition to it.
It has also been said that the Bill extends the choice that people have to enjoy themselves. It is very hard to extend one man's choice without hindering that of another. Your freer choice is likely to be my loss of choice. This is what many will fear about the increase of mass Sunday sports, and particularly of racing and its attendant betting. It may give great pleasure to some. I think it is hard to prove that it will give great pleasure to the majority or that it will improve the quality of life of more than a very few.
This is not a Bill that is really needed. However it is a Bill that in some places is much-wanted and it must expect to arouse exactly the same kind of anxiety—and I regret to say even anger—that the Shops Bill aroused last year.
§ 8.42 p.m.
§ Viscount Head
My Lords, the Sunday Observance Act 1780 prohibits the opening on Sundays of any house, room or other place for the purpose of public entertainment or amusement for which persons are admitted, either by payment of money or by tickets sold for money.
The intentions of that Act are clear, yet only last Sunday thousands of people went to Silverstone and paid to watch the British motor racing grand prix. Only the Sunday before that thousands more flocked to Wimbledon and paid to watch the final of the men's singles championships. Next Sunday thousands again will travel to Muirfield in Scotland and pay to watch the final round of the British Open Golf Tournament. The organisers of these events are almost certainly in breach of the law, but they will continue to flout it because they know and understand that by promoting their sport on Sunday they are providing the best opportunity for the greatest number of people to attend such events. The public themselves are unequivocally demonstrating by their attendance that the law is in need of change and the sooner that change is made the better.
Apart from the sports to which I have just referred, others are promoted on Sunday: cricket, football, rugby, showjumping to name but a few. Almost all the major sports are now staged on a Sunday at some time of the year, but with one glaring exception. That is racing. Why is it that racing finds itself isolated in this way? The reason is the Betting, Gaming and Lotteries Act 1963 which prohibits cash betting on or off the race course on a Sunday. Betting is vital to racing so that the 1963 Act is preventing racing from competing with the other major sports on Sundays. Of all the major racing countries in the world this country stands alone with New Zealand in not having racing on Sundays. Ireland until recently was another; but in 1985 the Irish Turf Club started an 1115 experiment with six Sunday meetings. The results were encouraging and the following year the experiment was extended to 12 meetings. That experiment has been a success and it looks now as though Sunday racing will become a part of the Irish way of life.
It would be very wrong to portray racing as nothing more than the medium for a gamble. It is of course much more than that. The heart and soul of racing is the thoroughbred racehorse himself. For a great many racegoers a love of the racehorse and the sight of him in action on the track is an essential part of their enjoyment. It is to the racecourse that people should be encouraged to go and Sunday racing would provide a new and very real opportunity for people to go racing.
Most of this country's 59 race courses are set in beautiful rural surroundings; each course with its own unique characteristics. We are very lucky in this respect for many countries in the world race on dull, stereotyped tracks, so we must take advantage of what we have. The managers of these racecourses up and down the country are striving all the time against financial constraints to provide better amenities for an increasingly demanding public. Fixed seating in grandstands, spacious bars and restaurants overlooking the racecourse, facilities for the disabled, picnic areas and children's playgrounds are already being provided. More can and will be done to promote racing as an enjoyable and wholesome day out for the family.
I conclude with this question: is it right that the law should prohibit a man from having a bet on a horse on a Sunday when it allows another man to gamble his money on the spin of a wheel or the turn of a card? If as I believe the answer is no, then it is important that the Bill before us should become law.
§ 8.48 p.m.
§ Lord Manton
My Lords, I congratulate the noble Viscount, Lord Head, on a most admirable maiden speech. One of the advantages of your Lordships' House is that it can produce an expert on very nearly any subject one likes to name. The noble Viscount is an expert as he was a racehorse trainer for many years until 1983. He has been extremely successful, so who better knows the problems for racehorse trainers and staff employed by them than the noble Viscount? I congratulate him on a very good and interesting maiden speech.
Only two months ago I spoke in support of the Question asked by the noble Lord, Lord Wyatt of Weeford, on whether the Government have any proposals to reform the law relating to horseracing on Sundays. I ended my speech then by saying that I hoped a wind of change was in the air and that we should soon see a reform of the law relating to horseracing on Sundays.
Before that, in December 1985, I spoke during a Second Reading debate of the ill-fated Shops Bill and drew attention to the number of sporting events held on Sunday, and the fact that horseracing found itself at a disadvantage with these other spectator sports. I am therefore delighted to have this opportunity 1116 today to support the Sunday Sports Bill of the noble Lord, Lord Wyatt, which will both legislate for admission charges to sporting events on Sundays and permit on-course and off-course betting after the hour of noon on Sundays.
I was encouraged in the debate on 17th May that no one from the Bishops' Bench, or elsewhere for that matter, spoke against the proposal to reform the law. Moreover, as I said then, I was also encouraged that, during the debate in this House in December 1985, right reverend Prelates, while making it clear that they were opposed to Sunday trading, said that they were also in favour of leisure and recreation on Sundays. The Bill we are discussing today will, if passed, achieve exactly that. It will improve leisure and recreational opportunities on Sundays. It has nothing at all to do with the wider question of general trading on Sundays.
I must say that I was saddened to hear from the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Leicester, who appeared to speak against the Bill and to suggest that this Bill is some form of backdoor way of going into Sunday trading. I can assure him that it is not. I should also like briefly to refute one or two of the suggestions he made. Racecourse attendances, while they may have gone down in the long term from the euphoria of the post-war years, have in the past three or four years gone up.
He referred to a case which is near to my heart. He quoted some misbehaviour on York racecourse, of which I am chairman, two years ago. I can inform the right reverend Prelate that there were no arrests on the racecourse on that day. There were, admittedly, 35 arrests in the town of York two hours later, and who knows who was arrested and whether they were racegoers or not? At the time the police assured me that those arrests were about par for a normal Saturday in the summer months in York.
I wonder whether the right reverend Prelate attended his local racecourse last night when there was an evening meeting. If he had been there I am sure he would have been impressed by the friendly atmosphere and the large numbers of women and children present. Racing is very proud that it provides entertainment for the family—I emphasise the word "family"—which cannot, I fear, be said for football and cricket, though I hasten to add for very different reasons. I should be delighted to invite the right reverend Prelate to come to York racecourse to see for himself; or failing that, I am sure his local racecourse at Leicester, which he has told us is only half a mile from where he lives, would send him a similar invitation.
I congratulate my noble friend Lord Fairhaven, the senior steward of the Jockey Club, on making an excellent maiden speech supporting the Bill. As he has told us, the Jockey Club has had a working party on Sunday racing which has for the past two years taken evidence and wide-ranging soundings and which has come out very much in favour of Sunday racing. It must be obvious to all of us that stable staff already work on Sundays as horses have to be fed, groomed and exercised on a Sunday as well as any other day. Provided that they are adequately recompensed, I feel sure that they will be happy to take their horses racing on this day as well.
1117 I have already declared an interest in that I am chairman of one of Britain's major racecourses —York. The racecourse is certainly a major player in the entertainment industry and it concerns us very much that racing cannot make full use of its facilities. There are 77,000 licensed premises currently open on Sundays, quite apart from numerous bingo halls and casinos. Is it too much to ask that 59 racecourses and approximately 10,000 betting shops have the opportunity—I stress the word "opportunity"—to open as well on some selected Sunday afternoons?
York racecourse is currently open for non-racing events, such as receptions and conventions, on 13 Sundays a year, but because of antiquated legislation it cannot open its doors for its prime function of horseracing. The racing fixture list is strictly controlled by the Jockey Club and I would not expect York to be allowed more than one Sunday or perhaps two Sundays a year. I can assure noble Lords that there will not be a rash of race meetings up and down the country on the lines of the cricket and football fixture list.
§ Lord Graham of Edmonton
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for giving way. Together with other noble Lords, he has stressed the limited number of Sundays on which racing would take place—six and perhaps twelve. The noble Lord mentioned York—perhaps two. Will the noble Lord not agree that if betting shops were to be allowed to open they would not just be open on the six, the twelve or the two days? In order to maintain their viability they would be open for many Sundays. The betting that took place would be not merely on horseracing but over a wide range. Will the noble Lord be fair? Although with horseracing it would be limited, with betting it would be all the year round in the betting shops.
§ Lord Manton
My Lords, I am grateful for that intervention. I cannot answer for the greyhound world but—and perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Wyatt, will correct me—if there was no horseracing on a Sunday I doubt whether it would be worth while for a betting shop to be open on a Sunday.
I have been interested to read what the Keep Sunday Special briefing has to say on this subject. The briefing is undecided as to its reactions to the Bill. It suggests that racing should have on-course betting only and that off-course shops should not be allowed to open. This is despite the views expressed both by bookmakers and by the Home Office that to do this would provoke an epidemic of illegal betting.
Let me point out to my noble friend Lord Brentford that this illegal betting is a real danger. Not only does it cause considerable loss of revenue to both the Exchequer and the racing industry but it encourages the criminal element who bet illegally in sleazy pubs and clubs, whereas betting shops are well controlled and orderly, as the noble Lord, Lord Wyatt, has already advertised in Cavendish Square. My Lords, 60 per cent. to 65 per cent. of betting shop personnel are part-timers and it seems to me that with the right rewards this provides flexibility for rostering over an occasional seven-day period.
1118 It is patently unfair that, while racing is prevented from taking place on a Sunday, our competitors in other sports carry on regardless of the spirit of the law. This Bill would change that situation and that is why I hope it will obtain your Lordships' approval and also approval in another place.
§ 8.59 p.m.
§ Lord Monkswell
My Lords, I too should like to compliment both the maiden speakers this evening. It seems only yesterday that I made my own maiden speech and I know what they have been through. I can remember what they have been through. I should also like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Wyatt, for introducing this debate. Unfortunately, it is rather late at night; but I suppose we should not really blame him for the timing. It is probably the work of the so-called usual channels which has led to our debating this important Bill so late at night.
The Bill affects two separate industries. Basically, they are the horseracing industry and the betting industry, although other industries are involved on the sidelines, as it were. I have to ask the question why are horseracing and betting supposedly inseparable? They are separate; and separately they may be quite good in their own right. I have been to race meetings, to local point-to-points and that sort of thing, and I have seen jockeys racing, if you like, on the gallops in the training atmosphere. Horseracing is a joy to watch. It is a joy to see superb animals performing to the best of their ability.
If one looks at betting, I can remember a tale my uncle told me about his experience in the Army during the war, when they used to have card schools among his mates. In practice what happened was that none of them individually had enough money to send adequate sums home; but if every night when they were free they could play a game of cards and one of them would be the winner he would amass enough money to make it realistic to send some money home. In fact over a long period of time, with the averaging out, each one of them would be enabled to send some money home, whereas if they had no gambling or betting that would not have been possible. However, I must admit that I have rather different feelings about what I would call organised betting in terms of the racing industry.
I should like to return to who would be affected by this Bill. Obviously it would affect the trainers, the jockeys, racecourse operators, bookmakers, and the punters. We have already heard that the sole object of the exercise appears to be to take £3 off every punter who bets £15. I hope that that will receive wide prominence in the media tomorrow. That is an admission by the betting industry that they are there to take £3 off the punters who bet £15. I am not sure how many punters are really aware of that sort of system.
The noble Lord, Lord Wyatt, did not mention some of the most important players on the scene. He did not mention the horses. If we were to pass this Bill as it appears before us we could have a situation where the horses were racing seven days a week. No matter what the racing industry might say in refutation of that, and the argument that the horses will like it, I am not sure that the British public really 1119 wants to see poor, dumb animals being flogged to death seven days a week.
The noble Lord said nothing about the grass. Surely one day a week the grass should be allowed to grow and not have horses' hooves pounding it to death. Six days thou shalt labour, and the seventh thou shalt rest! When the House of Lords works seven days a week then I might support this Bill, but not before.
§ 9.4 p.m.
§ Baroness Macleod of Borve
My Lords, as I am the only woman who has had the temerity, among all the people who know much more about this subject than I do, to put my name down to speak, I shall speak from a slightly different angle. I must first of all, most importantly, say that the noble Lord, Lord Monkswell, has his facts completely wrong. Does he really think that any owner of any horse, or mouse, or anything that could be put to racing, would be doing it seven days a week? He ought to go round some of our well known racing stables, as I have, and see how well the horses are looked after.
We are indebted tonight to the noble Lord, Lord Wyatt, for bringing this Bill to our House. I should also like, if I may, to compliment the two maiden speakers. If I may single out the noble Viscount, Lord Head, I suppose in your Lordships' Chamber it is too much to say that he is a man after my own heart. I am not a gambler but I am a horse lover. I have ridden a great deal in my life and I love watching horses, and I have that in common with the noble Viscount.
I am not going to take very long tonight because the hour is late and there are speakers who know much more about the subject than I do. I am going to tackle it from a completely different angle, and that is as a magistrate. I do not like the idea of thousands of people, not knowing that they are doing it, breaking the law every Sunday.
They are enjoying themselves. They pay illegally to watch sport; they pay illegally to watch motor racing at Silverstone; to watch soccer on any soccer ground; to watch cricket on any cricket ground; and, as has been said, to watch the men's finals at Wimbledon; show jumping at Hickstead; and I gather that one is even charged a payment for a car to watch the polo at Windsor. Under the 1780 Act this is all illegal, and I do not like the idea of so many of our people going out to enjoy themselves not knowing that in fact they are breaking the law.
My second point concerns the family. The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Leicester referred to the family. I am even more keen than I used to be that it should be possible, as it is now, for the family to go out en bloc to watch these sporting events. They do now, but they do it illegally because they pay to enter. It is important—even more so now when we have so many split families—that parents should be able to take their children out to watch high-level sporting events.
Why should horseracing not be included in that? I am not a gambler and I shall not touch on that because there are others who can speak so much more eloquently than I can on that subject. I commend this 1120 Bill for those two reasons. I hope that it passes through this House and has very fair weather in the other place.
§ 9.9 p.m.
§ Lord Weinstock
My Lords, I believe that I have to declare an interest, although judged on the recent form of the bloodstock in which I share ownership my interest would be best served by abolishing horseracing altogether. I join in the congratulations to the noble Lord, Lord Fairhaven, on his maiden speech, in which he stated the position of the Jockey Club with great cogency; and to the noble Viscount, Lord Head, on a really impressive maiden speech which was balanced and laced with good sense.
This is quite an unusual Bill which your Lordships are debating tonight. It does not compel anybody to do anything. It sets up no new bureaucratic institution. It gives no extra power to the authorities. It provides the means to clear up anomalies and irregularities. As the noble Lord, Lord Wyatt, described it, it is a modest Bill which makes a little wider the area of free choice available to the public. It removes a legal prohibition which prevents some people doing what they would like to do on Sundays. It is a Bill which would remove an unreasonable and unfair discrimination against some forms of leisure activity as against others.
Nobody will be obliged by this Bill to go to the races or to bet. As things stand, as we have heard from several noble Lords, the law does not prevent people betting on Sundays if they have credit accounts with bookmakers. They cannot bet on races in Britain but they can, and do, bet on races taking place in Ireland, France, the United States or Germany or on any event in the wide world on which the bookmakers will lay odds—and that excludes very little.
The Sunday Observance Act is already broken by those who charge admission to sporting events of any sort on Sunday. It is no certainty that those people will always be immune from prosecution and, apart from that threat, most people do not want to break the law. However, when the law so clearly does not meet the needs and realities of today, is it surprising that it is not observed to the letter?
Your Lordships will no doubt find that this small Bill will give rise to quite big objections. This was foreshadowed by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Leicester. They are objections which deserve respect and attention when deeply felt sensibilities are involved. There is the obvious religious objection. But surely that pass has been surrendered in too many cases and in too many places for it to be decisive as a matter of principle. I defer without hesitation and in all humility to the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Leicester in matters theological, but the selection of Sunday as the authentic Sabbath was surely somewhat arbitrary in the first place and during a long period of time was under attack by eminent clerics. I say again that no one will be obliged by this Bill to bet on Sunday, to go to the races, or to do anything which may offend his or her conscience.
Then there is the objection that those who work in the industries concerned will lose their day off. But no 1121 one can compel employees to work on Sundays in connection with sporting events. Indeed, no one can be compelled to work at all except in accordance with their freely negotiated contracts of employment. People work on Sundays in industry. There is increasing pressure on them to do so where massive investment is made in plant which must be kept running to keep an enterprise competitive. That is a world-wide phenomenon which does not appear to give rise to any hostility. Those who work on Sundays, or at nights, usually do so for higher rates of pay and have at least the equivalent time off on other days. As a matter of fact, Sunday racing would provide greatly increased leisure opportunities for those who cannot go racing on any other day.
Noble Lords have said—and I am sure more will say—that Sunday racing is necessary to keep the British sport and the British bloodstock industry up with virtually every competitor country in the world. If properly managed—and that is a responsibility that the racing authorities are perfectly competent to fulfil with consideration and sensitivity—Sunday racing will add a colourful and distinctive dimension to British sport and to the British weekend.
This Bill will keep nobody out of the churches. It will not cause hardship to workers. It will provide extra leisure opportunities for the family, including the children, for whom suitable facilities are increasingly being provided on racecourses. I do not believe that the noble Lord, Lord Wyatt, in bringing forward this Bill had in mind the motives suggested by the noble Lord, Lord Monkswell. I congratulate him on bringing this Bill to your Lordships' House and I hope your Lordships will send it forward tonight with a fair wind.
§ 9.15 p.m.
§ Viscount Brentford
My Lords, I should like to start by congratulating my noble friends Lord Fairhaven and Lord Head on their maiden speeches. I thought they both argued their cases very clearly and forcefully. I hope we can look forward to hearing many more speeches from them in the days to come.
This is a wide-ranging Bill which has been called "small and harmless". It may be short, but I would question whether it is harmless, in view of the very great effect that it could have. I very warmly support recreation on Sundays, and I believe that is right for sport as well. People should be able to participate in sport on Sundays because this is healthy and good for our whole beings.
I must confess to being more of a participator than a spectator myself at sports. I am sure that with so many young and agile Members of your Lordships' House present this evening, that is true of many others as well. However, I was interested to read figures issued by the Central Council of Physical Recreation on how the participator sports are increasing in popularity and in the numbers of people practising them. I believe that is very good for the nation: it makes us healthier.
Members of your Lordships' House have referred to the question of horseracing. The figures giving the percentages going to horseracing appear to me to show that whereas in 1980 the figure was 1.2, it was 1122 reduced to 8 in 1983. I have not quite sorted it out, but that seems to me to be a reduction of a third in the numbers going to horseracing. I feel that is a great pity, and I can understand why that has led the Jockey Club to take the steps that it has taken to consider the benefits of Sunday racing.
Personally, I warmly endorse what has been said by the noble Viscount, Lord Head, about the value of the horses. I believe that watching them racing is a marvellous spectacle; and, from my observation, I would say that they thoroughly enjoy it. I am all in favour of letting horses participate in this competitive sport on Sundays. Nevertheless, the Jockey Club report found that there is not a huge unsatisfied demand for Sunday racing. I wonder whether they have really looked at all the other alternatives to see whether this is really the best course for the Jockey Club itself to follow for the future.
While I am perfectly happy to support Sunday racing itself, I have reservations about the impact on the employees involved, on the stable staff and on all the others who may be working. We have been given assurances by several of your Lordships during the course of this evening's debate and, if this Bill is passed, I would hope they would be fully observed.
Let me turn now to the question of betting shops, because I would be very strongly opposed to the betting shops in the high streets being open. There are 35,000 to 40,000 employees and their families who could be affected by this. It would also have a very substantial impact on the city centres and on the people living around them.
The question has been raised several times during the course of this debate of illegal betting if there was horse racing on Sundays and the betting shops were not allowed to open. As I understand it, there are some 120—the noble Lord, Lord Wyatt, will correct me if I have this wrong—evening races, which he has told me about. The betting shops close at 6 or 6.30 p.m. prior to the evening meetings. I am not aware—because nobody has told me—of an immense amount of illegal betting arising from that. So I would ask your Lordships whether this anxiety about illegal betting—and I take to heart what my noble friend Lord Manton said just now about it being wrong—is justified and whether it would be such a big danger as has been specified here tonight.
I turn to the question of football stadiums remaining open. I took to heart the comments of a friend in Birmingham. I assume that he is not a strong supporter of football, and I do not know whether he is a churchman. However, he said that he was prepared on Saturdays to tolerate enormous crowds in the centre of Birmingham who came for the football but that life would become unbearable if the same thing happened on Sundays. One can imagine the large number of people there would be in the centre of Birmingham if Aston Villa played at home on Saturday and Birmingham City on Sunday. That was his comment to me.
Because of my anxieties, I should like to see much more consultation taking place than has been the case so far. One must realise that a large number of extra staff would be needed if there were a full football programme on Sundays. It would also mean 1123 additional police, people to deal with transport, security staff, local authority officials and the full ground staff. However, above all it is the residents about whom I am concerned. They are the ones who will suffer. At the present time they have days of comparative peace but I fear for them.
I entirely agree that no one is being forced to go to the races or to football matches, but other people may be made to suffer by those people who do so. That ought to be taken into account when we consider whether or not we should support this Bill.
Finally, I am sad that in this Bill there is nothing positive which conduces to preserving the special character of Sunday, to which I personally am deeply committed. Sunday is a time for families to be together, to visit relatives and attend gatherings of that kind. I am perfectly happy that families should go together to the races; but the provision for them to do so means that many other people will have their Sundays disturbed. As I said before in regard to an earlier Bill on Sunday trading, this measure means the break-up of the one day when many members of the family can gather together. I therefore have very strong reservations about this Bill, and should it go forward I hope to see many amendments made to it at Committee stage.
§ 9.23 p.m.
§ Lord Benson
My Lords, I rise to support this Bill. I should declare an interest in that I am a member of the Jockey Club, but this Bill will yield no personal reward of any kind.
1124 I had been minded to speak at greater length on this Bill, but all the issues have been clearly and effectively stated in support of it and time is wearing on so I do not propose to repeat any of them. I shall therefore confine myself to only three short points.
First, 20 years ago a committee was set up of which I was chairman to examine all the issues concerning the future of the horseracing industry. That committee made a number of recommendations and one of the strong recommendations was that the restrictions on Sunday racing should be removed. The committee came to the conclusion that there was a widespread demand which could fairly be filled and it saw no reason for not pressing for the restrictions to go. Twenty years later history has repeated itself. The same conclusions have been reached and the same arguments put forward.
The second point that I want to make is that there will be some who, for religious or other scruples, may possibly be offended by this Bill. Those scruples are to be respected, but they are private scruples; they are personal convictions. It does not seem right that a section of the community (which I suspect is diminishing in numbers) should be permitted to impose private scruples and personal convictions upon the public at large.
My last point is that it seems to me that any occupation, enterprise or activity that is acceptable to the public on a weekday, whether it is undertaken by way of work, sport or leisure, must equally be acceptable on a Sunday and that the public should be allowed the freedom of choice.
§ 9.25 p.m.
§ Lord Plummer of St. Marylebone
My Lords, I should like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Wyatt of Weeford, for introducing this Bill which I wish to support. May I take this opportunity to add my congratulations to the two maiden speakers, the noble Lord, Lord Fairhaven, and the noble Viscount, Lord Head, on their excellent speeches?
Why should any person:be guilty of an offence or subject to any penalty under the Sunday Observance Act 1780 by reason of his owning, managing, assisting at or advertising a track open and used on a Sunday for sporting events and to which persons are admitted by the payment of money or by tickets sold for money"?As the noble Lord, Lord Wyatt, said in his introduction, why this discrimination against horse-racing?—only it seems, because of the Sunday Observance Act of 1780, passed over 200 years ago and in times which must have been very different from the social circumstances of today.
Why should tens of thousands of people be able to pay for admission to a wide range of sporting activities on a Sunday and, for that matter, to bet on them as well? It was indeed interesting to hear a voice on the BBC last Sunday just before the 11 a.m. news, saying:A rip-roaring welcome to Silverstone on Sunday afternoon.In my view that little bit of advertising could be construed as a conspiracy to flout the law. But if the BBC is prepared to engage in it, why should anybody restrain himself from going to sporting activities on a Sunday?
What are the objections to people going racing on a Sunday and, indeed, having a bet on the results? As other speakers have already said, why should the rest of Europe be able to go horseracing on a Sunday on which, as has been said, there is betting in this country, and yet that activity is singled out for special objection in this country?
The objection brought forward is that it is wrong from a religious point of view but, as the noble Lord, Lord Fairhaven, said, it is perfectly possible to attend one's faith and go racing on the same day, as is demonstrated in many countries where, one must say, the churches seem to be rather better attended than they are here.
The moral objection to a leisure activity on a Sunday is also difficult to understand. The objectors disapprove of gambling in the same way as some disapprove of smoking or drinking, but, whatever one particularly objects to, surely it is immaterial on which day of the week it is practised.
The noble Viscount, Lord Brentford, referred to a point which I think has to be settled: that is, the effect on working conditions for staff and management in stables, on the racecourses and in the betting shops. The staff who work in leisure industries are well used to working on Sundays, and it is for their representatives to negotiate and for the employers to provide a fair level of pay and compensating time off.
I reject the arguments sent to me by the Lord's Day Observance Society in which it said:Horse-racing and betting on Sundays would not only mar the character of the day, but would also have serious repercussions upon 1126 those many people who would be compelled to work on a Sunday to provide the service which will be demanded by the followers of the sport.As the noble Lord, Lord Wyatt, has said, nobody is compelled to work at any time and indeed there would be many volunteers for this kind of work. I accept that the Lord's Day Observance Society is sincere in its views, but surely Sunday now is different from Sunday in 1780. I urge the society to get out and see how the vast majority of active people in this country spend their Sundays taking part in an enormous number of leisure activities. It means that some people have to work to provide the service, but how thankful they are to have the opportunity to work.
My experience for some nine years as chairman of the Horserace Betting Levy Board leads me to the view that Sunday racing will not appeal to every racecourse. It will be for each racecourse management to balance its increased costs against possible income. There is no doubt that the demand is there. I sincerely hope that the Bill will receive approval, and that the other leisure activities which operate illegally on Sundays can be legitimised.
§ 9.31 p.m.
§ Lord Grimston of Westbury
My Lords, I wish to say a few words in support of the Sunday Sports Bill. First, however, I wish to congratulate most sincerely the two maiden speakers. In my opinion, the Bill would give Sundays back to the people in the way that the majority would feel is appropriate in this day and age.
I should perhaps declare two interests. First, I am a regular racegoer. Secondly, I am also a regular church attender. I am mystified by the hostility shown by churches in Britain to the concept of racing on Sunday, albeit with betting, whereas I have not yet heard any such criticism levelled at bingo halls and casinos, with the attendant gambling, which flourish on Sundays. I see a similarity to the opposition that manifested itself against the Shops Bill. Here again, I find no conflict of interest in occasionally helping out my family when they are at home at week-ends and doing a little shopping before or after attending church. That is a regular practice in my part of the country.
Surely, a small, unrepresentative minority, determinedly against something should not prevail over an overwhelming majority which is in favour of a change which may be called bringing us up to date.
The arguments against betting, Sunday trading and drinking have all been well rehearsed many times and I shall not go into detail about them. The law contains ridiculous anomalies and is due to be taken apart and put into a cohesive fashion so that it is no longer an ass with regard to sporting events on Sunday. One of the best arguments for the liberalisation of sport on Sundays is the present unfairness and discrimination. Many men and women still work a six-day week. Sunday is the only 1127 day on which they can attend any sport, whether it be horseracing or something else. I am therefore strongly in favour of the Bill introduced by the noble Lord, Lord Wyatt.
§ 9.34 p.m.
§ Viscount Allenby of Megiddo
My Lords, in welcoming the Bill, we have a great deal for which to thank the noble Lord, Lord Wyatt of Weeford, as indeed does the Jockey Club under the stewardship of the noble Lord, Lord Fairhaven, and previously that of the noble Lord, Lord Manton.
I too should like to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Fairhaven, and the noble Viscount, Lord Head, on their excellent maiden speeches. They both undoubtedly upheld the famous traditions of the Household Cavalry in which both previously served. They drew their swords, they cut their thrust and they made their points well. I must agree with other noble Lords that this Bill has been widely interpreted as being specifically to assist horseracing. Horseracing will undoubtedly benefit from it, but there are a great number of other sporting disciplines which will benefit from it just as well and will now, when it is hoped that the Bill passes, operate within the law.
What has become acceptable practice to many of us has overtaken the law. Sadly in certain areas the law has fallen into disrepute and the noble Lord, Lord Wyatt, and the noble Viscount, Lord Head, aptly described how that had happened both at Wimbledon and at Silverstone, and how it is about to happen next week.
Sunday racing is not just about seeing horses, nor is it just about having a bet. It is, as has already been said, an opportunity for either the individual or the family to enjoy a day out. Like an evening out or a day out, a day's racing is something that the public at large enjoy.
Despite what the right reverend prelate the Bishop of Leicester has said, I do not believe that we in this House remain convinced that racing is really any different to any other sport. Why should it be singled out and deprived of the pleasure of a Sunday? I have a lot of sympathy with the right reverend prelate when he talks about noise and the disturbance that some of those great sporting events which we have come to accept as a part of our everyday life disrupt our own way of life. If people want to enjoy a quiet Sunday in their gardens, the roar of motorcars round Silverstone can be very disturbing if they happen to live in that area. Indeed some of the racecourses are near centres of population, and some of the population are not in favour of the Bill.
I must admit to have ridden in races under rules on a Sunday. I am glad to say that I did so abroad without breaking the law. Racing abroad is common practice with both on-course and off-course betting. I too am a horse lover and I cannot accept what the noble Lord, Lord Monkswell, said about the pain and the things that could possibly happen to horses if Sunday racing were allowed. I suggest to the noble Lord that if the grass would suffer then he should grow slightly tougher grass.
1128 The racing industry with its £3.5 billion turnover has made great steps forward with greatly improved marketing and facilities on the racecourse. General Sir Cecil Blacker who recently reported to the Jockey Club on Sunday racing is reported as saying in the Daily Express of today:It is a leisure industry. It is an entertainment".If I may say so, he is right; but why should this leisure industry and this entertainment not operate on a Sunday? It is being singled out. The racing industry is striving to expand and the majority (but not all) of racecourses now offer a considerable degree of comfort where one can not only watch the racing, but have something to eat, have a drink and be kept dry and operate in comfort. But, my Lords, why not on Sunday?
We have heard from several noble Lords about adequate compensation for stable lads. I shall quote again from today's Daily Express where Mr. John Dunlop is reported to have said that steps must be taken to ensure that stable staff must enjoy a proper proportion of the benefits. He is indeed right. Several of your Lordships have given reassurance that this will happen.
We should concern ourselves about another element of society that is dependent on racing and other sports for a livelihood. Sometimes these people are not interested in or intimately involved with sports but have to be engaged in them in order to live. With the introduction of Sunday racing, a large element of society will undoubtedly have to work on Sundays, not least the police force, security services on the racecourse, catering staff, racecourse officials, television, and indeed commentary staff, to name but a few. I am certain that many more will be affected by the change. They must receive their just rewards; but one wonders whether the overall additional financial burden coupled with the increased attendance will make it as viable as we are led to believe by the recent report of the Jockey Club.
A racecourse manager of a large racecourse said to me only yesterday, "Sunday racing is great for the industry but for me personally…" He did not finish his sentence. He is a family man. I drew the conclusion that, while he was quite happy to work, he was going to miss being with his family on a Sunday. There are then two sides to the problem. One or two noble Lords have touched on this.
Far from being an expert on the law, I feel that the Sunday Observance Act 1780 in regard to sporting events needs to be amended, as proposed in the Bill.
Two disciplines of the 109 disciplines mentioned that will be affected by the Bill are show jumping under the auspices of BJSA, and horse trials under the auspices of the British Horse Society. Both those bodies, while welcoming the Bill, acknowledge that they are currently operating in contravention of the law. Betting on show jumping has started in a small way. If the Bill becomes law, show jumping will undoubtedly benefit. I for one hope that betting on show jumping will be permitted as it could do with a boost at present.
1129 Let us be realistic. Some have said this is a small Bill, but it is an important one. Let us hope that it gets a fair wind and reaches the start.
§ 9.43 p.m.
§ The Earl of Shrewsbury
My Lords, I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Fairhaven, and the noble Viscount, Lord Head, on such excellent and knowledgeable maiden speeches.
I fully support the Bill and what it seeks to achieve. I support the whole idea of sport so long as it is legalised on Sundays, but especially from the side of racing. I have to declare an interest in that I am a steward of both National Hunt and flat racecourses.
I believe that the Bill is long overdue. From the horseracing point of view the country has some of the finest bloodstock breeding and race establishments in the world. We are a major exporter of bloodstock and we have the most prestigious races in the world. In short, our bloodstock industry in general is the envy of many countries, yet we are still one of the small minority of countries that do not have Sunday racing. I believe that this anomaly must be corrected for our racing industry to go forward and compete on equal terms with others.
I appreciate the misgivings that various people have expressed over racing and betting on Sundays. I stress that we live in a world where people must have freedom of choice to decide to spend their leisure time as they wish. These needs must be catered for. Sunday racing abroad has proved itself to be a family affair of high quality and is greatly enjoyed by everyone. I am sure that this can only bode well for industry and the public. In this day and age I cannot see anything wrong with betting on Sundays. As the noble Lord, Lord Wyatt, said earlier in his opening remarks, betting will occur on Sundays. I wholeheartedly support the Bill and I truly hope that it succeeds.
§ 9.45 p.m.
§ Lord Vestey
My Lords, I should like to support the Bill which has been introduced in your Lordships' House by the noble Lord, Lord Wyatt of Weeford. I congratulate my noble friend Lord Fairhaven on his maiden speech and very much endorse what he said. May I also congratulate my noble friend Lord Head on another excellent speech. He knows what he is talking about and made a great contribution to the debate.
In the summer of 1985, I spoke in your Lordships' House during the Second Reading debate on the Shops Bill. I was opposed to complete deregulation of shopping hours for a number of reasons. I said that there were various areas suitable for Sunday trading and others that were not. I went on to say that I was sure that acceptable patterns of trading in various neighbourhoods could be found.
Tonight we are not discussing shopping hours; nor are we discussing the many problems raised when we discussed the Shops Bill. In saying that, I agree with my noble friend Lord Manton and I disagree with the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Leicester. I believe strongly that Sunday racing falls in a different category. Much has been said in the past few years about the increased time people have for leisure. With 1130 some sporting events already taking place on Sunday, the time has now come to clear up the anomalies and irregularities which affect those events. We have heard tonight about sporting events on Sundays which are, strictly speaking, illegal. It is very important for horseracing in this country that we should be able to race on Sundays. I believe that a large number of people would like to have the possibility of going racing on Sunday with their families.
I realise that this will involve people in the industry working on those days. I am sure however that an acceptable formula can be found. From my knowledge of the trainers with whom I have had horses in training, I realise that not all the workforce are keen to give up their Sundays. On the other hand, there are people who, properly compensated, would be quite willing to work on Sunday. After all, many trainers in this country send horses to race on Sundays in Europe. The persons so involved are presumably happy to do that.
I will not dwell on the importance of allowing betting shops to be opened on Sundays as that has already been mentioned by other noble Lords. However, in my view, it is essential for racing that the shops are allowed to open. If they are not, there will be a much reduced turnover and therefore a reduced levy.
I agree with many noble Lords who have spoken. I shall not prolong the debate except to say that my noble friend Lord Brentford, who, I think, was quoting from the Jockey Club report on Sunday racing and attendance figures, gave the impression that attendance figures are seriously down. As I understand it, they are now going up slightly. However, if the noble Lord has any problems, may I suggest that he turns to my noble friend Lord Trevethin and Oaksey, who I am sure will be able to explain the figures contained in the report.
Finally, may I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Wyatt of Weeford, on putting the Bill forward. I wish the Bill well, not only here but also in another place.
§ 9.49 p.m.
§ Lord Robertson of Oakridge
My Lords, I cannot match the expertise and skill of the two excellent maiden speakers and of other speakers. My experience in racing has been confined to having a leg in three rather slow horses, although they did win some races.
I see much good in the Bill. However, I have reservations. While the Bill would make possible increased opportunities for sport, it would do so at a cost. No one would deny that the Bill will bring about greater opportunities for recreation for some people. That is to be welcomed. But there would be a cost deriving from the very nature and size of the events themselves and from resultant commercial pressures. That cost would be borne not only by those taking part in events but also by those whose services are necessary to stage and to control them—the police, stewards, caterers, transport workers and so on.
The prospect of betting shops being open on Sunday in the high street goes against the restrictions on Sunday trading which, only last year, were reaffirmed by a large majority in another place. To 1131 take up Lord Wyatt's description of betting, obviously for most people it is a perfectly harmless pastime. However, it can be highly addictive. For a short time I was mildly addicted, so I can speak on that matter with a certain amount of experience.
We should not forget those who live in the immediate neighbourhood of the tracks and stadiums concerned and whose lives will be blighted by crowds. On that point, I should like to draw the attention of the noble Lord, Lord Manton, to an article on the back page of The Times expressing grave concern about violence in racecourse crowds, stemming particularly from a recent ugly incident at York Racecourse. There will be crowds, traffic jams, inability to park, and litter, even on Sundays. If anyone wants details let them ask the people of Fulham who live near Fulham football ground.
I note that the Bill would maintain the present restrictions on Sunday sport until 12 noon. It may be thought that because it appears to allow people to go to church before taking part in sporting events it takes care of the religious objections to the Bill. I do not agree for two reasons. First, some people will have to leave their homes well before midday to get ready for the afternoon's sport. Secondly, it is not good enough to say that provided people have the opportunity to go to church it does not matter how much else their Sunday is disrupted. We all need a proper breathing space in which to refresh our bodies, our minds and our spirits.
God did not tell us to set aside one day a week in order to satisfy a whim of His. He did so because He knew that our whole being needed a break in what would otherwise become the treadmill of a seven day week. As it now stands, the Bill may mar the character of Sunday and bring us a step nearer to a seven day week. I recommend that we look very closely at the Bill as it goes through your Lordships' House.
§ 9.52 p.m.
§ Lord Graham of Edmonton
My Lords, like every other noble Lord I warmly congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Fairhaven, and the noble Viscount, Lord Head, on their excellent maiden speeches. They have obviously chosen a topic on which they are experts. They are passionately involved in this topic and I certainly look forward with great pleasure to hearing them speak not only on this topic, but also on many others.
The noble Lord, Lord Wyatt, began by saying that this was a harmless little Bill. If the Bill is enacted in its present form it will cause a great deal of harm to some sections of the community; but that does not mean to say the majority. I have no brief to speak on behalf of any particular section. The noble Lord, Lord Wyatt, said that the Bill would strengthen the observance of the law which had been widely and repeatedly broken, and would adjust to the prevailing morality. We have a situation similar to the Sunday trading Bill; namely, when enough people flout the law one changes the law to conform with the manner in which it has been flouted. In that sense it is a curious morality.
1132 The noble Lord, Lord Wyatt, began, quite fairly, by saying that in his view this has nothing to do with the Sunday trading Bill. If he wishes, the noble Lord can believe that this has nothing to do with it. He can also believe that if the Sunday trading Bill had been enacted last year he would not have been standing here tonight and not have been referring to the fact that the dam had broken. The two may not be directly related but to say that they have nothing to do with each other is a travesty. For example, to say that the relaxation of the licensing laws has nothing to do with either Sunday trading or what we are debating tonight is incorrect. As a result of the debates on Sunday trading the whole country is in a state of flux concerning the use of Sundays—a fact which the Government have recognised. They were given a bloody nose last year when they decided to do what they did. The courage of 68 of the Government's own Back-Benchers was shown when they listened not only to a survey of 2,000 people or to the Whips, but went back and listened to their constituents. The MPs were told the constituents' views pretty plainly, in which ever way MPs are told—and, my Lords, I understand these things. They then came back and voted in a certain way.
This matter is concerned with the whole nexus of Sunday trading. I am puzzled by references by earlier speakers to France and Ireland which have been prayed in aid as part of the case. I believe part of that case is that there is no off-course betting in betting shops. I may be corrected, but I simply ask this question because I am not an expert. If we are saying that what happens in Ireland is right, and that there is no off-course betting there, are we also saying that, ipso, facto, if we have the Irish experiment here we do not have off-course betting? If that is the position, it is an advance; but I believe that those who are in favour of betting—I am not arguing about horseracing or Sunday betting—will twist the argument in that particular way.
I should be grateful if the noble Lord, Lord Wyatt, would deal with the point I made when I challenged the noble Lord, Lord Manton. I challenged whether, if we had racing on six or 12 Sundays, the betting shops would be open only for those six or 12 Sundays. One need only look at the size of the big four—that is, Ladbroke, Coral, William Hill and Mecca, who are being considered for possible reference to the Monopolies and Mergers Commission—to understand the dominance of the betting shops and the gambling industry.
I should be very surprised if the noble Lord, Lord Wyatt, could tell me that the understanding of the noble Lord opposite is correct—that betting shops would not need to open if racing did not take place on English racecourses. The House knows that with cable, satellite and the beaming in of programmes from many countries, betting shops need not necessarily be used merely as a reason for betting on horses. They can be used for a wide range of activities. In my view betting shops would be open if not for 52 Sundays in the year near enough to make no difference.
I am interested in how the workers have been consulted. There was a very fair preview of tonight's proceedings in a debate that took place on 11th May. 1133 In column 527 of Hansard the noble Lord, Lord Manton, is reported as saying:The Jockey Club is aware that some opposition to the concept of Sunday racing has been expressed by certain sections of the workforce. I feel sure that this would apply to those employed in the betting and the catering industries, very many of whom are part-time workers anyway".The noble Lord also indicated that it is a question of adequate remuneration.
In col. 524 of Hansard the noble Lord, Lord Wyatt, said:As in the hotel and catering industry, and in other industries, everything can be done on a Sunday if the money is right".The noble Lord, Lord Wyatt, is experienced in these matters and his experience is that everything can be done on a Sunday if the money is right.
This afternoon I received a telephone call from Mr. Brian Cox, who is a national official of the Transport and General Workers Union. He is known to the noble Lord because he described to me a meeting at which the noble Lord, Lord Wyatt, was present for part of the time. Certainly some consultation has taken place, but I have his authority to say that his members are far from happy at the Bill going through in its present form.
If the noble Lord believes that paying premium rates on a Sunday—whether double time or treble time—is going to solve the problem, he must understand what will happen. Once Sunday is looked upon as a normal working day that day then becomes the same as a Tuesday or a Friday. The reason for getting premium time on a Sunday then disappears. That was one of the prime arguments on the Sunday trading Bill. There are thousands of people—in this instance betting shop managers—who at the moment, because they are betting shop managers, work six days.
§ Lord Weinstock
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for giving way. If the noble Lord believes that premium time will disappear on Sundays, does he believe that premium time for working on Saturdays has already disappeared?
§ Lord Graham of Edmonton
My Lords, I am not privy to that. Is the noble Lord saying that premium time on Saturdays has already disappeared?
§ Lord Weinstock
My Lords, I am merely asking the noble Lord whether he believes that it has; because it certainly has not.
§ Lord Graham of Edmonton
My Lords, if the workers are to be assured that there is premium time for working on Saturdays and there could be premium time for working on Sundays, that is subject to negotiation and may satisfy the workers in the industry.
I am deeply concerned about the possibility of damage to the environment in the communities that I know. Great play has been made about the charm, the day out for the family and the need to keep the family together. Having listened to noble Lords tonight I realise that I have not been to as many racecourses as many others here, but I enjoy a day out. We are talking about the other side of the 1134 argument, the betting shops. I can picture Edmonton Green and Enfield town, Fore Street and Hertford Road where the betting shops are situated. The noble Lord, Lord Wyatt, said that if we already have restaurants and pubs, why not have betting shops? Then why not have other shops as well? If your Lordships believe this has nothing to do with widening the nexus and changing Sundays, then you really ought to understand.
I believe that the people who live around betting shops are among those who will not say that this is a modest and simple little Bill. It is a Bill which when it is enacted will be carried through. The people who run betting shops are businessmen and they will want to make them thrive. They will see that the seventh day of rest will no longer be a rest. People may say they are in a minority and will have to fend for themselves, but I am deeply concerned. I simply say to the House that there are aspects of this Bill that cause great unhappiness to me. I shall certainly look forward at later stages to improving the Bill.
To the noble Lord, Lord Wyatt, and others who have great positions of power, I would say that it seems to me that whatever consultations they claim have taken place, the consultations have not been carried out properly with the people who have spoken to me. For example, what about the greyhound racing industry? Greyhound racing will be affected. The more betting shops are open the worse it will be affected in comparison with the horseracing industry. What consultations have there been? What attempt has there been to meet its point of view? What about the impact of the levy? If there is to be an enhanced and improved horseracing industry and a diminished greyhound racing industry, who will benefit?
I believe the nexus for this Bill, besides those who want to see horses run and those who want a day out, has more to do with the betting industry and making money than with the other aspects. I am not being disrespectful. I respect the integrity of everyone. It is all right saying there will be volunteers. Of course there will be volunteers but as far as I am concerned the Bill will be detrimental to many people who, at a time of unemployment and great changes in our community, will be forced by circumstance to work on Sundays. At the moment they are not forced to do so. I hope that those in charge of the Bill will let it be known that they are consulting the people and taking on board the deep distress of thousands in many communities.
§ Lord Plummer of St. Marylebone
My Lords, in the interests of accuracy, the noble Lord said that he believed there were no off-course betting shops in France.
§ Lord Plummer of St. Marylebone
My Lords, I think the noble Lord will find that the biggest bet in France, which is the Tiercé, is conducted through cafés which all sell this bet to their customers. The noble Lord will be aware that there are a great number of cafés in France.
§ Lord Graham of Edmonton
My Lords, I have been to France once in my life and I bow to the superior knowledge of the noble Lord, Lord Plummer, of France, cafés and betting shops. I ask questions. My research tells me that in France and in Ireland there is no off-course betting. If the noble Lord is saying that there is a form of off-course betting that can be distinguished from what we know as off-course betting, I accept his word. But these matters need to be ironed out.
§ 10.6 p.m.
§ Lord Newall
My Lords, I too am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Wyatt, for introducing the Sunday Sports Bill which I hope will take us further down the road towards the deregulation of laws governing sport and leisure. We have heard a great many speeches. I should obviously like to add my congratulations to my noble friends Lord Fairhaven and Lord Head on their excellent introductory speeches.
I have no doubt that if this Bill succeeds in widening the leisure opportunities available on a Sunday it will prove popular with a vast majority of people. I am a fervent believer in deregulation to bring about equal treatment for all sports. If I say that with feeling it is because the sport that I am interested in—greyhound racing—has suffered greatly as a result of restrictive and unequal legislation. I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Graham of Edmonton, for bringing this into his speech.
In supporting the principle of the Bill on behalf of greyhound racing I must declare my interest as chairman of the British Greyhound Racing Board which comprises all the interests in the sport. Greyhound racing definitely supports the overriding principle in the Bill of removing anomalies from Sunday sport, subject to the one proviso to which I shall refer in more detail in a moment.
Perhaps I may even remind the noble Lord, Lord Wyatt, of another anomaly whereby in January, when the snow was on the ground and no horseracing was possible, it was greyhound racing that kept the noble Lord's Tote betting shops open. As chairman of the Horserace Totalisator Board, which is a statutory body and operates the racecourse totalisators and more than 250 off-course betting shops, he is the country's best known bookmaker. It is permitted to bet on greyhound racing and it does so through its Tote betting offices. The irony is that profits from greyhound betting which accrue to the Horserace Totalisator Board are used for the benefit of horseracing. None of this money bet off the course gets back to help support greyhound racing. This is surely absurd.
When horseracing was frozen out for 15 days in January and February greyhound racing was the only betting medium available to off-course bookmakers, as so often is the case in winter. The sport of greyhound racing received no benefit at all by way of a levy on the off-course betting. But all the betting offices, including the tote betting offices, were still making a 10 per cent. deduction from their greyhound punters. It is only 8 per cent. for the Government. So when we talk about a Bill to remove 1136 sporting anomalies on Sundays we must be careful that it does not become a vehicle to perpetuate this anomaly or any other anomaly. Greyhound racing has been a victim of the most blatant anomalies in past legislation and is indeed worried about Clause 2(b) of the Bill which seeks to open betting offices on Sundays.
Greyhound racing has long been Britain's second largest spectator sport after association football. It has catered for all sectors of the community in a well behaved and disciplined way. For those who have not visited greyhound tracks, I should like to explain that they are more than just places where people go to bet. They provide a social outlet for their public. Many have high class restaurants and there are play areas for young people and good facilities for social activities. Some have also become leisure centres, with squash courts, gymnasiums, billiards and snooker rooms. Luckily, greyhound racing suffers little or no problems with crowd control.
Greyhound racing still has many followers; but I have to say that it is becoming a sport that is in danger because too many stadiums are closing. They are very vulnerable to the property developers. The odds are becoming stacked against the sport's survival in the traditional form as an evening entertainment. One of the main reasons for this is that much of the money generated by the public interest in greyhound racing is flowing outwards to the off-course betting industry. Off-course bookmakers enjoy an annual betting turnover of more than £760 million on greyhound racing alone. and they are not required to put back into the sport the equivalent of the 1 per cent. levy that goes from off-course betting to horse racing. There is little reason to doubt that horseracing would be in great difficulties without the revenue from the levy. So much so that we now see that supporters of horseracing favour Sunday racing and the opening of betting shops in order to increase their levy.
Other sports on which betting takes place in the betting shops ought to enjoy equal treatment with horseracing. But without an all-sports betting levy they do not get equal treatment, and any extension of horseracing will only serve to broaden the inequality between horseracing and other sports such as football, golf, and even cricket, tennis, and motor racing on which off-course betting is conducted.
If this Bill is successful—and I would certainly emphasise that in principle the greyhound industry is not opposed to that part which legalises admission to sports and betting on course—Sunday racing will inevitably be linked with more off-course betting. In such circumstances, the bookmaker controlled organisations—Bookmakers Afternoon Greyhound Services, which own greyhound tracks and the television company, Satellite Information Services, would cover the meetings for the betting shops, and Sunday would become as busy and profitable a day to the off-course bookmakers as Saturdays. I am quite sure that the betting shops would want to stay open on nearly every Sunday whether or not there was horseracing.
The sport of greyhound racing, without a levy, cannot be expected to countenance an extension to the off-course monopoly presently enjoyed by the 1137 bookmakers over greyhound racing betting without some guarantee of compensation. To do so would be like taking the knife to its own throat, furthering the growth of off-course betting turnover on greyhounds at the inevitable expense of attendances at greyhound racecourses. Greyhound track operators are not allowed to open betting shops. That is another anomaly. It follows that greyhound racing will need to seek some sort of financial accommodation regarding off-course betting if there is to be Sunday racing.
A levy would be the simplest financial arrangement and greyhound racing would support an all-sports betting levy. By this I mean that each sport on which off-course betting takes place would receive a levy payment pro rata to the betting turnover on that particular sport.
If noble Lords will bear with me a little longer, I should like to expand on this aspect because I believe that it has a direct bearing on my attitude to supporting Sunday racing. Greyhound racing did not get a levy on off-course greyhound betting when the Horserace Betting Levy Board was established in 1961 because the Home Secretary at that time said in the other place that greyhound racing could look after itself.
His reason was that greyhound tracks ran their own totalisators and had been given the proprietary rights in the use of the greyhound totalisator odds. Since then 44 National Greyhound Racing Club tracks have closed and attendances have slumped from 15 million to fewer than 4 million.
It must be self-evident that greyhound racing's totalisator betting does not on its own manage to maintain the sport. The ratio of all betting at greyhound racecourses is now at a margin of 75 per cent. to the on-course bookmakers and only 25 per cent. to the totalisators. The operation of the totalisator by track management has been allowed since 1934; but greyhound totalisators are strictly controlled by statutory regulations. By contrast, the off-course betting industry is totally unaccountable and can choose for itself the level of deductions for profit.
The case for an all-sports betting levy is a solid one for the very good reason that it is hard for any fair-minded person to deny the logic that what is equitable for horseracing must be equitable for other sports in which off-course betting takes place, especially as bookmakers make the same 10 per cent. deduction from all bets that they take no matter what sport, although the statutory off-course betting duty is only 8 per cent.
I speak as one who loves horseracing. I have done a lot of riding myself under rules. Off-course betting on horseracing totals £3 billion annually; on greyhound racing and other sports, approximately £800 million. Horseracing receives a levy of £23 million from off-course betting. The other sports get no levy. In the absence of such a levy and with the off-course bookmakers making a 10 per cent. deduction from all bets, off-course punters who bet on greyhounds, football, golf, cricket, tennis, and whatever, are therefore already paying a levy on their bets. But the bookmakers are the beneficiaries, not 1138 the sports which provide the vehicles for this off-course betting.
The Horserace Betting Levy Board could be broadened to handle a levy for all betting sports. A levy would help support the infrastructure of sport, make possible improved facilities for the public without recourse to additional public funding, and help keep the property speculators at bay.
For all betting sports to gain equity with horseracing would cost the public no more than they already pay. It would mean the percentage retained currently by bookmakers through their extra deductions being diverted via the levy board to help sport. This would close the loophole which now depresses horserace levy funds by encouraging the off-course betting industry to seek other outlets, notably greyhound racing. If the off-course bookmakers had to pay a levy on all bets and were therefore denied the extra 2 per cent. profit element, they would have no further incentive to decrease their market share of betting on horseracing.
A levy for all betting sports at the same rate as the horseracing levy would therefore help horseracing and would benefit other sports by about £8 million a year. Revenue from an all-sports levy could provide direct funding for the independent administration of sport, thereby removing some of the reliance that governing bodies have to place on commercial sectors within their sports. This would be very much in the public interest.
It is my opinion that Sunday horseracing and consequent off-course betting, and satellite TV in the betting shops, would be only one step removed from the bookmakers putting on their own Sunday greyhound meetings from their own greyhound racecourses. It is much cheaper for them to televise greyhound racing than horseracing and more profitable for them to bet on it. I ask noble Lords to consider the consequences for sport if, on seven days a week instead of six, the off-course bookmakers are once again given a free ticket to make commercial use of a sporting theatre without recompense to the actors or to management.
I suggest that there must be a limit to the amount of money available to be spent by the public on sport and leisure in any given week. This is economic commonsense. It cannot be a bottomless pit. If, through the legalisation of cash betting on Sundays, the off-course bookmakers are able to take a larger share of the public's leisure money, and the sport of horseracing gets its extra percentage as a result of the existence of a one-sided levy, is it not probable that the public will have less money to spend on spectator sports? Will these other sports on which off-course betting takes place not be at a disadvantage unless they are given equal rights with horseracing to an off-course betting levy? It would make much more sense if the levy board received all the deductions made by bookmakers from all bets on sport and then distributed to each sport its rightful share of the proceeds.
I apologise if I have dwelt at length on the relationship of sport and the off-course betting industry and less directly on the virtues of Sunday sport. However, I believe that this is the crux of the 1139 Bill and that it is vitally important to achieve legislation that will avoid any extension of the inequality between horseracing and other sports. We want to be able to enjoy an extension of Sunday sporting activities and to know that the beneficiaries will include sport itself and those who go to watch sport and not, as so often seems to be the case when we promulgate new betting legislation, the off-course bookmakers.
I hope that the Bill will be given a Second Reading. I give notice, of course, that amendments will be tabled to give effect to the various points I have made.
§ 10.20 p.m.
§ Lord Mishcon
My Lords, I refuse to be the only person addressing your Lordships' House who does not congratulate our two maiden speakers, the noble Lord, Lord Fairhaven, and the noble Viscount, Lord Head. I say that in spite of rulings of the Procedure Committee that only the speakers immediately following those speakers are permitted to pass such congratulations. However, from the Front Bench it would be quite wrong—every other speaker has done so—if I did not do so as well.
This Bill would permit horseracing, the opening of betting shops and sports generally to take place after 12 noon on Sundays. I must confess to your Lordships that the noble Lord, Lord Wyatt, disappointed me for the first time in his long and distinguished career when he introduced this debate. I say that because he has not done all his homework. He went back for 343 years but he failed to go back for 370 years. Had he done that he would have found that King James I—called, possibly a little unkindly, the wisest fool in Christendom—our first Stuart king, had made his speech for him. That was some years before the original debate upon this matter took place as the noble Lord said.
I ask the rhetorical question: did the noble Lord read Kenyon on the Stuart Constitution and did he read The History of English Law by Holdsworth? There is a very apt quotation from the former, and I shall read it:Another straw in the wind was the Commons' increasing concern with sabbatarianism, though this was an issue on which they had always been at odds with James. In 1606 a bill for the stricter observance of the Lord's Day was sent up to the Lords as early as the 17th February but went no further; in 1614 a similar bill was read on the first day of the session, but it was abortive, of course. But in May 1618, returning via Lancashire from a visit to Scotland, James came to the conclusion that the obstinate survival of Catholicism in that county was due to the Protestants' over-precise enforcement of Lord's Day observance. With typical impulsiveness he at once issued his controversial 'Declaration of Sports, which laid it down that once they had attended divine Service on a Sunday [and now I quote the declaration] 'our good people be not disturbed, letted or discouraged from any lawful recreation such as dancing, either men or women, archery for men, leaping, vaulting or any other such harmless recreation, nor from having May games, Whitsun ales and Morris dances, and the setting of maypoles and other sports therewith used'".When Charles I came to the throne he indeed had an ordinance passed which in no way affected the Declaration of Sports. And so we go back for 370 years to a similar debate as now we have in your Lordships' House—I ought to make this perfectly 1140 clear; otherwise I am not giving your Lordships a complete dissertation—and he ordered that the order should be read in churches and this,caused many a clergyman considerable heart-searching, though some eased their consciences by pretending to believe that it applied only to Lancashire and others were consoled by the fact that they did not have to signify their agreement with it".I repeat that this debate does not seem to be a new subject.
It would be quite wrong of me, for reasons that your Lordships will appreciate, to tell my fellow citizens how they should observe their Sundays. However, I believe that it is proper to bring to your Lordships' attention some of the arguments that ought to be in your Lordships' minds, if I may respectfully say so; and I shall do it very briefly.
The first consideration, and it is in favour of the Bill, is that the law, which we all respect, must not be brought into contempt. The law is brought into contempt—and we have heard this argument before but it does not cease to have validity because it is repeated—when breaches of the law are known to exist in all parts of our country and they are not brought before the courts. If that is seen by our citizens, the law is brought into contempt. That is a strong argument for saying, "Either see that the law is observed, or alter the law". I do not think that there is very much doubt, when we are talking about football, cricket, motor racing and possibly horseracing, that the law somehow has to be altered, especially if provision is made for the early part of Sunday.
The next thought that ought to be in your Lordships' minds is an important one. If, under this Bill, betting shops are permitted to be opened throughout the kingdom, in my respectful view there is no argument left in regard to the Sunday trading Bill that was before Parliament in the last Session. Bearing in mind the cleavage in the country that existed over that Bill, your Lordships ought to realise that if, at Committee stage, one still allows the betting shops to be opened—and I am not expressing a view on this occasion at all—one faces the inevitable result that the Sunday trading Bill will come back and there will be no argument left at all, unless it is the sole argument of protection of employees, which one hopes also will be dealt with adequately at the Committee stage of this Bill if there is a Second Reading.
I end my speech with one other consideration which ought not to be absent from your Lordships' minds, although again from this Front Bench I express no view except that the matter ought to be considered. Let there be no doubt at all that, with betting shops open and Sunday trading legislation that permits the opening of all shops on Sundays—if that is what is in store for us—and with the traffic engendered by horseracing, greyhound racing and so on on Sunday, your Lordships and all the citizens of this country will find it impossible to distinguish Sunday from the rest of the week. That may be what Parliament decides to do; it may be what your Lordships decide to do; but let us realise what we are doing when looking at this Bill.
§ 10.30 p.m.
The Earl of Caithness
My Lords, I should first like to thank and congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Wyatt of Weeford, on the introduction of his Bill so soon in this Parliament. It has provoked a most interesting debate. and interesting in two respects, which is rather different from normal debates in your Lordships' House. First, I would say that a very great majority of your Lordships spoke for under 10 minutes; and far from undermining the potency of your Lordships' arguments, I believe that the short speeches strengthened them. The second point I find interesting is that we have had 20 different speakers tonight, but no speaker from the Liberal or SDP Benches—a sign of the times, my Lords.
Along with a number of noble Lords who have spoken this evening, I took part in the short debate on horseracing on Sunday which we had on 11th May. There was a general view then that the best way forward would be for a Bill to be introduced in your Lordships' House or in another place in order that these matters could be further explored and opinion tested. That view has I think been vindicated by the interesting debate we have had this evening and the wide and somewhat conflicting views we have heard expressed.
I, too, should like to add my congratulations to my noble friend Lord Fairhaven and the noble Viscount, Lord Head, on their interesting and valuable contributions to the debate. My noble friend Lord Fairhaven very helpfully filled in some of the detail of the intentions of the racing authorities for Sunday racing. It seems clear that what is envisaged is Sunday racing on a limited scale, perhaps up to no more than a dozen Sundays a year. The noble Viscount, Lord Head, drawing on his immense experience of racing, reminded us of the efforts racecourses are making to improve and diversify their facilities—a process to which Sunday racing would give a boost.
I should like to express general support for the noble Lord's Bill. Subject to a few remarks that I want to make about the drafting of the measure, we would be content to see the Bill make progress. May I just make one point clear to begin with? When I refer to "racing" I am referring to both horse and greyhound racing. We take this view for three main reasons. First, it seems to us to be a reasonable aspiration on the part of the racing authorities to be able to put on race meetings on the same day as other sports stage some of their major events. The noble Lord, Lord Wyatt of Weeford, and others, have demonstrated that a number of our major sports now hold events on Sundays, a practice which seems popular with spectators and gives rise to few, if any, difficulties. Racing would be following the widespread practice of other sports by staging events on Sundays and not breaking wholly new ground.
Your Lordships will have your own view on Sunday observance matters. It would perhaps be a pity if racing were to be penalised, in effect, by the continuance of the present restrictions, while many other sports take the opportunity to attract the spectators who are evidently able and prepared to attend on Sundays. Your Lordships will recognise that by confining Sunday racing to the afternoon period in his Bill, the noble Lord, Lord Wyatt, has 1142 shown that he is not insensitive to the position of the churches.
Secondly, the Bill makes sensible provision for betting, and we have already heard of the difference in the present law between credit and cash betting. The report of the working party set up by the Jockey Club came out in favour of allowing betting to take place lawfully at racecourses and in betting offices. This Bill would allow betting to take place after noon on Sundays at tracks and in betting offices. These steps are included because of the links between the financing of horseracing and betting, but more particularly to avoid problems arising with illegal betting. Our view, too, is that allowing for the provision of betting through the lawful and regulated industry is the way to take this forward.
May I make one important point at this stage? As the law stands, there is nothing to stop racing as such on a Sunday. The main problem lies with betting, and we ought to compliment the respective authorities for not introducing racing to date as they have recognised their responsibility for betting. So indeed the right reverend Prelate could, without any change in the law, have the coaches and cars he mentioned (and which cause him so much concern) outside his lodge next Sunday.
If the authorities acted as the law permits them to do at present, there is little doubt that there would be substantial illegal betting with considerable harm to the community. I can hear my noble friend Lord Brentford ask, "Ah, but how can you say there will be illegal betting?" I turn as evidence not to some hunch of one of my advisers in the Home Office or of my own, but to the independent market research given to the Jockey Club in their report. In their opinion, of those who attend betting shops more than once a month, 36 per cent. would find unofficial channels for betting if betting shops were not open on Sunday. Think how much worse it would be if the Grand National, on which it is said some £30 million in bets is taken each year, were held on a Sunday, as it can be under the present law. I must therefore ask my noble friend Lord Brentford and those who oppose the Bill which they would prefer. That is a question that they must answer if they wish to remove that provision from the Bill.
I know that some noble Lords are concerned that the opening of betting offices would mark a breach in the controls on Sunday trading and it is therefore unwelcome for that reason. The Bill makes no amendment to the Shops Act. In our view the issues can be looked at separately, but as the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, rightly said, it is up to each one of us to make up our mind on that point.
§ Lord Mishcon
My Lords, I wonder whether, with his usual courtesy, the noble Earl would allow me to make this intervention. Will the Government undertake not to use the opening of betting shops, if that provision be passed, as an argument in favour of Sunday trading in any future legislation?
§ Lord Mishcon
My Lords, I intervene for the last time. Will the noble Earl undertake to recommend to his right honourable friend not to make that point?
The Earl of Caithness
My Lords, no. Thirdly, there does seem to us to be some merit in clearing up the position, as the Bill does, of those sports, which currently allow admission to the public on Sundays. The present position is not completely clear but a shadow is cast over the charging practices of many sporting events. Some sports, mindful of the Sunday Observance Act 1780, appear to have adopted artificial methods of payment in order to stay within the letter of the law. The noble Lord, Lord Wyatt of Weeford, was able this evening to refer to the expression of support he has received from the representations of many sporting bodies. In part this reflects the view that it would now be sensible and helpful to render clearly lawful the practice of charging the public for admission to sporting events on Sundays. The departmental committee on the law on Sunday observance—the Crathorne Committee —as long ago as 1964 recommended a relaxation in the law in this area. Sport has moved on since then and the distinction between professional and amateur sports, which that committee utilised, does not now provide an appropriate basis on which amending legislation might latch. The better course, in our view, is as the Bill proposes, to disapply the offences in the 1780 Act to sporting events. It is perhaps worth recalling that the 1780 Act has been amended before, in order to allow for musical entertainments on Sunday and most recently in 1972, to permit theatres to open on Sundays.
I should like to say a word about the drafting of the noble Lord's Bill. I know that the noble Lord, Lord Wyatt of Weeford, was eager to catch the mood of your Lordships' House as it appeared in May and to introduce his Bill quickly. The Bill which results deals in very brief terms with, in particular, the Sunday Obervance Act 1780. Amending a measure which is over 200 hundred years old is not an altogether easy task to get right. We can return to these points in Committee, if the Bill gains support today. I know that the noble Lord, Lord Wyatt of Weeford, would not be unsympathetic to comments and suggestions as to how the drafting of the Bill might be improved.
I shall pick up one point made by the right reverend Prelate. He implied that racing would not give the public much enjoyment. When one looks at the recent figures for those who watched sporting events on Sundays one finds that 8.15 million people watched the men's final on 5th July; 6.9 million watched a Sunday Grandstand in May; and another 7.05 million people watched highlights of the snooker world championship on 3rd May, another Sunday. I would venture to suggest to the right reverend Prelate that one might get quite considerable audiences if there were a good race meeting on a Sunday.
To sum up, we shall want to reflect on what has been said this evening. We shall also be interested in the reaction from a wider audience to the Sunday racing campaign. We shall do so against a background of general sympathy for the purposes behind the Bill, for the reasons I have given, and a willingness to see the law altered in the way proposed if that is the will of your Lordships and of another place.
§ Lord Airedale
My Lords, before the noble Earl sits down may I ask him this? If he thinks that short 1144 speeches are a good thing, does he not think that no speech at all from these Benches is a better thing still?
The Earl of Caithness
My Lords, indeed, when the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, and I debated quite recently the ratification of the extradition treaty with America—a very important matter—not only was there no speech from those Benches, there was no representative.
§ Lord Mishcon
My Lords, before the noble Earl sits down, would he not agree that if in future there were no speeches at all from the Alliance Benches we should all be delighted?
§ 10.41 p.m.
§ Lord Wyatt of Weeford
My Lords, may I first thank all noble Lords who took part in the debate or attended the proceedings. It has been a very interesting and constructive debate; I have learnt a great deal from it. I wish particularly to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Fairhaven, who is a senior steward of the Jockey Club, on his extremely well informed speech, for the manner in which he delivered it and for the convincing arguments he offered. I say they were convincing because, of course, I agree with them entirely.
I congratulate also the noble Viscount, Lord Head, on the elegance of his speech and the knowledge he showed. I am sure that his father whom I knew well for many years would have been delighted to hear him speak tonight and would have expressed the hope, as I now do, that he will address your Lordships again soon.
I cannot possibly take the time to pick up all the points which have been made; perhaps I may refer to one or two. I was grateful to the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Leicester for giving me a pass mark in elementary theology though he doubted my capacity to go much further into the subject. However, I think that he himself is perhaps a little muddled. Was the right reverend Prelate saying that we should now go back to the time when Sunday sports were altogether prohibited? He seemed to think that if we allowed the Bill to go through and permitted Sunday sport including racing to be made wholly legal, this would suddenly accelerate the amount of Sunday sport—a bad thing which should be stopped. I am not quite sure where he was placed on that.
The noble Lord, Lord Graham of Edmonton, made much the same point—that the Bill was going to make for a greater amount of Sunday sport which in itself was a bad thing when charges were made for admission. I was glad to hear that the noble Lord does not really think that charging for admission to sports on Sunday is a bad thing at all. Perhaps the right reverend Prelate takes the same view.
One or two mistakes were made by the right reverend Prelate and by the noble Viscount, Lord Brentford. It is not true that attendances at racecourses have been going down. In the last three years, they have been going up by 4 to 5 per cent. per year. It is true that attendance is not as great as it was 20 years ago when it began to decline after betting duty was applied to racecourses. But there is now a 1145 splendid recovery. It is not because of falling attendances at racecorses that the desire for Sunday racing has arisen.
The noble Lord, Lord Graham of Edmonton, argued that by opening a betting shop one invited the introduction of, or increased the argument for, Sunday trading. The some point was made by the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon.
I cannot see why the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, thought that I was making an advertisement when I invited him to visit one of our betting shops in Marlborough Street. There was no advertisement or inducement to bet. It was entirely a free entry offer. He would not be required to place a bet, but at least he could see that a betting shop is nothing like a retail shop. It is not selling goods. Some people refer to it as making an investment.
I do not know whether the noble Lord has ever dealt with a bookmaker. Bookmakers sometimes call themselves turf accountants and say, when one has concluded one's bet, "Five pounds invested, Sir". It is not anything like a place where merchandise is being exchanged. There is no reason why licensed betting offices being open should give rise to people saying that there must therefore be a shoe shop or a bicycle shop open, because it is not that kind of transaction.
A point was made by the noble Lord, Lord Graham of Edmonton, about betting shops in Ireland. It is perfectly true that they are not open off the course during Sunday racing in Ireland. The Irish have different habits from ourselves. Perhaps they do not mind so much about illegal betting; perhaps they are so saintly that they never have any illegal betting. I take the view of the Government that there would be a serious danger of an increase in illegal betting if we did not have betting shops open off the course.
I must be frank about the amount of time on a Sunday that the betting shops would be open should the situation arise. I think that the noble Lords, Lord Graham and Lord Newall, are right in believing that, once one allowed Sunday opening of licensed betting offices off the course, they would be opening quite a lot. Not only are there the factors that the noble Lord, Lord Graham, mentioned in terms of satellite information services and the higher quality of racing being brought from all over the world, but it is true that many betting shops might think it worthwhile to open for the greyhound racing.
I cannot tonight go into the abstruse point about whether the greyhound racing industry should have a cut of the levy. I have some sympathy in my mind. I think that the noble Lord knows that the greyhound tracks are compensated by the betting industry in an indirect way but not in the same way that horseracing courses are. Maybe that could be ironed out at some later date. There are people who take the view that no one should be entitled to subsidy and everybody should live out of what they can make of their occupation without asking for the help of government. I do not wish to put the cat among the pigeons about levies generally, but I take the point.
The noble Lord, Lord Newall, thought that we had 250 betting shops in the Tote. I wish that we had. We have only 120. Although we are about the fifth largest 1146 chain, the next nearest is about six or seven times the size, so we are small beer in all this activity. I assure him that when there is no horseracing, although greyhound racing is a help it does not produce a profit in the betting shop. There is not the same attraction for the punter towards greyhound racing as there is towards horseracing. It helps the betting shop to tick over; but no one would keep such shops open just to run greyhound races. That is a point which he might wish to understand.
I should like to make one more point about the opening of betting shops for evening races and the suggestion that there is no particular illegal betting because the shops are shut at 6.30 p.m. when there is evening racing. As a matter of interest, betting shops take only 7 per cent. of the day's total for evening racing. In other words, only 7 per cent. of the betting on a day goes on evening racing. There is probably not much illegal betting because things have wound up by then. One can have a bet forward if one wishes, and people have gone home to watch television and are not necessarily interested in illegal betting then. I do not think that the two points are very greatly connected. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, for the history lesson, which was very entertaining.
I should particularly like to thank the Government, in the shape of the noble Earl, Lord Caithness, for the encouraging remarks that he made. He is quite right in saying that I would be delighted to accept any amendments which would enable the main thrust of the Bill to be maintained and to pass. I acknowledge gratefully the help that I have had from the Home Office in drafting. I am sure that there will be more available.
I was thrilled by what the noble Earl said because it seemed to me to mean that the Government are going to take this Bill seriously. The further we go into this matter, the more the Government will find themselves in the position of having to give time in another place in order to rub out all the fearful anomalies which have gone on since 1780 and earlier. It is hardly a correct posture for a modern government to uphold such laws, which sometimes may have the effect that people are prosecuted. I have quoted a case which was 30 years old. However, the matter could be stirred up again and people could be prosecuted for charging for admission to sports events on Sundays. I hope that the Government will follow the logic of what the noble Earl has said and carry the matter through so that we can have an up-to-date approach to sport on Sunday.
§ On Question, Bill read a second time, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.
§ House adjourned at seven minutes before eleven o'clock.
A printer's error appeared at line 8 of paragraph 7, col. 974, of the Official Report for 14th July, where the word "wardship" should be substituted for "hardship". The sentence in question should therefore read:
This is a very sensitive grey area where age or wardship creates anomalies …