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Limerick Competitions

Volume 181: debated on Monday 19 August 1907

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I beg to ask Mr. Attorney-General whether his attention has been directed to the Limerick competitions which are going on in so many journals; whether these competitions are substantially the same as the missing word competitions, which were found to be illegal; whether he is aware that these competitions are encouraging the spirit of gambling among great masses of the people; and whether he proposes to take any steps to test the legality of these competitions.

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This question has been considered both by the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Chief Commissioner of Police, and I understand that they have come to this conclusion, that the practice does not fall within the law for the suppression of lotteries, inasmuch as a "Limerick" involves the exercise of some skill in the art of completing a rhyming verse or couplet. In this respect they differ from "missing word" competitions which involved the mere element of chance. I think the subject is one which needs fuller consideration, and I will take care that it receives it.

Does the right hon. Gentleman realise the magnitude of this evil; and does he know that during last week one newspaper alone divided £2,200, which works out at over 80,000 coupons at 6d. each; and is there not the best reason to believe that only a very small fraction of these coupons are examined? In this case, will the right hon. Gentleman say whether it is not right to defend innocent readers?

That is an entirely different question. Whether the competitions are properly administered or not may be a matter for inquiry. I have had representations made to me by several journalists that their readers greatly enjoy these competitions as an exercise of skill, and that they would be deprived of what they regard as a recreation if these competitions were suppressed. As to the suggestion that there is some fraud, if the hon. Gentleman will bring before me some facts they will be examined. If what the hon. Gentleman says is right, a case for investigation does arise.

Does it not require as great skill to "spot" the winner of a horse race as to compose doggerel rhyme? [No Answer was returned.]