House Of Commons
Friday, 7th May, 1954
The House met at Eleven o'Clock
[Mr. SPEAKER in the Chair]
Niall Macpherson Indemnity Bill
"to indemnify Niall Macpherson, Esquire, from any penal consequences Which he may have incurred by sitting Of voting as a Member of the House of Commons while holding the office of member of the London agency of the Dried Fruits Control Board of the Commonwealth of Australia, and to remove any disqualification for membership of that House by reason of his having held that office," presented by the Prime Minister; supported by Mr. Crookshank, the Attorney-General and Mr. Boyd-Carpenter; read the First time; to be read a Second time upon Monday next, and to be printed. [Bill 106.]
Orders Of The Day
Law Reform (Limitation Of Actions, &C) Bill
As amended (in the Standing Committee), considered.
New Clause—(Transitional Provisions)
(1) The time for bringing proceedings in respect of a cause of action which arose before the passing of this Act shall, if it has not then already expired, expire at the time when it would have expired apart from the provisions of this Act or at the time when it would have expired if all the provisions of this Act had at all material times been in force, which ever is the later. (2) The repeal effected by this Act in sub section (3) of section one of the Law Reform (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 1934, shall, in the case of a person dying after the passing of this Act, apply as well in relation to causes of action arising before, as in relation to causes of action arising after, the passing thereof. (3) Save as aforesaid, nothing in this Act shall affect any action or proceeding if the cause of action arose before the passing thereof.—[Mr. Peyton.]
Brought up, and read the First time.
I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a Second time."As the Bill stands, no case of action which has already accrued at the time the Bill becomes law would be effective. It was suggested in Committee, and indeed on Second Reading, in particular by my hon. Friend the Member for Buckinghamshire, South (Mr. R. Bell), that, whereas it is the intention of the Bill to repeal the Public Authorities Protection Act, it would be unreasonable and unsatisfactory to continue the effect of that Act for causes of action which had accrued but which were still subsisting at the time it became law. The effect of this new Clause is, by subsection (1), that potential plaintiffs in those causes of action not statute barred at the time the Bill becomes law shall have the choice either of the period existing prior to the passing of the Bill or the period laid down in the Measure itself. In other words, the potential plaintiff in these transitional cases has the best of both worlds. The effect of subsection (2) is to ensure that Clause 4 will apply in the case of a person dying after the Bill becomes law, whether the cause of action had arisen or not before that date. The House will remember that Clause 4 repeals the requirement of the Law Reform (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 1934, that a cause of action, in order to survive against the estate of a deceased person, must have arisen not earlier than six months before death. A period of three years is substituted. The effect of subsection (2) of the new Clause is that the subsisting cause of action will have the benefit of that repeal. Subsection (3) of the new Clause merely keeps alive those special provisions which permit a public authority, under the Act of 1893, to plead tender of amends, and also the special provisions as to costs. It would, I think, be an unreasonable course of action to alter the position of public authorities in that very small matter where a cause of action has already arisen.
I beg to second the Motion. I wish to express to my hon. Friend the Member for Yeovil (Mr. Peyton) my gratitude for the new Clause. It not only meets the substance of the point which I made on Second Reading and in Committee, but it does so in rather an ingenious manner. I was rather puzzled as to how our wish might be effected, but I think the proposed new Clause does it in as efficient and businesslike way as the draftsman could possibly conceive. I thank my hon. Friend for going so far to meet the objections which, in common with others, I raised during earlier stages of the Bill.
Question put, and agreed to.
Clause read a Second time, and added to the Bill.
The next two Amendments, in the name of the hon. and learned Member for Gloucester (Mr. Turner-Samuels), are not selected.In Clause 2, page 2, line 21, at end, insert:
In Clause 3, page 3, line 5, at end, insertProvided however that where any action referred to in this subsection has not been brought within the period of the said three years, an application may be made, after the said period of three years but before the expiration of six years from the accrual of the cause of action, to a judge in chambers or to the judge of the court in which action is proposed to be brought (if not the High Court),. after notice to the intended defendant, for leave to bring such an action notwithstanding the aforesaid period of three years has expired. The judge hearing the said application shall have a discretion to grant the said leave if satisfied that it is reasonable in all the circumstances so to do.
Provided that the deceased person's dependants shall have the same right to apply to the court as provided in the second proviso to subsection (1) of section two hereof for an extension of the said period of three years for leave to bring the action notwithstanding that the three years have expired, but not later than six years from the accrual of the cause of action which the deceased himself would have had.
On a point of order. I understand, Mr. Speaker, that you are not calling my two Amendments. I do not know whether I am entitled to say a word or two in the hope that you might reconsider your decision. I do not question your Ruling, but this is an important matter. It concerns the taking away of existing rights, and I should have thought, therefore, that you might reconsider your decision.
I am afraid that that is not relevant to the question. I do not know whether the observations of the hon. and learned Member would be in order on the Motion for Third Reading. I cannot say until I hear them, but certainly they are not in order now. We cannot discuss the matter, as the Amendments were not selected. The matter was discussed in Committee.
Clause 5—(Application To The Crown)
I beg to move, in page 3. line 31, at the end, to insert:
I think it would be convenient if this Amendment were considered with the proposed Amendments to Clause 7, in lines 4 and 5 on page 5. They are purely consequential. These Amendments are concerned purely with Northern Ireland. Under the Bill as it stands, the only provisions affecting Northern Ireland are the repeal of Sections 170 of the Army Act and 170 of the Air Force Act. The Parliament of Northern Ireland has full power to legislate over the law relating to limitations except, of course, where a reserved matter arises. The effect of these Amendments is to apply the provisions of Clause 5 to Northern Ireland, leaving the Northern Ireland Parliament to legislate on lines similar to those contained in the Bill. Both merchant shipping and postal services are reserved matters under the Government of Ireland Act, 1920. I should add that the Northern Ireland Parliament has full power also to legislate and band United Kingdom Government Departments in so far as they operate in Northern Ireland.(4) In the application of this section to Northern Ireland, the references therein to subsection (1) of section thirty and subsection (2) of section nine of the Crown Proceedings Act, 1947, shall be construed as references to those subsections as they apply in Northern Ireland in relation to Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause 6—(Provisions As To Scotland)
I beg to move, in page 4, line 9, after "person." to insert.
I should explain that this Amendment does not relate to Northern Ireland. It relates to Scotland where, if the Bill were left as it stands, it would have the quite unintended result that if the deceased person before has death were injured, or by reason of disability unable himself to sue, the cause of action would not subsist. In those circumstances, I move this Amendment which remedies that position."or someone on his behalf."
Amendment agreed to.
Clause 7—(Short Title, Extent, Repeals And Saving)
I beg to move, in page 5, line 3, to leave out "This Act so far as it," and to insert,
"Section five of this Act and so much of this Act as."
I do not wish to make a long speech, because there are other Measures to be discussed in which several hon. Members are interested; but the hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Peyton) has had a clear and uninterrupted run up to now. I think it would be as well if he explained briefly what this alteration means.
I thought I had already done so. I am sorry if I did not make it clear to the right hon. Gentleman. The previous Amendment related to Northern Ireland and this one does also; it is purely consequential. If the right hon. Gentleman will look at the Bill as it stands, it affects Northern Ireland only in so far as the Army Act and the Air Force Act are concerned.
If the hon. Gentleman had just said that it was consequential, we would have understood.
I thought I did say so.
Amendment agreed to.
Further Amendments made: In page 5, line 4, leave out "extends," and insert "extend."
In line 5, after "aforesaid," insert "this Act."
In line 9, leave out subsection (4). —[ Mr. Peyton.]
Order for Third Reading read.— [ Queen's Consent, on behalf of the Crown, signified. ]
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read the Third time."There is no need for me to detain the House at length. The Bill is substantially in the same form as it first came before the House. I wish to take this opportunity to thank those hon. Gentlemen who have supported the Measure, and to mention the hon. Member for Leeds, West (Mr. Pannell), who has extended valuable support, particularly on behalf of the trade union movement. The Bill achieves its main purpose of providing clarity and uniformity in the law, and I think that I may take some satisfaction from the fact that it restores to the private individual, to the ordinary citizen, some measure of his rights where public authorities are concerned. I hope that the Bill will shortly become law and that its benefits, though small, will in individual cases be undoubted and certain.
I am glad to have been of assistance to the hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Peyton). I do not think political feelings run very deep where English workmen are concerned. I think that the matter is summed up in a letter I received from the general secretary of my union, the Amalgamated Engineering Union, which has a membership of over 900,000. The general secretary writes:
"This is certainly a Bill which I hope will have a successful Third Reading, and in connection with the proposals I certainly think that the repealment of the Public Authorities Act, 1893, will outweigh any difficulties which may occur in reducing the" 6-year period of limitation to three years in regard to other actions.
I hope that the hon. Gentleman will accept that as something of a tribute from the trade union movement and will feel that he has rendered some service to us. I congratulate him on being able to move the Third Reading of this Bill, and we are glad to have been privileged to play some part in its success.I am authorised to say that should you so desire, you may mention in your statement in the House that the Amalgamated Engineering Union supports the Bill and the proposed amendments to be made by the mover. As you are aware, at the moment our accident cases are running at a figure of over 6,000 a year, and quite a number of claims for negligence arise against public authorities. The 12 months' limitation in England has on more than one occasion meant that action could not be taken due to the fact that when we have been advised of the circumstances it has been far too late. The repeal of the 12 months' provision will considerably assist, and I trust that this Bill will be successful."
I do not wish to detain the House for any purpose other than to congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Yeovil (Mr. Peyton). The hon. Member for Leeds, West (Mr. Pannell) spoke about the welcome which the Bill received from the trade unions. In point of fact, the Bill has been widely welcomed by all manner of persons, with the effulgent and almost unique exception of the hon. and learned Member for Gloucester (Mr. Turner-Samuels). I think that it has been so welcomed because it brings the necessary evils which attach to the law of limitation more into harmony with modern justice.I should like to congratulate my hon. Friend on the use he made of his place in the Ballot, and on his brevity and lucidity all the way through, which has made our labours on the Bill so pleasant, so swift and so satisfactory.
It was a purely tendentious statement for the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for York (Mr. Hylton-Foster) to say that I am the only "effulgent exception" to the chorus of approval that has been given to the Bill. I say at once that I participate in that chorus. I approve of the Bill most heartily. Because of that, I am sorry that there is one blemish on it. It is a blemish which those who promoted the Bill must appreciate ought not to have been there. The Government, who are behind the Bill and have adopted it, ought to know that this blemish is wrong and ought to have been put right. That was what my Amendments were designed to do.While wishing to congratulate the hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Peyton) on introducing the Bill, and conceding that it will remedy defects in the law which have been standing for a long time, and which on all sides have been agreed to be completely unjustifiable, I must, however, refer the House to Clause 2 which falls, woefully short of what it ought to be. Clause 2 seeks to get rid of an existing, right in the subject. That must always. be a very grave thing to do. Unless there is a very strong case to support it, it ought not to be allowed by Parliament. The truth is that no real case has been sought to be made to justify the taking away of this right. On the contrary, there is abundant authoritative evidence against taking away that right, evidence-which came through the channel of the Tucker Committee, which sat for a considerable time and thoroughly sifted evidence from every section of the community on this matter. Every section of the community, including the Trades Union Congress, was unanimous as regards the period in which there should be a right to bring an action in respect of personal injuries. The Tucker Committee, contrary to-what has been done in this Bill, said that the period in which an action should be allowed in both contract and in tort, without exception—except the one which I propose to mention—should be six years. The exception they made was on the question of personal injuries, but the exception was couched in very cautious and qualifying language. It was conceded that there may be cases of personal injury where, through neglect, or otherwise, an action has not been brought and where there is no excuse for not having brought it; where the evidence is ascertained and where the plaintiff is in a clear and definite position before the expiration of two years to say whether or not he wants to bring an action. There were, however, cases, and this is the grave position with regard to the present Bill, which included those where, after the period of two years, or three years for that matter, the position arose in which there was a genuine and proper claim and an action on it could not be brought because of the expiration of the period which was allowed for that purpose. Therefore, under the Bill, with the exception I have mentioned, we get the position in which it is conceded as a universal principle that the limitation of the period in which an action should be brought, whether contract or tort, should be six years. For some reason that I cannot imagine, and which has not been explained, there is a departure from that in the case of personal injuries, which may be a grave case and which may affect the livelihood of the person concerned or his family. In the case of the Fatal Accidents Act, where the dependants are concerned and where they have no control over the action at all while the deceased is alive, they may be gravely and permanently prejudiced because of the limiting provisions of the Bill.
I hate to interrupt the hon. and learned Gentleman in full flood, but I must point out, I hope not unreasonably, that this matter was very fully discussed in all its aspects during the Committee stage. Indeed, the hon. and learned Gentleman very fully expounded his view to the Committee, and I would suggest that the point he put forward then, and which he is putting forward now, was fully met.
Naturally the hon. Gentleman is most anxious to justify this grave omission. The trouble is that the matter was not thoroughly discussed in Committee. I made a contribution to try to get the Committee to change what was being done. Unfortunately, some of my own colleagues were satisfied to play the role of rubber stamps for the promoters of the Bill.
On a point of order. Is not the term "rubber stamp" an offensive one? The hon. and learned Member for Gloucester (Mr. Turner-Samuels) referred to his colleagues playing the rôle of rubber stamps. Might I say that his name appears as one of the sponsors of the Bill, but never have I heard a Bill so heavily criticised in Committee, for 40 minutes at one stretch on this point, by one who was a sponsor. I should have thought that, in that context, to refer to an hon. Friend as a rubber stamp—as merely a tool of other interests—was offensive.
I do not think that it is out of order to refer to an hon. Member as a "rubber stamp." I have heard it done once or twice. The words must be taken in a figurative rather than in a literal sense.
Further to the point of order.
It is not a point of order.
I presume that Mr. Speaker will judge. When you say that the words are figurative, Mr. Speaker, I suppose also that we must judge from whence the remark came.
If there was any justification for a point of order, that last remark did provide one. If my hon. Friend does not like the words "rubber stamp" he can erase them. It is not correct to say that this matter was fully debated in Committee. No case was made out for doing what has been done in Clause 2.It is essential that this fact should go on record, because cases will arise where grave injustice will be done through the reduction of the period of time from six years to three. This is not a case of arguing that the period of three years should be extended to six, but a case where an existing right to bring an action within six years should not be cut down to three. In paragraph 22 of its Report, the Tucker Committee says:
It concludes by saying, in paragraph 23:"…the evidence before us showed that the great majority of claims are notified at an early date after the occurrence of the incident giving rise to the claim and that actions are in the main commenced reasonably promptly. Where there is great delay the probability therefore is that either there is good reason for the delay, or that the claim is not a bona fide one, and we are of opinion that whether the reason is the one or the other may be safely left to the decision of the court upon any application for leave to commence an action which would otherwise be out of time."
The Tucker Committee, in the face of evidence from professional, industrial and business men, and, indeed, from every section of the community, came down most definitely and unqualifiedly in favour of the view that the court should have a discretion to extend the period from two years to six. I know that the Bill lays down a period of three years, instead of the Tucker Committee's two, but as to that concession there is an apt saying about fearing the Greeks bringing presents. Attempts may be made to justify this position by saying that the Bill provides for a three-year period instead of a two-year period, but it would be better to leave the two-year period suggested by the Tucker Report and still leave it open for an action to be commenced within six years if the courts deem it proper. This was the unanimous recommendation of the Tucker Committee. Those who support the Bill are naturally trying to gloss the matter over, but the plain fact is that this is a blemish in what is otherwise a very good Measure. It will inevitably lead to injustice in cases where it is proper for an action to be commenced within a period of six years. Feeling as I do about this flaw in the Bill, it would be completely wrong on my part not to ventilate it. In my view, the interest of the subject is being attacked because a most valuable right is being taken away from him. It is being attacked, too, because in the case of the Fatal Accidents Act, where the period in which actions may be commenced under the Bill is also three years, it means that whilst the deceased is alive his dependants will have no control over his decision whether or not to bring an action, and their only chance of bringing such an action may be when he is dead and the three-year period has expired. They will then be shut out, and that must be very wrong, because the whole object of the Fatal Accidents Act is to provide for dependants. In those circumstances, although it has nothing whatever to do with the rest of the Bill, this provision is absolutely wrong. The hon. and learned Member for York must, I think, have been facetious in his remarks about my attitude, because it is wrong to say that I oppose this Bill. I gave my name and support to it, but I sincerely feel that the matter to which I have referred is a blemish on it, which will be the cause of grave and recurrent injustice. Though I support the Third Reading because of what is in the rest of the Measure, I must deprecate and deplore the defect which is inherent in Clause 2."We consider that the period of limitation we have recommended should apply to all actions for personal injuries, whether the defendant is a public authority or not."
In supporting the Third Reading of the Bill, I should like to add my congratulations to the hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Peyton) for bringing it forward and leading the proceedings on it in such an efficacious and short manner. The proceedings have done something to belie the quite undeserved reputation which lawyers have in this House for talking at inordinate length. Our discussions on the Bill have been very brief, although it is an important Measure. I hope that my hon. Friend feels that we have been brief, although a promoter of a Bill always feeds that the discussion is going dangerously far.This Bill reaches its Third Reading not greatly changed from its original form. As one who has caused a certain amount of trouble during the Committee stage, I should like to thank my hon. Friend for his consideration of tie points I put forward. I feel that the new Clause which he moved and was accepted this morning has improved the Bill. It is natural that we should regard the Bill primarily as an amendment of the Public Authorities Protection Act. For more than 60 years the subject has been put at a remarkable disadvantage in relation to public authorities, in that he has had to bring his action within a period of six months after the cause of it arose. In 1939 that period was extended to 12 months, but even with that period, as the hon. Member for Leeds, West (Mr. Pannell) knows very well, there have been many cases where grave injustice has arisen. This Bill rectifies an error of our grandfathers, which has always appeared to me to be quite unaccountable. I have never understood why they did it, and it has taken us over 60 year to put it right. For that part of the Bill, I have nothing but praise and support. It is fair to say, however, that the hon. and learned Member for Gloucester (Mr. Turner-Samuels) has a point about the other aspect of the Bill. I am sorry that the general period of limitation for actions against people who are not public authorities has been cut from six to three years, in the case of personal injuries, but the benefit derived from amending the Public Authorities Protection Act will immensely outweigh any loss which comes from cutting down the general period, and I therefore enthusiastically support the Bill. There will be the rare case of personal injury where the full extent of the damage caused will not show itself for rather a long time. In those rare cases the person injured does not realise what has happened to him for two or even three years, but he will now be shut out after three years instead of after six.
In the case of the Fatal Accidents Act, 1846, the position is made even worse, because the dependants have no say in the matter while the deceased is still alive.
But the cases arising under that Act will be still rarer than those to which I have referred.
Why is that so? Surely under that Act the period of limitation runs from death? It does not matter if the injury occurred 20 years before death.
That may be so. I did not raise the point about the Fatal Accidents Acts, and I have not looked into the question. I did not refer to it in answering the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Gloucester. I rather accepted his point on it. I am concerned only with the general law myself.
Always a rash procedure.
I think that point comes better from the other side of the House than this. However, I was concerned only with questions under the general law, under which the very occasional case will arise. I am sorry that we have had to make this change in this way, but it is a very small price that we pay for the amendment of the Public Authorities Protection Act, and it may be that in another place another view on this may prevail. However that may be, I support the Bill, and I congratulate my hon. Friend on his work.
Of course my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Gloucester (Mr. Turner-Samuels) has every right to ventilate any difference of opinion on a question on which there can be perfectly legitimate differences of opinion, but I do not know why he found it necessary to do so so fiercely, or why he found it necessary to assume that those of us who disagreed were rubber stamps and stooges. I do believe that there may conceivably—I think it is unlikely—be the odd case of personal injuries where the limitation of action of three years would cause an injustice. I think such cases will be very, very rare indeed. I think that in the enormous majority of cases, in 99·9 per cent, of cases, the man who has been injured knows he has been injured within three years of the injury; and if he does not, it is generally not a very genuine case.Look at it from the other angle, for the position of the defendant who suddenly has thrown at his head a claim more than three years old. How is he to meet it? If he is a public authority, his driver has probably gone into other employment and is untraceable. The same applies to a conductor. It becomes quite impossible to find evidence, and in this sort of case, where the evidence is visual and not documentary, if we delay a claim to that extent, we place a great injustice upon the defendant that the defendant ought not to suffer. I certainly do not feel that three years is too long, and I join with all the others in commending the Bill. There is one other point I have already made in an interruption, in regard to the Fatal Accidents Act. There, certainly, inaction by the deceased cannot injure his dependants. The dependants' claim arises not from the injury but from the death. The period of limitation, which is set out in Section 3, runs not from the accident but from the death. I am speaking offhand, but I think I am right in this, that it does not matter if the accident happened 20 years before the death and nothing was done about it. However, such cases must be very rare.
I, too, offer my sincere congratulations to those who introduced this Bill. From the practical point of view, its provisions will be very helpful indeed, not only to the individuals concerned but to the practitioners, the solicitors who have to deal with cases of this nature. There is not the slightest doubt that the average individual is very often neglectful of his rights, and one often has in ordinary practice people coming for advice long after the period allowed for making claims under the Acts has expired.I hope that hon. Members will think a little more about the point made by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Gloucester (Mr. Turner-Samuels). The matter is not as simple as my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) has put it. Anyone who has had a fair amount of experience in these matters from a practical standpoint knows that limitation does cause very serious hardship to quite a number of people.
I should not like the impression to be left that merely because I did not make much of this matter, presupposing, as I did, that everyone understood why I did not, it has not been very seriously considered. It has been, and 1 thought everyone knew that.
I appreciate that.
The whole aim of the Bill is to ensure certainty. If we were to make the alterations suggested by the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Gloucester, the inevitable result would be that we should lose certainty and introduce a measure of flexibility which would be the equivalent of a speculative element.
I am saying what I am saying in the most friendly spirit. I am trying to give the House the benefit of experience that I have had in instances that have come to my personal notice. It is worth while considering this point.
It is the exception that is important. It is the exception that brings home in a pointed way what the difficulty is. The difficulty is that the average man, the man in the street does not always do what he should do within the right period. At some time someone, a friend of his perhaps, comes to him and advises him, "In view of the position you are in, why on earth do you not take action, or go to see a solicitor about the matter?" He turns up in the solicitor's office eventually, and then in the solicitor's office correspondence starts with the other party if it is not too late. The damage of the thing is that in the correspondence negotiations may take place, and eventually the claim becomes statute barred through no (fault of one's own, unless a writ is issued.,I am sure that quite a number of hon. Members who are solicitors must have had experience of the difficulties created in that way. Even in an experienced office the matter is sometimes apt to be overlooked. It does happen rarely, it is true. Hon. Members, if they will consider actions on neglect in a lawyer's work, will find that that does occur. This does not affect the Bar. They are not concerned about this kind of matter. It is the solicitor and his client who are in the difficulty. A solicitor may have been negotiating for a considerable time, trying to do his best for his client, and then he may find, because of inadvertence, that he is placed in a position in which it is impossible to deal with the matter because the limitation operates. It does happen. Such cases arise. They may be—indeed they are—rare in the layman's experience, but they are not in the legal world rare to that extent. So I would ask the promoters of the Bill, perhaps with Government support, to consider adding a provision whereby an exception may be made, or whereby a court may authorise the hearing of a case even though the writ is issued after the three years. That would probably meet the abjection. The courts would be reasonable in a matter of this sort. They have similar powers in respect of other matters already. Power is given to a court and a court can exercise it only in reasonable circumstances. In those circumstances the rights of the injured person will be protected. The point raised by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton about difficulties placed in the way of a person answering claims owing to the lapse of times would also be considered in such circumstances by the court. Perhaps I may comment further on this point. In a number of cases where the party who would be liable to damages is covered by a form of insurance he would not suffer, but there are, I agree, exceptional circumstances where the party so concerned is not insured. There should be some provision in such an excellent Bill as this to give the protection which hitherto has not been afforded a litigant in connection with personal injury. I hope the Government will also consider some means by which this provision of the Bill for the limitation period could become known and could be publicised. I hope they will also publicise the possibility of legal aid being given to claimants. That would help. I feel, however, that hon. Members who have introduced this valuable Measure would find comfort in the fact that if they could amend it to meet the point which I have made, their Amendment would be acceptable to everybody.
I should like to add my voice to the almost unanimous chorus of congratulation which has been directed to my hon. Friend the Member for Yeovil (Mr. Peyton) and the hon. Member for Leeds, West (Mr. Pannell) and to give unqualified support of the Bill.The hon. Member for Leicester, North-West (Mr. Janner) drew attention to the difficulties which he has experienced—and no doubt other members of his profession have experienced them—as a result of the period fixed by the Public Authorities Protection Act. He drew attention to the fact that the service of a writ might easily be overlooked in the course of the negotiations. This Bill makes a great difference in that respect, for the period of limitation in that type of case is considerably extended. I find it difficult to believe that negotiations are likely to last as long as three years or that the same kind of difficulty will arise in the future, and I feel sure that the hon. Member will do his utmost to make his-brethren in his profession, aware of the benefits conferred in that respect by the Bill. The hon. and learned Member for Gloucester (Mr. Turner-Samuels) complained that the Bill has not been properly explained and that the period in relation to other actions has been reduced; and he suggested that these proposals have not been thoroughly discussed. Having regard to his speeches in Committee, I was surprised to hear that criticism from him.
Perhaps the hon. and learned Gentleman will allow me to continue. I did not interrupt him.It is the case that the question of providing a degree of flexibility, such as that which the hon. Member for Leicester, North-West suggested, was not only fully discussed and considered in Committee, and the arguments weighed, but of course was most carefully and fully considered before that. One important feature in connection with limitation of actions is the advantage of certainty. This has been most carefully considered, and I suggest to the hon. Member for Leicester, North-West that he should look again at the report of the Committee stage, for we had not the advantage of his presence on that Committee. This Bill, for which my hon. Friend is largely responsible, will effect a great improvement in the law and will be welcomed by all sections of society, particularly by those who have experience of the operation of the Public Authorities Protection Act.
I should like to add my congratulations to the hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Peyton). He is very fortunate in having a Bill of this kind to his credit so early in his Parliamentary career. Some hon. Members who are fortunate in the Ballot bring forward Bills which are excellent in themselves but which do not affect large sections of our public life, as undoubtedly this Bill does. The hon. Member is very fortunate not only in having won a place in the Ballot so as to bring this Bill forward, but also in having obtained the support, which undoubtedly he has obtained, of the great trade union movement and of many of my hon. Friends. This is a non-party Measure and so far the debate has been fairly peaceful.
May I interrupt the right hon. Gentleman to ask him this question? Would he agree with me in extending congratulations a little further? I omitted, when addressing the House, to extend the congratulations to members of the Tucker Committee, whose Report in 1949 led to this legislation, and our thanks to them for all the hard work which they must have put into the consideration of these difficult problems. I meant to say that, and I hope the right hon. Gentleman does not mind my interrupting him in order to obtain his assent to that proposal.
I am delighted that the hon. and learned Gentleman interrupted me in order to make that addition to his speech. I have here a short note to the same effect. All hon. Members on this side of the House, including my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, West (Mr. Pannell) and others who have taken such an interest in the Bill and have studied the Tucker Committee's Report, will share with hon. Members opposite their gratitude to the Committee which sat for some time and which reported in 1949.I do not want to prolong the proceedings, but I think that some hon. Members opposite, the hon. and learned Member for York (Mr. Hylton-Foster) in particular, were a little hard on my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Gloucester (Mr. Turner-Samuels). After all, many of us were not in the Committee upstairs and, subject to anything which Mr. Speaker might say, my hon. and learned Friend had a perfect right to put forward a point of view which exercised the Tucker Committee for a considerable time and to which they devoted attention in their Report. What hon. Members opposite object to in my hon. and learned Friend is his persistence. I always thought that was an attribute which most hon. Members regarded as a good attribute to possess. I certainly do not possess it myself. The hon. Member for Yeovil has been fortunate in one direction at any rate; he appears to have excited no opposition on the part of the public authorities. Quite why that should be so, I do not know.
There was a lot of misinformed opposition excited on the part of local authorities, but it was so unreasonable that it was easily talked down.
I accept my hon. Friend's correction but in fact, realising what opposition arises to Measures which pass through this House, I think I am correct in saying that, generally speaking, considering what opposition we might have incurred, the public authorities have, not seen fit on this Measure to approach hon. Members as they might have done in-order to try to get them to oppose it.There is only one other thing that I wish to say. In this modern time, when our lives become so complex and public authorities interfere or assist—whichever way we care to look at it—in the lives, of us all, it is essential and desirable that the law should be brought into line, and I think that this Measure will make people aware of what their rights are and that they will not find that their rights in one direction under one public authority are different from those under another public authority. We on this side of the House welcome this Measure, congratulate the hon. Gentleman on having brought it forward, and hope that when it reaches another place the noble and learned Lords there may be willing to consider the point raised by the hon. and learned Member for Gloucester. It is a point which the Tucker Committee, as I have said, considered at great length. There is something in it. We realise the difficulty, but none of us desires to see injustice done to anyone. So if the hon. and learned Gentleman would consider what my hon. and learned Friend has said, not only here but in Committee, to see whether it would be possible to insert words in this. Bill when it reaches another place, I am sure that everyone will be satisfied, and we shall all wish the Bill a speedy passage to the Statute Book.
Question put, and agreed to.
Bill accordingly read the Third time, and passed
Slaughter Of Animals (Amendment) Bill
As amended ( in the Standing Committee), considered.
Clause 1—(Licensing Of Premises For Slaughter Of Animals)
I beg to move, in page 1, line 23, at the end, to insert:
This Amendment is to place beyond doubt the legal rights which are provided for in the principal Act of 1938, which provides for the right of appeal on the part of any person through the courts. The Amendment is to amplify that and to prevent any doubt arising as to the legal rights to which I have referred. It does not affect the position in Scotland, where the right of appeal lies to the Secretary of State and not, as in this case, to the courts."but nothing in this subsection shall be taken -as affecting so much of the said section fifty-seven as confers a right of appeal on a person aggrieved by the refusal of a local authority to grant a licence under that section."
I beg to second the Amendment.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause 2—(Regulations For Securing Humane Conditions In Slaughter Houses, Etc)
I beg to move, in page 2, line 5. to leave out from "make," to "for," in line 6, and to insert "regulations."The effect of this Amendment is not to take away the power of the Minister to make regulations, but merely to see that the jurisdiction of the courts exercised in favour of the liberty of the subject is not ousted to determine whether any regulations made are within the powers conferred by Parliament or not. The Clause, as sought to be amended, will read:
I fully support the purposes of the Bill, and I congratulate the hon. Member for Oldbury and Halesowen (Mr. Moyle) who has introduced it and brought it so far in furthering its beneficent purposes. I fully accept that this is the sort of Measure where the delegation of power to make regulations to the Minister is eminently reasonable. I think that we should, however, realise that the regulations that may be made are quite serious ones. In Clause 2 (1. a) the Minister may:"The Minister may make regulations for securing humane conditions…"
That is a very proper purpose for making regulations, but it does mean interfering with the subject's business. It becomes more serious when one sees the penalties that can be imposed by regulations. Under Clause 2 (4) regulations may prescribe penalties, and under Clause 5 those penalties can be a fine up to £50 or imprisonment for a term not exceeding three months. These are matters which seriously affect the subject who may be prosecuted under the regulations made. The regulations also, under Clause 6 may affect the power of entry into premises. Under Clause 7, the regulations are subject to annulment. It says:"prescribe requirements for the construction, layout and equipment of premises used as slaughterhouses or knackers' yards."
That being so, the question is whether the individual who is prosecuted for a breach of regulation, or whose rights and interests are otherwise affected by these regulations, shall be able to claim in the courts, if he finds his pecuniary position or liberty in jeopardy, that the regulation is within the purpose of the Act or outside the purpose for which Parliament intended the Minister to legislate on its behalf, or whether the Minister shall be the sole judge of that matter. As the Clause provides at the moment, it is the Minister's discretion which determines whether he considers or whether objectively it is to be considered that the regulations which he makes are within the four corners of the Act and are within the purposes for which Parliament intended provision should be made. It is a small point in this Bill, because this is a comparatively small corner of national life which is affected, but it is an important constitutional principle. It is a question really of whether, when Parliament delegates powers to the Minister to make regulations, it shall be completely at his discretion to decide how far he shall go, or whether the age-long power of our courts to determine whether the regulations made within the four corners of the Act are intra vires or shall be ousted. We have had great protection of our liberties in the past. Parliament should make the laws and the Executive should carry them out, but we have an independent judiciary which should interpret the laws and, in particular, determine whether the action of the Executive is within the general purposes of the powers conferred by Parliament. I am glad that the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition is sitting opposite today, because he gave a striking speech the other day in this Chamber upholding the independence and status of the judiciary. He referred to its purpose in the constitution in this respect and this is merely the application of those powers. I am sure that the hon. Member in charge of this Bill, who is eminently reasonable in these matters, will not put forward the argument, at which I must now proceed to glance, and I am sure that the Parliamentary Secretary will not do that. I hope it will not be said by anyone that this form of words has a precedent—although that, unfortunately, is true. I think it is only comparatively recently that public opinion has been awakened to the danger that this type of words has—to the serious invasion which the principle enshrined is to our liberties—the danger it may have on the general balance of the constitution on which those liberties depend. I sincerely hope, for that reason, that it will not be said that, merely because this form of words has appeared in other Acts, we should not now be vigilant to its dangers and ensure that it does not appear in the future. After all, the argument that it has been done before was the argument which Lord Palmerston used year after year when he came to Parliament to defend flogging in the Army. I hope that we shall hear nothing of that argument in this debate. The other argument frequently used in this sort of issue is that the real safeguard is Parliamentary control. It would be far from my purpose to minimise the importance of that. It is an important element, and an element which we must all see is maintained. But it can be over-emphasised; and, to a large extent, in this sort of matter, it is unreal. Parliament simply has not the time to maintain a vigilance over the mass of regulations and Statutory Instruments which, under our modern machinery of government, is poured out day by day. We have the Scrutiny Committee with a very valuable purpose, but it cannot amend and cannot even oversee the whole mass of Statutory Instruments. In any case, its functions are limited to, I believe, six comparatively major matters which it considers in deciding whether to report to the House or not. Of course, it is quite incapable of deciding whether a regulation is or is not within the four corners of an Act. That, essentially, is the job of our courts of justice. The question arises when someone is prosecuted or otherwise finds his rights invaded by regulations. We then have a conflict between the subject whose liberties are invaded and the Minister who has made the regulation. In my submission it is axiomatic in our constitutional system that that sort of dispute should be independently decided; that justice should be seen to be done; that there should be an impartial, irremovable, body of judges who can decide fairly between the subject and the State. We should not have"…regulations. Shall be exeriseable by statutory instrument…subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of either House of Parliament"
in any way invading our constitutional principles. I welcome the purpose of this Bill; and the Amendment I seek to make does not in any way infringe its purpose. The Minister could still make regulations; but they must be confined within the four corners of the Act. The Amendment preserves the right of our independent judges to decide whether the regulations are within the four corners of the Act. Let it not be thought that this is a small point. In itself power to make regulations in respect of slaughterhouses may be of slight consequence. But so often one finds liberties, not swept away by a torrent, but worn away drop by drop. It is like the rain coming down. After a time it can wear away the toughest of primaeval rocks, until they are brought crashing down in ruins. That can happen to civil liberties, as we have seen abroad in our lifetime. It is for those reasons that I commend this Amendment to the House."'I'll be judge, I'll be jury,' said cunning, old Fury"
I beg to second the Amendment.The words the Amendment proposes to remove from the Clause.
may have the effect of ousting the jurisdiction of the court, but, in this context, I should not like to be dogmatic about that. Either they have that effect, or they have no meaning at all and are unnecessary. If these words mean anything at all, it must be that the Minister can make such regulations as he wants and the court cannot inquire into them. I am rather inclined to think that they do not mean anything at all, and that the effect of leaving them out would simply be to improve the grammar and style of the Clause. That is an equally good cause, and I have nothing to add to what was said on the general principles by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Middlesbrough, West (Mr. Simon). Whether it be on grammar or principles, I have great pleasure in seconding the Amendment."as appear to him to be expedient,"
I wish to support the Amendment because, as my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Middlesbrough, West (Mr. Simon) said, it raises a constitutional point. I have tried to study this to the best of my ability. I am not a lawyer, but I am always willing to follow the advice and recommendation of such a good lawyer as my hon. and learned Friend.As it stands, the Clause gives too much power to the Executive, and the Amendment would ensure that any regulations made by the Minister shall be within the purposes of the Bill. It would then be for the courts to decide whether there was a 'Case or not. In order to save time, I want to refer to the book written by Professor Keeton, "The Passing of Parliament." Summed up, that book says that when the Government goes in for nationalisation of industry and bulk purchase abroad all the responsibility—this includes slaughterhouses—for the details of our daily life is put into Whitehall, or with the local authorities, and the machine is breaking down. I wish to take every opportunity I can of taking away any additional power given to the Executive and of preventing the Executive from taking power over the liberty of the individual. For that reason, I support the Amendment.
I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will be able to intervene and express the views of his Department on this Amendment. I appreciate all that the hon. and learned Member for Middlesbrough, West (Mr. Simon) said. Whilst this is a small point, it is an important one. I think the hon. and learned Member has very persuasively worn the mantle of the late Lord Chief Justice Hewart, but we must remember that times have changed and we have to strike a balance. Even constitutionally it is important to remember that we remain the High Court of Parliament.The hon. and learned Member anticipated many points which have been raised, but I do not think he anticipated this point, or, if so, he did not do so sufficiently. I think he would readily concede that one of the very important things about law is that it should be certain. It is a grave disadvantage to everyone if there is a substantial element of uncertainty about the law. Until this device was used there was continual uncertainty about the exercising of delegated legislation. I think the hon. and learned Gentleman conceded that, and it is an element of particular importance in delegated legislation, in short, when a statutory order becomes law, we should be reasonably certain about it and it should not be open to the vagaries of interpretation in so far as they can be avoided.
Would the hon. Gentleman carry that argument further and apply it to all delegated legislation? In other words, does he agree that the courts should never have the power to determine whether any delegated legislation, even bye-laws, are within the terms which Parliament has decreed?
Far from it, and I am not trying to put this case absolutely at all, but we should try and strike a balance as to the certainty of these matters in delegated legislation. For that reason, despite the views of Lord Chief Justice Hewart and others, we have worked this device on occasions, and I think this is one of the occasions on which it is justified on any ground.We want to uphold respect for the courts. I agree with everything that my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition said in the debate to which the hon. and learned Member referred, but we must assist the courts by not putting an undue burden upon them. I know that in theory they are knowledgeable about everything, but from a practical point of view we should accept limitations about this. From a practical point of view, what is at issue here is, What is humane and what is not humane in the slaughter of animals? It is a matter on which there are many differences of opinion.
I should like to complete this point before giving way. I referred to the High Court of Parliament, and that the Minister, in the light of his knowledge,—and he is more knowledgeable about this probably than anyone else—determines the regulations and then comes to Parliament. They have to be approved by Parliament and, when everything has been said upon them, then I say we ought to take it as decided. If there are points to be raised upon any of the matters in the regulations, they ought to be expressed here. The hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Middlesbrough, West has helped us all in calling attention to this matter. We ought to be alive to our responsibilities regarding delegated legislation.
I am only interrupting to seek elucidation from the hon. Gentleman on his argument, because it is a point on which there are differences of opinion. Is he saying that the Minister should have power to make any regulations which he honestly thinks expedient and which he thinks are within the law, even though the court, if it had jurisdiction in the matter, would decide they were outside the protection of the Act?
I think a judgment has got to be expressed upon all 'this, and on delegated legislation there is the Minister's accountability to this House. That is the sort of case in which this procedure is proper. I think that in each instance we should review whether this power should be given, but I say this is the sort of case where it can be given. I have invited the views of the Parliamentary Secretary on this matter because of that. This is the sort of case where the Minister—I am not going to say any unkind things about him on this occasion; I have said them previously—and his successors will exercise an honest judgment, and because they will exercise it we should have certainty.If there is to be a review and a reconsideration, then it should be done in this House. It is very undesirable, particularly on this sort of issue that there should be this considerable element of uncertainty, which there would be if the Amendment of the hon. and learned Gentleman were carried. For these reasons, I hope the House will place every confidence in the Minister and will rely upon his judgment so that, when this Bill becomes an Act and the Minister submits the regulations, we shall be able to scrutinise them as carefully as possible to see that they represent the views of the House.
I have listened to this debate with great care and my mind is considerably confused. I am looking at this matter as an engineer and not as a lawyer. It is sought to leave out the words
In the first place I do not suppose any Minister would make regulations which did not appear to be expedient, and, therefore, the words do not seem to be of any importance at all so that I rather agree with my ton. Friend the Member for Buckinghamshire, South (Mr. R. Bell). On the other hand, my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Middlesbrough, West (Mr. Simon) made a rather terrifying case as to what would happen if those words remained in and the Minister made regulations which he considered to be expedient. I take that to be the implication, though I do not see why that should be, because there are all kinds of slaughterhouses. There will be one upstairs next week I understand, and I am wondering whether the regulations will extend to it. This debate reminds me of many to which I listened in the House in days gone by about a man "genuinely seeking work" We had to examine the mind of a man to see whether he was genuinely seeking work, and apparently in this case we have to examine the mind of the Minister to see whether what he is doing is expedient. If my hon. and learned Friend is right that the inclusion of these words would limit the power of the courts to determine the regulations as ultra vires, his Amendment ought to have support, and I am prepared to support it. On the other hand, if the words do not mean anything, I still think that the Amendment ought to be supported, important or unimportant, and I shall do so."…such regulations as appear to him to be expedient…"
I rise to speak briefly, because I do not want to hold up the Third Reading of the Bill, but I should like to say something on what I consider to be an important constitutional point. Delegated legislation must be watched upon every occasion. It has gone much too far, and Lord Hewart, in spite of what has been said this morning by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. F. Willey), was quite right. This is an exception, and this is a case where we can pass delegated legislation with all the limitations set out in the various Clauses of the Bill.My hon. Friend the Member for Croydon, East (Sir H. Williams) was quite right in saying that if we passed the Bill in its present form the Minister would have a completely free hand in presenting regulations that he thought, rightly or wrongly, were correct. The only safeguard that exists is the very cumbersome method of praying against the regulations, which only gives power to reject the whole of them and no power to amend them. The question of reducing uncertainty has been mentioned; but it should be remembered that a great many regulations which are drafted produce anything but certainty. They produce far greater uncertainty than can possibly arise in any Act of Parliament which is scrutinised and amended by this House, and drafted by Parliamentary counsel. Therefore, I consider that this is a typical case when, instead of saying, "Those words come from another Act," or "These words have been used before," we should say, "It is time it stopped." In this Bill there is power given to the Minister to make regulations upon a very wide number of points. I hope he will make these regulations, and I hope he will lay them before this House. I hope, too, that the House will approve them, but I could not give my support to granting a Minister a free hand to make such regulations as may appear to him to be expedient upon very wide and general matters such as are covered by his Bill and which will effect not only the pocket of the subject but his or her liberty. Therefore, if this matter is carried to a Division, I shall vote in favour of the Amendment and against the views expressed by hon. Members opposite, one of whom suggested that we should strike a balance. We are striking a balance and we are giving the Minister powers to make regulations, but we are tying him down to the limitations prescribed in this Bill.
My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Middlesbrough, West (Mr. Simon) put the general case for this Amendment in persuasive terms, but my hon. Friend the Member for Buckinghamshire, South (Mr. R. Bell) seemed to think that the words were meaningless. I accept the view of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Middlesbrough, West that they are of real significance in connection with this Bill.Should that general doctrine be made to apply as a matter of common sense on this issue? In the amended form the Minister may make regulations for securing humane conditions should it be a matter for the courts to decide what are humane conditions? I am sorry that I cannot use the complicated legal terminology with which the subject has been surrounded this morning, but that is the real issue. As my hon. and learned Friend pointed out, this issue will arise when some one is charged with a breach of the regulations. He will be able to plead that the regulations are ultra vires, that the Minister, in interpreting the words "humane conditions," has gone too far, not far enough, ox in the wrong direction. It will then be left to the bench of magistrates to determine what are humane conditions, and that will mean different interpretations of those words in different courts at different times. Further, it will mean that the issue will be determined in the courts instead of in this House. This is an issue of policy rather than of law. My hon. and learned Friend said that complicated regulations receive little attention in this House. This subject, however, has received a great deal of attention in this House and, when these regulations are laid, they will receive a great deal of attention. So I think there is no chance that inadequate, insufficient or unpopular regulations will survive the scrutiny permitted by this Bill, that is, scrutiny under the negative procedure. Therefore, I ask my hon. and learned Friend to withdraw his Amendment. I am not seeking to traverse his general argument, which will find considerable sympathy on both sides of the House, particularly amongst lawyers. It is the application of a general principle to a narrow problem that we are considering. I ask the House to retain the position that the Minister, advised, criticised, checked, as Ministers are, has the responsibility laid on him to judge what are humane conditions when so much difference of opinion is involved. For I do not think that even in obedience to the general doctrine, interpretation of those words should be left to these different bodies with their differing standards.
I was impressed with the eminently reasonable way in which the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Middlesbrough, West (Mr. Simon) put his case, and being one who is disposed at any time to strike a blow for liberty a,; against authority, I was tempted to go his way. Quite frankly, however, I think that the occasion of this Bill is not quite the right place to let loose upon us the philosophy of liberty in relation to the Minister and the courts.May I remind the hon. and learned Gentleman that this is an enabling Bill and that the purpose of the regulations is to give effect to the Bill. In other words, the regulations are the policy. If we were to accept this Amendment it would mean that the purposes of this Bill, when it became law, would become the sport of the courts; instead of the policy being the responsibility of the Minister, it would ultimately be the responsibility of the courts. The previous Amendment places beyond any doubt the legal right of any aggrieved person to appeal to the courts against an adverse decision by the local authority of refusing or not a licence or renewing a licence at the end of 12 months, and this Amendment is covered by it. There is the machinery of the Prayer. Moreover, the Minister of Food will be solely accountable to this House for the operation of the Act. I hope, therefore, that the hon. and learned Gentleman will not press the Amendment to a Division and that, having made his speech, he will be good enough to withdraw his Amendment and so keep the party happy.
Would not the hon. Gentleman admit that his Amendment refers only to the granting or withholding of licences, and would not affect in any way the right of an individual prosecuted for breach of a regulation to say that the regulation should not have been made?
I appreciate the point but the regulations, in so far as premises are concerned, will be drafted by the Minister for laying down a minimum standard of suitability. When an application for a licence is considered by the local authority, the issue will be whether the premises for which a licence is sought are up to the minimum standard laid down in the regulations.
If the hon. Gentleman is still notionally vertical, may I ask him whether he realises that if the regulations which the Minister makes are for the purpose of securing the purposes of the Bill they will be valid under the Amendment, but supposing the Minister makes a regulation altering, for instance, the foreign currency allowance for tourists under this Bill, is he saying that ought not to be challengeable in the courts? I am giving an absurd illustration to make the point clear. Supposing the Minister makes a regulation about something not inside the Bill, I have been told— I was surprised to hear it—that, as the wording stands, any regulation which the Minister makes purporting to be in pursuance of this Bill, is valid. That is the position we are trying to correct. Is the hon. Gentleman really supporting that position?
I hesitate to enter into this legal discussion because I am not qualified to do so, but I hope there will not be any confusion of thought or decision on what is a minor point. The words are simple and they make it clear that the regulations are for securing humane conditions. That is the only purpose for which these regulations will be made, and therefore the wording merely seems to me to clarify the functions of the Minister.It is fascinating to hear lawyers express their views on these, to us, simple matters, but I hope that in this instance my hon. and learned Friends, whose opinions I value greatly, will not try to pursue this matter too far, thereby perhaps upsetting the harmony which is spread over the House today, since we all have one purpose only, to get this Bill on the Statute Book at the earliest possible moment.
I had some sympathy at any rate with the motives of the supporters of this Amendment until the last intervention of the hon. Member for Buckinghamshire, South (Mr. R. Bell), because I thought that up to that stage they had been arguing that it might be possible to make a regulation germane to the subject matter but which did not quite touch the question of humane conditions. They now appear to fear that the Minister of Food, in dealing with this subject might make a regulation that dealt with some other and quite foreign matter. It might be the amount of the allowance for foreign travel.If the hon. Member for Buckinghamshire, South fears that-, he does very little justice to the acumen of the hon. Member for Croydon, East (Sir H. Williams) who, like myself, reads every Statutory Instrument that is deposited in the Vote Office. I am certain that if I happened to miss it, the hon. Member for Croydon, East would find it. Let us not get into that fanciful realm where we assume, in the first place, that a responsible Minister of the Crown acts in bad faith and that, having obtained power to make a regulation to define humane conditions in a slaughterhouse, he says to himself, "Very well, I will limit the foreign currency allowance to a fiver in the current year."
I made it clear that I was exaggerating to make the argument clear. It is very often quicker to use a dramatic exaggeration in order to make one's point clear.
That is a favourite trick of lawyers and, as the Parliamentary Secretary suggested, this is very largely a matter where we get into these refinements of legalistic considerations which can make procedure in this House appear to be ridiculous. But, fortunately, we are still governed by common sense rather than by the lawyers, and even the lawyers find themselves in great difficulties when they try to impose these fanciful things on lawyers who have been elevated to high positions in the judicial system.I cannot help thinking that the hon. Member for Buckinghamshire, South, by the line he took, disposed of the arguments adduced. I sincerely hope that the advice given to the House by the Parliamentary Secretary, who for once has deviated into advocacy of a policy of common sense, will be listened to. I hope that the fact that my hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey) and myself, who always regard the Parliamentary Secretary when speaking at the Dispatch Box with the gravest suspicion, feel that on this occasion his advice should be followed, will not be without weight in the considerations of the House.
The right hon. Gentleman has not dealt with my point, that these regulations might raise a conflict as to who is to inspect first, whether a veterinary surgeon or a sanitary inspector, and so on. The Minister might act in a way clearly undesirable, which might not be spotted in this House, and the courts would be entitled to say that he had gone beyond his powers because he had made conditions with regard to inspection which were not authorised by the words of the Bill.
I should have thought that securing humane conditions might depend upon the officer appointed, and I should have thought that that would be just the kind of point which the Bill clearly indicated that the Minister should have in mind.
I should like to be allowed to intervene again, with the leave of the House. I have been quite unconvinced by the, arguments that have been put forward against the Amendment. As the hon. Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. F. Willey) said, this is a point of constitutional importance. With very great respect, I do not think that the right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede), as a former Home Secretary, does the House any service in minimising a matter of this sort as being a legalistic quibble.It is within the knowledge of the House that many miscarriages of justice have occurred under this form of delegated legislation. The House should watch it closely. It is quite unreal to suppose that public opinion is not gravely disturbed. We have seen only in recent months occasions on which officials, in what they regarded as the pursuance of duty, have caused a miscarriage of justice. However, I can never resist an appeal for harmony, particularly when it comes from my hon. Friend the Member for Ayr (Sir T. Moore); and therefore I do not propose to advise my hon. Friends to divide. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
I beg to move, in page 2, line 19, after "may," to insert "(a)."I suggest that it will be for the convenience of the House if with this Amendment we also take the further Amendment in the same line. The purpose of both Amendments is to provide a discriminatory power for the Minister to select certain slaughterhouses along the docks and wharfs of this country which are used occasionally and only for the specific purpose of slaughtering an animal which may be sick or has been maimed during transit from another country. The Amendments enable the Minister to discriminate by specifying in the regulations certain of the slaughterhouses, such as the one at Birkenhead, which would rank for the application of the whole of the regulations under this Bill, so that if any emergency arose and any extra work had to be provided for, these slaughterhouses could be used for permanent and not for special or temporary purposes.
Amendment agreed to.
Further Amendments made: In page 2, line 19, leave out "relate to premises," and insert:
"are made for the purposes mentioned in paragraph (a) of the last foregoing subsection, be made to."
In line 22, at end, insert:
(b) in any case be made without applying, or applying subject to exceptions or modifications, in relation to slaughterhouse's forming part of an imported animals wharf or approved landing place for the purposes of the Diseases of Animals Act, 1950, or applying (with or without exceptions or modifications) only in relation to any such slaughterhouse of that description as may be specified in the. regulations.— [Mr. Moyle.]
Clause 3—(Licensing Of Slaughtermen)
I beg to move, in page 3,. line 24, after "horses," to insert:
This is a drafting Amendment for the purpose of making it explicit that the validity of a license isued by the local authority shall apply in respect of the slaughter of horses only in the district of the authority which has issued the licence."(whether or not it also authorises him to slaughter or stun other animals)."
I beg to second the. Amendment.
Amendment agreed to.
Amendments made: In page 5, line 41, leave out "or Part II."
In line 41, at end, insert:
"or the Local Government (Financial Provisions) (Scotland) Act, 1954."— [Mr. Moyle.]
Second Schedule—(Amendments And Repeals)
I beg to move, in page 8, line 31, column 2, at the end, to insert:
(c) in subsection (4) for the words "as, to any similar licence" there shall be sub stituted the words "as to any licence in respect of a slaughterhouse or knacker's, yard";
(d) in subsection (5) after the words "grant or renew a licence under this section" there- shall be inserted the words "or to grant a licence expressly authorising the use of the premises in question for or in connection with the slaughter of horses, or to renew a licence with such an authorisation as aforesaid";
In section ninety the following words shall 'be added at the end of subsection (1): —(e) in subsection (6) for the words from "A person aggrieved" to "under this section" there shall be substituted the words "A person aggrieved by any such refusal of a local authority as is mentioned in the last foregoing subsection."
This Amendment is due directly to the provisions, to which I referred when discussing the first Amendment, for specifying clearly the legal rights of any aggrieved person to resort to the courts against any decision on the part of a local authority in refusing a licence."The reference in this subsection to refusing a licence includes, in the case of a licence under section fifty-seven of this Act, a reference to refusing to grant or renew a licence with such an authorisation as is mentioned in subsection (5) of that section."
Amendment agreed to.
Further Amendments made: In line 44, column 2, at end, insert:
"(whether or not it also authorises him to slaughter or stun other animals)."
In line 45, column 2, after "force," insert "only."— [ Mr. Moyle.]
I beg to move, in page 10, column 3, to leave out lines 21 to 23.The Amendment is designed to provide that the prevention of cruelty to animals must 'be a matter for regulations and not, as at present, bye-laws.
Amendment agreed to.
Further Amendment made: in line 31, column 3, at end, insert:
"In section sixty, in paragraph (a) of subsection (2), the words ' and for preventing -cruelty therein'."— [Mr. Moyle. ]
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read the Third time."In moving the Third Reading of the Bill, I know that I may claim your indulgence, Mr. Speaker, in making acknowledgements for the help I have received during the consideration of the Bill. I should like to refer, first, to the hon. Member for Withington (Sir R. Cary), who has taken a keen interest in the Bill and was its seconder. I regret that illness has prevented the hon. Member's attendance today, a fact which we all deeply regret. I sincerely hope that he will soon be restored to good health and back at the House. He was good enough to send me a telegram with his best wishes for the success of 'the Bill today. I should like also to acknowledge the excellent work that has been done by the Ministry of Food, and to refer especially to Mr. W. J. B. Hopkinson, a Principal, and Parliamentary Counsel, and also to the Parliamentary Secretary. During my association with the hon. Gentleman since I selected the Bill, I have found him most enthusiastic and co-operative. This has done much to efface from my memory those less fragrant memories when he bloomed and boomed as "The Radio Doctor." I should like also to refer to Sir George Cockerill, the President of the International League for the Protection of Horses, who has been most helpful to me and whose judgment, particularly on the welfare of horses, has been of great value. I should further like to express thinks to my two colleagues the hon. Members for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross) and Sunderland, North (Mr. F. Willey). It gives me great pleasure to reach the Third Reading of this important Bill. It has been subjected to various Amendments, but taking it as a whole I think that, on balance, it is now a better Bill than on Second Reading. For this reason, I am grateful to my colleagues, on both sides of the House, who have rendered every encouragement and co-operation in seeking to get the Bill on to the Statute Book, including, notwithstanding his speech this morning, the hon. and learned Member for Middlesbrough, West (Mr. Simon). The Bill provides for two things: first, that regulations shall be laid down by the Minister to ensure humane and decent conditions of accommodation and slaughter for all animals to be slaughtered; and second, that for the first time the slaughterhouse-keeper and the slaughterman have to render public accountability for their actions in the slaughtering of animals. No person will be able to engage in this work without a licence. What is more important, is the strengthening of the inspectorate, not only the inspectorate of the local authorities, which has been reinforced by the power that the Bill confers upon them to appoint a veterinary surgeon, but the appointment of a central inspectorate by the Ministry of Food. From the assurances that I have received from the Minister. I can inform the House that every effort will be made, in co-operation with the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, to ensure that the inspectorate will be both competent and effective to enforce the provisions of the Bill. Secondly, I refer to the slaughtermen. As I said on the occasion of the Second Reading debate, the conditions under which slaughtermen work in the slaughter of horses appal me as much as, if not more than, what I experienced in the actual slaughtering of the animals. I am glad that I have been able to make some contribution to the welfare of slaughtermen by making the conditions of their work subject to licence. I sincerely hope, and I think the Parliamentary Secretary will share that hope, that the Food and Drugs Bill, which is now under consideration, may reach the Statute Book before the summer Recess so that the welfare conditions which I have discussed with the Departments may be put, as it were, on the legal Scoreboard, and that for the first time proper welfare conditions will govern their work—welfare, not merely for the sake of hygiene but for the sake of humanity as well. May I point out that the Bill does not deal with the horses that are transported from another country to this, nor indeed does it deal with horses in transport here. As I tried to say, it deals entirely with the slaughter of animals, ensuring two things—decent conditions for them while they await slaughter, and that only the most humane instruments of slaughter and methods of slaughter known to science may be used in the slaughter of animals. I am conscious, as we have reached the Third Reading, of the many people up and down the country—I suppose many hundreds of them—who have written to me to wish me well. I am grateful for their good wishes. When the Bill goes to another place, I am satisfied that the noble Lord who will pilot the Measure through the other place on my behalf will bring his great experience and good judgment to bear for the good of the Bill. I sincerely hope that when the Bill reaches the Statute Book all our hopes, and our faith in the Measure, and those of the people in the country who have expressed their faith in, and good wishes for, what we have sought to do, will be fully justified.
I beg to second the Motion.I do not know whether my hon. Friend the Member for Oldbury and Halesowen (Mr. Moyle) takes an active interest in the subject of the next Bill down for consideration today. If he does not, I suggest that the sooner he starts to do so, the better. This is the second time in the past few years on which he has had his name drawn early in the Ballot and has been enabled to move a Private Member's Bill. I believe that in the past two weeks he has twice been fortunate in the Ballot for the Adjournment. He seems to be a lucky man. Good luck can, however, be squandered, but my hon. Friend has chosen well in using his Parliamentary good luck on this occasion to introduce this Bill, which for the first time makes possible a national code to cover the subject and seeks to perfect humane conditions not only in slaughterhouses but also places where horses, tucked away out of sight of the public altogether, may be awaiting slaughter. From time to time this nation has been shocked with exposures of really cruel conditions in relation to this matter. The public is quick to think and act but very often public outcry is spent on impassioned letters to editors, some frank exposing articles and denunciatory speeches, and the work of carrying on the campaign is left to a persistent few or a society such as the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. On this occasion my hon. Friend has taken the opportunity of introducing a Bill to bring to fruition the work of the Northumberland Committee and of all those people interested in the matter. My hon. Friend is to be congratulated upon the way he has handled the subject. The Bill is by no means perfect; in fact, the meat of it really lies in the regulations. That is why I agree that it was an important point that the hon. and learned Member for Middlesbrough, West (Mr. Simon) raised, although I am very glad that he saw fit, in the end, to withdraw that Amendment. If the Bill is really to achieve the object that we all seek, it will depend, first, on the Minister in making these regulations, and, secondly, on the local authorities in carrying them out. I am sure from what we have heard from the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food, that he certainly has this subject very much at heart. I am also perfectly sure that the local authorities, now empowered to act, will not fail in their duties. Once again, I express my congratulations to my hon. Friend the Member for Oldbury and Halesowen, and I trust that we shall see the Bill very quickly on the Statute Book.
Horses everywhere, and all those who care for them, will owe a debt of gratitude to the hon. Member for Oldbury and Halesowen (Mr. Moyle), who sponsored the Bill. Also, as the hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross) said, the public conscience, which has been very troubled over this matter of slaughter, will be greatly eased as a result of the efforts of the promoter of the Bill.The hon. Gentleman omitted to pay proper tribute to the Duke of Northumberland, who was mentioned by the hon. Member for Kilmarnock. But for the Northumberland Committee and the wise recommendations which it made on this subject, and the anxiety of the House to see that they were implemented, we might perhaps still be somewhat shocked at some of the conditions described by the hon. Member for Kilmarnock. I should like to reinforce what the hon. Member for Oldbury and Halesowen said about our old colleague, Sir George Cockerill. It has been his life work to see this Bill on the Statute Book. The Bill is limited. As we know, it does not deal with the transport of horses, but there are already Regulations in force which, if properly implemented, should cover that point. This Bill deals with a somewhat limited subject but one which has caused the people of this country a great deal of unnecessary anxiety, which the Bill will remove. There are three points that need special attention and which will help the effectiveness of the Measure. One is, of course, the licensing. I imagine that when the fruitful results of the Government's decision to deration meat come into being, there will have to be a large increase in the number of slaughterhouses. Before the war there were 16,000; now there are about 600. I cannot imagine that there will not be a great necessity for a big additional number. It is very important that when those slaughterhouses come into being they should be properly licensed and should conform to the requirements laid down in the Bill. The second thing which I think is very important again concerns the regulations. May I express my appreciation to my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Middlesbrough, West (Mr. Simon) for his courtesy and good will towards the Bill in withdrawing his Amendment. I am sure that his fears were right, but I feel they will prove to be entirely unjustified. I certainly hope so. This applies also to the lairage, and it is important that Regulations be issued regarding that. The sense of smell of animals is even more sensitive than that of humans. The mere smell of blood is sufficient to cause a preliminary fear which is almost as great as that of the actual act of slaughter. It is no use licensing premises unless the men who use them are also licensed, and I applaud the decision to include a provision for the general licensing of sluaghtermen. It takes some time for a man to acquire the skill to slaughter, especially with the many new developments in humane killing, and it is wise that a man should not be allowed to take on this responsible duty unless he is properly equipped to do so. I would refer finally to the power of entry. We in Scotland were ahead of England in this respect, but this Bill, while it does not go so far as the Slaughter of Animals (Scotland) Act, 1928, contains a list of those local authority representatives and other officials who have that power. I think, therefore, that we can rely on them to make certain that the conditions laid down are observed. I commend the Bill to the House and thank the hon. Gentleman for introducing it, and so skilfully and tactfully directing it to its present stage.
I wish to support the hon. Member for Ayr (Sir T. Moore) whose interest in these matters is appre- ciated throughout the country. In thanking my hon. Friend the Member for Old-bury and Halesowen (Mr. Moyle) for the great public service he has performed in promoting this Bill and piloting it through the House, may I say that he has done so with great persuasiveness? I think that it is a credit to all of us that, regardless of party, we have combined to expedite the passage of this Measure.I wish also to thank the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food and his Department, who, I know, welcome this Bill. As I have repeatedly said, the Ministry of Food is as anxious as anyone to ensure that the conditions in which animals are slaughtered in this country are as humane as possible. I am at present endeavouring to draft a few Amendments to a similar Bill and, with apologies to the hon. and learned Member for Middlesbrough, West (Mr. Simon), I wish to voice my appreciation to the Parliamentary draftsmen for assisting my hon. Friend to make sure that this Bill expressed his intentions. The Bill is opportune at this moment, as it is being considered contemporaneously with the Slaughterhouse Bill and with the Food and Drugs Amendment Bill. When these three Measures become law, we shall have made very good progress in ensuring that slaughtering conditions are as humane as possible. I welcome the assurance of the Minister; given a few days ago, that the Government will do all they can to endorse a policy of moderate concentration of slaughterhouses as soon as they obtain the report of the inter-departmental committee. My hon. Friend the Member for Oldbury and Halesowen and his "Parliamentary private secretary," my hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross), have performed a real public service. I hope that everyone, including the local authorities, will co-operate to ensure that the provisions of this Bill are carried out.
May I join with the hon. Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. F. Willey)—indeed the opportunity is too good to be missed—in commending the initiative and industry of the hon. Member for Oldbury and Halesowen (Mr. Moyle). The hon. Gentleman has been generous in his tributes. A good deal of work has been done in my Department, but it has been a pleasure to co-operate with someone who has thrown himself so energetically into the prosecution of his task.,The House may take it that when this Bill arrives on the Statute Book, my right hon. Friend will do his utmost to give full, proper and energetic effect to its purposes. The hon. Member for Oldbury and Halesowen had his opportunity, and he took it. Speaking for the Government, I wish warmly to congratulate him on what he has done and on the way in which he has done it.
I should like to welcome this Bill which I feel is particularly timely, because it deals with those horses which are not so fortunate as to be killed in the Grand National. On a question of this kind, one has almost to consider whether one-is being sorry for oneself or for the animals. Where four horses at the height of their power and fitness are killed in front of a great crowd, they die very quickly. The circumstances surrounding their death are similar to those which many of us would choose—and certainly my father chose—as being the sort of death to be preferred above all others; though we are horrified because it happens before our eyes. But we forget about the things which do not happen in our presence—the gin trap, for example; the most horrible and deliberate spreading of rabbit disease; and what happens in slaughterhouses.We do not think of the fate of those other horses on the racecourse whose death we do not see. A very few of them go to stud, but the vast majority will find their way to the slaughterhouses. That will be a far less happy fate for them than breaking their leg during the full excitement and enjoyment of what they are doing. Nature does not provide beds for its denizens. Ordinarily, indeed universally, their fate is either death by violence where they are eaten by their enemies, or death by starvation when they become too weak to survive. When we domesticate animals and make them our friends and servants, we have an opportunity to mitigate the cruelties of nature. This Act depends upon the regulations that will be made, and if they are administered properly we can mitigate the natural cruelty suffered by those who are our friends and servants. For many such animals death in these slaughterhouses is the normal, if not the universal, fate as it is for those horses which serve us and which race for our enjoyment.
Although I came into these proceedings at a late stage, I should not like the occasion to go by without taking the opportunity to add my voice to the congratulations which have been showered so rightly upon the hon. Member for Oldbury and Halesowen (Mr. Moyle) for his conduct of this Bill, and upon those who supported him in piloting it through the House. I say that especially in view of the very courteous, although negative, way in which he dealt with my Amendment today. I still regard it as unfortunate that he should have entered into a conspiracy with my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary and the hon. Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. F. Willey) to flout the strictest constitutional proprieties. But it is perhaps a slight blemish on an otherwise admirable Bill; and I congratulate the hon. Member for Oldbury and Halesowen most sincerely.
Question put, and agreed to.
Bill accordingly read the Third time, and passed.
Pool Betting Bill
As amended ( in the Standing Committee) considered.
Clause 1—(Promoters Of Pool Betting To Be Registered)
I beg to move, in page 1, line 18, to leave out from "of," to the first "register," in line 1, on page 2, and to insert:
I suggest that it would be convenient to discuss at the same time the Amendments in page 2, line 43, and page 3, line 3, which deal with the same point. The sole purpose is to make it possible for local authorities to charge any sum they think appropriate, up to £50, both for the annual registration fee and for the initial fee for registering a pool as an approved pool. This is to meet the demands of the local authorities and also to meet a point raised in Committee."the appropriate registration fee."
I beg to second the Amendment.
Amendment agreed to.
I beg to move, in page 2, line 29, at the end, to insert:
This is really a drafting Amendment to provide that appeals should go to the appeals committee of the quarter sessions, as is the customary modern practice, and not to the quarter sessions itself. The proposal is made after consultation with the local authority associations."and sections seven and eight of the Summary Jurisdiction (Appeals) Act, 1933 (which prescribe the courts for the hearing of certain appeals to quarter sessions), shall apply as they apply in relation to an appeal from a court of summary jurisdiction."
Amendment agreed to.
Further Amendments made: In page 2, line 43, leave out "a fee of twenty-five pounds," and insert:
"the appropriate continuation fee."
In line 3, at end, insert:
9) For the purposes of this section the appropriate registration fee and the appropriate continuation fee shall be fees of such amounts respectively (not in either case exceeding fifty pounds) as may be fixed annually by the local authority for the whole of their area; and different amounts may be so fixed by any such authority in respect "of businesses of different classes.— [Mr. Mulley.]
Clause 5—(Duties And Powers Of The Accountant)
I beg to move, in page 8, line 29, at the end, to insert:
The purpose of the Amendment is to require that the accountant will return an annual report to the local authority. This is in line with the requirements of the First Schedule of the Betting and Lotteries Act, 1934, in respect of greyhound totalisators. The Amendment is proposed after consultation with the accountancy and local authority associations and it remedies an omission in the Bill as drafted.(4) Not later than the end of October in each year the accountant shall furnish to the local authority a report stating, if such be the fact, that he has examined all statements submitted to him by a registered pool promoter under the last preceding section for the period mentioned in subsection (5) of that section which ended in that year, has conducted such enquiries into the manner in which the business of that promoter is carried on and made such examination of that promoter's records as he considers necessary, and has no cause to believe that any of the provisions of (his Act have been contravened or not complied with in relation to any of the competitions of that promoter taking place during the said period except in relation to such matters (if any) as have been reported by the accountant in pursuance of subsection (3) of this section.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause 10—(Legalisation Of Ready Money Pool Betting Carried On By Post)
I beg to move, in page 10, line 18, to leave out Clause 10.I wish to call attention to the fact that this Clause is still in the Bill despite what was said at earlier stages during the debates on Second Reading and in Committee. I understood the promoter of the Bill to say on Second Reading that he did not feel particularly strongly about this Clause, which exempts pools from the provisions of the Ready Money Football Betting Act, 1920, and Section 1 of the Betting Act, 1853.
Will the hon. Gentleman agree that it is exemption only in respect of postal betting, which is very important?
I agree. When we came to the Clause during the Committee stage, the promoter of the Bill made some observations on his reasons for wanting to keep it in the Bill. He said that because he had promised, I think on Second Reading, that in Committee he would say something about the Clause. When he began his remarks, the hon. Member for Lincoln (Mr. de Freitas) interrupted and said in effect, that he did not want (o hear anything about it.
I said that, if the hon. Member wanted to get his Bill, I did not see why, on the Motion "That the Clause stand part of the Bill," he should seek to define something when no other Member of the Committee had challenged it. The hon. Gentleman must have known that he should have challenged the Clause. My remark was not in the least an attempt to silence anybody. I was merely pointing out a procedural fact, that it was unnecessary to counter arguments which had not been made.
The promoter had promised that he would make some observations and give reasons for the Clause being kept in the Bill. I wanted to hear the reasons, but the hon. Member for Lincoln interrupted the promoter and said that he did not want to hear what was going on. 1 wanted to hear, and by the time I got up to challenge the matter—
I do not know to what this argument relates, but it does not relate to the Amendment.
It relates to the inclusion of the Clause in the Bill. I am trying to explain why I did not raise the matter in Committee. I tried to raise it and I stood up, but I agree that I did not stand up at the time when I should have got to my feet.
I think that the hon. Gentleman might come to the Amendment.
I will now say what I wanted to say to the Committee, and that is that I hope that the Clause will be left out of the Bill. Here I am open to correction, because I have not studied the matter as closely as some hon. Members and have not had the advantage of lengthy discussions with the pools promoters, but I understand that the Clause has been included because under it, when a person makes a bet on a football pool, he can send the money at the same time as he makes the bet.The position under the provisions of the two Acts which are quoted is that if a person makes a bet he is not allowed to send his money in until, at any rate, the week afterwards. I have had it represented to me that, unless the Clause is left in the Bill, it will be very difficult to work the Bill because it will not be easy to get out the accounts of a week's betting if the money is not coming in until the following week. It will be particularly difficult, for instance, on the last day of the season when people would make their bets in the ordinary way and perhaps would not have to pay for those bets until the first day of football in the next season. There are arguments which do not impress me in the least. The first objection that I have to the Clause is that it is granting to the football pools special treatment which perhaps ought to be given to other branches of betting. I cannot see for the life of me why the football pool promoters should be placed in this special and advantageous position. It is absolutely wrong that they should have this great advantage over other people who make their money out of betting. 1.30 p.m. I want to make it quite clear that I am not opposed to people having a bet if they want to do so, but the people who make their living out of it should be treated fairly and alike. It is not the duty of the House of Commons to encourage betting. There is quite enough of it as it is without our going out of our way to enable it to be done more freely and easily than at present. I am against the provisions of the Clause because I believe that it will encourage football pool betting by making it easier. The whole Bill becomes objectionable by reason of the fact that what began as a football pool investors' charter has now become a football pool promoters' charter. It will place football pools on a semi-official basis, and many people will begin to think that they are run by local authorities. By doing all this for football pools promoters, we are officially recognising them and going out of our way to help them. In that case, why not go the whole hog and nationalise football pools, as I said in the Second Reading debate? I do not see why we should place football pool promoters in this very advantageous position. A great deal of resentment will be caused in other sections of the fraternity if these promoters are accorded special treatment. If the Clause is left in and the Bill becomes law, I am not sure whether the exemptions from the other Acts will apply to all bets made on football pool coupons, or whether it will apply only to ordinary football pools and not to fixed odds pools.
It will not apply to fixed odds betting on football pools.
Both forms of pool are included in a pool coupon, are they not?
I am not so expert in this matter as other hon. Members, but I still oppose the inclusion of this Clause. It was not considered in Committee and we are now considering it on the Report stage. I believe that the Clause will cause resentment and that we are doing something to promote betting at a time when, if anything, we should seek to put a curb upon it, or, at any rate, to refrain from encouraging it.
I beg to second the Amendment.In doing so, I wish to dissociate myself from almost everything that has been said by my hon. Friend the Member for Heston and Isleworth (Mr. R. Harris), I hope without offence to him or to the House. My purpose in seconding the Amendment is similar to his in its origin, in that I believe that it is entirely wrong for Parliament to approve a very drastic change in our betting laws without giving the matter any consideration either in Committee upstairs or on the Floor of the House. Since the only way in which we could accomplish the feat of enabling Parliament to do its duty was by putting down the Amendment, I thought it proper to do so in view of the importance of the matter. It is very important that those of us who are concerned with social conditions, whether or not we have strong views about the goodness or badness of gambling, should at any rate consider the likely effects of introducing this new principle of ready-money betting into our social life. It is not good enough for the hon. Member for Sheffield. Park (Mr. Mulley) to say that this Clause applies only to postal betting. That is the familiar argument about something being ' only a little illegitimate baby."
The House is discussing only what is actually in the Bill. That is the sole purpose of my intervention.
I hope that the House is also going to discuss what should be taken out of the Bill, and what will be taken out if the Amendment is approved is the introduction of a new principle in our betting laws.I have no very strong views about gambling, and still weaker are my views whether people should gamble for cash or for credit, but we ought to make it quite clear, throughout the whole of our discussions on the Bill and the effect which this Clause will have upon the operation of it, that we are doing something which will alter the ways in which betting is carried on. This is a beginning, upon which can be hung a good many other ways of changing our betting procedure. If we approve the Bill with the inclusion of this Clause, it is clear that everybody else will regard it as establishing a precedent, and will see no logical reason why cash betting should not be allowed in many other cases. My hon. Friend made most of the points that I should have thought would have been made by the proponents of the Clause in seeking to justify its inclusion. The only one which merits any weight is that which argues that, if the Clause is taken out of the Bill, it will, for purely mechanical reasons within the operations of the football pools offices, be impossible to operate other provisions dealing with the precision required of pool promoters in making their returns. I do not wish to destroy the Bill or to see its intentions defeated. I believe its intentions are fairly good, as we have now improved it. But any Bill which depends for its successful operation upon a Clause which can be shown to be bad is almost certainly not a very good one, to put it at its lowest. We ought to consider whether the Clause can be shown to be a bad one, as I think it can. I said that I have no very strong views about cash or credit betting. Neither, apparently, had the Royal Commission, upon whose Report this Bill largely rests. So far as one can judge from one's post, and the evidence given at the sittings of the Royal Commission, the Churches Committee also held no strong views upon this subject. In this Bill we are legislating for a very wide extension of ready-money betting, which will undoubtedly lead to a good deal of encouragement of gambling. The greater the facilities we offer to those interested in gambling, the more gambling there will be. The Royal Commission, with a series of masterly evasions and a crop of contradictions, managed to avoid what it set out to accomplish, which was to show that Parliament had a duty to limit gambling if it were shown that gambling had a deleterious social effect on our public life. The net result of the Royal Commission's labours was the introduction of a series of proposals, many of which, besides this one, rest upon the need to allow ready-money betting. This Clause is only one example of many others that can be laid to rest upon the recommendations of the Royal Commission, and we are now bringing an incredibly high degree of absurdity into our betting laws, which already contain an abundance of absurdities. It has already been observed by my hon. Friend, and agreed to by the hon. Member for Sheffield, Park, that if I make a bet on a football pool coupon in one of the normal pools and accompany my investment, as we call it, with the money, that will be all right if that Bill becomes law with this Clause in it. If I make a bet on the same matches with the same firm on the same day on what the pool promoter calls his fixed odds pools and send my money with the bet, that bet is invalidated or I offend against the betting laws.
Will my hon. Friend explain what a fixed odds pool is?
Most hon. Members who have gathered in this House today have come here to have their education in these matters completed by my hon. Friend, not by me.
But what is it?
I have not a clue.
A pool with a fixed dividend—not odds.
I have not the slightest desire to be enlightened on this matter, since fixed odds or ordinary pools have no place whatever in my private life. I am sure my hon. Friend can complete any gaps in the knowledge of hon. Members of this matter. However, that is one of the absurdities that would follow the passage of this Bill with this Clause in it.Let us consider how much farther these absurdities can go. Here is Mr. A, who wishes to send a bet to a football pool promoter on a normal pool, so-called. He sends his money with the bet. That is all right. If he wishes to make a bet on a horse with a street-corner bookie and sends his money with his bet, he is in very serious trouble indeed, for he offends against one of our cardinal laws. Indeed, on the very day that this Clause was allowed to go through the Committee without a debate, the Liverpool "Evening Express," an admirable paper because of the attention it gives to what I say and because of the accuracy of its other reports, published an account headed, "Garston bookie is fined £40." It was the story of a man carrying on a ready-money betting business on a different form of contest, or game of chance— if that is what it is, though the way some of these chaps play the game it is not even that. He was in trouble and was fined £40 when a Committee of the House of Commons was not solemnly but carelessly letting this Clause pass. A man who sends his money to a football pool promoter under the provisions of this Clause becomes a virtuous ready-money investor, invested with a halo with the compliments of the Churches Committee and the Home Office, but the halo is snatched away if the money goes with the same coupon or on the same form for a fixed odds bet, or if he sends his money to a street-corner runner who has been somewhat extravagantly pursued by police forces sadly depleted and badly needed for other purposes. All that is being done here is an offence to a very important principle with a view to getting the Bill through. It is not good enough. There must be many in the House who have stronger views about ready-money betting than I pretend to have, and I do not want to delay the House any longer. I hope the House will give this very important matter more consideration.
This is an important Amendment. I think it probably would be for the advantage of the House if I expressed the Government's attitude to it now, so that hon. Members may know what the Government feel about the matter.There are two objections to the Clause that have been expressed by my hon. Friends the Members for Heston and Isleworth (Mr. R. Harris) and Walton (Mr. K. Thompson). The first of these, I think I can say, amounts to this, that the Clause involves an important and, to them, an objectionable principle. The second, though this was not expressed so strongly by them, is that the Clause is unnecessary for the purposes of the Bill. 1.45 p.m. First of all, I would say a word about the question of principle raised by the Clause. I think I can say fairly that cash betting is generally regarded as raising a major moral issue. Indeed, I think that hon. Members generally have looked at the Clause in the light of their reaction to that issue. On the other hand, I do not believe that anyone will differ from me if I say that intrinsically cash betting does not raise a moral issue at all. It makes no intrinsic difference whether the payment is made before or after the bet is made. The objection to cash betting on principle is that it could provide a further facility for betting which is at present forbidden by the law, and so lead to an increase of betting as a whole. I think I have stated the position fairly. So far as the Clause is concerned, I do not think that objection can possibly apply. The effect of the Clause is rather in the opposite direction. The Clause is strictly limited to cash betting on pool betting business carried on by post. That is an entirely different thing from the legalisation of cash betting offices or anything of that kind.
I shall come to that. So far as pool betting is concerned, I think it is generally said that the insistence upon credit betting has led to what is sometimes called the chain betting system; that is to say, the tendency on the part of those who engage in this activity, regularly week by week, to lay a bet of a similar amount because it is necessary for them to cover the previous week's transaction. If we allow cash betting by post in this connection that tendency will no longer exist because, of course, each separate transaction will exist independently; there will be no need or feeling of obligation on the part of those who go in for the pools to repeat their bet every week.
My hon. Friend is making admirable efforts to prove that black is white, but surely at the moment there is no legal liability on a person to pay a bet, so that there is no inducement on a person under the present system in that sense to send a bet each week?
All I am doing is expressing a view which has been fairly commonly expressed. I do not wish to take responsibility for it, but it seems to me to be a reasonable view that those who engage in credit betting on the pools tend as a rule to repeat their bet week by week. I think that is generally accepted in all parts of the House.
I, for one, accept the fact that people tend to repeat the same bet week after week, but so do people who subscribe 6d. each week to the local lottery for the supporters' club or the Roman Catholic parents' associations, and we jump on them.
If I attempted to reply to that, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, you would be very quick to jump on me.I do not wish to enter into the merits of credit and cash betting generally. The most I can do is to call attention to the fact that two Royal Commissions have come down in favour of postal cash betting. In the most recent Royal Commission, only one body, the Scottish National League Against Betting and Gambling, offered evidence against the proposal. If this Clause is approved it will certainly not commit either the Government or Parliament to any other form of cash betting whatsoever. I want to give this firm assurance: the Government would not use this as a precedent for anything else. It has been suggested, in particular by Sir Alan Herbert in letters to the Press, that Clause 10 is anomalous. That is the view expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Walton, who pointed out that a cash bet by post on a pool would be made lawful whereas a cash bet by post at fixed odds would remain unlawful. It is right to point out, however, that the Bill deals with pool betting, and it would not come within the scope of the Bill for it to be enlarged so as to cover fixed odds betting.
I have here the two different kinds of betting; I call both pool betting. They were sent to me by an old colleague of ours, Sir Alan Herbert. He points out that one can do "The Simple Six" with a cash transaction under the Bill, and the tax on it will be 30 per cent., whereas "The Star Six" on the same sheet, at odds of 150–1. attracts no tax and is by credit only.
I should not like to say whether that statement is correct, although if it comes from Sir Alan Herbert I have very little doubt that it is.The point comes to no more than this: that the Bill proposes to treat pool betting differently from other forms of betting. That question was settled when the Bill was given a Second Reading, and if hon. Members refer to my speech on that occasion they will see that I called the attention of the House at some length to the fact that if we gave the Bill a Second Reading it would involve creating exactly that kind of anomaly, if it is an anomaly. Thereupon the House gave the Bill a Second Reading without a single hon. Member voting against it.
This is a bit much. The Second Reading was allowed to take place because the hon. Member for Sheffield, Park (Mr. Mulley) said that if anybody had strong feelings about this ready-money business they would be considered.
On behalf of the Government, I pointed out that this anomaly was implicit in the Bill being given a Second Reading, and the Bill was nevertheless given a Second Reading.
And sent to Committee for consideration.
It has therefore been decided in principle that we should deal with pools differently from the way in which we deal with other forms of betting.
Is "The Star Six" a pool?
I cannot answer that question without notice.May I say a word about the need for this Clause in the Bill? It cannot be said that the Clause is unnecessary. The purpose of the Bill is to secure that there shall be accurate accounts of these pool betting undertakings, and the Bill has been considered and amended on the basis that this Clause is part of it. Under the Clause it is contemplated that the money in any pool shall be coming in currently—that it will be coming in with the papers making the bet, if that is the correct expression. But even assuming that we allow cash betting by post so as to enable these transactions to take place currently in that way, there will be considerable practical difficulties about preparing accurate accounts for the purpose of the Bill. Perhaps I may draw attention to the Clause which was added to the Bill in Committee, which is now Clause 7—[Ascertainment of stake money in competitions.] Hon. Members will see the kind of practical difficulties which already exist in connection with the preparation of these accounts, even assuming that cash betting by post is permitted. The difficulties which would arise if we insisted that there should not be cash betting but that payment should be made after the event is over need no elaboration from me. The practical difficulties which have hitherto existed have been overcome by the flexibility of the rules of the pools themselves—and some hon. Members have objected to the flexibility of those rules during the debate. I say nothing about that, but the rules have at any rate made it possible for the matter to be dealt with as at present. If we deal with it by Statute and not by rules which can be used in this flexible way, then clearly, under a credit system, enormous new difficulties will arise. In the Government's view, if the credit rule is adopted it will make it necessary to reconsider quite a number of the provisions of the Bill. I do not say that it is impossible to amend the Bill so as to continue credit betting; that would be putting it too high. But it would lead to considerable reconsideration. I do not think I need expatiate on that; it is obvious that if we continued with this system under a statutory arrangement, as the Bill would provide, we should be in serious difficulties. There are the delays which must take place, the possibility of bad debts and so on. In a matter such as this, obviously questions of conscience arise. Every Member of the House is, of course, entirely free to make up his mind on this matter in accordance with the way in which he thinks it should be decided. But it is right that I should point out to the House that, so far as the principle is concerned, it does not really conflict with the broad moral objection which is felt to cash betting; that it would not be used as a precedent so far as the Government are concerned, nor I believe could it be so used by anyone else; that, in so far as there is any anomaly, it has already been accepted when the Bill was given a Second Reading; and that there is a real need for something of this kind in the Bill if it is to be made workable. In these circumstances, my advice to hon. Members is that the Clause should be allowed to remain part of the Bill.
We are all grateful to the Joint Under-Secretary for his advice, as, indeed, we were on many occasions throughout the Committee stage, but I am sure that it will have been observed that his advice derived from his pursuing, as he has pursued throughout, a policy of strict neutrality on the side of the pool promoters. He has advised the House today, as he did in Committee after much deliberation and argument on both sides, that what the pool promoters want we should do anyway.The net result of that and of the deliberations of the Committee is that this Bill, which started out to be a pools investors' charter, has now become a pools promoters' charter, and I think that the House, at this stage of the Bill and on Third Reading, ought to give very careful consideration to the question of whether the very considerable Amendments made to the Bill in the course of its going through our procedure result in its now carrying out the intentions which it appeared to be carrying out when Members gave it an unopposed Second Reading. This question of ready-money betting is an example. Let me at once say that I have no quarrel or objections at all on moral grounds with ready-money betting or any other form of betting. I do not set myself out to be an arbiter on other people's morals. Whatever they feel about this that is their business and not mine. It seems to me that the case which the Joint Under-Secretary was arguing will not stand up. He pointed out, quite rightly, that two Royal Commissions had reported in favour of ready-money betting by post. If we had a Bill before us to legalise ready-money betting by post for all forms of betting which took place, that argument of the Undersecretary would be a very potent argument in its favour, and I hope that he would make it. While it is true, as he says, that we ourselves are creating an anomaly by seeking to deal with a part of the betting panorama and not the whole of it in a single Bill, nevertheless, he cannot argue from the premises of the Royal Commission the case that one particular branch who may profit out of the benefits should be favoured by an amendment of the law in this way. I repeat what was pointed out by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Walton (Mr. K. Thompson) a little while ago, that one of the reasons the House gave an unopposed Second Reading to the Bill was that there was a clear understanding that this matter would be discussed and that there would be a disposition to go some way to meet the feelings of those who have strong feelings on this matter. If there had not been this undertaking, it is open to question whether the House would have given an unopposed Second Reading to the Bill, or. indeed, whether the Second Reading would have been given at all. When I intervened earlier, I was trying to make a point which I hope to be able to show, now that I have the opportunity, was of relevance. I understand that there are certain forms of ready-money betting which, I suppose, if one assesses the moral value of different types of betting are the most innocuous of all types of betting—the little local pools conducted, not for the profit of individuals, or, in most cases, not mainly for the profit of individuals, but for the supply of funds for some public or semi-public purpose. These little ventures appear to be pursued now with greater vigour by the law than they were in the past. What we are now proposing to do is to put profit-making organisations in a position of advantage by comparison with the local Roman Catholic association collecting money for a school, the local football supporters club collecting money for their football club, the local Conservative club, the constituency Labour Party and all sorts of institutions running these various types of lottery on the basis of 6d. a week. They will be in a worse position when this Bill is passed. I have been told—although I confess at once that I cannot adduce any evidence on this point—by more than one club, and it would not surprise me if it were true, that the present drive against these small local collections of one sort or another has been initiated as a result of information laid by the pool promoters themselves. If that is true, it really is a quite disgraceful business that these people in order to increase their profits —
Is it in order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, for an hon. Member to make allegations like this in the House? Surely it has been laid down by Mr. Speakers in the past that an hon. Member making an attack like this in the House of Commons must be responsible for the facts which he produces. This, I submit, is entirely hearsay evidence.
I am not in a position to deal with the facts. An hon. Member who says whatever he does say is responsible for what he says.
I appreciate what has been said by the hon. Member for Eastbourne (Sir C. Taylor), and I was choosing my words with the greatest care in order not to offend the sort of standard which he is putting forward. It seems to me that if I had said this was a fact and then was unwilling to give evidence that this was so, I might have been transgressing some standard. I am merely saying—and confessing at once—that I have no hard evidence that it has been said in many parts of the country that this is done.
Does the hon. Gentleman not think that this is rather an unworthy attempt to make a smear of that character? Does he suggest that the pool promoters, whose annual revenue runs into millions of pounds, are seriously worried about the Church raffles in "Slow-on-the-Uptake "?
I only know that people capable of putting out the so-called ballot, which was roundly condemned throughout the whole of the Committee proceedings as being a deliberate attempt at deception and which was condemned even by the hon. Member for Southend, East (Mr. McAdden), who appeared to be a friend of the pool promoters in every other respect— that people capable of a trick like that are capable of almost anything. I do not withdraw one word of what I have said. The fact remains, however, that if the Bill goes through with this Clause in it, these people who run these businesses will be in a position of advantage compared with any, or most, other forms of betting.
It would be wrong if the hon. Member's last sentence went uncorrected. He will be aware, of course, of the provisions of subsection (2, e) of Section 24 of the Betting and Lotteries Act, 1934, which makes it a condition of a lottery, if it is to be made lawful under that Act, that
In other words, in the case of lotteries, they are always cash transactions; and if they are to be legal, it is already an essential requirement in that case that they should not be credit transactions."no ticket or chance shall be issued or allotted by the promoters except by way of sale and upon receipt of the full price thereof…"
I was aware of the fact, although not of the subsection from which the fact derives, and I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for quoting it.But not all these local schemes are lotteries, and some of them were run on a quite different basis until somebody jumped on them. I do not think the Under-Secretary would dispute that my last sentence was correct. As nearly as I can recall it, it was that the Bill going through with this Clause in it would put pools promoters in a position of advantage compared with those who organise other forms of betting. There can be little doubt that that is a fact. I turn now to what the Undersecretary said about the difficulties which might arise if the Clause were omitted from the Bill, difficulties which might arise for the pools promoters in carrying out the obligations which we have laid upon them in the Bill to present statements of accounts in various forms at various times. As one who knows how these calculations are made and the processes that are gone through in order to make them, I say with great respect that what the Under-Secretary said is not true and that the elimination of cash betting would not add, and certainly would not add substantially, to the difficulties of the pools promoters in carrying out the obligations to make and publish certain calculations, which we have laid upon them in the Bill. We have already agreed in the course of the Bill to give the pools promoters the right to prepare certain totals, not by taking actual totals but by sampling techniques, which, we all know, include a certain margin of error. We were told from the pools promoters in the Committee stage that the margin of error on sampling techniques was lower than in adding up the totals. This is the most outrageous fairy tale I have heard since I heard "Cinderella" when a small boy.
There is nothing outrageous about "Cinderella."
I go so far with the hon. Member as to say that the story of "Cinderella" is less fanciful than the pool promoters' claim that there is a lower margin of error in statistical techniques than in actual addition.2.15 p.m. However, I think no one will deny that there is a certain margin of error in the techniques which, for their convenience, during the Committee stage we permitted the pools promoters to use. That margin of error is substantially higher, in my judgment, than any margin of error which comes about from the possibility of default. As the Undersecretary told us. the overwhelming majority of pools investors—I am told that we must not now call them "wagerers" or "betters" —invest the same amount week by week, every week. Therefore, it would be remarkable indeed if there were violent fluctuations in the total investment from one week to another, and very remarkable if there were such violent fluctuations that with statistical sampling the incidence of error through people defaulting from one week to the next made any difference whatever to the incidence of error that one gets in any event from statistical sampling. I am sorry that this is a little involved, but I am sure that the House is following it. The particular process which the hon. Member mentioned was the calculation of total stakes. But stakes are stakes whether they are paid or not. Under the Bill, we have asked the pools promoters to declare at certain times and under certain conditions the total amount staked on a pool. We have not asked them to declare the total amount staked on the pool and paid. Therefore, it makes absolutely no difference whether there is cash or credit betting in this matter. If the hon. Gentleman sends in twelve 6d. lines on the treble chance this week and he fills up a coupon and it is worth 6s., that is the amount which he has staked. It is just as easy for the promoters to add the 6s. to the total stakes on the treble chance whether the 6s. postal order which the hon. Gentleman sends with his coupon is in payment for this week's coupon or last week's coupon. It is no easier and no more difficult to do the calculations on cash betting than on credit betting. In that part of his speech which referred to this matter the hon. Gentleman was—I am sure, quite unwittingly—misleading the Committee. I see no valid reason why everything that is required of the pools promoters cannot be done just as well with this Clause out as with it in. I find it a little difficult not to resent the suggestion by the Under-Secretary—he put it several times during Committee, and so did my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Park (Mr. Mulley)— that we must take the Bill holus-bolus or leave it; that if we want to make any amendment to one part of it, the other part will not work. We were told that many times, but not in any sense which convinced the Committee during the Committee stage. If it were the fact now that we have either to take the Bill with everything the pools promoters want in it or to leave it, my own tendency would be to leave it. It is seriously open to question whether the Bill as amended—certainly with a ready-money betting Clause in it—does not make the lot of the investors worse than before the Bill is passed. True, it does something for them. As the Undersecretary has pointed out, it prevents the pools promoters switching from one pool to another; that was a valuable recommendation of the Royal Commission. Aside from that, we have given—or, if the Clause remains, we will have given—the pools promoters everything for which they have asked. We have given them something for which no other form of betting asks. We have given them a cachet of respectability, because once the Bill is passed every pool promoter will advertise on his advertisements or coupons, "Licensed by the Liverpool City Council. Under inspection by the Liverpool City Council. Operating under the terms of the Pool Betting Act" They will all do it. It will make the difference that it deludes many investors in the pools into believing that the pools promoters have been put under some sort of effective control when, in fact, they have not. It will delude the pools investors into thinking, especially when they remember the ballot, that something has been foisted on the pools against the will of the pools promoters by Parliament acting in the interests of the pools investors. In fact, all that has happened is that Parliament has smugly given its blessing and put into statutory form something that the pool promoters do not mind having. I do not think we should pass Measures of this sort without facing up to our responsibilities and without realising what we are doing. Therefore, I say that I do not believe the administrative tasks of carrying out the duties in the Bill are made more difficult if the Amendment is carried. I do not see any reason why we should give the pool promoters anything more than the considerable concessions we have made to them, and if this is pressed to a Division then I shall be very happy to vote for it.
I do not feel really that this Clause can stand in so far as anything has been said in this debate. My hon. Friend the Undersecretary of State for the Home Department did not really answer the point of conscience that I feel important from my own point of view. I have no strong feelings or objections to gambling or to the pool system, and I do not object to the hon. Member for Sheffield, Park (Mr. Mulley) attempting to bring it under legislative control in general.The point of conscience with me is this. It seems to me that enormous moral harm is done in the country by the legislation for people's private habits making two actions which are essentially of the same nature, one legal, and the other illegal. The fact that the anomalies may be under different Acts is neither here nor there. The fact is that if this Bill passes with this Clause, the ordinary subject in the country will be able to fill up one sort of coupon and not commit a penal offence, but if he fills up another sort of coupon which appears to him to be of similar moral nature he will be committing a penal offence. That to me is an evil thing, and the kind of matter that brings the law into ridicule. We must start, therefore, with a bias against the making of this exceptional legalisation on one particular form of activity as against another. My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary said that if we felt opposed to this Clause in the Bill's earlier stages, then the House should never have given it a Second Reading. That, again, is not an argument that is convincing to me, because when we gave a Second Reading to this Bill we imagined that something different was going to happen, and the hon. Member for Sheffield, Park himself imagined that something very different was going to happen. At that time we understood that the hon. Member was extremely open-minded and had no particular preference for having Clause 10 in the Bill. Therefore, we had no reason to think that we should not be able to get Clause 10 out. It is true that my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary was rather more alarmed about the difficulty of taking Clause 10 out than was the hon. Member for Sheffield, Park, but it is the hon. Member's Bill and not the Government's. And so far from being convinced on that point by the Under-Secretary's speech that it was impossible to take Clause 10 out, I was assured by reading this in "The New Statesman and Nation" by the hon. Member on 20th February, just after the Second Reading:
That should be enough, we imagined, to prove that though this Clause had been put there, it would not be there when we came to Third Reading. Then we come to the Committee stage. I was not on the Committee which considered this Bill, but some hon. Members present were and it will be seen that the hon. Member for Sheffield, Park was still very open-minded on this subject. He said:"There is, I think, some substance in the argument that the pools should not be enabled to operate for cash, while all other off-course betting has to be on credit only. For this reason, I shall invite the Commons to delete, in Committee, the Clause of my Bill which, as at present drafted, would permit this."
The fact that the House could support the Bill up till now does not make it at all illogical if we now doubt the value of going on with it, for we are now discovering at the last moments almost that Clause 10 is said to be an essential part of the Bill. So far as I can see, there is only one real ground for keeping that Clause in the Bill, and I do not think that anyone will deny this. Whether my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary calls it an anomaly or not, there is something objectionable in this principle of having cash betting for this particular type of activity and for nothing else. The only serious argument for keeping Clause 10 in the Bill is that we are told that without it and this concession for football pools the whole thing is unworkable. I do not know whether that is so or not. I have not the knowledge of these matters of the hon. Member for Reading, South (Mr. Mikardo) and I am not able to decide whether he or my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary is right on that point. Quite frankly, I am inclined to agree with the hon. Member for Reading, South, because I was not convinced by the Under-Secretary in his reference to that matter. But as I say, I do not know enough about the workings of the pools to know whether it is so or not, but if it is so and if Clause 10, which up to now was thought unessential to the Bill is now essential to it, it changes the balance of the whole case for the Bill. Obviously when we are dealing with such a matter as pool promoters, it is not a question of the absolute right or the absolute wrong of controlling them: it is a question of the balance of advantage. We are faced with the question whether it is on the whole to the advantage of society to give them this quasi-official status or not. It is a nicely balanced question. If we can only do it by granting to them this special privilege of Clause 10, then to my mind the balance of advantage turns against the whole Bill. If Clause 10 can be taken out and we can get on with the Bill, I am quite willing to support it, but if it is the Government's view and that of the hon. Member for Sheffield, Park that we cannot have the Bill at all without Clause 10, then I think it would be better not to have the Bill."I merely say this to show that I have no marked preference whether the Clause stands part of the Bill or is deleted."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee B, 31st March, 1954, c. 138.]
I think I ought to declare to the House that I have two prejudices on this subject of gambling and I should put them fairly at the beginning. First, as an old Calvinistic Methodist and Nonconformist, I do not like betting in any form at all. There can be various points of view on that and the hon. Member for Croydon, East (Sir H. Williams), who comes from the same county as I do, has possibly different views from mine because he has travelled differently from me.
They do not have any pubs opened on Sunday in Wales, but they go in by the back door.
It would possibly do the hon. Gentleman all the good in the world if many more pubs were closed to him. However, that is becoming a little too personal, and I do not want to develop it.In the face of that prejudice, hon. Members will know where I stand. I do not like gambling and I think that in the form in which it is developing now it is becoming a social evil which eventually this House may have to control in some form or another. My second prejudice is that I do not like Littlewood's, Vernon's and the other big pool promoters because, in my opinion, whilst there is little to be said for the bookie, he does take a certain risk. These other people have not taken one single risk since they put the first coupons out and found mugs willing to fill them up every week. In the early days of these pools, I had a good deal to do with them in my postal service, and I came to the conclusion that they took advantage of every opportunity provided they were allowed a little bit of licence. 2.30 p.m. Having got that off by chest, I should like now to turn to this Amendment. I cannot exonerate hon. Members who were on the Committee for some responsibility for the fact that this Clause is still in the Bill. Both my hon. Friends and hon. Gentlemen opposite must have had an opportunity to discuss this in greater detail and with greater technical information and data available than is available to the House today.
That is a far-reaching statement. The hon. Gentleman ought to pay the House the courtesy, and give himself the satisfaction, of reading the report of the debates in Committee, which will explain exactly what happened.
I have just done that and all the guidance I got from reading it was that Clauses 9 and 10 were passed without any comment.
On a point of information, what is now Clause 10 was originally Clause 7.
There is no need to go further into that aspect. It is clear that hon. Members could have gone to the extent of voting against this Clause if they had wanted to do so. It is no use coming here and saying, as the hon. Gentleman the Member for Heston and Isleworth (Mr. R. Harris) has said. "I did not get a chance."
The hon. Member for Sheffield, Park (Mr. Mulley) has said that when he came to the Committee he would give further explanations. I wanted to hear them. It was no use my getting up before he spoke because I should not have been able to get up afterwards, since we cannot speak twice on a Clause.
Shut him up.
This is the first time I have heard the hon. Member for Heston and Isleworth saying that he has any reserve about himself at all. Whenever I have known him, he has been prepared to jump into the bath even before he knew there was any water in it. I am surprised to hear that he should come along now and say, "If I had only had the chance, if I had only been a little quicker on the uptake, if somebody else had only done it with me, we would have done what we are asking today" In my opinion, they would have done it much more effectively in Committee.
It is much more effective here.
I should be out of order if I started cross-talk with hon. Gentleman opposite and so I will try to keep in order. Nevertheless, I am surprised that my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Park (Mr. Mulley) should have allowed himself to be inveigled into this position. I am sorry now that I did not speak to him, because I had a premonition, based on experience, that once we had to start negotiating with these people, they would beat us in the long run, because they have all the resources and so they will beat the individual. I support my hon. Friend all the way in his desire to get this Bill, although I shall not vote for this Amendment, because it should have been dealt with in Committee and not left until this stage. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."]Before those interruptions from unruly hon. Gentlemen opposite, I was proceeding to say that I am surprised that my hon. Friend should have allowed himself to be inveigled by these promoters into introducing into his Bill something to look after the interests of the promoter and not of the investor. I agree entirely with my hon. Friend the Member for Reading, South (Mr. Mikardo) on that point. I remember well the elation felt by some of us when my hon. Friend was successful in the Ballot. He said, "I shall find out now what these people are doing, how they get their revenues, how they distribute their prizes. I am going to have a Bill." Many of us wished that this had taken place years ago and we were behind him. We are sorry, however, that with this Bill, after starting:
my hon. Friend has said, "In order to get that information, in order to bring the pool promoters under the clear scrutiny of Parliament, I shall make it possible to give preferential treatment to the pool promoters over every other form of betting.""To regulate the disposal of moneys and to provide for the publication of certain accounts and information in connection with pool betting…"
It is no use my hon. Friend shaking his head. Even the Parliamentary Secretary, dancing among the tulips this morning, accepted that. Indeed, I have never seen the hon. Gentleman so lightly—[An HON. MEMBER: "On tiptoe."] Yes, on tiptoe this morning. I do not know what he was advocating. I think he had come to the conclusion that he had to do something and so he went both ways. But even the Parliamentary Secretary, in that innocuous statement, made one point clear —that no other betting establishments in the country are in the preferential position of the pool promoters.Why should we give them that preferential position? I have said that I do not like betting, but I am not one of those who would try to prevent people from doing what they think they will enjoy and what they think is legitimate. I have no desire that anyone should follow me blindly in these things. But public opinion in this country will not like this Bill. People will not like it that in the course of this admirable Bill we have a Clause which will put the pool promoters in a preferential position over everyone else. I had not thought of speaking when I came here today but I was handed a letter by my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas) from the Department of Christian Citizenship of the Methodist Church. Hon. Members will notice that it is the Methodist Church, not the Calvinists. It hoped that somebody here would oppose this in principle.
The hon. Gentleman should agree not to vote against the Amendment.
I do not know what the hon. Member for Croydon, East is talking about. I have tried several times to understand his interventions, but I cannot make head or tail of them. I know he is not speaking in Welsh and I cannot understand his English.On behalf of this body, and on behalf of public opinion generally, I am expressing my objection to the fact that my hon. Friend should have compromised with these people on this issue of principle. [Interruption.] I do not know whether, on a point of order, I should ask you, Mr. Speaker, whether shaking from behind the Bar is permissible in this House when another hon. Member is on his feet. I gather from the Joint Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department that this Bill can survive if this Clause is deleted. I have not the technical knowledge of my hon. Friend the Member for Reading, South on this part of the subject, but I gather that we can still have the main principles of the Bill and what some of us wanted from the beginning if this Clause is taken out. I shall listen with great interest, as no doubt will the hon. Member for Eastbourne (Sir C. Taylor), to my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield. Park, whom I am asking specifically to deal With this point. If this Bill can be saved without Clause 10, I hope that my hon. Friend will be big enough to tell us that in another place he will seek to remove the Clause.
Why not do it here?
I am going to listen to my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield. Park, who has been very diligent, and. unlike the hon. Member for Heston and Isleworth (Mr. R. Harris) has been very diligent and courageous with regard to this Bill and has said all he wanted to say not only here but in Committee as well. If my hon. Friend says that he will try to do something I will consider it seriously. In any event, I will support him, because I believe integrally in the main, original provisions of this Bill and I want to see my hon. Friend succeed with it.
I was interested in the speech of the hon. Member for Droylsden (Mr. W. R. Williams) because he said that in his view this was an admirable Bill, although he found fault with this Clause. Knowing his views on gambling, I presume that the things which he finds admirable in the Bill are the restrictions which are imposed upon the operation of pools by the promoters, the fact that they have to be registered and subject to the activities of the accountants, and so on. Nevertheless, he finds fault with Clause 10, the deletion of which has been moved pretty late in the passage of the Bill by my hon. Friend the Member for Heston and Isleworth (Mr. R. Harris).All sorts of excuses can be and have been advanced as to why an attempt to delete the Clause was not made in Committee. I can understand that if my hon. Friend the Member for Heston and Isle-worth did not know that he could speak twice on the Committee stage, he might have fallen into error, but I cannot believe that the hon. Member for Reading, South (Mr. Mikardo) is so unfamiliar with the rules of the House and of the Committee that he could not have found an opportunity to express the opposition to the Clause which was never manifested until now.
If the hon. Member wants to know the reason why—and I suspect that he does not—I did not think that this was one of the most objection- able features of the Bill. That is why my name is not among the names of hon. Members who support the Amendment. I believed it became important to remove the Clause only after the Committee adopted regulations relating to publication of accounts which to my mind were totally unsatisfactory. After the Chairman had intimated that he wanted adequate notice, it was too late to give notice of an Amendment to remove the Clause, otherwise I think that I would have done so, although it was not one of the matters upon which I felt very strongly.
I know exactly why the hon. Member developed late opposition to this Clause. It was because he had not had his own way. Not having had his own way and secured the kind of individual personal publicity that he was seeking, he has suddenly developed opposition to the Clause.
I do not want to make much of this, but the exception taken by the House to that last remark indicates what hon. Members think about it. I always understood, Mr. Speaker, that it was out of order for an hon. Gentleman to impute an unworthy motive to another hon. Member.
It is certainly out of order for an hon. Member to impute to another an unavowed motive.
If the hon. Member for Reading, South has taken my point wrongly, I willingly apologise, hoping that he is ready to apologise for some of the things that he said earlier. The point that I was making was that the hon. Member was seeking to secure publication of more personal information about the way in which the profits are distributed. If he thinks that I was referring to publicity which he personally was seeking, he has missed my point. He wanted disclosure of the amount individually received and it was to publicity on that point that I was referring. I am sure that the hon. Member accepts that explanation.We are told that the effect of this Clause is to grant special treatment for football pools. It does not seem to be recognised by some hon. Members that the whole Bill gives special treatment for football pools and imposes definite restrictions on the way in which this method of gambling can be conducted. If all the hon. Members who now speak against Clause 10 voted for placing in this Bill certain restrictions on the operation of football pools, the effect of which makes it necessary to retain a particular form of cash betting, it is now a little late in the day to come forward with all sorts of suggestions as to why the things that they voted for should be made unworkable on the very last stage of the Bill.
We have repeated the point several times that the voting in Committee took place in an aura of assurances that this very objectionable Clause would be reconsidered at a later stage of the Bill, but it has not been reconsidered.
My hon. Friend may try to make these excuses, but he voted for this particular form of restriction on the operation of pool betting, as did several other hon. Members who have taken part in this debate. It has been said that this idea of a person making a bet through the post and paying cash at the same time is something new. Nothing could be further from the truth. The large majority of the great newspapers of this country invite one to send cash with one's bet as to the order in which certain fashion pictures should be placed in the opinion of the judges. The crossword puzzle with alternative solutions is another example. It would be rather straining the truth to say that that kind of puzzle is not a form of gambling. This idea of betting through the post is conducted by many national newspapers, and anybody who suggests that cash betting is some new departure is not on all fours with the truth.My hon. Friend the Member for Walton (Mr. K. Thompson) said he did not understand the difference between pools and fixed odds pools, but there are no fixed odds pools. He said that he knows nothing about the operation of football pools. I would remind him that there is one of the largest in his constituency, and I should have thought that by now he would have knowledge of it. My hon. Friend was not at all right in suggesting that we said that pools and fixed odds betting would all be conducted on the. same basis and that there would be none of these anomalies. Anomalies have existed for a very long time, but fixed odds betting is not subject to taxation, while pools betting is subject to 30 per cent, taxation. My hon. Friend the Member for Eastbourne (Sir C. Taylor) enlightened the House by quoting the case of a pool bet which, if this Clause stays in the Bill, could be paid in cash, whereas a fixed odd bet would be illegal if paid for by cash. He said that the two are the same but are not treated in the same way for taxation purposes. It is not necessarily true that because two things appear on the same piece of paper they should be treated in the same way, or that they are the same thing. We can have fish and chips in the same piece of paper, but the fish is not chips any more than the chips are fish. It has been suggested that the retention of this Clause permitting cash betting on football pools by post would encourage gambling. I do not subscribe to that view. I believe that if a person has to send cash he is less likely to indulge in extravagant betting than if he has the opportunity of betting by credit. I believe that view was held by the Royal Commission on gambling, which felt that cash betting had a restraining influence on the amount invested. We were told by the hon. Member for Reading, South that we should not give preferential treatment to football pools as compared with the pools which were run by churches for very worthy objects. We are not giving any preferential treatment to football pools as against the pools run by churches. If a pool is conducted within the limits of the law, the churches can conduct it in the same way as pool promoters do. What the hon. Member had in mind is the operation of other forms of betting, sometimes called pools, which have been held to be an infringement of the Betting and Lotteries Act.
It is not only that I had in mind other forms of betting which the churches and others run, but that is precisely what I said. I did net refer to pool's but referred to lotteries and other forms of gambling.
The hon. Member may have meant that, but I hope he will take my word for it that in fact he referred to them as pools. There is no justification for bringing in that argument, because those other forms of gambling are held to be illegal because they are an infringement of the law as it stands, and this Bill will not in any way affect those things which are illegal at present.I thought the hon. Member went a bit far in seeking to infer, not by any proof, but by dragging a smear across the thing, that the prosecutions initiated in different parts of the country are initiated at the expense of large pool concerns in the country. I thought he was going far. and I hope that on reflection he will realise that, just as he is entitled to resent things which reflect on his personal honour, those outside this House are also entitled to do that. My hon. Friend the Member for Devizes (Mr. Hollis) raised the question of anomalies which exist, and undoubtedly he is quite right. The whole aspect of our gambling laws is in a shocking condition. I hope that sooner or later the House will consider what action it is to take over the whole field of gambling. But that does not seem to be any valid reason for refraining from passing a Bill of this kind, admirable in its intentions, which was very carefully altered and amended during the Committee stage. I believe the Bill will do a very useful job in imposing supervision and control on the football pools. If, as a part of the stricter control it imposes, it is considered necessary to have this Clause, do not let us reject the Bill merely because of the retention of this Clause, because already, as I have tried to indicate to the House, betting by post with cash is recognised in other forms of gambling which I have mentioned. I do not believe that those forms of gambling in which betting by post with cash is permitted should be restricted to national newspapers of this country.
I intend to intervene for only a few minutes, and I want to make it quite plain that I am speaking for myself alone. I wish to commend to the House the closing words of the speech of the hon. Member for Southend, East (Mr. McAdden). I think that bringing logic into the gambling laws of this country is rather too big a task for this House on a Friday afternoon. I would not make any more controversial statement about it than that. I also hope that the time when we may have a chance of considering the matter as a whole may not be too far distant. Undoubtedly, the state of the gambling laws brings the whole of the law at the moment into contempt, and that is a thing which is always bad.My hon. Friend the Member for Droylesden (Mr. W. R. Williams) said that he spoke as a Calvinistic Methodist and a Nonconformist. I also speak as a Nonconformist, but not as a Calvinist. In fact, the Calvinists distinguished themselves by burning one of the most distinguished members of my particular type of religion. Therefore, my hon. Friend will understand that when it comes to boasting about being a Calvinist I do not share his admiration for the person whose dreary theology gave his name to such people.
I do not know what my ancestors did to the ancestors of my right hon. Friend; possibly they did not burn enough of them. However that may be, my right hon. Friend might have added that, not only is he a Nonconformist, but a Nonconformist from Epsom.
And a very good place to come from, too. It has not always been easy to be a Nonconformist there. My hon. Friend's remark about the quantity of burnings that Calvinists did is strictly in accord with their known views on such subjects.I suggest that, if we cannot have logic, we should try to have a little common-sense. I support the Clause because I believe, after the recommendations of two Royal Commissions on the subject that this particular thing should be legalised, that if we cannot deal with the subject as a whole, then we should do as much as we can along the lines of common sense. 3.0 p.m. I just do not understand what is the complaint of the hon. Member for Heston and Isleworth (Mr. R. Harris) about what happened in Committee. I have taken the trouble to read the less than a column of the OFFICIAL REPORT containing what occurred on Clause 7. as this Clause then was, when my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Park (Mr. Mulley) got up to fulfil the pledge which he gave to the House that on the Committee stage— [Interruption.] I have the column in front of me.
The column of the REPORT does not contain any photographs. If it did the right hon. Gentleman would see one of me standing up and trying to get my word in.
I often think that it would be an advantage if HANSARD was illustrated. It might make some of its columns a little more attractive than they occasionally are.My hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Park got up on that occasion, and anyone who reads the REPORT must agree that he began to fulfil the pledge that he gave to the House. Then my hon. Friend the Member for Lincoln (Mr. de Freitas) suggested that no one had got up to oppose and, therefore, he did not quite see why it should be necessary to have a discussion on the Motion "That the Clause stand part of the Bill." My hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Park wound up by saying:
"If there is unanimity in the Committee that the Clause should stand part of the Bill. I shall be glad to lot that happen."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee B. 31st March. 1954, c. 138.]
I got up then.
The hon. Gentleman is making some reflection on the conduct of the Committee because the Report continues:
If the hon. Member was on his feet— I do not know who was the Chairman of the Committee, I think it was one of the hon. Members for Lewisham—I cannot help feeling that he would have been called. At all events there is nothing on the record that indicates the dissent of the hon. Member at that stage."Question put, and agreed to."
I shouted "No"
After all, it needs only one Member to shout "No" in Committee for a Division to be called.
In that case I must explain that I shouted "No" as loudly as I could. I think I was the only one, and there was no Division. In that case there was something wrong with the conduct of the Committee. Everyone who was there knows that I shouted "No" as loudly as I could.
Really, I can leave that statement to the judgment of the House.I suggest that the advice that was tendered to us by the Joint Undersecretary was perfectly sound, and that, on the grounds of common sense, in a part of the law where logic has long since departed from any expression in it, we should do well to bring this pan of the law into a state consistent at any rate with common sense so that the requirement which we are now going to make can be reasonably complied with. I say that because while I am advised that dropping the Clause would not make the Bill unworkable it would necessitate prolonged consideration of the Bill in another place in getting certain Amendments made which, in the absence of this Clause, would be necessary if the Bill is to be workable.
Like the hon. Member for Droylsden (Mr. W. R. Williams), I have never filled in a football coupon. I have occasionally had a ready-money bet at a race meeting, otherwise 1 should not mind which horse won. The last time I did so was under the auspices of the 'hon. Member for Lincoln (Mr. de Freitas), and that was three years ago. I cannot be called very much of a racing man.
It was not under my auspices, we both happened at the same time to be at the best racecourse in England, the Carholme, at the Lincolnshire Handicap.
The hon. Gentleman did not seek to restrain me.The attitude of many people on the subject of betting is a complete fraud. All sorts of people vote against national lotteries here, but I have seen them betting later on on the Continent. It is interesting that what is known as the "hard-faced" Parliament in 1920, as it was called by hon. Members opposite —
The hon. Gentleman was not in that, was he?
—passed an Act
It is rather strange that this much higher-minded Parliament is going to be less rigorous than the "hard-faced" gentlemen of 1920, and that it is also going to repeal another Act of Parliament passed 100 years ago, an Act suppressing betting houses. That is going to be left out so far as this matter is concerned. I am not certain whether that Act applies to the Crown. In the ordinary course of events, an Act does not do so unless it specifically says so. But, if it does apply to the Crown, all the elaborate arrangements made by the Postmaster-General every Thursday or every Friday —it is either one day or the other—to receive money for the purpose of football pools betting is probably bringing the Postmaster-General under the provisions of this Act, if the law were properly enforced. The greatest beneficiary from football pools is not the promoters, because one-tenth of all the communications passing through the Post Offices of this country are in connection with football pools. The Post Office is the oldest of our nationalised industries, and it is being saved from bankruptcy by the football pools —that is one reason why the nationalisers are so anxious that this should go through. We are frauds in this country about the question of ready-money betting. I remember once having tea with three most highly respectable ladies who were ardent church goers. It was the Sunday after Derby Day, and I ventured to ask them whether they had had "anything on." They rather shyly admitted that they had. I knew nothing about the facilities for betting, except on a race-course, and so I asked how they did it. One admitted that she persuaded the butcher's boy to put on the money for her. Another said she asked the grocer's boy, and the third said she asked the milkman's boy. I told them, "You are three dreadful women, you have committed two crimes. Not only have you engaged in ready-money betting, but you have incited three poor innocent children to engage in a transaction of that sort." I have a certain amount of sympathy with this Clause. I think it would be a good thing if it remains in the Bill, because it might force the hand of the Government. I should like to meet the right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) at Epsom on—I think it is 2nd June, I never remember the date. I am not a patron of the Derby like the right hon. Gentleman. He is one of the privileged few who has the Royal Box at his disposal because of his connection with the ancient Borough. But he has never asked me to accompany him to the Derby, though I hope that some day he may."to prevent the writing, printing, publishing or circulating in the United Kingdom of Advertisements, Circulars, or Coupons of any Ready Money Football Betting Business."
I have never invited the hon. Member because I choose my company carefully.
I hope that we shall not have to wait long for a change. The Royal Commission, presided over by a former right hon. Member for North Croydon, recommended that we should bring this matter out into the open. I think it would be much healthier if we had betting shops in this country where people could be seen by their friends and neighbours to go in and place bets, instead of having to hand bits of paper to policemen in the street—[HON. MEMBERS: "Policemen?"]—no, not policemen. I apologise to hon. Members for a slip of the tongue. I meant handing bits of paper to people in the street and being occasionally picked up by policemen and brought before a magistrate and charged with what is popularly known as "the rent of the street." It is so disgraceful that I hope we shall keep the Clause in this Bill and therefore ultimately shame some Government into taking action, because 90 per cent, of the population do it. I should not be a bit surprised if the Calvinists do not do it a bit on occasions.
The hon. Member said that he had received a communication from Cardiff —
No, I said I had received a communication from London.
I am sorry, the hon. Member had just referred to his hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas), and I thought that he said that he had received this communication from Cardiff. When he referred to the Methodists, I presume that he meant the Wesleyan Methodists —
No, the "Prims."
I did not know that the hon. Gentleman was one of the "Prims."I hope that the nation will be shocked because we are such frauds about this subject. The filling in of football coupons is the only intellectual exercise of half the population. They spend a great deal of time in studying form and filling in football coupons, which is good for their brain. It is a much better occupation than betting on horses. I think this Clause should be kept in the Bill in order to shame the Government into doing something sensible about this matter in the future.
I have listened to the whole of the debate, and one cannot help but detect, not only in our gambling laws but in the discussion, a certain amount of anomaly and illogicality. I might put myself in order by saying that I rise to support the Amendment to exclude the Clause because I support the principle for which the Clause stands.The hon. Member for Droylsden (Mr. W. R. Williams) adopts a different attitude. He says that he disapproves of gambling but he does not set himself up as the judge or arbiter of what others should do. I gamble, though not excessively, with some interest from time to time, but like the hon. Member I do not think that we should set ourselves up as judges of what another person may think in his conscience about gambling. That is for him. If we feel that gambling is wrong, then it is for us, and us alone, in our own consciences to resist the temptation. The Bill deals with football pools. I support the Amendment because the Clause seeks to put into a Bill on football pools a principle which is applicable to much more of our betting. As a Member of the Standing Committee, I plead guilty to having let the Clause go through without opposition or comment. During the Committee stage we had an Amendment which, as far as I recall, was to the effect that the Measure should not apply to horses and greyhounds. My hon. Friend the Joint Under-Secretary of State said that the Government had not got a great deal of objection to that Amendment because, broadly speaking, it was in accord with the recommendations of the Royal Commission. The Committee, I think rightly, turned that down flat. The Committee said that if we were to alter the law on gambling, it should be done openly and on the widest possible basis as it affects all betting and gambling. It is sensible and logical that if we are to bet we should pay for the bet when we make it. We all know the temptation there is if one happens to be in a position either to write a cheque or to charge something up to an account in a department store. One probably buys something a little more expensive than if one had to pay cash. To pay for something a week later encourages a certain amount of dishonesty and probably extravagance as well. The fact remains that the place to enact the type of legislation to do away with this sort of anomaly is not in a Bill such as the one before us. My hon. Friend the Member for Croydon, East (Sir H. Williams) said that our laws on gambling were a fraud. I do not suppose that they are fraud: they are intellectual humbug.
Not even intellectual.
I accept that amendment to my statement. Our laws on gambling make complete nonsense, as they have done for about 101 years. They are no better now than ever they were. It is true to say that if one judges between one team and another as to which will win, there is an element of skill; but if one says how many goals one team will make, then the matter immediately becomes a lottery, as was pointed out fey the hon. Member for Reading, South (Mr. Mikardo). It is all right to say that West Bromwich will beat Shepton Mallet, but if I say that West Bromwich will score more than five goals against Shepton Mallet, that immediately becomes a lottery.
What about Shrewsbury Town?
Shrewsbury Town would beat anybody. Our betting laws are completely illogical. We tax them, but we do not officially approve of them. It is as though we were saying to somebody, "You can take the money out of my pocket, but for heaven's sake do so before the lights go on."It has been said that two Royal Commissions have recommended that cash transactions should be made legal. In that case one cannot help wondering why such legislation has not been enacted in the many years during which those two Royal Commissions sat to consider the subject. I think it was Charles Dickens who once put into the mouth of one of his characters the words:
In this matter, the law undoubtedly is"The law is a ass.''
I would ask my hon. Friend the Joint Under-Secretary whether he does not take away from the debate on this Amendment and the whole of our discussions in Committee upstairs a strong feeling that many hon. Members on both sides of the House consider that it is high time that our laws on gambling and betting were amended. It is high time that the dust was blown off the reports of the old Royal Commissions and, incidentally, we should make sure that dust does not accumulate on the report of the latest Royal Commission. The Government would do well to bring up to date all the laws affecting betting and taxation."a ass."
I should like to express my thanks to the hon. Member for Heston and Isleworrh (Mr. R. Harris) and the hon. Member for Walton (Mr. K. Thompson) for introducing the Amendment, because it is only right that this question should be discussed. I shall ask the House to resist the Amendment and, if hon. Members will be good enough to listen to me as I have listened to all the other arguments which have been put forward, I hope to convince them that there is a substantial practical reason for the inclusion of the Clause.I want to make it quite clear that this Clause was included in the Bill as originally printed and was not inserted at a later stage, and also that I believe in the purpose of the Clause and that when in Committee I indicated that I would be prepared to withdraw it, if there were a lot of opposition to it, I did so for the obvious reason that a Private Member seeking to pilot a Bill through the House has no very strong powers. If there had been substantial opposition in Committee, I should have been prepared for the Clause to be dropped. We ought at least to discuss the Clause on its merits, because the question with which it is concerned is a non-party one. I would ask those hon. Members who are concerned about anomalies and illogicalities to ask themselves if the present situation, whereby someone buys a postal order for his previous week's bet and posts it with this week's coupon, and probably does that throughout the football season, is not a rather absurd one. On that ground alone I should not argue that the Clause should remain in the Bill, but I must point out that it does remove some anomalies, even if it creates others. If we thought that we ought never to put right any illogicality in law unless we could put the whole law concerned into spick and span order, we should never get anything done. The logical outcome of such an argument would be that we should never have bits and pieces of Bills; we should have one mammoth Bill that would put all the laws in perfect order, so that there would be no illogicalities at all. Some hon. Members who have sought information on this subject have put forward arguments for deleting this Clause. I suggest to them that they are recommending the House to do something in relation to a subject about which they know nothing. It is no advocacy on their part to say that they do not understand pool betting but think that this or that should be done. The fact is that pool betting is quite distinct from any other form of betting, if for no other reason than because the division of the prizes or winnings is quite different If one is making a bet at fixed odds, one does not require to pay the bookmaker any money. If one wins, one has paid if the bet was in cash. Otherwise, one has one's winnings and stake returned together. In pool betting one is required to pay the stake because the stake is part of the pool that has to be divided among the winners. That is a feature of pools betting that was debated on Second Reading, and I do not want to enlarge on it now. However, I would fortify my argument that pool betting is distinct by pointing out that it was regarded by this House as being distinct when the House decided to impose a special pool betting tax. That surely was because the House was of the opinion that there was a distinction between pool betting and other forms of betting. It is true that the tax was imposed when we on this side of the House were in the Government, but I have seen no inclination on the part of hon. Members opposite since they have been in power to remove this great anomaly and unfair discrimination.
My hon. Friend is absolutely right in saying what nobody who knows the least thing about it would deny, that there is a difference between pool betting and other forms of betting; but that is not the point, which is that the two different things are in competition with each other and that it is wrong to advantage one competitor against the other.
If my hon. Friend will do me the courtesy of listening to the whole of my speech I may, perhaps, be able to persuade him. I listened to what he had to say, and I am sure he will wish to hear what I have to say in reply to the very substantial arguments he deployed.Another argument against the Clause is that cash betting by post in the pools will encourage betting. I think it will not. There are two reasons why I think so. First, one has to get a postal order. If one forgets to get the postal order in time, one may not be able to place a bet. That is a small argument, but the other is that, as at present, people are obliged in honour to send a postal order the following week, whether they wish or not in that subsequent week to make another bet, there is a temptation, since they are sending money, to fill in another coupon as well. Indeed, the more honest one is the more likely one is to indulge in the practice. I was rather shocked when the hon. Gentleman the Member for Heston and Isleworth, who moved the Amendment, rather suggested that people need not pay for a bet, and not bother about it afterwards. That seems to me a laxity of morals, and I was surprised that that should have been said by the hon. Gentleman. The third and most effective reason why the Clause will discourage rather than encourage betting on the pools is that it will be necessary to pay the money when the bet is laid. The hon. Member for Heston and Isle-worth suggested that one need not pay if one lost, and my hon. Friend the Member for Reading, South (Mr. Mikardo), showed in Committee, a right and proper concern for the position of the small pools. He adduced many arguments to show that they would be in a disadvantageous position beside the big pools as a result of the Bill. It is a matter of fact rather than a matter merely of argument that (he Bill will restore some of that balance, because the big pools do not suffer very much from bad debts. They have a system of black listing amongst themselves, and, moreover, they tend to have customers who bet week by week. I have had many letters to show that the small pools that do not benefit from a system of that sort, are very much handicapped by bad bets. However, that is not the reason for the Clause. I state that as a matter of fact. The ethics of the matter do not really concern us, because they do not affect this issue. However, I was brought up on very strict Church of England lines, and I was taught that it was wrong not only to gamble on credit but to purchase on credit. My mother, than whom no better Christian is living, would, I am sure, regard it as equally dishonest to buy groceries for which one has not the means to pay as to gamble without the means to pay for it. I cannot distinguish between buying groceries and buying bets on this basis. I do not think any substantial ethical consideration is involved, nor do I think the Clause will increase betting. In fact, I think it will reduce betting. I concede that there might be an inducement to gamble in the case of betting shops, but this Clause does not make it possible for any pool firm to set up a single kiosk. The main reason for the Clause is a practical one. Speaking from his great experience and knowledge of these matters, my hon. Friend the Member for Reading, South said it would not make Very much difference, but I think it will make a difference. I am happy to say that my hon. Friend has shown a keen desire to tie up the pool promoters as closely as possible, and I ask him to consider what sort of loophole he would be opening if he compelled them to conduct their business on a credit basis. On the one hand, we have the arguments about a certain percentage or about publication of figures in a certain form but, although I am not an accountant, I suggest that a bigger loophole is that no accountant appointed by a local authority would be able to check, week by week, the monies coming in and relate them to a particular week's transactions if credit betting were involved.
Because the promoters would say, "It is true that statistically there may be only a few debts, but you cannot possibly check the monies coming in this week with any previous week's transactions because people do not always send their coupon in for the following week. People sometimes miss two or three weeks." The accountant could never say definitely that the monies received this week relate to the previous week's transactions.
That is so, but if the pool promoters can manage to make their calculations, surely the accountants can manage to check them.