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Hospital Lotteries

Volume 252: debated on Tuesday 19 May 1931

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.

I beg to move,

"That leave be given to bring in a Bill to authorise the raising of money by means of lotteries for the support of hospitals, and to make provisions incidental thereto."
The House is probably aware that for some time past I have been pressing on the attention of the Secretary of State for the Home Department the many anomalies and inconsistencies of the law with regard to lotteries, raffles and sweepstakes in this country; and, as the Home Secretary was good enough to say that he had an open mind on the matter and looked for guidance in a general demand for him to take action, I furnished him with a memorial signed in a few hours by some 70 Members of this House of all parties asking him to take the matter into consideration. I also furnished him with the results of a questionnaire which was recently sent out by the Special Appeal Committee of St. Bartholomew's Hospital in connection with their appeal for funds to some thousands of representative people, including the supporters of the hospital. I am informed that the result of that questionnaire to date is that 3,125 persons are stated to be in favour of a lottery in aid of the hospital, and only 61 are against. Meanwhile, nothing is being done, and our British hospitals are in the greatest need of funds for building, equipment and maintenance. We are all aware of the appeals that are reaching us week by week from various hospitals. Only a few days ago I received by post from a large hospital a pin; with the pin was a letter which said, "You are not to keep this pin, but you are to return it, using it to pin a cheque on the appeal which is sent herewith." I only mention that to show the expedients to which hospitals are reduced in order to raise funds.

I am aware that there are a number of hon. Members who consider that hospitals should be a charge upon the State, but even they must surely realise, in view of the statement which was made by the Chancellor in opening his Budget, that it is not practical politics under present financial conditions to think that any State funds will be available for hospitals in the immediate future. The chairman of a large hospital, in a letter to the "Times" a few weeks ago, pointed out that hospitals were being seriously prejudiced by reason of the uncertain state of the law with regard to this matter, and he pointed out that they were losing subscriptions, both from those who were in favour of lotteries and from those who were opposed to them.

For that reason, also, I submit that it is desirable that this state of uncertainty should be ended so far as hospitals are concerned. Many of the public who receive these appeals naturally have in mind the immense sums raised in Dublin in aid of the Southern Irish hospitals. Within the last year some £600,000 was raised for Irish hospitals, and it is expected that the lottery now in progress will raise a further £500,000 for them.

The Bill which I hope the House will be good enough to allow me to introduce is really an unambitious Measure. Under the Ten Minutes Rule it is obviously impossible to introduce a Bill which would codify the law or remove the many anomalies concerning lotteries, raffles and sweepstakes. This is a short, permissive Measure which leaves the law as it is until such time as the Government are in a position to deal with it, but proposes that, notwithstanding anything in the existing law, a lottery may be held under regulations to be approved by the Secretary of State for the Home Department for the benefit of British hospitals—some-thing on the lines of the Irish Free State Hospitals Lottery, but with improved regulations, as the result of experience gained in the conduct of that lottery. The Bill does not refer to Northern Ireland, as I felt that a matter of this sort is one to be dealt with by the Parliament of Northern Ireland. I need not remind the House that there is nothing inherently vicious in the idea of a lottery. From the earliest times the casting of lots has been a method of deciding what is the Divine will in a matter of doubt. If hon. Members will study their Bibles they will find how, again and again, matters of doubt were decided by the casting of lots. I am not saying anything irreverent in saying that, I am merely pointing out that, inherently, there is nothing immoral or wrong in lotteries.

For many years State lotteries for public purposes were conducted in this country. The British Museum, of which we are all so proud, was started by a State lottery. The first Royal patron of lotteries, so far as I am aware, was Queen Elizabeth, and Mr. Shoolbred, in his admirable little book on lotteries, states that this lottery had as its object the provision of funds towards the reparation of the havens, the strengthening of the Realm and other public good works. Years passed, and abuses crept in. Various Acts of Parliament were passed to deal with them, enacting the most terrible penalties, from whipping, at the instance of two justices of the peace, to death as a felon without benefit of clergy. I do not wish unduly to alarm Members of Parliament, but I am told that those Acts have not been repealed. Be it remembered that under practically all the Lottery Acts the main object has been not to prohibit lotteries as such, but to make unlawful the competition of private lotteries and foreign lotteries with British State lotteries for public purposes.

Indeed the Lottery Act of 1823, some 35 pages long, which can be found in the Library, and enacted the penalties to which I have referred, was stated in its preamble to be an Act for granting to His Majesty a sum of money to be raised by lottery. Another Act was passed in 1834, 11 years afterwards, and that is the Act which is to-day being used by the Customs authority, at the instance of the Financial Secretary, to allow persons landing at Holyhead to be searched for Irish lottery tickets. As the House is aware from the description given the other day by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Chelmsford (Colonel Howard-Bury), very serious difficulties have occurred not only with citizens of the Irish Free State, but also with American citizens, who have landed in the Irish Free State on their way to England and have purchased, as they were legally entitled to do, books of Irish lottery tickets. At Holyhead they have had their pockets rifled and the books taken from them. In addition to that letters are being opened, and there is a whole system of espionage which is contrary to English ideas. I submit, also, that it is a bad thing for a country when the law is openly broken by all classes with general approval. These lottery tickets are on sale everywhere throughout the country. Is it desirable that we should have here a repetition of the American farce of Prohibition, with its attendant crimes and subterfuges? Do let us look facts in the face, and get rid of cant and hypocrisy.

The State already approves of lotteries under proper public control. We have the Victory Bonds lottery for £300,000,000. Drawings take place every year, and successful people get £100 for the Bonds which they bought at £85. We have the totalisator as a national institution. The telegraph and telephone service derive a large part of their income from transmitting betting news. Newspapers of all parties have thinly disguised lotteries, including the "Daily Herald." There is not a church or chapel bazaar which does not have its little lottery. In this House there is a daily lottery for tickets for the Strangers Gallery; and, more than that, I myself yesterday took two tickets, costing 7s. 6d. each, in a lottery which is being conducted by Mr. Speaker for the much-coveted prize of seats in the House of Commons stand at the Trooping of the Colour. The instances I have given show that there is no inherent immorality in a lottery, and my Conservative friends will no doubt have observed that at the large meeting of representatives of women's organisations in connection with the National Union at Queen's Hall on Thursday last it was unani- mously decided that the present state of the law in regard to lotteries and sweepstakes was unsatisfactory, and it was urged that they should be legalised under proper control. Why, then, should our British hospitals not benefit by a lottery under proper control? Why should our British citizens be denied what they are determined to have in any event, and what we cannot prevent them from having, and that is an innocent flutter which will go some way to relieve the gloom and anxiety of these hard times, will do no harm, will create no new crime, and, at the same time, will be of immense benefit to our hospitals, and, through them, to our people who are sick and suffering. It is idle to suggest that this would sap the morality of our country.

On a point of Order. I understand that the hon. Member is introducing this Bill under the Ten Minutes Rule, and he has already been speaking for 14 minutes.

On a point of Order. I submit that the actual time for which a Member can speak is within the discretion of the Chair. It is not an actual limit of 10 minutes; that is only a general phrase. I have only one other sentence.

Hon. Members must not forget that in asking leave to introduce Bills under what is known as the Ten Minutes Rule they have no more than the privilege of making a short explanatory statement of the provisions of a Measure.

4.0 p.m.

I have only one more sentence. We have seen a properly-controlled hospital sweepstake in Ireland during recent months. Has it undermined the morality of the Irish Free State? Has there been any protest from the Cardinal Archbishop or the priests of the Roman Catholic Church who are particularly concerned with the morality of the people of Southern Ireland.

I ask the House to reject this Motion. Although it is only a Bill brought in under the Ten Minutes Rule, it deals with a vital matter, and I think it will be agreed, whatever are the differences in this House, that very grave issues are raised in this proposal. It is not a Bill to get rid of legal anomalies. I admit that there are anomalies relating to our betting laws. They are like the laws that Oliver Cromwell once described as "a tortuous and ungodly jumble." This is not a Bill asking for an inquiry. I am all for an inquiry. This is not a Bill for the straightening out of the law. This is a Bill which prejudges the inquiry and demands from this House a verdict before the evidence has been given. It is a Bill for legalising lotteries. We are asked to go back more than a hundred years, and I am surprised at the temerity of the hon. Member in referring to the fact that we had lotteries in this country, because if he will turn to the report—it is one of the most scathing reports ever published by a Select Committee of this House—which led to the abolition of lotteries in this country a century ago, he will see the condemnation of his proposals. No Member ought to vote for the restoration of lotteries in this country unless he has read that report. There is one paragraph in it which says:

"No mode of raising money appears to the committee so burdensome, so pernicious, and so unproductive; no species of adventure is known where the chances are so great against the adventurer; none where the infatuation is more powerful, lasting and destructive."
That was in 1808, and, as a result of the report of that Select Committee, which said that evils were inseparable from lotteries leading to a mournful catalogue of calamities and crime, lotteries were altogether abolished in this country. That opinion expressed in 1808 has been confirmed every time an inquiry has been made in succeeding years. The Bill cannot be limited to hospitals. If it is right for hospitals, it is right for the blind, for orphanages and for every beneficent enterprise, national and municipal. This is a charity lottery. I submit that it would not achieve its purpose. It would dry up the sources of charity. The man who will bay a sweepstake ticket will be tempted to feel that he has discharged his responsibility. Take what goes to the hospitals. My hon. Friend again had the temerity to take, for example, what happened in Dublin. I have figures for the sweepstake there in November, 1929. The recent figures are more remarkable, but in that sweepstake there was a total sum raised from the pockets of the purchasers of £798,433, of which £249,000 went in expenses, organisation and the selling of tickets and £417,000 went in prizes. Out of the sum of £798,433, the hospitals took £131,671. In other words, out of each 1s. raised ostensibly to help the sick, maimed and weak, 2d. went to the avowed purpose of the scheme. [Interruption.]

I am surely entitled to quote some of the leading authorities in this country upon this matter. A short time ago the Earl of Onslow, at one time the chairman of the Voluntary Hospitals Commission, wrote a letter to the "Times" setting out his reasons—I have no time to quote them—in which he condemned this proposal as one that would be disastrous to the financial interests of the hospitals of this country. We have the same opinion recently given in the "Times" by Sir Theodore Luling, chairman of the Royal London Ophthalmic Hospital, and I could quote the same opinion given this year by Sir Arthur Stanley, treasurer of St. Thomas' Hospital. The "Manchester Guardian" sought the opinion of 13 prominent members of the Manchester hospital boards. Two declared in favour of the proposal, one was neutral, and 10 declared against it. The house governor of Charing Cross Hospital, Mr. Philip Inman, in an interview this month, said:
"Speaking for myself and this hospital, we will have neither part nor lot in any such schemes. And our reasons are not simply moral ones, though they weigh very considerably. Looking from simply a business standpoint, we believe that the gains would be outweighed by the losses."
He submits that this is a craze, and that when the craze is past hospitals would be left in a desperate position. He says that in the North they regard betting as being a mug's game with a ten to one chance. What sort of a game is it with a chance of 100,000 to one? Even if successful, the success would be at too great a price. These methods would poison the wells of charity. You cover cupidity with a thin smear of charity. You cannot reconcile an appeal to self-sacrifice and personal gain. The good Samaritan would have taken a very different place in history if he had sought to discharge his responsibility to his distressed neighbour by spending his twopence on the purchase of a ticket in the Jericho Hospital Sweepstake. The hon. Member asks what protest has been made in Ireland? Protests have already been made in Dublin. A very heavy responsibility rests, I believe, upon the spiritual guides and the social leaders and statesmen of the Irish Free State for what is happening there. I may quote what was said, not by any ordinary person, but by a business society. The Dublin Mercantile Association, on 22nd April last, made this public declaration:
"We have also seen during the past year, a very disquieting increase in the desire of many of getting something for nothing …. and we have asked the attention of the business section of the population to the great danger to its interests by the tremendous increase in gambling now legalised in the Irish Free State… Consequently we have ventured to put our views before the Ministers of the Government as follows:
That we view with concern the amount of gambling in the Free State, which diverts both energy and money from industry and commerce, and causes grave disturbance to the public mind."
Against this proposal we have the overwhelming opinion of the churches of this country, and those who are working for social betterment. Here is an evil which has admittedly been open, gross and palpable. I believe that the first result of this proposal would be to discourage the churches and our social workers. I am sure that it would give enlargement to the evil. It would have the commendation of Parliament and the imprimatur of Government. This enemy of the people would be dressed up in the livery of the State. I will quote, in conclusion, what was said by Sir Alan Anderson, chairman of the Hospital Savings Association, a few weeks ago:
"Illness is not a gamble, and it would not accord with the principles on which the Hospital Savings Association appeals to its members to base the finance of healing on the unstable foundation of gambling."
It was the foolish man who built his house upon the sand. The hospitals of this country are a great institution, and I hope we shall not think to build them upon the very shifting and uncertain sands of chance, cupidity, and a perverted spirit of adventure. There is a case for public support. There is no case for basing these great ministries of healing upon something which, throughout history, wherever it has been unchecked, has wrecked homes, degraded the community, and demoralised society.

Question put,

"That leave be given to bring in a Bill to authorise the raising of money by means

Division No. 249.]


[4.11 p.m.

Balniel, LordGrattan-Doyle, Sir N.Remer, John R.
Beaumont, M. W.Hamilton, Sir George (Ilford)Salmon, Major I.
Bourne, Captain Robert Croft.Haycock, A. W.Sandeman, Sir N. Stewart
Bowater, Col. Sir T. VansittartHurst, Sir Gerald B.Sandham, E.
Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W.Hutchison, Maj.-Gen. Sir R.Shillaker, J. F.
Bowyer, Captain Sir George E. W.Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown)Taylor, Vice-Admiral E. A.
Briscoe, Richard GeorgeKnox, Sir AlfredThorne, W. (West Ham, Plaistow)
Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T.Lamb, Sir J. O.Tinker, John Joseph
Butler, R. A.Lelghton, Major B. E. P.Tinne, J. A.
Cautley, Sir Henry S.Lewis, Oswald (Colchester)Titchfield, Major the Marquess of
Cayzer, Maj. Sir Herbt. R. (Prtsmth. S.)McGovern, J. (Glasgow, Shettleston)Todd, Capt. A. J.
Church, Major A. G.McShane, John JamesTout, W. J.
Colfox, Major William PhilipMaitland, A. (Kent, Favsrsham)Walker, J.
Colville, Major D. J.Manning, E. L.Warrender, Sir Victor
Conway, Sir w. MartinMarley, J.Waterhouse, Captain Charles
Daggar, GeorgeMonsell, Eyres, Com. Rt. Hon. Sir B.Womersley, W. J.
Day, HarryMoore, Sir Newton J. (Richmond)
Despencer-Robertson, Major J. A. F.Moore, Lieut.-Colonel T. C. R. (Ayr)


Dugdale, Capt. T. L.Morgan, Dr. H. B.Sir William Davison and Colonel
Glyn, Major R. G. C.Peake, Captain OsbertHoward-Bury.
Graham, Fergus (Cumberland, N.)Penny, Sir George


Adamson, Rt. Hon. W. (Fife, West)Gray, MilnerMarcus, M.
Allen, Lt.-Col. Sir William (Armagh)Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan)Marjoribanks, Edward
Alpass, J. H.Groves, Thomas E.Markham, S. F.
Amnion, Charles GeorgeGrundy, Thomas W.Mathers, George
Arnott, JohnHall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil)Matters, L. W.
Atkinson, C.Hall, J. H. (Whitechapel)Middleton, G.
Ayles, WalterHall, Capt. W. G. (Portsmouth, C.)Millar, J. D.
Barr, JamesHammersley, S. S.Morris, Rhys Hopkins
Batey, JosephHannon, Patrick Joseph HenryMorrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Hackney, S.)
Bennett, Sir E. N. (Cardiff, Central)Harbord, A.Morrison, Robert C. (Tottenham, N.)
Benson, G.Hastings, Dr. SomervilleMuggerldge, H. .
Bevan, Aneurin (Ebbw Vale)Henderson, Arthur, Junr. (Cardiff, S.)Muirhead, A. J.
Bondfield, Rt. Hon. MargaretHenderson, W. W. (Middx., Enfield)Murnin, Hugh
Bowen, J. W.Herriotts, J.Noel-Buxton, Baroness (Norfolk, N.)
Brockway, A. FennerHirst, G. H. (York W. R. Wentworth)Oliver, P. M. (Man., Blackley)
Bromfield, WilliamHirst, W. (Bradford, South)O'Neill, Sir H.
Brothers, M.Hoffman, P. C.Owen, Major G. (Carnarvon)
Buchan, JohnHollins, A.Palin, John Henry
Buckingham, Sir H.Hopkin, DanielPaling, Wilfrid
Buxton, c. R. (Yorks. W. R. Elland)Hore-Belisha, LeslieParkinson, John Allen (Wigan)
Cadogan, Major Hon. EdwardHudson, James H. (Huddersfield)Perry, S. F.
Carter, W. (St. Pancras, S. W.)Hunter, Dr. JosephPethick-Lawrence, F. W.
Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. Sir J. A. (Blrm., W.)Isaacs, GeorgePotts, John S.
Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N. (Edgbaston)John, William (Rhondda, West)Raynes, W. R.
Charleton, H. C.Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)Reynolds, Col. Sir James
Chater, DanielJones, Rt. Hon. Leif (Camborne)Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)
Collins, Sir Godfrey (Greenock)Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)Riley, Ben (Dewsbury)
Compton, JosephKennedy, Rt. Hon. ThomasRomeril, H. G.
Cowan, D. M.Kinley, J.Rosbotham, D. S. T.
Cranborne, ViscountKnight, HolfordRothschild, J. de
Cripps, Sir StaffordLambert, Rt. Hon. George (S. Molton)Russell, Richard John (Eddisbury)
Dallas, GeorgeLang, GordonSalter, Dr. Alfred
Davies, E. C. (Montgomery)Law, Albert (Bolton)Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)
Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)Law, A. (Rosendale)Samuel, Rt. Hon. Sir H. (Darwen)
Denman, Hon. R. D.Lawson, John JamesSamuel, H. Walter (Swansea, West)
Ede, James ChuterLeach, W.Sanders, W. S.
Edmunds, J. E.Lee, Frank (Derby, N. E.)Sawyer, G. F.
Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty)Lee, Jennie (Lanark, Northern)Scott, James
Elmley, ViscountLloyd, C. EllisScrymgeour, E.
England, Colonel A.Logan, David GilbertSexton, Sir James
Freeman, PeterLongbottom, A. W.Shakespeare, Geoffrey H.
Gardner, B. W. (West Ham, Upton)Lovat-Fraser, J. A.Shepherd, Arthur Lewis
George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke)Lunn, WilliamSherwood, G. H.
Gibbins, JosephMacdonald, Gordon (Ince)Simmons, C. J.
Gibson, H. M. (Lancs, Mossley)MacDonald, Malcolm (Bassetlaw)Simon, E. D. (Manch'ter, Withington)
Gill, T. H.McElwee, A.Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir John
Glassey, A. E.McKinlay, A.Sinclair, Sir A. (Caithness)
Gossling, A. G.MacLaren, AndrewSinkinson, George
Gould, F.MacNeill-Weir, L.Smith, Frank (Nuneaton)
Graham, Rt. Hon. Wm. (Edin., Cent.)Mander, Geoffrey le M.Smith, Lees-, Rt. Hon. H. B. (Keighley)
Granville, E.Mansfield, W.Smith, Louis W. (Sheffield, Haliam)

of lotteries for the support of hospitals, and to make provisions incidental thereto."

The House divided: Ayes, 58; Noes, 181.

Smith, Rennie (Penistone)Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. LambertWhiteley, William (Blaydon)
Snowden, Thomas (Accrington)Watkins, F. C.Wilkinson. Ellen C.
Stamford, Thomas W.Watson, W. M. (Dunfermline)Williams, David (Swansea, East)
Strauss, G. R.Wedgwood, Rt. Hon. JosiahWilson, R. J. (Jarrow)
Sutton, J. E.Wellock, WilfredWinterton, G. E.(Leicester, Loughbgh)
Taylor, W. B. (Norfolk, S. W.)Welsh, James (Paisley)Wood, Major McKenzie (Banff)
Townend, A. E.Welsh, James C. (Coatbridge)
Vaughan, DavidWest, F. R.


Viant, S. P.Westwood, JosephMr. Isaac Foot and Mr. Cecil Wilson.
Walkden, A. G.White, H. G.
Wallace, H. W.Whiteley, Wilfrid (Birm., Ladywood)