asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he is aware of the fact that Allied Newspapers have been summoned to appear at the Manchester city police court, on Monday next, on charges connected with racing competitions, notwithstanding that the competitions in question have already been withdrawn from these newspapers; and whether it is proposed to take similar action against London newspapers publishing in Manchester, which have also been conducting racing competitions and have now withdrawn them following upon warnings given in London by the City and Metropolitan Police?
I am informed by the Chief Constable of Manchester that on the 27th April last the Allied Newspapers Ltd. were warned that the racing competition which they were conducting was considered to contravene the provisions of the Betting Acts and that if the competition was not discontinued pro- ceedings would be instituted. This group of newspapers informed the police to the effect that they would welcome proceedings and intended to treat the case as a test case. As the competition was not discontinued proceedings were instituted and summonses were issued on the 3rd instant. The London newspapers circulating in Manchester who were conducting similar competitions were warned at the same time by the Manchester police under the impression that the coupons would be received at the Manchester offices of the newspapers, but it was subsequently ascertained that the coupons had to be sent to the London offices which were outside the jurisdiction of the Manchester police. In reply to the last part of the question, as I have previously informed the House, the responsibility for enforcing the law rests with the Chief Officers of Police. I am informed that it is not proposed to institute proceedings against the London newspapers, who immediately discontinued these competitions on being warned by the police.
Is it not a fact that the Manchester newspaper only followed the others in this practice, and that they were among the first to withdraw? Will my right hon. Friend take steps to ensure that this kind of flagrant discrimination ceases?
Can the right hon. Gentleman explain why, if it was sufficient to issue warnings to London newspapers published in Manchester, it was deemed necessary to prosecute Allied Newspapers, and does he not know that after the warnings were issued racing coupons were continued in London newspapers published in Manchester, although they were discontinued by the Manchester newspapers? Does he not think that this discriminatory action is both invidious and unfair?
Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether the terms he has indicated as being the terms of the warning are the same given to every newspaper in every particular case?
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the summonses issued against the "Daily Dispatch" newspaper of Manchester are in respect of the same lottery with regard to which summonses were taken out against the "Sheffield Independent" and the "Sheffield Daily Telegraph," that the Sheffield daily newspapers have already appeared before the court and have been fined and have asked the magistrates to state a case, and does he not think that the summons in this particular case might be withdrawn until the magistrates in the preliminary case in respect of the same lottery have stated a case?
As I have explained to the House, the matter is in the hands of the various police authorities. In the case of Manchester, when the notice was given it was evident that the newspapers concerned said that they desired that the matter should be tested, and there is no alternative. I think that is perfectly clear. On the notice being given through the Manchester police to the London newspapers, it was ascertained that the coupons were not returnable to Manchester but to London. The matter therefore came under the police authorities in London, either the City Police or the Metropolitan Police, and in that case, warning having been given, notice was taken of that fact, and the papers have behaved properly. That is not the case in the other instance. As far as I am informed there is nothing improper, and the matter must go forward. I understand that the case is to be heard on the 24th and is therefore sub judice. I have nothing further to say on the matter.
I beg to give notice that, in view of the unsatisfactory position disclosed by the answer of the right hon. Gentleman I propose to raise this matter on the Ajournment.