I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
The Government, when considering the steps that should be taken in order to maintain and increase production, came to the conclusion, which was subsequently confirmed by their negotiations with both sides of the industry, that one of the best ways of doing this would be to arrange for what is known as the double shift system of working over a wide range of industry. Put colloquially, I understand that that means that there will be two shifts in many productive industries, one starting at 6 a.m. and ending at 2 p.m., when the second shift will commence, and will end at 10 p.m. It will be recollected that I asked the House a few days ago, in order to help us with that arrangement, to agree to an alteration of summer time legislation. The House was good enough to do that, and with the assistance of another place, that Measure has received the Royal Assent. We now come to a further proposal which we wish to submit to the House.
The Government have, from time to time in recent months—and I know that, on occasions, the same representations were made in the days of the Coalition Government—received complaints from certain managers and others in the essential industries that substantial absenteeism has been caused by mid-week sporting events. I would be very reluctant at ordinary times to do anything that so fundamentally interfered with the liberty of the subject as to attempt Governmental interference with these arrangements for recreation and relaxation. The history of Governmental interference in this way during the Middle Ages is not one that inspires one with very much confidence in the feasibility of coercing people into regulating their lives in this way against their own desires, and, therefore, I was deputed by the Government, with my right hon. Friends the Secretary of State for Scotland and the Minister of Fuel and Power, to meet the representatives of the principal organisations which run sporting events during the week.
We found—and I want to repeat what I have said in answer to Questions in the House—the utmost readiness on the part of the bodies governing the various sports and recreations of the country to meet our wishes in the matter In fact, I can say that one or two of them even went beyond what we were inclined to ask, and I am very grateful to them for the way in which they nave endeavoured, through their influence with the various local organisations, to make these arrangements effective. I think the statement made on behalf of the Football Association last Sunday evening over the wireless represented at its best what the Government desired to secure. Where there are substantial congregations of persons, who would otherwise be engaged in productive industry, at sporting events, not as participants but as spectators, we thought we might reasonably ask at this time that these pleasures should be foregone and should be confined to the week-ends. We have no desire to interfere with people who are getting recreation by participating in sports, or by games played by young people in connection with schools and other organisations.
The one form of pastime—and I hope that word will not involve me in any of the controversies which greyhound racing produces—which we could not deal with in that way was greyhound racing, because greyhound racing, alone of these pastimes and recreations, is already very severely governed by Statute. As long ago as 1934, an Act was passed which prescribes certain limitations on the activities of the people who are responsible for providing this particular pastime, and it was, therefore, necessary to consider with these gentlemen the way in which the law could be adapted. From the very first, they met us in the same spirit as did the organisers of those sports and pastimes which are not subject to legislation, and I have been able to reach agreement with them on every point except one, which I will deal with when I come to the proper place in my description of the alterations which we are proposing to make.
The present law with regard to greyhound racing is that not more than 108 meetings may be held in any one licensing year. A licensing year starts on 1st July and ends on 30th June, and these 108 meetings have to be held on not more than 104 days. Of those 104 days, four are described as specially appointed days, and, in England and Wales, are generally bank holidays. I understand that, among the many differences between England and Scotland, there is the fact that they have no bank holidays in Scotland, and, therefore, that the four appointed days vary from locality to locality, according to the way in which the local holidays are arranged. On these four appointed days, and on these alone, under the existing law, a double meeting is allowed.
The licensing authority in England and Wales is either the county or the county borough concerned, and these authorities have placed upon them the duty of fixing the 104 days on which racing may take place. They have to be the same 104 days for every track in the area of each licensing authority; for example, all tracks in the area of the London County Council must have races on the same 104 days in the year. If the licence holders meet and agree on the days, then the licensing authority has to fix the days on which the licence holders have agreed, but, it they do not, or cannot agree, then he licensing authority itself fixes the days.
I understand that, in this matter, as in many others, Scotsmen are more argumentative than Englishmen, and the main difficulty about not securing agreement, and thereby throwing the responsibility for fixing the days on to the licensing authority, is more common in Scotland than it is in England. Generally speaking but not invariably, two days in the week are so fixed, and if the four specially appointed days are appointed it is the usual practice for the mid-week meeting to be dropped in the week in which the bank holiday occurs so as to bring the number of 104 days back into the picture. In that week the bank holiday or specially appointed day is one day and one of the other two days usually fixed is the second day. In most areas Saturday is one of the fixed days apart from the specially appointed days, but there are some areas, including the county of Lanarkshire, where I understand there is a substantial number of tracks where Saturday is not fixed.
The House will recollect that the Minister of Fuel and Power, when the electricity cuts were introduced, made an Order forbidding the consumption of electricity on greyhound racing tracks, and as a greyhound racing track is defined by Statute as a place on which a mechanically propelled article is used as an attraction to persuade a greyhound to run, that brought this form of racing to an end. Immediately the Greyhound Racing Association said they were prepared to accept the principle that racing on tracks should be confined to Saturdays only, my right hon. Friend made an Order allowing the use of electricity on racing tracks on Saturdays and bank holidays only. That, of course, helps all the tracks which had Saturday fixed as one of the days on which racing can take place. It does not help at all those tracks where Saturday was not one of the fixed days. We propose under the Bill that there shall still be 108 meetings in the course of the year, and these may be held on any Saturday and on four other appointed days which will be on bank holidays in England and Wales, making a total of 56 days. To compensate for the loss of the mid-week meeting, permission is given for a double meeting to be held on Saturday. If we had a double meeting each Saturday, that would be 104 meetings, and if we had double meetings on the four bank holidays, that would give another eight, making a total of 112. Therefore, in order that the total of 108 may not be exceeded in bank holiday weeks, one of the days in that week must be devoted to a single meeting, and we leave it to the option of the proprietors of the tracks whether they have the single meeting on a bank holiday or on a Saturday.
We are proposing this legislation for the remainder of this licensing year, that is until 30th June, and for the whole of the next licensing year, that is until 30th June, 1948. Unless there is fresh legislation this arrangement will then come to an end. It cannot be extended beyond 30th June, 1948, without a fresh Act of Parliament. We have power in the Bill, if the circumstances should warrant it, to bring this arrangement to an end by Order, and then the Act of 1934 will be restored to full working order. The point on which I have not been able completely to meet the wishes of the proprietors of the tracks is with regard to the time at which racing may commence on Saturday. There was an Order made during the war which allowed racing to take place on these tracks at any time after 12 noon. That was fixed during the war having more regard to the black out conditions than to the conditions which we have to take into account today. I had originally drafted the Bill to enable racing to start at 2 o'clock on Saturday afternoons. There will be some shift working done on Saturday mornings, and I cannot imagine a shift even on a Saturday morning ending much before noon. It does seem to me, therefore, that inasmuch as the justification for this Measure is its effect on production, it would be unjustifiable to allow racing to commence at noon.
The right hon. Gentleman does not mean by that that the gates will not be open at 1 p.m. in order that people who wish to see the race in good time can go in before the racing starts?
The advice which I have is that actually seeing the race is no very great part of the enjoyment of attending these greyhound racing tracks. It is the opportunity of making certain investments, small or large as the case may be.
The gates can be open. As I understand this Bill that is the time betting can commence. I think that that is a reasonable compromise, and I hope that the Bill will commend itself to the House. I desire to ask the House to pass the Bill through all its stages today, because we are exceedingly anxious, having been met in the way that we have, that we should not inflict any unnecessary hardship on any people who are connected with this particular pastime. I regret that it should be necessary to trouble the House with this legislation. I am quite sure of this, that had the proprietors of the greyhound racing tracks been as free as the people who control other sports, I should not have had to trouble the House with the matter at all, but they are not free. They are limited very much indeed by the existing Act, and these modifications are necessary if they are to be able to carry out the arrangements into which they have entered. I hope, therefore, that the House will be prepared to let us have this Measure.
have no complaint to make about the way in which the right hon. Gentleman has introduced this Measure, but I think the Opposition and the House generally have some right to complain at the way in which this legislation is being thrown at their heads. On 13th March the right hon. Gentleman announced that a Bill of this character would be introduced—that is a week last Thursday. It was not until Wednesday morning of this week, however—that is, 48 hours ago—that hon. Members had any opportunity of seeing the Bill in print, and, therefore, it has been quite impossible in the time available to give the Bill detailed study or to draft Amendments in time for the further stages of the Bill which again, in compliance with the wishes of the Government, I understand are all to be taken today.
I was going to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether the contents of the Bill had been discussed and agreed with the Greyhound Racing Society. He told us, in the earlier part of his speech, that with one exception, which he intended to mention later, the contents of the Bill had been so agreed. If he did mention the one exception—the point upon which there is disagreement—I am afraid I must have missed it. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman would make the point clear.
I am much obliged. That makes the position quite clear. But I do not think the fact that the Greyhound Racing Society, which, I presume, is the body with which the right hon. Gentleman has been dealing, has agreed to the proposals in the Bill, necessarily precludes full discussion in the House. We are sometimes presented with Measures here which have been the result of agreement outside, whether it be with the Trades Union Congress or the Greyhound Racing Society. Nevertheless, I have always thought that the fact that there had been agreement outside made it all the more necessary for the House of Commons to look closely at the proposals.
This Bill, as the right hon. Gentleman pointed out, has a certain amount of history behind it. It was, I think, in the second week in February that the
Minister of Fuel and Power imposed a complete ban on greyhound racing by means of the Control of Fuel (Dog Race Course) Order. I felt that in view of the negligible amount of electricity consumed at dog tracks when they are operated in daylight, the Order made by the Minister of Fuel and Power was really a pretext, and that the saving of fuel was not the real object of the Order which was made six weeks ago. I think it is now clear from the statement made by the right hon. Gentleman on 13th March, and from his speech today, that the confinement of dog racing in future to Saturday afternoons is not imposed in any way with the idea of saving fuel. Of course, the Bill will not, in fact, save any fuel because the number of meetings will be the same as they were under the Betting and Lotteries Act, 1934. The object of this Measure and, in my opinion, the object of the Order which the Minister of Fuel and Power made early in February, prohibiting the use of fuel on dog tracks, is clearly in order to cut down absenteeism and to endeavour to increase production. In his statement on 13th March, the right hon. Gentleman said:
… it is of vital importance in the present national emergency that arrangements should be made whereby all sporting events which are likely to attract large attendances shall take place only on Saturday afternoons …"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 13th March, 1947; Vol. 434, c. 1502.]
In his speech today he said that the real justification for the Bill is its effect on production. I will come again to those two matters in the course of a few moments. In my opinion, the real author of this Bill—and I am glad to see that his name appears on the back of it—is the Minister of Fuel and Power, but I am a little surprised that we do not see him on the Treasury Bench today, because there is, surely, a clear connection between this Bill which confines dog racing to Saturdays, and the proposal to resume the five day week in the coal mines, which was the common practice in the "bad old days" when the mines were under private ownership and when coal was plentiful, and we even had a little to spare for export. In my opinion, the Minister of Fuel and Power is the author of this Bill and, undoubtedly, the idea is that absenteeism from industry will be diminished if dog racing is confined to Saturday afternoons.
We have not had any real evidence upon this point. The right hon. Gentleman—I took a note of his words—said that complaints had been received from managers in certain industries that midweek sporting events interfered with production.
Yes. I would very much like to know from what industries these complaints have come. I would also like to know the extent to which absenteeism is measurably increased upon a particular day on which a particular sporting event has occurred. There is not much evidence before the House at present, except the general statement that certain complaints have been made by managers in certain industries.
The hon. Gentleman says "almost every factory", but is he saying that the managers of almost every factory have made these complaints, and, if so, to whom have they made them? Could we have some figures from the right hon. Gentleman? Would he say, for example, that 1,000 factory managers have complained, or that 10,000 have complained, or that absenteeism in a particular factory on the occasion of a particular sporting event went up by 20, 30 or 40 per cent.? I think one of the Ministers concerned with production, either the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour, who I see is with us, or the Minister of Fuel and Power, or a Minister representing the Board of Trade, might have given the House some clear cut evidence that absenteeism has increased, and that production has suffered through mid-week sporting events.
I ask myself whether the Bill is really necessary. I compare the position today with the position during the war. During the war no compulsory powers were exercised in order to curtail any sporting events, even including greyhound racing. Curtailment during the war was effected by voluntary agreement. It is true, as the right hon. Gentleman said, that there was an Order permitting greyhound racing to take place upon Saturday afternoons. That was because there were some areas where Saturday was not one of the appointed days; but the curtailment of dog racing, as of all other sporting events during the war, was effected by voluntary agreement, and the main motive for curtailment during the war was not to curtail absenteeism nor to increase production, so much as to avoid large crowds foregathering, which were objectionable from a home security point of view by reason of the possibility of a bomb being dropped and panic being caused.
Of course, during the war transport was a vital factor, and horse racing, for example, was greatly curtailed because of the demand which horse racing, unlike dog racing, makes upon public transport. I am told that most of the dog racing fans proceed to the neighbouring track on foot, or by some other form of transport which does not involve long journeys. During the war curtailment was entirely upon a voluntary basis; no Statute or Order of this character was required in order to curtail mid-week sporting events.
The right hon. Gentleman just said that most people proceed to and from dog tracks on foot. Has he not visited a dog track and seen outside literally hundreds of taxis and dozens of buses which are used to transport the patrons of these wretched "joints"?
The hon. Member betrays some little prejudice in this matter—a prejudice which is extremely common, but of which I hope he will try to clear his mind in approaching a Bill of this character. Certainly, in the mining districts—and I think it is for the mining districts that this Bill is designed—
Oh, no. I must disabuse the right hon. Gentleman of that. This Bill is not specially aimed at mining districts. The only way in which mining districts differ from other districts is, that a more strict check is kept of absenteeism from the mines. That does not apply to other industries in the country, and in consequence sometimes miners have been spoken of as if they were the only absentees. That is not the case, and this Bill is not aimed specifically and especially at mining districts.
The right hon. Gentleman expressed great reluctance at having to introduce this Bill. But I am quite confident that for a long time past he has been pressed by the Minister of Fuel and Power to introduce a Measure of this character. I am equally sure that the Minister of Fuel and Power—whom, as I say, I am sorry not to see upon the Treasury Bench today—has a strong prejudice against dog racing. I will come back to that point a little later in my remarks.
I am about to answer the hon. Member's interruption, which I have come to in due course, having since been interrupted by the Home Secretary. In reply to the interruption of the hon. Member for Bedford (Mr. Skeffington-Lodge) I should say this. At any rate in the mining areas, where there are a very large number of dog tracks, he will find that the miners proceed to them on foot. I am quite sure that the amount of public transport used by dog racing fans is negligible in proportion to the number of people who attend them—certainly in proportion to the amount of public transport which is used by, let us say, people who go to horse racing, which attracts a far smaller crowd throughout the year than do these greyhound racing functions. However, it is such a small point that I do not think we need bother about it.
During the war there was a saving in transport owing to the limitation of dog racing. But let me tell the House what the voluntary limitation of dog racing amounted to during the war. On 20th June, 1940, the then Home Secretary, the present right hon. Member for the Scottish Universities (Sir J. Anderson), told the House that greyhound racing meetings would take place only in the evenings and in the afternoons on Saturdays and days which were local half-holidays. This Bill contains no provision of any sort for any local option of that character. Yet there are considerable areas where the local closing day is not on a Saturday, and where it would probably be much better, so far as drawing people away from their work is concerned, to permit dog racing on a Wednesday or a Thursday afternoon rather than on Saturday. I am very sorry that this Bill contains no provision for local option of any sort or kind. On 25th June, 1940, a few days later, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Home Security said that the Greyhound Racing Society had agreed to racing on each track on one day only each week. This was all done by voluntary agreement and no Act of Parliament of the character with which we are now presented was required.
I pass on to the year 1941, when, on 11th December, an hon. Member of this House, Mr. R. C. Morrison, now I believe Lord Morrison, asked the Home Secretary
whether, in view of the urgency of increased production, it is proposed to continue greyhound racing meetings in mid-week?
The Home Secretary of the day, the present Lord President of the Council, with whom I was associated at that time, replied:
In the absence of evidence that afternoon greyhound racing meetings have an adverse effect on production, there would appear to be no justification for the imposition of further restrictions on this form of entertainment. I do not think that hon. Members ought to confuse their objection to a particular form of entertainment with their views on absenteeism.
I commend that statement of the Lord President of the Council to the hon. Member for Bedford.
In making a comparison between then and now, would not the right hon. Gentleman take into consideration the fact that during the war the Essential Work Order functioned and prevented a great deal of absenteeism, which is possible today?
In December, 1941, when Lord Morrison, as he now is, asked this Question of the present Lord President of the Council, we had a very revealing supplementary. In fact, there was a very revealing exchange between two Members of the present Government. On 11th December, 1941, there was asked the following supplementary question:
Mr. Shinwell: Does not the Minister realise that when people go to the pictures it does not involve a waste of transport?
The then Home Secretary, the present Lord President of the Council, replied:
With great respect, I think that my hon. Friend is subconsciously influenced by his dislike for this form of entertainment."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 11th December, 1941; Vol. 376, c. 1666–7.]
Of course, the Lord President of the Council knows the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Fuel and Power much better than I do. He, at any rate, seemed to think that that right hon. Gentleman
had a dislike of dog racing which was subconsciously influencing him. Accepting the view of the Lord President of the Council upon that point, I am rather inclined to think that the same thing is happening at the present time.
Surely, the question arises: Did these restrictions on mid-week sport help or hinder production? They were imposed, as a general rule, on different grounds, namely, on security grounds and in order to save transport. But the question does arise whether they hindered or helped production. It is very difficult, of course, to get any clear figures upon this question. But so far as the coalfields are concerned, it seems to me that the case is wholly unproved. In 1940 the output per man employed was 300 tons. It fell steadily and continuously as these restrictions on mid-week sport became more and more severe throughout the war, until, in 1943, it reached 275 tons a man; and in 1945, when for the greater part of the year these restrictions were in force, 246 tons.
So far as absenteeism is concerned, from about 6½ per cent. in the two prewar years, it increased steadily throughout the war while these restrictions on mid-week sport were becoming more and more severe, until it reached 16 per cent. in 1945. I cannot find any figures which tend to show that the rate of absenteeism has gone up since the increase of sporting events following on the end of the war. I should have thought that anybody who wanted to prove a case in regard to absenteeism would have been able to produce some figures to show that, while these wartime restrictions were in force, absenteeism was reduced, and that it has grown since we have let up on those restrictions. I should have thought that that was a point upon which evidence must be available and I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour is going to intervene in the Debate and give us this evidence before the further stages of this Bill are concluded.
May I make it clear that I hold no brief at all for the greyhound interest? In fact they have reached agreement and may be said to be in league with the right hon. Gentleman—
As the hon. Gentleman says, they are doing very well. I myself
have paid only one visit to this form of entertainment in the whole of my existence. Apart from an unusual incident which occurred on the occasion of my visit, I found it extremely dull. On that occasion, however, the machinery went wrong. The operators were unable to stop the hare going round the track; the race developed into a marathon obstacle with the attendants rushing out with various devices intended to cut the greyhounds off from the hare, and the race finally concluded only when, at about the eighth lap, the hare ran into the greyhounds from behind. My experience of the other races discouraged me from further visits. But let me say a word to one or two hon. Members opposite who are a little influenced by the amount of gambling attached to this sport. The whole question of gambling was very fully considered by the Royal Commission of 1932, and it was upon their unanimous report that the Betting and Lotteries Act of 1934 was founded. The Royal Commission said one or two very wise things about gambling. In paragraph 233 of their Report they said:
Public opinion generally would not support legislation based solely on ethical objections to gambling.
They went on to say:
We think the general aim of the State in dealing with facilities for organised or professional gambling should be to prohibit or place restrictions on such facilities, and such facilities only, as can he shown to have serious social consequences if not checked… Legislation as to gambling must necessarily contain a considerable element of practical compromise.
I think that those very wise statements would appeal to the great balance of what I might call middle opinion on the matter in this House, but if there is one thing which is quite certain, it is that this Bill will not tend to diminish the amount of gambling on greyhound racing.
There is going to be just the same amount quantitatively. Surely, the hon. Member listened to the right hon. Gentleman's speech in which he made it quite clear that the number of hours and days of greyhound racing in the year would be exactly the same under this Bill as was permitted under the Betting and Lotteries Act of 1934?
Does not the right hon. Gentleman recognise that there will be far more competing interests in the sports line on a Saturday than hitherto when greyhound racing has been spaced out over other days of the week?
—but actually the amount of greyhound racing will be just the same. In fact, if we were to cut down the number of days or hours spent in greyhound racing that would not have the slightest effect on the amount of gambling, because people would just increase their stake pro Canto on the hours and days on which it was allowed. When money is as plentiful as it is now, as the result of the great excess of spending power over goods available for purchase, it is quite natural that there should have been a steady growth in the amount of gambling of this and other forms.
The right hon. Gentleman has clearly explained the provisions of the Act of 1934. I personally regret that on the Committee stage of that Measure the Government of the day introduced a concession providing that the appointed days should be those selected by the proprietors of the tracks if they were unanimous. It would have been much better if the local authority had retained the absolute power of choosing the appointed days. In that case this Bill would have been unnecessary; the right hon. Gentleman would merely have had to advise the local authorities who, in response to his appeal, would, I am quite sure, have followed his wishes that the appointed day should be Saturday in every week. Of course, if racing on another week day was to be prohibited there would have had to be some further Amendment of the 1934 Act, but it has always seemed to me to be a pity that local option exists in this matter only where there is disagreement among the proprietors of the tracks as to what the appointed day shall be. As I say, it would be much better if some element of local option had been preserved both in the principal Act and in the Bill now before the House. This Bill has been produced in haste and, like all hasty legislation, will, I think, fail of its objects. Greyhound racing—although many of us dislike it—is not wholly a bad thing. It takes a great many people out of doors who would otherwise remain in a public house or a stuffy cinema, and, morever, ft takes people's minds off their troubles and worries.
It has the same effect upon those people as Hitler's bombs had upon the old lady who observed, "The best thing about these bombs is that they do take your mind off the sanguinary war." As I say, greyhound racing is not wholly a bad thing, and I doubt whether the Bill will have any effect of increasing production. There is room for considerable doubt whether to curtail people's simple pleasures under peacetime conditions will result in their working harder. After all, it constitutes the removal of one incentive, when most people are agreed that one of the basic causes of slack production is the absence of incentive at the present time. The merits of the Bill are, therefore, in my opinion, extremely doubtful, but the Opposition will not stand in the way of any step which the Government consider necessary and likely to assist the nation through the economic crisis with which we are faced today.
In listening to the speech of the right hon. Member for North Leeds (Mr. Peake), I must confess that I had some difficulty in gathering from the labyrinthine movements of his observations whether he was in favour of the Bill or against it. I do not know whether he considers that the situation is one in which it is essential to do something, or whether, in his view, the status quo should remain. I would like respectfully to congratulate my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary on the very clear way in which he introduced the Bill, which is not as clearly framed as it might have been. The Home Secretary has, as the House knows from experience, a penetrating and quick-sighted mind and that has enabled him to grasp what is said to be the meaning of this Measure. I have myself looked carefully at the Bill and I agree with the right hon. Member for North Leeds that it shows signs in parts of having been very hurriedly drafted.
There is one item, in particular, which I think is very obscure, and on which I find it very difficult to give an interpretation in accordance with the view which the Home Secretary has expressed on it. I will come to that shortly. We ought not to approach this discussion with any prejudice against gambling and particularly against dog racing, which is the subject that is being debated. The question of gambling does not enter here; the principle of gambling is not in issue in this Debate. The principle the House has to consider is whether the conditions under which dog racecourse betting is allowed at the present time are such as are consistent with or adversely affect the needs of production now. That is the issue. It is an issue of considerable importance. I do not feel that I am called upon to express any view as to whether I am for or against gambling of this nature. What I am asked to apply my mind to, and what the House has to decide, is whether some alteration in the present set-up of dog racecourse betting ought to be made.
Is there any and what sufficient reason for this alteration? It is clear that the Home Secretary would not have asked the House merely to make an alteration here which, apart from the days on which dog racing is to take place, does not in substance make any alteration at all. That is an important point to register. All that the Bill seeks to do is to confine dog racing to Saturdays and Bank Holidays. It does not seek to curtail the number of hours that are to be allowed for dog racecouse betting, but it does confine it to a particular day and to a particular time; that is to say, it says that it shall be on Saturdays and Bank Holidays only, and not on any other day. As far as Saturdays are concerned, there are only 52 of them in the year and therefore, in order to carry out what is stipulated, what is prescribed in the 1934 Act, namely, that there may be dog racecourse betting on 104 days, what has been done by the Bill is that, instead of having only the four continuous hours on any particular day which are permitted under the 1934 Act, the Home Secretary and the greyhound racing interests have agreed that the period now can be eight continuous hours. It is, therefore, important to note, apart from the fact that the day has been altered, that the amount of racecourse betting, the total time occupied by it, and the total number of races, are precisely the same.
A point arises here which I would like the Home Secretary to consider. I do not know what the effect will be, but it seems to me that, where, as in the past, there was a meeting which involved only four continuous hours, the staff and the organisation must have required to be less than it has to be if there is a meeting which lasts for eight hours. I have not heard anything said about what effect that will have. Of course, one can understand that, if there is a staff which is requisite merely for the purpose of dealing with dog racing over a period of four continuous hours, obviously something more must in the way of personnel, etc., be required if that period is to be doubled, not only by twice the time, but by twice the actual number of races. I should like to know that the result of this change is not going to be a means of attracting to dog racecourses the need for more employment there, because I imagine that employment there is very attractive, and, in spite of the experiences of which we have heard from the right hon. Member for North Leeds, no doubt this form of sport is entertaining and attractive even to those employed in the work. It has to be borne in mind that there are many scores of these dog racecourses all over the country. I hope there will be some indication that this particular alteration will not lead to something which would be very unfortunate, in view of the fact that the purpose of the Bill is to increase production. It would be very unfortunate indeed to have to make a levy, however small, upon the already restricted manpower of the country if it means that an additional amount of that manpower would have to be utilised in working on dog racecourse tracks merely because of the alteration that has been made.
The right hon. Member for North Leeds referred to the function of what he called the local authority but which is more correctly referred to as the licensing authority. What this Bill does is to take that duty of fixing the precise days completely out of the hands of the licensing authority. The Bill expressly lays down the times at and days on which dog racing is to take place and substitutes that provision for the function of the licensing authority. It is just to be regarded as though, in fact, the licensing authority had decided these statutory days. The only function that is left for the licensing authority is that, under Section 10 of the 1934 Act, they shall fix the 104 days under this Bill as, in fact, they had to do under the 1934 Act. That is rather artificial, because they cannot alter the fact that the racing has got to be held on Saturday, and if the races extend over a period of eight hours, that period is reckoned as two days instead of one day, and the 52 is thereby doubled, and one gets the 104 days.
We have continued to impose that duty on the licensing authority because we may revoke the Order during the year 1947–48, and if we do it will be necessary that the days should be fixed.
I follow that, but in the meantime, I think my right hon. Friends will agree that the net result of this is that it removes the function from the licensing authority to the provisions of this Bill, which prescribes absolutely that the days are to be Saturdays and bank holidays. If, of course, something were done to change the law which would be enacted under this Measure, obviously, we should revert to the previous law. I can quite see that this provision, fixing 104 days, will work in the way that the Home Secretary said, but there is a point I wish to put about the four specially appointed days. I understood from my right hon. Friend that the four days would remain, in other words, there would still be 108 meetings. I ask my right hon. Friend to look at this matter again, because Clause 1 (2, b) of the Bill appears to get rid of the proviso set out in Section 4 (1) of the 1931 Act, in which, in a strange way also, there is introduced this question of four specially appointed days. It is a most extraordinary provision that I find so expressed in an Act of Parliament. This Bill says that that proviso should have no effect, and I cannot understand what is left of the four specially appointed days if the proviso which creates those four specially appointed days has to go. It was made clear from the Home Secretary's speech, as I have said, that those four days were to remain, and it therefore strikes me that in this particular provision there is not only a contradiction, but considerable obscurity.
The question has been raised as to whether this Bill is necessary. I do not think that any responsible person would not welcome it, once it was conceded that its effect would take away any diversion, during the week, which might in any way prejudice production in the present emergency. No one can give any guarantee or assurance, but if there is any doubt that by having these sports during the week production is being prejudiced then that in itself is sufficient justification for this Measure. I represent a city in which there is a large and prosperous dog racing track, and I welcome this Bill as, I am certain, does everyone who is anxious to help production. It is not a question of regulating people's lives; no one wishes to do that. It is a question of trying to regulate conditions which will make people's lives worth living, and that will be helped by increasing production.
Although the Bill we are considering is small in size, it is undoubtedly one which will affect the lives and habits of a very large proportion of this country's working class population. In my opinion, the bringing forward of this Bill is typical of the general futility and bankruptcy of leadership which is being shown by this so-called Labour Government. For years, the supporters of the Government have told the people of the promised land when they came into power. They led them to believe that conditions would come about whereby they could work fewer hours and get bigger pay packets at the end of the week. Now the Labour Government are in power they have now to realise, at last, that less work means less production, and that we must produce in order to live.
It is clear that the intention of the Government, in putting forward this Bill, is to get more production, but what is their remedy for that, what are they putting forward that will lead the people of this country to work harder? It is no midweek sport, less entertainment and less fun. At no time in his speech did the Home Secretary make out a definite case that absenteeism in industry was affected by midweek sport or greyhound racing throughout the country. He said that probably it did, that he had heard so, but he produced no figures, and said nothing about any representations having been made by industry to the Government to stop midweek sport. In this matter, the Government are making a great mis- take. They are treating the worker like a naughty child is treated, when toys and sweets are taken away because it will not practise conscientiously on the piano. When will the Government grow up, and be adult-minded in their treatment of workers in industry? In taking away sport from what they regard as the bad worker, the absentee, they are affecting the good worker. The Home Secretary should know that in many of our provincial towns there is a half day off for the shopkeeper and trader in the middle of the week. Surely, the shopkeeper who has done a hard week's work is entitled to have his pleasure on his half day off. What about the nightworker? What about the self-employed person who can make up time by working in the evening if he desires? Surely they should have a chance of getting away from some of the dullness and monotony of life.
The policy of the Government in this matter is one of dull, monotonous leadership. What the country wants, if we are to get the necessary production, is inspiration. We require deep, stirring, imaginative leadership, such as we had from the last Prime Minister during the war. When he went to the microphone the millions of people who listened to the magic of his voice went back to work, inspired with renewed vigour—
I tried not to get too far away, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. I was considering the principle behind this Bill, and trying to advise the Government how to get the production which they appear to desire. My thesis was that in order to get it they should not do it by a measure of restriction such as this, but rather by leadership which would be trusted by the people and which would, in turn, trust the people.
The hon. and gallant Member will find out if he is prepared to sit here for the rest of the afternoon. In this restrictive policy of the Government we have not got the kind of leadership that people trust, or that will inspire them. We have a policy of trying to save a few pennies and a few man hours while spending needlessly millions of pound, in other directions, and in wasting millions of man hours. I think that the policy of restriction is typical of the present Government. They have shown in my view a lack of policy behind this legislation.
I would like to raise one particular aspect of the matter with the Home Secretary. I want to call his attention to the position of holiday resorts in matters of this kind. I raised it at Question time with the Home Secretary yesterday afternoon, and, listening to his reply, I thought that one could at least say that he was not unfriendly to the view I put before him that the holiday resorts deserve special attention. The main purpose of holiday resorts is to create pleasure and happiness and to provide entertainment. There are few other industries in the holiday resorts other than the entertainment industry, from which the people living there can earn their daily bread. These resorts try during the season to offer the fullest measure of attractions which include a very wide variety of sporting events. They are not catering for workers during working hours but they are catering for the millions of workers on their holidays. They are providing for the workers' playtime. I think that it is generally agreed on both sides of the House that workers' holidays are essential for industrial efficiency. They are part of the incentive which leads to harder work and better production.
Therefore, the holiday facilities must be good, for when the worker gets his holidays as an industrial reward he expects to get a real change and he hopes to experience some of the joys of life and have that freedom and gaiety which he does not have while he is engaged in his daily work. Therefore, he wants to be provided on holiday with all forms of sport and entertainment during the week as well as at the weekend. If the Government, by proposing restrictions on any form of sport, give it as their view that they intend to have during the coming summer austerity holidays, then I say that they will be altogether failing to achieve the object which they most desire.
There is another point. If we close down the entertainment industry in the holiday resorts there will be in many cases no other form of employment available for the local resident. When we get on to the Committee stage of this Bill we have an Amendment which we hope will help the Home Secretary and give him some of the powers which he should have. When I asked him in the House yesterday whether in view of the fact that workers' holidays were necessary for industrial efficiency, he would undertake not to place any objection on the provision of sporting facilities during mid-week, in seaside resorts, he said:
It any such difficulty should occur, and the holiday resorts were unable to make the necessary arrangements with the association controlling that particular sport, I should be very happy to do what I could to see that matters were sorted out properly."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 20th March, 1947; Vol. 435, c. 568.]
That was yesterday, and today he asks the House to pass legislation which will prevent him from doing the very thing which he said yesterday he would like to effect. Will the Home Secretary consider this question of seaside resorts, amenities, and workers' holidays? By doing so he could improve this Bill and give increased pleasure which the workers desire to have during their holiday.
I do not propose to follow the argument of the hon. and gallant Member for South Blackpool (Wing-Commander Robinson). The House will be interested to learn that, for the first time in its history, the Conservative Party are interested in the entertainment of the working class. I can claim 20 years' association with the working class movement, and I have never known such interest as displayed today by hon. Members opposite on behalf of the working class.
If the hon. Gentleman had been in the House a little longer, he would have known that for something over 15 years I have been pressing the case of good holidays for workers.
It has not been a notable effort of the Conservative Party, and I have known the Conservative Party for over 20 years. I am critical of this Bill, and I do not think that this introduction will help to curb gambling, save fuel or prevent absenteeism. It has not been proved today that absenteeism is caused by dog racing, and no evidence has been produced to justify this Bill in any way. I put it to the Home Secretary that the Government are following a rather dangerous procedure in interfering so much with the liberties of the people of this country. The working class are, after all, the people they represent. It should be the Government's policy, I think, to avoid too much infringement of their liberties.
We must watch the position very carefully, and try to make things a little easier for them and not restrict them. I do not think myself that the Government have put a case for the introduction of this Bill to restrict dog racing. I am not a dog racing fan, I have no shares in dog tracks, and I am not interested in book-makers, but I am interested in the fact that hundreds and thousands of people quite sincerely and genuinely go to those places as a form of entertainment. We cannot avoid that; we may not like it, but it is their form of entertainment. There seem to be far too many people running round the country trying to cure other people's souls and put them on the road to righteousness, and I think it would be as well for some of those people to look at their own souls before they start advising other people.
The suggestion is here that whoever goes to a dog track must be a sordid sort of person, and that these places bring together all the worst elements in the country. We must recognise that the vast majority of people who go dog racing and horse racing do so because it is their form of pleasure, and they have a right to their own kind of pleasure. Most of these dog racing meetings have been evening meetings, at a time when most people have finished work, and no figures had been brought to prove that absenteeism is in any way encouraged by entertainment of this kind. I would ask the Home Secretary to remember that this type of legislation is reacting not against hon. Gentlemen opposite, who are exploiting the position for party purposes, as they always do, but is directed against those of us who are interested in the welfare of the working class. Not only now, but in future legislation, we want to determine that we will legislate for the benefit of our people, so far as entertainment is concerned, as much as possible, and not for its curtailment. I do not think that the Home Secretary can justify this Bill.
I think that the hon. Member for Rotherhithe (Mr Mellish) is typical of other hon. Members opposite, who are apt to say at any time we on this side of the House oppose any Measure, we are acting in our own party interests and not in the interests of the country. It seems to be the argument that, whenever a Bill is proposed, we should keep quiet and agree with the Government, and then we shall not get into trouble. I think that is a rotten argument. In view of what the hon. Gentleman opposite said, that he held no shares in greyhound tracks, I would say that I hold a few shares in one greyhound track. I say a few, and I mean a few. It may be a very fine greyhound track, but it never pays me anything. Of course, it may, at some time in the future.
I think that some people in this country are inclined to approve this Measure because they believe that greyhound racing is a social evil, that it is unpleasant and unwarranted. That may or may not be so. The hon. Member for Bedford (Mr. Skeffington-Lodge) obviously thinks it is, but, whether it is or not, it is not the issue which we are discussing today. The object of this Bill is obviously whether, if it is passed, it will make the people of this country work harder, and will induce them not to stay away from work in order, to use a colloquialism, "to go to the dogs." But those two points are entirely different. If the Government consider that greyhound racing is a social evil—and nothing which the right hon. Gentleman said in his opening speech has led me to suppose that they do—then they must come to this House and to the country and seek powers to abolish or curtail dog racing in this country. If they want to do that, let them do it in a straightforward way, and not by a hole and corner method, as the hon. Member for Bedford suggested.
If the hon. Gentleman will allow me to interrupt him for a moment, I would point out that I have not yet had an opportunity to make a speech on this Bill, and that, far from saying what he has suggested, I have just sat here quietly.
I really cannot accept that. I have been present throughout most of the Debate, and, although I admire the hon. Gentleman exceedingly, I cannot agree that he has sat quietly on the bench. There were two interruptions by him, and they both gave me the impression that he regarded greyhound racing as a social evil. If that is so, then the Government must come down to this House and seek power to curtail it for that reason. But that is not the reason we are discussing it today. The question today is, will people work more if greyhound racing is stopped? Will absenteeism in the pits of this country be less if this Bill becomes an Act? I rather doubt it. I should like the right hon. Gentleman, who replies to tell us whether in the Chislet colliery in the Kent coalfields, to take an example, which is near my constituency, and many of the miners of which live in my constituency, absenteeism there is greater on a Thursday, because of the greyhound racing which takes place at Dumpton Park in the Isle of Thanet, than on any other day of the week, and, if it is, by how much? I think that these are important points. We have no figures and no data to show that greyhound racing leads to absenteeism. There is another aspect of this matter.
In 1913 or 1914, some foreign ruler called us a "nation of shopkeepers." I do not know whether that is true or not, but, as far as my own part of the world is concerned, my constituency in the main is a constituency of shopkeepers, and the shops there mostly close on Thursday. A great many of the shop assistants and of the people who own shops and run them on their own, have been in the habit of going to the local greyhound track on Thursdays. Now they are to be restricted to Saturays only. But they do not get a half day on Saturday, and I think that is an important point.
I dislike this Bill exceedingly, because it is yet one more curtailment of the ordinary freedom of the individual. There has been a lot of interference with the freedom of the individual to date, and I suggest to the House that this is just one more example of panic legislation. The Government say that it is necessary. They may be right, or they may not, but if they think that they are right, and if they are sure that it is absolutely vital in the interests of the country to pass this Bill, then they should put forward far more concrete reasons and facts than did the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary in his opening speech.
The hon. Member for the Isle of Thanet (Mr. Carson), admitted that he was a shareholder in a dog track, but that he had got nothing out of it. To my mind, it must be a very poor dog track, judging by what the other tracks pay. From what the hon. and gallant Member for South Blackpool (Wing-Commander Robinson) said, one would have thought that dog racing was absolutely essential for the welfare of Blackpool. I am going there at Easter, and I hope that there will be some other entertainment apart from dog racing. The right hon. Member for North Leeds (Mr. Peake) asked if this Bill was really necessary, and whether dog racing helped or hindered production. The only time when it can help production is, I think, when the worker loses his week's wages, and then wants to work overtime to make good his loss.
We were asked whether the Bill is really necessary. To my mind, it ought to be welcomed by all who have the best interest of the nation at heart. Greyhound racing is not a sport in the real sense, because its only attraction is the betting. There is nothing else to it. We know that mid-week racing is absolutely detrimental to production. I have evidence of that from some of the factories in the London area. I am told that it is not only the fact of absenteeism during the mid-week which is a drawback to production, but that excitement goes on inside the factory all the time while waiting for the results of the races, and that bookmakers haunt the vicinity of the factories all the week. As to the betting, it is not a case of merely a shilling, but, very often, of a man's whole week's wages. I honestly feel that this Bill is worth supporting in order to prevent mid-week dog racing.
I wish to associate myself very briefly with the excellent point of view put forward by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for South Blackpool (Wing-Commander Robinson) and by my hon. Friend the Member for Isle of Thanet (Mr. Carson). As always, I listened with great interest to the speech of the hon. and learned Member for Gloucester (Mr. Turner-Samuels), whose legal views are always listened to with much interest by hon. Members on this side of the House. But I could not refrain from thinking, while he was speaking, of a modern dance tune which, curiously enough, is about a greyhound which was running round in circles, and getting nowhere. The hon. Member for Rotherhithe (Mr. Mellish) made some very sound points, with which I was largely in agreement. I was particularly interested when he said that this Bill was not designed to prevent absenteeism, and when he suggested that no figures had been produced to prove that it was. If it is not designed to prevent absenteeism, then it cannot be designed to prevent anything at all. We have been told that it may increase production. I should think that it is no more likely to prevent absenteeism than it is to increase production.
In my opinion this is a bad Bill, and it is not a better Bill just because we are told that it is going to be defunct on 30th June, 1948. There has been a lot of confused thinking on this matter. The hon. Member for Sedgefield (Mr. Leslie) and several other hon. Members have discussed whether greyhound racing is a sport, a pastime, a relaxation, or merely a gamble. I cannot see that it has anything to do with which of those four things greyhound racing may be. It was very rightly pointed out by my right hon. Friend the Member for North Leeds (Mr. Peake) in his opening speech that, in any case, this Bill is going to do nothing to diminish gambling, because those who wish to have a flutter of, say, five or ten bob a week on greyhounds are only going to double their stakes if they can only go once a week instead of twice. That should be obvious to everybody. Many people enjoy greyhound racing. I have been only once to a greyhound race. I had a small bet, which I lost, and I had a particularly bad dinner, so I have no intention of ever going again. Anyhow, that has nothing to do with the Bill. Millions of people do enjoy greyhound racing, and there is no use in denying it.
When the Home Secretary opened the Debate he said that he regretted the necessity for the Bill. I understood that that was largely on legal grounds because, as he explained, greyhound racing authorities are not entirely free, by reason of previous legislation. I hope that I am not misinterpreting the right hon. Gentleman.
No. The Football Association can advise affiliated football clubs not to hold matches on Wednesdays or Thursdays, and the local clubs can carry out that wish without any legislation on the part of this House. If the Greyhound Association had said: "Please abandon your mid-Week meeting and hold a double meeting on Saturday," that would have been inviting promoters to permit definite breaches of the law.
I am very much obliged to the right hon. Gentleman for that explanation. I had understood that before, but perhaps I did not express my meaning very clearly.
I am not satisfied that there is a necessity for the Bill. In wartime the necessity for production was every bit as great, but dog racing was done with the full agreement of the authorities. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for the Isle of Thanet that the whole restriction of mid-week sport is a serious curtailment of the liberty of the subject. It is a curtailment which ought to be unnecessary and one with which I cannot possibly agree. If the necessity for it exists it arises from the fact that in the last few months we have been going through the most serious crisis of this century, a crisis second only to that of 1926. The crisis was due, as we are all aware, to the muddled planning and bad housekeeping of the Government and not entirely to the weather. It was due also to the failure of the Minister of Fuel and Power to listen to the warnings of this party and of many experts. Those warnings were laughed at or scoffed at, or were dubbed by the Minister as being an attempt to sabotage the national effort. I shall not get out of Order, Mr. Speaker, any more. Indeed, with great respect, I wondered whether I was out of Order. I was seeking to show that the Bill should not be necessary. In any case, I will now leave that point.
I will only say that it is extraordinary that the Minister of Fuel and Power is not here. I do not know why he is not here. Perhaps he has gone to watch greyhound racing.
I am sure of one thing, and that is that the Minister of Fuel and Power owes this House, the country and the general public an apology for the Bill having had to be brought in. For that matter, the Government as a whole owe them an apology. Over years of irresponsible propaganda the Socialist Party have been trying to teach people that they should do less and less work and get more and more pay. I regard the Bill as one of the many blessings of the Socialist Utopia so freely promised at the General Election. The country is going to the dogs, even though the Government do stop the meetings in mid-week.
I wonder whether hon. Gentlemen opposite have had as little knowledge of industrial processes as their speeches seem to indicate? The facts should be obvious to them, if they do not know them already. I recommend that they attend factories or building jobs where work is actually going on.
Whatever we may think of this Measure, it is a fact that broken time during the week has most serious results on production. It is not only the fact that individual men and women leave their job that matters, but also the effect upon the whole scheme of production. Bricklayers and bricklayers' labourers work together. on building jobs. If the labourers are not there, the bricklayers cannot work and vice versa. All of us on this side of the House are aware that that argument applies throughout the whole of the industrial process. The present Government are one of the most fortunate of modern times. They have known about the adjustments that should be made in our industrial processes but for some reason or other they have not had the good fortune to bring them forward. The fortuitous circumstance has arisen that we have had a fuel crisis. It has impressed upon the minds of everybody the need for organisation in order to get full production.
The Government now feel themselves able to bring forward certain adjustments. There has been daylight saving. Now we get an attempt to deal with the question of broken time. I hope that no consideration of the rightness or the wrongness of gambling or of the sort of amusement or sport that any one of us may entertain—
My hon. Friend has made a definite charge against bricklayers and bricklayers' labourers. Can he tell me any job in London where work is carried on until 7 o'clock at night?
I used that illustration as an example of what happens on a job. If my hon. Friend wants to know whether it is so or not, let me tell him that I was a constant visitor to building jobs right through the war, as an inspector of building trade labour for the Minister of Labour. Time after time I found exactly that state of affairs going on. I am not particularly blaming the men, but the system under which they operate. Our Government are different from any that we have had before, because they are making an attempt to face the country's difficulties. We ought not to allow our prejudices about gambling or sport to influence us on this matter.
I have some doubts, however, about the Government's policy on this matter. This is a psychological matter. There is no doubt that people who are in the habit of attending dog racing will resent the imposition of these restrictions. They will ask why they should be interfered with when people who go to cinemas, theatres, the Derby, to churches, cricket matches and horse races are not interfered with. There is something in what they say. The Government are probably justified in bringing in this legislation immediately, but I would ask them to get down to the job, as soon as they have time, of giving fresh and much deeper consideration to the organisation of activities of this description.
The fact that horse racing apparently will not be interfered with will be deeply resented by people who go to dog racing. After all, what is a dog race? It is the working man's form of horse racing. Horse racing has been regarded in the past in this country as a profitable and proper thing, and the highest people in the land have attended meetings of that sort.
The community, in general, has been encouraged to believe that something of this sort is a desirable and proper thing. It is not surprising that people who have not the leisure of those who can attend horse racing, are using their opportunities for leisure to attend similar events.
I understand, from Questions raised in Parliament when this matter first came up, that the Home Secretary has some feelings in regard to horse racing. He seems to approve of horse racing, and he tells us that after he has attended a meeting he comes back invigorated. It is possible that a person who attends a dog race meeting might also find it has some invigorating effect. We must not look at this from a personal point of view. He brought forward other reasons for allowing horse racing, and suggested that it enabled us to obtain £2½ million from dollar communities for the sale of bloodstock. I do not think that argument takes us very far. I suggest that it would be much better if the grain and the labour expended on bringing up bloodstock were used for other purposes. Arguments of that sort are not going to satisfy dog racing enthusiasts who are deprived of what they rightly regard as their sport and recreation, when horse racing is allowed to continue. As soon as opportunity arises, I ask the Government to give further consideration to this whole question of sport, and to get the matter regularised, so there will be no feeling of resentment on the part of any section of the community that there has been any interference with their particular form of sport.
We have listened to a most interesting speech from the hon. Member for Mitcham (Mr. Braddock). There was, I think, a conflict of loyalty in the hon. Member's breast, and I congratulate him on his performance. There is a lot of dog racing in his constituency, and he was evidently in great fear of—
Then, there is apparently a lot of support for dog racing in his constituency. It was apparent that he wished to keep in with his constituents as well as with his Chief Whip, and I am sure he succeeded admirably in doing both of these things. The Home Secretary said that we had a Government which was different from any other Government. We think it is different. He thinks it is a better Government than any before, and we think it is a worse Government. The only contribution this Government have made in this Himalayan economic crisis is to introduce the Double Summer Time Act and to put restrictions on midweek sport. It is absolutely astounding. We cannot let this Bill, small as it may be, go through without proclaiming to the country that these are the only Measures which the Government have taken within a few weeks of the publication of the momentous White Paper. I ask hon. Members to ponder on this, and to explain it to their constituents during the weekend. The honest truth about this Measure is that it is a silly little Bill, and I am sorry that the Home Secretary has had to introduce it. I do not think the Bill matters very much. I hold no brief for or against dog racing. Like many hon. Members, I have only once been to a dog race meeting, where, I think, I won a few shillings, which is unusual as I am usually a loser.
I do not think this Bill is of any great importance, and my first protest against it is that the Government are seeking to take it through all its stages in one day. This Bill links up with the other proposed restrictions on mid-week sport. The Government are making a profound psychological error in their approach. If people do not want to work and do not want to keep regular time, we shall not make them work and make them keep regular time by tinkering with the sports and amusements in which they indulge when they are away from work. If dog racing is suppressed on Wednesday evenings, it will only drive people to the cinemas, or to some other form of amusement—they may try coursing, or any other perfectly harmless amusement. The fact is that the Government will be driven by this policy, one after the other to shut down the alternative forms of amusement, until there will be nothing left for people but to sit at home and twiddle their thumbs.
We have not heard a word from the Minister of Labour, or from the Minister of Fuel and Power—only from the poor, dear Home Secretary. How well I remember the Home Secretary coming down to my constituency during the General Election, making a dignified but fiery speech in which he promised a new world to the electors. I wonder if he will honour us with his presence at the next election and come and speak to us, and whether he will say how proud he is of this great Measure; the people of Surrey have a great affection for the Home Secretary, and we will try not to make a bigger fool of him than we can help. This Bill is unworthy of the Government. The Bill is based on a wrong approach to the problem. We shall not make people want to work more by curtailing their amusements, and to think that we can is a fundamental psychological error. The House is being made rather ridiculous by this matter being treated so seriously. The Bill has been in our hands barely 48 hours before this discussion, and it is to be rushed through as if it was a Measure of major importance. I suppose there will be a Closure Motion, and all the rest, to get it through all its stages. It is all rather silly, but it is just what I would expect from the Government, although not from my right hon. Friend.
If I may speak again, I would make an appeal to the House that we should come to a decision on the Second Reading fairly quickly. I hope that in doing so I may be allowed to reply to some of the points that have been raised. This is not a Measure which deals, one way or the other, with the problem of betting. I think the amount of betting, as far as spreading it over areas is concerned, may be slightly restricted, because where a number of local licensing authorities are close together it is possible so to stagger midweek meetings as to provide people with greyhound racing meetings practically every night of the week, and that will not be possible, of course, under this Bill. That is the only way, so far as I know, in which betting is either restricted or aided by this Measure. But I do not want to be drawn into any discussion of gambling or betting. I take the view myself that, in this matter, as in a good many other things, it all depends on whether it is indulged in to excess or not, or has harmful effects through the example of one person indulging in it.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Leeds (Mr. Peake) asked me about the extent to which we have received complaints. I can say this, that both the Ministry of Fuel and Power and the Ministry of Supply have been told by the people who represent them in the different parts of the country that midweek sport does tend to interfere with production. I think it goes without saying that, when we have some of these huge crowds that attend this and similar sports, it must inevitably be the case. In the earlier part of his speech my hon. Friend the Member for Mitcham (Mr. Braddock) emphasised the full effect of that. It is not merely the question of the man who stops away from work. He is part of a team, and his absenteeism makes other people's work less productive than it would be were he also at work. There is a further thing, that when he returns, for the next two or three days there are bound to be certain conversations and arguments going on as to the effect of his absenteeism, and its effect on the earning capacity, on occasions, of the people who did turn up to work.
The only reason for this Bill being brought before the House is, as I said before, that this is the one pastime that is regulated by legislation. I met the football people, both Association and Rugby, together; I met the greyhound racing people with the speedway and ice hockey people, who very largely come into the same category, apart from this question of legislation; and I met the other interests whom I interviewed separately from them. The greyhound racing people accepted quite willingly the arguments that we put in front of them as to the national need of this Measure. I wish I could have left it to them, as I have left it to the Football Associations; because these adjustments can be made locally in a way that is a great deal more satisfactory than is possible when one has to have regard to legislation. In so far as I was forced to legislate, I had to have regard to what would be the best and simplest way of securing the result I desired.
I want to say about the speech, the sincere and admirable speech, of my hon. Friend the Member for Rotherhithe (Mr. Mellish). that it is no use this party, or any other party, going to working class people or to any other class of society in this country and saying that we are going to get out of the difficulties that two wars in one generation have caused for us, plus such other difficulties as may be apportioned by different people to different causes, without making very substantial sacrifices of our usual ordered way of life. I have seen the Jockey Club. They are probably, I think, even more capable of enforcing their views on the people in the country with whom they deal than even this House is.
They have very arbitrary powers which they exercise on occasion very arbitrarily. I asked them, on the instructions of the Government, to arrange that all the im- portant racing fixtures should be held on Saturday afternoons, and, without leaving the room, they agreed that the Grand National should be held on Saturday afternoon, and next morning they agreed that the Chester Cup and Manchester Cup should also be held on Saturday afternoons. They are able to do it, and, what is more, they are able to enforce their views on the racecourse executives in the most severe fashion if the racecourse executives take a contrary view. If the Greyhound Racing Association had made the recommendation that we and they agreed was appropriate, that would have been advising their local organisations to break the Act of 1934. It is merely because the Act of 1934 is on the Statute Book that we have to come to the House for this particular legislation.
Would my right hon Friend allow me? He has given the reasons about the Act of 1934 concerning greyhound tracks, but does he appreciate the fact that there are thousands of transport workers who have to go to work on different schedules and who are carrying other people about to various sporting activities, which are denied to themselves?
That goes back to what I said just now in answer to the hon. Member for Rotherhithe. We cannot, in these times, expect to be able to enjoy all those quite reasonable amenities which, in ordinary times, I would be the very first to defend if they were attacked. Either this country is in a very difficult position with regard to production or it is not, and I gathered that, if there was one thing upon which the House was unanimous, it was that a difficult situation, in fact, an unprecedentedly difficult situation, exists, There may be differences as to the causes, there may even be differences as to the probable duration of that difficulty, but, while it exists, I think the Government of the country, who are being continually asked to give a lead to the country, must, on some of these purely social issues, ask all sections of the community to make the necessary sacrifices for a limited period of time to enable them to meet the situation that has been created.
On any Measure that affects this kind of thing, I speak with some feeling, be- cause I am a great believer myself that reasonable recreation is a very necessary part of maintaining the physique and the morale of the people of this country. I prefer to see them participating in recreation, rather than being merely spectators, but I realise that it is not possible for everybody to participate. I have purposely limited this Bill in duration of time so that, if it is necessary to ask for its extension, it can only be done by the express sanction of the House in another Measure, and I have taken steps whereby, if it is possible to dispense with it, I can do so by means of an Order which, I am quite sure, it would be the wish of the House to confirm. I hope the House will now be prepared to agree to the Second Reading of the Bill.
I only want to say a few words, but having the honour to represent a London constituency, I have had considerable correspondence on the subject, and I am sure that the hon. Member for Rotherhithe (Mr. Mellish) will agree that though I am a Conservative I have some duty towards those people in my constituency in this respect. I should like to take up and follow the point that he has raised, that in my constituency the closing day is Thursday, a point emphasised by my hon. Friend the Member for the Isle of Thanet (Mr. Carson). Why should not these people be able to enjoy their Thursday afternoons and also evenings when they have finished their work by going to the greyhounds? Why are they not able to enjoy their well earned spare time both on their Thursday off and other times? We on this side of the House are pledged to support the Government in any reasonable actions which they may take to increase production, but we are not confident that the spread of this over the country, will, in fact, do that. My right hon. Friend the Member for North Leeds (Mr. Peake) asked for more information on this question, and as evidence he quoted the same view given by the Lord President of the Council during the war. Would it not be possible in some areas such as my constituency to have a local inquiry between local industry, employers, and trade unions to go into this matter? We have no evidence on this point, and I think the House is entitled to it. It was cartooned in the Press recently that the recent three-day Debate on our economic affairs only gave birth to a mouse; I think hon. Members on all sides of the House will agree that it certainly has not started a hare.
I was very disappointed with the Home Secretary's second speech. He had been asked by my right hon. Friend the Member for North Leeds (Mr. Peake) to give the evidence upon which he relied in the statement he made that mid-week sport interfered with production. I believe that I understand the Home Secretary well enough to know that he, at any rate, unlike a good many of his colleagues, does not like interfering with the liberties of the individual without good reason. The right hon. Gentleman very conspicuously failed to do more than repeat what was obviously hearsay evidence on this subject, and his air of distraction at the moment is an indication of his discomfort. It is not fair to himself or to individuals to interfere with the liberty of individuals without sufficient cause being shown. If there were any real substantial interference with production there would necessarily be evidence available. One really cannot proceed and legislate through the House of Commons simply on vague rumours of this sort, and as the Home Secretary failed to respond to the perfectly clear questions of my right hon. Friend, I think the House must be driven to the conclusion that there is nothing except a certain amount of rumour to support this view. I was surprised at the attack which the hon. Member for Mitcham (Mr. Braddock) saw fit to make on a certain class of workers in this country. After all, we have had no less a person than the Prime Minister making an appeal in the last 48 hours to people to work hard. Unlike the hon. Member for Mitcham, I do not accept that that appeal will necessarily fail unless it is supported by penal legislation of this sort.
I am obliged to the hon. Member for Mitcham for his habitual courtesy. I can only say in reply that it so happens I visit the workshops and factories in my constituency rather more frequently than he does in his, and the difference in our experiences must be due to the fact that, out of the mouth of the hon. Member for Mitcham, absenteeism and idleness are rife in Mitcham. I hope that the hon. Member's constituents will appreciate the tribute he has seen fit to pay to them.
I am glad and proud to say that the same is not true in my own constituency. The point, surely, is this: Is it the right method to obtain increased production by denying people a form of entertainment which they wish to attend? I, like a good many of my hon. Friends, am completely bored by attendance at greyhound meetings, and I profoundly hope that it will not be my dreary experience to have to go to one for many years to come. But it is the fact that a great many people disagree with us, and enjoy them. The issue of principle which this Bill raises is whether we increase production and steady time-keeping at work by denying people their enjoyment. That, surely, is the point. I say to hon. Members opposite that, if they take that view—and they cannot support this Bill without taking that view—why are they not logical and consistent, and why do they close down not only mid-week sport but mid-week cinemas, and public houses in the middle of the week? Why do they not deny to the unfortunate people of this country every form of entertainment which appeals to them?
My hon. Friend says, "Leave it till next Session." I do not know whether the present Government and their majority will be here then. Either the Government treat the people of this country like adults who can be relied upon to work because they regard it as their duty to their country to do so, or the Government treat them like silly children who have to be fended off from every form of enjoyment lest they be distracted by that enjoyment from doing their duty. Hon. Members opposite must really make up their minds where they stand. Are they standing for this business of driving people to work because there is nothing else to do, or are they not? Even assuming the attitude of the right hon. Gentleman and of those of his supporters who, unlike the hon. Member for Rotherhithe (Mr. Mellish), are going to support this Bill, to be that it is necessary to deprive the people of this country of enjoyment to get them to work at all, this Bill is a singularly clumsy method of doing it. First of all, 'why is it necessary to prohibit mid-week greyhound racing in the evenings? This House has recently passed a Measure under which, as from towards the end of next month, there will be double summer time. It will be possible for greyhound meetings to be held on every night of the week in daylight after normal factories have closed down.
I entirely agree that that would interfere with the late shifts, but, surely, the hon. Member is not suggesting that sport must be closed down on any day at any hour at which anybody is working? If he is suggesting that, this Bill would have to go much further and would have to prohibit greyhound racing at any time. The hon. Member must preserve a certain amount of proportion. Why is it not possible to allow evening meetings during the period of double summer time?
As one who, like his fellow countrymen, has had to suffer under the ministrations of the Ministry of Food, I have every reason to appreciate the truth of the hon. Gentleman's proposition. I accept the proposition that part of a cake is better than no cake, in support of my argument that week-day meetings are better than no week-day meetings at all. I adopt the helpful proposition of the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget). The right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary will recollect that yesterday he answered a Question of mine on the subject of certain areas in this country in which an appreciable proportion of the population take their half-day's holiday on a day other than a Saturday.
There is no provision in this Bill to deal with those areas at all. Yesterday the right hon. Gentleman, in his habitually courteous way, acknowledged that he could not do it because it was technically difficult under legislation. That is an argument against legislation of this kind. If he cannot adapt it—and really, of course, he could perfectly well adapt it by giving some form of local option; it is not beyond the technical capacity of his advisers so to draft a clause—does he realise that the effect of these provisions in these areas is to deprive people of their legitimate half day on their holidays, and, on the other hand, to tempt them to absenteeism on Saturday afternoons when they ought to be at work? He will leave these people with a sense of unfairness themselves, and will increase those very fears that this sport will cause absenteeism, which I take to be the motive behind this Bill. This is an extremely clumsy way of dealing with the matter.
As far as I recollect, the right hon. Gentleman, no doubt through inadvertence, did not tell the House that the provisions contained in this Bill are already in force by a side wind. There is "Statutory Rule and Order 446 of 1947," which is signed" E. Shinwell, under which no power can be used for greyhound meetings except on Saturdays and statutory holidays. The right hon. Gentleman made some play with saying that this change could not be effected without legislation; that he could not go to the Greyhound Racing Association and urge them to do this voluntarily. He seemed to suggest thereby that it could only be done by this Bill. But his colleague the Minister of Fuel and Power—whether with his knowledge or not I do not know—has effected precisely this result by a side wind.
No, not quite. The effect of this Bill is to do what we could not do by Order, namely, to allow the greyhound racing tracks to have a double meeting on Saturday. That cannot be done by Order.
I fully appreciate that. The effect, therefore, of the right hon. Gentleman's intervention is, as I understand it, that his colleague the Minister of Fuel and Power has done this thing in a way which the Home Secretary himself regards as undesirable. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will pass on that comment to the Minister of Fuel and Power, with the endorsement of the House.
I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Member when he is enjoying himself so much, but that Order was necessary in order to restrict greyhound racing in the middle of the week. That Order was passed with my knowledge; I might almost say at my request. It enabled me to help the greyhound racing people until I could get this Bill. The original Order destroyed the weekend meetings, which I am anxious to give people; but the second Order completely kills greyhound racing on those tracks which do not have Saturday as one of the fixed days.
I am sure the right hon. Gentleman did not use the expression "help the greyhound racing people" deliberately, because he has gone on to say that, in fact, he has destroyed racing on those tracks not licensed for Saturday racing. This Order does not help greyhound racing people. Surely, it is designed to do the exact opposite? I take it that the result of the right hon. Gentleman's intervention is that this Order would be withdrawn as soon as the Bill became law? The right hon. Gentleman does not dissent?
It is obviously an unsatisfactory provision, though I am, of course, reassured to know that its unsatisfactoriness is shared between the Home Secretary and the Minister of Fuel and Power. Finally, I ask the hon. Members opposite whether they think that this further restriction upon the pleasures of their constituents is really justified? They will have to answer to those constituents, who, heaven knows, are having a bad enough time at the moment.
Unlike the hon. Gentleman opposite, I am in touch with my constituents, who are having a thoroughly bad time at the moment. This will mean one further restriction of their pleasures. It has been done without the slightest evidence of any real necessity for it and, I suppose, can be justified only as being wholly consistent with the present Government's policy of equality in misery.
On a point of Order, Mr. Speaker. As I do not intend to endeavour to catch your eye at this late stage may I ask your guidance? My only objection to the Bill is that it admits juveniles into greyhound racing tracks. I understand that if I were to raise that it would be out of Order. I understand that it would also be out of Order if I were to ask for a provision to exclude juveniles on an Adjournment Debate. Can you give me any guidance as to how I could raise the point?