I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.
It had been my intention to move the Third Reading formally, but in view of objections raised by the hon. and gallant Member for Cheltenham (Major Hicks Beach) and my hon. Friend the Member for Workington (Mr. Peart) to Bills passing through the House without discussion, it seems incumbent upon me to say a few words of explanation.
So far the Bill has passed through all stages in the House without discussion and without any opposition. I think that that shows the good sense of hon. Members and their appreciation of the necessity of this amendment of the Act which I introduced about three years ago—the Small Lotteries and Gaming Act, 1956. When that Act was passing through the House and we considered the small lotteries which it legalised in certain conditions, if held for charitable purposes, it was assumed that they could be held anywhere, but in a case which appeared before the courts last summer, Smith v. Wyles, it was ruled that these small lotteries constituted gaming and, consequently, could not be held on licensed premises where they are prohibited by Section 141 of the Licensing Act. 1953. That is the section of the Licensing Act which requires that gaming shall not take place on licensed premises.
When the Small Lotteries and Gaming Act was passing through its various stages we introduced into the second part of it a proviso which made it clear that the Licensing Act applied to the gaming which was authorised under that Act—not the small lotteries, but the gaming such as whist drives which was legalised under certain conditions. It is clear that if the Act stated that the Licensing Act applied in those cases and if no reference was made to the small lotteries which were legalised, then clearly it was the intention of Parliament that the Licensing Act of 1953 should not apply to small lotteries where it prohibited them from being held on licensed premises.
The Bill amends the Act to make it clear that these small lotteries which are held for charitable purposes, for sporting clubs, or to raise funds for various organisations, can be held on licensed premises. I feel sure that the House will agree that it is right that the law should be in the state in which Parliament thought it rested when it passed the original Act.
I am glad that my hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, East (Mr. Ernest Davies) has given that short explanation of the purpose of the Bill, not only because, in general, I entirely agree with my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Cheltenham (Major Hicks Beach) about the undesirability of any Bill passing through all its stages in the House without discussion, but also because I feel that in this case some explanation was needed.
It is true that on the face of it this is a very simple Bill which, as the Explanatory Memorandum says, is designed simply to make a small amendment to the Small Lotteries and Gaming Act, 1956. On the other hand, it appears from the court decision that the Bill makes an amendment to the law relating to gaming in licensed premises. That is why, while I congratulate the hon. Member on his Bill having gone through the House so quickly, without opposition Of discussion, I am a little surprised at that fact because, although I am not one of them, there are many hon. Members who take a poor view of both gaming and licensed premises. As I have said, I am not one of them. I am in favour of gaming in the very modest form provided in the main Act, and I am definitely in favour of licensed houses, but in the past it has been a conjunction of these two things which has been looked upon with such doubt and suspicion and on which the law has been so strict.
Since it has been held by the courts that a small lottery is gaming and comes within the terms of the Statute prohibiting gaming in licensed premises, it appears to be a little more than a bare formality to bring in a Bill to change that law. For that reason and for no other, and certainly not because I am in any way opposing the Bill, I think it desirable that we should hear the Government's view from my hon. and learned Friend the Joint Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department and that before we part with the Bill it should be placed on record that these matters should be considered and duly weighed by the House. Subject to that and to anything which the Minister may say, I heartily support the Third Reading.
I assure my hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, East (Mr. Ernest Davies) that I am not opposing the Bill. Rather am I seeking some clarification. The Bill specifically states that it shall not extend to Northern Ireland, and I assumed that it would extend to Scotland, but from inquiries which I have had from a number of Scottish local authorities it appears that they seem to have been given some assurance that there is no intention that the Bill shall apply to Scotland. Will my hon. Friend make that quite clear?
My hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Central (Mr. McInnes) is quite correct. I have made inquiries about this. The Licensing Act, 1953, which is, in effect, amended by the Bill, does not apply to Scotland. As this exempts the application of a Section of that Act to the Small Lotteries and Gaming Act, 1956, it does not affect Scotland. It was not considered necessary to state in the Bill that it did not apply to Scotland, but it seems to be common form to refer to Northern Ireland.
Major W. Hicks Beach:
The hon. Member for Enfield, East (Mr. Ernest Davies) was kind enough to refer to me. Therefore, it would be discourteous if I did not say a word or two. It is true that I strongly object, and always have strongly objected. to Bills going through "on the nod."
I should like to congratulate the hon. Member on his explanation of the Bill. I certainly did not understand it until he explained it to the House. Now I am fully convinced that it is a very good Bill, and it has my full support.
It has been said that Bills should not go through "on the nod", but, fortunately, nobody has said that a Government speech is required on every Private Member's Bill. Nothing would have persuaded me to speak today but for the fact that my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow, Central (Mr. Bishop) has asked me for the Government's view. My hon. Friend is working me very hard, because I am also speaking for him in his constituency tonight.
As my hon. Friend has asked for the Government view, may I say that we have noted that the purpose of the Bill is succinctly set out in the Explanatory Memorandum? We have considered the way in which the Bill achieves its purpose, and it seems to be a technically sound way of doing it. It is a Bill which concerns both betting and drinking. Born those subjects are frequently left to the decision of the House without advice from the Government. On this occasion it is right that I should say that the Government attitude to the Bill is one of neutrality, but somewhat benevolent neutrality.
Can the Joint Under-Secretary of State assure us that, when the time next comes for the Government to review the Licensing Acts, they will look carefully at the words which have given rise to the trouble in this case and have made the Bill necessary? The operative words of Section 141 of the Licensing Act, 1953, are that there shall not he carried on in licensed premises any gaming or unlawful games. What a number of statutes have done is to declare various forms of lottery not to be unlawful games or not to be unlawful lotteries. That is what the Small Lotteries and Gaming Act, 1956, did. But they have not declared them not to be gaming.
Broadly speaking, "gaming" is defined by the courts as being any form of game by which prizes are to be distributed by the laws of chance and in which the element of skill does not enter to any substantial degree. As nearly all the forms of gaming at which the Act was originally aimed are also covered by the words "unlawful games", would it not be tidier to get rid of the word "gaming" and to limit the Licensing Act provision purely to unlawful games? I do not expect that the Joint Under-Secretary of State can give an answer to the point straight away.
With great respect, Mr. Speaker, I do not wish to he out of order. I am discussing the wording of a Section which is referred to in the Bill, namely, Section 141 of the Licensing Act, 1953. What the Bill does, in effect, is to amend that Section as it relates to the Small Lotteries and Gaming Act, 1956. All that I am asking is that the Government will agree to look at the matter and consider whether they can, by altering the words which have given rise to the trouble, avoid the necessity for Bills of this kind in future.