Orders of the Day — Second Schedule. — (Appeal Tribunals.)

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 20 December 1960.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Mr Patrick Gordon Walker Mr Patrick Gordon Walker , Smethwick 12:00, 20 December 1960

I beg to move, in page 13, line 16, at the end to insert: Provided that any such rules shall require any such tribunal to sit in public. I think the Government will agree that we have facilitated the fairly rapid passage of this Bill through the last two stages. This will be the last bit of legislation before we rise for Christmas, and I hope that either the right hon. Gentleman or the hon. and learned Gentleman will be able to give us an answer on this Amendment which will send us home happy for Christmas.

This is a small but important point. Of course it is right and proper that the ordinary rules of a court, so to speak, for this tribunal should be fixed in the normal way. We do not object to the Lord Chancellor and other people fixing these rules, but when we are dealing with something which in some sense or other is taxation, we think we ought not to leave the rights in connection with the tribunal, which so to speak is a court of law involved in judging tax matters, without making absolutely certain that there is no conceivable chance that it might ever sit in camera.

As I have said we are not going to have Parliamentary control over the activities of these Boards and these tribunals. Therefore, we have a certain duty to make sure that justice should be done and the essential thing in a tribunal which in effect is judging taxes imposed upon citizens, bookmakers in this case, is that it should sit in public. The Bill does not provide for that anywhere. It seems that this could not be held to be an infringement of the rights of various people who under this Bill will have powers to make rules of court and so forth. It is not quite enough to say that they would always be expected to sit in public, for Parliament here has a certain duty.

We should be doing our duty if we carried this last Amendment and gave this final bit of security to the bookmaker that he would be certain if he appealed to the tribunal that his case would not be hushed up or heard in camera, but he would have his say in public.

Photo of Mr Hendrie Oakshott Mr Hendrie Oakshott , Bebington

I agree absolutely that, in general, these proceedings should be heard in public, but the Franks Committee made one or two reservations on this question. I wonder whether the Minister, upon reflection, might not think that this is one of the points which concerned that Committee. During the Committee stage we passed an Amendment proposed by the hon. Member for Islington, East (Mr. Fletcher) which increased the penalty for disclosing bookmakers' private affairs after the assessments have been made. It seems to me that this Amendment might be giving official sanction to the very same thing. In principle, I think it is a good thing that these appeals should be heard in public, but I wonder whether this does not fall within one of the exceptions which the Franks Committee had in mind. Therefore, it might be a mistake to allow these appeals to be held in public.

Photo of Mr Patrick Gordon Walker Mr Patrick Gordon Walker , Smethwick

The hon. Gentleman will recognise that these secrecy provisions do not apply to reports of the tribunals. It is intended in the Bill that tribunal proceedings should be reported and secrecy does not apply to the reports. It applies only to disclosures by people.

Photo of Mr Hendrie Oakshott Mr Hendrie Oakshott , Bebington

I appreciate that. What I had in mind was that evidence given before tribunals of this sort might disclose the very thing which the Amendment the hon. Member for Islington, East proposed last week was seeking to prevent.

Photo of Mr David Renton Mr David Renton , Huntingdonshire

The right hon. Gentleman claimed that the Opposition had facilitated the passage of this Bill, and I would not dissent from that. Indeed, I would thank him for the stimulating and critical interest which he has shown. He felt that it would be an expression of Christmas good will on our part if we were to accept this Amendment, but I do not think the bookmakers would take it as such. It would mean that every sitting of the tribunal would have to be in public. I must say that I would not have thought that, bearing in mind that the profits which a bookmaker makes will frequently be the subject of discussion, most bookmakers would prefer that these proceedings should be in private. The position is somewhat analogous to that of Income Tax assessment appeals where, as the House will recollect, the general practice is for the proceedings to be in private.

My hon. Friend the Member for Bebington (Sir H. Oakshott) mentioned that the Franks Committee, while expressing the view that generally proceedings should be held in public in order that justice might be seen to be done, nevertheless acknowledged that there are exceptions. It is relevant to refer to paragraph 79 of their Report in which they say this: The more frequent type of case in which privacy is desirable is that in which intimate personal or financial circumstances have to be disclosed. Few people would doubt the wisdom of the practice whereby hearings before the General and Special Commissioners of Income Tax are held in private in order that details of taxpayers' affairs shall not become public knowledge … I have no doubt that when my right hon. and learned Friend the Lord Chancellor and the Lord President of the Court of Session drafts their rules of proceedings under the Second Schedule to the Bill they will bear in mind what has been said by the right hon. Gentleman and my right hon. Friend and they will also have to bear in mind what is said by the Franks Committee. It would be wrong for me in any way to fetter the discretion which they exercise.

However, I think I can go so far as to say that the rules of court which they make might well provide in any event for the proceedings to be held not in camera if the bookmaker would prefer it that way. That, unfortunately, would not be possible if the Amendment were accepted, and, therefore, without any lack of Christmas spirit, it is my duty—and I think the right hon. Gentleman will acknowledge it to be my duty—to advise the House to reject the Amendment.

Photo of Mr Patrick Gordon Walker Mr Patrick Gordon Walker , Smethwick

I think that is a powerful argument and, in order that we should end on a happy note, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That the Bill be now read the Third time.—[Mr. Vosper.]

10.30 p.m.

Photo of Mr Thomas Peart Mr Thomas Peart , Workington

I shall not delay the House, but I should just like to say before the Bills passes Third Reading that I think that the tribute which was paid to my right hon. Friend by the Joint Under-Secretary of State is accepted, certainly by every hon. Member on this side of the House. We have tried to be constructive in working on the passage of the Bill. We think it is a good Bill. We have tried to amend it here and there, and I stress, for example, my own theme, the place of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons. The Bill is as it is because our Amendments have not been accepted, but here and there concessions have been made in spirit. I am certain that the Secretary of State, who in the end is responsible for this, will administer the Bill in the spirit manifested upon the benches opposite, on the Government side.

We wish the Horserace Betting Levy Board well in its very important work. It will have an important task to improve horse racing and to see that the funds are disposed of properly for proper purposes to improve horse breeding, and also to improve veterinary science and veterinary education. The Board will therefore have to raise very large sums of money from the bookmakers. Whether or not we should get involved in an argument about how the bookmakers will get the money—whether they will get it back from the punters—at least we must admit that the burden of the Bill falls on the ordinary bookmaker.

My right hon. and hon. Friends have tried by our Amendments to protect the small bookmaker. I am certain that the Bookmakers' Committee will carry out its work in that spirit, that no harm shall be created but that justice shall be done. The bookmakers are now going to contribute a very large amount of money which may be £1½ million, which may be more. Probably the hon. Member for North Fylde (Mr. Stanley) takes the view that more should be raised. However, I hope that whatever is the result it will be used wisely.

I say only, in supporting the Third Reading, that we have tried to approach the Bill constructively, that we wish the Board well, and that we hope the funds coming from the industry will be used wisely for the purposes mentioned in Clause 1.

10.33 p.m.

Photo of Mr Hendrie Oakshott Mr Hendrie Oakshott , Bebington

I rise literally for one minute. As it was in response to a Parliamentary Question of mine that the Home Secretary set up the Peppiatt Committee, I wish to say to my right hon. Friend how much I personally have appreciated the speed with which he has proceeded with this matter and how much I believe that this Bill will contribute to a cause which I have very much at heart, which is the betterment of this magnificent sport, which I think hon. Members on both sides of the House enjoy. I should like to say "Thank you" to my right hon. Friend.

10.34 p.m.

Photo of Sir Stephen McAdden Sir Stephen McAdden , Southend East

I do not think any hon. Member on either side of the House would doubt that I am interested in the sport of horse racing, and I wish to do all I can to help it forward. Nevertheless, I should be less than honest if on Third Reading of the Bill I did not say that I am not very happy about it at all. I say so for a number of reasons.

First, I am a little worried about the indecent haste with which the Bill has been pushed through the House. Second Reading, the Committee stage, Report stage and Third Reading have been rushed through in a couple of weeks. I am surprised that the Bill was not sent to a Standing Committee, where argument might have influenced opinion, instead of being committed to a Committee of the whole House where one knows that, no matter what one says, the steam roller will come into operation and people who never heard any arguments will come in and bring the weight of their votes to bear, thus rendering as nought the arguments which have been expressed. It would have been much better if the matter had been argued out in Committee and we had been able to discuss it sensibly, with the knowledge that those who would vote knew what it was all about.

Another thing which worries me is that the Bill, to which we are now being invited to give a Third Reading, almost completely ignores the advice of the Peppiatt Committee. My hon. Friend the Member for Bebington (Sir H. Oakshott), of whom I am greatly fond as a person, claimed credit for having urged the Secretary of State to set up the Peppiatt Committee. He might at least have gone on to say that the Home Secretary has ignored practically every word of advice which the Peppiatt Committee gave.

The House on Third Reading is committing itself to giving an outside body without any Parliamentary control the right to levy an unknown amount of taxation upon a body of Her Majesty's citizens. The Peppiatt Committee recommended a figure of £1½ million. The House is permitting the Board to levy whatever sum it likes upon bodies of Her Majesty's citizens without any restriction. It is madness. It is mad that the House should absolve itself of any responsibility for the levying of taxation and should leave it to an outside body to do these things for it.

Another thing which worries me is that the House has been obsessed with the idea that the Bill was dreamed up by the Home Office since the Peppiatt Committee reported. The hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) gave the game away last week. He said that the Bill had been in preparation for a long time. I hope I did not do the hon. Member an injustice by inferring that the Jockey Club and the Racecourse Betting Control Board have been working on this for ages. The Bill is the result of their labours.

The Peppiatt Committee was set up merely to give, if I may quote from Mark Twain, an air of verisimilitude to an otherwise bald and unconvincing narrative. That was the whole object of the exercise. The poor racehorse owners and breeders were starving. The hon. Member for Dudley mentioned the bookmakers. All these people were starving and needed help from somewhere. The only way they could get some help was to set up the Peppiatt Committee which would, by its recommendations, give an air of verisimilitude to the claims they were making.

This is not born out by the facts. The Peppiatt Committee recommended the figure of £1½ million. The House has seen fit to ignore those recommendations in their entirety. We say that there is to be no maximum figure and no minimum figure and the Board can levy what it likes on the bookmakers, who are jolly glad to have it.

Photo of Sir Stephen McAdden Sir Stephen McAdden , Southend East

Of course my hon. Friend the Member for North Fylde (Mr. Stanley) is glad to get money from anywhere. That is what my hon. Friend said—"Hear, hear." At least let us be honest about it. The House will divorce itself of any sense of responsibility if it commits itself, as it proposes to do on Third Reading, to leaving the responsibility for the levying of an unspecified amount of taxation to an outside body.

I am delighted to see that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health is in the Chamber. I remember that, in a very powerful speech from the back benches before he became Minister of Health, he said how dishonest and abject this sort of thing was. I am delighted that my right hon. Friend has come to support me by his presence this evening. I am sure that his presence is a tribute to me and that he knew that I would say exactly what he said when he was a poor, humble back bencher.

Although they may take comfort in getting the Bill through fairly quickly and from the fact that we may be able to adjourn for Christmas fairly quickly, I hope hon. Members will pause sometimes and think whether perhaps we have been as fully responsible as we might have been and whether it is fair that we should shoulder our responsibilities on to someone else and whether it is right that the House should say, "Never mind what injustice there may be. It is not our fault. It is the fault of the Levy Board or this or that board."

No words of mine can prevent this going through, because the steam roller comes into operation. Nevertheless, it seems a great tragedy that the House should pass into law a Measure which commits us to giving a body which is outside the control of Parliament the power to levy taxation to any limit it likes without regard to the individual rights of citizens. I did what I could during the passage of the Bill to be fair, reasonable, brief and not too argumentative, but my efforts have been in vain and the House may well regret the step that has been so precipitately taken during the last few weeks.

11.41 p.m.

Photo of Mr George Wigg Mr George Wigg , Dudley

I should like once again to pay tribute to the hon. Member for Southend (Mr. McAdden) for enlivening our proceedings on this Bill and on a previous one. He ran true to form. He spoke with great force and with his usual mild inaccuracies. The Peppiatt Committee did not recommend £1½ million. It was £1 million to £1¼ million. A margin of 20 per cent. is fairly normal and one allows for that. It is equally untrue to suggest that when I said last week that the Bill had been long in course of preparation it was because the Bill had been cooked by the Government and the Racecourse Betting Control Board.

The start of the story as far as the House was concerned was in a debate on 9th March, 1956, which followed six years after the setting up of a Committee by my right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) and when no Government had done anything about it. I expressed the view that I did not think that any Government of any political colour would do so, because I thought that this was a very hot subject. It was also true that the Government could not stop at the Betting and Gaming Act. They had to go back to the source of the trouble. If racing is carried on in a way not above suspicion, what flows from that affects not only racing. It spreads throughout the whole body politic.

I would remind my hon. Friend the Member for Southend of some of the things that are being said in the pubs and the clubs at present. They are very unpleasant. It is suggested that the Government have now given increased pay to the police as a quid pro quo for the bribes that they will not now get from the bookmakers. I do not associate myself with that.

Photo of Mr Gordon Touche Mr Gordon Touche , Dorking

It is going beyond the Third Reading of the Bill.

Photo of Mr George Wigg Mr George Wigg , Dudley

It is going beyond Third Reading, but what I ask for on the eve of Christmas is the same latitude as the hon. Member for Southend enjoyed. The truth was that the Government once they had gone into this could not stop half way. Our debate in March, 1956, made that clear. It was spelled out by hon. Member after hon. Member, and I said myself that the reform of the racing and betting laws might well be left to a private Member. I had a go at it myself, but what help did I get from the hon. Member for Southend? He counted me out and did his best to stop it.

Photo of Mr Gordon Touche Mr Gordon Touche , Dorking

I think that we had better return to Third Reading.

Photo of Mr George Wigg Mr George Wigg , Dudley

The point I am making is that the hon. Member for Southend should not squeal if, when he and his hon. Friends did their best to prevent piecemeal reform with the result that a private Member could not do this, the Government ultimately had to do it because they were dealing with a subject which had become a major evil. It had spread over from corruption of racing. It was corrupting the sources of power in the State. The policeman who starts by taking 10s. from a bookmaker can eventually end up doing much more serious things. The Government have set about reforming this in their own way. I confess that I shared some of the doubts of the hon. Gentleman over the Betting and Gaming Bill—and I hope that I do not transgress the Rules of Order in saying that.

This Bill is fair, and I think that the hon. Gentleman is unfair to the Government in what he says. It is just not true that the Bookmakers' Committee or the Levy Board or the new Totalisator Board will be able to do as it likes. The right hon. Gentleman, by very carefully writing into the Bill the appointment of the chairman and the two independent members, has his hand on the brake. As he has said, with some wisdom, he has tried to take the whole subject away from the Floor of the House—

Photo of Sir Stephen McAdden Sir Stephen McAdden , Southend East

Will the hon. Gentleman tell me where in this Bill my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has any hand on the brake in regard to the amount of money that will be raised by the bookmakers?

Photo of Mr George Wigg Mr George Wigg , Dudley

The right hon. Gentleman has himself put down an Amendment which enables him to make modifications. By modifications, he can replace the proposals—all of them—

Photo of Sir Stephen McAdden Sir Stephen McAdden , Southend East

I am sure that the hon. Gentleman would not wish to misrepresent the facts; in spite of the circumstances that we sit on opposite sides of the Chamber we more or less understand each other. This question of the modifications depends on my right hon. Friend's interpretation of how the money should be spent. What I ask the hon. Gentleman is what restrictions exist in the Bill by which the Home Secretary can exercise control over the amount to be raised—not the amount to be spent.

Photo of Mr George Wigg Mr George Wigg , Dudley

After all, the Home Secretary will appoint wise men to the Levy Board—he will appoint just men. He will have the same control over this as any hon. Member has over the nationalised industries—[Interruption.] Yes, certainly. He leaves the people in the industry free to run the show in their own way, and they are answerable to him, and he to Parliament, in the tabling of their annual report.

I should have thought that the last thing that any hon. Member would want would be concern with the day-to-day details. Indeed, hon. Members on both sides have tried to avoid the day-to-day questioning of industries that are under the control of the Executive; they have tried to avoid making them answerable in this House in the form of Parliamentary Questions and so on. I should have thought that with regard to an occupation that is sport to most people, we would want to keep as far away as we could from the details, while at the same time making the industry answerable to Parliament through the submission of annual reports.

The Home Secretary has tried to maintain the control—keep his hand on the brake—and, at the same time, he has tried to give the industry the opportunity to run its own show, something for which the hon. Member for Southend, East should be grateful. There was a time, and we do not have to go very far back into history, when bookmaking was not regarded as being exactly respectable. At one time, the bookmakers sought a charter in order to turn their occupation into a profession.

The Home Secretary has now given them, through their representatives, the opportunity to go into partnership. The hon. Gentleman knows that it was not very long ago that bookmakers were denied membership of the racing clubs. Now, not only can they come in as equals, but they are invited to come right inside, to play their part and to co-operate in the management of the industry and in the spending of the money. And, I repeat, it is not their money. It will come from the ordinary punter in much the same way as the money for the Racecourse Betting Control Board comes from the ordinary punter.

How will that money be spent? It will be spent for the good of racing—not for the benefit of the owner or the breeder but of the ordinary person who likes to go racing and who wants to have a bet. That man wants clean racing and reasonable amenities, and he wants them at a price he can afford to pay.

If the bookmakers are wise, they will try to make their Bookmakers' Committee work. They will try to ensure that their chairman plays his full and responsible part on the Levy Board. The result will be that the Home Secretary will have taken the industry's running away from the day-to-day questioning in this House, and will have laid the foundations of a working partnership between all the representatives throughout the industry.

The hon. Gentleman can play his part—and I am sure that he will. He has sounded his warning, but I am sure that he hopes that he will be proved wrong—as I know he will be—and that we will have an equal partnership. He and I, I know, will do our best to make this work. If it does work, he may well in future find that the first, second and third in the English classics will all be bred and trained in England, they will be ridden by English jockeys, and our bloodstock will bloom. Once again, we shall have a sport—I emphasise that for most people it is a sport, not a business—of which we shall all be proud.

10.51 p.m.

Photo of Mr John Morrison Mr John Morrison , Salisbury

I hope that the misgivings of my hon. Friend the Member for Southend, East (Mr. McAdden) will prove to be unfounded. Having already declared my interest in the Bill, I wish merely to thank very sincerely the Home Secretary, the Minister of State and the Under-Secretary of State for all their very hard work in promoting and pushing through a Bill which I trust will be of lasting benefit to British racing, which will help the British public to have added comforts when they go racing, and which will enable the British bloodstock industry to compete on more nearly equal terms with breeders in other countries.

It fell to my lot many years ago to congratulate the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) on his maiden speech. I think I ought to thank him and his right hon. and hon. Friends now for their co-operation in the friendly way in which they have handled the passage of the Bill.

10.52 p.m.

Photo of Mr James Ede Mr James Ede , South Shields

In giving this Bill a Third Reading, we are making one of the big steps in the English social revolution which has been going on through the lifetime of every one of us here. Who would have thought at the beginning of this century that we should see stewards of the Jockey Club and people interested in horse breeding in this House watching the passing of a Measure which would transfer from the pockets of the proletariat money which would go to the upkeep of their sport and the race courses and breeding in which they take such delight? This, indeed, is the most curious but the most striking example of the way in which we now all accept the benefits of the Welfare State.

10.53 p.m.

Photo of Mr David Renton Mr David Renton , Huntingdonshire

I have been sitting patiently waiting to see whether there were any points to which I ought to reply as a result of the discussion on the Third Reading of the Bill. There are no specific points, but, since one or two doubts have been injected into the debate by my hon. Friend the Member for Southend, East (Mr. McAdden), I hope that I may very quickly try to resolve them, although I realise that I have an uphill task.

My hon. Friend said that we have ignored the recommendations of the Peppiatt Committee. I say to him in all sincerity that we have not ignored those recommendations. We have accepted them in the main, and we have improved upon them in detail in the light of mature reflection. He had a short dispute with the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) about whether or not there would be a brake on the money raised from the bookmakers. To remove all doubts, I should say that the brake envisaged by the Bill is that the chairman and the two independent members of the Levy Board, who will be impartial people, will have the last word. It is essential that we should choose men in whom we have confidence. My right hon. Friend intends to do that, and, of course, he will be answerable for his choice.

We have quite deliberately left it to the horse racing industry in the broadest sense, including the bookmakers, to operate the scheme. It will be for the industry in that sense to see that it succeeds. We believe that the scheme can provide a tonic for racing and, by helping racing in this way, the "bookies" may indirectly improve their own position.

We are doing this as the last piece of Parliamentary legislation in the year 1960, 300 years after the Restoration. I believe we are writing a new and glorious page in the history of horse racing—a great history which is 300 years old. I believe that in the years to come hon. Gentlemen on both sides who have participated in the proceedings on this Bill will reflect with pride and pleasure that they have done so.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read the Third time and passed.