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That would be convenient, Sir Eric.
There are a number of points which we wish to raise on this Clause, but most of them can be raised very swiftly, and I would hope that we could soon either be satisfied or register our dissatisfaction, as the case may be.
I make it absolutely clear again that I have no wish that the Chancellor of the Exchequer should raise less money from the taxation of casinos and the gaming licence duty generally. Indeed, if anything, I think that he proposes to raise top little money. This time, for reasons which I explained earlier, I think that his principle is right, although there are a number of flaws in his proposal.
I remind the Committee of a point which I made on Clause 11. Moral indignation is a bad counsellor in these matters. We have often been wrong before when we set out to legislate in respect of social behaviour. In this case, never having done it before, we should perhaps be particularly careful.
The object of these Amendments, the key one of which is No. 96, is to rewrite the table which runs from lines 20 to 40 on page 14 of the Bill. I am referring to matters other than bingo. We have left the bingo column untouched. My main quarrel with the licence for all other gaming is that the three steps proposed by the Chancellor of the Exchequer—£1,000, £5,000 and £50,000—are far too few and will lead almost inevitably to very dangerous consequences. We therefore suggest that we should pull this concertina out a little. I am not wedded to these particular amounts, and I should be very happy for the Chancellor of the Exchequer on Report to give even half a nod to this proposal and rewrite my ideas so that he would obtain at least the same sum of money.
Let me make clear the differences between my proposal and that of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I guess that he would get about the same amount of money from the proposals which I am putting before the Committee. First, we suggest a fee of £1,000 rather than £500 for the smallest casinos. The sum of £500 is dangerously small, because it is the tiny casinos—the mushroom casinos—which have some of the least attractive features of this perhaps not particularly attractive occupation, or industry, or whatever the appropriate phrase is.
The Chancellor should set his sights on small casinos higher. It is now quite common to find casinos in property the rateable value of which is very small and yet drawing in a great deal of money. I feel that they can afford much more than £500 and, perhaps considerably more than £1,000. On this step, I outbid the Chancellor of the Exchequer, as it were, although it is unusual for an Opposition to suggest an increase in taxation.
My proposal is to lower the second figure of £5,000 to £3,000. I propose a more complicated system which removes the £50,000. I also propose to remove the maximum. I am prepared to go beyond £50,000. A number of casinos can afford more, far more than £50,000. I am not encroaching on the next Amendment about "comprising within", which is important, in relation to that.
The practical effects of my proposal would be that at a rateable value of £4,000, about £25,000 would be paid, and at a rateable value of £5,000, £45,000 would be paid. It follows that, at a rateable value of £2,500, it would be £49,000, and after that it would sail on beyond the Chancellor's proposals.
The dangers of the present scheme as unamended are quite apparent if one thinks about it for a moment. If anyone has a place with a rateable value of £2,900 a year, the charge which the Chancellor proposes to levy is £5,000. If the man has a rateable value of £3,100 or, for that matter, £3,001, the charge goes up to £50,000.
It is quite obvious that there is a considerable danger here. First of all, we shall drive gambling away from the properties which are reasonably rated into lower class properties so that they will not have to pay either the £50,000 or, for that matter, the £5,000.
There are some intriguing examples which one has been able to find. There is a bingo hall in Edinburgh which caters for working and middle-class persons, with a gaming facility as an adjunct to it. The rateable value of the property is £2,997, or just under the £3,000 mark, and the profits run at about £25,000, I am told. It follows that if the rateable value was put up by £3, the Chancellor would be demanding two years' profits for his tax. I cannot see who would gain from it, and certainly the Chancellor would lose. This is a perfectly respectable place which plays for very low stakes, and it would simply fold up.
The obvious difficulty is that the tendency may well be to drive gaming into undesirable premises, because the effect of the Chancellor's three steps and three steps only clearly is to put a premium on having gaming in unattractive premises.
I regard gaming, in this sense, as being on a sort of par with drink. I do not mind people gaming at all. I do not really mind the results of the 1963 Act as much as some hon. Members do. What is important is that the Chancellor should get his cut, and at least on that he will agree with me.
The obvious danger both in this and in the next Amendment is that if gambling is a more or less incidental activity of a perfectly respectable club, which is very common, one of two things will happen. Either that particular activity will fold up, in which case no one benefits, least of all the Chancellor because he gets no money; or, if they decide that they want to continue gambling, they are given an incentive to pack in the maximum number of roulette, chemmy or baccarat tables. In any event, the Chancellor's proposals will lead to undesirable consequences.
I do not propose to argue the case beyond that. This particular concertina is much too tight, and both the Chancellor's revenue and the climate of gaming in the country would benefit if we could extend it.
My right hon. Friend has said that he would feel rather fortunate if he had half a nod from the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I must admit that that was far more than I had following my own efforts. If we get half a nod tonight, we shall have achieved something, and my 16 years in Parliament will not have been entirely wasted.
I supported my party entirely in bringing up to date a little bit our somewhat peculiar ideas about gaming. It is, however, a fact that it is far easier to open what is commonly called a casino in this country than in any other European centre. The situation has got entirely out of hand. I do not want to repeat myself, but I feel that there is a case for greater control and for the country getting revenue from it.
There is no doubt whatever that my right hon. Friend has made a substantial case for the fact that the scale is ridiculous. It is far too low. It is far too easy to open a gambling centre in this country. It is equally wrong to penalise the type of place which in all probability supplies first-class service and entertainment, and, moreover—I suppose that we must recognise it—is an asset to our tourist trade. The gap is far too wide. Of that there is no shadow of doubt.
It can be said that the Committee is as one—and that is not often the case—in believing that something should be done. The steps proposed in the Bill are not achieving the object which, I think, t ie Government have in mind. It is wrong to make it so easy that the facilities are too simple for the small place which may not be run so well and inhibit fie type of organisation which, if we are to have gambling at all, is to be encouraged.
It is clear from what the right hon. Member for Enfield, West (Mr. Iain Macleod) and the hon. Member for Shipley (Mr. Hirst) have said that there is no major difference in the Committee. The whole Committee apparently is agreed that we should have a gaming licence duty, that the revenue at which we are aiming should be no less than the figure given in the Bill and that there should be steps, but that the steps should be more frequent and should be slightly differently arrived at. It is rather on that point of detail that the issue rests.
In connection with the first Amendment, with which the case is somewhat different, the right hon. Member for Enfield, West spoke of encouragement being given to what he previously called the sleazy type of club. His hon. Friend the Member for Shipley referred to the ease with which clubs are opened and to the matter having, in his view, become somewhat out of control. When he spoke of the matter getting out of control, he did not mean out of fiscal control.
We must not confuse the function of the fiscal duty with the function of the Home Office in terms of its responsibility for the social law. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary made a statement some little time ago that this whole matter was under review. Nothing that we are doing today will prejudice the outcome of that review or of whatever my right hon. Friend may decide to do once the review is at an end.
All that we are dealing with on this occasion, therefore, is not that aspect, but the question of raising revenue. If the right hon. Member for Enfield, West is saying that certain clubs are inclined to be sleazy, that is a matter not for the Treasury, but for the Home Office; it is not for the fiscal law, but is for the social law. That argument, therefore, is not a sufficient one to alter the first step which we have proposed in the scale. As to the rest of the right hon. Gentleman's proposal, I agree that he is proposing, if anything, an increase rather than a decrease in the revenue. According to our information on the figures, that would be the likely effect.
There are several reasons why I cannot propose that the Committee should accept the Amendment. First, in the early stages of a new tax, it is essential to get the greatest possible simplicity and freedom from complexity, as well as the greatest economy in administration and the minimum difficulties in supervision. For that reason, therefore, we want the steps to be as few as possible. We would not select our proposed steps if they did not correspond, so far as our information goes, with the present structure. They do correspond.
The only example given by the right hon. Gentleman was one in favour of the Bill and not against it. He was arguing that there should be more steps lest there should be injustice as between those who were slightly over and those who were slightly under a certain level. He will, however, appreciate that the more steps one has, the more complications there will be and the more will people who are immediately above a certain step try to get below it. If we have a wide area between the boundaries, there is no inducement to those within that area to come down to the next one, because they have such a long way to come. Thus, a large number of steps would encourage the very process which the right hon. Gentleman seeks to discourage.
On the other hand, if anybody finds himself slightly over the margin and therefore, in his view, paying a very heavy rate of tax, it is open to him to move his premises. There is no undue difficulty about moving his premises and going to other premises which are rated within the amount which would satisfy him.
I do not know why the hon. Member says "No". I am making a factual statement that there is nothing to prevent a licensee moving from premises which are assessed at somewhat over £3,000, for example, to premises which are assessed at somewhat under £3,000 and, therefore, reducing the level of his duty. At all events, I have demonstrated that the first argument is not an appropriate one for us in our fiscal responsibilities.
The argument of the steps is one of detail which might work both ways. From our knowledge of the facts, the steps suit the structure and we want to keep this as simple as possible. If, during the working of this tax, we should want to change it, then, as a result of experience, we would suggest alterations. I could not possibly hold out the hope, therefore, that one would know any more about it on Report than one knows about it now. On the basis of our present information we think that the scale is right.
If, in a year's time, as a result of the working of the tax and the experience we gain, we find that there is some capability of improvement, we will not hesitate to suggest that a change be made. But we must see how it works and I must, therefore, tell the hon. Gentleman that his 16 years have not been wasted and that it is possible that, in his 17th year, he will reap the dividend.
Mr. J. T. Price:
At the risk of appearing inconsiderate to my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary and incurring the displeasure of my hon. and right hon. Friends at the Treasury, I must detain the Committee for a few moments because I had to leave the Chamber for a short time but had intended to make a contribution to the discussion on this Amendment.
I am grateful for my right hon. Friends' welcome, but I am still going to say what I had intended to say.
I wish to refer, as I did when we were discussing the previous Amendment, to my experience in Standing Committee on the Betting and Gaming Act, 1959. On that occasion I was constrained to make very strong protests about what was being done by Parliament. When we are considering, as we are in this Amendment, a tax on casinos—which hon. Gentlemen opposite think is not sufficiently high for the purposes of the Bill—I feel that, whether the tax is too high or too low, I cannot accept the statement just made by the Chief Secretary that the Treasury is concerned only with the fiscal aspects of this and not with the social aspects. No major Act of Parliament should be divorced from its social consequences. I hope that that does not sound pompous.
When I cast my mind back to our deliberations on that Betting and Gaming Act I recall spending months upstairs arguing these matters with hon. Gentlemen opposite, some of whom have now gone to the House of Lords. I recall being told blandly that because of the needs of the tourist industry we should liberalise our affairs and provide facilities for gambling on roulette wheels, black dice and things which I am not capable of quoting.
I was told how we would encourage tourists to come here with bags full of dollars and francs and how that would help us with our balance of payments difficulties. It was a line which I did not accept, because I do not think that even the most ardent sponsors of that policy at that time ever envisaged that by 1966, having given licence to these premises to be established throughout the country, we would have a situation in which there would be not just a few of them situated in Douglas, I.O.M., which had an unfortunate experience with them, in London, Brighton and other big centres like Manchester, but that they would have taken root in even small country towns with populations of less than 15,000.
This is a social evil of which Parliament should be aware. Many of us are aware of it. The encouragement which we have given by legislation to the establishment of many of these rat-holes is a moral reproach to the country and it is not unconnected with any fiscal action we may take. I shall support the Amendment for the reasons I gave for supporting the previous one, although I will not detain the Committee by repeating them. If we create a situation in which the State has an increasing vested interest in these sort of places, without at the same time having drastic legislation to limit the operation of casinos, we will be failing in our duty to the electorate.
I strongly plead with my hon. and right hon. Friends at the Treasury, who have the great responsibility of conduct the affairs of the nation in difficult times, not to dismiss from their minds the fact that in our enlightened democracy—in the Welfare State to which some of s have made a contribution—we have created a state of affairs in which many of our resources, many of the fruits of planning and increased standards of life are being dissipated by this sort of thing, a thing which is permeating our social He to an increasing extent.
Some hon. Members may not think it right that I should say these things, but when I go to the Continent of Europe, many countries of which are more sophisticated in handling these question than we are, I do not find that unlimited licences are granted for the operation of casinos. They are limited to certain spots—in France, Germany and elsewhere——
I apologise for a slight digression. Perhaps I was carried away. I do not want to be emotional, but factual and to look at this matter in its broad social context. I was stimulated to say what I did, perhaps a little out of order, by the reference to the fact that the Treasury was not concerned with moral issues. The Treasury ought to be concerned with them. This House ought to be concerned with the social consequences of what we are doing.
By this Amendment, which I intend to support, for reasons which I have given, amended to any other figure, we will make it even more difficult in the future to bring in the kind of legislation which is necessary to restrain the activities of casinos if the State becomes a partner in the whole operation of them. I think that this is a reasonable point to put in a Committee of this kind. I apologise for being so long in saying it, and I hope that the Chancellor and his colleagues will take due note of what I have said.
The Committee is indebted to the hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. J. T. Price) for his refreshing contribution to the debate. I realise that, although I am somewhat in tune with the hon. Gentleman, if I followed his speech too much I would be more out of order than he was, so I shall not do so.
The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary cannot hope to get away with the argument that he advanced. He knows that I have a great respect for him. As the years go by my respect does not diminish, it only gets greater, but there are limits, and he has stretched those limits tonight on this Amendment beyond any stage invented by man.
The right hon. Gentleman cannot expect the Committee to accept the argument that for the sake of the structure this must be maintained. What is the right hon. Gentleman talking about? Is there such a doctrinaire approach in the Treasury that the figures have to be in certain brackets to make sense, notwithstanding the argument which my right hon. Friend produced, and which I somewhat humbly supported?
This is a fundamental matter whereby we are attempting to meet the case of the Government who say, as we have done quite openly, that here is a good case for revenue raising. There is a case for using fiscal methods to ensure that establishments are of the right sort of order and calibre. How often have the Government met with this co-operation, even from me? The Chancellor can probably answer that—not very seldom. But here we are holding out our hands to help the right hon. Gentleman, recognising the merits of the case before us, and what do we get? We get the most "shirty" answer that it must be done for the sake of the structure.
The arguments are not dealt with on their merits. We are given no reasoned answers. This is not being done to improve the establishments which we feel are not right, or to ensure that the standard of casinos is maintained and they can he a credit to this country. It is being done for the sake of the structure.
Most of the Continental casinos are first-class establishments, because the authorities there see that they are. It is difficult to secure a licence for a casino. The right hon. Gentleman may criticise my party for the state of affairs in this country, and I shall not mind if he does. The gate has been opened to hundreds of people to open these establishments. I think that possibly in our efforts to bring the country up to date we over-liberalised in accepting that argument at the time, but here is a chance, by fiscal methods, to correct that a little. The whole responsibility cannot be handed over to the Home Secretary. It is reasonable that this should be a fiscal charge. The Chief Secretary is too intelligent to try to win the argument on the question of structure, and I hope that he will not be offended if I say that to try to do so is utter impertinence.
Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will get up in due course and say what he did say. No doubt, it would be of some benefit and some guidance to the House if he did. If he did not give that indication, at least it will be the recollection of the Committee that that is the impression which was received—that the structure came first, that that was important, the alpha and omega of the whole matter and that the arguments which my right hon. Friend produced, which I support and which I mentioned on Second Reading, did not count compared with this doctrinaire approach of the Treasury.
The right hon. Gentleman knows well—his experience of these debates is considerable—that it is no good coming to the Committee and expecting to get cooperation with that sort of argument, advanced and discussed behind closed doors before he came here without the slightest intention of listening to the case to the contrary. If he feels that he can get the co-operation of the Committee in that way, he is profoundly mistaken.
I should like to pick up the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Westhoughton (Mr. J. T. Price), because he got it wrong. I would feel very affronted if my hon. Friend were to think that we approach this matter from an amoral point of view. We do not, and that is not what my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary said. He said that he would propose to use the fiscal machine in order to try to get a slice of what people spend on gaming; he would not use the machine to regulate what some people may think are the social consequences of gaming. This would be achieved by the review which the Home Secretary is conducting. Meanwhile, we are taking a slice of the money spent.
It would obviously be possible to levy rates of licence duty which would make it penally impossible to carry on the work. Our approach to this—we have thought about this very carefully during the last six months—is to ask what it is reasonable to do in the shape of getting something fiscally, some revenue, out of this. If I am asked to express a personal view, in my view, unlike that of the right hon. Member for Enfield, West (Mr. Iain Macleod), the 1963 Act went much too far and there is a substantial case for a drastic revision of it. I am not hereby announcing any change of Government policy—that is entirely a different story.
I should like to say this to my hon. Friend, because I would not want him to think that we were indifferent to the consequences.
The hon. Member for Shipley (Mr. Hirst) got more than half a nod. The plain truth is that neither the right hon. Member for Enfield, West nor I know which figures are likely in the end to be right. Our advice is that the figures which we have put in are not likely to create the theoretical difficulties which he foresaw, and he has not produced an illustration of how they do. We have made inquiries and we believe that the scale is about right.
However, everybody must approach this scale and this question of tax with a certain amount of humility. As my right hon. Friend said, if at the end of a year's experience we find that these cases have been thrown up, we shall obviously need to revise the scale and consider it again. This is the right way. If I thought that the right hon. Gentleman's figures were right, no consideration of pride would prevent me from accepting them. However, I do not think that his information is any better than mine.
I would therefore ask him to accept them and, as he wants to get on—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."] That is a matter for the Opposition to decide. I simply make the request, even though it is rejected. I know that the right hon. Gentleman wants to get on, as we do. It is in this way that we are approaching this scale.
But one of the conditions of getting on is that we receive answers which are acceptable, even if we may disagree with them. Although the Chancellor did his best to cover up the gaffe of the Chief Secretary, I do not think that he succeeded. The Chief Secretary, every now and then, in his amiable way, is in the habit of using a most unhappy phrase. We were doing most peaceably on hovercraft last night until he discovered that it was a smuggler's weapon. In consequence, we were later in bed than we might otherwise have been.
I need not go over the right hon. Gentleman's argument. I share the contempt for it that his hon. Friend showed and that I thought my hon. Friend the Member for Shipley (Mr. Hirst) showed ill his devastating reply to it. It is not good enough for the Government to say that their left hand does not know what their right hand is doing, or to argue that matters which are full of profound social consequences can be regarded as entirely revenue matters. They cannot. This is a point which I have made to the Committee on both the last two
On the question of the steps, we are simply suggesting that the very wealthy casinos should pay more. That seems reasonable, but the Government intend to oppose this. We suggest that the mushroom casino should pay more. That also seems reasonable, but the Government intend to oppose it. We suggest that in the middle, where the two steps of £5,000 and £50,000 more than span the activities of many places where gaming is an incidental and often comparatively harmless activity, the argument must lie on balance with our side of the Committee.
This is not a case of the Government saying, "We might do something next year". We are confronted with a flat "No" this year. If we go into the Division Lobbies in a moment people will no doubt come from all over the place and vote. In advising my right hon. and hon. Friends to divide on the Amendment I say that whichever Lobby they may enter no one who has heard this interchange can doubt that the argument and right are on the side of the Amendment. Therefore, we wish to take it to a Division.
|Division No. 24.]||AYES||[9.41 p.m.|
|Abse, Leo||Castle, Rt. Hn. Barbara||Floud, Bernard|
|Anderson, Donald||Chapman, Donald||Foley, Maurice|
|Archer, Peter||Coe, Denis||Forrester, John|
|Armstrong, Ernest||Coleman, Donald||Fowler, Gerry|
|Ashley, Jack||Concannon, J. D.||Gardner, A. J.|
|Atkins, Ronald (Preston, N.)||Conlan, Bernard||Garrett, W. E.|
|Atkinson, Norman (Tottenham)||Cronin, John||Gourlay, Harry|
|Bagier, Gordon A. T.||Crosland, Rt. Hn. Anthony||Gregory, Arnold|
|Barnett, Joel||Dalyell, Tam||Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)|
|Beaney, Alan||Davidson, Arthur (Accrington)||Griffiths, Rt. Hn. James (Llanelly)|
|Bence, Cyril||Davies, Dr. Ernest (Stretford)||Griffiths, Will (Exchange)|
|Benn, Rt. Hn. Anthony Wedgwood||Davies, Harold (Leek)||Hale, Leslie (Oldham, W.)|
|Blackburn, F.||Davies, Robert (Cambridge)||Hamilton, James (Bothwell)|
|Boardman, H.||Dewar, Donald||Hamilton, William (Fife, W.)|
|Booth, Albert||Diamond, Rt. Hn. John||Hannan, William|
|Bowden, Rt. Hn. Herbert||Dickens, James||Harper, Joseph|
|Bray, Dr. Jeremy||Doig, Peter||Hart, Mrs. Judith|
|Brooks, Edwin||Donnelly, Desmond||Henig, Stanley|
|Brown, Hugh D. (G'gow, Proven)||Dunwoody, Mrs. Gwyneth (Exeter)||Herbison, Rt. Hn. Margaret|
|Brown,Bob(N'c'tle-upon-Tyne,W.)||Dunwoody, Dr. John (F'th & C'b'e)||Hilton, W. S.|
|Buchan, Norman||Edwards, William (Merioneth)||Hooley, Frank|
|Buchanan, Richard (G'gow, Sp'burn)||Ellis, John||Horner, John|
|Callaghan, Rt. Hn. James||Ensor, David||Houghton, Rt. Hn. Douglas|
|Cant, R. B.||Faulds, Andrew||Howarth, Harry (Wellingborough)|
|Carmichael, Neil||Fletcher, Raymond (Ilkeston)||Howie, W.|
|Carter-Jones, Lewis||Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)||Hughes, Emrys (Ayrshire, S.)|
|Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)||Marquand, David||Ross, Rt. Hn. William|
|Hughes, Roy (Newport)||Millan, Bruce||Rowland, Christopher (Meriden)|
|Jackson, Colin (B'h'se & Spenb'gh)||Miller, Dr. M. S.||Rowlands, E. (Cardiff, N.)|
|Janner, Sir Barnett||Mitchell, R. C. (S'th'pton, Test)||Ryan, John|
|Jenkins, Hugh (Putney)||Morgan, Elysian (Cardinganshire)||Sheldon, Robert|
|Jenkins, Rt. Hn. Roy (Stechford)||Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)||Shore, Peter (Stepney)|
|Jones,Rt.Hn.SirEiwyn(W.Ham,S.)||Murray, Albert||Silkin, John (Deptford)|
|Judd, Frank||Noel-Baker,Rt.Hn.Philip(Derby,S.)||Spriggs, Leslie|
|Kelley, Richard||Oakes, Gordon||Steele, Thomas (Dunbartonshire, W.)|
|Kenyon, Clifford||Ogden, Eric||Stonehouse, John|
|Kerr, Russell (Feltham)||O'Malley, Brian||Thomas, Iorwerth (Rhondda, W.)|
|Lee, John (Reading)||Oswald, Thomas||Tinn, James|
|Lestor, Miss Joan||Owen, Dr. David (Plymouth, S'tn)||Tuck, Raphael|
|Lever, L. M. (Ardwick)||Padley, Walter||Urwin, T. W.|
|Lomas, Kenneth||Paget, R. T.||Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne valley)|
|Luard, Evan||Pannell, Rt. Hn. Charles||Walden, Brian (All Saints)|
|Lyon, Alexander W. (York)||Pearson, Arthur (Pontypridd)||Walker, Harold (Doncaster)|
|Lyons, Edward (Bradford, E.)||Peart, Rt. Hn. Fred||Wallace, George|
|Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson||Perry, Ernest G. (Battersea, S.)||watkins, David (Consett)|
|McBride, Neil||Perry, George H. (Nottingham, S.)||Wells, William (Walsall, N.)|
|McCann, John||Price, Christopher (Perry Barr)||Whitaker, Ben|
|MacColl, James||Price, Thomas (Westhoughton)||White, Mrs. Eirene|
|MacDermot, Niall||Price, William (Rugby)||Whitlock, William|
|Macdonald, A. H.||Probert, Arthur||Willey, Rt. Hn. Frederick|
|McGuire, Michael||Rankin, John||Williams, Alan (Swansea, W.)|
|Mackenzie, Gregor (Rutherglen)||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)||Williams, Alan Lee (Hornchurch)|
|Mackie, John||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)||Williams, Clifford (Abertillery)|
|Maclennan, Robert||Roberts, Gwitym (Bedfordshire, S.)||Willis, George (Edinburgh, E.)|
|McNamara, J. Kevin||Robinson,Rt.Hn.Kenneth(St.P'c'as)||winnick, David|
|MacPherson, Malcolm||Robinson, W. O. J. (Walth'stow, E.)|
|Mahon, Peter (Preston, S.)||Rodgers, William (Stockton)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Mahon, Simon (Bootle)||Rose, Paul||Mr. Lawson and Mr. Bishop|
|Aiison, Michael (Barkaton Ash)||Hall-Davis, A. G. F.||Pardoe, J.|
|Astor, John||Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.W.)||Pike, Miss Mervyn|
|Batsford, Brian||Harvey, Sir Arthur Yore||Pink, R. Bonner|
|Bessell, Peter||Hastings, Stephen||Price, David (Eastleigh)|
|Biffen, John||Hawkins, Paul||Pym, Francis|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hn. J.||Heseltine, Michael||Roots, William|
|Braine, Bernard||Higgins, Terence L.||Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)|
|Brinton, Sir Tafton||Hiley, Joseph||Sharpies, Richard|
|Buck, Antony (Colchester)||Holland, Philip||Shaw, Michael (Sc'b'gh & Whitby)|
|Bullus, Sir Eric||Hordern, Peter||Sinclair, Sir George|
|Carlisle, Mark||Howell, David (Guildford)||Smith, John|
|Cary, Sir Robert||Hunt, John||Steel, David (Roxburgh)|
|Chichester-Clark, R.||Jenkin, Patrick (Woodford)||Stodart, Anthony|
|Clark, Henry||Jennings, J. C. (Burton)||Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir M. (Ripon)|
|Clegg, Walter||Johnston, Russell (Inverness)||Summers, Sir Spencer|
|Corfield, F. V.||Jopling, Michael||Taylor,Edward M.(G'gow,CathCart)|
|Craddock, Sir Beresford (Spelthorne)||King, Evelyn (Dorset, S.)||Taylor, Frank (Moss Side)|
|Crosthwaite-Eyre, Sir Oliver||Lloyd, Ian (P'tsm'th, Langstone)||Temple, John M.|
|Crouch, David||Lubbock, Eric||Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret|
|Cunningham, Sir Knox||McAdden, Sir Stephen||Thorpe, Jeremy|
|Davidson,James(Aberdeenshire, W.)||MacArthur, Ian||Turton, Rt. Hn. R. H.|
|Dean, Paul (Somerset, N.)||Mackenzie,Alasdair(Ross & Crom'ty)||Vaughan-Morgan, Rt. Hn. Sir John|
|Deedes, Rt. Hn. W. F. (Ashford)||Maclean, Sir Fitzroy||Vickers, Dame Joan|
|Digby, Simon Wingfield||Macleod, Rt. Hn. lain||Wainwright, Richard (Colne Valley)|
|Elliott, R. W.(N'c'tle-upon-Tyne,N.)||Madden, Martin||Walker, Peter (Worcester)|
|Eyre, Reginald||Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.||Ward, Dame Irene|
|Galbraith, Hn. T. G.||Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C.||Weatherill, Bernard|
|Gibson-Watt, David||Mills, Stratton (Belfast, N.)||Wells, John (Maidstone)|
|Giles, Rear-Adm. Morgan||Miscampbell, Norman||Whitelaw, William|
|Gilmour, Sir John (Fife, E.)||Mono, Hector||Wills, Sir Gerald (Bridgwater)|
|Glover, Sir Douglas||More, Jasper||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Goodhart, Philip||Morrison, Charles (Devizes)||Winstanley, Dr. M. P.|
|Grant, Anthony||Murton, Oscar||Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick|
|Griffiths, Eldon (Bury St. Edmunds)||Nabarro, Sir Gerald||Worsley, Marcus|
|Gurden, Harold||Heave, Airey|
|Hall, John (Wycombe)||Nott, John||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Mr. Younger and Mr. Blaker|
I suggest that it would be for the convenience of the Committee if, with this Amendment, we discussed the following five Amendments: Amendment No. 88, in page 14, line 40, leave out "or comprised in"; Amendment No. 90, in page 14, line 33, leave out "or are comprised in"; Amendment No. 92, in page 14, line 37. leave out "or
are comprised in"; Amendment No. 94, in page 14, line 40, leave out "or are comprised in"; and Amendment No. 97, in page 14, line 45, at end insert:
(4) (a) Where the Commissioners are satisfied that only part of a hereditament is used for the purposes of or in connection with bingo or any other game to which this section applies, a gaming licence may be issued in respect of only the part so used and the duty payable in respect of the premises shall be calculated by reference to such fairly apportioned proportion of the rateable value of the hereditament as may be fixed by the district valuer;
(b) if the provider of the premises in respect of which an apportionment is made under this subsection is aggrieved by the determination of the district valuer, he shall have the same right of objection and appeal as he would Nave had, if the value of the part of the premises used for the purposes of or in connection with bingo or any other game to which this section applies had been included in a draft valuation list.
Yes, Mr. Irving, that is acceptable.
The object of this Amendment is to some extent the same as the object of the Amendment with which we have just dealt. Basically, it is to encourage gaming clubs which are in well-conducted premises and to discourage undesirable "dives". This is our object throughout on this Clause. If gaming is to be conducted in this country, we want to see it conducted in an orderly, seemly and sensible manner.
The effect of the Amendment is fairly clear and uncomplicated. It relates to cases in which part of premises is used either for bingo or for gaming, or for both. I stress that the reference is to part of premises being so used. The Bill provides that the determining factor for licence duty shall be the rateable value of the whole premises. The Government scheme, therefore, will encourage the maximum use of premises for gaming or bingo purposes. I emphasise this. Having paid the licence duty, the operators of the premises will have as their object the maximum amount of turnover to be gained and they will strive to use all the available premises so licenced for the purpose of playing these games.
I take the view that there is already far too much gambling. Bingo can be an addiction, and gambling is quite as compulsive, in many instances, as is drink. Along with many hon. Members who spoke in the last debate, I was a member of the Standing Committee on the Bill which became the Betting and Gaming Act, 1963. The gaming provisions of that Bill were very scantily understood by members of that Committee. Moreover, I believe that the Departmental advice offered to Ministers on that Bill was not as sound as it might have been. Errors were made which have led to an outbreak of gambling on an unprecedented scale.
I know that right hon. and hon. Members opposite are relying on Departmental advice today. It was not very sound advice in 1963, and it may well be that practical advice—we hope to offer practical advice from these benches on this occasion—will outweigh the value of some of the Departmental advice which has been offered.
It is universally accepted that it is highly desirable that betting and gaming, if it is to be conducted, should be conducted in fairly large establishments which are susceptible of control. But it is this which the structure of the Clause might well discourage. The heart of our proposal is to be found in Amendment No. 97 setting out the objects which we have in mind. We propose that it should be possible for the district valuer to arrange an apportionment of the premises, apportioning a fair rateable value to that part which is used for gaming or for bingo and setting aside the rateable value of that part of the premises used for other social purposes. The Amendment provides for an appeal procedure against the district valuer's determination.
I do not submit Amendment No. 97 as being technically of the highest drafting excellence. There is one possible defect in it, namely, that it does not provide for a plan of the premises to be produced so that any inspecting officer may say, on production of the plan, that gaming or bingo ought to take place in one part and that the other part would be suitable for other social activities. Having said that, I think that it would be possible for the Government to take over the principle of the Amendment and, on Report, bring forward another to give effect to the provisions which I am outlining.
The easiest way in which to make these matters comprehensible is to give one or two examples. I take, first, a large workingmen's club in a populous area and with a rateable value of, say, £1,050. For bingo purposes, that club would pay a licence fee of £1,000, quite a heavy licence fee, although it would not be so heavy if all the club were being used all the time for bingo purposes. It is unlikely that more than a small part of such a club would, in fact, be used for bingo and it would not be used by day and by night, but probably only by night and on sporadic occasions.
In such circumstances, what would happen would be that the bingo room in that club would be closed down and members who were addicted to bingo—if that is the right term—would seek to play their bingo in some other place. That would be most unfortunate, because it is desirable that bingo should be played on premises and associated with clubs which are under the highest possible management. If I am right in saying that the bingo part of the workingmen's club would have to be closed down because of the size of the licence fee—which would be very much smaller if my apportionment were adhered to—the members of the club would probably go to some undesirable dive operated around the corner.
My second example is connected with a gaming activity. Very strangely, both pontoon and poker dice are set out in the Clause as being gaming activities. I have often taken part in a game of pontoon in my time, and have never regarded it, although it is certainly a game of chance, as a gaming activity. A game of poker dice is often played across the bar of a club and needs very little equipment. Nevertheless, if pontoon or poker dice is played in, say, a small political club with a rateable value of £100, the licence fee for playing those games would be £500. The answer to that would be that the poker dice and pontoon activities in that small club would be closed down immediately, with exactly the same effect—that if members wanted to play those games, they would go to some, possibly rather undesirable, "dive" around the corner.
What I suggest in my Amendment is that at a Conservative or Labour club—and one knows many establishments of this type; and we have all been in both —where there is a small room where pontoon and poker dice and similar gaming games are being played, only a relatively small rateable value would apply on my apportionment basis. The club would not get away with less than a £500 licence fee, but in a club with a rather larger rateable value, there would be a correspondingly very much smaller licence fee, because the rateable value would be apportioned and the main part of the club which was used for social purposes would not attract the licence fee. Only that part in the plan laid down by the district valuer as being the place where games were played would attract the licence fee.
My next example concerns premises where both games are played. I understand that in and around London there are one or two very large bingo halls, with very much higher rateable values than £3,000, where it is the normal practice that bingo is played throughout an afternoon or evening session, but where, towards the close of the last session, a very small game of chemin de fer, or another gambling game, is played in a part of the premises.
If that small game was played in a part of the premises, the licence fee for the whole of the premises would still be £50,000 a year, because the rateable value of the whole of the premises was more than £3,000, although a very minimal game of the gambling type would have been played on a very small part of the premises.
It has been explained to me that if the Bill's provision are adhered to the organisations concerned would close down the gaming part of the establishment and run it entirely as a very large bingo hall. It would not make a great deal of difference to the organisations, but what would happen would be that the well conducted gaming, run in conjunction with or after the bingo, would be discontinued and the clientele would probably go to some much less-well-conducted establishment occupying premises of a low rateable value around the corner.
I turn, next, to a slightly different combination, the West End club, or the country club. It will be within the knowledge of hon. Members that in West End and country clubs with very large rateable values there may be a room in which games of, say, backgammon or poker dice are played. The room concerned in both instances would be only a very small part of the club premises, but because rateable values in the West End are high, the clubs would attract a licence fee of £50,000 per annum. It would not be worth while with a licence tee of £50,000 the club carrying on the provision of a small room for backgammon or any small game of chemin de fer at one table. It would mean that the gaming part of the premises would be closed down and if members wished to gamble, again they would go to some very much less-well-conducted club. This is really the point of this Amendment. Without it people may be driven into dubs very much less well conducted.
There is another stray point in connection with the rateable value assessments. It is just possible that a bingo school—they are already organised on Cunard liners—might be organised on such trains as the Brighton Belle or the Manchester Pullman. In those circumstances, as I read this Clause, the rateable value of the whole of British Railways will be taken into account. If my Amendment is accepted there could be an apportionment between the whole of the rateable value of British Railways and the notional rateable value of the Brighton Belle.
I could go on about vessels in similar terms because vessels of all descriptions are treated in exactly the same manner. The main point is that we on this side of the Committee think that for social reasons it would be desirable to have an apportionment made available so that the bingo and/or gaming premises could be notionally apportioned in the rate book as to their rateable values and dealt with separately on the determination of the district valuer.
In those circumstances one will get better conducted premises in which gaming and bingo can take place. My right hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, West (Mr. Iain Macleod) speaking a few moments ago on his Amendment was perfectly right. What the Government will do if this Clause is persisted in in the way in which it is drafted will be to encourage the absolute maximum use of the lowest rated premises, thereby encouraging the most undesirable types of gaming.
May I first of all deal with the last point raised by the hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of Chester (Mr. Temple). We ought to get this clearly understood, and it has not been fully understood despite what I said on the last occasion and despite what my right hon. Friend the Chancellor has said. The situation is that we as the Government are responsible for social law. As a Government we are responsible, through the Home Office, for seeing that clubs of this kind are properly administered. On 27th January, 1966, my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary said in reply to a Written Question:
I have under review the law of gaming…but have not reached any final conclusions."—[OFFCIAL REPORT, 27th January, 1966, Vol. 723: c. 100.]
When he has it will be necessary to review the gaming licence duty in the light of new circumstances if and when the social law is changed.
In the meantime nothing that we are proposing in this Bill is in any sense prejudicing the outcome of that review. Everything that we are proposing has been done, as one would expect, in consultation with and with the approval of the Home Secretary. All the present proposals have been prepared in that way. What I want to make clear is that it is completely without foundation for anyone to suggest that we are unaware of our responsibilities as a Government. Purely as a matter of administration the chief responsibility for social law must rest with my right hon. Friend, and we are doing nothing which will in any way prejudice the outcome of his review.
It is quite open to right hon. and hon. Gentlemen to express concern—it would be surprised if they did not—at the present state of affairs. I am stressing this point to make it absolutely clear that nothing that we are proposing in this Clause is in our view likely to result for one second in the worsening of conditions which my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary would naturally be most loath to see.
If what the hon. Member for Chester is alleging is right, my right hon. Friends the Home Secretary and the Chancellor of the Exchequer, together with the Government, are wholly mistaken about the likely outcome. We do not believe that they are. We have gone into the matter with the greatest possible care. We have all the information available to us which was available to the Opposition. We believe that we have all the practical experience available. We believe, with respect, that we have something in addition on which we can base ourselves, because only the Government can have all the information available.
I am not clear what the hon. Gentleman was devising his proposals for. If he is saying that all premises which are not fully used in the literal sense of not having every room used as a gaming room should be apportioned as to their rateable value, most premises will have their rateable value reduced and the rate at which the tax is charged would have to go up because we want to achieve the same total yield from the tax.
The yield is very small—only £2½ million. If we were to follow the proposal of having the rating valuation of every club apportioned so that we omitted the lounge or restaurant and took account only of the rooms used exclusively for gaming, we should have the result which I have indicated. We should have a smaller rateable value, but we should have to increase the duty scale in order to achieve the same result. That would obviously be of no value, and therefore the hon. Gentleman cannot be pursuing that aim.
If, on the other hand, the hon. Gentleman believes that a working men's club which devotes part of its space incidentally to a modest game of bingo would be forced to shut down because of the rate of duty, he has not directed his mind to all the provisions in the Clause, because in those circumstances there would be exemption. The Clause makes clear that where it is only incidental to the way in which the club is being run there would be exemption. If a working men's club exists for functions other than bingo but incidentally carries on bingo and does not charge more than 6d. for bingo, no problem arises. On the other hand, if somebody operates a club so as to carry on bingo on a full commercial scale, the full commercial charge would be paid. It is on that basis that the Clause is drawn.
The hon. Gentleman himself said that his proposal was perhaps deficient in a technical way. It is deficient in three more technical ways. The hon. Member made his purpose perfectly clear, and the fact that his suggestion is technically deficient in one minor detail or more does not alter the debate in the slightest. We understand what he is getting at. I mention the point only because he raised it himself.
It would, however, be extremely contentious to attempt to decide precisely what part of a hereditament was being used for purposes of or in connection with bingo or any other game "to which this … section applies". Take a proprietor who runs a restaurant at a loss, at a very attractive charge, so that he can encourage people to go from the restaurant into the gaming rooms. Is the restaurant being run for the purposes of or in connection with bingo or any other game? It would be possible to hold the view that it was. The hon. Gentleman's intention may have been to leave it out. It would be hopelessly complicated, very contentious, cause very great difficulty in trying to ascertain the position and would very considerably increase the problems of control. Everybody knows what happens when one attempts to license part of one's premises and the enormous lengths to which one has to go to ensure that it is impossible for a person to move from the licensed part to the unlicensed part.
There would be tremendous difficulty with this, there would have to be large numbers of staff continually inspecting and supervising to see whether there was a breach in the arrangements. It would not work, and there is no need to go into all these problems. The scale of duty is moderate. We will look at it and see how it works out, but I could not possibly suggest any reason why we should encourage the Committee to believe that we would bring forward an Amendment on Committee stage which would go some way towards meeting the point. The present arrangement is a more simple one and a perfectly fair one, and it is not onerous.
I hope that, on considering the matter, the Committee will not press the Amendment.
Having been a member of the Standing Committee on the Bill which became the 1963 Act, I think that we were, out of ignorance, misled as to the effect that Act would have. I support the Amendment, because we now have casinos in the country that many members of the Committee, including myself, did not appreciate that we would get. We now have the crude casino, rather flan the amenity casino which one finds on the Continent. In more fashionable areas and tourist resorts on the Continent, one finds casinos which are the main amenities of towns and where gambling plays only a very small part.
My right hon. and hon. Friends' Amendment would help encourage the development of casinos as part of the general amenities. I cannot accept the right hon. Gentleman's argument that because a restaurant is part of a casino it should be highly rated. Surely if we can get people in such premises who are more interested in eating than in gambling that is something which we need in this country.
We recognise the difficulties inherent in drafting the apportionment procedures to which I have referred, but I do not think that those would be insuperable to Government draftsmen. We think that the Clause as drafted in this respect is not fair, and that it would be made much more fair by an apportionment procedure being incorporated in it.
It is significant that the right hon. Gentleman did not refer to my main point, when I said that members of respectable clubs would be driven out into these undesirable "dives" because, under the terms of their licences, the respectable clubs would have to close down the very facilities which many of their members had been enjoying.
|Division No. 25.]||AYES||[10.19 p.m.|
|Abse, Leo||Davidson, Arthur (Accrington)||Hattersley, Roy|
|Anderson, Donald||Davidson,James(Aberdeenshire,W)||Henig, Stanley|
|Archer, Peter||Davies, Dr. Ernest (Stretford)||Herbison, Rt. Hn. Margaret|
|Armstrong, Ernest||Davies, Harold (Leek)||Hilton, W. S.|
|Ashley, Jack||Davies, Robert (Cambridge)||Hooley, Frank|
|Atkins, Ronald (Preston, N.)||Dewar, Donald||Horner, John|
|Atkinson, Norman (Tottenham)||Diamond, Rt. Hn. John||Houghton, Rt. Hn. Douglas|
|Bagier, Gordon A. T.||Dickens, James||Howarth, Harry (Wellingborough)|
|Barnett, Joel||Doig, Peter||Howie, W.|
|Beaney, Alan||Donnelly, Desmond||Hughes, Emrys (Ayrshire, S.)|
|Bence, Cyril||Dunnett, Jack||Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)|
|Benn, Rt. Hn. Anthony Wedgwood||Dunwoody, Mrs. Gwyneth (Exeter)||Hughes, Roy (Newport)|
|Bessell, Peter||Dunwoody, Dr. John (F'th & C'b'e)||Jackson, Colin (B'h'se & Spenb'gh)|
|Binns, John||Edwards, William (Merioneth)||Janner, Sir Barnett|
|Blackburn, F.||Ellis, John||Jenkins, Hugh (Putney)|
|Boardman, H.||Ensor, David||Jenkins, Rt. Hn. Roy (Stechford)|
|Booth, Albert||Faulds, Andrew||Johnston, Russell (Inverness)|
|Bowden, Rt. Hn. Herbert||Fletcher, Raymond (Ilkeston)||Jones,Rt.Hn.SirElwyn (W.Ham,S.)|
|Bray, Dr. Jeremy||Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)||Judd, Frank|
|Brooks, Edwin||Floud, Bernard||Kelley, Richard|
|Brown,Bob(N'c'tle-upon-Tyne,W.)||Foley, Maurice||Kenyon, Clifford|
|Buchan, Norman||Forrester, John||Kerr, Russell (Feltham)|
|Buchanan, Richard (G'gow. Sp'burn)||Fowler, Gerry||Lee, John (Reading)|
|Callaghan, Rt. Hn. James||Gardner, A. J.||Lestor, Miss Joan|
|Cant, R. B.||Garrett, W. E.||Lever, L. M. (Ardwick)|
|Carmichael, Neil||Gourley, Harry||Lomas, Kenneth|
|Carter-Jones, Lewis||Gregory, Arnold||Luard, Evan|
|Castle, Rt. Hn. Barbara||Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)||Lubbock, Eric|
|Chapman, Donald||Griffiths, Will (Exchange)||Lyon, Alexander W. (York)|
|Coe, Denis||Hale, Leslie (Oldham, W.)||Lyons, Edward (Bradford, E.)|
|Coleman, Donald||Hamilton, James (Bothwell)||Mahon, Dr. J. Dickson|
|Concannon, J. D.||Hamilton, William (Fife, W.)||McBride, Neil|
|Conlan, Bernard||Hannan, William||McCann, John|
|Cronin, John||Harper, Joseph||MacColl, James|
|Dalyell, Tam||Hart, Mrs. Judith||MacDermot, Niall|
|Macdonald, A. H.|
|McGuire, Michael||Pulley, Walter||Spriggs, Leslie|
|Mackenzie,Alasdair(Ross&Crom'ty)||Pannell, Rt. Hn. Charles||Stonehouse, John|
|Mackenzie, Gregor (Ruthergien)||Pardoe, J.||Thomas, Iorwerth (Rhondda, W.)|
|Mackie, John||Pearson, Arthur (Pontypridd)||Thorpe, Jeremy|
|Maclennan, Robert||Perry, Ernest G. (Battersea, S.)||Tinn, James|
|McNamara, J. Kevin||Perry, George H. (Nottingham, S.)||Tuck, Raphael|
|MacPherson, Malcolm||Price, Christopher (Perry Barr)||Urwin, T. W.|
|Mahon, Peter (Preston, S.)||Price, Thomas (Westhoughton)||Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne Valley)|
|Mahon, Simon (Bootle)||Price, William (Rugby)||Wainwright, Richard (Colne Valley)|
|Mapp, Charles||Probert, Arthur||Walden, Brian (All Saints)|
|Marquand, David||Rankin, John||Walker, Harold (Doncaster)|
|Mellish, Robert||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)||Watkins, David (Consett)|
|Millan, Bruce||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)||Wells, William (Walsall, N.)|
|Miller, Dr. M. S.||Roberts, Gwilym (Bedfordshire, S.)||Whitaker, Ben|
|Mitchell, R. C. (S'th'pton, Test)||Robinson,Rt.Hn.Kenneth(St.P'C'as)||White, Mrs. Eirene|
|Morgan, Elysian (Cardiganshire)||Robinson, W. O. J. (Walth'stow,E.)||Whitlock, William|
|Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)||Rodgers, William (Stockton)||Willey, Rt. Hn. Frederick|
|Moyle, Roland||Rose, Paul||Williams, Alan (Swansea, W.)|
|Murray, Albert||Ross, Rt. Hn. William||Williams, Alan Lee (Hornchurch)|
|Noel-Baker,Rt.Hn.Philip(Derby,S.)||Rowland, Christopher (Meriden)||Williams, Clifford (Abertillery)|
|Oakes, Gordon||Rowlands, E. (Cardiff, N.)||Willis, George (Edinburgh, E.)|
|Ogden, Eric||Ryan, John||Winnick, David|
|O'Malley, Brian||Sheldon, Robert||Winstanley, Dr. M. P.|
|Oswald, Thomas||Shore, Peter (Stepney)|
|Owen, Dr. David (Plymouth, S'tn)||Silkin, John (Deptford)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Mr. Lawson and Mr. Bishop.|
|Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash)||Hall, John (Wycombe)||Nott, John|
|Astor, John||Hall-Davis, A. G. F.||Pike, Miss Mervyn|
|Batsford, Brian||Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.W.)||Pink, R. Bonner|
|Biffen, John||Hastings, Stephen||Pym, Francis|
|Blaker, Peter||Hawkins, Paul||Roots, William|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hn. J.||Heald, Rt. Hn. Sir Lionel||Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)|
|Braine, Bernard||Heseitine, Michael||St. John-Stevas, Norman|
|Brinton, Sir Tatton||Higgins, Terence L.||Scott, Nicholas|
|Bruce-Gardyne,||Hiley, Joseph||Sharpies, Richard|
|Buck, Antony (Colchester)||Hirst, Geoffrey||Shaw, Michael (Sc'b'gh & Whitby)|
|Carlisle, Mark||Hogg, Rt. Hn. Quintin||Sinclair, Sir George|
|Cary, Sir Robert||Holland, Philip||Smith, John|
|Chichester-Clark, R.||Hordern, Peter||Stodart, Anthony|
|Clark, Henry||Howell, David (Guildford)||Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir M. (Ripon)|
|Clegg, Walter||Hunt, John||Summers, Sir Spencer|
|Corfield, F. V.||Iremonger, T. L.||Taylor,Edward M.(G'gow,Cathcart)|
|Costain, A. P.||Jenkin, Patrick (Woodford)||Taylor, Frank (Moss Side)|
|Crosthwaite-Eyre, Sir Oliver||Jopling, Michael||Temple, John M.|
|Crouch, David||King, Evelyn (Dorset, S.)||Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret|
|Cunningham, Sir Knox||Lloyd, Ian (P,tcm'th. Langstone)||Turton, Rt. Hn. R. H.|
|Dean, Paul (Somerset, N.)||McAdden, Sir Stephen||Vaughan-Morgan, Rt. Hn. Sir John|
|Deedes, Rt. Hn. W. F. (Ashford)||MacArthur, Ian||Vickers, Dame Joan|
|Digby, Simon Wingfield||Maclean, Sir Fitzroy||Walker, Peter (Worcester)|
|Elliott, R.W.(N'c'tle-upon-Tyne,N.)||Macleod, Rt. Hn. lain||Ward, Dame Irene|
|Eyre, Reginald||Maddan, Martin||Weatherill, Bernard|
|Galbraith, Hn. T. G.||Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.||Wells, John (Maidstone)|
|Gibson-Watt, David||Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C.||Whitelaw, William|
|Giles, Rear-Adm. Morgan||Mills, Stratton (Belfast, N.)||Wills, Sir Gerald (Bridgwater)|
|Gilmour, Sir John (Fife, E.)||Miscampbell, Norman||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Glover, Sir Douglas||Monro, Hector||Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick|
|Goodhart, Philip||Morrison, Charles (Devizes)||Worsley, Marcus|
|Grieve, Percy||Murton, Oscar||Younger, Hn. George|
|Griffiths, Eldon (Bury St. Edmunds)||Nabarro, Sir Gerald|
|Gurden, Harold||Neave, Airey||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Mr. More and Mr. Grant.|
I think that it would be for the convenience of the Committee to take, at the same time, Amendment No. 131, in line 27, leave out "crown and anchor", and Amendment No. 146, in Schedule 2, page 64, line 15, at end insert:
(d) for the issue of a certificate by the Commissioners to the secretary of a, club (or per-on performing the functions of secretary) that notwithstanding the provisions of section 2 of this Act no gaming licence shall be required for the aforesaid club.
That would be convenient, Sir Eric. I shall be brief because I have, as it is said, reason to believe that I shall get a reasonably sympathetic hearing.
This is a more important point than might at first sight appear and I must explain it, although I will take only a moment or two to do so. I am sure that I know how this situation arose. In the 1963 Act—I was a member of the Government at the time—we either made a mistake or left a loophole, because we had a Section which was entitled "Saving for clubs". That was done on the assumption that if a person paid an ordinary subscription, and paid table money for tolerable stakes, it was not a particular offence if people took part in gaming.
In the definition Clause of that Act, "gaming" means "the playing of a game of chance for winnings in money or money's worth". In other words, if you play for a box of matches or something like that, in theory at least one is gaming. The "Saving for clubs" Section in the 1963 Act unquestionably opened the way to a vast flood of gaming activities, far beyond what the Government of the day thought was going to happen at the time, and the present Government have chosen an entirely different method of trying to cope with this.
The problem is that what they have done has created new anomalies of its own, and all these attractive games in subsection (5) now become games for which one may require a gaming licence of £50,000, if the game is played in premises with a reasonably high rateable value. Quite clearly, if one looks at some of the games in subsection (5) that is nonsense.
I have pinned my argument on backgammon, because—I have argued this point in a column in the Daily Mail, which I know is required reading for members of the Government, so I need not expand on it at any length—it is a Royal game and was always a legal game, even in the days when lots of other things were illegal. But if one plays a simple game of backgammon in a club, then one is liable under this Clause, if it is unamended, to pay either £500 or £5,000 or £50,000, according to the rateable value of the premises.
I merely want to draw attention, very briefly, to one or two other possibilities. I have put crown and anchor into my Amendment, as a game for which it seems ludicrous to ask for gaming licence duty, but I do not intend to press that particular Amendment.
The other situation which I ask the Financial Secretary to note and to give me, shall I say, an "off the cuff" answer now, and perhaps to look at it before the Report stage, is the situation in relation to playing games of chance on trains. I know that people think, first of all, of the three card trick, which I can do with great skill, but the point is that many of our constituents every day, travelling to and fro, have a school of pontoon or whatever it may be, in a train. The definition of "premises", on page 19 of the Bill, "includes any place whatsoever and any means of transport".
I do not know what the rateable value of a train is, but I think I am right in saying that all British Railways is rated as one, and therefore, presumably, in theory all trains would have to pay £50,000 if anybody played pontoon or vingt-et-un on them. This is the sort of point about which we must not legislate, but in my submission the Bill, at the moment, says exactly that.
So what I suggest to the Financial Secretary, very briefly, is that backgammon, which quite clearly is a game of skill, should not be included in subsection (5) at all. I think that there is a similar argument about crown and anchor. I am surprised to see poker dice there and not poker, because—and if the Committee will forgive me, this is an expert witness testifying, at least on this particular point—backgammon is more a game of skill than is poker, and poker is more a game of skill than is bridge. There is no question in my mind that this is so. This proposal, as it is, leads to so many absurdities that I would ask the Financial Secretary to accept my Amendment No. 130, and to think about the problems in relation to trains and other forms of transport.
I should like to say one word about my Amendment No. 146. It was really my solution to this problem that the Commissioners could issue a certificate to the club, and in spite of Clause 12 no licence would be required. I can understand the difficulties of being flooded with applications, and so on, but, all the same, I think that something like Amendment No. 146 would strike the right balance between the 1963 Act, which, clearly, went too far in one direction, and Clause 12 of the Bill, which clearly, in trying to correct that, has gone too far in the other direction.
I wish to speak on Amendment No. 130. If I can claim to be an expert on anything, it is on backgammon. It is 20 years since I was introduced to this game by the father of the young lady who was subsequently to become my wife, and with the single-mindedness which only the young really possess I devoted myself to the mastery of this game to assure myself of the welcome that I was always to find there. My interest survived the initial ordeal and I subsequently became a devotee of the game. From that day till entering this House I regularly played several games each week.
This game has a very honourable history. It was known as trictrac by the Romans and even before that, for it goes back to 3,000 B.C. The Emperor Diocletian, in the years 290 to 300 A.D., played this game regularly. It was very dangerous to beat the Emperor. If one did so, one was likely to be without one's head the next day. We are, of course, much more civilised now.
If it was a pure game of chance, the person who played the Emperor would be unable to lose. If there was only a little skill as when playing an ordinary game of cards, the Emperor Diocletian, wise man that he was despite this one failure in his make-up, would not have had the satisfaction of appearing to beat his opponent.
I rate the skilfulness of this game somewhere between whist and bridge, and in some of its many variations probably coming very near to the skill shown in the game of bridge. I would willingly give odds of three to one against anybody beginning this game and substantial odds to beat anyone who considered himself an expert in it. This game should not have been included in this list. It is obviously a mistake and I look forward to the Amendment being accepted.
May I deal, first, with the game of backgammon, which has been dealt with in so interesting a fashion by hon. Members on both sides of the Committee. May I explain how it came to be included in the list? It is, of course, to be distinguished in this list as being a game which, normally speaking, is clearly a game of skill. The reason for its inclusion is that it is a game which is quite widely played in casinos, and played in such a way that I do not think anyone would regard the outcome as depending upon skill because the practice, I understand, is to double up the stakes each time. It does not matter how skilful almost any card game may be; if one plays it in that way the outcome will depend on chance rather more than on skill.
I was fascinated and delighted to hear the right hon Gentleman express the view that poker is a game of greater skill than bridge. That is a view that I have always held, because when I play bridge it is a game of pure chance. I am glad to say, however, that I have won more money at poker than I have lost. It is for this reason—because it is played in this way in casinos—that it was included in the list, the intention being to list all games which are generally played as gambling games in casinos.
There are many clubs where games like poker and bridge are played and which are not in the list, and where backgammon is played for stakes. It would be wrong to include such clubs within the purview of the law. If we left in backgammon the members of the club would cease to play it rather than pay the duty. For this reason, I advise the Committee to accept the Amendment dealing with backgammon.
I cannot be so helpful about crown and anchor. I do not know the game, but I am advised that it is a genuine game of chance, which is widely played as a form of dicing in casinos, and is properly in the list. There is power in the Bill to alter this list, if need be. As new games and new fashions come into being in gambling we can add to the list.
This is not a new problem. I have had my attention drawn to a Statute of the time of Henry VIII, an Act for the maintaining of artillery and the debarring of unlawful games. In those days, as now, one of the chief problems was to raise revenue for the maintenance of the Armed Forces. Then the problem was the maintenance of a large force of skilled archers, and this Act—33 Henry VIII, c. 9—reinforced provisions made earlier In the reign for the protection of archery. Unfortunately,
divers and many subtil inventative and crafty persons, intending to defraud the same estatute, sithens the making thereof, have found, and daily find many and sundry new and crafty games and plays, as logetting in the fields, Slidethrift, otherwise called Shove-groat … by reason whereof archery is sore decayed.
We have profited by that lesson and have taken powers accordingly. We are content to start with backgammon.
The right hon. Gentleman raised the question of trains. There is a serious aspect to this matter, which is that it has become the practice—and may increasingly become so—to fit out trains specially for the purpose of playing bingo on a commercial scale. The trains ply to and. from seaside resorts in the summer months. There is no reason why these should be excluded. It does not become necessary to assess the rateable value of the entire British Railways, because these trains will be premises falling within the first category in the table set out in the Clause. They will come within the words
Premises other than", taken with the two exceptions stated in the passage.
The liability to duty for such a train will be £100, chargeable on the train. The train will be the premises. We do not envisage any attempt being made to levy duty for casual passengers who play a game of pontoon in the train, whether from my constituency or that of any other hon. Member, when going to London or elsewhere. That is not what the Bill is aimed at.
Finally, the right hon. Gentleman, in referring to his other Amendment, suggested that we should take power to issue a certificate exempting a club. This is a power which we do not need and do not want. One of the reasons why we do not want it is that if we had it we should be simply plagued with applications to exercise it from a host of people.
If we draw this rightly, as, I hope, with the assistance of hon. Members in the Committee we are doing, we shall define rightly the kind of premises in respect of which the duty should be levied, and if any exceptions are to be made we think that they ought to be embodied properly in the Act and not be in the form of a discretionary power in the Commissioners.
I am grateful to the hon. and learned Gentleman for the point about backgammon. I accept what he says, that it is not the intention to penalise people. Nevertheless, this is what the Bill says at present. Having drawn attention to the anomaly of the train, I feel that a train fitted out for gaming should be properly taxed.
Not arguing about that for the moment, I feel that it is a pity if the House of Commons is to pass an Act which will say, even though the Customs and Excise will not enforce it, that various innocent citizens carrying out a fairly normal activity are, nevertheless, guilty of an offence.
I understood the hon. and learned Gentleman to say that he will look again at what I might loosely call the train point before Report, and I am content to accept his backgammon point and leave the crown and anchor point there.
I will look at it further. I have already looked at it, and there is real difficulty here. If any hon. Member has a constructive suggestion to make, I shall be glad to consider it. One would seek to find some wording which would effectively exclude casual playing. There might be a group of workers in the lunch hour on a building site who bring out dice and play. The provision is not aimed at that. Technically, one could say that it was within the wording of the Clause. But we are not concerned with that. The difficulty is to find wording which would exclude that activity, but would not create the loophole to which the right hon. Gentleman referred with the notorious effect of the club exception in the earlier legislation.
Provided that Clause 12 remains with us only for one year, all right, but what is wrong with the Clause can be stated very briefly, in four points.
First, it sets out a whole range of activities every one of which one can drive a coach and horses through. There are at present no fewer than a dozen games that I can think of—I will not list them now—not incorporated in the Government's list, which are being played in casinos. Secondly, there is not a lawyer in the Committee who does not know that it is accepted practice never to plead betting games in an Act of Parliament. I shall not elaborate on that, because we know it to be true. We debated it on the Betting and Gaming Bill, and we debated it on other Bills. Thirdly, it is evident that we will have to license gaming houses, and when we do we will have to provide adequate supervision by way of a gaming commission or by some other method.
When we do that, we shall be able to provide proper taxation along proper lines. This is a chaotic Clause. It is so bad that I did not bother to put down Amendments to it. It is quite unsatisfactory in its present form. It provides that the small gaming houses can continue without improvement. This is bad for tourism, because it means that there will be every advantage to the small gaming houses to bloom. There will be every disadvantage to the first-class places which are being established for the benefit of this country.
I say no more. We have had a good innings, but I hope that between now and next year the Chancellor will have careful and constructive talks with the Home Secretary, who I know is considering this, and we will by then have proper legislation to license gaming houses in the proper manner, and to provide adequate and proper supervision, not through the police, but through other channels. I hope that by next year we will have on the Statute Book a provision which will provide proper control for gaming houses; a provision which will be supported by the Church, by the gaming houses themselves, and by the tourist industry, and which will enable us to tax gaming houses in the proper manner.
I am sorry to have delayed the Question being put, but I hope that next year we can come back and get on with a proper job, in a proper manner, which will be worthy of the House of Commons.