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I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.
The House will be aware that, on the day on which the Bill was introduced, the House of Lords gave an important judgment reversing an earlier decision of the Divisional Court and, in effect, declared that the method by which gaming proprietors had been accustomed to make their profits from roulette was contrary to the law. Then we had the recent, forthright pronouncements about the activities of the gaming proprietors, the enforcement of the law, and its interpretation by the courts, made by the Master of the Rolls and his colleagues in the Court of Appeal in a very vigorous judgment.
I welcomed what was said by Lord Denning and his colleagues and, in the light of it, have given the court judgments and all that has been written about them very careful thought. The main question in my mind, in the light of what was said, was, clearly, whether we could manage without the Bill. But I have concluded that we do need it.
The law itself is too uncertain, the handicaps it imposes on the police are too great, and too much has happened during the last six or seven years to make it possible now to achieve what Parliament intended in 1960. No one regrets this more than I, but the reality of the situation must be faced. The origin of this Bill is the failure of the Betting and Gaming Act, 1960, to achieve its purpose.
As I was saying, the origin of this Bill is the failure of the Betting and Gaming Act, 1960, to achieve its purpose. That purpose was to prevent the exploitation of gaming by commercial interests. The 1960 Act was a thoroughly well-intentioned Measure and the authors must be astonished to find that the consequences of their actions are so different from their intentions. For the Act precipitated the very evil it was meant to prevent.
I regret to say that gaming in Britain has achieved a profusion and variety unique certainly in Europe. Those who framed the Act failed to read the transatlantic omens and the extreme ingenuity of the vested interests with which they had to deal. The intention of the 1960 Act was that anyone should be allowed to game, as rashly as he pleased, provided no one was to be given a vested commercial interest in inducing him to do so. No charges were, therefore, to be made for gaming, no levies were to be taken from the stakes, and if the games were not of equal chance then the chances were to be equalised by the methods of play.
These were admirable principles, but a fatal mistake was made in giving what were thought to be some minor concessions to clubs by allowing them to impose a charge to recover the costs of the gaming facilities they provided, and perhaps to make just a little profit on the side for the benefit of the membership as a whole. For the same purpose, they were to be allowed two gaming machines each. But the Act did little towards defining a club; and concessions which might have been appropriate to genuine members' clubs, whose credentials could be verified, were extended to so-called clubs, which were full-scale commercial enterprises without any proper system of verification being provided.
As things now stand almost any individual can gather together a group of people, claim to have formed a club, and then proceed to exploit commercial gaming on charge. Moreover, the Act sets no ceiling to the charges that may be imposed by these so-called clubs. Almost from the beginning advantage was taken of these weaknesses. I am sure that those who framed the law never contemplated that a number of exclusive proprietary clubs, mostly in the West End of London, would find it perfectly feasible to impose very large charges—up to£20 or more for 30 minutes play at games like chemin de fer. This of course in addition to the stakes.
There was nothing illegal in these activities— the courts have endorsed them —and the clubs themselves were mostly well conducted. But what these developments did most clearly show was that considerable commercial advantages could be reaped from gaming within the letter of the law. There were many less scrupulous people watching and waiting to profit from the example and they have done so. The real breach in the law came through the ingenious device of introducing games which give a distinct long-term advantage to the bank but pretending that the chances are equalised by merely "offering" the bank to players who could not afford the considerable short-term risk of taking it. The House of Lords has now pronounced against this practice in the case of roulette. But this judgment has come only after a long series of actions.
Unfortunately the persistent uncertainty has created a situation which the decision has now come too late to remedy. The clubs are already seeking ways round the ruling—for instance by the device of soliciting what is supposed to be a voluntary return on winnings. No doubt the legality of this practice will in due course be challenged in the courts. It is not for me to predict what the upshot may be; but I should be surprised if the club proprietors did not have other devices already worked out and in reserve, and all requiring to be tested by lengthy court proceedings. It is like the dance of the seven veils. As each is stripped away the situation certainly becomes more transparent, but it take an excessively long time to get to the point, and when you get there what is finally revealed is not necessarily beautiful.
Blackstone gave us the answer about 200 years ago to those who would have me prescribe by Statute what games should be played and under what stakes. His opinion is as apposite now as it was then. In his Commentaries on the Laws of England he wrote:
Particular proscriptions will ever be lame and deficient, unless all games of mere chance are at once prohibited; the inventions of sharpers being swifter than the punishment of the law, which only hunts them from one device to another.
I am indebted to Lord Denning for that quotation.
The deficiencies and ambiguities of the law have allowed the commercial introduction of a wide variety of games—roulette, black jack and craps to name the chief—at very considerable profit for the promoters. And these have led to an unprecedented boom in gaming, with the evils to be expected from it. So-called clubs have sprung up wholesale in every part of the country. And because the law never envisaged this development, no proper safeguards exist to control these clubs.
In reading the debates on the 1960 Act, as I have done in preparation for this Measure, it is surprising how little attention was brought to this aspect. We seem to have been more concerned with betting shops, and most of the debates revolved around that aspect, although some hon. Members foresaw what was likely to happen. I pay due deference to those who foresaw what would happen, so there is no need for anyone to interrupt. But it remains true that the great majority of the debates conducted during the passage of the Act were not concerned with the problem with which this Bill seeks to deal.
As I was saying, because the law never envisaged this development, no proper safeguards exist to control these clubs. The promoters have been enjoying the best of all worlds. As these are supposedly clubs, the police have no right of entry into them except on warrant. Yet they advertise as freely as they please, and behave in almost every way as though they were public gaming houses.
But leaving aside entirely the moral implications, it is not to be expected that large profits made from such a source so easily and under such conditions of immunity, would fail to attract the criminal. A number of clubs have become the haunt of criminals. Money of dubious origin has been put in the business, and the rich pickings to be made—I regret to say—more easily here than anywhere in Europe, have attracted unwelcome attention from, foreign interests of a wholly undesirable kind, a number of whose agents we have been compelled to exclude from the country, and with the support of the House I shall continue to do so.
In the smaller and more vulnerable clubs protection rackets have been operating. These abuses are aggravated by the practice in many clubs of allowing credit for gaming. This is a pernicious evil. Heavy losses—apart from the personal misfortunes that they cause—are a temptation to crime, and gaming debts are not recoverable at law. But they may be, and sometimes have been, recovered by various methods of intimidation or blackmail. It is this that I propose to stop, with the support of the House.
These abuses propagate themselves. Now it has been shown what profits can be made from games like roulette and black jack, a number of bingo clubs are turning to them, so introducing gaming to a large new section of the public who go in order to play the harmless and innocent game of bingo—or as we used to call it when I played it in the Navy "housey housey ". Many names have been attached to it but in none of the debates in 1960 did anyone ever call it bingo.
Night clubs and other places of entertainment are beginning to provide games like roulette and black jack as a financial prop when their other entertainment palls, as well it might do. The taste for these games is becoming widely disseminated throughout the community, and Britain is earning for itself an undesirable reputation as a country which serves "chips with everything". With the chips come the crooks and the opportunity to fleece the public.
Serious abuses have also developed from the use of gaming machines. I do not think that in 1960 there was a clear perception of just how profitable these machines could be. Stakes are limited to 6d., but no limit is placed either on the jack-pots or the percentage of stakes which the machines can retain. This has often been quite excessive, and while the law expresses the pious contention that the profits should be used for purposes other than private gain, there is no effective means of ensuring this. The condition has been widely and flagrantly perverted, less often to the profit of the clubs themselves than of the machine dealers. Machines have been forced on premises at high rentals by protection methods, or by ingenious forms of contract designed to secure that the lion's share of the profits go to the dealer. There has been bribery and sometimes downright robbery.
This is an ugly situation. It has been allowed to develop, and it cannot in my view or that of the Government's go unchecked or uncontrolled. There are many whose instincts would be to suppress commercial gaming altogether. Legislators have been trying to do it for hundreds of years, but they never succeed. Such an attitude is too undiscriminating and, therefore, defeats itself. After all, bingo is a form of commercial gaming, but played alone with modest stakes and prices it is a relatively innocuous form of gaming which the law should not harass. There is no reason why people should not have an innocent flutter, and certainly no legislation would prevent it. I shall have more to say about the distinction between bingo and other games.
The other forms of gaming, roulette, craps, black jack, chemin de fer and the rest, are not provided as an innocent flutter. This is gaming of a serious kind which will always be potentially dangerous. The choice here is between outright suppression and a most rigorous control. The Government have chosen the latter course of rigorous control because they believe that at the stage that has now been reached, suppression would be ineffective and would in the end make the situation worse than it is. Much of the activity would be driven underground and so into the hands of crooks and racketeers of all kinds who have already battened on to the games. It is only by exposing the activity to the full light of day that we can hope to control it and dislodge the crooks and the racketeers.
Before I come to the structure of the Bill, I would like to say a word about my attitude to bingo in relation to the Bill's provisions. I draw a clear distinction between bingo, which is essentially a harmless family game, and "hard" gaming. The further restrictions which I am proposing for "hard" gaming make it the more desirable to relax the Bill as it affects bingo—provided that no other games are played with it.
I therefore intend, when the Bill is in Committee, to introduce Amendments which will bring out clearly the distinction which the Government see between bingo and other forms of gaming. Let me make my intentions plain. The relaxations which I shall propose for the bingo clubs will apply only on condition that all other forms of gaming—I do not say amusements, but all other forms of gaming—are excluded from them.
On that condition I shall be prepared, for instance, to allow in their case a more liberal interpretation of club membership rules, so that when people go on holiday they do not have to wait two full days before they can join in the game. Otherwise a holiday would be half over before they can go down and put on their small stakes.
I shall be prepared also to allow, although within certain maximum limits, "house prizes"—that is, prizes whose value the club proprietors swell from time to time with their own resources. I intend to relax the restrictions which apply at present to the playing of bingo and other equal chance games, like bridge and whist, in genuine members' clubs, where there is no question of private profit.
What I am not prepared to approve is the practice by which a large number of clubs operated for profits within a single commercial organisation, or even more widely, play what are supposedly common or linked games, with the result that very large prizes can be offered. When one of my constituents in Cardiff goes down to the local bingo hall and is told that someone in Wigan is winning the game, if that club proprietor thinks that is playing a family game, I promise him that a family game does not extend from Cardiff to Wigan.
In Cardiff they know who is winning, and they know pretty well if it is the right person, but they cannot know that over an open telephone line, or even close-circuit television. This is a family game. If this practice of linked games is allowed, the essentially local character will disappear. It is quite possible now for substantial prizes to be won on purely local games, and I do not wish to interfere with that. These are the relaxations which I shall propose for bingo.
Yes, they will remain under the supervision of the Gaming Board, but these relaxations will mean that they will not have the same rigorous restrictions applied to them as will be applied to "hard" gaming. None of these relaxations will apply to other forms of gaming.
As I understand it. winnings may not exceed stakes, and I cannot think that Mrs. Jones in Eyre Street, Splott, will really be betting in pounds at the end of the evening. The average stake in an evening is something like 4s. to 6s., and that I assume will be the way in which this will continue. [Interruption.] I know that under this Government there will be continuing growing prosperity, but I do not think that people will be betting in pounds at the local bingo halls—at any rate not for a year or two.
The right hon. Gentleman referred to more liberal rules for club membership, but I do not think that he actually said what they were. Does that mean that he is considering what they should be?
No, I have some proposals, but this is a long speech and I prefer to develop this in Committee, as a whole sequence of the Bill is devoted to it.
In the case of other forms of gaming, I intend that the provisions of the Bill should be applied with full rigour. Indeed, I consider that the law should be made even tighter. My object will be to exclude gaming altogether from night clubs and similar clubs and establishments, and substantially to restrict the number of clubs specialising in gaming, so that, without gaming being driven underground, a much smaller core of casinos than at present will be left, on which the enforcement authorities can concentrate their full attention. Most of the powers necessary for this are already conferred by the Bill, and I intend that they should be used.
One final point before I leave this matter. I propose, in Committee, to make some concessions to working men's clubs and others in regard to maximum prizes in order to handicap them less in competition with commercial bingo. They have made representations over a long period about this matter, and I think that it is reasonable to do so.
I turn now to the structure of the Bill. Its prime object is to erect a framework of control within which all forms of gaming liable to become commercialised can be contained and supervised and by which abuses and excessive profits can be eliminated. To be effective, such a system must be both strong and flexible. It must allow for the full expression of both local and national interests, and it requires the strongest possible machinery to enforce it. These are the principles on which the Bill is founded.
Of course, a good many people game from time to time within the family or between friends. Nobody would dream of interfering with that, but we must be certain—with the example of the present law before us—that any gaming which may in any way lend itself to abuse is caught in the control net. This is what Part I of the Bill sets out to achieve. Clauses 3 and 4 follow the present law in forbidding absolutely, outside the control system, any charge for gaming or any levying on stakes.
But when it comes to the difficult problem of the nature of the games themselves—the rock on which the 1960 Act has foundered—the Bill takes a different line. It dispenses for good with the conception that games of unequal chance can be made equal by the way they are played. Instead Clause 2 allows no bankers' games, and no games which are not equal by their very nature, to be provided outside the control system, except in carefully defined circumstances of a domestic kind—and there it allows them to be played freely without any pretence that the chances are being fully equalised in play.
The only circumstances in which individual players will be liable are where gaming is carried on in streets or other places open to the public. In general, Clause 5 continues to forbid this. But Clause 6 allows certain small relaxations —for instance, for public houses—provided always that the games played are of equal chance, that no charge is made for taking part and that no cut is taken from the stakes. In short, wherever the dangers of commercialisation are absent, and the law can afford to be more lenient, then Part I of the Bill makes it so: but wherever it appears that the slightest opportunity could be given to commercial operators to exploit the situation the licensing and control system established by Part II is fully applied.
Has my right hon. Friend considered that, if casinos were operated only by State or local authorities in accordance with local opinion. this would not only be the surest and safest means of proper control, but allow considerable profits to accrue to the public?
I have naturally considered that aspect. I prefer not to break the thread of my argument to deal with it. My hon. Friend, when he replies later, can deal with that point. But I can think immediately of certain inevitable disadvantages from such a system, although it is superficially attractive.
Because this country now has the unenviable distinction of having far outstripped France in the volume and variety of gaming that it offers, we are not concerned with a relatively few casinos in holiday resorts, mostly open only in the holiday season, as they are in France. Our problem is different. We are confronted with literally hundreds of commercial clubs scattered up and down the country.
Unfortunately, the time has gone when we could hope wholly to control this development centrally. The police, local authorities, fire authorities and local residents all have legitimate interests to express, and must be given the opportunity to do so. The aim, therefore, is to marry local and national concern—one is as important as the other—and this is what the system established by Part II of the Bill does.
Essentially, the system in the Bill is one of licensing and registration by the local justices on conditions to be enforced by the police. The national interest will be brought to bear by giving regulation-making powers—which are necessarily wide-ranging—to the Home Secretary of the day to vary or determine the qualifi- cations to be fulfilled by those seeking registration or a licence and the conditions that they must then observe. On this I would draw the particular attention of the House to the powers conferred by Clause 21, especially subsection (3). These are not only the prime safeguard against all the new devices and dodges which the gaming proprietors may think up to defeat the intentions of the law, but one of the principal instruments which I intend to use to reduce the number of casinos.
These powers could themselves be used absolutely to prevent the issue of gaming licenses to night clubs and other places of entertainment, or the issue of licences for any particular combination of games —and that is a principle which has, potentially, a wider application than the mere prevention of roulette and black jack being played with bingo. There are other forms of undesirable progression in gaming—from bingo all the way to baccarat—which these powers could be invoked to check, and I should not hesitate to do so if I thought it necessary. Regulations will be laid which will be subject to the normal negative procedure in the House. Therefore, the House will be able to ensure that the Home Secretary is behaving reasonably.
The pivot of the whole system is a national Gaming Board, set up under Clause 10, with its own full-time staff and inspectorate. Let me assure the House that this is not going to be a vast and expensive bureaucracy. I anticipate that the Board will consist of three persons. I envisage a headquarters staff of about 20 to 25 plus about 15 inspectors. We need the Board and its staff to be real experts across the whole range of gaming. We do not know enough about it yet, nor do the police. I have talked to the police and I know that, while they are well informed, they are not expert croupiers. It is very important that we should have an expert gaming board which can take on some of these individuals and proprietors at their own game.
I do not think that there is any reason why the public should be saddled with the expense through the taxation system. Therefore, the Bill prescribes a range of fees for licences, certificates, and so on. I fully expect that this revenue will cover the costs of the Board and the other expenses of administering the Bill. My old Treasury training still comes to the surface.
The Board will, on the one hand, advise the justices on the exercise of their powers and the police in the detection of fraudulent play and, on the other, advise me over the range of my own powers. We shall have here what has been lacking in the past, a really expert body maintaining a constant watch over gaming of every description, and capable of meeting or anticipating the moves of those seeking—as some undoubtedly will —once more to bend the law to their own advantage. I am sure that flexibility is necessary.
Under Part II of the Bill, genuine members' clubs, in which gaming may be carried on as a purely incidental activity, are subject to registration: and commercial clubs run for the purpose of providing gaming facilities will require a licence. I need say little here about the registration system, which is dealt with in Schedules 3 and 4. It is precautionary only. It is meant to cater for those genuine members' clubs which wish to provide gaming as a subsidiary activity, and either to allow unequal chance games like pontoon to be played or to make a small charge for play to recover their costs.
The object of registration is first to verify the clubs' credentials and then to impose conditions sufficient, but no more, to prevent the clubs from being captured and exploited by commercial interests. These clubs will be allowed no financial stake in the play itself. The charges which they make will be closely restricted, and under Clause 12 they will not be allowed to make any charge to outside guests. The police will have no rights of entry except on warrant.
More important is the licensing system, which will apply to all commercial clubs. Under Schedule 2, all licences will be renewable annually, and under Clause 40 the police and Gaming Board inspectors will have free rights of entry and inspection without warrant at any reasonable time. Before any licence is issued it will be necessary for an actual demand—not merely a potential one—to be demonstrated; and on this the Gaming Board will be entitled to advise the justices and to appeal to quarter sessions if they consider that the advice has not been properly weighed.
From this conception also it follows that the justices will be empowered to decide which games may be provided, and to restrict the area of play. The clubs will not be able to set up wherever they please. Not only must the premises be suitable and safe in themselves, but they must be satisfactorily located—grounds on which local residents or anyone else will be entitled to object. Some of the constituents of the right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg) will be glad to hear that. It may even save me receiving some letters from the right hon. and learned Gentleman covering the complaints he has had. Under Clause 39 there will be an almost total prohibition of advertisement, except on or in the club premises themselves and for a short period after a licence has been first issued; and under Clause 18 an absolute ban—which I propose to relax for bingo clubs alone—not only on play by young people but their presence in the gaming rooms.
But the most effective restriction of all is likely to be the control exercised over sources of profit. This is dealt with in Clauses 13–15. The profits to be allowed on any game—whether by table charges, a levy on stakes or winnings, or advantages in a bank held on the club's behalf—will be governed entirely by regulations made on the Gaming Board's advice. I do not intend to anticipate what that advice may be.
Some have suggested that, in the interests of certainty, the Bill should directly prohibit games of unequal chance and that the control of permitted games should not be left to be dealt with in regulations. I am sorry about the uncertainty; but I feel sure that this course would be wrong. Our object is not to pass a judgment on different kinds of games as such, but to regulate the manner in which profits may lawfully be made.
It is of the greatest importance that we should reach the right answer here, and the considerations need to be studied in depth by people expert enough and properly equipped to do so. It is equally important that we should impose the control, not directly by an Act, whose amendment could not keep pace with possible future evasion, but by regulations which can. What I intend is that excessive profits will be eliminated to allow a fair commercial return to be obtained but no more, and by methods that do not put undue pressures on the players.
In cutting back gaming I intend also thoroughly to purge it. Under Schedule 2 no one will be allowed a licence unless the justices are satisfied on evidence by police, Gaming Board or others, that he is a trustworthy person and—this is most important—that his financial sponsors, whoever they may be, are equally trustworthy and of good repute. Under Clause 20, all gaming operatives, managers and supervisors will be individually certified by the Board in respect of each separate employment. I propose here that some relaxation should be introduced for the bingo clubs—I cannot think of usherettes as potential agents of sinister underground influences, though they may have other attractions—but for no others.
Clause 17 prohibits credit for gaming in any form; whether by funding players in advance by loans, redeeming their debts to other players, or allowing their losses to stand on account. To supplement this ban—and indeed to reinforce it—the Bill will permit cheques to be accepted to obtain chips or other means for gaming. They must be presented immediately, and the clubs will be allowed to sue on them. By these means we hope to restrict the worst temptations to excess and, at the same time, to remove the present inducements to intimidation and blackmail.
I cannot take that from the right hon. and learned Gentleman. I promise him that that is not what is intended. The Bill has been carefully drafted. He may be right. He will have an opportunity to prove his point in Committee. If he is proved right, I promise him that I will accept an Amendment immediately.
So much for the gaming clubs. But almost equally serious problems have arisen over the gaming machines, which are dealt with in Part III of the Bill. Here I go first to the root of the abuses by dealing with the supply of the machines. Clause 26 will require all retailers of machines—of whatever kind—to be certi- fied by the Gaming Board as fit and proper to act in this capacity. Clause 27 forbids any form of contract which relates hiring or other charges to the machine's profits. And in case ways are found around this, or other abuses develop, there is a general power to impose further conditions by regulation.
The use of gaming machines proper is to be strictly confined by Clause 28 to clubs which are licensed or registered for general gaming, or to genuine members' clubs or miners' welfare institutes which are specially registered for the use of machines alone. In every case, therefore, there will be a proper authorisation, which may be withdrawn if abuses are detected. But I recognise that the number of genuine members' clubs which may want to be registered for machines without providing other forms of gaming may run into many hundreds; and for their convenience, and to prevent too great a load being placed on the control system, Schedules 7 and 8 provide a specially simplified procedure for their use.
Clause 29 not only maintains the present restriction on the number of gaming machines used on any gaming premises to two, but also strengthens the present restrictions. In particular, while jackpots have been unlimited, Clause 29 confers power to impose a limit, and requires that all machines should state clearly the amounts of the prizes and —most importantly—the minimum percentage pay-out. In the licensed commercial clubs there will be power, in addition, to prescribe a minimum percentage, and the setting of the machines will be liable at any time to be tested by the police or Gaming Board Inspectors. Finally, under Clause 34, the machines may be emptied only by the club authorities or employees, not by the retailers, and the use of particular types of machine may be prohibited or restricted. And under Clause 35 full accounts will be required of all payments and takings. In the licensed clubs these will be open to inspection on the premises, and other clubs will have to produce them on demand either to the Gaming Board or the police.
In dealing with machines used for amusements with prizes, the main object of the Bill is to strengthen the discretion of the local authorities to refuse permits, or to limit the number of machines permitted to premises which are not amusement places in any proper sense. The present strict limits on stakes and on the prizes offered by amusement machines are retained under Clause 32; to allow the necessary flexibility, there will be power to vary them by order.
Now that my right hon. Friend is no longer at the Treasury, will he also consider, in conjunction with his right hon. Friend the present Chancellor, the further sanctions which ought to be imposed on one-armed bandit machines, particularly the electrical varieties, which have given rise to great criticism? In the opinion of many people, the present scale of taxation on these machines, many of which to my knowledge are making over£40 a week clear profit, is quite derisory. They would stand very much heavier taxation which anyone with a knowledge of the subject would welcome if he was at the Treasury and looking for money in new quarters.
With the encouragement of my hon. Friend and others, I introduced the first attempt to tax these machines. Always, one must start slowly. I welcomed the revenue, but, just as I never used to anticipate my own Budget, I do not think that my right hon. Friend would thank me if I anticipated his.
As I was saying, the present strict limits on stakes and on the prizes offered by amusement machines are retained under Clause 32; to allow the necessary flexibility, there will be power to vary them by order. More important, there will be a general power under Clause 35 to prohibit or restrict the use of particular types of machine, or of tokens used where prizes in kind are played for.
I was not proposing to say anything about that now. I am sure that we shall be discussing this in Committee, and I look forward to hearing from my hon. Friend about it then.
Clause 38, which deals with noncommercial entertainments, is important. Mostly it derives from the present law and is intended to allow such activities as charitable whist or bridge drives to be held for limited prizes, and the public to be invited to them. This is something which, in 1960, the hon. Member for Isle of Thanet (Mr. Rees-Davies) called "the Vicars' Charter". He was right about a number of matters then, but seemed to think that this whole section of the Bill was a Vicars' Charter. In the light of experience, probably he would want to withdraw that phrase now. However, it is true of Clause 38.
It can also be used—and there is no reason why it should not be—by genuine members' clubs like working men's clubs and British Legion Clubs which wish to promote equal chance games, such as bingo or bridge, for the general benefit of club members. Provided the limits laid down are observed, these clubs will be saved the inconvenience and expense of registration under Part II. I intend in Committee to extend these limits. Harmless equal chance gaming in members' clubs is not something I wish to discourage; I see no reason why these activities should be driven into commercial channels; and I am anxious to take what load I can off the control system. Here I can safely do so.
This is a long Bill, and a complicated one. The nature of the subject makes it so. The laws of chance are a fascinating academic study, and I dare say that we shall hear much in the course of our debates about the so-called "theory of ruin", the intricacies of particular games, and other highly technical matters. This is a thicket in which, throughout the ages and in all lands, the gaming promoters have delighted: and no doubt they have usually been able to rely, as now, on the very best mathematical and legal advice.
In the preparation of this Bill we have been at great pains to consult every type and shade of opinion, and I hope that as a result the House will agree that we have a sound and defensible policy. This Bill will enable the flexibility of the commercial operators to be matched with an even greater flexibility of our own; to dictate Parliament's terms on which their activities are to be permitted; and to set against their special knowledge the accumulated wisdom and experience of a Gaming Board wholly concerned with this subject. The Bill merits—and I shall welcome—close scrutiny in Committee.
I shall be ready to listen to the experience and opinion of any hon. Member who can help to strengthen the bill—it may sort out the sheep from the goats—and will he prepared to make amendments which support its general purpose.
To the ordinary citizen, who never comes up against these matters in the way that some of us have been brought up against them, and as I have during the last two months, it may seem a far cry from the fruit machine in his club to robbery and violence and protection rackets, or from his local game of bingo to blackmail and even murder. Frequently there is no such link, but there can be a link, and in some cases such a link exists already. I am determined to see that this link is broken and that undesirable men, whether British or foreign, are kept out of these activities as far as is humanly possible.
Gaming is a human weakness that has persisted through the centuries. It has never been stamped out. Like most other vices it does little harm in moderation. But in its nature it cannot remain uncontrolled in any circumstances. Either the State draws up strict rules for enforcement and makes sure that they work, or, if Parliament fails to do so, gaming will in due course fall under the influence of evil men, criminals and blackmailers.
I have chosen the first course, that is legal control rather than illegal extortion; and I commend the Bill to the House.
No one listening to the right hon. Gentleman's denunciations in the earlier part of his speech would have fully appreciated that the Bill is warmly supported by the Casino Association. As the Dispatch Box began more and more to resemble a pulpit I began to feel more and more out of place. That only goes to show that this is a very highly complex and highly controversial subject. It is a very highly complex and, to my mind, an extremely controversial Bill. Unhappily, I should vote for it if it came to a Division, which will, I fear, inhibit my criticism of it.
About 18 months ago I was prevailed upon by my colleagues in the Shadow Cabinet to advise about what our policy should be. I must admit that, although I produced proposals less precise in detail and differing in several important respects from those of the right hon. Gentleman, I proposed a solution which, in principle, was indistinguishable from that which has emerged from the Government machine. I should be less than honest, therefore, if I did not say that I supported the Bill.
However, I differ with a good deal of the speech which introduced it. I thought the speech was lacking in some respects in the clarity of thought for which this subject calls. I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman for having stuck to his guns. For one ghastly moment it appeared from the Press, and, from his opening remarks, I thought, that he was rather coyly disposed to admit in public, that the decision of the Court of Appeal in ex parte Blackburn led the right hon. Gentleman to suppose that the Bill had no longer any purpose.
I thought, with respect, that he was unduly complimentary to the Court of Appeal. I would be out of order in exploring that at any length at this stage. I was glad that the Master of the Rolls had put him in possession of the quotation from Blackstone. Personally, I draw the opposite conclusion from that quotation to that of the Master of the Rolls in his judgment, but that, again, would lead me too far from the present subject to be within the rules of order.
However, it is for all of us to declare our prejudices about this highly emotionally charged subject and to think clearly about our social objectives. There are three broad moral attitudes which can be adopted towards gambling. At one extreme there are the people who think that it is a harmless amusement—irrational perhaps, but, after all, so are football and golf—when pursued on however great a scale. That I describe as the permissive attitude towards gambling.
At the other end of the scale there are those who denounce it as intrinsically immoral, at least as bad as theft and possibly adultery, and explain its omission from the Ten Commandments only by an unaccountable defect in Parliamentary draftsmanship some years ago on Mount Sinai.
I take an intermediate position. I regard gambling as wholly irrational and I would encourage none of mine to play any part in it on any substantial scale. But I am distinctly pessimistic about the ability of Parliament to make people good by Statute. I have sometimes noticed that where attempts have been made to do so or to deviate too widely from the generally adopted standards of the community, evils and anomalies are created rather worse than the harm that the activity would have created if left to itself. I therefore have absolutely no doubt in my mind about my social objectives in any gaming legislation.
I do not want to make people good and I despair of making them rational. But I do want to eliminate criminality, by which I mean dishonest play, strong-arm methods of enforcement, and protection rackets. And, secondly, and the right hon. Gentleman alluded to a constituency interest of mine, I want to eliminate public nuisance, by which I mean any conduct by gaming establishments which gives rise to reasonable complaints from neighbours, and the location of gaming establishments where they cause local resentment. If we are clearly and flat-footedly determined about those social objectives there is a reasonable chance that in this Bill we shall get a suitable legislative instrument to achieve them.
But let nobody misunderstand—I think many people listening to the right hon. Gentleman will have misunderstood—the radical change in objective not merely of control, but in social objective that the right hon. Gentleman's legislation has to the Conservative legislation of 1960, because it is extremely pertinent to discussion of the Bill in principle, which, after all, is what we are concerned with on Second Reading. I ought to underline that difference and also describe in a little more detail why the legislation of 1960 went wrong.
The object of this Bill, and certainly the effect of it, however it may have been concealed beneath the words of the right hon. Gentleman's speech, is to legalise commercial gambling. This is what the right hon. Gentleman is about, and it is precisely the opposite of the objective of our legislation of 1960, which the right hon. Gentleman was good enough to describe as well intentioned. If this legislation is well intentioned—and I am disposed to think that it is—our own was misguided in object as well as in method.
The object of our legislation was to suppress commercial gambling, and I want, in a few words, to discuss exactly how we arrived at the legislative position set out in the Bill. Broadly speaking, the Victorians, whose legislation survived in the main until 1960, prohibited all forms of gaming—not betting, but gaming. Although it is customary to deride the Victorians as mere Puritans or religious fanatics, the reason they prohibited it was neither Puritanism nor religious fanaticism, but experience of the effect of widespread gaming in the early part of the nineteenth, and back into the eighteenth, century, superimposed on a society in which there was no sort of social security. Their experience led them to prohibit it altogether.
By about 1960 we had reached the point where we had both a fully equipped Welfare State, and a fully employed society, and one in which the social conscience no longer condemned gaming as a matter of experience. We were driven, and in my view rightly, to the view that if we were to continue the almost total prohibition imposed by the Victorian legislation, we should in the end succeed in corrupting the police, and putting the law into derision. Mr. Butler's legislation was, therefore, introduced. Its object was to permit small-time gambling, poetically and romatically described as the vicar's charter, but to prevent commercial exploitation.
As the right hon. and learned Gentleman has referred to the then Home Secretary by name, Lord Butler as he is now, I think that it ought to be put on record as a warning to all future Home Secretaries that when the 1960 Bill was going through the Committee upstairs, for about four months, when I suffered greatly during the debates, and often took part in them, Lord Butler never put in an appearance. He completely dodged his responsibilities. I hope that any future Home Secretary, faced with a social problem like this, will accept the responsibility of being present and giving a personal account of his responsibility to the House and to the Committee.
I take the reference to future Home Secretaries as a personal compliment. But perhaps I might re-engage my argument at the point at which the hon. Gentleman rightly intervened.
I was about to say that it is vital to understand why that legislation failed. I have already said that I think the objective was misguided. I think that the right hon. Gentleman, with the benefit of eight years' further experience, is right to legalise commercial gambling, but that Measure failed for reasons quite unconnected with its objective.
It failed for three reasons. The first was that, in our belief that we were prohibiting commercial gambling, we paid altogether too little attention to the honesty and background of those who would engage in it. The result is that a number of clubs have grown up—for reasons which I am about to give—which represent doubtful money, doubtful personalities, and doubtful methods. I applaud what the right hon. Gentleman said about the importance of excluding them from practising in this otherwise lucrative field. I shall shortly say something about methods.
The second reason why our 1960 legislation failed was the entirely unrealistic, contradictory, and as it afterwards turned out as a result of decisions in the House of Lords, erroneous, decisions of the courts. So far from applauding the Master of the Rolls, I rubbed my eyes when I heard him laying into the police, the lawyers, the casino association, and even Parliament itself. It never seemed to have crossed his innocent mind that the people who were most responsible for the failure of the 1960 legislation were the judges. L et them be a little more careful next time.
I was not seeking to criticise them so much as to point out they had subsequently been reversed by the House of Lords, which is undeniable.
All I am saying is that the two main reasons why the 1960 legislation failed is that when we prohibited games of unequal chance, by which we did not simply mean but which we meant to include, roulette, it never crossed our minds that for years the courts would hold that games of unequal chance were not unequal if the inequality passed round the table. It did not cross our minds—I do not know that it should have done —because the House of Lords has said that we were right.
Secondly, it gave us a certain amount of surprise when, having provided a maximum charge per session, we found that the courts permitted that same maximum charge to be a charge per shoe. It is possible to interpret the words "shoe" and "session" as meaning the same thing, and in view of your Ruling, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I shall not pursue that matter further. But the combination of the two sets of decisions was such that the whole framework of our 1960 legislation fell into ruins, and, as a result, the third factor, to which the right hon. Gentleman rightly drew attention, the element of criminality, thus licensed by the decisions of the courts, crept in. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that, whatever ex parte Blackburn may have decided, or not decided, it was urgently necessary for Parliament to step in and to legislate.
Assuming that these are our social objectives, how are we to achieve them? Broadly speaking, there are two alternative avenues down which we could go. The first, which was that at first explored by the right hon. Gentleman's predecessor, and which I would have opposed, but from which I think he resiled at the end, was to define in law what was legal, and what was illegal, and leave enforcement to the police, and interpretation to the courts. That road seems doomed from the start to disaster.
It is that which I draw as the real moral from what Blackstone said in the quotation rehearsed to us by the right hon. Gentleman. It is no good bleating about lawyers seeing how they can advise their clients to get a move in front of the law. The lawyer's motto as regards Acts of Parliament is and must be:
The spirit killeth, the letter giveth life.
After all, Acts of Parliament are made up of letters and the spirit is buried between the mounds of the HANSARD reports, which judges rightly refuse to look at when asked to interpret what we have done.
So long as one attempts to achieve by Act of Parliament in a field of this kind a watertight piece of legislation, so long will the gun always beat the armour. It was precisely for that reason that I applauded the right hon. Gentleman's predecessor when I learned that he had given second consideration to his proposal and decided in favour of the system or structure which appears in the present Bill.
This turns its back—rather too halfheartedly, but it still turns its back—on the hope that, in the battle between the gun and the armour, the armour will ever win, and it adopts a system of administrative control through a sort of statutory Jockey Club, with the additional safeguard, not wholly neatly embedded in it, of the licensing justices, whose jurisdiction has been built up on the analogy of the ordinary licensing system for the betting shops and the sale of alcoholic liquor. That is what the Bill does, and I think that it is right.
Obviously, one advocates with much hesitation a system of administrative control imposed by Parliament on a large economic activity. But I see no way out except total prohibition, and the effect of that would undoubtedly be the corruption and the disregard of the law, which is precisely what we feared in 1960—
I do not like speaking when I am seated, so I am grateful that the right hon. and learned Gentleman has given way. He used a phrase which I thought was a misuse of language—something which he regards as a serious offence—when he referred to interference with an "economic activity." I have always believed that gambling in any form is uneconomic, because it adds nothing to the country's economic wealth. It is a shame, therefore, that he should use such loose phrases.
Uneconomic activities are included by economic activities in the sense in which I intended the phrase. They are certainly not uneconomic from some people's point of view. But the punter is a mug and always will be.
Administrative control through a system of licensing is the only way out of this morass, and the Government have taken it. For that reason, if anyone divides against the Bill, which I do not expect, I will certainly vote in favour of it.
Before I leave this aspect of the matter, I would like to praise the Bill in one other controversial respect. I know that it is controversial, because—I can reveal this now without a breach of confidence —the late Sir John Hobson took a very different view from that which I am now expressing. The right hon. Gentleman is repealing, or at any rate amending, the Statute of Anne so as to allow cheques for chips to be sued on in a court of law, subject to certain safeguards. This is a very controversial decision. It is perhaps a misfortune that I agree with it, but the House should realise that it is controversial.
The reason that I agree with it, and also applaud the fact that the right hon. Gentleman has not gone on to make gambling debts recoverable, which would have been a great mistake, is that precisely the absence of the power to sue on cheques for chips is one of the very elements in the law which has encouraged strong-arm methods of enforcement. Let no one believe that these are either rare or confined to disreputable "joints". Again, I could give instances, but in this case I do not consider myself free to do so. Some of the most reputable and best-run gambling clubs in London have used strong arm methods of enforcement. It is high time that we gave a legitimate means of recovering cheques for chips, because I believe that that will reduce the possibility of this continuing—
They ought not to, ever; I agree that the hon. Member has a debating point. But I will not debate it at any length, because I think that I made myself plain and I do not propose to develop it—[Interruption.] I accept the explanation of the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget).
I want now to criticise some of the provisions in Part II and Part III. On the former, I will confine myself to a broad criticism rather than the kind of criticism of detail which would be more appropriate to a later stage. Having concluded that he would create a statutory Jockey Club, and having handed over both Part II, dealing with the licensed and registered clubs and their servants and Part III, which deals with the machines, to the statutory Jockey Club, the right hon. Gentleman should have put less into the Bill. The quantity of drafting material in the Bill is unnecessarily long and complex. Subject to a general power of direction by the Home Secretary, and, of course, his right of appointment and dismissal of the members of the Board, I think that he should have put a great deal less into the Bill.
For instance, under Clause 21(2,b), he can make Regulations
for preventing the use of any indirect means for doing anything which, if done directly, would be a contravention of this Part of this Act‥
Why cart he not leave that to the Gaming Board, under his general supervision and direction? Why must he clutter up an Act of Parliament with stuff like this?
My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Chertsey (Sir L. Heald)—I am always glad to catch Homer nodding—. mistook the meaning of Clause 20(2,a)—
Yes, mistook it, because it is intended only to prevent an employee of the club from playing.
I do not blame him, but surely all that could be put into the instructions to the Gaming Board, bearing in mind that, under Part III, the same criticism applies to even greater effect. Suppose that one considers the power of the Home Secretary, and not the Board, to regulate the terms and conditions of the contract under which the machines are supplied. This is an unusual prohibition, to write a contract between two parties, which is not often found in our law. Why can it not be left to the Gaming Board, under his general supervision, to do it? I am sure that I do not know.
This brings me to Part III of the Bill which, again, I do not quarrel with in principle. I believe that it was an hon. Member from one of the Sunderland constituencies who, with a group of Labour Members, made a study of fruit machines. I think that it is very largely the result of their study that has produced Part III. There is no doubt whatever that they were dealing with a genuine racket, a genuine form of criminality. There was strong evidence that in London and other parts of the country, notably the North-East, people were offering gaming machines in return for blackmail and were kind enough to offer to empty the machines for the club proprietor.
I cannot believe, however, that once we have set up a "jockey club" as the controlling authority for this kind of gaming, all this elaboration is necessary. The House will give the right hon. Gentleman support in stamping out rackets of this kind, but, simply as a matter of draftsmanship, I think that he has put too much into Part II and Part III of the Bill.
I make another point which I think is more than a Committee point, although the House will readily think that it is a very small one. It is one which, in another connection, I drew to the attention of the right hon. Gentleman's precedessor when discussing another piece of legislation. One Home Secretary after another from either political party in the House from time to time says, "We want to empty the prisons. We want to abolish short terms of imprisonment ". They say that terms of imprisonment under six months are not much good anyway. Why do they not act as if they meant it?
Each of the Parts I, II and III of the Bill make an offence punishable on summary prosecution by a magistrates' court with three months' imprisonment. It is ridiculous. If one thinks the offence deserves imprisonment, one ought to go by indictment and the monetary penalties and other types of enforcement before a magistrates' court. If the Home Secretaries mean what they say they must practise what they preach. In one Act of Parliament after another introduced by Home Secretaries and Ministers of other Departments, this little bit about three months' imprisonment reappears simply because the ancient, dusty precedents of Civil Service files suggest that it is an appropriate thing to say in a Bill. Let the Home Secretary reconsider these matters and deal with them.
It is always difficult to make a speech in agreement with a Minister of the Crown. This is another of those beastly Bills that I have got to support. I do so with reluctance, but without equivocation. I hope that the House will forgive me on this occasion, because I shall try to see to it that it will happen only very seldom in the future.
I give my support to this Bill because I am quite convinced that it represents a determined attempt by the Government to sort out once and for all the mass of muddled legislation arising from the Betting and Gaming Act, 1960. There is no doubt that the proposals for a tighter control on casino type gaming will be welcomed by the legitimate owners of the major casinos. However, when the Bill goes to Committee I should like my right hon. Friend to consider whether it is desirable to force licensed clubs to concentrate exclusively on gaming, for in many clubs gaming is not the main business.
I think my right hon. Friend has been governed in his thinking by too much concentration on the metropolitan area and with probably a little less on the provinces. Speaking from experience as a North-East Member, I know many clubs where gaming is the lesser of the entertainment provided. Many people attend those clubs principally to listen to and see first-class entertainers. This distinction will have to be argued a little more clearly in Committee.
I am also pleased that the background of the people owning clubs will be investigated before a licence is given. As the right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg) said, there are some disreputable people in the business. I am quite sure he knows many of them and their backgrounds. There should also be some exemption to the 48 hour rule as contained in Clause 12 (2). That rule should be relaxed, particularly in relation to casinos. Many visitors come to Britain and participate in casino-type gaming. Whether we like it or not, they help to bring currency into the country.
The Home Secretary suggested that he would be easing the rules about registration for bingo. I am pleased that this question will be considered in detail in Committee. The provisions for genuine members' clubs appear to be reasonable, but I should like to see an easement of the£20 maximum amount paid out for bingo in registered clubs. It is a good thing that we should ease that situation, because such clubs operate on a nonprofit basis and the money accruing from their activities is generally used for the benefit of the members concerned. It also enables them to compete on equal terms with larger organisations. Those larger organisations, let us be quite blunt, make a considerable private gain. More of this money should be diverted to members of registered clubs.
The proposals in Part III go a long way to meet the wishes of my hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, South (Mr. Bagier). He deserves great credit for the long and arduous campaign he fought to eliminate many of the worst evils of this filthy racket. As the Home Secretary said, it culminated in murders in the North-East. This legislation should eliminate the evils connected with the supply and sale of one-armed bandits.
I welcome the proposals to make manufacturers and retailers register. This is very important, because the new methods of specifying who the suppliers and retailers are should help to eliminate some of the worst aspects of gaming, particularly the proposals to name and register those who empty the machines. This should eliminate the petty corruption that has been the practice in many working men's clubs.
I endorse the Bill. I think it is a good Bill. The Home Secretary should receive the full support of the House in introducing it. I commend him for the forthright and clear manner in which he moved the Second Reading. Most of us welcome the Bill as a legitimate attempt to control one of our less desirable social activities.
Like my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg), I support the general approach of the Bill, although I feel that at the start some condolences to the Home Secretary may not be out of place. Sometimes Government Departments propose Measures and Ministers respond joyously. On other occasions Ministers respond with a heavy heart. I have little doubt of the Home Secretary's reaction to some parts of this Measure. This will be a very troublesome piece of legislation, and I share my right hon. and learned Friend's view that it is unnecessarily long. It is certainly very complex and, in some places, prolix.
I find it difficult to judge the Bill without considering our earlier methods of handling this matter, certainly in the last decade. We are all ready on these occasions to point out with hindsight where there can be shown to have been a lack of wisdom, foresight and prescience. It is all too easy to point out now what might have been done when the 1960 Act was being discussed. I am not particularly concerned with this sort of hindsight today but I would like to feel that our past experiences enable us to build something better and more durable from them. It is against that background that we must test the Bill.
Having re-read the greater part of the debates which took place 10 years ago, I agree that certain remarks were made at that time which now make melancholy reading. The Home Secretary of the day, the then Mr. Butler, felt that we were offering a code of legislation on gambling that was suitable to the forms of our society in the second half of the twentieh century. Some of the melancholy reflections one has on re-reading those debates—I include my own speeches of the time—reveal that we were indeed often wide of the mark. It is clear that we may have gone very much too far in one direction. My fear, on reading this Measure and on listening to the Home Secretary, is that we might now be tempted to go too far in another direction.
Our earlier legislation was designed to try to regulate gaming— which, to an extent, it did—and to ensure that a little more money went into horse racing—which, largely, it failed to do. It is worth noting that while some now estimate that about£1,000 million is going on betting, that earlier Measure has failed to achieve for the racing industry more than a fraction of what we then hoped would be fulfilled. However, the 1960 Act had one advantage to which reference has not so far been made. It resulted from some profound thinking on this subject by Lord Willink's Royal Commission. It is worth recalling some of the important principles on which that Commission sought to rest the ethical code on which it thought we should judge legislation in this sphere.
The first principle the Commission laid down was that the main evil lay in immoderate gambling and that it was in that respect that the chief responsibility of the State arose. That was also the view of the 1932 Royal Commission. Lord Willink's Report stated:
The aim of the State should be to prohibit or restrain facilities, and only such facilities, as can be shown to have evil social consequences.
The second great principle on which the Willink Report rested was that the criminal law should not be lightly invoked and that the evil resulting from prohibitions must always be measured alongside the evils which the legislation is seeking to curb. I suggest that these are not unfair criteria on which to judge the Bill before us.
It was the second principle which lay as much as anything else behind the changes we made a decade ago. The results of trying to stop street betting, for example, were that in one year alone 4,000 arrests were made in the streets of London. That was certainly worse, in terms of police morale, than street betting itself. It is, therefore, advisable to recall some of these principles on which the Willink Commission worked.
Consider their point on the serious social consequences of immoderate gambling. I hope that the Home Secretary will agree that this is a subject on which we are woefully ill-informed. I noted the lamentations with which the right hon. Gentleman began his speech. They were sweeping and disturbing. Yet I question whether we have any profound information about the spread and consequences of social gambling on the scale he described. Our main source of this information in the last few years has been the Churches Council on Gambling, and all hon. Members will wish to pay tribute to the work done by that Council. However, its evidence is, alas, not accepted everywhere as being reliable or authentic.
It is not clear from the Bill or from what the right hon. Gentleman said how we are to supplement our knowledge, and I think it is important that we should. We should, from now on, be able to get continuous information about the extent of gambling, the amount being spent and some of the social evil consequences that may ensue. If we are to act sensibly and, as the Home Secretary observed, flexibly, we must have more base information, preferably over the whole sphere.
In the light of the Royal Commission's thinking, we must also ask the question: what is excessive gambling? Certainly in the collective sense, the 1960 Act manifestly failed there. There was an estimate—I tend to mistrust large estimates of this kind—that the total extent of gambling was in 1960£750 million. A corresponding estimate now puts it in the region of£2,000 million, of which horse betting probably accounts for about a half. Even allowing for a change in money values, that is a considerable increase over the last few years. I accept from the Home Secretary that this is not only excessive but is, in some cases, inspired or assisted by a criminal element. I will return to this subject when dealing with some of the proposals for cities outside London.
The second criterion of the Royal Commission really means enforcement. We are today smothered with laws which are designed to meet social susceptibilities and attitudes, and these laws are not being properly enforced. I am sure that the Home Secretary has in mind the need to avoid repeating that state of affairs with a Measure of this kind. In Committee, every Clause of the Bill will have to be rigidly judged against the standard of enforcement.
I think that it is possible to declare and enforce where gambling shall and shall not take place, when it shall take place and who shall conduct it. All of that seems well within the realm of enforcibility. However, I am also convinced that eventually it will prove difficult, if not impossible, to declare and enforce how games of chance, gaming, shall be played. It is in this direction that, certainly in law, matters of great importance arise—although I hesitate to compare some recent judgments with the earlier problem of how many angels may or may not dance on the point of a needle. However important it appears to the law, in terms of enforcement, and I fear that some of the niceties which have been under discussion will be out of reach.
We do not seek to control bookmakers' odds, and I question if we will find it easy to control odds and matters of that kind in the general sphere of gaming. The proposed Board will have enough to do. There must not be a person aged below 18 on the premises, there must not be unsuitable premises, nobody must play who has not been a member of the club for less than 48 hours, there cannot be a guest except a bona fide guest, there must not be loans to gamblers, no post-dated cheques must be taken, there must be no gambling after 3 a.m. on Sunday mornings in London and after 2 a.m. in other parts of the country, rules must be displayed, records kept and a host of other regulations which I will not now quote. These are not small duties for the Board and its staff, even as described by the Home Secretary, to enforce. All that can, just, be kept within the realm of enforcement. But when it comes to methods, I beg the right hon. Gentleman to bear in mind the precepts laid down by the earlier Royal Commission.
My second main point is that we shall have to make up our minds, certainly when we consider the Bill in Committee, whether we consider the industry to be, broadly speaking, in the hands of rogues or honest men. The English have a disposition to believe that activities of which they disapprove are almost certainly conducted by ruffians. I do not believe that this is altogether true. Like a number of other hon. Members, I have encountered some of the principal characters involved over the course of months, and I am left with the impression that a great part of the industry, outside the criminal elements mentioned by the Home Secretary, is in the hands of fairly straightforward men. What profits they may be making does not immediately bear on their straightforwardness. They are not unaware that they must always depend heavily on the goodwill of their customers. If they conduct themselves in the manner in which it is sometimes popular to describe gambling in this country they will lose that goodwill and to that extent their business.
When the Home Secretary seeks, as we all do, to get the criminal element out
of gambling, we must not disdain an alliance with some of the principal operators. We must put some faith in their judgment and good sense. If we dismiss all concerned in the industry as lacking in trust and reliance, we shall, however carefully we enforce, run into great difficulties. We may also get ourselves drawn into making value judgments in the political sense on the way in which games are conducted and so on, value judgments which will be very difficult to enforce. To quote the Royal Commission again:
…the object of gambling legislation should be to interfere as little as possible with individual liberty to take part in the various forms of gambling but to impose such restrictions as are desirable and practicable to discourage or prevent excess.
This will be difficult without a degree of co-operation with those who are established in the industry who are of good faith, good character and good repute.
I want to make only three other short points. The first concerns bingo, for which I perceive that the Home Secretary has a soft spot, as I think most of us have. I am sure that in making the changes he proposes he will bear in mind that no other form of gambling must take place where bingo is played. It must be rigidly excluded from places where bingo is played. An interesting case in the provinces came to my attention not long ago. A bingo club was raided by the local police, and of 716 people found there, 708 were women. All were delighted to see the police and all offered to give evidence. They all felt that the raid by the police had saved them from themselves. A roulette wheel had been introduced and a great number of the bingo players were being involuntarily drawn to it. That offers some insight as to what can happen in bingo establishments where larger and perhaps more dangerous temptations may be offered.
Second, I am sure that the Home Secretary is seized of the fact that gambling is not, as many other social problems are, concentrated in London. Cities such as Manchester, Liverpool and Birmingham—other hon. Members could name some more—have gambling facilities every bit as extensive in relation to population as—indeed, in some cases more extensive than—the metropolitan area. Hon. Members must not take umbrage at what I am about to say, but I am inclined to think that in some of the provincial cities the criminal element is perhaps a little stronger than it is in metropolitan London.
I support the Home Secretary on the question of the criminal element. I have here some notes I made of what a chief constable told me not long ago. I do not propose to name him or his city. He said that the gaming clubs in his city were a haven for prostitutes and criminals and tended to keep the city awake all night. Crime was committed frequently in order to get the wherewithal for gambling. Hot money was exchanged. The places tended to become the resort of the criminal. It was not uncommon to find prostitutes gambling and then giving money to ponces in order to gamble themselves. That set-up, producing the vicious circle which the Chief Constable described, is not unfamiliar in some of the larger cities. Therefore, enforcement would be a national and not simply a London problem.
It remains for the Committee to decide whether the Home Secretary is right in his estimate of the resources which will be needed to carry through enforcement under Parts II and III. I hope with all my heart that we can keep the police as far out of the task of enforcement as possible. The more I consider the structure of the Bill, the more it seems to me a job for specialist inspectors, not policemen. The Under-Secretary shakes tits head, but I think that it is not fair even to a policeman to require of him the kind of judgment which the professional inspectorate will need to exercise in enforcing parts of the Bill. Finally, I question whether it makes sense to apply enforcement machinery piecemeal to different parts of the gambling industry. There is a good deal to be said for the proposal put forward by Mr. Norman Fowler, who knows a good deal about this, for a national gambling authority with powers of surveillance over the whole field. In his view, this would include racing, pools, gaming and bingo. As the Home Secretary knows, there is an inter-relationship between them all.
The evils which trouble the Royal Commission and now trouble the Home Secretary are to an extent inseparable. This is the moment to ask whether we are to have one system of supervision for betting shops and another for gaming clubs. If the main objective is, as it should be and is, to keep the criminal out of this business, there is a great deal to be said for much more comprehensive arrangements than the Bill envisages.
In support of the Bill, my modest advice to the Home Secretary is two-fold. In terms of enforcement, I hope that he will limit his own stake and not ante up more than he can cover with the means of enforcement under his hand; and in terms of what I think is now one single industry of gaming and gambling, I hope that he may consider eventually enlarging his playing circle.
Piecemeal administration leads to piecemeal legislation. It has been piecemeal legislation, certainly over the past 10 or 12 years, in which both public and private enterprise in this House have played their part, that has led us into the confusion from which we are now suffering. That is one of the lessons of which we should take note when considering this Bill.
I would like first to express my support to the Home Secretary on what I consider to be a very good Bill and to compliment him on his realistic approach to the problem of gambling. I do not think it does any good to moralise and to indulge in tut-tutting about gambling. There is a temptation in this House to do so, but whether we like it or not gambling exists and people will continue to gamble. I share the view of the right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg) that there is a midway line to be drawn between those who think gambling is essentially evil and immoral and those who think it is uplifting. I fall midway. Gambling leaves me cold, but nonetheless I accept the fact that no legislation in the world, however finely drawn or delicately defined, will stop people from gambling.
To take a recent example, when the foot-and-mouth epidemic recently stopped horse-racing people got such itchy fingers after a week or so that they found themselves betting on computer racing. There is in the British people a gambling itch, and I think the Home Secretary is quite right to recognise it. I do not think it is any more immoral or evil or antisocial to bet on roulette than on bingo or horse racing. I do not think it is any more immoral for a rich man to put£500 on a horse or on a roulette wheel if he can afford it than for the poor man to put 2s. 6d. on bingo if he can afford it. There is a lot of cant and hypocrisy talked about gambling.
The Home Secretary is also right when he says that gambling has grown in recent years. The figures are indisputable. The reason it has grown is that the 1960 Act, in its innocence, did not envisage that casino operators would not just provide a service which did not exist before but somehow, and understandably, that they would want to make a profit out of it.
I do not think it has grown to anything like the same extent as casino gambling. One of the reasons is that courts and others have been more obsessed with trying to cut out the profit motive in gambling than being concerned with where the profits go to. One of the measures in this Bill which I applaud —and I hope it works—is that the vetting system will be sufficient to ensure that not only do we know that the people who are running the club in name are honest and respectable, but that the people who are behind the club and financing it and who do not appear in public are not themselves gangsters or crooks or have evil connections. This is indeed going to be difficult to enforce.
I have been to casinos, mainly in the course of trying to find out what goes on there, and I am always met by a gentleman—usually with a double-barrelled name—the front man, who is perhaps the secretary of the club and may well be very respectable. I do not know, incidentally, why it is considered that a double-barrelled name is the ultimate of respectability. One asks, "Have you had visits from protection racketeers or had gangsters here?" We ask this in our innocence and they answer, "My dear fellow, of course not. We would know one as soon as we saw him". A month later one reads that someone whose name one has never heard—who has not a double-barrelled name but one that is probably unpronounceable—is about to be deported for running that particular club. I think we are a little naive when dealing with people who run clubs.
I am therefore particularly glad to hear my right hon. Friend say that we are going to employ inspectors who are experts in this field. One of the most disreputable aspects about gambling over the: last two or three years has been the constant evasion by the clubs of the regulations—the 1960 Act. First of all they tried to evade it by passing the bank round. Then it was discovered that no one would take a bank for a short period. Then they tried to evade it by giving out coloured chips and asking the customer to operate a voluntary levy, but that did not work very well.
The same is true of bingo. My right hon. Friend talks quite gently about bingo, and I agree with him, but very often attempts have been made to get round the regulations. There is long distance bingo; postal bingo; bingo in which sums can be placed in the Isle of Man. Soon we will have bingo on ice.
I ask my right hon. Friend whether he thinks the regulations in this Act will be successful in not only ensuring that the people who run clubs are honest and respectable, but that the games are run honestly and according to a proper set of rules. The least important thing we should concern ourselves with is how much profit the club makes —apart from ensuring that we tax it heavily.
A different situation exists in some of the clubs in the North of England, particularly in Lancashire, from London. For a very small admission charge one can go into a club in Lancashire, have a drink and watch a good cabaret—and I do not mean strip—without ever going into the casino upstairs. About 90 per cent. of people will watch the cabaret and 10 per cent. or less will go upstairs to gamble. I am told that the clubs are unable to provide top class entertainment cabaret without having the tables from which to finance it. I think it is true to say that this form of Saturday night out is not confined to compulsive gamblers. It is now part of the social scene. I ask my right hon. Friend to be careful to ensure that an honest and respectable Saturday night out is not stopped because of what gangsters are doing in London. I am sure he will see that he gets the balance right.
I am pleased also that the Bill deals with advertising. There is something particularly bad and offensive and misleading about the advertisements appearing in newspapers inviting one to go to this or that club. They are usually in very garish terms. They somehow suggest that one will have a James Bond-ish existence in the club, that one will get something for nothing. The one thing of which one can be sure, whether one gets a good meal or a good cabaret or not, is that one will not get something for nothing. I am therefore glad that the Bill seeks to deal, not only with what is offensive or vulgar, but also with what is misleading and frequently dishonest.
I am glad also that clubs will be able to enforce at law cheques which are given in exchange for chips. I would like to see this extended. I do not see why cheques for all forms of gaming should not be enforceable at law. Unless we regularise the matter and say, "Gaming exists. Let us accept the fact", we shall have to make a further amendment to the Act in two or three years' time. I know that my view that the Bill should be extended to provide that cheques for all forms of gaming should be enforceable at law is not a popular view, but it is one which I have long held and one which I put forward in a speech in the House which went completely unnoticed about 12 months' ago.
Finally, I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary on coming down on what I think is the right side and not trying to abolish gambling. That would inevitably have made the job of the police virtually intolerable. It would have driven gaming underground. The vices and abuses would have been even worse. I therefore hope that the Bill, imperfect as it is in some respects, and which can certainly be improved in Committee, will achieve at least the main object, which is that the criminal element which has long surrounded and corrupted gaming in this country will be done away with.
I join those on both sides of the House who have congratulated the Home Secretary upon his decision to deal with the situation as it is. He has wisely chosen not to seek to pass judgment as to whether gaming is right or wrong, but to say that it exists and that something must be done to correct the excesses and wickedness which are associated with it. It would have been wrong to have driven gaming underground and thereby to have encouraged even more lawlessness than exists at present.
I am sure that the Home Secretary has given some thought to the past history of our gaming legislation and to the reason why it has assumed the vast proportions that it has. Together with other hon. Members, I served on the Standing Committee that considered the Betting and Gaming Bill, 1960. We were then assured by Government spokesmen of great experience, aided and advised by their advisers, that under that Bill when enacted it would be impossible for gaming casinos to operate and that commercial bingo would not be allowed. The warnings which some of us uttered as to possible excesses were regarded as being stupid.
Nevertheless, we have witnessed an enormous growth of gaming, which has been allowed to continue unchecked. The failure to check the spread of gaming is a matter on which the House should be reproached. The 1960 Act clearly provided that games of unequal chance were illegal. Warnings were uttered at the time about the dire penalties which would befall those who attempted to play them. As the lawyers continually say, what matters is what is in the Act and not the speeches made by Government spokesmen amplifying their intention. However, it was well known that it was the intention not to permit commercial gaming.
Commercial gaming began. It mushroomed rapidly. It started in London. It became widespread, without any check being made. No attempt was made to enforce the law as it was thought to be. I have tabled a Question to the Home Secretary asking whether he or his predecessors in office were aware of the instruction issued by the Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis that the police should not seek to obtain evidence to prove that the law was being broken. The Question has not yet been reached. The issuing of this instruction is a very serious step. If in fact the police do not attempt to enforce the law in the Metropolis, it is not surprising that it is thought to be a respectable and proper activity for other parts of the country to engage in.
We saw the rash of casinos spreading out from London into nearly all our towns and cities. To test the law, if there was any dubiety about it, proceedings might reasonably have been taken against some of the disreputable people who are running casinos and to whom the Home Secretary has referred—not necessarily against respectable peoplè.
In my constituency proceedings were taken against people who were admitted to be of the highest character. However, merely because they ran a casino in a way which has to be contrary to the law, they were convicted and suffered criminal convictions. On the other hand, people of most doubtful character, operating vast gambling empires in London, were allowed to get away with it scot free. I apologise to the Home Secretary for raising this matter. I recently asked the Financial Secretary to the Treasury to bring this point to his attention. If it has not been brought to the right hon. Gentleman's attention, it is not my fault. Perhaps the matter can be looked into before the Minister winds up the debate.
Gaming did not exist to any material extent before the passing of the 1960 Act. It was that Act, which was intended to make the playing of games of unequal chance illegal and which was intended to prevent the opening of casinos, which has led to this great rash of casinos, in a way which only at this very late stage, by a decision of the Judicial Committee of the House of Lords, has been held to be illegal.
There is another paradox. The decision of the Judicial Committee of the House of Lords to the effect that games of unequal chance where the bank had an advantage were contrary to the law was given in the morning. In the afternoon the Home Secretary published the Bill which made that which was illegal in the morning legal in the afternoon if he could only get his legislation through in time. It was a gross injustice to my constituents that they should have been convicted in the morning of an offence which the Home Secretary made legal in the afternoon. I do not know whether the Home Secretary is thinking about a free pardon for them. I hope that he will give consideration to treating fairly those who operated what they thought was a legitimate business and who were encouraged to think that they were operating legitimately by the failure of police in London to prosecute.
Before he became Home Secretary, the right hon. Gentleman was Chancellor of the Exchequer. Whilst he was Chancellor of the Exchequer he introduced legislation to deal with casinos. He laid it down that those who operated these casinos must have a licence and pay a fee. The fees were to be£500 for the small casino,£5,000 for the larger casino, and£50,000 for the very large casino. So the right hon. Gentleman when he was Chancellor of the Exchequer obviously expected these casinos to operate at a profit. They could not have operated at a profit unless they had an advantage. Therefore, the idea that banks should have an advantage was considered to be right for the Metropolis—at any rate, the police did not bother to prosecute—and the concept that casinos should make a profit and thereby be able to pay fees of£50,000 was recognised by the right hon. Gentleman when he was Chancellor of the Exchequer. I am glad that in his translation to Home Secretary he has realised how important it is to curtail the activities of those who are making disproportionate profits out of the operation of these casinos. I wish him god-speed in his efforts.
I want to impress upon the right hon. Gentleman the vital importance to his cause of enforcement being properly carried out. There must be no shillyshallying about it as in the past. I was a little worried about licensing of the casinos by local justices, but now that the right hon. Gentleman has stated that the justices are to be advised by the National Gaming Board, I have rather more confidence.
That is my feeling. I entirely agree. It would be better if the Board did the licensing direct. I do not see the necessity for interposing local licensing justices between applicants and the Board. If an Amendment is moved in Committee to that effect, I shall be delighted, not for the first time, to support the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget).
The Bill is an attempt to correct an evil which should never have been allowed to flourish. In so far as it will achieve that objective, the Home Secretary can be assured of the support of hon. and right hon. Members on both sides of the House. I commend him on his sense in seeking to control the existing evils and not driving gaming underground, which would only intensify the activities of criminals. I congratulate him, wish him success and hope he will pay attention to some of the remarks I have addressed to him.
I welcome the Bill as far as it goes. My main concern is that we have waited so long for it. I remember asking for some form of control before the Government came to office in 1964—which means that I sought such control in about 1963. My experience in Scotland was that, after the passing of the 1960 Act, a number of clubs were opened in Edinburgh, Glasgow and in other burghs, large and small, and that no one seemed to have any control over them.
The people who became widely concerned about it rather quickly were the local authorities and the police. The local authorities found themselves with little or no powers of control at all. They could control these clubs only within the limits of the Town and Country Planning Acts and, providing there was no infringement of those Acts, the clubs could be established wherever the owners liked and the local authorities could do nothing. Clubs were established in places against the 100 per cent. opposition of the local residents and this was all wrong.
The second main difficulty arose because the police discovered very early, both in Edinburgh and elsewhere, that the majority of the clubs were being started by known criminals and those associating with them. Of course, a number of the clubs were not but most of them were. Once again, no one could do anything about it. The police had no right of entry, although they knew that these clubs were becoming the haunts of criminals, certainly in the larger places in Scotland.
The result was that both the local authorities and the Chief Constables' Association in Scotland asked for some form of licensing and I welcome the Bill because, after five years, that is what it is giving us. I agree with the right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg) that the second thoughts about how to deal with this problem are better than the first. I certainly think that his idea of what he called a "jockey club" is a good one.
I also think, as do other hon. Members, that there are dangers in trying to take the control down too much into the casino itself because the difficulties of enforcement are enormous. I wonder whether the staff—inspectorate, I take it to be—which will be associated with the Board will he large enough for the job. I think that the enforcement has to be done by the police but they must, of course, be assisted. I cannot see the police performing this job too well on their own because knowledge is required about gambling methods—fairly detailed knowledge—together with the ability to understand properly what is going on. Such knowledge is not easily acquired. It is often difficult to spot when different forms of smart practices are being operated.
This point has been raised in the debate. Although one hon. Gentleman said that he hoped the police would not be associated with this matter, it is my intention that the police should be closely associated with the process of enforcement. Obviously it will be necessary for some rudimentary knowledge of the game to be possessed by the police. I have discussed this with some of the chief constables mainly concerned. There will be many matters connected with enforcement, such as licensing and ensuring that people running the clubs are not criminals and that those who should not be there are not there. We are starting on the basis that the police will have a very large rôle to play in enforcement, but the chief knowledge will certainly rest with the National Gaming Board and its inspectors.
I welcome what my right hon. Friend has said. I certainly want to see the police able to take a greater part in this, since this kind of activity undoubtedly attracts criminal elements. The police should be involved in it to as great an extent as possible. Indeed, I have heard it said that the police themselves look upon such activity as being helpful to them because they will at least know where a great number of criminals are to be found. I welcome and accept what my right hon. Friend has said about this. In Scotland at least it will meet the wishes of the chief constables.
I was arguing that it would be unwise to get down to too much detailed control of what goes on inside the casino. This leads me to a proposition on which I know I am in a minority. It is that the best way of controlling gambling—without in any way being puritannical about it—is for it to be run by local authorities. I have always been a great admirer of the State control of the liquor trade in the State controlled areas. In that case, it has been recognised that people do drink, and will drink whether one thinks it good or bad of them to do so. We have recognised in the State-controlled areas that we must make provision of what people want and can do so without necessarily associating it with the making of profit and all the undesirable pursuits which arise out of the making of profit—the intense advertising and that kind of thing.
Certainly in Scotland, in the State controlled areas, I have heard little condemnation of the system or a wish to change it. By and large the population accepts it as a very good thing. I do not see why a similar principle should not apply to gambling, so that the local authorities would control gambling clubs and casinos.
The first advantage would be that the local authorities could decide what the clubs would be like and how the play would be regulated. There would be no need to introduce Bills with scores of Clauses and with Schedules extending over seven or eight pages, and the whole administrative machine would be done away with. The trouble with private enterprise is that, so often, we have to pass Acts of Parliament to control and regulate it and have to employ hundreds of people not for the good private enterprise but for those who take advantage of it to make very large profits. We would require none of that, for a club could be run in accordance with how local people wanted It to be run and at the same time it could make a profit for the local authority, and we are trying to find ways of making money for local authorities, to get new sources of income for them.
I do not suppose that my right hon. Friend would wish to abolish State controlled management districts in England. Certainly the Scottish Office would not wish to abolish such districts in Scotland. This is a good principle in this connection. It has worked out well, without giving cause for complaint, and I cannot see why it should not be applied in this connection. Gambling is something which many people believe to be an evil, but, whatever our views, it is an activity in which human beings wish to engage and we know that we cannot stop them, whether they hurt themselves in the process or not. It has already been said that, apart from horse racing, about£1,000 million a year is spent on this kind of activity.
I am sorry, Mr. Speaker. I am apt to be led astray, as you probably know. I attended a Press conference in Ross and Cromarty when I asked what were the criticisms of the system which I am advocating for gambling. The Press told me—and this is most unusual—"We have no criticisms at all; we are thoroughly satisfied". I spend much time in the North and I have found very little criticism of this kind of system, which seems to be the right way to handle a matter of this kind when there are such potentialities for good or social evil and when an immense amount of unhappiness in homes can be caused. This is a matter about which we must think very seriously, but I have always thought that that was the way to deal with it.
Like everyone who has spoken so far, in principle I find myself in total agreement with the Bill. Most hon. Members have congratulated the Home Secretary; my right hon. Friend the Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes) sympathised with him; I hope that I shall not be out of order if instead I congratulate the Under-Secretary, whose brain child I suspect the Bill to be. I am glad that, despite some pressure, the Home Secretary did not agree to withdraw the Bill completely following the recent decisions of the courts, because I believe that those decisions have made the Bill more urgent than ever.
Several hon. Members have said that there is no point in this debate in moralising about gaming. I agree completely with the hon. Member for Accrington (Mr. Arthur Davidson) that morally there is little difference between gaming and bingo on the one hand, and betting on horses and on the pools on the other. In whatever form, there is nothing basically objectionable to betting or gaming in moderation. What most of us would deplore and regret is the fact that it has been such a growth industry over the last 10 years, and we would all deplore the association of the criminal elements with gaming.
The vital thing is to be realistic in our approach to what is to be done, as the Bill is. We have to accept that there are about 5 million or 6 million people who are members of clubs which have gaming and we have to accept that it has become an acceptable part of life to many people. I do not believe that a post mortem on the 1960 Act, as to whether it came about accidentally or by design, is of any gain in this debate. The hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. J. T. Price) criticised Mr. Butler, but it was my predecessor, Dennis Vosper, who was the Minister in charge of that Measure who made the various pronouncements, with the whole support of the Home Office, that what has happened could not possibly occur.
What we cannot do today is to allow gaming to continue uncontrolled. It has been said that there are only two possible approaches, that either we attempt to stamp it out by the strict enforcement of the 1960 Act, which, as the House of Lords has pointed out, could be strictly enforced, or we do as the Bill does and attempt to control it. The first course of attempting to stamp it out would not work. There are examples in America to show the danger of attempting to follow that course. We would drive out the more reputable clubs and drive gaming underground and by doing so we would play into the hands of the criminal elements, who are the greatest danger.
I am convinced that the Home Secretary is right to choose the alternative of licensed clubs controlled both in number and in location. It is vital that strict regulations should be made as to the type of games to be played and the rules by which they are played, and I welcome the fact that those regulations are to be enforced by a Gaming Board financed by the clubs themselves.
I also believe that it is right that cheques should now be enforceable. It is of great importance that the police should have the right of entry. The right hon. Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Willis) spoke of the difficulty of the police enforcing gaming regulations, but I remind him that the very fact that the police will have power of entry, which at present they do not have, in itself will greatly encourage the clubs to be properly run when the police may walk in at any time. It is vitally important that the employees should be licensed.
One thing which concerns me—and I suppose that it is inevitable—is that the Bill is largely merely an enabling Bill. so that so much will depend on the regulations. I am glad to hear the Home Secretary say that he will take the advice of the Gaming Board about the regulations, although many of us would like to know in Committee exactly what those regulations are to be, although this is clearly difficult if the right hon. Gentleman is to take the Board's advice.
Dare I respectfully suggest that one of the lines that he should adopt, and one which I believe he proposes to adopt, having heard what he has said, is that those regulations should allow a reason- able profit to those running the clubs. If, as has been suggested, for example, one makes regulations which prevent roulette being played with a zero or something of that nature, then by those regulations one may achieve not the object of this Bill, but the alternative, the stamping out of the clubs by driving them into a financially impossible position.
It is important, if these clubs are to continue in existence, that a reasonable profit should be made. Unlike the right hon. Member for Edinburgh, East who I suspect feels that this is not an acceptable area for private profit, I feel that it is, but that where any profit is made it should be heavily taxed. The present method of taxing by rateable value is not necessarily a very effective one. I know that we have debated this, and the present Home Secretary in his then capacity as Chancellor dealt with it. I would ask him to suggest to the new Chancellor that, perhaps, the possibility of taxing by means of the totals and the amount of stakes is really a better alternative.
I also hope that the regulations will say something about stakes, particularly minimum stakes. It is important, if gaming is to be allowed, that one should not have the minimum stake so high that people are almost crippled the moment they decide to play. In other words, it should be possible, if people are to be allowed to play legally, for them to be allowed to do so at moderate stakes. We should remember that the object of Parliament in dealing with gaming is to provide fair games, played fairly, under conditions which can be properly supervised.
I want to ask the Home Secretary what instructions or advice he proposes to give to licensing justices. It is suggested that the Gaming Board should do the licensing rather than the licensing justices. The difficulty that I see is that as the Home Secretary has said, one matter which licensing justices have to take into account is local conditions, and I would have thought that there was something to be said for the body which licenses betting shops to be the body licensing gaming clubs. It is important that clear guidance is given in controlling the business of these clubs. There are too many, but on the other hand it would also be dangerous to go too far to the other extreme and limit them too severely.
I was sorry to hear the Home Secretary say that he proposes to use his powers under Section 21 not to allow the licensing of premises if they have other activities as well as gaming—he referred to night clubs. It has always seemed to me that, from a purely social point of view, the strictly gaming club is probably a greater evil than a club such as a night club which happens to have a room with a roulette table. I should have thought that, provided the club was properly conducted, provided that one did not get too large a number, and I see the argument about the number of clubs that might apply for licences, it would not be unreasonable to allow licences to include those other activities as well.
Take the example of the gaming which goes on in general social clubs. I take the point about the idea of someone in a plush night club being persuaded by the hostess to walk into the gaming room but, if properly controlled, I do not see why it is necessary to have a purely gaming club rather than to have gaming as part of the activities of a club.
While I am sure that he is right with regard to his bingo regulations, is the Home Secretary really sure that he is right to stick to the regulations on membership about ordinary gaming if it is on the premises? Is it a vital part of the Bill? Is there really any point in changing a 24-hour period of control and making it up to 48 hours? These may be Committee points, but they are points which need to be considered, and one hopes that the Home Secretary will give some explanation to justify what on the face of it do not really appear to be important parts of the Bill. I welcome the Bill and I hope that we will succeed in making what is basically a good Bill even better by the time that it becomes an Act of Parliament.
It will serve no useful purpose to moan about the past or to strike moral attitudes at this stage of our consideration of what has become a very serious social problem. It is a pity that, in trying to deal with a small evil, one very often creates a larger one. We decided in our wisdom that the street bookmaker was wholly undesirable, and now we have thousands of betting shops all over the country. Speaking with hindsight, I would rather have the street bookmaker operating, than all these betting shops in every town and village.
What happened in 1960, in addition to what I have mentioned, was that we provided a charter for big-time gambling and big-time crime. We tried to create conditions which we thought would make gaming commercially unprofitable. The state has now been reached, and this is universally admitted, rightly or wrongly, that commercial gaming is here to stay. What we have to decide is how best to control it to the advantage of the public and to the secondary advantage of the person who wants to go to a gaming establishment.
As the right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg) has pointed out, we are legalising commercial gaming for the first time. I should have preferred that in doing this we should have gone the whole distance—I nearly said the whole hog—and nationalise commercial gaming, establishing, subject to all the controls that the Home Office might wish to impose, public gaming houses wherever licensing justices, or whatever machinery might be employed, considered them to be justified.
What we must take very special care to see is that we do not introduce legislation or impose regulations which the police do not find enforceable. That has been the situation over the past two years in the London area. There are all kinds of laws which are not enforced, for one reason or another, and it was wholly undesirable that the police, in addition to other sections of the community, should have been subjected to the strictures delivered in one of our courts of law not very long ago.
The advantage of a public gaming house is that the police always have the right of entry. It is true, as the Home Secretary said, that gaming clubs or proprietorial clubs will have to be licensed and the police will have the right of entry. But there is a vast number of so-called members' clubs which are members' clubs in name and theory only and which operate gaming establishments to which the police have the right of entry only with a warrant. That restricts the powers of the police to a very considerable extent. I ask my right hon. Friend to consider this twilight area of so-called members' clubs in respect of which it will be very difficult for the police and the Gaming Board to carry out their duties effectively and to implement the wishes of the House.
I hope that we shall abandon the fiction that we must provide gamblers with an equal chance with the gambling establishments. If a gambling establishment is not to make any profit, we shall drive gambling underground and put a very substantial inducement in the way of people who want to evade the law and the criminal elements we want to drive out of the gambling racket.
I have not made up my mind whether the system of licensing by justices will be appropriate. We left the licensing of betting shops to the justices. We thought that they would have regard to the number of betting shops in an area. But the justices have dished out licences for betting shops on the most lavish scale. They might just as well have not existed. A betting shop proprietor could just as easily obtain his licence from the post office, in the same way as one obtains a dog licence.
Does not part of the difficulty of the Act concerning betting shops stem from the fact that it requires magistrates to give a licence to any existing bookmaker's runner or any bookmaker who could show that he used to practise illegally in an area, which this Measure avoids?
In that case, the number of street bookmakers in my constituency must have been 20 times larger than I imagined. When I went round the streets at election time, as one has to do, I knew them all. They used to say "Hello" to me and I said "Hello" to them. They were not operating on anything like the same scale as betting shops are now operating; the hon. Gentleman will concede that. In the pre-1960 days, they could not possibly have been operating on the same scale as betting shops are operating now.
Justices vary very much in quality. If we want an overall rationing system which will prevent the creation of an excess number of gaming establishments in any area, it must be done centrally and not left to the discretion of local justices, who become justices in all kinds of odd ways which have been the subject of inquiry in the past.
The public does not always realise the amount of money involved in gaming. Global estimates of thousands of millions of pounds changing hands in gambling have been made. Let me quote a gaming establishment in London, which I will not name, where a syndicate pays a large fee to the owner of the club for the exclusive right to operate the bank, the roulette. Although it pays a very large fee for this exclusive right, the syndicate still makes about£500,000 profit a year which, I remind my hon. Friend, is apparently not liable to tax. The outgoings in this one club amount to about£300,000 a year.
In the light of that sort of situation, it is ridiculous to think about continuing the idea of basing the duty on the rating valuation. If we calculate the duty by reference to the rating value, it is a direct incentive to the creation of small, seedy clubs. There are about 15 clubs liable to£50,000 duty and 130 clubs liable to£5,000 duty. But the vast majority of clubs will pay only£500. Out of this grouping, there is a number of clubs, some of them paying comparatively small sums in duty, where a turnover of£1 million is quite common.
I hope that in association with the Treasury my right hon. Friend will work out a simple, effective, practical and profitable way of extracting money for the public purse out of these operations. I do not know whether it is possible to tax each table, say, from£100 to£10,000, according to the game played and the maximum stake. I hope that we shall abandon the fiction of providing an equal chance to gamblers frequenting the gaming establishment with the gaming establishment itself. With the zero, the advantage to the operator is about 2·8 per cent. One roulette table with, say, a maximum of£100, working the usual night shift of seven or eight hours, can easily earn£40,000 a year, about£100 a night, even if several croupiers per table are employed, as is the case with some establishments—and some croupiers are paid about£70 a week.
The Bill will introduce a very necessary provision, namely, registration or licensing of croupiers. I hope that croupiers will not be licensed for each establishment, because they tend to go from one establishment to another. We want to cut down the red tape as much as possible. We do not need a separate car licence depending on the county in which we do most of our driving; we have a national licence. In the same way, there should be a sort of national certificate for croupiers, which would ensure that the objects of the Home Secretary were achieved. As I have pointed out, one single table for roulette, blackjack, baccara or craps in the West End of London can produce anything between£40,000 and£50,000 a year. That is a measure of the funds which are available to the Government. In those circumstances, I hope that they will not play about with minute fees and charges, but will extract as much as they can from the industry.
I should have preferred to see a nationalised industry, but I accept the Bill now before us as second best. It represents a practical improvement on the present lamentable state of affairs.
I was interested in what the hon. Member for Brixton (Mr. Lipton) had to say, and perhaps I will return to one or two of his points later in my speech.
I would endorse his reference, which was also made by the hon. Member for Runcorn (Mr. Carlisle), to the hypocrisy of the apparent assumption that one can allow commercial gaming but that it is wrong for those promoting it to benefit from it. It must be understood that, unless they are allowed to benefit from it openly, they will endeavour to find benefits from less desirable pursuits possibly located in the basements of their premises.
In many ways, the Bill is a Committee Measure full of detailed points which we shall want to explore elsewhere. There fore, I will content myself with a few general observations, though perhaps I might make one or two more detailed ones before I sit down, because the Parliamentary Secretary's reaction to them may assist me in deciding what his attitude towards the Bill will be in its later stages.
Gambling is the kind of subject which inevitably presents Parliament with a number of tricky questions and dilemmas which have to be resolved. While gambling in its worst form has much in common with other forms of addiction, I hope that the hon. Member for Accrington (Mr. Arthur Davidson) and the hon. Member for Runcorn, who made impassioned pleas that we should not reach any moral judgment, will appreciate that, in saying that, I am not making a moral judgment but a factual one. From time to time, one sees gambling carried to lengths which can be socially destructive in a highly damaging way, and in its enthusiasm to avoid moralising, it would be wrong for this House to ignore the serious social consequences of gambling.
I say that it can resemble drug addiction; in certain ways it can. It has some similarity. In other ways, there is a difference. It must be remembered that there are several kinds of gambler. There is the compulsive gambler, and it would be wrong to ignore his existence. I have seen him in medical practice. He is the person who cannot resist the betting shop. He disposes of his wages every week and is a persistent absentee from work, because he cannot keep away from the betting shops. I have had to deal with one person who had 40 jobs in three years, most of which he lost through absenteeism while frequenting betting shops and other gambling haunts. When out of work, he has gambled away his unemployment benefit and supplementary pension because he has been unable to resist the temptation to call in a betting shop and try to increase what he no doubt regarded as an inadequate State provision. The effect on his family and four children was disastrous. Doctors and sociologists are aware of the effects of compulsive gambling which only differs from alcoholism and drug addiction in that the condition is much less common. The compulsive gambler is fortunately comparatively rare.
The second type of involvement is that of social gaming, and it is in that that we have seen a big growth. There are those who indulge in club gaming and the frequenting of bingo halls or betting shops as a form of social activity. They are not compulsive gamblers, but people who are indulging in what they regard as a highly enjoyable recreation. The stakes are small and the social implications are not great.
In addition, there has been a growth in the kind of gambling which one can only regard as a form of fortune hunting. Almost the majority of people feel that their only chance of having a greatly raised standard of living is through success in gambling on extremely long odds. That is the reason for the popularity of football pools and the type of bingo-linked games with a large prize which the Home Secretary said that he would be at pains to stop. It is a regrettable fact that some people feel that the only way out of their present pattern of life is through gambling.
That may be so, but one does not notice any marked fluctuation in the amount of this kind of gambling with changes in Government.
Having referred to the different kinds of gambling, I think that the Government are right not to concentrate on the compulsive, obsessional gambler, who is the exception. If one endeavoured to introduce legislation to deal with him, it would be bound to fail, and undoubtedly it would penalise others whose gambling is of a different order.
The Government are right to endeavour to allow gambling and to attempt to control it. We have to accept that we in this House have no business to tell people how they should spend their time or money, provided that the ways in which they do so do not affect other people. However, we have to consider to what extent we should legislate to protect people from their own folly and to protect others from the consequences. It is a difficult matter, and, broadly, I congratulate the Government on having tackled it in a realistic manner. I agree with the right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg) that they have finally recognised that commercial gambling is a reality and have decided to provide for it legally.
One point which has been ventilated on both sides of the House is the general assumption that the present situation has arisen as a result of the previous legislation, and that it is the 1960 Act which has been responsible for the rapid and almost meteoric rise in gambling. I cannot accept that. One has to realise that the growth in gambling has been continuing for a long time, and certainly it began before that Measure was passed. In the days shortly after the war, we saw the growth in the establishment of clubs in London and the big provincial cities, and it has been a continuing process. It is true that it may have accelerated with the passing of that Act and it is also true that the character of those clubs may have changed with its passing. Nevertheless, it would be a mistake to blame all that has happened on that Act.
We should realise, too. that the trend which many hon. Members have commented on, namely, the rash of betting shops and the spread of gaming clubs and so on, is one that may well settle itself in due course, and the House might be unwise to endeavour to settle.
When cricket was first introduced into Mauritius it had to be made illegal because people would not do any work. All they would do was play cricket. After a short period cricket was allowed during permitted hours until finally it became an acceptable activity. With the greater measures of freedom that we have seen in social behaviour since the war, we may find some of these tendencies which hon. Members find disturbing will settle of their volition in due course and will not require Acts of Parliament to deal with them.
The Home Secretary said that he was anxious that the Government should listen to the voice of experience. Certainly I would urge that. Many of the comments that have been made about gambling in the Press, and sometimes in the House, seem to have been made by people who have never seen any gambling but have occasionally heard it described. If the legislation now proposed is to work, it is important not only that the Board, but the Board's officials and other people concerned, should understand gambling in some detail. If the Home Secretary consults people who are deeply concerned he may get different and sometimes unexpected advice.
I was interested to see one piece of advice given by a very unusual source in the Sunday Expressof 5th November, 1967, which said:
If I was Minister of gambling I'd close clown all the betting shops—or at least put them under very strict control. Millions of man-hours are being lost. I'd close the casinos, too, and ban one-armed bandits. And put bingo halls under proper supervision. This country'.; become the gambling capital of the world.
Surprisingly enough, those were the words of Mr. William Hill, who is described as the world's biggest bookmaker, It would be profitable for the Home Secretary to pursue sources of this kind to get advice. I cannot say what motive lay behind that observation, but people who have been concerned professionally and commercially over many years in gambling have advice to give which should be seriously considered.
I am anxious to finish as quickly as I can, so I will proceed to one or two specific points about which I should like some reassurance.
A number of hon. Members have suggested that it would be a good thing if gaming were transferred to local authorities. I would regard this as wholly regrettable. I do not believe that our local authorities as at present constituted are bodies capable of running these activities. If they were made solely responsible they would be subjected to pressures which I would regard as objectionable. Nevertheless, it would not be right to place unnecessary obstacles in the way of local authorities from time to time involving themselves in this subject to a limited extent.
I should like to express one anxiety which has been put to me by the Urban District Councils Association. It suggests that Clause 41 makes an important alteration to the existing law in that it imposes an absolute prohibition on the use of local authority premises for any gaming requiring a licence under the Bill. The prohibition contained in the Betting, Gaming and Lotteries Act was
against maintaining or subsidising any premises
…wholly or mainly for the purpose of persons resorting thereto…
for gaming etc. Any use less than wholly or mainly was permissible and that enabled bingo to take place in local authority halls and a number of other places. From my reading of the Bill and that of the Urban District Councils Association this would not be possible in future unless a change were made. It is of importance to small authorities because in some of the small urban areas the only possible premises might be those owned by the local authority. Perhaps the Minister will answer that point.
I am also interested in the proposal to make the age limit 18 years. My experience is that on the Continent the lower age limit is usually 21. I am aware that we may shortly be considering legislation concerning voting ages. I have seen leaks in the Press which suggest 20 as the age. If it is to be recommended that the age of 20 is adopted for voting, would it not be wise to adopt that age also in relation to this activity?
I was interested in what the Home Secretary said about making special arrangements for various kinds of clubs—British Legion Clubs, political clubs, sports clubs and so on. This will be a great reassurance to many people, because these clubs felt that the act of having to register or become licensed might make it necessary for them to expose their activities and business to public scrutiny in a way they do not regard as necessary or desirable.
Finally, let me underline a point that has been made on both sides about the desirability of establishing true ownership: not merely who has the licence, but who are the people who really own the gaming clubs? One must have effective provision in the Bill to ensure that when there is any change of ownership this should certainly be revealed.
I give a cautious welcome to the Bill. I say "cautious" because I will want to know finally that some of these difficult committee-type points have been ironed out. I also say "cautious" because I think that few could or would predict what kind of a Frankenstein the House was fathering last time it dealt with this subject. It is clear that we do not altogether know what will happen this time either. We 0will have to be guided by experience, but the Home Secretary has started in the right directions and in so doing he has our support.
I listened with great interest to the eloquent denunciation by my right hon. Friend of the wicked casinos. One would hardly have thought that these were bodies from which the Government were obtaining taxation in some cases amounting to£50,000 a year,£15,000 in others, and various other sums.
Certainly not enough, and I will deal with that. I also noticed throughout the debate a somewhat impersonal note. No one has suggested that he has ever been wicked enough to take part in any form of gaming. I do not know about my right hon. Friend, but I suggest that a good many of us have experience of roulette and other wicked games which have been mentioned.
I must declare a personal interest. I am one of those lawyers who, according to one of the judges in the Court of Appeal in a recent judgment, put forward refined arguments under the Gaming Acts which in some cases found acceptance by the court. I can, therefore, claim to speak with some practical experience of the working of the Betting, Gaming and Lotteries Act, 1960, and the consolidation Act of 1963.
Those Acts were intended to prevent and to limit gaming, and clearly they failed in that object. It was said by the Court of Appeal, and repeated by the hon. Member for Southend, East (Sir S. McAdden), that the police were at fault in not performing their duty and in failing to launch prosecutions under these Acts. According to the court, if they had done so, the objects aimed at the prevention and limitation of gaming might have been achieved. In the course of his judgment, in rather melodramatic language one of the judges said that the day of reckoning had come for casinos, and my right hon. Friend rather dealt with the matter on that basis. In so far as the courts pronounce judgment in interpreting the law as laid down by Parliament, we must abide by their judgment, and I would not dare to venture to criticise them here, I would not be allowed to do so, and would be ruled out of order, but I propose to make two observations on the criticisms made by the Court of Appeal. First, the court did not pay proper regard to the powers of the police and to the difficulties which they would have in administering the law. Secondly, the decisions of the courts on the various Sections of the Acts made it all the more difficult for the police to act.
It has been said in some quarters that now the House of Lords has ruled that roulette played with a zero on the odds given is illegal, and now that the Court of Appeal has called on the police to act, the way is clear for action to be taken, the 1963 Act can be administered without difficulty, and there is no need for further legislation. I do not take this view. There remain many decisions of the courts which create difficulty, and perhaps I might mention one or two.
One decision, which is still upon the books, and is still part of the law, is that the words in Section 32 of the 1963 Act, that the chances in the game must be equally favourable to all players, means that there must be equality of opportunity, and a number of cases have been decided on this basis. Secondly, the decisions, to which the right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg) referred, on what constitutes a session for which a fixed charge is determined under Section 36 of the Act, for example, playing a shoe at chemin for 20 minutes, are conflicting.
If the Government did nothing, and the position was left as it is, subject to police action, the law would remain uncertain. There would be many opportunities for gaming operators to devise schemes which, if attacked, would have to be contested, first in the magistrates' court, then in the Divisional Court, and possibly later in the House of Lords.
There are also the practical difficulties, which we must bear in mind, which attach to any effort by the police, with their restricted resources, to enforce the law. Perhaps the most important consideration—and it has been mentioned a number of times—is the real danger that if nothing is done, gaming will be driven underground. This may provide more scope for fleecing the players, and more scope for the growth of crime.
So we have to be realistic. Whatever the position before the 1960 Act or whatever the intentions of the legislature with regard to that Act, we have to recognise that the British people like gaming. Vast sums of money are spent on betting, racing, football pools, casinos, bingo, and other forms of gaming. If we talk about suppressing gaming, we must remember that the playing of roulette and bingo is no worse morally than betting on races, or on football pools.
My right hon. Friend became rather indignant and accused people of playing roulette, a dreadfully wicked game. What is so wicked about roulette? People put half a crown, or possibly more if they can afford it, on a number coming up. What is the difference between doing that and putting money on a horse? Vast sums of money are spent on horse racing, and there are numerous betting shops. The Bill does not attempt to deal with these. I think that my right hon. Friend went to far in denouncing casinos in the way he did.
I repeat that gaming is something which the British people enjoy. It cannot be suppressed, and we must recognise this. If we attempt to suppress it, we will merely drive it underground with the possibility of encouraging criminal activities. We have to deal with the position as it exists today, and the proper course of action to take is to see that gaming is conducted under proper supervision.
The promoters of the game should be entitled to a reasonable profit, and I emphasise the words "reasonable profit ". After all, if the State is to take£50,000 from the promoter of a casino, how is the money to be raised unless a profit is made? By imposing a tax of£50,000, the State impliedly recognises that the casino has to be run at a profit. It may be difficult to do it, but I think that there ought to be some restriction on the stakes. There ought to be some limit on the number of clubs so that gaming is kept within reasonable bounds.
All those objectives are, to some extent, dealt with by the Bill. I think that the Government have taken the right step in bringing it forward. I regard this as an honest attempt to deal with a difficult problem on realistic lines, but a great deal will depend on the regulations which the Home Secretary will make under the provisions of the Bill. They must be made after the most careful consideration, and after consultation with all interested parties. They must recognise the rights of promoters, large and small, as well as the rights of players.
We have heard a good deal about bingo. I was glad to hear my right hon. Friend say that he intends to introduce certain Amendments to deal with this aspect of gaming. Bingo has taken a great hold on many people, and there are thousands of bingo clubs. We cannot shut our eyes to the fact that many of them provide a social service for thousands of people who indulge in this form of small stake betting. My right hon. Friend recognises that there has been considerable criticism of the suggested prohibition on offering bonuses and novelty gifts. I think that he intends to persist in prohibiting the scope for offering big prizes. I ask him to look at this again. I do not suggest that there ought not to be limits in a game such as this, which is played by many people, but I think that it would be an injustice to limit it to too great an extent.
I gather that the intention is to make illegal the playing of games like roulette in a bingo hall. Recently I visited a bingo hall in connection with a case in which I was involved. The police agreed that it was well-conducted, and it catered for between 300 and 400 people in the afternoon and evening. The members were thoroughly respectable. During the interval between bingo sessions they could indulge in gaming for small stakes at two tables at which a form of roulette was played. This was an undoubted attraction. I am told that, if it is prohibited, the promoters will be seriously hampered financially in providing bingo at all.
Moreover, there are working men's clubs where this sort of game is played for modest stakes, so I hope that, before my right hon. Friend adopts the downright attitude that he will have no gaming in any bingo hall or working men's club, he will think again. It is not right to suggest that, because people play for a modest stake during an interval of ten minutes, any great harm is done, and I see no reason to deprive them of this past time.
I appreciate the difficulty of laying down any varying percentage of profits to be allowed to promoters of clubs, but it must be remembered that the percentage allowed to promoters of clubs in which roulette is played from, perhaps, 8 o'clock in the evening to 3 or 4 o'clock in the morning would obviously be insufficient for a game played in two ten-minute intervals where the stakes are small or very limited.
Many parts of the Bill will require careful scrutiny in Committee if they are not to provide an area of uncertainty and considerable scope for litigation, as happened over the 1960 Bill. For example, Clauses 3 and 5 should be looked at again, because they may affect the playing of ordinary card games like bridge in social clubs. My right hon. Friend suggested that there would be Amendments to this, and I hope that he will carefully examine these Clauses.
I am sure that my right hon. Friend, as a former Chancellor, appreciates now the tremendous opportunity for taxation which gaming affords and I hope that this source will be tapped at the proper time. Like others, I trust that this effort to bring some order and understanding into the present chaotic gaming law will be successful. I support the Bill.
I wish the Home Secretary luck with the Bill, and, if our experience since the last Betting and Gaming Bill is anything to go by, he will need it. I find it dispiriting to be discussing another such Bill after the few years which have elapsed since Mr. Butler brought in his Bill. I had not been a Member long then, and I accepted the arguments that people wanted to gamble and were gambling, that the law was being brought into disrepute because it could not be enforced, that the police were not enforcing it and that the whole business had to be legalised. That was done, with the support of the whole House.
Gambling has now increased out of all proportion, the police, I read, are not enforcing the law and the crooks have moved in wholesale. This is a lesson which all Governments should heed before they sanctify some activity with the legal stamp just because they do not think that they can eradicate it entirely. it is a lesson which we might learn about other things than gambling. There is no option on gambling now, of course, but to press on. I support the Bill generally.
However, I criticise the Clauses covering bingo. I would declare here that I have no interest, financial or otherwise, and never have had, in bingo. But my first doubt is whether the control or licensing of bingo clubs should be in the Bill at all. It might be inevitable or convenient, but, although it is pity that the Bill has been forced on us by recent abuses, 1 do not believe that those abuses can be fastened on bingo, which is being tarred with the brush of the gambling casinos.
The Home Secretary went out of his way to describe bingo as a very mild form of gambling, and I agree. One cannot lose very much. I gather that the average stake per person per evening is about 6s. and all stake money goes into the prizes. The game is easy to control and, so far as I know, the crooks have not moved in, because they cannot make much out of the game.
Although I have no interest in bingo for financial or playing reasons and although those Clauses affecting bingo are comparatively few, I would point out that they affect a vast number of people. I am told that the active membership of bingo clubs is 7 million to 10 million and that those paying for admissions last year numbered 225 million. That is a great number of people. I had never been to a bingo hall until comparatively recently, when I visited one on the edge of my constituency. I do not know how many hon. Members have visited one, but if they have not, it is worth while. I was very favourably impressed. The club was clean, warm, quiet and friendly. It was well controlled and well organised and, as one might expect, there was a studious atmosphere. There was a considerable number of modest, humble people enjoying an evening out although it was not a big night. Some had come from London areas, where they were members of the same chain of halls and, under the present law, could enter this one. They came to visit their friends, have an evening out and a change. They were enjoying themselves under conditions laid down by the law.
Under this Bill, those conditions for the bingo halls will be considerably changed. I do not want to dwell on what are largely Committee points, but I must mention them briefly because, as a whole, they considerably affect the members of these clubs —
Before the hon. Member leaves the point about including bingo clubs in the Bill, would he not agree that one of the difficulties with the present legislation is that it excluded apparently harmless gaming activities and that, if we exclude them from this Bill, the ingenuity and tentacles of the gaming proprietors might stretch to bingo clubs?
The hon. Member talks of "apparently harmless" clubs. I said that the Home Secretary went out of his way to describe how comparatively harmless bingo is. It is played under other names, by the various Services of this country and we have had great experience with it. For example, in the Navy it was arid I suppose still is the only gambling game—if it is a gambling game —that is officially allowed. It is allowed because it is easy to control. The men cannot lose a great deal of money; it is physically impossible to do so. It is very simple to take a straight percentage for the canteen funds. I do not want to be dogmatic, but I very much doubt whether if bingo was left out of the Bill the game, if under another licensing system, would be a fertile ground for crooks.
I mention the package which affects the conditions in respect of members of clubs. First, there is the requirement for separate membership for each club. I understand that the Home Secretary is to relax that. He did not say to what extent but I see in tonight's Evening News that there is a suggestion of 24 hours' notice Dr something to that effect. I hope that the Home Secretary will leave the situation as it is. A player who came from Wandsworth, where there is a hall, to Carshalton, where there is another hall, would be considerably inconvenienced by this rule and probably prevented from playing with his friends.
The second condition is that of preventing any extra prize being given by the proprietors. All the stake money goes in prizes, but proprietors have been in the habit of giving small prizes in cash or in kind out of profits made on refreshments and for admission. Those are the only profits they make. These prizes are popular, and I do not see that they do any harm.
One or two hon. Members have referred to the big prize as a result of a link-up between different halls in the same chain. I do not know why that should be banned. Admittedly at the cop it may be as much as£6,000, but very often it is much less, in the region of£3,000. Undoubtedly it gives a spice to the play and I do not see anything wrong in that. If there is anything morally wrong in it it is a similar attraction to that of buying premium bonds, so it has a respectable parentage. Unless there are signs of corruption which make it necessary to ban this prize, it would deprive the ordinary member of an attraction to play this game and would I think be a pity.
Bingo clubs arrange outings for their members. They go by bus for picnics. Hon. Members may say, "For heaven's sake give it a rest when they go on outings." That is an opinion but the members like playing bingo when they go on their outings and I cannot see why they should not do so. If the package goes through as it is the conditions and attractions of the clubs will be considerably reduced.
This package proposal reminds me very much of a record I always enjoy listening to. It is by Stanley Holloway and is entitled "Albert and the Lion". When Albert was swallowed by the lion and no one could be found to get him out Stanley Holloway made the observation: "Soombody ought to be soomoned". It is a rather British characteristic that when an ordinary humble Briton organises his pleasures and is enjoying himself but doing no one any harm some law-maker pokes his nose in and upsets the applecart. I do not think this is right. If one goes to a bingo hall one does not get the impression that it is a haunt of sin, and that the people there are doing themselves a lot of harm. I do not believe that they are.
What does the Home Secretary want to achieve by these Clauses which affect bingo? I do not believe that he wants to interfere with the harmless amusement of these people. I do not believe he is a killjoy. Is there suspicion of corruption? If so, that is a different matter, but I have not heard of it. Does he think that the clubs make too much profit? If so, there is a very simple way in which he can cream off the profit. This is always done when the game is played in the Services. He can take a flat 10 per cent. off the takings and allow the rest to go in prizes. If this is his reason for clamping down on the clubs he can look at the problem in that way but I ask him to leave the law as it stands. If there is corruption he can deal with it but if he presses on with the Clauses affecting bingo as they are at present he will spoil the enjoyment of a great many people and I do not think that that will do anyone any good.
Like most hon. Members, indeed all who have spoken in this debate, I am in favour of the general principle of the Bill, but I have some reservations on its general applicability.
The hon. Member for Cheadle (Dr. Winstanley) seemed somewhat surprised about the article written by the biggest bookmaker in the world, William Hill, whom he quoted as being virtually in favour of nationalisation of the betting industry. The hon. Member should not be surprised at that, because William Hill has been a good Socialist all his life. He has always been in favour of nationalisation, or socialisation, of the betting industry because he knows it is a good profitable industry. He has said that if it is a profitable industry, why should we not let the State take it over and get profits from the industry?
So often in the past this and previous Governments have seen fit to take over old, decrepit, decaying industries, pay them good compensation and for the rest of the time the poor old taxpayer has to pay. I should like to see the socialisation, or municipalisation, of the whole betting, gambling and gaming industry, but unfortunately the present Government are not that way inclined.
In fairness, I should say that the quotation I read had nothing about socialisation or nationalisation in it. I was merely recommending the Home Secretary to follow his own advice and look for expert advice on the sort of principle of "Set a thief to catch a thief". I must not be misunderstood. The kind of advice he would receive would perhaps prove helpful.
I went on to explain that this man, who knows all about the industry, recommended to the Government as a wonderful profitable venture that the Government should take it over. I was supporting Mr. Hill and saying that I should like to see that, but this Bill does not do it. Once again we have a Bill which tries to deal with alleged anomalies, real and imaginary abuses and offences in various parts of the betting, gambling and gaming industry, with particular reference to some sections more than to others.
I have no interest whatever to declare, except to mention that my constituency has the rather dubious honour of possessing more betting shops than any other and has a wonderful greyhound track. When I listen to people like the hon. and gallant Member for Carshalton (Captain W. Elliot) speaking about bingo halls and how beautiful and efficient they are, I cannot help but think of my greyhound track. Over the years both Labour and Conservative Governments have tried to differentiate, from the taxation point of view, between the various types of gambling. Many types of amusement exist in the betting industry. We must remember that hardly a person in Britain has not in some way and at some time taken part in or been associated with this industry. Churches of all denominations run weekly lotteries, pools and other forms of betting, although they condemn the fact that the nation spends£800 million a year on gambling. Consider the games of chance played at church bazaars.
Many hon. Members condemn the so-called wicked football pools but totally ignore the fact that people openly invest on the Stock Exchange and make capital gains. They condemn the ordinary chap who puts a couple of bob on the pools, goes to my greyhound track or bets on a horse race with the idea of getting a return on his investment. There does not seem to be much difference between his activities and those of people who buy a few shares with the hope of making a gain. When I hear people moralising about this I wish they would face the reality of the situation and appreciate that there is no harm in people having a bet.
It is against this background that I recommend that the State should get in on the act. Parliament should control betting and ensure that it is fair—that people are guaranteed fairness, are not rooked and that the crooks are not allowed to cash in— and, when that has been done, gambling should be taxed and kept under control fiscally. Labour and Conservative Governments have discriminated unfairly in their taxing of various types of gaming.
Greyhound racing is strictly controlled and honestly run. It must pay a tax of 5 per cent. pool tax to totalisator money and it has a 6 per cent. administrative charge. Millions of£s are poured into horse-racing, but that activity pays no tax and is limited to a 10 per cent. charge for administrative purposes. Betting shops are taxed up to a point. The on-course bookmaker is taxed while the off-course bookmaker has no 5 per cent. tax. Footballs pools are taxed to the tune of about 25 per cent., although the operators are not limited in the amounts they may charge for administrative purposes. These charges vary from week to week and, from the accounts which are published, one gathers that administrative costs take between 28 per cent. and 33⅓ per cent. of the money.
The House should not run away with the idea that this is not an industry. Hundreds of thousands of people are employed in it and many millions of£s change hands annually. The Chancellor gets his cut—not as much as he should or could—and local authorities get theirs. Directly or indirectly the police are connected with it, and yet we overlook all the anomalies that we know exist.
A furore has been aroused over the Kursaal decision to play the zero. I could not care less whether or not the zero is played or whether it is of advantage to the house or the punter. As long as the people who participate know what is going on, it is fair. If those who invest in this form of gaming know that the house has an additional 2½per cent. advantage, that is their business.
In the way that the Chancellor limits greyhound tracks to a 6 per cent. administrative charge, he should do the same with gambling casinos and limit them to a 6 per cent. charge. If that were done they could do away with the 2½per cent. zero benefit—or they could be taxed to the tune of 2½per cent. Let us make this an across-the-board piece of legislation.
If an hon. Gentleman opposite and I wish to leave the Chamber for a smoke, he would probably smoke a cigar while I lit a cigarette. It would not matter the brand. Pro rata, we would pay exactly the same tax for the privilege of smoking. I agree that if I smoked one of the smaller types of cigarette, I would pay less tax, but the principle is the same. This is the way in which the Government should tackle the gambling problem. All forms of gambling should be treated alike.
If there were a system of strict control and enforcement, with both administrative charges being allowed and taxation being deducted, the Treasury would get its share, the Inland Revenue could keep a check and we could be assured that there was fairness in this industry. A wealthy man who is a horse owner can gamble as much as he likes on horse racing and nobody says a word. The ordinary dock labourer who goes to a greyhound track is prevented from having a bet unless he pays a certain amount of tax beforehand. A person running a gaming establishment must operate by a different set of rules and is prevented from deducting a set percentage for overheads, and if he happens to own a casino it is said that he should not play the zero.
The same principle applies to one-armed bandits. I could not care less whether there is a big or little pool or whether the odds are big or small provided that information is clearly marked on the machine and the chap putting the money in knows what he is doing. People do not have to go on putting in their sixpences, and provided the machine is fairly controlled and in no way rigged I cannot see why we should protect these people from themselves concerning the amount they receive back.
I hope that when the regulations are introduced we shall see some action from the Government over one-armed bandits in another way. My hon. and learned Friend the Under-Secretary of State may not be aware, but the Board of Trade is, that we import£4½million-worth of one-armed bandits a year, mainly from the dollar area. When the Board of Trade is asked to take action, it does not do so. If we are to have one-armed bandits, let us make them in this country. That would help our balance of payments, which is important, and if there is any fiddling or rigging it is much easier to have a go at a British-registered company which has made them in this country, and to see that the machines are properly operated, than if they come from Las Vegas or some other area of the United States.
That leads me to the question of the alleged crooks and unscrupulous people in the industry. I raised this question when George Raft was expelled from this country. I am in no way associated with him, although I have met him, and being of the age-group which saw his films I know that he was always cast as one of the crooks and racketeers. I do not know whether he was one. if any people, including this individual, are up to nefarious activities, they should be prosecuted. They should have an opportunity of proving their innocence or being proved guilty, and they should take their sentence if they are proved guilty. It is not good enough to pick them up and say that they will be cleared out of the country but that no charges are being made against them. It would be a good thing if, under the regulations, the Home Secretary says that we shall not allow Mr. X or Mr. Y to run a club, and the reason is that we have something against him. Charges should be laid, because one can then sometimes find out who is associated with the individual concerned and the composition of the gangs.
I know that most of us are pleased that there will be an easing up on bingo, but I am not so pleased. I do not agree that it is such a small private affair, because some of the biggest organisations —very often religious—run some of the biggest clubs and are making a mint of money from them. I do not object to that. Let them make the money— whether it is the Rank Organisation, which I think is run by a great Methodist, a Church of England organisation or a Roman Catholic organisation—but let them also be taxed and pay their fair way, just like every other section of the industry.
That leads me to the question of profits. I could not care less what profits are made. But let us try to have some records of them, and then I hope that the time will come when my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer will work out a fair tax. I do not care whether it is 5 per cent. or 10 per cent., provided it is fairly placed on all, or whether it is assessed on the company's final profitability or on the punter's bet. It does not matter, because in the ultimate the punter really pays.
The present position is very unfair. Some people are paying no tax, some are having virtually no deductions allowed for administrative charges and costs, others are limited to 6 per cent., others to 10 or 16 per cent., while some are allowed as much as 25 and 33 per cent. I have seen the amount which the football pools deduct before the prize money is allocated vary from 28 to 33⅔ per cent., yet the bingo halls, casinos, or greyhound tracks are told that they must limit their overheads to 2 per cent. or 6 per cent. Therefore, I hope that when the regulations come out my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary will not only be fair but be seen to be fair in the way he operates them.
I should like to begin by dealing with three points made by the hon. Member for West Ham, North (Mr. Arthur Lewis). I agree with a great deal of what he said, but I do not understand his point that if somebody bets at a greyhound track he pays tax while the man who goes to a racecourse with a lot of money does not. Of course, one pays tax on one's bet at a racecourse just as one does at a greyhound track.
I am sorry if this was not clear. If the hon. Gentleman bets on the totalisator at the greyhound track he pays a 5 per cent. tax and a 6 per cent. administrative charge. If he goes to the racecourse, it is true that there is a 10 per cent. deduction, but there is no taxation.
The hon. Gentleman is also right to say that people will gamble at any odds. Only last autumn a Parliamentary delegation went to Sweden, where we saw people playing roulette on a full wheel. If they won they were paid at the rate of 12 to 1, and they were not allowed to cash their money, but had to buy something from the hotel which was running the wheel. That certainly shows that people will gamble at any odds.
I was interested to hear the hon. Gentleman say that Mr. William Hill was a very good Socialist. I think that I shall have to change my bookmaker. It is no wonder that I cannot back winners.
I welcome the Home Secretary's decision to introduce a Bill to tidy up the gaming laws. The Betting and Gaming Act, 1960, has never worked. Its interpretation has never been put into practice, and the High Court seems to have misunderstood Parliament's intentions. Since 1960 we have seen in this country the growth of an enormous industry handling vast sums of money, in my view almost without any proper administration or control, which, as many hon. Members have said, has got into the hands of undesirable individuals who are out to make a quick profit in badly-run gaming premises. The Bill is an attempt to get control of the situation.
Some of the gaming establishments in this country are well run and properly operated and have tried to meet Parliament's requirements. I doubt whether we shall ever have the quality or standards of the French casinos. I hesitate to use the words nationalisation of gaming houses, but I am sure that, in this industry, from what one has seen of State-controlled casinos, they produce many advantages which I doubt whether we shall see in the casinos in this country. In the early 1960s gaming houses were probably enjoying the best times that they are likely to have in this country. Having looked with other hon. Members at what is going on in the gaming industry in this country, I think that they are not doing as well now as they were three or four years ago.
I believe the Home Secretary is absolutely right in setting up a Gaming Board, but I am not quite sure why he intends to keep this Board so small—only three members. What alarms me, as my right hon. Friend mentioned, is that I am sure it would be better to allow the Board to determine how it could best achieve the requirements of Parliament without setting out all the detail that is laid down in Parts II and III of the Bill.
The Home Secretary mentioned that some casinos operated with a charge as high as£20 a shoe in a game of chemin-de-fer.I have seen a shoe of chemin-de-ferplayed for£50 per person in London. This is ludicrous—a charge of£50 to nine people. I do not believe the Home Secretary meant it when he said half-an-hour a shoe. One can get three shoes in an hour. This club in London must have been taking about£1,350 in as little as three hours' play, which is ludicrous and makes complete nonsense of the 1960 Act.
The Home Secretary said that he would be cutting the number of gaming clubs. What sort of numbers does he envisage we will have in London when the Bill becomes an Act? In Manchester there are about 90 gaming premises and I should have thought that this is four times as many as are required. My hon. Friend the Member for the Isle of Thanet (Mr. Rees-Davies) has taken a great interest in the gaming laws of this country and it is unfortunate that he cannot take part in the debate as he has lost his voice. I agree with him that the enforcement of the gaming laws should be the job of the Gaming Board. We have precedents for this in this country. The task of enforcement should be through the inspectorate and not through the police. As with the Jockey Club or the Boxing Board of Control, they should enforce their own rules. What is the difference between a croupier who breaks the rules of play and a jockey who bumps and bores coming down the straight, or between a croupier who mishandles the cards and a jockey who takes a bribe and cheats the public?
I should have thought that the Home Secretary should look at this again and that the rules should be enforced through the Gaming Board. Also the penalties should be operated by the Board. The promoter, if he goes wrong, will lose his licence. The premises will be struck off the list, and the staff, if they are found breaking the rules, will be blacklisted. It will be waste of time to clutter the courts with the problems that will be confronted by the Board.
I also agree with my right hon. Friend that short prison sentences should be removed from the Bill. It is fair to say that it needs a very sharp-eyed individual to capture a cardsharper. The police have never been able to interpret the law or to work it. I do not think that anybody in the police force could catch a cardsharper. It is one of the most difficult jobs in the world, and it needs a highly-trained intelligent bunch of individuals to deal with this.
I once watched a croupier in a gaming establishment in Liverpool which was, to say the least, rather shady. The game was started as soon as a number of people arrived. There were three people playing chemin-de-ferfor the house against five other individuals. The croupier was taking the cards from the shoe—and people who have not watched this would find it difficult to believe—his hands were moving so fast it was impossible to see whether he was putting the cards to the right or left of the shoe. I discovered the following morning that the only three people who won were the people playing for the house. This demonstrates the difficulties and problems which will be faced by the inspectorate in trying to control this legislation.
I welcome what the Home Secretary is trying to do. We have a difficult task in trying to knock the Bill into shape and a great deal will have to be done during the Committee stage.
I found a great deal with which I agree in the speech of the hon. Member for Richmond, Yorks (Mr. Kitson). I never think this House is very good at dealing with crime, dope, vice or gambling, because hon. Members do not know much about them. We bring to these subjects great respectability and a lot of ignorance.
My right hon. Friend in moving the Second Reading said that this Bill would divide the sheep from the goats. I come to this argument strictly as a goat. My father taught me gambling when I was very young. He had the theory that one should learn that gambling was a mug's game at the earliest opportunity. It is a theory that might have worked had my father been less innocent or if his sons had been less criminally inclined. In fact my father never had a chance, and when I subsequently grew up I continued to gamble and I continued to win.
One wins at gambling not by betting against the odds but by confining bets to the occasions when the odds are leaning one's own way. That is where one's wits come in. To win at gambling means being cleverer than the other chap, and I was, so I know just a little about this subject.
I was interested in the speech of the right hon and learned Gentleman the Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg). I agree with a number of things he said, but he displayed some lack of understanding. For instance, he referred to how warmly this was welcomed by the Casino Owners' Association. I will say this to him "Timeo Danaos et dona ferentes", which roughly translated means "Beware of the Greeks when they bring support to this Bill." Secondly, I think he showed considerable innocence when he said that the previous Act failed by reason of the judges. The previous Act failed because it was brought in by people who were almost totally ignorant of gambling. It never had the smallest chance to succeed. I was aware of that at the time, as was the hon. Member for the Isle of Thanet (Mr. Rees-Davies), who also knew something about gambling. I voted against Lord Butler's Act at every stage—one of the few who did. I pointed out at the time exactly what would happen. Therefore, I seek on this subject to establish my authority at the expense of my respectability. This is a subject on which I know what I am talking about.
That is perfectly true. I voted against it on Third Reading and I constantly voted against its provisions in Committee. I agreed that it should have a Second Reading. I am grateful to the right hon. and learned Gentleman. I had not checked my recollection.
My solution—here I agree with many of my hon. Friends—would be nationalisation. I would nationalise the book. I would nationalise the Tote. I would nationalise the pools. I would nationalise the lot. I would do it for this reason. My two candidates for nationalisation are, first, tobacco, and, secondly, gambling. It is socially desirable that these should be reduced. If they are left in private hands, it is commercially desirable for the promoters that they should be expanded. That seems to me to be a dilemma which is most conveniently resolved by nationalisation.
Since that solution is not available, the next best choice is the Gaming Board. As the right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone said, this is the same kind of idea as the Jockey Club. Possibly the Greyhound Racing Association would be an even better example. If it is to succeed, we must see how and why the Jockey Club and the G.R.A. succeed. The key words here are that they are arbitrary, they are autocratic, and they give no reasons. If gaming is to be controlled, I believe that those are the all-essential conditions. The Board must be arbitrary. It must be autocratic. No reasons must be given.
If the Jockey Club took to giving reasons, Heaven knows what horse racing would be like, because it is the most ditficult of them all to control. I do not for one moment say that it is always honest. Of course it is not. But that it keeps so near to being respectable is due entirely to the Jockey Club's control. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for West Ham, North (Mr. Arthur Lewis) that the G.R.A. conducts the most honest form of gambling that there is—greyhound racing. It does it by the most rigid and arbitrary control—by expulsion, by warning off.
If we are to have a Board, I ask the Government not to tie it down by rules and not to write rules into the Bill. If rules are written into the Bill, the gaming fraternity will walk through the rules. They are much cleverer at this game than the Government are. Let no rules be written into the Bill. Leave the Board to make the rules. Tell the Board the end which is wanted and leave it to make the rules.
Next, make the Board the licensing authority. There is no point in intervening with the justices. They are far too respectable, anyway. Leave the Board to do the licensing and let licensing be the Board's sanction. We do not want the courts to be cluttered up with prosecutions as to how gaming is being conducted. Leave the Board to deal with that, as the Jockey Club and the G.R.A. deal with it—by warning off. A sanction is needed for gaming without a licence. The Board cannot deal with that. However, leave anything within the licence, offences in the conduct of games, cheating, and so on, to the Board and let the Board be responsible for licensing and for deciding who is to be licensed.
Thirdly, leave control of the games and of the personnel to the Board. Do not say that the Board must concern itself with licensing executive people only. Do we really want in a gaming club a man with a string of convictions acting as a strong-arm thug or thrower-out because he is not an executive? Of course we do not.
I apologise. It is a long Bill and I was pretty certain that it dealt only with executive employees in clubs. My right hon. Friend particularly said that it did not refer to people such as usherettes. I believe that this matter, too, should be left to the discretion of the Board.
I come, lastly, to the licensing of machines. Let the Board have discretion with regard to licensing and maintenance. If this is done, the only criminal sanction which will be needed will be against the use of machines without a licence. The machines can be controlled by the most effective sanction of taking them away and closing them down, if offences are committed to them or if they are being used by undesirable people.
I believe that the Bill has a chance. It depends on the Gaming Board. It will succeed only so long as the Board is left with free hands to make it work. The members of the Board are the people who understand gaming. If the Government try to make rules against gamblers, they will find that gamblers are much cleverer at getting round the rules than the Government are in making them.
I shall flaunt neither my knowledge nor my respectability, unlike my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget). I do not claim to have any great knowledge of the subject, and I certainly do not claim to be any more respectable than any other Member. This has been a very interesting debate. We have listened to two good Front Bench speeches. I was very interested to hear my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary make his maiden legislative speech in his new office. I am sure that it is a change for him from dealing just with the nation's money—although, of course, we are really concerned with money in this case as well.
I always enjoy the speeches of the right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg). I do not know that I enjoy them as much as he does, but nevertheless I always find his moral overtones at least challenging, and I certainly think that this is a challenge which faces all of us on this occasion.
My hon. Friend the Member for Walls-end (Mr. Garrett) said that this was a good Bill because it would sort out once and for all the problems associated with gaming and gambling. With all due respect to him, I think that he is something of an optimist. Nevertheless there is need for the Bill. I suppose that it makes all of us face the question or at least attempt to define our attitude to gambling. Like most Scottish Members, perhaps including my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland, I must confess to an Ayrshire Calvinistic background, and I am not sure whether I have overcome it completely. Perhaps we see things slightly differently in Scotland, however.
I am not really a gambler in the sense of being a betting man, although I suppose I like to accept challenges in all sorts of ways. But I think that not enough study has been made of why people gamble. Is it for thrills? Is it for the basic concept of getting something for nothing? Or is it genuinely dependent on the kind of gambling? Is it for some kind of social intercourse which is almost a hobby or family game or recreational pursuit?
I do not think that this is a question for moralising or for passing judgments, but from time to time we must look at the problem and come down on one side or the other of the argument that if one enjoys doing something it must be good for one, or, in the reverse, if it is good for one one must enjoy it. I find it slightly depressing always to have to face the fact that people do enjoy something like gambling. Provided they are doing no harm to anyone else, we have to accept it. Bingo to some extent comes into that category.
I think that it was a little unfair of my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary to leave the impression that linked games were a doubtful practice. I do not think he intended this, because I am sure that he must have some knowledge of linked games which are not doubtful. I would not like it to go on record that there is any question of a closed circuit television kind of operation which leaves the impression that the fact that when someone in Cardiff is competing with a person in Glasgow and the Glasgow man wins the game could be of doubtful character rigged by the management. But I do not think my right hon. Friend meant that. Probably he meant that this form of linking and thus enabling prize money to be so much increased diminishes the argument that gambling is a social family pastime. If he was criticising it on grounds of excessive prize money, he should have made that clear.
My right hon. Friend has made a concession for bingo, and I think that the House will welcome the separation of bingo from the other forms of gambling we are discussing. I confess to a feeling of depression that some people apparently can find no better way of using their leisure time than playing bingo, and that even on club outings to the Lake District or to the Continent, for example, they seem to have to spend the bulk of their time playing bingo. However, it takes all sorts to make the world and I am prepared to tolerate though not encourage their choice.
The Government are doing something that needs to be done. There is no doubt that, certainly in Glasgow, crime has been linked with gambling clubs. I make a great distinction between two forms of gambling. The man who bets on a football pool or uses a betting shop is not the character who can afford to pay£5 or£10 or even£20 for a night's entertainment in a lush, plush casino where it is the policy to introduce people to forms of gaming. There is still a distinction to be made between different forms of gambling, and the Government are rightly attempting to tackle some of the problems associated with the more expensive forms.
Every hon. Member who has spoken has appreciated some of the problems. How is gambling to be controlled? One hon. Member put it rather well when he said that we could control the where, the when and the who, but can we? If the number of establishments is limited, by either the Gaming Board or the existing licensing authorities, is not that very limitation itself an inducement to some form of strong-arm methods? That is one of the dangers when we attempt to limit numbers, presumably on the ground that too many would be undesirable.
Mention has been made of betting shops springing up all over the place as a result of the 1960 legislation. It is true that there has been a demand for betting shops, but the numbers in some areas have been reduced when the authorities have dealt with the problem of having to accept people with police records. To some extent, the number of betting shops has now found its normal level, but once we try to control the numbers, potential applicants are likely to put pressure on the licensing authorities, the local magistrates or the Board, and this is the danger.
The Bill obviously deals with the problem of who should run these establishments. I agree with those hon. Members who have said that at least we should leave it open for local authorities, or some other kind of publicly-owned body, to indulge in an activity which can be controlled properly only by disinterested management, to use an old-fashioned phrase. I object to the view that to nationalise something is the best way to ensure that it does not make a profit. That is an unfortunate way of presenting an argument for nationalising betting and gaming.
On the whole, the Bill is to be welcomed. I am not sure that we do not need another Royal Commission on the subject, but certainly all of us in the House and the major parties in the country should evolve a positive attitude to the question of whether gambling itself is desirable. To do so may be unpopular and I do not expect my own party to do it in the near future. I welcome the Bill, however, which is the kind of Bill which can be constructively amended in Committee, and I wish it every success.
Like every other hon. Member who has spoken, I welcome the Bill and I welcome the new Home Secretary from his job at the Exchequer as a genuine attempt to turn the poacher into the gamekeeper of casinos.
The Bill is needed because we need control of gaming establishments and gambling. In the near future the House should consider setting up a permanent Select Committee to deal with gambling. It was not long before a coach and horses were driven through the 1960 legislation and by 1968 a 10-ton truck could be driven through it. If we want to ensure that gambling is straight forward and that the punter gets a fair deal, we ought to consider better ways of ensuring constant control over gambling than having periods of perhaps eight years during which certain forms of gambling can get out of hand.
Gambling is now part of our way of life. Even in Eastern European countries, operating under Marxist principles, where no one should gain anything for which they do not work, gambling in one form or another has been accepted, either the tote or horse racing. There is no point in suppressing it, because in the United States, where gambling is illegal in most States, there is one of the biggest gangster rackets in operation.
I want to put a suggestion to the Home Secretary to do with Members' knowledge of gambling. We had the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) talking about his knowledge of gambling, and the hon. Member for Richmond, Yorks (Mr. Kitson) amazed the House with his knowledge of "chemmy" and various other games. I should like to see the Home Secretary set up, in a Committee room of this House, the various forms of gambling about which we will be legislating. The only other way that Members can see this is if they are invited by the clubs concerned, and this is wrong. I would not be against the Home Secretary asking us all down to the Playboy, but I am not so certain whether the Treasury would feel that it was correct.
Why cannot the Home Secretary give us a Committee room—I am not asking to go on the Committee but I would certainly be interested—to show us about black jack, about "chemmy", and the shoes of which the hon. Member for Richmond, Yorks spoke, and show us what chances the punter has and how he plays these games. I am certain that this would be unusual, but it would be useful if we could see what we are talking about. I am on the Countryside Bill at the moment and we cannot have trees and hedgerows in there. In the last few weeks, since the recent judgment, the difficulties of ordinary people understanding gambling have been illustrated. I consider that most Members are ordinary people. [Interruption.]I exclude the right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg). Anyone who thinks that he is ordinary is stark staring bonkers.
We have heard arguments about 35 to I with the zero and the 36. We ought to examine one or two aspects of the laws of chance and the return that members of the public get. We find that if we are arguing about this 35 to 1 and the zero, the profit in effect of the table is something like 6d. in the£, on baccara it is 2d. in the£, and on dice, or craps, as it is commonly known in the gaming world, Is. in the£. But on other forms of gambling, for example, football pools it is 10s. 9d. in the£and with book makers 2s. in the£, bingo 6s. 8d. in the£ before the punter gets his winnings. On the tote it is something like 4s. in the£.
Before we start talking about taking all the profits of the gaming clubs, we have to look at other forms of gambling where bigger slices of profit are taken. We have heard much about unequal chance. Anyone who bets, in most cases stands an unequal chance. While there is the present set-up of betting shops there is unequal chance, because a punter can go into a London betting shop, such as William Hill's, where there is the full range of odds, yet there are places in provincial towns and seaside resorts, particularly during the holiday season, where the punter has an unequal chance against the London punter. His odds are trimmed tremenously because of the monopoly in certain areas.
My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary spoke about 15 inspectors operating for the Gaming Board. I think that more will be needed. At the moment we have between 800 and 900 gaming casinos. This means that 50 to 60 clubs will be looked after by one inspector. We shall need more inspectors if the control is to be effective.
I come to the question of the 48-hour membership—Clause 12. People coming into the country, particularly tourists, must be considered, otherwise there will be a return to illegal gambling. People will use subterfuge to get them into the clubs or people interested in gaming will find a floating "chemmy" club where gaming is going on illegally. Tourists will be encouraged to take part in the game because they will be unable to go to, a legal club because of the 48-hour membership rule.
The Home Secretary must consider the possibility of local authority halls still being used for bingo. In some areas, these are the only halls available where bingo can be run for all sorts of purposes, charitable or otherwise.
We should welcome the Bill. I am not sure that we should not be dealing with a bigger Bill covering all forms of gaming or having the Select Committee which I suggested considering gaming practically the whole time. I have no doubt that when the Bill becomes law Ladbroke's will be quoting odds on the time that it will take people to get round it. The House should be considering gambling in a much wider form, but, nevertheless, I welcome the Bill as it stands.
Like my hon. Friend the Member for Gravesend (Mr. Murray), I welcome the Bill, and particularly the approach of my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary to the whole question of gaming in Clause 10 which sets up the Gaming Board. My hon. Friend made a very practical point when he suggested that hon. Members, particularly those who serve on the Committee, might well benefit from the opportunity of seeing in this building the apparatus of gambling.
One thing which makes this Bill different from all the other gaming Bills which we have had is Clause 10, which sets up a Gaming Board of experts who can advise the Home Secretary and magistrates when applications for licences are made. The right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg) was right when he somewhat castigated what had happened in another place and subsequently reversed in the House of Lords. He put some blame on the courts. I would absolve the courts from much of the blame. The question of gaming and gambling is so complex, it allows so many manifestations of different kinds of gaming and such is the ingenuity of those who run gaming that no matter what law we pass, if we try to put any definition in the Statute, then as sure as night follows day the experts will get round it within 24 hours. The great merit of the Bill is that the Home Secretary proposes to set up a Gaming Board which, we hope, will be as wise as the casino operators and the people who run gaming.
No one has mentioned a minor point in the Schedule which is important. When a magistrates' court or a betting and licensing committee considers the recommendation of the Gaming Board, it must have regard to the layout and location of the premises. The right hon. and learned Gentleman said that he has had problems in his constituency, as I have in my own. Sooner or later, most hon. Members with casinos i n or near their constituencies receive legitimate complaints from those living in the neighbourhood about what happens at night time. For a man who has to get up at five or six o'clock in the morning to drive a bus or go down a pit, it is very annoying to find that, long after the normal closing hours of licensed premises, people are coming out of the casino full of the joys of spring, especially if they have won, and making a lot of noise. A woman wearing high heels walking along a street at two o'clock in the morning can produce what appears to a person who is in bed to be a tremendous noise. Car doors are slammed, and, naturally, neighbouring residents feel extremely irritated about the existence of the casino.
I hope that licensing committees will bear these matters in mind when applications are made for casino licences, and they are the proper people to consider such applications, because they know the area. If the Gaming Board refuses a licence for a casino, that is an end of the matter, and, in the face of its refusal, magistrates comprising a licensing committee will not grant the licence. However, where the Gaming Board approves a licence, the licensing committee concerned should not rubber-stamp the Board's decision, because all that the Board is saying is that there is nothing wrong with the proprietors or their staff. The Board members do not know the local area involved, and I hope that, simply because the Gaming Board has approved an application, a licensing committee will not feel under any duty to grant a licence.
Obviously there will be a reduction in the number of casinos, and I hope that, in considering an application, the licensing committee will bear in mind the needs of sleep and comfort of the inhabitants of the area surrounding the casino, whether or not they have the foresight to object to the application, because this is a matter which local magistrates can best consider.
Before I come to Part III of the Bill, I want to ask my hon. and learned Friend to clarify a point in Clause 17. I agree with the Clause, but it says that a licence holder shall cause cheques to be presented to a bank for payment within two days. I do not understand the full meaning of that. Does it mean collection? After all, the casino operator has no say in when a cheque is presented to the payer's bank for payment. His own bank will decide that. I agree that this is a Committee point, but perhaps it could be cleared up.
Part III relates to gaming machines. In this country, we have an institution which is unique. It is the ordinary club, and it may be a golf, rugby or political club of any party. It is unique because those who run it are ordinary people and not professionals. They do their ordinary jobs during the day, and they sit on the committee running the club for the benefit of their members. In the vast majority of cases, they do it extremely well and scrupulously honestly. It is only since the possibility of bribery, corruption and pressure has been brought to bear on some committee members by many machine operators that the good name of clubs has been brought into jeopardy.
I welcome the provision which extends the Bill to cover gaming machines in clubs. It is obviously right that only a member or servant of a club should be entitled to empty a machine. By enacting that alone we have gone a considerable way to eliminating an evil which existed in many clubs and was spreading to many more. It will not eliminate the problem entirely.
Nevertheless, the fact that there is to be a Gaming Board of Control which has some power over the distributors of gaming machines and can report to the licensing committee if there has been any abuse, as can any member of a club, will be of tremendous assistance in stamping out the tentacles of corruption which have found their way into a very fine British institution—an institution that has sprung up because of the need to have entertaining surroundings into which a person can take his family for a pleasant evening out, for a drink, a game, and even a gamble on a fruit machine. The brewers of this country have singularly failed to provide any enlightened surroundings into which a person could take his family. Therefore, people have done it for themselves, and often the premises have been improved because of the existence of gaming machines.
My hon. Friend the Member for Westhoughton (Mr. J. T. Price), who intervened in the Home Secretary's speech, pointed out the profits on these machines. A profit of£40 a week is a modest sum for a machine. Although the Chancellor of the Exchequer cannot anticipate his Budget, I agree with the sentiments of the hon. Member for Westhoughton that£75 per machine is a strikingly insignificant sum to take from the very considerable profits.
One last point on gaming machines that my hon. and learned Friend might explain is why he has re-enacted the provisions of Section 49 of the old Act and left these machines under the control of local authorities. Crime can spread its tentacles in the most unexpected places. When hon. Members were debating the last Gaming Bill and talking about church raffles, I am sure that never in a thousand years did they imagine what would result from it. We must not fall into the same trap. That is one reason why I should like to see the amusement-with-prizes machines put not under the control of the local authority, but under the control of the licensing committee.
The Gaming Board will have some say about the operation and emptying of the machines, but the local licensing committee will issue the licence, not the local authority. The 1963 Act went astray very quickly, because it was found that once a local authority had issued a permit for one machine initially, there was no control over how many machines could be put in. There was an immediate evasion of the Act and another Act had to be brought in the following year to put right the loopholes found by the operators.
There was a case in the High Court shortly afterwards concerning the question where a machine had a dual capacity in that it could take discs and, therefore, could either be operated as an amusement-with-prizes machine or as a gaming machine. That could happen again unless we are careful in this Bill to see that it does not. I suggest that one way in which we could ensure it does not happen is to put the amusement-with prizes machines under the control of the licensing committee. This function does not really belong to the local authorities.
This is an extremely good Bill, and I welcome it. I think that it will prevent crime and preserve gaming. It is harmless to the community, but it will prevent criminals taking control of this extremely lucrative section of the economy for their own ends.
We have had an extremely interesting debate, and one of the most worthwhile speeches that we heard was that of the hon. Member for Bolton, West (Mr. Oakes). A number of interesting points have been raised on Part III. No doubt the Minister will deal with them, and they will be dealt with even more fully in Committee. We have heard a number of confessions from hon. Members about where they have been and whether they have been to gaming establishments. We had a supreme confession at the start of the debate from the Home Secretary that he had beer present at a dance of the seven veils. It was an interesting confession at the start of what we hope will he a distinguished but short tenure of office.
There has been a lot of discussion about the motivation behind gaming. My right hon. Friend the Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes) suggested that we did not have much knowledge about the basic motivation of gaming. and that there should be further study about this. There has not been much progress since the Willinck Commission which preceded the earlier legislation. It is true that there has been no recent study of this problem in depth, but we have a voluminous amount of literature on the subject of gaming.
One of the most interesting books is the compendious one on gambling written by Mr. Alan Wykes. He gives an interesting analysis of the basic reasons for gaming. As an expert who has made a study of it, he lists eight basic motivations. First, there is the desire for the acquisition of unearned money. Another is the social cachet which goes with certain types of gaming. More controversially perhaps, he suggests that another motivation might be sexual compensation. Yet another might be masochism. Perhaps this appeals more to the hon. Gentleman. It might also be boredom, the refuge of an empty mind. In some cases people might be caused to indulge in gaming because of the desire for intellectual exercise. In some cases, he suggests, it is a desire to prove one's superiority over the forces of chance. Finally, there is a fall back one, the basic one, a desire for inexplicable excitement. It is interesting to note that when the author of this noble work put the matter to 125 hardened gamblers, the only motivations which they recognised as having any basic effect on them were the desire for intellectual exercise and the desire to get the better of the odds.
Whatever the motivation, it is undoubtedly the case that from time immemorial men have been fascinated by gaming, and have had a deep-seated desire to indulge that fascination. I think that we would do well to recognise this. It was put rather ably by the economist Alex Rubner in his book, "Economics of Gambling". He says, rightly, of gambling:
It is a persuasive social phenomenon, and it is both desirable and possible to view it with detachment and without immoderate passions.
By bringing in the Bill the Government have shown that so far they have succeeded in some way in viewing gambling with a certain degree of detachment and without immoderate passions. I welcome this, because it seems to me that, in the main, the Bill adopts a realistic attitude to gambling, particularly with regard to casinos, in respect of which we know that problems have developed since the passing of the former Act.
I am not so happy about the attitude which has been adopted to bingo. These provisions are not satisfactory. The Home Secretary suggested that he would give way, but the Bill's attitude to bingo is somewhat petty and patronising.
Part I of the Bill, which embraces Clauses 1 to 8, will give rise to several Committee points, but it seems sensible. It excludes public gaming and prevents—though it does not prohibit—private gaming, and this seems sense. Clause 6 has some interesting points. It rightly alllows an exception in the case of licensed premises and provides that dominoes and cribbage may be played in licensed premises. This Clause further empowers the licensing justices and, in Scotland, the licensing court, to allow additional games to be played, and authorises them to impose conditions to secure that the gaming does not take place for high stakes or in circumstances likely to induce people to enter licensed premises for gaming.
I do not clearly see what the Government have in mind that justices should do here, and I would like clarification. Does the Under-Secretary intend that they should put a general limit on stakes on a particular hand of a game of cards or on a game of dominoes, or that they should deal with this further limitation only in cases of particularly bad gaming schools on some licensed premises? I would like him to consider, between now and Committee stage, if he cannot answer tonight, whether this Part of the Bill should not include some further guidance to justices about their rôle here.
Part II is the substance of the Bill and sets up the Gaming Board in Clause 10. The First Schedule gives us more information about it, but one must be disappointed about the duties of the Board. It will be useful, but its duties seem inadequate. I echo the sentiments on both sides that it should be the Gaming Board which has greater powers and an enhanced role. At the moment, its duty would be to keep under review the extent, character and loctation of gaming facilities, which is a nebulous sort of duty, and I would be interested to hear how it will do this. It will have a staff, and, under another part of the Bill, the right of entry, but it seems intended to have a roving commission to keep an eye on gaming, which is not very positive.
In addition, it will have the right to advise licensing authorities. This is not entirely satisfactory, since it will mean that, for the first time, a statutory lay body will be advising a judicial or quasi-judicial authority. It is unprecedented for any outside body to advise the courts, and I am not happy about this proposal. There is great strength in the contention made tonight that it might be better to put this matter of licensing under the Board itself, perhaps with appeal to the courts.
I am not happy about a statutory board giving advice to the courts. At the moment the only person who dares to write to or to influence the courts is the Lord Chancellor, who from time to time sends memoranda for the guidance and advice of magistrates. Now, for the first time, a statutory body is to advise the courts. I am not sure that this is a satisfactory way of proceeding. The Bill lays down that the applicant for a licence has the right to be shown the advice that has been given, but I am not sure that that is enough. The advice which the statutory Board gives may be of a general character or specifically concerned with one case. It should be public.
I should be glad to hear whether it is the intention that the advice given by the Board to the licensing justices shall be published and available to others besides the applicant in question. It seems that it should be, or it will be difficult for those concerned with the law to advise their clients and to build up the sort of knowledge they need.
Rightly, in my view, the Board is to be given the power of surveying the appropriateness, the fit and proper character, of those employed in the licensed premises, and similarly of applicants. That is a correct duty to lay upon the Board, but some of the duties are much too nebulous. I am attracted by the idea of putting far more on to the Board. The system goes about the business of control in several ways. First, there are statutory prohibitions that there shall be no gaming by those under 18, no gaming except in duly licensed premises and so on. Then there is the vague role of the Gaming Board, then control by regulation made by the Home Secretary and, finally, the role of the police.
What is the position about regulations to be made by the Home Secretary? It will be right, of course, for him to take the advice of the Board which he is to set up, but clearly before it is set up regulations must be made by the Home Secretary. I should be glad to know whether regulations are to wait for the setting-up of the Board so that the Board can deliberate, consider, determine and then give advice to the Home Secretary before the regulations are made. Is that to happen? If so, what time-table is envisaged? If this to be the process there will be a long time before the regulations are made and, meanwhile, we shall have a worrying situation.
Initial regulations should be made by the Home Secretary. I echo what was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Runcorn (Mr. Carlisle) when he suggested that it might be appropriate for the regulations to be made public. Let the Home Secretary at an early stage, perhaps before the Committee stage of the Bill, publish initial draft regulations so that we may consider them with the Bill.
The Home Secretary shakes his head, but I cannot see why a draft should not be made without confirmation giving some idea of what is proposed. No doubt we will be able to help him in Committee.
The last set of proposals laid by the right hon. Gentleman's predecessor had to be withdrawn. All sorts of people concerned with gaming must be consulted in these matters. If representations about the memorandum had been made, it was only right that they should be consulted. That is why I say that now, at this early stage, we should be given the draft regulations or at least an indication of what the position will be under this Measure.
It is vital that we get this business right. If the regulations are wrong, the matter will either be pushed under the carpet again, making it hard, perhaps impossible, for many clubs to make a profit, or it will go the other way and the issue will be as ad libas it is now. This does not mean that there must be enormous delay in the preparation of the regulations. Ample time has already been at the disposal of the Home Secretary in which to have an idea of what the position will be.
While I agree that the regulations are vital, would not the hon. Gentleman agree that it is essential that they are capable of being changed from time to time? We are being asked to give the Home Secretary wide powers to act by Order so that he will be able to deal with the manoeuvres of the opposition, as it were, without the normal Parliamentary procedures.
I agree that that is the purpose of these powers. I have considerable sympathy with the view that this should all be a matter for the Board. However, as that will not be possible, this is obviously the sensible way to proceed. It is because the regulations will be changed that they should be produced quickly, before the Board is established, so that, in the light of the advice which the right hon. Gentleman is given in due course, he can alter the regulations to meet any point raised by the Board. In the meantime, it is essential that the position is clarified at an early stage.
At present we have an undesirable position relative to gambling; a situation of complete flux, with nobody knowing exactly how the regulations will apply. In the next few months, while the right hon. Gentleman is cogitating about the regulations, a number of respectable houses may go under.
We must not forget the difficult constitutional position which is arising, and it would be interesting to hear from the Lord Chancellor in another place about this. We have the extraordinary situation in which the courts are indicating that the police should take certain action—and my right hon. and learned Friend has had some stringent remarks to make about that. While the courts are saying these things about the police, and their duty to implement the legislation at present on the Statute Book, we have this Measure before us—it is clear that it will be passed by the House; if we are to have legislation it is important that it is passed speedily—and it is important that the regulations flowing from it should be published so that people know where they will stand in the near future.
The situation is unsatisfactory at present and, on the question of control, I am not at all happy about the position of the police. It appears that we are again saddling them with considerable additional burdens. Perhaps they are not as considerable as the burdens under the earlier legislation—if they had been attempted to be strictly enforced. Nevertheless, they are additional burdens to those which the police have had to bear in the last six or so months. Perhaps this fact will deter the right hon. Gentleman from cutting back recruitment to the police force. At a time when the police and lawyers face great difficulty in getting to grips with the Criminal Justice Act—the business of the breathalyser and the rest of the legislation—not only is the Home Secretary imposing additional burdens, but he is cutting back on recruitment. This is a most undesirable state of affairs. It may be necessary to have some form of gang squad, and I wonder if this is envisaged. If so, it will have to consist of people of high calibre. I recommend such a squad if the right hon. Gentleman is to persist that the police must play the principal part in enforcement.
I can see the hon. Gentleman's difficulties in trying to make a fierce speech when he is not opposing the Bill, but he should understand that the police strength during the next 12 months will increase by 1,200 men, which is a substantial increase; it is far larger, if the hon. Gentleman wishes to make a party point of it, than the increases in some of the years when his party was in office.
I do not know how far I shall be allowed to go on this subject. Does the right hon. Gentleman deny that he is cutting back recruitment, that chief constables have been given certain directives concerning the numbers of police they can take on, and that they will be in difficulties about finding jobs for the cadets to whom they are already committed?
It would be quite irresponsible of me to allow chief constables or anybody else to recruit without any control over the level of recruitment. I do not think that I have ever heard such a ridiculous doctrine from the Tory Front Bench. The simple truth, which the hon. Gentleman might as well admit, is that under the Government's proposals the strength of the police force will considerably increase during the next 12 months.
I shall leave the position of the police. It is sufficient to say that they clearly have a paramount role to play in enforcing all the measures in the Bill.
I now turn to the question of bingo. I am delighted that the Home Secretary has indicated that he is giving way over certain points concerning it. I was not able to see how completely he was giving way. My understanding is that there will not be the 48-hour provision about membership of bingo clubs, but that the qualification will be 24 hours, much as it is at present. It seems that we shall enable people to go to a holiday resort and join quickly. I am not clear whether the right hon. Gentleman is giving way over a person who is a member of one club which has branches elsewhere.
Important points remain. I am disappointed that it does not at present appear that there is to be a concession about the link game, which is of great importance. I welcomed the intervention of an hon. Member opposite who made it clear that in his view there was nothing crooked about link games. I hope that the Under-Secretary of State will take the opportunity when winding up to say that there is no suggestion of their being crooked or in any way unfair. Certainly they are not in the ones of which I have had evidence. If there are games which are run in a crooked fashion they should be controlled by the Board, and it is very easy to control them. There is nothing wrong or immoral in the game.
Last Friday I went to the large bingo hall in my constituency, which, like so many others, is a converted cinema. There were 900 people happily and contentedly playing bingo. As the Home Secretary said, it is a harmless and innocent pastime. It is harmless and innocent at present when they have the advantages at this particular club of schemes called the Bonanza and the Boomerang, which involve participation in a link game. I can see no reason why this should not be allowed to continue. If it is thought that the prizes are getting out of hand and are too large, or that a danger or evil is likely to grow up because of the size of the prizes, perhaps the House would not object to an overall limit on the amount of any single prize.
What the basic objection to the link in bingo is I cannot see. The Board would find it extremely easy to supervise, and elaborate precautions are taken by those I have investigated, which are Rank and Mecca, to see that they are completely above corruption. It seems absurd to suggest that the link should be taken out of bingo.
It seems right that there should be a curb on advertising, and I would endorse this. I am wondering if in the case of bingo it would not be appropriate to allow supervision of the Board for at least some announcement as to the meetings or outings for numbers of old people who attend. It is true that bingo is fulfilling a social need. The 900 people whom I saw were a mixed age group, and I question what these people would have been doing if they had not been at bingo. They would probably have been at home alone, and probably lonely. It was a happy and social occasion. The Home Secretary has said he does not want to harass bingo, but in spite of that he has made some element of harassment of bingo in the Bill. It will have a deleterious effect on it. Large numbers of people, probably 10 million, are involved. It used to be thought important not to interfere with the Englishman's beer and baccy; now it is beer, bingo and baccy.
As for the Bill as a whole, as in the case of other speakers from both sides of the House, I give it a guarded welcome. It seems a realistic attempt to control casinos. It will be possible to judge it better when we have the regulations. Whether it would not be preferable to give more power to the Gaming Board arid less to the Home Secretary himself to make regulations, and less for the courts to do, is something we want to consider. It seems the argument from both sides has been in favour of a shift in emphasis to the Board. As my right hon. and learned Friend said, we should have a Jockey Club type set-up backed by Statute.
We welcome the Bill as a whole and hope that, after the various points which have been raised from both sides have been cleared up by the Under-Secretary, it will receive an unopposed Second Reading.
This Bill has been generally welcomed and it ha; given rise to a debate of a very high standard with interesting and constructive speeches. It is a matter of great interest that there has not been a single speech which is opposed to the introduction of the Bill despite the recent Opinion of the House of Lords. The Bill has received a general welcome for the broad principles of the machinery it introduces.
There have been two main reservations about the main structure of the Bill. One is the argument by hon. and right hon. Members that there should be control by means of public ownership The second has been the argument advanced by right hon. and hon. Members on both sides that the Board should have more power.
I turn first to the question of State ownership. Quite apart from the opposition to such a move, which is very widespread, as a recent Gallup poll showed—the poll showed support for a national lottery but opposition to State participation in gaming—there are considerable difficulties. Take the case of a possible direct State-running of all gaming establishments. At the moment these number in total about 1,500. These are bingo clubs playing some kind of roulette as well. It would be difficult to envisage the State directly employing the various people concerned. All sorts of questions about what rates they should be paid would arise. Apart from this, one cannot envisage Questions in Parliament about whether the croupier at number three table in the Edinburgh Playboy Club had paid out the correct number of chips when number seven came up.
If there were State running, it could not be in this direct form. The French do not directly run their casinos. They run them through concessionaires. If it was to be done through concessionaires here and if there was overall control by the State, a pretty formidable Gaming Board would be needed—one infinitely larger than the Board which we now envisage and one which would run into difficulties, in the light of the recent announcement by the Chancellor of the Exchequer about the number of State employees.
However, as I understand it, the main recommendations which were made were for local authority—municipal—control and running of gaming establishments. We must face the question—is this to be a municipal monopoly, or is it to be run by local authorities in competition with private establishments? If it were to be a monopoly, which in some ways would be the most satisfactory solution, we would be directly up against the problem of illegal gaming. All municipal authorities could not be compelled to run gaming establishments. Some might run them at a loss. If municipal authorities in areas where there is gaming now did not run gaming establishments, we might well find that in certain areas gaming would be driven underground. If, on the other hand, municipal authorities were to run gaming establishments in direct competition with private establishments, it might be said that this would achieve the worst of all possible worlds. There would be State participation in the stimulation of gaming, yet there would not be control. If there were this competition, it is perhaps doubtful how far local authorities would provide sufficient attraction to croupiers to be in their employ and how effectively they might run establishments. I can see many objections arising if ratepayers found that there was an extra 4d. on the rates because their local casino was running at a loss.
The question of the State getting some of the profits through taxation is one which certainly deserves to be considered. This is not a matter for the Home Office. It is a matter for Customs and Excise and one which has its attention at the moment.
The second main reservation about the Bill was the question of the Board's powers. The right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg) suggested that too much was to be left to regulations and that more discretion should be given to the Board. Other hon. Members suggested that the Board itself should conduct the licensing of clubs. I think that the right hon. and learned Gentleman rather exaggerated the amount which is to be left to regulations. There is not perhaps as much in Part II for regulations as he suggested. Many of the elaborate provisions of the Bill are provisions setting up the machinery.
It must be noted that under the Bill already a very wide discretion is vested in the Board and a very wide power is given in the form of control by regulations to the Secretary of State acting on the advice of the Board. The Board is, to a large extent, an arbitrary body. It will have arbitrary powers over individual croupiers. Indeed, were it in a different context the House might take an entirely different view about the powers of the Board and might well object to the degree of arbitrary authority which it is being given. When it comes to certifying croupiers, the Board will be able to withdraw a certificate and deprive someone of his livelihood without necessarily requiring the standard of proof which will be required in a court of law. This is inevitable.
The hon. Member for Richmond, Yorks (Mr. Kitson) talked about the skill of people who play cards. I am ready to believe that people can make a pack of cards sing the National Anthem. There is no limit to the skill of card players, which I envy and admire. But proof that some sort of cheating is going on would be impossible to such a standard that a court of law would uphold it in most cases.
One must have an arbitrary power to some extent, and one has it in the licensing of croupiers, invigilators and those taking part in the gaming on behalf of the club—not ordinary participants in the gaming, as the right hon. and learned Member for Chertsey (Sir L. Heald) thought, but those with a contract of service agreement with the club in question. Already, therefore, there is arbitrary power in the Board.
There is arbitrary power through the regulation-making powers. The House as a whole has accepted that one cannot regulate gaming by Statute. We are dealing with a very difficult customer. Classical analogies have been used, so perhaps I can use another. One faces a veritable Proteus and we must cast the Board in the role of a modern Menelaus so that it can catch our Proteus, hold it and pin it down. What has been suggested by the right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone and others might perhaps be going too far. If there were to be no regulations at all—and all these regulations will, of course be made on the advice of the Board—it is doubtful whether there would be any control of any kind over what the Board did.
We are dealing with an activity with very grave social implications of great importance to the life of the country. If everything were to left to the Board, there would be no control by Parliament that would really be effective. But, through regulations, Parliament will have control. Otherwise, everything would depend on the Home Secretary. Clearly, he cannot be held responsible to Parliament for every detail of the control which will be exercised through the Board, so the regulation-making power is needed as some form of statutory control.
We can examine in Committee, in the light of the views expressed, the possible ways in which the powers of the Board might be increased and we will look gladly at any suggestions made in Committee for pruning parts of the Bill in order to simplify it, but I do not at present see how the regulation-making power can be entirely dispensed with.
I was asked by the hon. Member for Runcorn (Mr. Carlisle) whether the licensing justices would be too weak. It was suggested by some hon. Members that the Board itself should do the licensing. But there are objections to this. The first is the need for local considerations to be taken into account, such as those referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Bolton, West (Mr. Oakes)—the possibility of local annoyance, whether the premises are suitable from the fire prevention point of view, local knowledge by the police, etc. All these are matters for the local licensing justices and if the Board were to vet all the applicants then we would need a very much larger Board.
I do not think that we need fear that the local justices will be weak. The provisions of this Bill will be quite different from those applying to betting licences. Indeed, the Board will be there to stiffen any justices who may need their backbones stiffened. The Board will be able to make representations at the hearing of an application on a wide scope of matters, as hon. Members will see in Schedule 2(17). It will also be able to appeal against the refusal of justices to give due weight to its representations.
In all these circumstances, it seems to me that we shall have, stiffened by the Board, a method of control through the granting of licences by local justices which will not lead to the proliferation of gaming establishments on the scale we have had with betting licences in the past.
During the debate, a number of individual points have been made by right hon. and hon. Members and I will do my best to answer as many of them now as I can. Hon. Members will realise that many of the points can be resolved in Committee when we can also deal with some of the questions asked by the hon. Member for Colchester (Mr. Buck)
I want first to deal with the relaxation of the 48-hour rule. Bingo clubs which play bingo and nothing else will have the rule relaxed and restored to its present position of a 24-hour rule, and there will also be a relaxation of the ban in the Bill on common membership
With gaming clubs one has to ask whether one supports the club concept at all, or wants licensed public gaming houses. There is a great deal to be said for trying, at any rate to some extent, to preserve the club concept. If there is a 24-hour rule, it will be impossible for clubs to check an applicant and it will be of great importance to the clubs to check those who apply for membership.
But there is now to be a new system of control which my hon. Friend has welcomed and if a club becomes a place of regular resort for criminals, that could be a ground for refusing to renew its licence. It will therefore be in the interests of the club to check on its membership and it will be impossible for it to do so if the 24-hour rule is maintained. The 48-hour rule gives at any rate some chance for some checking to be done.
Obviously, there will be difficulties in the way of checking on someone who is there for only one night, but I am not sure how far I share the view that we should make it as easy as possible on all occasions for overseas visitors. Junketting tours are organised from the United States for people to play in gaming clubs in London, and I am not sure that we necessarily want to maintain this position. I should like rather more information about the vast foreign exchange earnings which are talked about, because many of the figures which are bandied about may be figures for turnover and not the amount actually lost.
I was asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Wallsend (Mr. Garrett) about the easing of the£20 limit, and I can assure him that this will be done. A further concession will be made to those who want to play bingo in working men's clubs in that they will not have to register. Genuine members' clubs will not have to register when bingo is played for a 6d. charge.
My hon. Friend the Member for Brixton (Mr. Lipton) asked about twilight members' clubs and suggested that a number of abuses sprang from that quarter. He suggested that the police required powers of entry to prevent undesirable practices from springing up through lack of control. The police themselves do not want the right of entry to these members' clubs. They are satisfied that if there were to be an infringement of the rules and if the club were no longer to be carried on in the true spirit of a members' club, they would hear about it fairly soon.
Is my hon. and learned Friend aware that the police in Glasgow would dearly like to have just these powers in the sort of case which my hon. Friend the Member for Brixton (Mr. Lipton) has described?
I am subject to correction, but I was not aware of this point in the Scottish clubs. No doubt we could have further discussion on this matter, to see whether powers are needed. There is this further safeguard, which is that to get registration these members' clubs will have to prove that they are bona fidemembers' clubs. If this is not the case then there is some way of controlling the takeover of a members' club for various undesirable and sinister purposes.
The hon. Member for Brixton mentioned the dangers of syndicates. The provisions of the Bill would seem to provide us with the weapon for dealing with syndicates playing in clubs, because under Clause 12, as at present drafted, it would not be possible for a bank to be let to a syndicate. If there was to be an arrangement whereby someone else, not the proprietor, were to hold the bank at a particular table, assuming that this was legalised under the regulations made on the advice of the Board, that person must be present to play. If there was a syndicate all those members would have to be present to play.
If this was to be done by an arrangement, one would hardly imagine clubs doing this without some sort of reward and it seems that these individuals would have to be certified by the Gaming Board.
In this case the Clause is quite clear. If a syndicate held a table it would have to be present. We cannot allow gaming at these tables to be run by people who are not on the premises at all, apart from the case of the original licence holder, who would not have to be in the premises all the time.
May I turn to the very important question of enforcement referred to by the right hon. Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes). A number of speakers have suggested that the enforcement of the new law should be left to the inspectorate, not to the police. I should make it quite clear that the police want a right of entry into these clubs, and are quite happy about the enforcement of the law being left to them as the primary enforcement agency. It was suggested by the hon. Member for Colchester that this would place a vast new and extra burden on the shoulders of the police.
This is intimately tied in with the general work which the police do in any event. The reason why the police want to be in on these clubs is because they want to know where these criminals are going, as some of them do go to quite reputable clubs. The police will be acting on the advice of the inspectorate, who will be the experts whom they can call in if necessary. To suggest that the whole enforcement of this should be left to the inspectorate is to demand an army of inspectors.
At the moment there are something like 1,500 clubs where some form of gambling takes place. It may be that the number of mainly casino-type gambling clubs is smaller, more like half that number. But if the inspectorate were to control whatever number will be there after the Act has taken effect, and I shall say something more about numbers presently, there would still be hundreds of clubs, and it would be quite impossible for the inspectors alone to enforce the law. We do not envisage a vast army of inspectors. We envisage 15 expert inspectors, on whom the police can draw for information and advice if they are not quite clear about the way in which a particular game is being played in a particular club and whether it comes within the regulations. The police can invite the inspectors to go along and see how the club is run. In general, the police will be operating the law.
It may be thought that if there is some shady business going on the police will not know because they will not be sufficiently expert. Some of them will become fairly expert pretty soon. But it is very important for hon. Members to understand the general way in which we envisage the law will operate. We envisage that the Gaming Board will be an extremely powerful body and that a general atmosphere will be created in which clubs must comply and keep on the right side of the Gaming Board or else. If the Board opposes an application for the renewal of a licence or an application for a licence in the first place, it obviously will have considerable influence with the magistrates. We envisage that most clubs will dearly wish to avoid the opposition of the Board. If there is any hint of trouble, the possibility of getting on the wrong side of the Board will be very much in the minds of those who run the clubs.
While the hon. and learned Gentleman rightly lays great stress on the importance of objections made by the Board, would he not agree that it would be right that, in the event of an objection, notice of it should be given to the applicant?
We must clear up in Committee the question of how, in what form and to whom notice should be given. It would not be appropriate for me to go into that matter now. But it would he a great mistake to think that clubs will be flouting the regulations right, left and centre. They will have a great deal to lose; they will have their business to lose, because we now have a licensing system. Further, I suspect that if a club, to its own advantage, were breaking the regulations and playing in an underhand way, it would come to the knowledge of the police, even through some of its competitors, that it was breaking the regulations and not keeping the rules.
I was asked by the hon. Member for Southend, East (Sir S. McAdden) why the police did not prosecute in the past. What they will do in the meantime is not a matter for us. It would be a matter for the Attorney-General if it was for anyone. But the answer to the hon. Gentleman was given by the right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone. Often they did prosecute in the early days, but one of the difficulties which they faced was conflicting court decisions. The House of Lords decision was given only at the end of December, or half way through December, and until that date the way in which roulette was played at the Kursaal had been ruled to be legal by the Divisional Court.
I was asked by the hon. Member for Runcorn whether the regulations should apply to minimum and maximum stakes. This would be very difficult to control, and it would be impracticable, in view of the wide range of clubs likely to obtain a licence.
I was asked why we should touch bingo at all and why we bother to bring bingo within the licensing system and deal with liked games. There are considerable disadvantages in leaving bingo out of the general control structure. It has become very big commercial business. The prizes are increasing, and particularly through linked bingo. It is questionable whether we want another industry growing up on as large a scale as the football pools industry. If we left bingo out of the control system, there might well be certain unforeseen developments which the new system of control through regulation would not be able to deal with.
I come now to the question of numbers. I disagreed with the right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone when he set out the general aims which the legislation should have. Certainly I would agree with him that we should not aim to make people good and that it would not be an altogether profitable proposition to aim by legislation to make people rational. But I would not limit our aims to that. While it may not be right to suppress gaming, we cannot be indifferent to the amount of gaming.
I agree very much with the point made by the hon. Member for Cheadle (Dr. Winstanley) that we are concerned to check the growth of something which is not necessarily a very desirable social activity and which is not necessarily something on which we want to see a larger proportion of the nation's resources spent. I think that we are concerned with numbers, because we are concerned with not encouraging gaming even if we do not intend to suppress it, and we are concerned with not enabling people to encourage others, again without suppressing it.
That is not the only provision, but certainly it is one of them. We are concerned in the Bill with the number of gaming clubs involved, and we regard some sort of control over the total number as a matter of very great importance.
The hon. Member for Wallsend protested about the plans which my right hon. Friend announced to control the number of clubs through dissociating running a nightclub and running a roulette room. That is something which can be strongly supported, because a roulette room can be a way in which a number of people acquire a habit which one does not necessarily wish to see extended. Many clubs may have to decide whether to run their places primarily for entertainment or as gaming establishments. There seems to be a lot to be said for separating bingo from roulette, which again will prevent the graduation from the less harmful form of gaming of bingo to other games in which very much larger stakes are involved.
As I envisage the working of the Bill, it seems to me that a number of clubs will not get a licence because their premises will not be found to be adequate. A number will not get a licence because of the unfitness of the applicants or those who are backing them. Here again, one must rely on the police to provide local reports. Some will not get a licence because, through regulations, we will prohibit the combination of certain games like bingo and roulette. Some will not get a licence because of the requirements in the Bill about demand.
As a result of those factors, we foresee a considerable reduction in the number of gaming establishments. If that reduction comes about, it will enable us to get a real grip on what is left in order to control it as we want to and to achieve what every hon. Member seems to want, namely, legalised gaming, but gaming which is effectively supervised, properly administered, and free from any taint of crime.