Orders of the Day — Finance Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 1st July 1968.

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Photo of Mr Ronald Lewis Mr Ronald Lewis , Carlisle 12:00 am, 1st July 1968

That may be so, but, with all respect to the hon. Member for Macclesfield (Sir A. V. Harvey), hon. Members have no need to throw stones in that respect. On that occasion, the principle was strongly condemned by the Labour Party.

The main issue as I see it is whether the State should be the custodian of some kind of national lottery. In discussing the Clause, it would be wise to look at history, particularly of this country. Lotteries were first heard of in England in 1569 and for some time were legal, but, alas, so many of the lotteries in those days became private and cheating affairs and became mixed up with the more reputable ones that legislation was necessary and State lotteries were put to an end in 1826. Now, the whole question of a State lottery is being revived. If the House of Commons, by its decision tonight, gives the green light for "Go", I believe that it will be one of the most disastrous decisions taken in this House for a considerable time.

Of course, I am all in favour of some kind of control of gambling. I am glad that the question was considered by the present Lord Butler. I am glad that my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer is looking at the question in the Bill. I look at this aspect from the moral point of view. I make no apology for that. I suppose that in many cases, to some of us, morality stems from religious modes of thought and, possibly, some kind of theological understanding, whilst to others morality may be simply an activity of conscience. To me, the question of a State lottery is a moral issue. If I think that a State lottery is morally wrong, in my view it cannot be politically right, from whichever side of the House it stems.

Parliament is right to look at gambling and to legislate, but for the State to become involved in it is wrong. Therefore, I agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Lanarkshire, North (Miss Herbison) that gambling stems in the main from selfish desires and a kind of get-rich-quick mentality—not that people who gamble are bad by any means. Some of my best friends are heavy gamblers. On the other hand, a "bookie" built a row of houses and named them "Mugs' Cottages". To many, gambling is antisocial, and for the State to indulge in anti-social business is morally wrong.

The redistribution of wealth through the disbursement of large prizes by chance without reference to need or effort is contrary to a just society. To pander to the desire for personal gain without service is demoralising to society at any time, and particularly at this time of economic crisis, when appeals are made from almost all sides of the House to the nation for greater productivity and responsible citizenship.

If a national lottery is established, it will encourage further the already considerable incidence of gambling in our society. Have we not reached the point when a ceiling should be placed on it, to try and tone it down? Assuming that the House gives the Government its support tonight, I believe that gambling will be given the green light.

Despite all that may be said, and however well it is intended, the principle of a national lottery will be received by most people as an assurance that taxes will not be increased. Is there any responsible hon. Member who can give that assurance? We shall increase rather than diminish the generally accepted idea that we are over-taxed.

A lot of play has been made in the course of the debate about money for hospitals. Compared with my younger days it can be safely said that we are living in an affluent society. The 1968s are far different from the 1930s. In those days, we had only two places to go. Either we went to the chapel or to the "pub", and many of us had to go to the chapel because we had no money to go to the "pub"—