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Mr. Jopling : I shall begin by declaring two interests : first, there is a minute number of shares in a northern race course which have my name on them, although I have no beneficial interest whatever from them ; and, secondly, I have the honour of being president of the Auto Cycle Union, which is the governing body of all motor cycle sport in this country.
Column 183Having said that, I shall explain to the House why I think that the new clause is wrong. As I am president of the Auto Cycle Union, I have no objection whatever to horse racing--we can have as many horse races as we like on Sunday. But listening to my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridgeshire, South-East (Mr. Paice) saying that he did not think that there would be many race meetings on Sunday, and then listening to my hon. Friend the Member for Ryedale (Mr. Greenway), who said that he wanted to see the 1,000 and 2,000 Guineas and perhaps the Oaks, the Derby and the Cheltenham gold cup run on Sunday, there seemed to be a slight inconsistency.
All that I can say is that my instinct is that if we have horse racing on Sunday, many race courses will wish to have meetings when they can attract big groups and where there will be a lot of public interest on television and in other ways. I suppose that many important races will gravitate to Sundays. I do not mind that in the least. However, we are not really talking about horse racing or greyhound racing specifically in the new clause ; we are talking about betting on Sunday and we should confine ourselves to that. I was interested in what my right hon. Friend the Member for Honiton (Sir P. Emery) said. We are extremely close friends, but I did not know that he had similar views to mine on this particular matter. Over many years--I have been in the House for almost 30 years--when I have received letters from my constituents urging me to keep Sunday special, I suppose that I have irritated a great many of them by saying that in general people should be allowed to do what they want on Sunday. However, I have always said that there are certain aspects of Sunday which should not be changed. I can think of no single thing that would make Sunday more like any other day than to introduce betting on Sunday.
I have always specifically said to my constituents that I would oppose betting on Sunday. Over the years, I have watched as a greater amount of gambling has crept into our way of living. We now have casinos--I was never especially happy about that. We have the lottery--I have never been a huge enthusiast for that. However, I have not got up in the House and opposed them. But when it comes to this final measure to extend gambling in this country to Sundays, I am opposed to it.
I have a great deal of sympathy for what the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Kilfoyle) said about gambling and the extent to which it is a disease. I am sure that all hon. Members know families and individuals who have ruined their lives because of gambling. Therefore, we need to draw the line somewhere, and my line is drawn at this point. I hope that the House will follow my view that we have enough gambling already--and let us have no more of it.
Mr. Donald Anderson : I follow the wise words of the right hon. Member for Westmorland and Lonsdale (Mr. Jopling) that just as Members of Parliament should not simply follow tides, look at social trends and move along with those trends, it is also our duty to see the direction in which those trends are taking us and to ask whether the social effects are adverse or positive.
Although I must confess that I have been torn in different directions on the new clause, the decisive element for me is that which has been highlighted by the right hon.
Column 184Gentleman--that this is effectively a betting on Sunday clause. I confess that I know little about horse racing. I have been to only one race in my life and that was with my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) at a by-election. He did his best to explain horse racing to me, but I am afraid that he failed miserably. I look at the Bill in the light of my views on Sunday. I was a patron of the Keep Sunday Special campaign. Much of the destruction of the pillars of Sunday will have adverse social effects. The enhancement of betting will change Sunday not only for the reason given by my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Kilfoyle)--that it is addictive--but because it will alter the character of Sunday.
When we waged the Keep Sunday Special campaign, one of the exceptions was leisure and sport. If one simply had the prospect of horses racing along a track, which is a fine country pursuit, no one could possibly take any great exception to that. However, what is at issue is not horse racing as such ; rather, it is the industry behind it. We must look at the interests that are mobilised in favour of the Bill. They are not interests with which I would necessarily like to be linked.
My hon. Friend the Member for Leigh (Mr. Cunliffe) described the interests as those of the betting and racing industries. Those are large groups, which will have a substantial effect on Sunday. My hon. Friend said that it would be absurd simply to have on-course betting--his analogy was that, if there is a meeting in Newbury, his constituents in North Yorkshire should not be denied the opportunity of betting on that meeting. However, they will have an opportunity of betting six days of the week if they so want.
If horse racing is the motive, let the horse race take place. Why should the betting industry, which will be mobilised to support that, disturb and have an effect on and implications for each town throughout the country ? Those are the interests that hide behind the new clause. They may say that it is like the nursemaid saying, "Madam, it is only a little baby at the moment." There will always be a slide, and continual creeping.
When the debate began, I confess that I did not realise that it related not only to horse racing but to greyhound racing as well. I concede that there is a certain logic in that--there is no easy way to differentiate between them. But this goes on and on and all the old landmarks which give Sunday some value will be eradicated and we shall worship mammon again in a massive way, simply by bowing to those who say that it suits their financial interests. That is wrong and I shall vote against the new clause because of the gambling implication.
In addition, I note the rather naive plea by the sponsors of the Bill for adequate employee protection. They say that they have lifted from the Sunday Trading Bill exactly the same fine protections as are available to those who work in supermarkets on Sunday. If the protections in the Sunday Trading Bill are adequate, anyone who practises law--I am a sort of lapsed lawyer ; once upon a time I did some employment law--knows how inadequate are the remedies available to employees in industrial tribunals, as well as the fact that there is no reinstatement, that the onus of proof is on them, and the other catalogue of disadvantages which we discussed at great length on the Sunday Trading Bill. Some of my colleagues are naive if they think that those whom we are trying to protect should be prepared to
Column 185accept, as though it were a great triumph, exactly the same package of protection which--those colleagues claim--was so adequate in the Sunday Trading Bill.
The right hon. Member for Selby (Mr. Alison) mentioned the inadequacy of the provisions that have been lifted from the Sunday Trading Bill, but there is an enormous swathe of people--stable lads and others--who will have their working lives mightily affected by the Bill. However, they will in no way be brought within the protection--however inadequate--which is contained in the new clause. On two grounds--the massive encouragement that will be given to the powerful interests of the gambling industry and the inadequate employment protection--I will certainly be ready to vote against the new clause.
Mr. Richard Spring (Bury St. Edmunds) : I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridgeshire, South-East (Mr. Paice), who has effectively sponsored the amendment and has played such an important part in the fortunes of the racing industry. He and I have the privilege of sharing the town and surrounding area of Newmarket--the racing capital of the world--in our constituencies.
I shall speak on one or two things and, first, employment. There has been a severe recession in the racing industry which we are now coming out of. About 30,000 people are employed directly in horse racing, and if we take all the ancillary services, we are talking about a total of some 100,000 people. As an employer, and as a potential employer, the potential change is very important. Patterns of leisure have changed and every leisure industry needs the opportunity to adjust to that change. That has happened with other industries. Betting and racing are inextricably bound up. It is simply madness that one can go gambling legally in this country in a casino on a Sunday. Another absurd anomaly is that somebody can bet, using a form of credit, on a race meeting in another part of the world. These are things which make the present law look utterly foolish.
Only off-course betting is subject to a levy which is used to finance racing. Without that off-course betting, Sunday racing's viability is weakened. The increase in betting turnover and levy payments will certainly help racing's finances. There are important spillover effects of the change. Prize money is still too low in this country and, of course, some of the levied funds are used for research into equines to fight disease and improve health. Comprehensive research will be helped by the increase in moneys going into the industry.
It is vital that we maintain the reputation of the British bloodstock industry as the finest in the world from the points of view of health, research and everything else. The British Sunday has changed, and it is now a leisure day. The amendment effectively recognises that and brings the racing industry into a competitive position with other leisure industries. It is good for racing's revenues, good for employment and, yes, it is even good for the Treasury.
Ms Glenda Jackson (Hampstead and Highgate) : I do not believe that the argument has been made for Sunday racing on the grounds of producing another area of leisure activity for the majority of people in this country. I do not believe that the majority of people fail to attend race tracks because the meetings are held in the middle of the week. I believe that they fail to attend because they cannot afford
Column 186the fare to the racecourse, the entrance fee, car parking charges or what seem to be astronomically high charges for refreshments. The essential part which the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Spring) clarified was that the amendment is attempting to support the bloodstock and racing industry via the betting shop. I oppose the idea of off-track betting on Sunday, for two essential reasons. Of the 40,000 to 50,000 people employed in that industry, most are women. I cannot believe that they will find it easy to facilitate their duties as women within the home if they have to work on Sundays, as well as the six other days of the week.
I regret that I do not believe that the supposed work protection in the Sunday Trading Bill is any kind of protection at all. Evidence has been furnished by a cashier who worked for William Hill that, when evening racing came into being, employees were expected to work infinitely longer hours. If they did not accept those longer hours, they were instantly dismissed. Managers were expected to work from 10 am until 10 pm without any break, and certainly without any increase in remuneration. I do not believe that that position will be altered dramatically for the majority of women who work in betting shops. We are hearing the paradoxical argument more and more in the House that, while everyone must have choices, we preclude increasing numbers of our citizens by forcing them to work on Sunday. Their choice seems to be totally and utterly negated.
I make my second point on behalf of my constituents. The majority of high street betting shops--certainly in my constituency--are located very close to where people live. They are underneath blocks of flats, and are in streets close to terraced houses. I would not wish to paint a picture of the British punter as incapable of placing a bet without a can of alcoholic liquid in his or her hand. The majority of people who like to have a little flutter by no means behave in that way. However, I have noticed an increasing tendency for people who become increasingly inebriated during the day to find their favourite spot outside the betting shop, be it on the pavement, on the doorstep next door or leaning on the wall of the betting shop. It seems particularly hard that my constituents will suffer that nuisance and harassment every day of the week if the amendment goes through. I strongly endorse the arguments which have been made on both sides of the House that there is something special about Sunday. Even though legislation has been passed which seems to have essentially destroyed that special nature of Sunday, we should reject the amendment.
Sir Fergus Montgomery (Altrincham and Sale) : It should be said that the horse racing industry is undoubtedly part of the leisure industry. Cinemas are open on Sunday, people go to motor racing on Sunday and thousands of people go to football matches on Sunday. There have been cricket matches on Sunday for as far back as I can remember, and there are golf matches on Sunday. Nobody objects to that at all. I wonder why an exception is made for horse racing. If there is horse racing on Sunday, it could be in many cases a good family outing. Where I disagree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Westmorland and Lonsdale (Mr. Jopling) is that I would get no pleasure at all if I went to a horse race meeting and did not have a bet or a little flutter. That is part of the fun. [Interruption.] The hon.
Column 187Member for Kilmarnock and Loudoun (Mr. McKelvey) is laughing because he knows all too well that I am known as the bookie's friend.
I must also declare an interest in that I am a consultant to the National Association of Bookmakers. I sometimes wonder whether I was appointed to that post because I had given them so much money. My father always used to criticise me for betting, but I inherited it from him. From when I was a child, I remember my father putting bets on. In those days, there were no betting shops and he had to take his bet to a bookie's runner, who then took it to somebody else. If the runner was caught in the process, he was put in court and fined. One reason why the law was changed in the 1960s was to stop all that. My father always said that getting one winner was hard enough. I do things like yankees--where one picks four horses--heinz, canadians and super bets.
Sir Fergus Montgomery : No, I do not. That is the whole point. In response to the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Kilfoyle), I do not bet with the mortgage or housekeeping money. For my sins, many years ago I smoked, but I have stopped smoking. I suppose that I now spend on gambling the money that I used to spend on cigarettes. Perhaps the money goes to a better cause--to the bookies rather than to the tobacco manufacturers. [Interruption.] My money does go up in smoke.
I do multi-bets because, during an Ascot season in the 1960s, a man put on a half-crown yankee--that shows how long ago it was--at the betting shop I went to, and he won over £1,000. The following day, the betting shop put the bet on its notice board and said, "How's this for luck ?" Ever since the 1960s it has been my dream that one day my betting slip would be held up in a betting shop and someone would say, "How's this for luck ?" It has not happened yet, but I live in hope.
If no betting is allowed at the courses, there will be illegal betting. That is the very thing that we tried to stamp out all those years ago. If people want to bet, they will find a way to do so.
Mr. Kilfoyle : Will the hon. Gentleman make a distinction between betting on course and opening betting shops all round the country ? We have heard the arguments about the levy and the way in which the money filters through, but the hon. Gentleman knows, as I know, that the money would go to the bookies first and foremost. Why cannot a distinction be made between the course where the meeting is being held and bookies the length and breadth of the country ?
Sir Fergus Montgomery : That point was answered by my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridgeshire, South-East (Mr. Paice). He said that if a race meeting was held on a Sunday in the south it would be difficult for someone from the north to go to the course. At least if the betting shops are open, someone who takes an interest in horse racing can have a flutter.
I point out to the hon. Gentleman that not all bookmakers are rich. A long time ago, my father started out as a bookmaker. The result went wrong in the
Column 188Manchester handicap. The horse that he wanted to win lost by a short head. So from being prosperous when I was a child, my family was no longer prosperous and my father had to go back to the factory and eke out a living there. Bookmakers take a risk. If the favourites come in regularly, the bookmakers do not have a good day. The bookies like the outsiders to win. That is why they like me to win. I back outsiders. Perhaps that is because I am a Conservative.
The horse racing industry is part of the leisure industry and we cannot continue to treat it differently to the rest of the leisure industry. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridgeshire, South-East on moving the new clause and I hope that the House will approve it.
Rev. Ian Paisley (Antrim, North) : The hon. Member for Altrincham and Sale (Sir F. Montgomery) told us of his great desire that some day he might see his winning bet up in a shop. He should take into consideration all the money that he will have lost from the day he started to bet until the day he has his bet put up in a shop. There is no doubt that, with more outlets for gambling, this nation is suffering loss among many of its people. I serve a working-class congregation. I have served for 48 years among the teeming thousands of east Belfast. I know the heartache and the heartbreak that has come to decent working-class homes as a result of gambling and betting. As the right hon. Member for Westmorland and Lonsdale (Mr. Jopling) said, the new clause is about betting.
The hon. Member for Leigh (Mr. Cunliffe) told us about the bellyaching of the bookies. We are here discussing the matter because of the bellyaching of the bookies. The influence of big gambling linked to horse racing is pushing the matter to the fore in the House of Commons. If that big gambling interest did not exist, the bellyaching of the bookies would not be listened to. I have many bookies in my constituency. They are always bellyaching and telling me, "You know, we are not making money." One has only to look at their homes and the type of life that they live to give the lie to what they are bellyaching about. Their main desire is more money and more money, no matter what way they get it.
The House cannot have it both ways. We have been told by some today that everyone should have a free choice. I believe in that. I believe that on Sundays people should do what they want to do. They stand before their maker. For myself, I believe that I have to keep the Sabbath day holy. That is my religious conviction and I practise it, but I cannot say to any other man that he must keep Sunday as I do. He will answer to the great God on the day of judgment.
People talk about choice, but they do not give any choice to the people who will be employed so that they can have their sport, their pleasure and their leisure activity. They do not care about taking a husband from his family, a mother from her family, a son from his family, or a daughter from her family on Sunday and making those people work to give them pleasure. What I ask for myself, I am prepared to give to everyone else. I say that employees should have a choice. Let no one believe that the bellyaching bookies will give better positions, a better rate of pay and better working conditions to the people they employ. They will employ those people at the same miserable rates at which they employ them now. Let us be clear about that.
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We have heard it said today that the legislation on Sunday opening will safeguard employees. I have received complaint after complaint already from many of my constituents that they are told, "It is best for you not to object to working on Sunday." One firm in my city is offering a 50 per cent. discount on any article that employees want to buy if they will work on Sundays. If they object to working on Sundays, they will not have that discount. Let us not think in the House today that the safeguards in the Sunday trading legislation will protect the people who work on the racecourses, in the stables and in the betting shops. Have they been asked ? Some hon. Members who have spoken today give the impression that they can speak with authority on behalf of those people. Surely they should be asked what they want and desire on Sundays.
I find that the best thing for a family on Sunday is to be all together and to have a time when they can talk over the matters that tie the family together. If it is their will to go to the house of God on Sunday, I would say that that is what they should be doing, but I have only the power of persuasion. We can only persuade people to do it. That is the only power we have. If people do not do it, it is their loss. It is a sad loss because it takes away the cement of the family. Anything that takes away the cement of the family today and pulls down the bricks of the family is dangerous today for many of the bricks are already falling out and much of the cement has been taken away. Therefore, tonight my colleagues and I will vote against the new clause.
Rev. William McCrea (Mid-Ulster) : Many things are vital to the well -being of our nation. However, it would stretch the imagination very far to suggest that the social fabric of our society would be threatened if the House rejected new clause 1. Unfortunately, one must admit that much of the moral fabric of our society and nation is under attack and has been under attack by legislation passed both in Europe and in the House. It is no wonder that our nation is in many ways going down the drain. Surely it is time that we drew a line. Surely the House has a right to give a lead to the nation. Many people recognise the growth of betting addiction. The hon. Member for Altrincham and Sale (Sir F. Montgomery) spoke of his father's warning about the bets that he was placing. His father had not set a proper example. As a pastor, I find this rather interesting, as I know that multitudes of fathers--even Members of the House--have learnt from their own behaviour and have warned their families not to make the same mistake. Surely that is what a father ought to do. The suggestion that a person should not to warn his son of such dangers is rather strange. Many a person who has ended up as a drunkard on the street would be happy to warn his son not to take the same route. People with love in their hearts will warn their offspring of the dangers.
I am amazed by hon. Members' use of the word "flutter" to describe betting. It makes the activity sound very innocent, whereas the reality is that in many homes the money that should be spent on bread and clothes flutters away, and the children are left to pay the very sad price. The suggestion that gambling is an innocent activity about which one need not be concerned is far from the reality to be found in housing estates and towns in our constituencies.
Mr. Paul Flynn (Newport, West) : Does the hon. Gentleman know that many unemployed people are wickedly exploited by the betting industry ? I refer in particular to caterers who bus in, over great distances, unemployed people who have no hope of other employment. For example, people are brought from areas of relatively high unemployment, like Newport, and are paid disgracefully low wages. Virtually all those workers are women. Surely it is right to oppose this new clause, which would do something about the vultures involved in catering for the racing industry, who exploit the misery of the unemployed.
Rev. William McCrea : I wholeheartedly agree. There are indeed vultures ready to take advantage of people in the situation that the hon. Gentleman has described. It is amazing that some hon. Members who ought to know better are not raising their voices in defence of these people.
We have heard it said that, if betting were leading to addiction, the industry would condemn it. That sounds very pious and fine. However, pious words of condemnation and expressions of sorrow will not remove the grief of families caught in the trap of their loved ones' addiction. The price of addiction is paid by the family. It is all very well for a Member of Parliament, with his salary, to say that he is waiting for his name to come up on the list of winners. Many of the people about whom we are talking cannot afford the addiction in which they are caught. Nor can their families. This legislation is intended to benefit one group of people--the bookmakers. In my constituency there are certainly no poor bookmakers. However, I know hundreds of very poor families whose fathers and sons have been enticed into this activity.
I should like, finally, to refer to protection for the rights of workers involved in Sunday betting duties. As for hon. Members who say that they champion workers' rights, how can it be that, in the case of Sunday trading, the paramount desire was to enable shops to open ? Anyone who suggests that this Bill or the legislation on Sunday trading
Rev. William McCrea : I am talking about Sunday trading. I apologise to no one for consistently supporting legislation that defends the rights of workers. Unfortunately, members of the hon. Gentleman's party who said that they were for the workers were happy to go into the Lobby to ensure that there was no real protection for those very people. That is despicable. Anyone who suggests that the legislation we are considering will give protection to the people who are brought in to work as a result of its provisions is totally naive or just does not care.
I hope that the House will reject the new clause.
Mr. Robin Cook (Livingston) : The matter before us is one of individual conscience on which, on both sides of the House, there are deeply held views. For this reason the Opposition will give its Members a free vote. That being the case, I speak in the debate not for my party but for myself.
It would be idle to try to conceal from a House that is already aware of it the fact that I speak also as an enthusiastic racegoer. The next time I go to the races on a Saturday, I should be very happy to take my hon. Friend
Column 191the Member for Hampstead and Highgate (Ms Jackson) along. We could probably visit the silver ring, access to which, at most racecourses in Britain, can be had for £2 or £3, or the Tattersall's enclosure, the cost of access to which, in most cases, is still between £5 and £7. In those enclosures my hon. Friend would find working people. They are there on a Saturday, and not between Monday and Friday, because they have jobs which, by and large, require more punctiliousness about attendance between Monday and Friday than does membership of the House of Commons.
The argument for providing a race meeting on a Sunday for the convenience of those who wish to enjoy the sport is demonstrated by a look at what happens with other sports. Before coming into the Chamber I looked at yesterday's edition of The Times . There I found four pages of reports on sporting activities that had taken place on Sunday. Premier football league matches are held on Sunday, as--obviously--are Sunday cricket league games. This applies also to the Stone's rugby league. Any hon. Member fortunate enough to have Sunday afternoon off from constituency work will have been able to watch golf or to witness Mark Todd's win at the horse trials. The reason for the fact that all those sports are held on a Sunday is blindingly obvious : Sunday is the day on which most people are able to attend. It is the day when sports organisers can secure the biggest crowds. It is the day when most people who want to enjoy sport are able to do so. I have no difficulty with the assertion of the hon. Members for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) and for Mid-Ulster (Rev. William McCrea) that there should be choice. People who want to exercise that choice by watching their favourite sport should have the right to do so.
I make no bones about the fact that one reason why all those other sports are provided on a Sunday is that they draw the biggest crowds and bring in the largest amount of money on that day. Racing is entitled to the same opportunity of maximising its income.
I understand that next week the Opposition and the Government will lock horns on the question of competitiveness. Possibly, in this moment of truce, I can concede that we are discussing racing, which is competitive. In Europe, only France and Ireland can match Britain's horse racing industry. Both France and Ireland allow racing on a Sunday. I would hesitate to say that either of them is less Christian than Britain or-- without wishing to provoke further interventions from the hon. Members for Antrim, North and Mid-Ulster--Northern Ireland.
Mr. Kilfoyle : If racecourses were opened on Sundays--at £2, £3, £5 or whatever--and more people wanted to use them, which would be a matter for the courses, why do we need to allow betting shops to open the length and breadth of the country ?
Because France and Ireland provide racing on Sundays, one can bet on Sundays in Britain. All one needs is a good enough credit rating to ring up and place a credit bet at
Column 192Longchamps or Leopardstown. I do not see why we should deny that opportunity to the cash punter, who does not have a large enough turnover to warrant a credit account. By continuing to ban racing on Sundays, we are perpetuating the racing industry's history of being run to suit the wealthy and privileged, who can get off between Monday and Friday, and not working men who provide most of its income but gain the least of its attentions.
The right hon. Member for Selby (Mr. Alison) made some trenchant observations about the nature of working life in the racing industry. Candidly, those of us who enjoy racing cannot take any pride in the way that staff in that industry are treated. They are often badly paid and have poor career development, and their accommodation at some racecourses is rather inferior to the quality of accommodation for the horses.
What does it take to put that right ? Money. The best way to get more money into the racing industry is to take advantage of the growth in the leisure market. The best way to do that is to provide racing on the day when most people have time for leisure. That is why, when the Select Committee on Home Affairs examined the matter, both the Stable Lads Association and the Transport and General Workers Union impressed on it that they did not object to Sunday racing with proper protection. That is why the Jockeys Association of Great Britain has come out in support of Sunday racing in the past week. My hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Kilfoyle) mentioned off-course betting and I know that concern for the staff in that industry underlies much of my hon. Friend's concern. My preferred outcome would be Sunday racing with on-course betting, without necessarily having off-course betting. The Select Committee took that position three years ago. I recognise, however, that the Home Office and other people have expressed considerable concern about consequent illegal betting if racing took place without off-course betting. If we believe that we have a social problem with legalised off-course betting, I warn the House that we are likely to have more serious social problems with illegal off-course betting. I invite hon. Members to reflect on what might happen if the Derby, which takes place on a Wednesday, were transferred to a Sunday. It is difficult to conceive how one could stage that race without inevitable widespread betting throughout Britain. If that is to happen, it would be better if it took take place within a legalised setting.
I listened with interest to the right hon. Member for Westmorland and Lonsdale (Mr. Jopling), who said that he drew the line at betting on a Sunday. I could understand that view if we were drawing the line at gambling. I have some difficulty in drawing a line that allows casinos to open on Sundays, and thus allows gambling to take place, and allows credit betting but not cash betting. For that matter, a recent decision of the House will shortly allow lottery tickets to be bought on a Sunday, but not betting. We are not keeping Sunday special. At best, as the right hon. Member for Honiton (Sir P. Emery) said, we may be keeping it slightly special.
Mr. Donald Anderson : Surely there is a difference in kind between some of my hon. Friend's examples and allowing betting shops to open throughout the length and breadth of the country in small towns and large cities as a direct result of the new clause.
Mr. Cook : Obviously, it is a matter of individual conscience and application. My hon. Friend is perfectly entitled to apply to the question his own judgments about taste, discrimination and good sense. I find it difficult to distinguish between the character of credit betting by telephone and cash betting over the counter, except that credit betting is confined to people who tend to be better off and have better credit ratings and excludes people who do not have access to that privilege on a Sunday.
I offer some words of advice to my hon. Friend the Member for Swansea, East (Mr. Anderson), whose speech was so trenchantly opposed to the bookmakers. I not sure whether he is aware that the Betting Office Licensees Association and the big bookmakers have been lobbying vigorously against the schedule before the House. If he wants to get up the noses of Ladbroke, Hill and Coral, the best way to do so is to vote for the schedule, to which they are strongly opposed. The more they protest about the protection of staff, the more I am convinced that the schedule must be carried. I hope that the Minister appreciates that the two go together.
We have had a good debate and hon. Members have spoken honestly, frankly and without rhetoric. The House should not make the mistake of failing to recognise the changing character of Sunday. I believe and have observed in my area that families still spend Sunday together, but they do not spend it attending church and sitting at home. They want to go out. Sunday is now the day of the family outing--the day when leisure centres do their biggest business. Racing is well placed to tap that growing market for a special Sunday outing. It provides a spectacle of colour and action. For me, racing provides the most exciting spectacle.
What particularly impressed me about the three experimental Sunday race meetings was not that they attracted large crowds, but that they attracted crowds of families, who came to enjoy racing together.
Mr. Cook : That is a perfectly fair question. At present betting shops are on the whole visited by solitary people. Possibly we need to consider the nature of the service provided at betting shops. Perhaps that could be amended.
My hon. Friend the Member for Walton is entitled to exercise his judgment about whether he would attend a betting shop or a race meeting on a Sunday, but at Cheltenham, Doncaster and Lingfield I saw many families who had chosen to spend the day together attending Sunday racing.
Sir Peter Emery : I know that the hon. Gentleman is coming to the end of his speech, so I am even more thankful that he has given way. He was making a powerful plea for families to go together to sports meetings on Sundays and for racing to be included. I do not believe that families go to betting shops. Many of us object to betting shops being open on a Sunday and not to racing on a Sunday.
Mr. Cook : The right hon. Member must recognise that he faces a choice. It is not a choice that I find comfortable. I wish that we did not have to make it. I would be delighted if I could go racing on a Sunday. As my hon. Friend the Member for Hampstead and Highgate said, quite fairly, I have an adequate income to travel a considerable distance
Column 194to get to a race meeting on a Sunday. The right hon. Member must face the fact that, if there is racing on Sundays, there will be people who cannot afford the cost of going to a meeting but who will want to bet on a race. If that were to happen, should it happen legally and unofficially, with all its social consequences, or should it happen in licensed betting shops on a legal basis ? My judgment is that it is better that it takes place on a legalised basis, but I have been persuaded--albeit I wish that it was not necessary to be so persuaded--that we cannot have racing on Sundays without off-course betting.
Let me return to the point that I was addressing before giving way. The Sunday experimental meetings were particularly impressive because of the large family attendances. They were particularly satisfactory for families because racecourses cover a large area which can be used to provide something for all the family.
I believe that the way forward for Sundays is to provide a real family day out. The way forward for racing is to offer families that day out. It is inevitable that one day racing will be able to provide that on a Sunday. I hope that it will be able to start after tonight.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Corporate Affairs (Mr. Neil Hamilton) : This is a moment that I shall savour, as I shall not often be able to say that I agreed almost entirely with the hon. Member for Livingston (Mr. Cook). When he knows what he is talking about, he can make very good sense.
I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridgeshire, South-East (Mr. Paice) on seizing the initiative on Sunday racing and betting--a subject on which there have been several private Members' Bills which failed to get through the House. I quite understand why my hon. Friend would want to advance his cause while there is an opportunity for a Government Bill.
The Government wanted the House to have an early opportunity, after Sunday trading had been decided, freely to reach a decision on the various issues. However, we had envisaged a full consultation by the Government with the industry and others, so that the House could reach a conclusion in the confidence that all the issues had been properly aired and that the choices properly reflected the voice of those affected by the measure. My hon. Friend has jumped the gun and come out of the starting gate before that opportunity arose. I do not criticise him in any way. This is an admirable opportunity to do what he has done, and I welcome it.
The Government have no objection to the new clause in principle, but as there has not been an opportunity for the considered study that we would have wished, it may be more controversial than it might otherwise have been. In particular, the measures on employment protection, which mirror precisely those in the Sunday Trading Bill, will need to be examined to ensure that they are appropriate in the different context of the betting industry.
As the hon. Member for Livingston said, such issues divide people on conscientious grounds, and it would be inappropriate for the Whips to be too active in advising hon. Members on how to vote. As this has traditionally been an issue on which the Conservative party allows a free vote, we are content for that to be so today and, if the matter is pressed to a vote, for it to be resolved without the assistance of the Whips.
There are differing views in the Conservative party. As there has to be an article on the front page of the papers
Column 195every day about splits in the Government, I can confirm that I shall be voting one way and my hon. Friend the Minister for Industry will be voting the other way.
I have listened with care to the arguments advanced by those who spoke against the new clause today. There are those who, for conscientious or religious reasons, believe in sabbatarianism to a greater or lesser extent and naturally oppose the new clause. I am afraid that I do not share that view, although I recognise that substantial numbers of people do.
There have been some spirited speeches against what has been described as the disease of gambling, not least by the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Kilfoyle), whose constituency abuts Aintree racecourse. I last saw the hon. Member for Livingston at the races where I discovered, in the words that the hon. Member for Glasgow, Hillhead (Mr. Galloway) used many times in Committee, that he is a jolly decent cove. I hope that it will in no way diminish his stature in the House if I say that I discovered him to be a very warm human being.
Of course, any innocuous activity can be abused if it is indulged to excess, but as a matter of general principle we do not take the view that, because a very small minority of people might not be able to control themselves or might abuse the freedoms we have in society, we should deny those freedoms to everybody else. We have to make a balanced judgment in each individual case as to the appropriate course of action.
I cannot envisage that, as a result of the proposed changes, which I warmly support, the nation will suddenly be plunged into a hell-hole of gambling the like of which we have never seen before. The addition to the opportunities to bet, which most people use sparingly and with judgment, will not be great.
The Government accept that the principle of employment protection for betting workers ought to feature in the measure to ensure that Sunday working is voluntary. Should the House vote in favour of Sunday racing in new clause 1, the Government will accept amendment No. 1, but as it is technically deficient in a number of ways on account of its being drafted in such a way as to mirror the shops legislation, some elements in it are not appropriate. I will give a example to illustrate my point because I know that Opposition Members will be suspicious of these remarks and it is better that their suspicions should be dispelled as soon as possible.
Paragraphs 12 to 15 of the proposed new schedule cover the effect of rights on contracts of employment. Unlike shops, the ban on the opening of betting offices in the Betting, Gaming and Lotteries Act 1963 is a total one. As a result, betting office workers cannot be required to work on a Sunday. Therefore, the provisions relating to existing contracts of shopworkers may not be required for betting workers. We shall have to consider whether this is an appropriate way of drafting the measure.
Schedule 4 of the Sunday Trading Bill distinguishes between protected shop workers and opted-out workers. That arises from the fact that some existing shopworkers may be required to work on Sundays. The position of betting workers is different, so it may not be necessary to make a similar distinction in providing new rights for betting workers. I confirm that it is not the Government's
Column 196intention to produce legislation in which betting workers are treated in any way less favourably than those who work in shops on Sundays.
The provisions of new clause 1 are almost wholly benign and will be regarded generally in the country as non-controversial. There may be some resource implications for local authorities which supervise the tracks and there will certainly be manpower implications for the police, should Sunday racing become a regular feature, so we would have preferred to undertake consultation with those enforcement bodies, as they would have expected, before such changes were brought before the House. Nevertheless, before the measure is debated in another place, we shall seek to consult all such affected parties so as to take their views properly into account.
With regard to employment protection, there will be those who will be expect to be consulted on the measure before it is debated in another place. Employment measures are primarily a matter for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment. While he is content in principle for provision to be made to ensure that Sunday working by betting workers is voluntary, he wishes to consult further. The proposed new schedule, as it suffers from the technical flaws to which I have referred, may be more complicated than necessary. I hope that it will not be pressed in the House but will be withdrawn on the basis of the assurances I have given today that, in another place, the Government will introduce an appropriate measure to achieve the effects that I have described.
Mr. Cook : The hon. Gentleman's last sentence did not chime with his earlier sentences. If there is some defect in the schedule, plainly there would be no objection to the correction of those defects and technical problems in the other place, particularly if those amendments do not in any way change the present protection provided by that schedule. The Minister may be putting the House in a difficult position by suggesting that the schedule should not be carried today. He is then inviting the House to approve the new clause without seeing precisely what protection will be provided by the schedule.