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Miss Kirkbride: Will the hon. Lady give way?

Janet Anderson: No, I will not give way because, as the hon. Lady knows, we are short of time.

The economic regeneration would import pounds and euros into the north-west regional economy. The proposals anticipated the Government's decision to modernise outdated gambling legislation and create opportunities to introduce large casino-based leisure experiences to the UK market. The proposals have received wide support from the local community and from all political parties in the town. Opposition Members who have announced their intention to oppose the Bill would do well to remember that. Their colleagues in Blackpool will not thank them for their attempts to derail the legislation.

Let us not get too carried away about the extent to which the plans would be based on casinos. Yes, the proposals for resort, destination or regional casinos, however we choose to describe them, are at the heart of the plan, but casinos represent a mere 8 per cent. of the development. They would, however, provide direct employment for 7,500 people and ignite a resort-wide regeneration programme that would include residential, retail, professional services, leisure and entertainment development, airport expansion and transport infrastructure development, and support about 27,300 jobs.

Blackpool's plans are well advanced. That is one reason why I believe such resorts should be given special consideration, but there is another and perhaps more important reason. Much concern has been expressed that the Bill will result in a proliferation of gambling dens. We must ensure that that does not happen. I therefore welcome the Government's acceptance of the scrutiny Committee's recommendation that the new regional casinos should be limited to 1,250 machines. I also welcome the comments of the Secretary of State and the Minister that the Government are willing to listen.

The Casino Operators Association of the UK has called for a limit to the number of regional casinos, believing that that will help to combat an increase in problem gambling. Blackpool borough council suggests limiting regional casino development to five locations during the first nine years. It also recommends that tourism-based casino developments should be favoured where there is potential to grow net revenue rather than displace and recirculate existing local spending.

The Joint Committee was encouraged by the comments of the Minister, the noble Lord McIntosh, who stated that his Department's policy aim was to reduce the number of premises that can have category A machines to

As the Committee stated in its final report:

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but it also concluded that the legislation is "necessary and urgent."

I welcome what the Secretary of State said today about a separate use class order. I am sure that that will be widely welcomed. The Bill is broadly a good Bill. I will support it in the Lobby tonight. I urge Opposition Members to think again about their decision to vote against it because, as I said, they need to think carefully about how that will be interpreted outside.

In conclusion, I hope that the Government will agree to think again by limiting the number of larger regional casinos, initially, perhaps to one or two per region, with particular regard to the tourism and regeneration potential. By doing so, they will help to allay a number of the concerns of hon. Members in all parts of the House and reassure the public.

5.59 pm

Sir Brian Mawhinney (North-West Cambridgeshire) (Con): In the 25-plus years in which I have been privileged to be a Member of the House, I have been called many things, particularly during the years that I was privileged to stand at the ministerial Dispatch Box, but until the Secretary of State came along, no one had ever called me a snob. In so doing, she told us more about herself and her attitudes than she informed the House about me.

In the time that is available, I want to put on record the views of some fellow snobs—the Evangelical Alliance, with more than 4,000 church members, the Christian Institute, with hundreds of members, the Methodist Church and the Salvation Army.

I had the privilege of listening to Sir David Frost interview the Secretary of State yesterday, and listening to John Humphrys interview her this morning. She made a point about the need for more regulation—she made it today—with which I agree. However, four questions were repeatedly put to the right hon. Lady that she could not or would not answer. She went on about the Bill being 90 per cent. about protection and only 10 per cent. about casinos. She was asked, perfectly reasonably, "Why don't you split the Bill into two? Do the 90 per cent. regulation, on which there is broad agreement across the Floor of the House and in the country, and then have a separate provision under which the other matters can be dealt with in some detail?" Never once did the right hon. Lady answer that question.

It is not just my question. The Evangelical Alliance says:

Why not separate the two areas of the Bill? Why not put a Bill through Parliament with which all of us can agree, and then deal with the second issue in the longer term?

The second question that the Secretary of State could not or would not answer was the benefit to the Treasury, which has varied from nothing—the right hon. Lady tells us that that was a mistake—to £3 billion. When asked about it she said, "Well, of course, that has got nothing to do with me. That is for the Chancellor of the Exchequer." It is as though she or the Chancellor
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were semi-detached from the Government. They are both part of the Government; they have collective responsibility. We know that, for internal Labour party reasons, the Government would like the Chancellor of the Exchequer to be seen as semi-detached, but that is not a good enough answer when we come to a fundamental question. If we do not know the tax regime and if we do not know what has been promised to Las Vegas, mega-style casino operators, the Government cannot be surprised if there is general scepticism throughout the country.

The Evangelical Alliance says that

The third question put to the Secretary of State by Sir David Frost, by John Humphrys, by my hon. Friend the Member for Maldon and East Chelmsford (Mr. Whittingdale) from the Opposition Front Bench and by others, to which the right hon. Lady had no compelling answer, was, "Given this level of concern, why not put a control on the numbers and introduce more stringent planning controls?" The right hon. Lady made a small concession today—it was a small one given the range of planning issues raised by the Bill, but it was welcome. I pay tribute to her for doing so. I wish that I could believe that she had done so because she was persuaded by the logic of the argument rather than because she was trying to entice a few of the Labour Members sitting behind her to go into the Lobby with her this evening.

There is a fundamental disparity. The Secretary of State says, "Don't worry, it will be all right. There will only be 20 to 40 casinos." There is not one regulatory power in the Bill that enables the right hon. Lady to say with confidence that there will be only 20 to 40. There are widespread media reports that so far there are 175 different proposals. When push comes to shove—given some of the people who will be involved in this business, the House should be sure that push will come to shove—20 to 40 casinos seems like so much else that the Government have predicted over the past seven years, and that is pie in the sky. It will not happen. I know that I will not be in this place to be made to eat my words if I am wrong, but I confidently tell the House that over a period 40 casinos will seem but a distant memory of some Secretary of State who was trying, to the best of her ability, to get legislation through the House about which there was considerable concern.

The Christian Institute says:

That is the third question that the Secretary of State cannot answer and that the Bill does not accommodate.

The fourth question put to the right hon. Lady by Sir David Frost and by John Humphrys—it was put to her in the House today—has still not received an answer. It is that the Bill will increase addiction and gambling problems for real people. I think that this view is shared
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across the Floor of the House. I take no delight from the fact that there are 300,000 problem gamblers in this country.

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