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Mr. Eric Illsley (Barnsley, Central) (Lab): It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Ryedale (Mr. Greenway), who made an excellent contribution to the debate. His comments injected a certain sense of reality, especially in relation to the numbers of regional casinos, and highlighted the need for the Bill to be given a Second Reading and allowed to go into Committee, where all the issues can be debated in full.

I shall not detain the House for long, but I should mention at the outset that I am honorary adviser to the northern Licensed Victuallers Association.

One of the problems that many of my hon. Friends have faced in relation to the Bill is that it is based 90 per cent. on regulation and 10 per cent. on new forms of gambling. The obvious worry is that we may give a green light to increasing problem gambling. I was pleased to hear the hon. Member for Ryedale give a sensible explanation of what his Committee has done. We are faced with a situation in which the Bill has become
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necessary. As many hon. Members said, it is required for the purposes of regulation, especially in relation to remote and internet gambling. We have heard examples of young people being able to access gambling through the internet; that activity appears to be completely unregulated.

I am concerned about regional super-casinos being used for regeneration purposes, especially if we are to end up with 40 of them. I am glad that the hon. Member for Ryedale thinks that there will be a maximum of 20. Leeds is the nearest city to me with a casino. There would be perhaps two or three super-casinos in a city of that size. Leeds could not accommodate that; the demand simply would not be there. Operators would be unlikely to start building these things to compete with each other in a city of that size because they would not want to involve themselves in that amount of competition. I presume that the same would apply in Liverpool, Manchester and Birmingham.

Mr. Marshall: My hon. Friend mentions cities of a comparable size to Leeds. My city of Glasgow, which is one such, already has six casinos, and plans are in the pipeline—two are already in the public domain—for five massive casinos. Far from regenerating the city, they will degenerate it. Does my hon. Friend share my concern about that?

Mr. Illsley: I certainly do. I cannot for the life of me see how a city the size of Glasgow would cope with 11 casinos, five or six of which will be super-casinos. I cannot understand how operators could create so many; it is the economics of madness to suggest that they are likely to want to compete to that extent.

Miss Kirkbride: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Illsley: No. I have given way already and will not do so again.

If we use the legislation sensibly we can steer ourselves towards a limit by way of the economic and planning aspects. That is the obvious way in which to achieve a cap—it does not need to be included in the Bill.

I have a great deal of sympathy with hon. Members' comments on regeneration. Casinos may not create huge numbers of jobs in themselves, but other developments such as restaurants and hotels will follow on.

I am worried by the idea of destination casinos. It seems strange that people who want to gamble in, say, south Yorkshire, should have to travel some distance to Blackpool or another such resort to gain access to such places. I would support their being situated in regions around the country, not restricted to seaside locations.

My other points resemble those made by my hon. Friend the Member for Burton (Mrs. Dean) on the so-called grandfather rights of existing establishments in regard to their provision of slot machines. Some organisations are concerned that pubs, clubs and other facilities that provide such machines will be discriminated against due to the increasing value of the new machines being introduced. Many of these organisations believe that they are likely to be regulated and will lose the existing facility to keep their machines. Many clubs—working men's clubs, private members'
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clubs, and so on—rely on this type of machine for a substantial part of their income and, if the Bill gets into Committee, I would ask hon. Members to examine the effect on existing establishments of the new proposals.

I have noticed in the Bill the provision for reducing the prizes in amusement-with-prizes machines from £8 to £5 and to cap the prizes at that maximum. I have some sympathy with the arguments of those hon. Members who represent seaside constituencies that introducing such a small prize could be a retrograde step. I hope that the House gives the Bill a Second Reading this evening, because there is a lot in it that is essential, and a lot that can be worked out in Committee if we take a sensible approach to it.

6.31 pm

Mr. Richard Page (South-West Hertfordshire) (Con): In my office, there are two piles of paper. One is approaching 2 ft high; the other has just gone past the 1 ft barrier. I have not had any matter brought before me in my capacity as a Member of Parliament over the years that has generated so much paper and so much enthusiasm as this legislation and the work that has flowed from it.

I am not a fan of this Government. In fact, I do not trust them too much, and I do not have much faith in them. They have done one thing, however, that has brought great advantages: they have introduced the consultative Committee work on Bills that are going to come before the House. I served on the Joint Committee and I pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Ryedale (Mr. Greenway) for the effective way in which he chaired it. He jollied us along with good humour and made sure that there were no conflicts or arguments, and a unanimous report was the result each time. He is to be congratulated on that. The task was made more difficult by the fact that we did not have a full Bill to start with. It came along in dribs and drabs, which illustrates the difficulty that the drafting team at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport had in getting the full Bill to us. Eventually, however, we got it.

The argument as to why we should do something about these issues has been fully made. Those who feel that we should leave things as they are and do nothing are living in cloud cuckoo land. The internet is with us, and there is internet gambling. There is even virtual reality racing, which is one of the saddest things that I have ever seen in my life, but some people must bet on it. We also have betting exchanges. These are reasons why we have to have the Bill, but we need considerably greater assurance than we have had so far.

Out there in the world, there is an immense income to be made from betting and gaming. If this country has the right regulations, we will get that world business. Without that control, however, we will lose it. It is far better that those regulations should be controlled in this country through the integrity that comes from our laws; if they were, it would be of benefit to everyone and we could go forward.

The Gaming Board has done a very good job over the years, but technology has moved on, and we have to move on. The gambling commission is required, and the sooner it comes into force the better. I hope that the Government will make available sufficient money to enable it to be up and running when the Bill becomes
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law. One reason why we need these changes is that, for the first time, betting exchanges can trace a bet right the way through the piece. They can find out who put the money on, and to see that there is an integrity in gambling. That has not been the case before. However, they need the resources to be able to follow that up. In the past, the Jockey Club, for example, has not had the resources to enable it to do this vital work, so we welcome the proposals on that issue.

Along with everyone else, I welcome the setting up of support for problem gamblers. My only objection is to the exciting name for the organisation in question: the Responsibility in Gambling Trust does not exactly trip off the tongue, although I very much welcome the fact that it is to be chaired by Sir David Durie, who was a very effective official at the Department of Trade and Industry when I was there.

Concerns about the whole question of gambling have been expressed today and, for me, this boils down to the argument about freedom of choice versus state diktat. There are close similarities between these arguments and those relating to the production and sale of alcohol. The role of the state is surely to ensure that the activity is properly regulated and to provide care and help for those who cannot cope. The Responsibility in Gambling Trust will be able to do that well, because it will have the advantage of funding and the ability to introduce a statutory levy if required. I am very much in favour of the setting up of the new trust.

There has been a lot of confusion about category A machines. People have the idea that there are going to be 1,250 such machines in each of the resort casinos, but that is absolutely untrue. There will be a range of machines. Not everyone will want to put in £5, £2 or whatever, to try to win £3 million. There will not be 1,250 machines designed for that in every casino; there will be a range of machines.

We must also look carefully at the existing casinos and raise their limits considerably, because we do not want them to ratchet up their operations to try to become destination casinos in their own right. That would bring about a huge proliferation in gambling. We put £1 on the lottery to try to win several million. I see no difference between that and allowing the smaller casinos to have much larger limits on their payouts. People know that if they put in their £1, they are more likely to win £10 than £10 million. That is common sense.

In the short time that I have left, I want to talk about the present media frenzy. The Government have only themselves to blame in this regard. The Joint Committee that scrutinised the Bill in its draft form made it abundantly clear that the Government had not got their act together on national guidance for regional leisure and destination casinos. The DCMS had one set of priorities, the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister had another, and the Treasury was, as usual, lurking in the background with its own aims and objectives. Our report highlighted those conflicts, but unfortunately, they have not been adequately resolved. In our final submission to the Government, we said:

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In their response, the Government said that they accept

That is not strictly true; it is misleading and I believe that it is completely responsible for the situation that we find ourselves in today. That is why the Government have the wrath of the media on their head, and why a great many hon. Members are so concerned. The confusion over the location and number of casinos likely to be built is just one of the consequences of that. Inadequate guidance offered over planning policies and lack of detail over the prospective regulatory regime have led to wild statements in the press and widespread public concern.

The Secretary of State has already made some concessions. Those may not be enough, however. The long-standing confusion remains. In 2003, the Government were claiming that the market would determine the location, number, size and character of casinos. In June this year, they were saying that their strategy was

That is a U-turn in anyone's language.

I do not believe that the contradictions in the Government's position have yet been adequately resolved. On the one hand, they have been arguing since the summer that

is likely, even though The Times revealed on Saturday that at least 41 out of the 172 casinos currently being planned will fall into that category. The Secretary of State has said that local authorities can say no. But what happens if local authorities say yes, yes and yes? What will control the numbers and the applications that come through?

In the event of conflicts between regional planning bodies or development agencies and local authorities, I can see that the decision will end up being taken in the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister—the very thing that Ministers have said consistently that they do not want to happen. I am afraid that it is order, counter-order and disorder. I return to the issue of lack of trust—this Government cannot be trusted on this matter. I cannot agree to a flood of casinos, and until I see the specifics of protection on numbers in relation to regional policy, I regret that I must vote against the Bill.

6.41 pm

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