Gambling Bill

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Mr. Clifton-Brown: Does my hon. Friend agree that the problem is that there is no chance to amend the regulations that we debate? It is a question either of accepting them or chucking them out. Given the Government majority, it is virtually impossible to chuck them out unless they are absolutely dire.

Mr. Hawkins: My hon. Friend is right. I was fortunate enough when a Front-Bench spokesman to serve on a couple of Statutory Instrument Committees where, because the Government had made mistakes, they had to withdraw the legislation—but that is very rare. These things effectively go through on the nod. In practice, given the size of the Government's majority, the legislation is unamendable. That is the difficulty.

I hope that the Minister will give us an undertaking. He said some helpful things on Tuesday about trying to provide us with some drafts. I hope that that will be before Third Reading. The hon. Member for Eltham (Clive Efford), along with several other hon. Members,

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pointed out that unless the Bill changes, he will not be happy to vote for it on Third Reading, although he voted for it with some reluctance on Second Reading. That makes it even more vital that we see the detail.

This is the first major clause in a Bill that is front-end loaded. Much of the meat comes at the beginning, which is why we are spending quite a bit of time going through these early clauses in such detail. I hope that the Minister will respond positively to that and will be able to give us some draft regulations. That brings me to my second point.

10 am

There has been a lot of controversy about the definition of a sport, in which I, as deputy Chairman of the all-party group on sports and a former shadow spokesman on sport, have been involved. The hon. Member for Colchester (Bob Russell) has expressed his concern about darts, for example, and chess has also been mentioned; I tabled the amendment to remove subsection (6) to enable us to discuss the matter. However, the statutory definition of a sport is also relevant to the entire clause. If there is such a definition, I hope that the Minister will tell the Committee. If he cannot do so today, he can consult his officials and write to members of the Committee. I look forward to hearing what he has to say.

Mr. Caborn: The hon. Gentleman's contribution on regulation, and on the definition of sport, was interesting. I remind the Committee that his party is trying to reduce the regulatory burden, and so are we.

Mr. Hawkins: Of course, the Minister is right: as a party we are in favour of reducing the regulatory burden, but that is no answer when a Government with a huge majority propose a clause that will make regulations. We, as a party, will have no opportunity to remove those regulations, and the industry and people in the country who follow our proceedings want to know what those regulations will be.

Mr. Caborn: I hear what the hon. Gentleman says, although I may disagree with him.

It is the job of the Bill not to give a statutory definition of sport, but to define ''gaming''. The hon. Gentleman knows that the definition of sport has been given many times from the Dispatch Box when we have been challenged in respect of chess and many others—

Mr. Don Foster (Bath) (LD): Darts.

Mr. Caborn: Indeed.

The amendments propose a series of changes to the definition of gaming in clause 6. I can see the positive purpose of some of the amendments, but they would not improve the clause and in some cases they would harm it.

Amendment No. 87 would remove games that are presented as having an element of chance from the definition, but the Government believe that such games should be included. People should not be presenting games as having an element of chance unless they are prepared for them to be regulated as gaming. For example, the classic sting of the

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three-card trick is fraud, presented as a game of chance.

Mr. Foster: I have been listening to the debate with growing fascination, and I will make a couple of points in the clause stand part debate. On the definitions that the Minister gave, and which he is defending, can he tell me whether, for example, a pub quiz would fall under the definition of gaming, since it would appear to cover all the points in the clause?

Mr. Caborn: I hear what the hon. Gentleman says; my advice is no, it would not.

Mr. Foster: I am most grateful to the Minister. I assumed that he would give that answer. Will he therefore tell the Committee why, given the clause, the answer that he gave is ''no, it would not''?

Mr. Caborn: That is the interpretation—[Hon. Members: ''Ah!''] That is the interpretation in the Bill. I will answer the hon. Gentleman if he will listen. It is because skill is needed. I do not know who compiles the quiz questions in his pub, but those who do so believe that answering them requires an element of skill.

Mr. Foster: I entirely accept that pub quizzes require an element of skill. Indeed, the element of chance can be almost eliminated by superlative skill, but that does not alter the fact that a pub quiz includes an element of chance—for example, but not exclusively, in the questions that the individual competitor or teams are asked.

Mr. Caborn: Quite honestly, the hon. Gentleman is dancing on a pinhead. Is he saying that the questions are fixed? That is tantamount to saying that if the authors are skilful, there is no element of chance any more than there is in football. The hon. Gentleman will be saying next that pub quizzes are fixed, which is a disgraceful thing to say to people throughout the country.

Mr. Foster: Surely, if the right hon. Gentleman is right and if the questions had been fixed, there would be no element of chance; but if the questions had not been fixed, surely there would be an element of chance in which questions are put to which competitor.

Mr. Caborn: No. I do not want to go too far down this road, but it depends on who knows that the questions have been fixed. Some people would be trying to use skill, but some questions would have been fixed and that would be unfair.

Mr. Kevan Jones rose—

The Chairman: Order. Before I call Mr. Jones, I would like to give the Committee some guidance. I want the Committee to observe two minutes' silence at 11 o'clock, in accordance with Mr. Speaker's ruling the other day. I know that the Government must do something with programming at some stage and I want to ensure that we do not get into difficulty with the two things clashing. I offer that guidance to the Minister and the Committee to be helpful.

Mr. Jones: Does my right hon. Friend agree that, in the Labour party, pub quizzes are good fundraising activities that are run appropriately? Clearly, the hon.

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Gentleman has experience of dodgy, rigged Liberal Democrat quizzes.

Mr. Caborn: I shall not respond to that.

As I was saying, the classic three-card-trick sting is an example of fraud that is often presented as a game of chance. The 1968 Act regulated that as gaming and the Bill does the same.

Amendment No. 77 tries to remove prize machines requiring only skill from the definition of gaming. That is quite unnecessary, because a machine that requires only skill, such as an arcade video machine, is not caught by this clause. Gaming does not cover contests of skill. The machine must involve a degree of skill and chance to be a gaming machine, so the amendment would serve no purpose.

Amendment No. 88 is wholly unnecessary. Lotteries are defined in clause 14, and clause 16 deals with their overlap with gaming, so the amendment is redundant. I therefore ask the hon. Member for North-East Cambridgeshire not to press it.

Amendments No. 90 and 103 are, again, wholly redundant, although I understand their motivation. The clause does not and cannot, in the light of what we have been saying about the powers of the Secretary of State, allow her to designate something involving pure skill as a game of chance. She would be acting outside the scope of the clause if she tried to do so. If hon. Members are concerned, they can rest assured that the clause delivers what they seek. Therefore, the amendments would serve no useful purpose.

Amendment No. 132 refers to the new sports conceived to avoid controls on gaming. There is no intention of using that for the sake of safety. With that explanation, I hope that the hon. Gentleman will not press the amendment.

Mr. Moss: I am happy with the Minister's explanation and beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Mr. Moss: I beg to move amendment No. 89, in

    clause 6, page 3, line 19, at end insert—

    'but the provisions of Part 13 of the Act shall apply in respect of prize gaming where such provisions are inconsistent with the provisions of this section.'.

The amendment is easily understandable. We assume that there is no intention in clause 6 to cover prize competitions as set out in part 13. The amendment is designed simply to clarify that the provisions on prize competitions are in no way affected by clause 6.

Mr. Caborn: As I mentioned, clause 6 provides a unified definition of gaming. Part 13 sets out entitlements to provide prize gaming. That is only a subset of gaming as defined in clause 6, so there cannot be a contradiction between clause 6 and part 13. I appreciate that the amendment is intended to be helpful, but it is not needed to make the meaning of the Bill clearer. I therefore ask the hon. Gentleman to withdraw the amendment.

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Mr. Moss: I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Mr. Moss: I beg to move amendment No. 78, in

    clause 6, page 3, line 23, leave out paragraph (b).

The amendment would delete the phrase

    ''whether or not he risks losing anything at the game.''

That refers to a person playing a game of chance for a prize. It is a probing amendment: we should like the Minister to explain why that subsection is in the Bill and in which circumstances it will apply. We can think of some examples but not many. The amendment is designed to elicit some response from the Minister.

 
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