Gambling Bill

[back to previous text]

Mr. Caborn: Amendments Nos. 66 and 59 seek to insert a requirement that payment must be made to the promoter or associate of the promoter. I can see no good reason for such a requirement. Paragraph 7 in both schedules covers people who have not yet paid anything, who are told that they have won a prize—typically left vague—and who are then asked to pay to collect it. There have been several schemes of that kind, at best dubious, in the past. People are told that they have won something, which sounds good, and then have to pay much more than the product is worth to collect it.

Against that background, we do not want to leave loopholes for the unscrupulous. I fear that the amendments would do exactly that. They would enable the promoter to set up an arrangement under which payment was not to him but to somebody else, and it would then be a job to prove that that somebody was indeed an associate of the promoter rather than in some other kind of business or relationship. Why make regulation harder than it needs to be? Therefore, the amendment adds nothing, and I ask the hon. Gentleman to withdraw it.

On payment to take possession of a prize, someone who won a car could take possession of it even if they had to pay the car tax to drive it. That is an example of where that may have to be done.

Mr. Moss: I am grateful to the Minister, but he did not deal with the other examples that I gave. Paragraph 7 simply refers to

    ''a requirement to pay in order to take possession of a prize''.

There could be a wide interpretation of ''pay''. Who is being paid? That is the reason for the amendment's being specific.

Column Number: 109

3 pm

Obviously, if the promoter of the competition scam is the one to whom one must give the money, we are quite happy for that situation to be caught in the legislation. However, in the other examples of payments being made, the Bill does not say to whom, it just says ''to pay''. Our amendment is more focused on the recipient of the extra money, who is part of a scam that states, ''You have won a worthless prize but to get it you have to pay a lot more money.'' We are obviously on the side of the Government in wanting to outlaw that practice, but currently valid competitions are running in which there will be a payment of some kind before the prize comes into one's possession. I am not sure that the Minister has addressed that point.

Mr. Caborn: We will reflect on that point, but if one pays to collect a prize, what matters to the consumer is the payment, not who gets it. The provision in the Bill is adequate to cover such circumstances, as well as those of a scam. If there is any validity in the argument, I will come back to the hon. Gentleman. As the provision stands, it covers the scam and the genuine payment, but I will revisit the provision with my officials and come back to the Committee if we believe that it is faulty.

Mr. Kevan Jones (North Durham) (Lab): Will the Bill outlaw the scam whereby to claim a prize people have to ring a premium rate phone number? Many of our constituents have complained about that, and it needs to be outlawed.

Mr. Caborn: Very much so. As my hon. Friend knows, the subject has been raised on the Floor of the House by a number of colleagues. It is, to put it crudely, a rip-off, and that is why the provision is in the Bill. I want to make certain that the wording covers both eventualities—genuine payments and scams. If we believe that it can be worded differently and more strongly to reflect the sentiments expressed by hon. Members, I will consider it.

Mr. Moss: The point is taken on board. We do not seek to allow such scams. We consider them to be covered under the heading of scam situations, and we want to see the Bill as tightly controlled as it needs to be. I am grateful to the Minister for saying that he will take another look at the amendment. It was the result of strong representation from the Advertising Association, representing a large number of members who want clarification. The words that we tabled on their behalf are a means of seeking clarification rather than changing the thrust of the schedule. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Mr. Moss: I beg to move amendment No. 67, in

    schedule 1, page 152, line 18, leave out 'neither' and insert 'no'.

The Chairman: With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

Amendment No. 68, in

    schedule 1, page 152, line 19, leave out 'nor less convenient'.

Amendment No. 69, in

Column Number: 110

    schedule 1, page 152, line 19, after 'participating', insert 'in the arrangement'.

Amendment No. 60, in

    schedule 2, page 154, line 1, leave out 'neither' and insert 'no'.

Amendment No. 61, in

    schedule 2, page 154, line 2, leave out 'nor less convenient'.

Amendment No. 62, in

    schedule 2, page 154, line 2, leave out 'entering the lottery' and insert 'participating in the arrangement'.

Mr. Moss: Some of the amendments relate to schedule 2, but others refer to the wording of schedule 1. We feel the need to amend the first half of paragraph 8(1) in both schedules because we believe that it could fly in the face of the Government's intention to introduce the New Zealand model.

To reiterate, that model is one in which draws tied to a product promotion do not have to be free to enter so long as the cost of entering them is no more than the cost of the product. That is because nearly every existing free route could be regarded as less convenient than the purchase route. For example, returning home to register an entry by telephone, or going online to do so, will almost always be less convenient for the consumer than simply purchasing the product on the shelf in front of them. If judges took the same view, it could well frustrate, or even negate, the Government's intention to adopt the New Zealand model in the United Kingdom.

Removing the words ''nor less convenient'' would make the paragraph far more workable in practice, while still allowing the Government to achieve their objectives. An additional benefit of the amendment is that it is technology-neutral because it does not attempt to rank different forms of communication, such as e-mail or phone, by degrees of convenience, because those may well vary according to the individual concerned.

The second half of the paragraph should refer to participating in the arrangement, not entering the lottery, because, as we noted during the debate on an earlier amendment, the Bill will redefine the meaning of ''lottery''. It is therefore more appropriate to speak in terms of an arrangement, not least for reasons of consistency.

Mr. Caborn: Again, I cannot see real merit in any of the amendments in this group, which are designed to amend, to no good effect, schedules 1 and 2. Amendments Nos. 67, 68, 60 and 61 would strike out the provision under which a method of entry constitutes a requirement to pay if it is less convenient than entry with payment.

We know that pre-entry routes to competitions are a potential source of abuse. The organisers want people to pay because that is how they make their money, so they offer free-entry routes that are designed in such a way that they attract no one to use them. That mischief is dealt with by the words that the amendments would remove. For example, there could be an opportunity to pay a specific amount to enter a competition, or to deliver the entry by hand between 3 am and 3.15 am on a given day. For some people that might involve no extra cost, but it would

Column Number: 111

certainly be less convenient than putting a letter in the post. The amendments would allow such scams to flourish.

Amendment No. 69 would add three words that make no substantive change to the clause and are completely unnecessary. Sub-paragraph (1) refers expressly to participation in an arrangement. It is therefore self-evident that subsections (1)(b) and (2) of clause 11 are concerned with the same issue. Amendment. No. 62 would change the word ''lottery'' to the words ''participate in the arrangement''—an unnecessary change. I therefore ask the Committee not to accept it.

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

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Schedule 1 agreed to.

Clause 12 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 13

Betting intermediary

Mr. Hawkins: I beg to move amendment No. 123, in

    clause 13, page 6, line 16, at end insert—

    'either electronically or by any other means.'.

I stress that this is a probing amendment. Adding to the clause the words that I have suggested might be useful clarification, as the clause does not make it clear that electronic betting is specifically covered. The question that I had in mind was whether the definition of ''betting intermediary'' will apply to internet service providers. No doubt the Minister can clarify the point. Once again, I am not suggesting that my own drafting is perfect; I tabled the amendment as a way of seeking clarification. I look forward to hearing the Minister's response.

Mr. Caborn: I am pleased that the hon. Gentleman gave an explanation, because it was unclear exactly what he intended by the amendment. He is concerned to ensure that, in the definition of ''betting intermediary'' as it appears in the clause, it is explicit that the intermediary may operate either remotely, by the internet, or non-remotely, over the counter. Based on that, the amendment is entirely unnecessary. A key feature of the Bill is that gambling may be conducted by remote or non-remote means. That is set out specifically with regard to betting intermediaries, and all other types of operators, under part 5, which covers operating licences.

Clause 61 states that there will be a specific operating licence for betting intermediaries, and clause 63 requires such a licence, in common with every other sort of operating licence, to state whether it is a remote operating licence or not. That provision makes sense only if it is possible for a betting intermediary licence to be either a remote or a non-remote operating licence. With that explanation, I hope that the hon. Gentleman will withdraw his probing amendment.

Column Number: 112

Previous Contents Continue

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries ordering index

©Parliamentary copyright 2004
Prepared 11 November 2004