Previous SectionIndexHome Page

Mr. Greenway: This is a vital part of the Bill, which I think many colleagues will overlook at their peril. I endorse what the hon. Member for Bath (Mr. Foster) has just been saying about the importance of hospice lotteries to the hospice movement. The Government are to be congratulated on their intentions in the clauses relating to society lotteries. This is a highly desirable piece of work, because the present law on scam lotteries, which masquerade as prize competitions, is not being properly enforced, and society lotteries are hugely frustrated that they are required to be regulated as lotteries and that this Bill requires them to submit themselves to all the new proposals in respect of operating licences and personal licences, to face the wrath of the gambling commission and perhaps to be fined if they get things wrong, while lotteries masquerading as prize competitions are not to face any requirement at all. It is therefore crucial that the wording of the various clauses meets what the Government are trying to do.

We must understand the mischief that is involved. A number of the prize competitions are decided—let us make no bones about this—by chance. The real question is how we can include in the legislation a wording that requires a skill test that is easily understood by the courts and is meaningful. Skill is not skill if the test is derisory and just a handful of people would fail. I suppose that one could never anticipate that absolutely everybody would get things right. The example that was constantly put to the pre-legislative scrutiny Committee was that, on asking whether the capital of France was Paris or Berlin, one would assume that 100 per cent. of the population would answer correctly. There may be the odd person who, for whatever reason, might say Berlin, but that is not a skill test, and the Government are clear about that.

What we are faced with—this is the crucial aspect— is the wording in clause 14(5). I shall not read it out, as I have done so several times in several forums where I have been asked to speak about the issue, and people have smiled. I think that the wording is a genuine attempt to resolve the issue, but my hon. Friend the Member for North-East Cambridgeshire (Mr. Moss) has done the House a service in tabling his amendments, which I am sure that he does not intend to press to a Division. In suggesting that we change the words "significant proportion" to "substantial proportion", he is trying to raise the bar to ensure that a lot of people would fail and that the skills test is not derisory.

The various legal luminaries to whom I have spoken about the matter all rightly say that, in the end, the courts will decide. The value of this debate is in ensuring that the courts understand what Parliament was trying to say. That is the value of this short debate: what Parliament is trying to say is that the skill must be substantial or significant, not derisory. I hope that the Minister will agree with those remarks.
24 Jan 2005 : Column 107

I wish to make one other little point. My hon. Friend the Member for North-East Cambridgeshire suggested that, as there appears to be no evidence of problems with rapid draws, clause 254 might be deleted. I am not sure about that. The clause is permissive, and uses the word "may" in relation to making regulations or the gambling commission making recommendations. I know that the Government have a worry about some rapid draw schemes, but as was pointed out earlier in relation to category D machines and children, there is no evidence of a problem. None the less, from the point of view of the pre-legislative scrutiny Committee, the clause is a clear improvement on what went before, which included a 24-hour rule that was clearly a mistake. I suspect that the Minister will have to concede that this will be one of those issues at which the other place will have to take a look. I guess that the other place will also make other suggestions about the skill test and the wording that is used.

I hope that, if a change is made in the other place to improve the wording of those parts of the Bill, it will be made with the agreement of those on both Front Benches, so we will not get into difficulty towards the end of the Session.

Mr. Caborn: While we are discussing lotteries, and in particular charity lotteries, I want to put on the record that we will protect the national lottery.

Government new clause 6 delivers our commitment to retain provisions that make side bets on the national lottery illegal by including conditions in general betting, pool betting and betting intermediary operating licences, which is consistent with the Betting, Gaming and Lotteries Act 1963.

As the hon. Member for Bath (Mr. Foster) has said, Government amendments Nos. 3 to 7 are technical drafting amendments to ensure that clear and consistent language is used in those clauses that refer to participation in all lotteries, which follows up the commitment that I made after the Standing Committee on 9 November.

The Government agreed to revisit the provisions relating to lottery tickets after the Committee raised concerns that it would be difficult for societies that run membership lotteries to comply with the Bill. In a membership lottery, a letter is issued to a member when they first sign up, and it acts as a ticket for the purpose of each lottery that the member enters. Government amendments Nos. 51, 58 and 59 will allow that practice to continue, and they will also permit lottery tickets to exist in paper or electronic form. An electronic ticket must be capable of being printed out or stored electronically to ensure that entrants can retain proof of their entry in the lottery.

8.30 pm

Mr. Don Foster: Will the Minister give way?

Mr. Caborn: If the hon. Gentleman bears with me, I may be able to clear up the matter.

Amendment No. 56 delivers on our commitment to include national lottery licensees within the proposals for a statutory problem-gambling levy. It provides that
24 Jan 2005 : Column 108
the Secretary of State may introduce a levy on holders of national lottery licences only if she has already introduced a levy on holders of gambling operating licences and after consulting the national lottery commission.

Turning to amendments tabled by other hon. Members, the Government believe that amendment No. 148 would add an extra layer of complexity to a necessarily complicated clause.

On clause 14, I think that there is general agreement that arrangements in which the first process relies on skill or knowledge are competitions and not lotteries, and we do not want to prevent or regulate such arrangements.

I have some sympathy with amendments Nos. 149 and 150. However, clause 14(5) has been considered carefully, and it now strikes the right balance. We accept that the words "significant proportion" are likely to be subject to interpretation, but we anticipate that they will be subject to commission guidance, which is important. We do not think that a change to "substantial proportion" would add clarity to the clause. Indeed, there is a danger that such a change would permit competitions that are in fact commercial lotteries to continue to operate.

Amendment No. 151 would require companies offering prize competitions to ensure that a substantial proportion of those entering do so through a free entry route, rather than by paying via a premium rate telephone line. Although I understand the good intentions behind that amendment, it is misguided. Companies would be put in a position in which they might find they were inadvertently in breach of the law if, despite their best efforts to encourage free entries, not many people chose to participate in that way.

Amendment No. 152 would enshrine in the Bill the need for the gambling commission to carry out a triennial review of the limits on proceeds placed on large society and local authority lotteries. However, I firmly believe that there is no need to make the triennial review a binding, statutory obligation. Until now, the review has been a matter of custom and practice: it has worked satisfactorily on that basis in the past; we propose that it should continue to operate in that way in the future.

We cannot agree to amendment No. 153. Regulations under clause 254 can be made only with the intention of reducing repetitive-play lotteries. Such lotteries can be run swiftly, and are therefore very similar to gaming. They are often run in non-gambling establishments such as pubs, and could create great opportunities for chasing losses. We consider that they are a danger to the public and that it is imperative that the Secretary of State has the power to control them.

Lastly, new clause 9 would insert the concept of the sale of a "ticket or chance" into the Bill. That language is used in the current law and we have already ruled it out. We agree, however, that one document should be capable of permitting entry to a number of lotteries. I have explained how we propose to amend the Bill to achieve these outcomes. We also agree that electronic tickets should be permitted, and I have moved amendments to achieve that.

Next Section IndexHome Page