Gambling Bill

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Mr. Moss: The Minister's remarks are extremely helpful.

It would be helpful to establish the Government's intention on remote gambling. Is it to encourage as many of those businesses as possible to register onshore in the United Kingdom so that we have some control—albeit immeasurable, because it depends on how many develop over the next few years—and so that such businesses can be regulated? Do the Government intend to encourage many businesses to locate here to encourage jobs, establish resources and regulate as much of the market as possible? In light of that, is it not in the Government's interest to make sure that they find a pragmatic and practical solution to the problems, so that not all equipment used in the business is subject to the provisions and that the key components only—particularly the gaming server—are caught in the net?

9.45 am

Mr. Caborn: As I said, I shall come back with a precise definition of ''equipment''.

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As to whether we are trying to encourage people to operate out of the UK, the answer is yes, but not at the price of poor regulation. As I have said on a number of occasions, we are taking what was in the Gaming Act 1968, which gave our industry an integrity second to none, and trying to bring that into a modern setting via the gambling commission.

We want to make sure that people who gamble in the UK know that gambling will be fair and transparent, and that casinos will pay out. We expect people to come for a product that is well regulated, fair and transparent. We hope that we can attract as many people as possible to operate under those conditions in the UK. To a large extent, Budd's review was aimed at achieving that objective, and that is still our aim. We would encourage as many people as possible to adhere to those conditions but, as I say, not at the price of poor regulation. Good regulation will stand the industry in good stead for the future, both nationally and internationally.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 33 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Mr. Page: On a point of order, Mr. Gale. I have a slight difficulty, and I suspect that one or two of my colleagues do too. You mentioned that the Bill has been reprinted. We went to the Table just now and collected what we thought was the up-to-date Gambling Bill, but it was that of 18 October. I have just examined amendment No. 21 and, regretfully, it does not tie up with the old Bill. I do not see how we can proceed unless we have the up-to-date Bill. Where do we go from here?

The Chairman: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman. I will suspend the Committee for a few minutes to ensure that all Members have the reprinted version of the Bill. Clearly, it is important that what is on the amendment paper matches what hon. Members are working from. The Committee will resume at 9.55 am.

9.47 am

Sitting suspended.

9.55 am

On resuming—

The Chairman: Before we proceed, I should say that I am advised that there is also a reprint of the explanatory notes, although the variations are so minimal as to make virtually no difference. However, if any hon. Member wants a reprinted version of the explanatory notes, they will be available.

Clause 34

Use of premises

Mr. Caborn: I beg to move amendment No. 21, in clause 34, page 15, line 31, after 'who', insert

    '— (a) are acting in the course of a business, or (b) '.

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This is a drafting amendment to provide further clarity about the premises excluded from the offence in the clause. Subsection (6) already exempts premises that provide facilities for gambling to persons who are not on the premises. That was intended to cover premises that house remote gambling equipment such as computer servers. There is no need for those premises to be licensed.

The amendment is intended to give further reassurance to businesses that provide opportunities for people to gamble remotely. One example is telephone call centres that accept bets by telephone. Although there are clearly people on the premises providing facilities for gambling, the premises are never used by the public to gamble. The amendment makes it clear that such premises do not need to be licensed either.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendment proposed: No. 154, in clause 34, page 16, line 5, at end add—

    '(10) for the purposes of this section ''use'' shall have its normal and natural meaning.'.—[Mr. Moss.]

The Chairman: With this it will be convenient to discuss amendment No. 213, in clause 61, page 25, line 38, at end add—

    '(6)''use'' in this section shall be given its normal and natural meaning'.

Mr. Caborn: The amendments are unnecessary and would remove a non-existent doubt. When a word is used in a statute, it has its ordinary and natural meaning unless the statute provides otherwise. The Bill does not provide that the word ''use'' in clauses 34 and 61 has some special meaning. It has its normal meaning, so there is no need to make express provision to that effect.

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

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 34, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 35

Power to amend section 34

Mr. Moss: I beg to move amendment No. 155, in clause 35, page 16, line 7, after 'may', insert

    ', only after consultation with those parties set out in section 22(5) and acting reasonably,'.

This is a simple amendment, designed to constrain the powers of the Secretary of State so that he must act reasonably in relation to consultation with the various parties involved. It is a probing amendment; if the Minister assures me on record that the Secretary of State will act reasonably in all situations, that will help.

Mr. Caborn: I welcome the principle behind the amendment. I firmly agree that consultation is a fundamental part of the law-making process. Indeed, a requirement to consult features throughout the Bill.

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As the Committee will know, the clause gives the Secretary of State the power to add or remove particular forms of gambling from the offence of using premises for gambling. In doing so, the clause future-proofs the Bill. It allows the Secretary of State to bring new gambling technologies into the regulatory regime as they emerge, thus providing immediate protection to the public—something that hon. Members agree is not in the 1968 Act.

It is precisely because the purpose of the clause is to allow the Secretary of State to consider any future gambling technologies that a list of specified consultees is not appropriate. That is not to say that consultation is not appropriate—quite the reverse—but we are concerned that a specific list of consultees would not allow the flexibility that is required when dealing with an industry as imaginative and innovatory as gambling.

A list in the Bill will focus attention on particular consultees at the risk of detracting attention from others. For example, the Government are committed to consulting the Treasury, the Financial Services Authority and the spread-betting operators in the application of the clause to spread betting. None of those would appear on the list proposed by the hon. Gentleman. Flexibility is key to the proper application of the clause, and I for one would not like to guess who should appear on the list with regard to gambling technologies that do not yet exist.

I can reassure the hon. Gentleman that the Secretary of State will act well within the context of that explanation, and will act reasonably. I urge him to withdraw the amendment.

Mr. Moss: I am grateful to the Minister for clarifying the issue, and for his assurances that the Secretary of State will act reasonably and that consultation has a definite meaning in this context. It is important that all those involved are consulted, and the Minister makes a valid point that there may be entities and arrangements that do not exist at the moment but may in the future, and to prescribe a list at this juncture would be inflexible. I take that point, and bearing in mind his assurances I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Mr. Caborn: I beg to move amendment No. 22, in clause 35, page 16, line 15, after '10(1)', insert

    'subject to any specified exceptions.'.

This amendment seeks to allow for specified exceptions should the Secretary of State make an order extending the use of premises for gambling offences to include using premises to provide facilities for spread betting. As hon. Members will be aware, spread betting is excluded from regulation under the Bill. That is because spread betting is properly regulated under the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000.

However, we are concerned about the effect that future developments in spread betting products may have on the number and types of places where spread

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betting is offered to members of the public. That is why a reserved power is written into the Bill to allow the Secretary of State to make it an offence to use premises to offer spread betting to members of the public, should it become necessary for public protection reasons.

The amendment to the reserve power permits the Secretary of State to make exceptions where the premises' offence is applied to spread betting. For example, a bank or other financial institution may, in the future, want to offer their customer a financial product that constitutes spread betting within the meaning of the Bill. There may be very good policy reasons why the bank should be allowed to do so, and therefore should be exempt from regulation under the Bill. The amendment would serve to future-proof the Bill and to ensure that legitimate commercial enterprises are not subject to undue regulation.

Amendment agreed to.

Clause 35, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clauses 36 and 37 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 38

Gambling Software

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