Gambling Bill

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Mr. Caborn: My reply will require only a small card to Mrs. Foster. I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for seeking to improve the clause. I agree that it is important for all standards set by the gambling commission to be objective and for them to be widely known. I hope that I can reassure him that the amendment will not be needed.

When the commission establishes standards under the clause, it is bound to publish them. If it does not, it will be impossible for the industry to comply. It is also likely that the commission will wish to consult on the matter and it may be that the publication will form part of a licensing policy issued under clause 22. However, we do not want to tie the commission to issuing standards under that clause because not all standards will require full consultation. Where they are technical in nature, it is likely that few sectors of the industry will be interested in their content.

The clause achieves what is needed to allow the commission to work effectively. I assure the hon. Gentleman that the commission cannot, and should not, set standards that did something other than pursue the licensing objectives, and it would be outside the scope of its powers to do so.

I understand the hon. Gentleman's concern that the manufacturing standards might confuse, or indeed undermine, the categorisation of machines under part 10. However, those standards relate to the technical specifications of the machines, such as how the random number generator is sealed in the unit to prevent tampering and what stake-acceptance technology is used. Clearly, standards that related to a particular type of machine would say so, but in many cases, they will apply to all machines, no matter what the stake or prize limit.

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On that basis, an obligation to distinguish between categories of machine, as the hon. Gentleman suggested, could place an unfortunate burden on the commission. However, I am sure that it will take account of existing testing regimes when it develops the new standards. With that reassurance and explanation, I hope that the hon. Gentleman will withdraw the amendment.

9.45 am

Mr. Foster: I am most grateful to the Minister for his helpful reply, and not least for his clear assurance that the testing regime will be no more onerous than is reasonably required to achieve the licensing objectives; otherwise, as he made clear, the commission would be going outside its remit. I entirely accept that it would be inappropriate to have full consultation on some small aspects and that it would therefore be difficult to include them all in the clause 22(1) statement. Given the Minister's assurance, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 90 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 91 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 92

Mandatory Conditions of lottery operating licence

Mr. Foster: I beg to move amendment No. 302, in clause 92, page 42, line 11, after 'ticket', insert 'or chance'.

The Chairman: With this it will be convenient to consider the following amendments: No. 303, in clause 92, page 42, line 12, after 'ticket', insert 'or chance'.

No. 304, in clause 92, page 42, line 17, leave out subsections (5) and (6).

No. 305, in clause 92, page 42, line 32, leave out 'sixth' and insert 'fourth'.

Mr. Foster: This, for us, is an important group of amendments. It relates to problems that have been drawn to my attention, particularly by a number of hospices that run so-called ticketless lotteries as a fundraising activity. The hospices are deeply concerned that the Bill will undermine their ability to operate ticketless lotteries and will place significant additional administrative burdens on them, making it difficult to continue to raise the sums that they do.

The Committee will be aware that many hospices do incredible work with relatively little direct Government support. They therefore rely heavily on their own fundraising activities, and anything that undermines their ability to raise funds could undermine their work. There is genuine concern that the Bill may tie many ticketless lotteries run by hospices in a great deal of red tape, and the issue would affect at least 100 membership lotteries.

Section 11(2) in part 11 of the Lotteries and Amusements Act 1976 allows membership lotteries to sell a ''ticket or chance'', but clause 92(5) of the Bill
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refers only to ''a ticket'', which, as a mandatory requirement, ''must be a document''. The provision throws into doubt the system for many of the membership lotteries such as that run by Ty Hafan children's hospice in Wales, under which they supply a letter and a receipt confirming entry into the lottery, but do not supply a ticket each and every week for which individuals pledge to enter the lottery. Ty Hafan has said that if the Bill is passed in its current form

    ''the future viability of the hospice is threatened''.

That is how serious it thinks the Bill's implications might be. Many membership lotteries that have contacted me share that concern and believe that the Bill will force them to change their administrative arrangements significantly.

The Bill will therefore create a problem, because it will add to the administrative costs of society lotteries. It would lead to hospice managers and their staff being treated as if they were bureaucrats rather than carers for the terminally ill, and it suggests that society lotteries would be forced to act more as if they were commercial—it would remove the assumption of trust. The matter was raised in a recent industry liaison group by the National Lottery Commission, which reported that the DCMS acknowledged that it could be a problem, but so far the Government have failed to draft an amendment. Our amendments would reinstate the concept of buying a chance in a lottery. Amendments Nos. 302 and 303 are important in that regard, and, depending on the Minister's response, we might be inclined to vote on the issue.

Amendment No. 304 is merely a probing amendment, seeking clarification of what the Minister means by ''a document'', and of how the requirements in subsections (5) and (6) will affect society lotteries. It is important for the Minister to clarify whether a one-off letter will be sufficient documentation to prove entry into society lotteries, and to place on the record that the Bill will allow society lotteries to continue to do their excellent work without any extra burdens being placed on them.

Mr. Caborn: I thank the hon. Gentleman for raising the matter of ticketless lotteries; representatives of the Welsh hospice lottery have been in touch with my officials on that very subject. The question requires further thought because, naturally, we do not want to subject any hospice lottery to the cost and inconvenience of unnecessarily printing many thousands of tickets on a weekly basis. That would be stupid and we are considering ways to avoid it. In particular, we are exploring with parliamentary counsel the possibility that one letter or ticket may be used for multiple entry into a lottery.

Bob Russell (Colchester) (LD): Will the Minister confirm that what he is saying about hospice lotteries would apply to any lotteries run on the same basis by a whole variety of sporting organisations?

Mr. Caborn: That is right. I am referring to hospice lotteries because the Welsh hospice lottery raised the issue with us, but the general principle will apply.

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Without undermining our policy, participation in a lottery should involve confirmation of the information listed in clause 92(5). The requirements of that subsection are important both to protect the interests of participants in a lottery, and to provide an audit trail for possible investigation of the running of a particular lottery.

We are fully aware of the important contributions that lotteries make to the successful running of hospices and the other charities that the hon. Member for Bath (Mr. Foster) mentioned. We recognise that lotteries are a popular way of raising money for charities and good causes. We want to ensure that hospices can be certain that they will continue to benefit from lottery funding. The Bill will protect genuine charity lotteries and ensure that they can continue to collect money for good causes.

The word ''document'' means paper and electronic entries of whatever type or format. We will clear that up in time, and in light of what I have said and our consultation with the counsel, we will address the points raised by the hon. Member for Bath and clarify the situation.

Mr. Moss: The problem is not with the documentation—the Minister has explained how that may be covered—but with the fact that each time a lottery is run, a separate ticket must be issued. If counsel could find a way for one document to provide the number for a series of draws, the problem would be solved.

Mr. Caborn: We are looking at that issue. The object of the exercise is to make it as simple as possible for charities to run such lotteries, but equally, to provide the protection covered in clause 92(5). We will consult counsel. We have heard what has been said, and we will try to respond positively to allay the fears of the charities that have made representations to us.

Mr. Foster: Without seeming too boastful, I am grateful that after less than half an hour I have been promised three postcards in a row. I am extremely grateful to the Minister; it is clear that he has understood the problems. I am delighted that he is willing to find a way forward and that the Government want to ensure that an additional burden is not placed on the charity lotteries. Given his assurance that he will come back to us with amendments to solve the problem, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 92 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 93

Annual fee

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