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Session 2004 - 05
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Standing Committee Debates
Gambling Bill

Gambling Bill

Standing Committee B

Thursday 9 December 2004


[Mr. Roger Gale in the Chair]

Gambling Bill

Clause 248

Preventing repetitive play

Question proposed [this day], That the clause stand part of the Bill.

2.30 pm

Question again proposed.

The Minister for Sport and Tourism (Mr. Richard Caborn): Welcome to the Chair, Mr. Gale, for what will, I hope, be a productive sitting, as it always is under your guidance.

I was answering a question from the hon. Member for—

Mr. Malcolm Moss (North-East Cambridgeshire) (Con): North-East Cambridgeshire. I must have made quite an impact.

Mr. Caborn: I will recite the hon. Gentleman's question to make sure that I have got it factually correct. He asked whether I can give further detail on how the Government intend to bring in the one-hour rule I mentioned this morning.

We intend to introduce regulations to ensure that no more than one lottery per hour may be promoted on a set of premises. At this stage, we do not intend the regulations to apply to all sets of premises or all types of lottery. We are simply trying to prevent a fast-draw lottery, the type that I referred to, being offered in unsuitable premises.

We are therefore considering the need to restrict the frequency of lotteries in pubs and clubs, although that may change if it appears during our consultation that other premises should also be covered. I hope that that explains the one-hour rule to the hon. Gentleman.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 248 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 249

Exclusion of the National Lottery

Amendment made: No. 31, in clause 249, page 110, line 36, leave out

    'a lottery which forms part of'.—[Mr. Caborn.]

Question proposed, That the clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill.

Mr. Moss: I shall be brief. As the clause refers to the national lottery, it gives me an opportunity to ask the Minister whether he feels that, as the Bill stands, the consultation arrangements between the gambling commission and the national lottery are as good as they should be. There is a feeling, certainly on the part of the National Lottery Commission, that there should be a statutory definition of that consultation process.
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We made an attempt earlier to tighten the provisions, and the Government rejected it.

It is obviously important to have input from the National Lottery Commission, particularly if there is an expansion of gambling across the board. There is only a finite resource to go into gambling. It may well be that the number of players of the lottery diminishes, the amount going into the lottery diminishes and that has a knock-on effect on the money for good causes. So, the relationship between the gambling commission—what it stands for and what it does—and the running of the national lottery is important. The National Lottery Commission said that it would like the Bill to provide for a much stronger relationship.

Mr. Caborn: I refer the hon. Gentleman to clause 29, headed ''Consultation with National Lottery Commission'', which outlines how the consultation between the national lottery and the gambling commission should take place. I do not know what more the hon. Gentleman is asking for, but I think that he knows that there was discussion about whether the national lottery should have been part of the terms of reference.

I think that the hon. Gentleman also knows that there was much discussion about whether we need a national lottery. We took the political decision that we do: the national lottery is a great institution, so we have kept it in its current form. A new licence will come up and be consulted on. The Government believe that there are mechanisms for consultation with the national lottery. If the hon. Gentleman wants to tells us of other areas for concern that we have not addressed, we will consider them.

Mr. Moss: I am grateful to the Minister for that explanation. We are aware of clause 29 and so is the National Lottery Commission, but its view is that the clause is too weak. I was simply expressing its opinion, as addressed to me, that the commission would like the provision strengthened in some way. The onus seems to be on the gambling commission to reach out and consult with the National Lottery Commission. We are not suggesting that the Government place a lottery commissioner on the gambling commission to make sure that there is always a voice at the table. The National Lottery Commission simply said, ''We're not happy. The provision is not as strong as we'd like.'' All I wanted from the Minister was confirmation that he felt that the consultation as set out in clause 29 was adequate to satisfy all requirements. I am simply acting on a request that was made to us to raise the issue.

Mr. Caborn: I can only say that I hear what the hon. Gentleman says. I think that clause 29, particularly subsection (1), deals with the matter, and there is a fall-back position in subsection (2) that the gambling commission has to comply with any direction of the Secretary of State, which may be of a general or specific nature, to consult the national lottery. If there were any problems and the national lottery believed that it was not being consulted in the proper way, the Secretary of State could therefore compel the gambling commission to carry out such
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That would act as a safety valve in the eventuality raised by the hon. Gentleman.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 249, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 250

Territorial application

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Mr. Nick Hawkins (Surrey Heath) (Con): I want to ask about one aspect of territorial application. I hope that the Minister and those who advise him will recognise that I am not being critical in raising the point; I am genuinely trying, I hope, to help the Government. When I read the clause, I noticed subsection (1), which says that the provisions apply

    ''to anything done in relation to a lottery—

    (a) in Great Britain, or

    (b) by the provision of, or by means of remote gambling equipment situated in Great Britain.''

Subsection (2) says that it is immaterial whether it is promoted wholly or partly in the UK or outside the UK. The Minister told me before lunch that the Government are genuinely concerned about the type of lotteries that might be very addictive. He gave a helpful answer explaining why they were worried.

In my experience, a number of the sort of lotteries that the Minister and the Government are worried about relate entirely to matters that take place abroad. If the Government foresee a real problem—taking the Minister's earlier point about using the Bill for future-proofing—and we are limiting the provisions to lotteries in Great Britain even if they might be promoted wholly or partly in other parts of the UK, I am worried about the many perfectly lawful lotteries already relating to overseas commissions for which tickets are sold in the UK.

It struck me that it might be wiser for the Government to think between now and Report, or before the Bill goes to another place, about widening the territorial application so that it is clear that when the lottery is promoted—even if that takes place abroad—and tickets are sold anywhere in the UK, it is the sale of the tickets in the UK that is the issue, rather than the lottery being promoted wholly or partly in the UK. I hope that, if there is some benefit in widening the drafting of the clause, the Minister will say that he will think about it.

Mr. Caborn: In answer to the hon. Gentleman's question, if lotteries are promoted here, they need a licence. Clause 236(2) makes that clear. If people sell tickets—we are talking about lotteries being promoted—they need a licence to do so. If they do not, they will be acting illegally. I do not know how people go about buying tickets for other lotteries. If the lottery is promoted here, a licence is required, which comes under those conditions. As with any other piece of gambling equipment, we hope that we do two things: first, protect the punter and, secondly, say to people outside this country that the products that they are betting on have integrity and
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transparency, and are registered accordingly. It is important to keep to what was done in the Gaming Act 1968.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 250 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 251

Members' club

Mr. Mark Prisk (Hertford and Stortford) (Con): I, too, welcome you to this afternoon's deliberations, Mr. Gale. This is not a lengthy point, but it is important. Earlier this week we discussed under clause 219 the fact that gaming machines and the activities related to them have changed significantly since the 1968 Act, and that real and virtual activities are included in the definition of the activities that the Government seek to regulate.

In considering this clause, which deals with members' clubs, I had assumed that there would be a clear indication that the definition referred to a physical club, as most Members of this institution would understand the term. Unless I have missed it—hopefully the Minister can guide me on this—I cannot see in either of the subsections anything that specifically suggests that the clause refers to a club as we might conventionally consider it.

On the face of it, that does not appear to be an earth-shattering worry, but on the other hand there could be an issue. There could be uncertainty about the nature of the clubs that the Government seek to regulate. Clearly, as the explanatory notes suggest, the kind of club that the Government have in mind is something along the lines of the Royal British Legion. I know that all Members will share our wish to ensure that those excellent clubs are able to continue successfully. [Hon. Members: ''Hear, hear.''] However, there may be other forms of club that the Government may or may not intend to include. That is currently unclear from the clause.

My first thought is something along the lines of an investment club, where people come together and meet in one another's homes to discuss possible decisions of that nature. Some may suggest that investment in gambling has a certain similarity, but I would not dream of making that suggestion about our financial services industry. However, it is not that that club does not exist or does not meet; it is just that it does not meet in a specific location.

The second kind of club that crosses my mind is virtual. Increasingly, people communicate not by coming together physically, but by using the internet to get together as a club or society. The heart of my question is: can the Minister clarify whether there is a physical characteristic to the definition? Without wishing to take us too far away from the essence of the Bill, I ask whether there is—dare I say it—a spatial dimension to the definition, and if so, why has that not been included in the Bill.

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Prepared 9 December 2004