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Session 2004 - 05
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Standing Committee Debates
Gambling Bill

Gambling Bill



Standing Committee B

Thursday 16 December 2004

(Morning)

[Mr. Peter Pike in the Chair]

Gambling Bill

Clause 308

Broadcasting

9.30 am

Mr. Malcolm Moss (North-East Cambridgeshire) (Con): I beg to move amendment No. 398, in clause 308, page 134, line 15, leave out 'that section' and insert

    'section 319 of the Communications Act 2003 (c. 21)'.

Welcome back to the Chair, Mr. Pike. Subsection (2) could leave one unsure as to whether Ofcom must have regard to section 307 of the Gambling Act or section 319 of the Communications Act 2003 when it is setting, reviewing or revising standards for broadcast advertisements for gambling. Clearly, it is the latter section that is applicable, and the amendment would make that far clearer than does the existing reference simply to ''that section''.

The Minister for Sport and Tourism (Mr. Richard Caborn): Although I appreciate the hon. Gentleman's desire, as always, to strive for clarity, the amendment is unnecessary. It is perfectly clear that the section of the Communications Act referred to in subsection (2) is the same as that referred to in subsection (1) directly above it. With that explanation, I hope that the hon. Gentleman will withdraw the amendment.

Mr. Moss: On the basis of the Minister's clarification, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Mr. Moss: I beg to move amendment No. 399, in clause 308, page 134, line 16, at end insert

    'in conjunction with any relevant bodies empowered by it under section 1(7) of the Communications Act 2003.'.

The purpose of the amendment is to reflect in the Bill the co-regulatory relationship that has existed between Ofcom and the Advertising Standards Authority since 1 November 2004 in respect of broadcast advertising. Section 1 of the Communications Act concerns Ofcom's general powers and functions, including its ability to transfer and assign to other identities. Section 1(7) refers to part 2 of the Deregulation and Contracting Out Act 1994 and is the instrument by which Ofcom is able to contract out its functions as appropriate. Ofcom's first use of that power was in the area of broadcast advertising regulation a little over a month ago.

Ofcom has also contracted out the code-making powers for broadcast advertising to the Committee of Advertising Practice (Broadcast)—or BCAP, as it is known—which exists within the ASA system. Ofcom continues to have strong supervisory back-stop powers over the code-making process, and BCAP will
 
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continue to work in partnership with Ofcom in setting, reviewing and revising standards.

The amendment reflects the existence of this new but already close co-regulatory relationship and would serve to ensure that the rules that are initially established—and, undoubtedly, subsequently reviewed and revised—for broadcast advertisements for gambling products and premises are the best that they can be.

Mr. Caborn: I understand the hon. Gentleman's concern that Ofcom should set and review its standards for gambling advertising in conjunction with the body to which the relevant functions have been contracted out. However, I do not believe that the amendment would have that effect; instead, it would serve only to confuse the arrangements recently put in place between Ofcom and BCAP. Under those arrangements, BCAP sets the broadcast advertising codes, and appropriate back-stop powers are reserved to Ofcom, which is the regulator.

The Bill does not change those arrangements. It may be that the responsibility for setting the codes for broadcast advertising for gambling should similarly be the primary responsibility of BCAP, with BCAP undertaking consultation with the gambling commission and ensuring that the standards reflect the provisions of the regulation under clause 307. I am advised that to achieve that we shall most likely need to introduce a further contracting-out order, as provided for in section 1(7) of the Communications Act 2003. We shall consider that provision further with Ofcom, but it is clearly not appropriate for this Bill. With that explanation, I hope that the hon. Gentleman will withdraw his amendment.

Mr. Moss: I am most grateful for the Minister's explanation, and for the recognition that some amendment to the contracting-out arrangements may be required, as provided for in section 1(7) of the 2003 Act. With that assurance, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Mr. Moss: I beg to move amendment No. 401, in clause 308, page 134, line 20, at end insert

    ', and

    (c) shall consult one or more persons who appear to the Commission to have a relevant responsibility for regulating the advertising industry'.

This amendment uses words similar to those in clause 23(10)(e). It requires the gambling commission to consult persons whom it identifies as having a relevant responsibility for regulating the advertising industry when it issues or revises a code that includes provision about the advertising of gambling. The purpose of the amendment is to ensure that those same persons who the commission consults when issuing, reviewing or revising a code under clause 23 are also involved in any work Ofcom may undertake on broadcast advertising codes.

Mr. Caborn: As with amendment No. 399, I understand the hon. Gentleman's concern that when Ofcom sets and reviews its standards for gambling advertising, it should do so in consultation with
 
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experienced persons in that field, and indeed in a way that is likely to produce consistency across the media for the benefit of advertisers and members of the public. However, the amendment would allow the gambling commission to dictate to Ofcom who those people should be, and it confuses a clear distinction in the Bill between the responsibilities for broadcasting and non-broadcasting advertising. It will cut across the arrangements set up by Ofcom for contracting out its broadcasting functions, which were in large part designed to achieve the same ends as those sought by the hon. Gentleman.

As I explained in response to the previous amendment, we shall consider with Ofcom whether the responsibilities set out in the Bill should be similarly contracted out to the BCAP, but given the contracting out already in place and the close working relationship between the broadcasting and non-broadcasting arms of BCAP, it would be frankly unhelpful to introduce the gambling commission formally to the process of code setting, particularly if such responsibilities were added to those contracted out by Ofcom to BCAP. I therefore urge the hon. Gentleman to withdraw the amendment.

Mr. Moss: The Minister has given an assurance that he and his officials will consider the matter. Will he undertake either to write to the Committee about it, if that is possible, or, if the timing fails to fit in with the passage of the Bill through this House, perhaps make that information available to our colleagues who will debate the Bill in the other place?

Mr. Caborn: That is a very good suggestion. I will write to the hon. Gentleman and members of the Committee, and ensure that those who deal with the Bill in the other place are informed as well.

Mr. Moss: I am most grateful to the Minister for that assurance, and on that basis I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 308 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 309 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 310

Foreign gambling

Mr. Nick Hawkins (Surrey Heath) (Con): I beg to move amendment No. 416, in clause 310, page 135, line 21, at beginning insert 'Subject to subsection (2A),'.

The Chairman: With this it will be convenient to discuss amendment No. 417, in clause 310, page 135, line 25, at end insert—

    '(2A) Gibraltar, the Isle of Man and the Channel Isles do not fall within the definition of ''foreign gambling'' for the purpose of this section.'.

Mr. Hawkins: I welcome you back to the Committee, Mr. Pike. The amendments relate to a matter that was raised with me on an urgent basis by the representative of the Gibraltar Government in the UK, Mr. Albert Poggio, who called me on Tuesday lunchtime on behalf of the Chief Minister of Gibraltar, Mr. Peter Caruana. I believe—the Minister will no doubt confirm this—that the Gibraltar Government
 
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have also been in touch with the Foreign Office and received a reassuring reply on the point that I am about to make. Perhaps the Foreign Office has talked to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport about the issue. I certainly hope so.

The Gibraltar Government's concern was that there needed to be clarification that there was no question of Gibraltar being treated as a foreign state and falling foul of the provision. I have been working with the Government of Gibraltar for a considerable time. I refer hon. Members to my entry in the Register of Members' Interests. Throughout my time in Parliament, I have been a supporter of the Government of Gibraltar and an active member of the all-party Gibraltar group. Whatever the legislation, I am always concerned to ensure that the position of Gibraltar is safeguarded.

While drafting the amendment, I thought that I may as well seek clarification on behalf of the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man, with whose representatives I have also worked closely. In recent years, with the growth of remote gaming, the Channel Islands, the Isle of Man and Gibraltar have seen a substantial boost to their economies. I am sure that, whichever party was in power, Her Majesty's Government would not want to do anything to damage those economies. I hope that the Minister will reassure us on this point. I look forward to hearing what he has to say.

Mr. Caborn: I thank the hon. Gentleman for tabling the amendments. It will be useful to clarify the position of a number of territories in relation to the clause. I will take Gibraltar first, because it was the issue that he raised. As a territory for whose external relations the UK is responsible, Gibraltar is a member of the European economic area. Therefore, a gambling operator based in Gibraltar will not commit an offence by advertising in the United Kingdom. To make that absolutely clear the Government intend to table an amendment on Report to confirm the position in relation to Gibraltar.

The Isle of Man and the Channel Islands are a slightly different case. Those territories do not fall under UK jurisdiction for the purpose of the EEA, so operators based there would technically be classed as operators of foreign gambling under the clause. However, subsection (3) gives the Secretary of State the power to specify particular non-EEA jurisdictions from which advertising is permitted. In that way, the Secretary of State can create a white list of non-EEA countries that are allowed to advertise their gambling products in Great Britain.

In order to be approved for inclusion on the white list, a country must be able to demonstrate that it has a regulatory regime that meets standards set out in the Bill and fulfils the Government's key licensing objectives. It must also conform to the principles of fair tax competition and transparency. Those matters will be assessed by the DCMS and the Treasury respectively.

The Secretary of State has received correspondence from Alderney and the Isle of Man on this issue and has offered them assurances that they will be white-
 
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listed. Operators based in Alderney and the Isle of Man will therefore be able to advertise in Britain. We have not yet received any requests from the Channel Islands to be included on the white list, but we would happy to consider such a request.

9.45 am
 
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Prepared 16 December 2004