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Tony Lloyd (Manchester, Central) (Lab): My right hon. Friend will realise that the people of Manchester will be very pleased with the panels decision and its recognition of the regeneration impact that it will have on jobs in an areathe city of Manchesterthat still has massively high unemployment. My constituents will also be grateful for her words today when she made it clear that there will be tight controls in respect of criminality and problem gambling. Can she guarantee that mechanisms will be available to crawl all over the Manchester casino over the next few years so that the public can see that they are getting value for money with jobs and regeneration and we ensure that the social consequences that some people fear simply do not materialise?
Tessa Jowell: I can give my hon. Friend the absolute reassurance that he rightly seeks on behalf of his constituents. Indeed, from a brief reading of Professor Crows report, it is abundantly clear that the proposal that Manchester submitted very much puts social responsibility, protection of young people and keeping gambling crime-free at the centre of the proposal. I suspect that that is one of the reasons why it was recommended for the licence.
Mr. Don Foster (Bath) (LD): I thank the Secretary of State for advance sight of her statement and I join her in congratulating Professor Crow and his team on the work that they have done. We should also place on the record the fact that our UK casino industry has an enviable international record for probitya reputation that we must maintain as the numbers grow. After the increases in gambling opportunities and greater risks of problem gambling through fixed-odds betting terminals, online gambling, TV advertising of gaming, pub poker and now more casinos, does the Secretary of State at least understand why people are beginning to think that her Government are addicted to gambling? In the light of those concerns, will the right hon. Lady at least thank both Opposition parties for watering down her original plans for an unfettered increase in the number of casinos? The House will surely have been surprised by her statement just now that the Government thought it right to be cautious.
I am delighted to hear that the Secretary of State has categorically accepted that the new casinos announced today will be thoroughly tested for their ability to aid regeneration while not increasing problem gambling before any further casinos are allowed. However, given that the assessment methodology has not yet been determined, will she agree to provide the House with an opportunity to debate it once she has received recommendations from Lancaster university? The 17 new casinos are meant to be the basis for such assessments, so is she surprised that of the 17 announced today, 11 are in areas that already have casinosincluding Greater Manchester with 11?
On problem gambling, given that we spend £270 million on tackling the problems of alcohol addiction, is not the Secretary of State disappointed that the gambling industry is currently contributing only about £2.5 million to the main body responsible for dealing with the problem? Will she ensure that the new casinos make a fair contribution?
As the hon. Member for East Devon (Mr. Swire) has said, the 17 new casinos announced today do not
include the extra casinos that may well arise under existing legislation. Will the right hon. Lady confirm that the Gambling Commission approved 68 new licences in the past two years, and that although some have had premises licences refused, that could lead to an extra 40 or 50 casinos on top of todays 17? Are there not even more applications in the pipeline? How does that square with her statementeven if made in 50 different languagesthat she will not even consider allowing further casinos until a proper evaluation has been made on the 17 announced today? Why did a ministerial colleague say two years ago:
we can say with certainty that there will be no more than 150 casinos?[ Official Report, Standing Committee B, 11 January 2005; c. 718.]
No one in the ChamberI include the Secretary of State in thatwants much needed regeneration in our towns and cities to be based on the creation of huge increases in problem gambling. So, above all, will she give an absolute assurance to the House that she will stand by the answer that she gave only two weeks ago on Any Questions, when she said:
every single bit of change in legislation, if it proves to give rise to harm will be rescinded?
Tessa Jowell: I thank the hon. Gentleman for that. I gave assurances about being able to rescind any change in the gambling legislation that is proven, on the basis of the social and economic impact study or the prevalence study, to give rise to problem gambling. Any such change will be revoked. That is fundamental to the development of the legislation, as he knows; it is not a new concession. I do not want to be harsh on the two Opposition spokesmen, but the person who has really contributed light, balance and intelligence to the debate is the hon. Member for Ryedale (Mr. Greenway), who chaired the original Joint Committee and now chairs the Responsibility in Gambling Trust, which raises money from the industry to deal with problem gambling.
We have made it absolutely clearthis is in the legislationthat if the industry does not pay the levy that we have determined, we will make that requirement statutory on the industry. My concern is the way in which the intention of the policy is wilfully misrepresented. That causesquite rightlyalarm in the country. This is legislation that is designed to protect, that recognises the scale of technological change, and that is in the control of local authorities to implement in the interests of their communities. As a matter of honour, hon. Members ought to reflect that in the terms that they use in partaking in the debate in Parliament.
Mrs. Joan Humble (Blackpool, North and Fleetwood) (Lab):
While I acknowledge the hard work of the casino advisory panel on this matter, I have concerns about the analysis of Blackpools case in the document that was produced. Therefore, I welcome the Secretary of States announcement that an order will be
brought before us so that we can have a debate in the Chamber. Will she clarify the length and extent of that debate? Orders are usually debated for only an hour and a half, but the report needs a full and detailed debate, with as many Members as possible taking part. Can she reassure me that, through the usual channels, she will ensure that we have all the time that we need?
Tessa Jowell: I thank my hon. Friend for that. As I said in my statement, I recognise that she and my hon. Friend the Member for Blackpool, South (Mr. Marsden) will be disappointed that Blackpool was not recommended, despite their powerful campaigning on behalf of their constituents over recent months. I am aware of the importance of allowing ample time for the debate, which will be unusual, so I am quite confident that that will be facilitated through the usual channels.
convenience is the single greatest spur to increase problem gambling
in close proximity to residential properties?
Is there therefore not a danger that choosing Manchester, rather than a resort destination, is likely to lead to an increase in problem gambling? Does the Secretary of State share my surprise that the report of the advisory panel states:
problem gambling is more a town planning consideration rather than one for us?
Tessa Jowell: I should make it clear that the decision to allocate the regional casino to Manchester is made to the local authority. It will be for the local authority to decide precisely where the location should be. As I said in response to my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Central (Tony Lloyd), considerations about risks, problem gambling and keeping gambling crime-freelet us remember what a good reputation this countrys gambling industry has, as the hon. Member for Bath (Mr. Foster) saidwill be taken into account when Manchester decides, following a fair and open competition, how to award the licence for the casino. I am aware of the work of Professor Collins, but I also know that the panel will have considered such matters very carefully when making its recommendation.
Janet Anderson (Rossendale and Darwen) (Lab): I am sure that my right hon. Friend is aware of the disappointment and surprise of many of us that Blackpool has not been included at all, as my hon. Friend the Member for Blackpool, North and Fleetwood (Mrs. Humble) indicated. I understand that one of the panels conclusions was that Blackpool needed more than one casino for regeneration purposes. Does the Secretary of State thus share my astonishment that Blackpool has not been recommended for any licence at all?
I realise that Blackpool is disappointed that it has not been recommended. However, I made it clear throughout the processbefore we knew the recommendationincluding during a recent sitting of the Select Committee, when I dealt with the matter
fully, that we would accept the panels recommendations and put them to Parliament. As I have outlined, Parliament will have the opportunity to debate my hon. Friends point.
Mr. Malcolm Moss (North-East Cambridgeshire) (Con): Those of us who thought that the process of implementing the Gambling Act could not get any worseI include members of the Scrutiny and Standing Committees in that groupare frankly astonished by todays announcement about the location of the super-casino. The decision of the casino advisory panel flies in the face of not only the main recommendation of the Scrutiny Committeethat such casinos should be resort or destination casinos, such as that proposed by Blackpoolbut the Governments main objective for the Act: to protect children and the vulnerable. How can one defend choosing the most deprived and vulnerable area of Manchester to test whether a super-casino that is open 24 hours a day, with free admission, will generate an increase in problem gambling? If, as I expect, the order is rejected by the House, where will the Government go from there?
Clive Efford (Eltham) (Lab): My right hon. Friend said in her statement that we will have the strictest regime for casinos to be found anywhere. Will she add to that by telling the House who will monitor the performance and activities of the casinos? What sanctions will be available if casinos are found to be breaching any of the codes of conduct?
Tessa Jowell: The Gambling Commission will oversee compliance with the very specific licence conditions, which will reflect the three principles of the gambling legislation. Those principles are protecting children and the vulnerable, keeping gambling crime-free, and ensuring that gambling is kept fair. Breach of any of those conditions can lead to a range of sanctions, some of them criminal sanctions, and can also lead to the operator losing their licence.
Mr. John Greenway (Ryedale) (Con): Given the residential location of the Manchester casino, does the Secretary of State agree that delivery of the social responsibility programme, which so impressed the casino advisory panel, will be critical if the scheme is to be a success? May I inform her and the House that Manchester city council has already held discussions with the Responsibility in Gambling Trust and GamCare, which we fund? Does she agree that significant contributions to the trust must be made, not just by Manchester, but by all 17 operators of the casinos that she today announced are to be created, subject to the approval of the House, so that we can further our work on public awareness, the education of young people, and research, and so that we can provide a safety net for people who gamble beyond their means?
I entirely agree with the hon. Gentleman. He is right to be reassured by the
Manchester submission, and I agree entirely that there is a role for hon. Members in ensuring that the local authorities that have a casinos in their area do their bit to make sure that the contribution to the trust is made.
Mr. Gordon Marsden (Blackpool, South) (Lab): My right hon. Friend will be aware of the great disappointment and anger felt in Blackpool, now that the town that pushed the longest, had the strongest support, and made the most preparation, in terms both of regeneration possibilities and social responsibilities, has been set aside in the panels recommendation. Does she understand that concerns are already being expressed about inconsistencies in the report, particularly on the different criteria for destination and doorstep gaming and in respect of ignoring the regional context of the recommendations? Will she give an undertaking that the debate on the affirmative orders will include a thorough examination by Parliament of the criteria, and whether they were applied properly, and an assessment of how the effects of the recommendations are to be taken forward, and in what time scale?
Tessa Jowell: I thank my hon. Friend, and again pay tribute to him for the way in which he represented the interests of Blackpool and his constituents throughout the process. I recognise the disappointment felt about the fact that Blackpool was not recommended by the panel. He will, no doubt, want to return in the debate to the questions and issues that he mentions, which arose from an initial study of the report.
Mr. Adrian Sanders (Torbay) (LD): What assessment has the Secretary of State made of the precise number of new jobs that will be created in each of the areas that is to be allowed a licence, and what percentage of those jobs are likely to be low-value employment, and to attract only eastern European migrant workers? In the areas concerned, what support will be made available to voluntary organisations and local councils to enable them to deal with the increase in gambling addiction, and what extra resources will go to constabularies to deal with the increase in crime?
Tessa Jowell: The answer to the hon. Gentlemans first question will obviously depend on the way in which individual local authorities take forward and develop the proposals. There certainly are estimates for the increase in the number of jobs. Experience from around the world shows that gambling operators range from some of the best employers in the world to among the worst. One of the reasons why the policy enjoyed strong trade union support is that, based on the evidence of some of the best employers in the American gambling industry, there is a clear understanding that the jobs are good and well-paid. I hope that local authorities will take seriously judgments about the quality of the employment, training and so forth extended to staff in the intended casinos.
As for the hon. Gentlemans questions about addiction and crime, those issues are fundamental to the oversight of the casinos and the judgment about whether they should be allowed to continue to operate. Without the protective benefits of the new legislation, people are at risk from the vast new range of gambling
opportunities that have developed in the past four to five years. Those opportunities are regulated by legislation that was placed on the statute book 40 years ago, which is why we must introduce new legislation.
Mr. Nick Raynsford (Greenwich and Woolwich) (Lab): My right hon. Friend will accept that there are marked differences in the characteristics of a northern city such as Manchester, a resort such as Blackpool and a destination for leisure activities such as the dome in Greenwich. While I entirely accept the importance of proper monitoring and detailed evaluation of the impact of the sites that have been chosen, does she not agree that it will be hard to draw any lessons about the suitability of future casino developments in locations such as my constituency and Blackpool on the basis of evidence from Manchester? That evidence may help to dispel much of the unwelcome scaremongering that has unfortunately characterised many of the contributions to the debate by the Opposition and their media allies, but it will not serve the purpose of the test that she announced, which is to assess whether the proposal can be extended more widely.
Tessa Jowell: My right hon. Friend is right to reflect on the challenge of ensuring that we can use conclusions from one part of the country to draw similar conclusions about another town or city. The prevalent study of the number of people throughout Great Britain who gamble and the number for whom gambling is a problem will be supplemented by the social and economic study to which I referred. They have been commissioned to address precisely the questions raised by my right hon. Friend so that the regime in individual casinos is sufficiently attuned and vigilant to protect people who use them from harm. That regime will apply not just to the casino in Manchester but, subject to the Gambling Commissions judgment, to the 16 local authorities that have been announced as areas that can have a new casino.
Mr. Michael Jack (Fylde) (Con): I hope that the Secretary of State accepts that the announcement is a body blow to the Fylde coast and Blackpools attempts to regenerate. In her statement, she said that she would take...time to consider the panels findings. Will she therefore confirm that she has not finally made her mind up about Manchester? Under what terms will that consideration be conducted, and will it be open to further representations from Blackpool and other areas if there are parts of the report with which they fundamentally disagree?
I know that that is a question that many hon. Members want to raise, and I wish to make the position clear. I have always made it clearas I said earlier, I remember dealing with this when I appeared before the Select Committeethat the Government would accept the advisory panels recommendations and make them the subject of a debate and a vote in the House. That remains the position. Of course, I will listen to the debate and so forth, but those who wish to advocate an alternative to Manchester or any other recommended local authority should not assume that
the recommendations will be varied by the Government. We have always made it clear that we would not do so.
Mr. Clive Betts (Sheffield, Attercliffe) (Lab): First, congratulations to Manchester. Obviously, we in Sheffield are disappointed, but it is interesting to note that one of the main reasons why our bid was turned down was the recognised success of Sheffields regeneration which, it is assumed, will continue with or without the casino. Will my right hon. Friend give an indication of the earliest date by which lessons from the Manchester casino can be learned sufficiently to allow bids to be made by other cities that may have a long-term interest in a regional casino at a future date?
Tessa Jowell: I set out the time scale in my opening statement. My hon. Friend should be clear that the Government have no intention of bringing forward proposals for further regional casinos. The time scale to which I am committed precludes that for this Parliament.
Stewart Hosie (Dundee, East) (SNP): I thank the Minister for her statement and advance notice of it. I particularly welcome her comments regarding regulation in relation to new technology. She will know that the traditional casino industry in the UK is the best regulated in the world, making it the safest in the world. I note her comments about new controls, but can she explain the third paragraph of the statement, which says:
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