|Previous Section||Index||Home Page|
I agree with my hon. Friend that people who use amusement arcades or go to bingo halls are not necessarily problem gamblers; I suspect that few of them are. As hon. Members have said, a series of changes has taken place under the Gambling Act,
which, after all, has been working only since October 2007. Hon. Members are calling for a review. Clearly, there will be a review, but we must remember that the major changes to social law have been working for only a short time and it may be slightly early to have a full review of the Act.
Mr. David Heathcoat-Amory (Wells) (Con): The Government have just conducted a very panicky emergency review of their ill-judged proposals on the taxation of low-paid people. Why can they not attribute the same urgency to a review of the destruction of a seaside industry, about which the Minister has been warned in the past and which has now taken place? A very serious situation faces hundreds, or even thousands, of businesses employing very many people. Will the Minister show the same urgency over that as she showed over the 10p tax rate?
Angela Eagle: If the right hon. Gentleman had been listening to what I was saying, he would know that it is not for the Treasury but for the Department for Culture, Media and Sport to conduct such a review. I will not say from the Dispatch Box that I will do things that are properly a matter for colleagues in another Department.
Mr. Gummer: I find it a little difficult to understand what the Minister is saying about the distinction between community action and taxation. When the Chancellor of the Exchequer announces that the cost of cigarettes is to rise considerably, he always says I am doing this to safeguard the health of the nation. It is not possible to distinguish between the two issues. All we are asking is for the Minister to promise that she will tell her colleagues that the review must take place, otherwise she will lose money.
Angela Eagle: My colleagues in the Department for Culture, Media and Sport are keeping these matters under review, as they keep the social law relating to gambling under review. Even as we speak, they are examining issues relating to specific gaming machines and stakes. It is not for me to announce what my colleagues in the Department for Culture, Media and Sport are going to do. The fact is that gambling law and the social law relating to it are a matter for them and for the Gambling Commission, while taxation is a matter for Her Majestys Treasury.
Mr. Hancock: If taxation is indeed the responsibility of Treasury Ministers, accepting the amendment would demonstrate that they recognised the damage that this change would do to the industry, and that they would be denying themselves revenue rather than increasing it. That in itself would put down a marker for the Ministers colleagues elsewhere in Government, indicating that she for one is prepared to listen, to recognise the size of the problem, and to act.
The hon. Gentleman has raised two issues. Of course we are sensitiveI am sensitiveto the health of particular industries and how their activities are affected, but he seems to be suggesting that this industry is in difficulty because of the revalorisation of amusement machine licence duty. Although he may well have a point, the issues affecting the industry range
more widely than whether we revalorise amusement machine licence duty as a tax. They also involve some of the changes resulting from the gambling legislation, and the changes in the social law. However, that is a matter for my colleagues in the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.
Category B3 machines are high-price gaming machines with a maximum stake of £1 and a maximum prize of £500. As we were told by the hon. Member for Putney, adult gaming centres and licensed bingo halls are permitted a maximum of four such machines. My colleagues in the Department for Culture, Media and Sport are considering the case for assisting bingo halls and arcades, but the Governments underlying approach to gambling regulation is rightly a precautionary one. We must weigh the industrys demands that we help it through economic difficulties against any danger that higher-stake, high-prize machines may pose to the public.
As I have said, amusement machine licence duty is a fixed cost, so because of inflation the real value of revenue raised by it will diminish over time. Reducing AMLD rates in 2009 to their August 2006 levels would cost £15 million. The Department for Culture, Media and Sport has said that it is considering the industrys case for assistance, and it would be wrong to pre-empt the process by making an explicit link between the social regulation of gaming duties and levels of amusement machine licence duty.
I hope that, given that explanation, the hon. Member for Putney will withdraw her amendment.
Justine Greening: If we were ever in doubt over whether this is a joined-up Government, we have just discovered the truth: they definitely are not. The Minister can hardly be bothered to talk to her colleagues in the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. She says that we should not mix up social law and Treasury law, but I am afraid that this is a social law which is having an economic impact. To say that it has nothing to do with the Treasury is an entirely inadequate response to the fact that companies are going out of business at this moment. The Minister ought to be willing to act. This is no way in which to treat the businesses that are so vital to seaside communities, and I therefore wish to press the amendment to a vote.
Question put, That the amendment be made:
Clause 21 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Mr. Philip Hammond: I beg to move amendment No. 18, in page 2, line 21, at beginning insert Save as provided in subsection (6A),.
The Temporary Chairman (Frank Cook): With this it will be convenient to discuss the following: Amendment No. 19, line 22, at end insert
(6A) The amendments made by this section shall cease to have effect at midnight on 5th January 2009 unless the condition set out in subsection (6B) has been satisfied.
(6B) The condition referred to in subsection (6A) is that the Chancellor of the Exchequer shall have laid before the House of Commons a statement setting out the measures taken to mitigate the effect of the amendments made by this section and by section 1 (when taken together) on those for whom such effect is a net increase in income tax payable and the House of Commons shall, by resolution, have approved such statement..
Mr. Hammond: Clause 3 has dominated debate on the Finance Bill. The policy changes that it contains have unravelled, and they have unravelled for the same reason that the Government are unravelling; they are incoherent, inconsistent and driven by short-term political expediency rather than a long-term strategy. The problems that the clause has created are the Prime Ministers problems. He announced these measures in his last Budget, measures that he kneweven when taken together with all the other measures that he announcedwould have the effect of making 5.3 million low-earning households worse off. So why did he do it? Various theories have been advanced, the most generousand, I have to say, the least probableof which is that he did not appreciate the effect the measure would have on the poorest.
I bow to no one in my enthusiasm for identifying flaws in the Prime Minister but stupidity and innumeracy are not two that even I would suggest. Was it, as I have previously suggested, a move designed to establish his credentials ahead of a Labour leadership election and a honeymoon general election as the successor to Blair, able to reach out to middle England? Or, as my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Mr. Howard) suggested in the debate last Monday, was this entire elaborate strategyannounced in the way it was, with the abolition of the 10p rate concealed in the Budget small print and the reduction in the basic rate trumpeted in the final paragraphnothing more than a tactical manoeuvre to try to wrong-foot the Leader of the Opposition in his reply? Whatever the motive, it was a cynical and short-term one, abandoning a long-term Labour party objective and a 1997 manifesto commitment.
Lembit Öpik (Montgomeryshire) (LD): Regardless of what the Governments motives were in changing the policy, the absolute wage rates in my constituency have decreased by 4 per cent. in the last 12 monthsand they started off at 25 per cent. below the national averageso this change is having a practical negative effect in my constituency. It is reducing the average standard of living in Montgomeryshire and in many other constituencies, too.
Mr. Hammond: The hon. Gentleman makes a good point. This tax change, which has had a negative impact on 5.3 million of the poorest households, comes at a time when earnings are stagnant and prices are soaring, leaving the average family squeezed in a vice-like grip. This measure is all the Government can offer them; at a time when those households need a hand up, all the Government offer them is a tax increase.
Mr. Julian Brazier (Canterbury) (Con): My hon. Friend is being too generous to the Prime Minister. The clear reason for this measure is that the only category of the poor that count in the eyes of the current Administration are those who are part of the client state. The point is that this measure is heavily hitting people who are not in receipt of benefits.
Mr. Hammond: My hon. Friend is right in that the people who will be worst hit will be those who are working. I accept his criticism; I have clearly been too generous to the Prime Minister, and I promise my hon. Friend that I will try to do better in future.
|Next Section||Index||Home Page|