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Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Chorley, for enabling me to refer back to the Brundtland definition. I have been carrying it around with me since Second Reading and have not had a chance to quote it, so this is my great opportunity. The noble Lord is right in saying that the definition from the Rio Earth Summit is:

This Government's position expands that into the terms of four broad objectives: social progress which recognises the needs of everyone; effective protection of the environment; prudent use of natural resources and maintenance of high and stable levels of economic growth and employment. I am not much of a believer in definitions; I believe that they trap you rather than free you. But that goes some way towards explaining the way in which the Government approach the matter.

I am also grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, and my noble friend Lady Young for their contributions. They enable me to set out the Government's position and the way we hope to make progress in the next few weeks. As a Government, we are committed to putting sustainable development at the heart of our policies, not least the lottery, as we said in our White Paper, The People's Lottery, last summer.

In taking into account comments on the White Paper and discussions on the point earlier in the passage of the Bill, the Secretary of State, in consultation with other Ministers, is currently reviewing the policy directions which were referred to by my noble friend Lady Young. They are issued to distributors with, among other things, a view to finding the right way of emphasising the importance of sustainable development in them. I hope that we might be able to give some indication of what we propose by Easter--not, I am afraid, in time for the passage of this Bill through your Lordships' House.

If the directions end up reflecting sustainable development through a specific direction or by other means, that will go further than the noble Lord's amendment, since the policy directions are matters which distributors must take into account when making grants and which would feature in distributors' strategic plans, as the new Section 25C(4) requires distributors to show how they are interpreting their directions.

Subject to consultation with distributors on policy directions, I hope that we will end up with a strong emphasis on sustainable development and thus achieve what the amendment seeks; that is, the reflection of sustainable development in strategic plans by another route.

Lord Redesdale: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that response. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

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The Lord Bishop of Southwell moved Amendment No. 14:

After Clause 13, insert the following new clause--

Participation of young persons in the Lottery

(" . A licence under sections 5 or 6 of the 1993 Act shall include a condition that the minimum age for participation in the National Lottery or in any lottery or description of lottery specified in the licence is eighteen years.").

The right reverend Prelate said: My Lords, the House will recall that a similar amendment was moved by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Oxford in Committee. He outlined the long-standing anxieties that the British Churches have consistently expressed with regard to some aspects of the National Lottery. A specific concern is that of gambling among young people.

More comprehensive research was published by Oflot only two weeks ago. Its findings are alarming and disturbing. It is for that reason that I felt it right once again to table this amendment. The author of the report, Dr. Susan Fisher of Plymouth University, surveyed nearly 10,000 young people aged between 12 and 15 in England and Wales. The total number of young people in that age group is around 2.25 million. The main findings of the report are frightening if the percentage results of the survey are applied to the total population of young people between the ages of 12 and 15. They indicate that over 1 million young people play the lottery illegally; 125,000 young people can be described as problem gamblers; over 60,000 young people have a gambling problem with fruit machines and over 20,000 with lottery scratchcards. A similar number has a problem with both fruit machines and scratchcards. It appears that around 50,000 young people aged between 12 and 15 have a gambling problem associated with either fruit machines and lottery scratchcards or both.

It was plainly not the intention of any government to set up a scheme to raise money for good causes which would seriously harm such a large number of young people; but that is in fact what happened. There would appear to be a pernicious connection between the old established fruit machine culture and the new scratchcard activity.

I believe that serious consideration must now be given by the Government to raising the age at which young people can play the lottery from 16 to 18. Camelot has given tacit approval to that. Its recent lottery briefing report says,

    "This is an issue which was highlighted in the press recently, during which Camelot made its position clear, namely that it has no objections to the higher limit".

Neither the United States nor our European partners permit gambling under the age of 18, and Oflot's research clearly shows that there is a serious problem that must be tackled. One obvious measure would be to raise the age limit.

It has been suggested that to raise the age of play to 18 will criminalise 16 and 17 year-olds. That is plainly not the case. It is not illegal for an under-age person to buy a lottery ticket; it is illegal for a retailer to sell the ticket to an under-age person. To raise the age limit

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would have an effect on the number of young people who have developed problems in relation to gambling to a level which is quite unacceptable.

The Churches Together in England recognises that this is a matter which concerns the Government. We are grateful to the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh of Haringey, for the assurance he gave to the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Oxford in Committee, when he said that,

    "If the research appears to indicate that the age limit should be revisited, the director general and the Government would certainly look at it very carefully under existing powers".--[Official Report, 22/1/98; col. CWH 105.]

I submit that there is new evidence that indicates that now is an appropriate time to revisit this issue, and I trust that the Government will agree to do so. If not, perhaps the Minister will give some indication as to how the Government intend to tackle the problem that has been clearly identified by the recent research by Oflot.

A matter of considerable urgency is, furthermore, a thorough and comprehensive review of the whole issue of gambling regulation. I recognise that to intervene on this single point of the age limit is no substitute for that. But there is a precedent for such an approach. I understand that the Home Office is currently taking that line in its proposals to restrict repetitive on-line gambling games. But the sooner a comprehensive review and reform of gambling regulation is set up, the sooner such interventions as that which I bring before your Lordships will be unnecessary. I beg to move.

Lord Redesdale: My Lords, at the last stage of the Bill the Minister specifically stated that it did not take primary legislation to change the age limit at which scratchcards could be played. However, at the time he was explicit that he had not seen the research and would take action if it proved to be the case that scratchcards had a significantly adverse effect on young people.

Can the Minister give some indication of how the Government are now considering the age limit, in view of the findings which are particularly worrying on the addictive nature of stratchcards among significant proportions of those under 16 who are regularly using scratchcards illegally? Can he say whether, in the light of that, he will be considering raising the age limit?

Lord Rowallan: My Lords, I find it difficult to follow the argument of the right reverend Prelate. If a problem exists in certain sections of society in relation to the age limit of 16, surely it will be compounded if we put the age limit up to 18.

It is hard for a shopkeeper to determine whether someone is 16, 17 or 18 these days. People seem to look more mature at a younger age every year and parents seem to dress their children more and more in adults' clothing at younger ages. At a time when we read in the newspapers that we are about to allow the age of homosexuality to come down from 18 to 16 and heterosexuals are allowed to have sex at 16, to stop someone from gambling until they are 18 appears to be slightly illogical.

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We must bear in mind also what the figures represent. The UK is 11th in Europe with regard to the amount of money that we spend on the lottery. We spend on average £83 per head a year, whereas in Massachusetts in America they spend £309 and in Norway £137. There is therefore a huge difference. We are perhaps creating a monster if we accept this amendment and I do not believe it to be appropriate.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, as I said when this matter was raised by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Oxford in Committee, we do not need primary legislation to set the minimum age for playing the lottery. But that does not mean that we do not welcome the debate. I particularly welcome the debate because, since Committee, I have had an opportunity to read in detail the report of Dr. Susan Fisher. I have also had the benefit of a visit from the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Ripon and his colleagues, David Skidmore and John Kennedy. I was grateful for that and for the full discussion we were able to have on the issue. There can be no doubt therefore that this Government take the issues raised by the report extremely seriously.

The Director General of the National Lottery, who commissioned the report--we are grateful to him for that--has demonstrated the importance he places on protecting players both by commissioning the report and by his response to it. Of course the report extends beyond the National Lottery to cover all commercial gambling, including lottery scratchcards under the Lotteries and Amusements Act 1976 and fruit machines, which are of considerable importance. The report cuts across the responsibilities of two government departments. I can assure the House that it is being considered carefully in the Home Office as well as in the DCMS.

We should not forget that the report concentrates on 12 to 15 year-olds, who are already barred from buying lottery tickets. I cannot emphasise that point too strongly. There is an age limit now and the priority, I suggest, should be to enforce it. So I was pleased to see, and I fully support, the action which the acting director general is taking to tackle the problem. He has called for Camelot to step up its enforcement campaign by increasing test purchases and by taking tougher action on retailers who knowingly sell to under 16s and to provide a revised action plan for reducing under-age sales. I hope that Camelot will respond positively.

While I am on that subject, the right reverend Prelate referred to the fact that Camelot has no objection to the age limit being raised to 18--that of course is true--but whether it is 16 or 18, there has to be proper enforcement. The director general obviously feels that Camelot could do more to deter retailers who knowingly sell to under-16s and he has asked it to step up its enforcement regime.

It would be quite simple to raise the age limit to 18 and at a stroke deny 16 to 17 year-olds the right to take part in the lottery, a right given to them by Parliament and one which they seem to have used sensibly on the whole. As I understand it, there is no evidence to suggest they should not continue to play. What is really being proposed therefore is that 16 to 17

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year-olds should have the right to play withdrawn from them in order to protect the small group of 12 to 15 year-olds at risk. But there is no guarantee that raising the age limit would significantly reduce the problem for under-16s. Dr. Fisher's report showed that nearly half the lottery tickets played by children were purchased by a parent or another adult. If the lottery were denied to them, is it not likely that they would simply shift to other activities, whether it be gambling, drinking or taking drugs?

The noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, referred to the addictive nature of scratchcards. I know that is a matter of concern. But it should be remembered that the director general has a duty not to licence games that lead to excessive participation--that, in effect, means addictive--and he does not consider that scratchcards lead to problem gambling. The research he has carried out confirms that. The research suggests that on average only 10 per cent. of the adult population regularly buy National Lottery scratchcards compared with more than 60 per cent. who play the game on line. Of the 16 to 18 year-olds questioned, some 8 per cent.--that is less than the average for all ages--report playing scratchcards at least weekly. Scratchcards are not particularly a problem for younger people.

The answer to the problem--I agree it is a very real problem--is not to raise the lottery age limit. It is to tackle the conditions which give rise to problems in the first place and to enlist the support of parents in that campaign. That is why this Government's first priority is education and, indeed, why we propose to change the lottery to support after school clubs and healthy living centres, both of which have significant contributions to make in dealing with the issues highlighted by Dr. Fisher's report. That is why we have measures in place to help deal with truancy, with social exclusion, with unemployment and with deprivation. These are policies which really will contribute to ensuring that the dangers of gambling addiction are nipped in the bud.

I fear that gambling will always be with us and I suspect that under-age gambling will always be with us. But the conclusion I draw from the research and from all we know about the problem is that raising the age limit would not be the proper response.

5.30 p.m.

The Lord Bishop of Southwell: My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for his reply and for indicating some of the actions the Government are planning to take in order to nip the problem in the bud. In two or three years' time I shall be interested to see whether the programme has nipped in the bud this major problem, whereby 1 million youngsters between the ages of 12 and 15 are involved in illegal gambling. However, in the light of the Minister's assurances and his statement, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

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Clause 15 [Objects]:

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