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Baroness Blackstone: The amendments in some respects anticipate the gaming Bill and the noble Baroness will not be surprised when I tell her that I can give no firm commitment about when that Bill will be introduced.
Once local authorities are responsible for licensing premises in their areasnot just as the licensing authority for alcohol, entertainment and late-night refreshment but also for gamblingin principle, it certainly makes sense to envisage a single licensing procedure for casinos and bingo clubs. We envisage that the licensing committees which will be set up under the Bill would in due course be empowered also to deal with gambling licensing matters. Bingo clubs and casinos would therefore be able to make one application to one body. Such a streamlining of the present arrangements could bring about substantial savings for business, and also for the police, local residents and others with an interest. However, it would be wrong to pre-empt the future reform of gambling licensing through piecemeal provision in advance of a full and detailed consideration and proper debates in this House and another place about what will be appropriate for that future position.
I am afraid that the amendments would be a rather unsatisfactory short-cut to that future position. In the first place, the amendments would leave the magistrates with responsibility for alcohol licensing in relation to one group of premises, when they would no longer have it for any other group. Therefore, we would need administrative systems and expertise would have to be maintained for that purpose. Magistrates would have to acquire a new responsibility in relation to entertainment licensing which they might eventually have to relinquish to local authorities.
We cannot treat licensing functions as a kind of "ping-pong" between magistrates and local authorities. That would be unfortunate. Worse than that, the provisions of the Licensing Bill would not apply and thus the criteria and safeguards that we have spent such a long time debating would not extend to bingo clubs and casinos. If the amendments were made to the Bill, the provision of licensable activities in those clubs would not benefit from the in-built protections in the Bill of expert scrutiny and representation but would, in effect, be at the magistrates' discretion. If that was no longer considered the right approach in licensing all other premises, why should it be so for bingo clubs and casinos?
The Government readily acknowledge the case that the noble Baroness made for rationalising licensing responsibilities but we believe that it needs to be done properly. The amendments do only half a job and therefore we cannot support them. I hope that the noble Baroness will feel able to withdraw Amendment No. 431B.
Baroness Buscombe: I thank the Minister for her reply. I believe that the immediate response from the gaming industry will be that the Bill does only half the job. I hear that the Minister is unable to confirm and give reassurances today that there will be a gaming Bill. But there appears to be every probability of such a Bill and certainly that industry hopes very much that it will appear in the next Session.
I believe it fair to say that the Bill we are currently debating puts the gaming industry in a difficult positionthat of being between a rock and a hard place. Without the amendments, the industry will be subjected to a dual regime. Some 850 individual premises will be involved and therefore the issue is not negligible. It should be stressed that, by exempting casinos and bingo clubs, the Government would not be leaving other establishments, such as, for example, pubs with fruit machines, outside the law. With great respect, I do not believe that it is a good argument to say that that would be the only group remaining to be reviewed in terms of licensing applications by the magistrates' courts. Magistrates' courts will have to be maintained in order to hear appeals from all other licensed premises. Indeed, because of the current system, magistrates' courts are already blessed with people who are entirely competent, able and, I am sure, perfectly willing to carry out their current role in relation to all licensing applications.
I do not want to detain the Committee but I believe that the Minister's response will prove disappointing to the gaming industrythat is, to those involved with casinos and bingo clubs. I shall talk to them further and gauge their response to the Minister's reply. But, for the moment, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
The noble Lord said: In moving Amendment No. 432, I shall speak also to Amendment No. 433. These are innocent little amendments, designed to carry out the wish and will of the Government in a way that I hope and believe is fairly inoffensive. As the Committee will see, they relate to the exemption for raffles and tombolas. Clause 172 is already constructed to have within it protections against misuse of the probing amendments that I am putting forward because a raffle must be promoted as an incident of the exempt entertainment.
In responding, perhaps the Minister can cast more light on what is meant by the phrase "incident of an exempt entertainment". For example, if a rugby club holds a dance and, arising from that knees-up and in order to raise substantial funds for the club, it decides to have a raffle which will be drawn at the dance, would that raffle, even though it was extensive, be an incident of an exempt entertainment?
Whereas in the old days raffles were homespun affairs with the tickets often sold entirely at the fete, match or lecture, these days that is rarely the case. That is partly due to the fact that our communities are now far more dispersed. One cannot rely on people being at an event when the tickets are sold and one wants to tap other sources of sale. Without the amendments I
Therefore, as the Committee will see, in Amendment No. 432 I say that if there are money prizes, which would normally be sufficient to knock a raffle out of the exemption, the exemption will apply if those prizes are not more than £100 for any single prize or £250 in total. Those figures are perhaps too large, but noble Lords will see the point. If there is a single money prize of £5I know of several raffles with small money prizesone is sunk and has to enter the whole business of obtaining a licence, giving temporary notice to the police and the licensing authorities, filling in a questionnaire and doing so 10 working days before the eventall the regulatory burden that causes a headache for small organisations.
The second amendment is designed to overcome the problem to which I have just referred; that is, unless every single ticket at a raffle is sold at the event, again, one is taken out of the exemption. I put it to the Committee that these days there are extraordinarily few raffles of any kind where a few tickets are not sold beyond the portals. Indeed, the opposite is true for several of them because they aim to raise money for charity. I hope that that is sufficient to explain the purport of the two amendments and I hope that the Government will smile upon them. I beg to move.
Baroness Buscombe: We support the amendments. The sums referred to in Amendment No. 432 are very modest. We should be interested to hear from the Minister the rationale for a complete ban on money prizes. If the Minister opposes the amendment, what detrimental effect could these modest money prizes have on the licensing objectives? We question whether it can seriously be argued that such modest money prizes would in some way be detrimental to the licensing objectives.
We support Amendment No. 433 because there must be many functions where a raffle is held and where raffle tickets are sold before the function takes place. There will also be events when tickets are sold at the function but when the result is announced on another occasion. Surely, that is irrelevant as regards the promotion of the licensing objectives if the raffle or lottery is a relatively modest one. If the expenses of the lottery are less than £2,000, I should have thought that that could be regarded as modest. Such a raffle or lottery is hardly likely to offend against the licensing objectives.
Lord Monson: I, too, believe that the noble Lord, Lord Phillips of Sudbury, has made a very good case for the amendments. As he said, the amounts could possibly be reduced slightly. I am not sure about that, but I hope that he will stick to his guns and, if he gets no satisfaction today, return to the matter at the next stage.
However, in introducing it, it is necessary to ensure that certain conditions are fulfilled in order for the exemption to apply. The alcohol offered must, for instance, be in sealed containers in order to prevent unscrupulous individuals or clubs from running raffles where every prize might consist of a pint of beer and in that way get round the normal requirements for a licence to sell alcohol.
Inevitably, we have had to define what is a small lottery or raffle and what should be properly within the normal law. In doing that we have tried to be consistent with the existing law covering lotteries and not to introduce anomalies. The Lotteries and Amusements Act 1976 defines "small lotteries" incidental to bazaars, sales of work, fetes, dinners, dances, sporting and athletic events and other entertainments of a similar nature.
It goes on to establish certain parameters, which include that no money prize be offered. If money prizes are offered, the lottery would be unlawful unless it meets the general provisions of the 1976 Act and one of the permissions available under that Act can be granted. I think that there would have to be a lottery permit.
For the sake of consistency, we have adopted those criteria as the characteristics of a small lottery. Charities are aware of those rules and tailor their lotteries to meet the criteria. For that reason I am surprised that the noble Lord, Lord Phillips, thinks that money prizes are still offered for those kinds of events or raffles. It makes sense to mirror the lottery rules in the Bill. The Bill should not be a back door way of circumventing the requirements of the 1976 Act.
The first of the amendments would allow the exemption to apply even where cash prizes are available. Admittedly the sums are not very high; I accept that they are modest. Nevertheless, in the light of what I have said I am surprised that raffles and tombolas still provide cash prizes.
On the face of it, the amendment does not seem unreasonable in that it allows the offering of alcohol and cash prizes with no requirement for a licence under the system. However, I stress that the purpose of the exemption is to benefit small events such as village fetes and charity fundraisers. As I have explained, conflicting exemptions under different provisions in different laws could produce confusion.
The second amendment provides that a lottery could benefit from the exemption even where tickets were sold or issued or the result declared other than at the appropriate premises so long as the total expenses incurred did not exceed £2,000. My objection to the amendment is on similar grounds to the first. The requirements reflect the requirements of gaming law, and to amend them would lead to confusion. The issuing of tickets and declaration of the result must take place at the same premises as the entertainment in order to ensure that only the small events of which I have spoken are included. I believe that the example of
In my letter to the noble Lord, Lord Phillips, following Second Reading, I promised that I would check that the Bill did not conflict with provisions in gaming legislation. I hope that he will now be assured that it does not but that his amendments would result in such a conflict.
I see no reason why the conditions that the amendment seeks to remove should cause concern to any of the many charities and individuals which have written to my department on this subject in recent months. I do not believe that any have written about this issue. In the light of my comments and my explanation as to why we have set the proposals for raffles and tombolas in the way we have, I hope that the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw his amendment.
Lord Phillips of Sudbury: I am grateful to the Minister for her full reply. I confess, although one should not, that I was rather persuaded by her comments on Amendment No. 432, and shall take them away and carefully read them.
The reason the Minister has not received many letters regarding Amendment No. 433 may be that if the general public took as long as me to understand Clause 172, they might still be pondering it. It contains a triple negative, which is not quite a record for legislation but is pretty good going. Indeed, I was touched by her concern for the confusion which might result from the amendments being accepted, given that the whole world is in a state of abject confusion about such matters now, let alone with Clause 172 included. The noble Baroness may reflect on the effect of Amendment No. 433; I certainly shall. If she sends her officials on to the highways and byways she will find that a great many such raffles are now being held as part of the existing law with sales outside and beyond the event at which prizes are announced. However, reflection is a good habit, and that I shall do. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.