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Lord Hanningfield: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply. However, can he give a firm assurance that before any of those casinos are constructed a full assessment will be carried out for each potential site to determine the economic, employment, infrastructural and anti-social behaviour impact? What process will be used to ensure that the views of local people are listened to?
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: Yes, my Lords, I can give the noble Lord, Lord Hanningfield, an assurance that care will be taken and that all the factors he listed will be taken into consideration. I cannot give him an assurance on how that will be achieved because we are still working on it. However, all the things he mentioned will happen.
Lord Faulkner of Worcester: My Lords, I declare an interest as a member of the Joint Scrutiny Committee on the Gambling Bill. Is my noble friend aware of the almost universal welcome given to the Government's decision to limit the number of regional casinos to eight? That is very much in line with the recommendations of the Joint Scrutiny Committee because generally it was felt that this would allow one or two depressed seaside resorts to benefit from substantial programmes of regeneration and will, as my noble friend has said, avoid the problems of proliferation which would otherwise have taken place.
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I do not want to commit myself to whether any of those eight will be located in any particular seaside resort or in any other place. The idea is that the eight projects will form an experiment to see what happens with regional casinos sited in different locations. They could include seaside resorts as well as urban centres or, indeed, out-of-town centres. All of those will be examined as potential outcomes of the first phase.
Lord Barnett: My Lords, what is the Government's case for having any "super" casinos? If it is to
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redevelop areas that need redevelopment, have the Government considered whether this is the best way to finance such redevelopment or whether there are any better ways that would not fall to give a huge yield to these casino investors from the poorest and most addicted gamblers in the country?
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I am glad to have advance notice of the attitude of my noble friend Lord Barnett to the Bill when it comes before this House. It will be a pleasure to debate it with him. However, regeneration is not the only purpose of casinos. They are a legitimate form of leisure activity, which is one of the considerations we have in mind.
Viscount Falkland: My Lords, it was noticeable that, in response to the timely Question of the noble Lord, Lord Hanningfield, the Minister did not use the term "super" casinos, which is used in the Question. Is it not the case that the term "super" casino reflects neither the Government's aims, nor indeed is it in current usage among those who served on the pre-legislative committee or within the industry? Is it not a fact that the industryincluding those abroad who stand ready to investdoes not see gambling in itself as the generator of the kind of moneys that would regenerate seaside resorts or any other place? Does the Minister agree that, instead of casinos, we shall have leisure centres of a high quality where gambling plays a significant but appropriate part?
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I considered whether to answer using the term "super" casinos, but with due respect to the noble Lord, Lord Hanningfield, I did not really know what the term meant, so I used the term that we use in the Bill. It is the experience of other countries that if you have very large casinos, they are complemented by other forms of provision for leisure activities. To that extent, I am sure that the noble Viscount, Lord Falkland, is right.
Baroness Buscombe: My Lords, does the Minister accept that the terms of my noble friend's Question as set out on the Order Paper are fundamental to the future operation of casinos and their impact on surrounding communities? Given that this Bill has been subject to so much pre-legislative scrutiny and consultation, is it not extraordinary that the Minister is unable to answer these fundamental questions today? We have had three years of proposals, consultations and scrutiny.
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I agree entirely that the issues raised by the noble Lord, Lord Hanningfield, are relevant. The answers to the questions referred to by the noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe, will be available as soon as we complete our preparation of the amendments to the Gambling Bill, which will be very soon indeed.
The Lord Bishop of Southwell: My Lords, like others, I welcome the Government's move to cap the number of these "super" casinos. Surely the potential
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social consequences of these very hard gambling venues are too severe to be left to market forces alone. Does the Minister agree that the potential social consequences of "super" casinos are so severe that a period of less than five years for the first so-called "phase" would look indecently hasty?
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I agree entirely that social consequences are a very significant elementin fact, possibly the most significant single element of the considerations we shall take account of in the first phase. We will do that when we consider when it is appropriate to come back to Parliament for any extension of the first phase or to extend plans for further casinos.
Lord Sutherland of Houndwood: My Lords
Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, it is the turn of the Cross Benches.
Lord Sutherland of Houndwood: My Lords, can the Minister say what powers local planning committees will have in this process?
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, they will have powers of three kinds. First, local authorities as a whole rather than just planning committees will have the right, under Clause 157 of the forthcoming Bill, to reject casinos of any kind in their area. Secondly, local planning committees will have responsibility for the planning aspects of the location and composition of casinos. Thirdly, local licensing committees will be responsible for issuing premises licences. They will consider the appropriateness of the premises and the benefits which may accrue to the local authority and the local area as a result of the establishment of casinos.
Lord Richard: My Lords, perhaps my noble friend
Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, we have heard two speakers from the Labour Benches and so we have had our share.
The Lord Bishop of Rochester asked Her Majesty's Government:
Whether President Musharraf's recent visit has been beneficial for the development of United Kingdom policies in Pakistan and Kashmir.
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean): My Lords, yes. My right honourable friend the Prime Minister and President Musharraf agreed to broaden bilateral
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co-operation, including on counter-terrorism, trade and development issues and against the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. They also discussed Pakistan's relations with India. The Prime Minister warmly welcomed the composite dialogue process and urged further efforts by Pakistan and India to find a lasting resolution to the issue of Kashmir that takes into account the wishes of the Kashmiri people.
The Lord Bishop of Rochester: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply. Can she tell us whether, during his recent visit, Her Majesty's Government discussed with President Musharraf his views on the progressive role of religion? If so, how can this country assist him in that mission, which has enormous implications for peace in the region?
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, as the right reverend Prelate will know, President Musharraf and the Prime Minister had an exchange on enlightened moderation in the Islamic world. They discussed the far-reaching measures taken by Pakistan to eliminate extremism and militancy in that country. So the general point about religion was tackled. Of course, the right reverend Prelate will also know that in the past we have raised particular concerns about the plight of the Christian and Ahmadi minorities in Pakistan.
Lord Avebury: My Lords, has the noble Baroness noticed reports of a meeting which is due to begin tomorrow in Kathmandu, Nepal, between representatives of Kashmiri opinion on both sides of the line of control? If, as the noble Baroness suggests, there is agreement between us and President Musharraf that the people of Kashmir must be given an instrumental role to play in any solution to the problem, does she not also agree that an institutional framework needs to be erected through which those views can be expressed, instead of an occasional ad hoc meeting?
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