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We are very encouraged by the work that has been done over this period. We welcome the bank and building society sector's ongoing commitment, as set out in the Statement of 8 November, to a major reuniting exercise ahead of the scheme’s launch. The launch of by National Savings and Investments, the British Bankers’ Association and the Building Societies Association is a central part of that work. It is a free, cross-industry, one-stop shop for customers attempting to locate their lost accounts. In less than a month since its launch on 30 January, it has received more than 140,000 hits and, importantly, has led to more than 72,000 submitted claims for lost accounts.

That facility allows not just account holders but also executors and nominated representatives to initiate a search for a lost account. Executors and personal representatives will be able to search for lost accounts using the one-stop shop website which should help those entitled to legacy income to receive it because the executors will be working under the instructions of the person making the bequests. The advantage from this process is bound to accrue to charities where the intention was that bequests should be made to them.

The Government also welcome the public announcement on 8 November confirming, additionally, the commitment to proactive searching by individual institutions. The public progress made by such significant institutions as Halifax and Nationwide is to be welcomed. The Government look forward to other substantial financial institutions meeting the commitment through

26 Feb 2008 : Column 567

proactive reuniting activity soon. Of course, we welcome all constructive suggestions about how reuniting arrangements might be improved.

4 pm

Is the central register, mandated through regulation, necessary or proportionate now or in the future? I note that the noble Lord, Lord Newby, welcomed it on the grounds that it was a sword of Damocles, but as I recall, that was an ever-present and continuing threat to people holding positions of power. That may be a salutary thing to look forward to, but on this particular sword of Damocles being backed by the noble Lord, it is expected to come into action. That is different from a threat. We are concerned to ensure that the industry makes the greatest efforts for the reunification of accounts. The noble Lord, Lord Newby, is entitled to carry the threat one stage further if it does not. I may have responded in a slightly jocular way, but it raises the central issue of the Bill that it is essentially a voluntary arrangement by the banks and building societies. They are expected to make an enormous contribution to this initiative through their activity. It is not an exercise in government regulation.

Of course the Government have a role to play in this Bill, as we have previously discussed. That is different from saying that whenever it can be detected that matters in the Bill might be advanced with greater efficiency, that should be done through the strong arm of government. That is not the nature of the Bill. I do not agree that the central register mandated through regulation is either necessary or proportionate. It would involve extensive legislation to set it up. The register would need to be run, which would place an administrative burden on the resources that we are always talking about. They are resources related to the scheme that would otherwise go towards the benign purposes that have been identified by all sides of the House as the objectives of the scheme.

There is a further difficulty. It would give the Government power to require data to be provided to a central source. That would not deal with how it would be enforced on the institutions, nor would the fact that banks and building societies—again I turn to the noble Lord, Lord Hamilton, who has expressed a view that is also held in other parts of the House—are subject to confidentiality requirements on customer information. A bank account is a private contract and confidentiality issues are raised by the concept that banks can be compelled to breach them—the sword of Damocles being translated into action, if the amendment were accepted. Transferring such information to a central source would mean that banks and building societies had to breach that confidentiality. It is difficult to see how that is compatible with the framework of law on confidential information and data protection that applies in the United Kingdom. It might also raise human rights issues. Although the Government considered every angle with regard to the proposed legislation, the issue of human rights was not raised, but the House will be all too well aware of the fact that Ministers are obliged to sign a document indicating that human rights are not contravened by legislation.

26 Feb 2008 : Column 568

We may have had trouble signing that if we had introduced a Bill carrying this concept. That is a difficulty for us.

As a result of the amendment passed last time, the Bill now includes a clause requiring regular reports to Parliament on a range of issues, including banks’ and building societies’ arrangements to trace accounts and repay customers. The same clause asks the Government to consider improvements to the scheme at a later date. The Government intend to carry out a post-implementation review of the scheme, as I have made clear all along. We always appreciated that we would have to form an evaluation of the success of the scheme after it had been launched.

However, I have real concerns about the review proposed in the amended Bill, requiring the Government to report on the scheme every three years in perpetuity. Every three years for 10, 20 or 50 years hence seems somewhat unnecessary. I cannot think of a precedent, nor has any noble Lord suggested one since this concept was introduced. I am also concerned about the detail and scope of the review as set out in the Bill and the implications for the scheme. So the Government will be seriously looking at these issues when the Bill moves from this place.

However, I ask the House to appreciate that an underpinning principle of the Bill is voluntarism. It is not a government Bill in that respect, which would actually involve government direction in every element. A great deal of the Bill involves the willing participation—in fact, the instigation of action, which they have already done—of the banks and building societies. That this why we have taken care to move forward with respect for that element of voluntarism in the Bill. There are real problems with confidentiality and the extent to which power is handed to government in circumstances in which it may be looked upon as excessive in the context of the banks’ and building societies’ work in this area.

Not that I would want to reduce the just flow of resources to the benign institutions that have been the subject of so many representations from all sides of the House in any way, shape or form. Of course the Government want the scheme to work well. Without the slightest doubt, this will mean that where individuals have sought to make bequests to charity but their accounts have become dormant, this level of activity—the work under the Bill and the voluntary work of the banks and building societies—will benefit charities. But that is different from introducing a compulsory element, which raises issues of confidentiality and possibly human rights. In the Government’s view, it is therefore a step too far. That is the basis of the Government’s argument for asking the noble Baroness to withdraw her amendment.

Baroness Finlay of Llandaff: My Lords, I appreciate the response from the Minister, and the comments of all those who have spoken in support of the amendment. I remind the House that I am calling for a reserve power only, not creating a statutory arrangement in the Bill. I am simply calling for a reserve power in the event that the established voluntary arrangement, which currently looks as if it is doing a good job, fails to work well in the interests of the individual whose

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hard-earned money was left in their will to a charity, however small, and its beneficiaries: directly, the charity and, indirectly, all those who that person in writing their will wanted to benefit.

On confidentiality, we already have a system, which was set up as voluntary, for the reunification process. That has broken the complete code of secrecy around bank accounts anyway, because when a match is now made, there is confirmation of that. Therefore, despite the Minister’s reservations and in the light of the support around the House, I feel that I must test the opinion of the House.

4.10 pm

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 1) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 107; Not-Contents, 130.

Division No. 1


Addington, L.
Allenby of Megiddo, V.
Alton of Liverpool, L.
Avebury, L.
Barker, B.
Beaumont of Whitley, L.
Best, L.
Bledisloe, V.
Bradshaw, L.
Bridges, L.
Brookeborough, V.
Brougham and Vaux, L.
Chidgey, L.
Chorley, L.
Cotter, L.
Craig of Radley, L.
Craigavon, V.
Crisp, L.
Deech, B.
Denham, L.
D'Souza, B.
Dykes, L.
Eccles, V.
Elystan-Morgan, L.
Exeter, Bp. [Teller]
Falkland, V.
Falkner of Margravine, B.
Finlay of Llandaff, B. [Teller]
Garden of Frognal, B.
Gardner of Parkes, B.
Hameed, L.
Harris of Richmond, B.
Hayhoe, L.
Higgins, L.
Hodgson of Astley Abbotts, L.
Hooper, B.
Hooson, L.
Howe of Aberavon, L.
Howe of Idlicote, B.
Hylton, L.
Jones of Cheltenham, L.
Kingsdown, L.
Kirkwood of Kirkhope, L.
Lee of Trafford, L.
Lewis of Newnham, L.
Linklater of Butterstone, B.
Low of Dalston, L.
Luce, L.
Mackie of Benshie, L.
Maclennan of Rogart, L.
McNally, L.
Maddock, B.
Marsh, L.
Masham of Ilton, B.
Mawhinney, L.
Methuen, L.
Miller of Chilthorne Domer, B.
Miller of Hendon, B.
Monson, L.
Murphy, B.
Neill of Bladen, L.
Newby, L.
Northbourne, L.
Norton of Louth, L.
Oakeshott of Seagrove Bay, L.
O'Cathain, B.
Palmer, L.
Patel, L.
Plumb, L.
Ramsbotham, L.
Redesdale, L.
Roberts of Llandudno, L.
Roper, L.
Rowe-Beddoe, L.
Russell-Johnston, L.
Saltoun of Abernethy, Ly.
Scott of Needham Market, B.
Selborne, E.
Selsdon, L.
Sharp of Guildford, B.
Shutt of Greetland, L.
Slim, V.
Smith of Clifton, L.
Steinberg, L.
Stern, B.
Stevens of Kirkwhelpington, L.
Sutherland of Houndwood, L.
Swinfen, L.
Taverne, L.
Tenby, V.
Teverson, L.
Thomas of Gresford, L.
Thomas of Walliswood, B.
Tonge, B.
Tordoff, L.
Tyler, L.
Ullswater, V.
Vallance of Tummel, L.
Wallace of Saltaire, L.
Wallace of Tankerness, L.
Walmsley, B.

26 Feb 2008 : Column 570

Walpole, L.
Walton of Detchant, L.
Warnock, B.
Wilkins, B.
Williamson of Horton, L.
Wright of Richmond, L.


Acton, L.
Adonis, L.
Ahmed, L.
Anderson of Swansea, L.
Andrews, B.
Archer of Sandwell, L.
Ashton of Upholland, B. [Lord President.]
Bach, L.
Barnett, L.
Bassam of Brighton, L.
Berkeley, L.
Bernstein of Craigweil, L.
Billingham, B.
Bilston, L.
Borrie, L.
Boston of Faversham, L.
Brooke of Alverthorpe, L.
Brookman, L.
Brooks of Tremorfa, L.
Burlison, L.
Campbell-Savours, L.
Chandos, V.
Christopher, L.
Clark of Windermere, L.
Clarke of Hampstead, L.
Clinton-Davis, L.
Corbett of Castle Vale, L.
Corston, B.
Crawley, B. [Teller]
Darzi of Denham, L.
Davies of Coity, L.
Davies of Oldham, L.
Desai, L.
Dixon, L.
Donoughue, L.
Dubs, L.
Elder, L.
Evans of Parkside, L.
Farrington of Ribbleton, B.
Fyfe of Fairfield, L.
Gale, B.
Golding, B.
Gordon of Strathblane, L.
Graham of Edmonton, L.
Gregson, L.
Griffiths of Burry Port, L.
Grocott, L.
Harrison, L.
Hart of Chilton, L.
Haskel, L.
Haworth, L.
Hilton of Eggardon, B.
Hollis of Heigham, B.
Howarth of Newport, L.
Howells of St. Davids, B.
Hoyle, L.
Hughes of Woodside, L.
Hunt of Kings Heath, L.
Janner of Braunstone, L.
Jay of Paddington, B.
Joffe, L.
Jones, L.
Jones of Whitchurch, B.
Jordan, L.
Judd, L.
Kerr of Kinlochard, L.
Kilclooney, L.
King of West Bromwich, L.
Kinnock, L.
Kirkhill, L.
Layard, L.
Lea of Crondall, L.
Lipsey, L.
Lofthouse of Pontefract, L.
Macdonald of Tradeston, L.
McIntosh of Haringey, L.
McIntosh of Hudnall, B.
MacKenzie of Culkein, L.
Mackenzie of Framwellgate, L.
McKenzie of Luton, L.
Massey of Darwen, B.
Mawson, L.
Maxton, L.
Mitchell, L.
Moonie, L.
Morgan of Drefelin, B.
Morgan of Huyton, B.
Morris of Aberavon, L.
Morris of Handsworth, L.
Morris of Manchester, L.
Morris of Yardley, B.
Naseby, L.
O'Neill of Clackmannan, L.
Parekh, L.
Patel of Blackburn, L.
Patel of Bradford, L.
Pendry, L.
Perry of Southwark, B.
Plant of Highfield, L.
Prys-Davies, L.
Puttnam, L.
Radice, L.
Ramsay of Cartvale, B.
Rea, L.
Rendell of Babergh, B.
Richard, L.
Rowlands, L.
Royall of Blaisdon, B. [Teller]
Scotland of Asthal, B.
Sewel, L.
Sheldon, L.
Simon, V.
Smith of Leigh, L.
Snape, L.
Soley, L.
Stone of Blackheath, L.
Strabolgi, L.
Symons of Vernham Dean, B.
Taylor of Blackburn, L.
Taylor of Bolton, B.
Temple-Morris, L.
Thornton, B.
Tomlinson, L.
Truscott, L.
Tunnicliffe, L.
Turner of Camden, B.
Wall of New Barnet, B.
Williams of Elvel, L.
Woolmer of Leeds, L.
Young of Norwood Green, L.

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

26 Feb 2008 : Column 571

4.21 pm

[Amendments Nos. 2 to 4 not moved.]

An amendment (privilege) made.

Bill passed, and sent to the Commons.


4.22 pm

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, with permission, I wish to repeat a Statement made by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport in another place. The Statement is as follows:

“Mr Speaker, I wish to make a Statement on casino policy. Today I am laying a draft order identifying 16 local authorities which will be authorised to license the eight large and eight small casinos permitted by the Gambling Act 2005. I do not intend to authorise a regional casino. My right honourable friend the Member for Dulwich and West Norwood established the independent Casino Advisory Panel to advise on the location of the 17 new casinos permitted by the Act. The panel considered applications from 68 local authorities and made its recommendations after detailed consideration.“Before I make further progress, the House will want to know that since we last discussed these matters, the chair of the independent panel, Professor Stephen Crow, has passed away. I hope the whole House will join me in sending our condolences to his family and paying tribute to the integrity and dedication he brought to his role. “Last March, an order incorporating the panel’s recommendations was defeated in another place. Since then the Government have reflected on the range of views expressed in both Houses and beyond. There was a consensus that the eight large and eight small casino licences should be awarded to the 16 licensing authorities identified by the independent Casino Advisory Panel. It was a view expressed by the opposition Front Bench and by their Lordships in their message to this House calling for the 16 to be incorporated into a fresh order. Following last year’s local elections, my right honourable friend the Member for Stalybridge and Hyde invited all 16 councils to indicate whether it remained their wish to license a new casino. All 16 have requested inclusion in this new order.“But there was and is no consensus on the question of a regional casino. There are important differences between the regional casino on the one hand and the large and small casinos on the other. The regional casino would have been allowed up to 1,250 unlimited stake and prize gaming machines, something not seen before in the United Kingdom. The large and small casinos would be allowed to offer 150 and 80 category B1 gaming machines respectively, with a minimum £2 stake and £4,000 prize. B1 machines are already in use in Britain today.“There are two principal and independent reasons for my decision not to proceed with a regional casino. First, concerns were expressed in both Houses

26 Feb 2008 : Column 572

about the potential negative impact of a regional casino operating on the proposed scale. I have not seen anything to suggest that the will of Parliament has changed. Secondly, I have considered the evidence, both old and new, on the impact of regional casinos. This evidence, including the scoping study by Lancaster University which I am laying in the House today, points towards the uncertainty of the risks involved and does not dispel these anxieties.“The Gambling Commission’s prevalence study, published in September, highlights that problem gambling, although small, remains persistent. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government concludes that regional casinos are likely to have no, or only marginal, net benefits compared with other means of economic and social regeneration. In the light of this and the evidence about the uncertain levels of risks, I do not intend to authorise a regional casino. “I know that my decision will disappoint many in Manchester, particularly east Manchester, one of the most deprived areas of the country. Taking forward the conclusions of the report published today, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government will lead an ad hoc ministerial group to work with Manchester Council and its partners to identify and bring forward a range of regeneration alternatives. The group will produce its first report by the end of March. “Considerable support has been expressed in both Houses for the regeneration of Blackpool. My right honourable friend has today announced a package of investment for the town worth close to £300 million. “I seek the consent of the House to authorise eight small and eight large casinos because I am satisfied that they do not pose the same level of risk to the public as a regional casino. That said, my instinct is to proceed with caution, at all times considering measures to protect young and vulnerable people.Therefore, any new casinos authorised by this order will be required to abide by strict new rules, including providing non-gambling areas where customers can take a break from gambling; prohibiting the provision of free drinks to customers while they are gambling; prohibiting the use of credit cards to purchase chips or play gaming machines; ensuring any cash machines are located away from gaming areas; and requiring casinos to have policies to identify problem gamblers and provide information about support for addiction. Operators who break these rules risk losing their licence, fines and up to 51 weeks’ imprisonment. “Taken together these measures make up the toughest regulatory controls for gambling in the world, but today I signal my intention to go further still. Regulators, legislators, operators and owners all have a duty to act in a socially responsible manner, accepting that, for some, gambling is an addiction, not a leisure pursuit. “I was surprised to find that only 360 out of 3,800 licensed operators have so far this year made contributions to the Responsibility in Gambling

26 Feb 2008 : Column 573

Trust, which offers advice and treatment to people with gambling addictions and is chaired so ably by the honourable Member for Ryedale. This is not acceptable. Promises were made and I expect them to be kept. The Archbishop of Canterbury has called for the introduction of a statutory levy. Unless the industry delivers a substantial increase in contributions by the end of this year, and makes contributions in a timely fashion, I will seek the approval of this House for a statutory levy, at a rate to be determined.“Secondly, I believe that it is a good principle that all casinos are subject to a period of closure every day, when individuals are required to leave the premises. Currently,casinos are prevented from offering gambling over 24 hours unless they apply to local authorities for an extension, but I wish to rule out the possibility that some may remain open round the clock by requiring them to close their doors for at least six hours “In conclusion, the order we are laying today is an enabling order giving 16 local authorities the ability to proceed with plans for small and large casinos. Whether to do so is entirely a matter for local decision, and I hope that local people will be consulted and involved at all stages. Small and large casinos will bring local economic benefits and provide enabling development with the potential to create new community facilities. But as the Lancaster study concludes, there are costs and benefits of casino development that need to be weighed in the balance. That is why I shall at all times proceed with caution and continue to keep gambling policy under review according to my responsibilities under the Act, to take advice from the Gambling Commission and to be guided by the evidence. I commend this Statement to the House”.

My Lords, that concludes the Statement.

4.29 pm

Lord Howard of Rising: My Lords, there are already so many ways of gambling in this country that it is a matter of regret to me that the Government should spend time and energy providing yet more opportunities to gamble. Those who want to have a bet can easily do so. Inevitably, if there are more casinos, with more promotion and more publicity, a number of people will start to gamble who might never have done so. Of that number a proportion will end up as addicted gamblers, with the consequent ruination of their and their families’ lives. I find it difficult to understand, if it is not right to permit a large casino because of the new evidence of risk, why it should be right to permit a collection of other casinos. Does the risk suddenly disappear because the premises are smaller? I find that difficult to believe. Steps are proposed to control problem gambling and they are welcome. Only time will tell whether they turn out to be adequate to prevent problems.

4.31 pm

Lord McNally: My Lords, I may say some hard things in the next few minutes, but I want the Minister to understand that it is nothing personal. I realise that he has been given his usual job of plaiting sawdust.

26 Feb 2008 : Column 574

I thank the Minister for the Statement, and I am sorry to learn of the death of Professor Crow. I send my condolences to his family. That respect and sadness, however, do not remove my original assessment that the findings of the panel he chaired were bizarre and based on criteria that ran contrary to those established by the Joint Committee set up by both these Houses. I do not blame Professor Crow or his colleagues, though; blame lies with Ministers, who have been buffeted hither and thither by press campaigns and well financed lobbies. Millions of pounds of public money have been wasted by commissioning inquiries about matters that should have been for ministerial judgment and the decision of Parliament. As it is, we have a gambling reform that gives us the worst outcomes of deregulation with few of its benefits.

Will the Minister confirm that, in addition to the 60 new casinos he has sanctioned, there are about 125 applications for casinos under the 1968 Act, and that the final number of casinos we are likely to have in this country when this exercise is finished will be nearer 300? Is he aware that we are about to have an explosion of small and medium-sized casinos, most of them in locations that are more likely to create the addiction and social problems that the Government are supposed to fear? The Prime Minister rushed to make a Statement about the super-casino to show his new moral compass—but which way is that compass pointing?

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