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I was asked about ammunition parts and dual-use items. This is an area where there is a legitimate range of views. Our aim is to secure a treaty that will reduce the suffering of those affected by prolonged conflict or by the tyranny of human rights abusers. Ammunition parts, technology to produce armaments and related dual-use items in the wrong hands can and do contribute to that suffering. We therefore believe that dual-use items and ammunition parts should be controlled as part of the treaty. We acknowledge, again, that this will need careful handling to prevent unintended consequences that impact on legitimate development or trade.
My noble friend Lord Judd asked me six questions and was kind enough to give me advance notice of them. I say, in short, that the answer to all his questions is yeswe agree with what he put forward. He also referred, as did the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, to the issue of UK defence exports to human rights abusers. We believe that we ourselves should uphold the highest standards. The suggestion has been made that, when dealing with countries of concern, we should go for a presumption of refusal in all cases. I remind the House that all export licence applications are rigorously assessed on a case-by-case basis against the consolidated EU and national arms export licensing criteria, taking account of the circumstances prevailing at the time and other announced government policies. Those criteria clearly set out our commitment to take account of the risk that exports might be used for either internal repression or external aggression. We assess exports on a case-by-case basis, taking into account the nature of the equipment and the country for which it is destined. When assessing licences, we look closely at all the specific evidence relating to each individual export application, including the circumstances at the time that the application was made. Where there is a case to embargo a country because of its human rights record, we act, and I give as examples Zimbabwe and Burma.
The noble Lord, Lord Wallace, and my noble friend Lord Dubs asked about ammunition and dual use, and I think that I have already replied to their point. Such a treaty needs to be comprehensive, covering dual-use items, ammunition and parts.
My noble friend Lord Giddens asked a number of important questions and I start with the one about the United States. Both we and the United States, together with a large number of other countries, have the common aim of seeking to prevent the irresponsible proliferation of conventional weapons. The United States is participating in the UN meetings and its views will be taken very much into account, along with the views of others. The US is particularly concerned, first, that this may be an attempt to legitimise low standards and, secondly, that it may introduce domestic gun ownership controls. We share US concerns about the first point and we would not sign up to a weak
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Russia is a sceptic, and I was asked by my noble friend how we can bring it on board. The countries that abstained include China, India, Pakistan and Russia. Obviously, it is right that their views are taken into account and that they are part of the process, rather than left outside the tent, in taking forward expert discussions on the feasibility, scope and draft parameters of such a treaty. I shall not pretend for a moment that it will be easy to satisfy every country, but it is vital that we do everything that we can. That is why the current process is designed in the way that it is.
My noble friend asked how we can avoid the lowest common denominator. If we secure a treaty that is too weak to have any real impact, it will not have been worth the candle. We need a strong agreement that will make a real difference to the lives of those who are impacted. As a country, we will not agree a weak treaty or one that does not support the legitimate trade in defence goods. Our best hope is the inclusive and ongoing consultative United Nations process, which we believe should be able to do the trick in addressing concerns without producing a weak treaty that is not worth the paper on which it is written. I have already told noble Lords about our next steps.
I take on board the terms idealism and realism used by my noble friend Lord Giddens in quoting an expert. This is not a bad example of where the idealistic and the realistic can, if approached properly, both be realised. We work closely with our partners, NGOs, industry and our international colleagues, and we value their advice and support. We think that we have achieved significant progress in working towards a treaty at the United Nations since we started on it in December 2006. We look forward to continuing this success by taking the UN process further forward towards the conclusion of a robust arms trade treaty that has a significant and lasting impact in preventing irresponsible trade in conventional arms. We know that it will not be easy but it must be worth the effort.
Lord Dubs: My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have taken part in this interesting debate and I welcome the Governments response. They have been very positive and if they give effect to the positive stance they have described, the world will become a safer place.
There has been a welcome broad measure of agreement throughout the debate that we need such a treaty, that we need a treaty which is going to be enforced effectively and that we need a robust treatyin other words, there must not be a compromise in order to get more countries to sign which would make the treaty weak, flabby and ineffective. I would say, by way of encouragement, that the treaty against antipersonnel landminesthe Ottawa treatyhas been pretty effective, even though the United States has not signed it because it is not using such weapons. There will be more authority in having a robust treaty with one or two signatories not there than in making the treaty weak in
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There is a difficulty about non-state organisations and it will be a challenge to make sure that the treaty is enforced on non-state organisations. I believe that our Government can speak with authority in persuading other countries to go along with this. They will speak with more authority if we sign up to an effective treaty against cluster munitions because that will show that we are consistent across the piece.
The noble Lord said: My Lords, I shall also speak to the Gambling (Geographical Distribution of Large and Small Casinos Premises Licences) Order.The Categories of Casino Regulations define the large and small categories of casinos by reference to the minimum and maximum gambling area each type of casino must offer. A casino will be a large casino if the combined floor area of those parts of the casino used for providing gambling is not less than 1,500 square metres but does not exceed 3,500 square metres. A casino will be a small casino if the combined floor area of those parts of the casino used for providing gambling is not less than 500 square metres but does not exceed 1,500 square metres.
The principal purpose behind establishing new minimum and maximum size criteria for the new casinos is ultimately to prevent a proliferation of small casinos. Separately, the new casinos are required by mandatory premises licence conditions, approved by the House last year, to set aside minimum non-gambling areas where customers can take a break from gambling. These regulations will not apply to casinos previously licensed under the Gaming Act 1968. Many existing casinos will be below the minimum size for a large or small casino under the Gambling Act 2005. Existing casinos licensed under the 1968 Act, regardless of their size, are subject to special transitional arrangements under which they have been granted a converted casino premises licence. This will enable existing casinos to continue to trade with their current gaming entitlements. The operators of existing casinos will, of course, be free to bid for the new casino licences permitted by the Act.
The geographical distribution of casinos order specifies the 16 authority areas where the eight large and eight small casinos permitted by the Gambling Act are to be located. The 16 licensing authority areas are those that were originally recommended by the independent Casino Advisory Panel, chaired by the late Professor Stephen Crow. They were included in the first geographical distribution order, which this House rejected in March 2007. Despite that rejection, which, as the House will recall, centred on the location of the single regional
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In the rejection of the order last year, the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, adopted by this House called on the Government to incorporate the 16 areas in a fresh order, which is precisely what we are doing today. We continue to believe that the Casino Advisory Panel did a good job and that, in recommending the 16 areas, the panel exactly met its remit. The areas represented provide a good spread and different types of location, from large urban areas to town centres and seaside resorts. That is what we set out to achieve in our December 2004 national policy statement on casinos. When the time comes to carry out an assessment of the social and economic impact of the 16 new casinos, the areas will provide a good test in a broad range of different locations.
Of course, I regret that my noble friend Lord Filkins Merits Committee, which I hold in the highest regard, came to the conclusion that the order may imperfectly achieve its policy objectives. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport wrote to my noble friend to explain why we did not agree with the committees conclusion. The committee was kind enough to publish a copy of the Secretary of States letter in its 15th report of the current Session. It may be helpful if I deal with the two principal concerns that the committee raised. I reiterate that we take the committees view seriously and recognise the serious work that it does under my noble friend Lord Filkins distinguished chairmanship.
First, the committee argued that the Casino Advisory Panel gave insufficient emphasis in its work to the minimisation of harm from gambling. The Government maintain that this is to confuse the overarching objectives of the Gambling Act with the rather narrower objectives of this order. The main objectives of the Gambling Act are to prevent crime and to protect children and vulnerable people from harm. We are proud that the Act placed these protections at the heart of the system of regulation of gambling in this country for the first time.
We are in no way abdicating our responsibility to prioritise the minimisation of harm. Those protections are being put in place under the Gambling Act, but that is not the purpose of this order. It fulfils the narrower purpose of identifying the areas that will best facilitate a proper assessment of the social impact of the new casinos, so that the Government and, of course, Parliament can make future decisions about casino policy on a fully informed basis.
Secondly, the committee was concerned about the traceability of the impact of the new casinos in different areas. It cites in particular the difficulty of tracing impacts in seaside resorts, ports, areas with existing casinos or areas with pre-existing regeneration plans. We recognise that this process will be challenging, but these descriptions could apply to many, or perhaps all, local authorities in the country. We are currently drawing
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I know that the House places great importance on the question of public consultation in the casino licensing process and on the primacy of local decision-making and local consultation. I reassure the House that those principles are central to our policy. In the Gambling Act we have for the first time given local authorities the power to resolve not to license a new casino in their area. That, of course, includes the authorities included in this order.
Where an authority wishes to license a casino, local people will be consulted at every stage of the licensing process. Authorities must issue a three-year licensing policy, which, among other things, will set out the principles that the authority intends to apply in determining to whom to issue a casino licence. In settling that policy, licensing authorities are required to consult local people. That applies to those local authorities that, thus far, have obviously achieved local support for making their applications.
On receipt of applications for a casino licence, the licensing authorities must consider representations from interested parties, including local people and local businesses, about the applications. Unless local people agree otherwise, they must hold a hearing. Where licensing authorities receive more than one application for a licence, we have required them, through a statutory code of practice, to take account of local views in deciding which benefits they want a casino to provide in their area.
This order, then, does not represent a top-down, one-size-fits-all model. Licensing authorities have the flexibility to decide what is best for their area after consulting local people. That may include specific measures, funded by the casino, to support local efforts to combat problem gambling or crime. Through the Act, we have also provided for authorities to hold operators to commitments that they make during the licensing process. Even after a casino has been licensed, local people may complain to their licensing authority, asking it to review the licence. All those measures are in addition to local peoples input into the planning process. I hope, therefore, that the House will agree that the consultation measures that we have provided are substantial and appropriate.
The order before the House does not, of course, provide for a regional casino. On 26 February this year, I repeated a Statement made in another place by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, which explained his reasoning for not proceeding with that regional casino. I will not delay the House, or even risk boring your Lordships, by repeating what the Secretary of State said on that occasion, although I was privileged to repeat his Statement. Central to his decision were the concerns expressed in
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The large and small casinos that are the subject of the order will pose a lower risk, but they are still new to the British market. They will be able to offer a larger number of £4,000 jackpot gaming machines than existing casinos and they will be permitted to offer new combinations of gambling. We therefore continue to believe that it is right to take a cautious approach to their introduction and have limited the number of new casinos. We will not consider any further casinos under the Gambling Act until the assessment of the new casinos impact on problem gambling, to which I have referred, has been completed. We expect that to be no earlier than 2014. Even then, it will ultimately be for Parliament to approve any increase in the number of casinos permitted by the Act.
I know that there is concern about the possible proliferation of existing casinos. I would like to assure the House that that is highly unlikely to happen. When Parliament passed the Gambling Act in April 2005, there were 138 casinos operating. Now, three years on, that figure has increased marginally to 144. That, of course, does not include any of the 16 new casinos that are subject to the instruments that we are discussing.
A number of casino applications are still being processed under the now repealed legislation in the Gaming Act 1968. Those were submitted to the Gambling Commission before the end of April 2006, the date at which we stopped any further applications coming forward. If all those applications were granted and resulted in new casinos opening, that would bring the theoretical maximum of 1968 Act casinos to 216. However, that is most unlikely to happen. Indeed, some of the late applications made under the old legislation have already been rejected and within that 216 are 19 rejected applications with outstanding appeals; that is, they have been rejected but have gone to appeal. The theoretical maximum of 216 is restricted by law to the 54 permitted areas established under the 1968 Act and it is unlikely that the market in those areas will be able to support a significant increase in the number of casinos.
As I said, protecting both the public interest and the vulnerable from harm through gambling is central to the Act. That approach is reflected in the manner of our proceeding with the new casinos in these instruments and, accordingly, I commend them to the House. I beg to move.
Lord Howard of Rising: My Lords, with yet another gambling order, there is an awful sense of déjÃ vu and I am sure that many of the comments that noble Lords have made on previous occasions are still relevant. These Benches are not going to oppose these instruments, but it would still be nice to know why there are different classes of casino based purely on the date of application for a licence. I am sure that there is a reason for that, although I have yet to hear a good one. With the amount of discussion and parliamentary
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In a previous debate, the Minister commented that he did not wish to discuss Treasury matters. Nevertheless, the tax on gambling, as my colleague in another place pointed out, is high. In an industry where the opportunity for wrongdoing is so great, there must be a question over how sensible it is to tax to a level that might create a temptation to cheat. I do not know what that level is, but the Minister might give the matter some thought.
The issue of problem gambling remains cloudy. I have read a great deal on the subject and the things that appear to be lacking are a clear direction and a set of criteria to deal with it. There has been much talk, with many sensible ideas, but there does not seem to be the concentrated focus that will be needed if the figure of 250,000 problem gamblers is not to grow significantly as the number of casinos increases. Her Majestys Government talk much about regeneration, but there is a danger that what will actually be achieved is degeneration. Perhaps the Minister will comment on advertising in the United Kingdom by overseas-registered companies that are not subject to British safeguards and regulation. I look forward to hearing what he has to say, but there is no opposition to these instruments.
Lord Clement-Jones: My Lords, I must apologise for my late arrival. I hope that I did not miss too many of the Ministers words, and I thank him for those that I did hear. I suspect that we may have heard some of them before, but I would not wish to predict that, and I hope that the questions I ask the Minister have not already been answered in his introduction. As elsewhere, we are in difficult territory for the Government. I would sum it up by saying, in the words of the old joke about the man who is asked directions, I wouldnt start from here, guv.
All of us in this Chamber are only too well aware of the history of the Governments supercasino proposals that have led, in the space of three years, for proposals for an unlimited number, then eight, then one and now zero. Over a year ago, the Liberal Democrats succeeded in persuading this House to adopt the proposition that a review of the decision to site a supercasino in east Manchester should be undertaken and that there should be a separate order enabling the eight large and eight small casinos identified by the Casino Advisory Panel, under the late Professor Crow, to go ahead. It is incomprehensible that the Government have delayed for over a year in considering the implications of that vote and coming to a decision. That is dither and delay brought to a fine art.
The climate in the casino world has changed dramatically during those 12 months. There have been drastic changes in gaming duty. The abolition of the bottom bands at no notice has forced the casino operators to pay millions more in duty. The Government have decided that so-called Section 21 terminals, which were permitted in the 1968 Act casinos, should be
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