Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

As I said in response to earlier amendments, we do not think details such as those proposed in these amendments are appropriate for primary legislation. We will comply with our European obligations and appraise the sustainability of options for inclusion in the marine plan. The appraisal will inform the choice of options that are selected for inclusion in the draft plan and we will publish guidance for the MMO on how we expect this to be carried out.

Baroness Byford: I agree with the Minister that we have come to an important part of the Bill and I am only sorry that our consideration has been slightly rushed. He said that he hopes for a consistent approach, which is clearly what we are all after. My question is therefore simple: what will happen if it is not consistent?

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: It is a good question. Essentially, the marine policy statement will always apply to the whole UK marine area and can have regional content within it. If the devolved Administrations are not signed up, it will be limited in its scope and impact. I suppose that in theory a UK Government-only marine policy statement could cover devolved matters, but I am not sure that that would be wise. In any case, the devolved Administrations would not have to follow it. A UK Government-only marine policy statement would cover reserve matters, and for England it would cover the whole area of marine licensing and consents.

It would be a huge disappointment to get to that position. We hope—the incentives to do so are in the Bill—for agreement to be reached. Again, I go back to the statement of intent by the four Administrations following the meeting last autumn setting out their determination to make this work. The Bill is constructed to make it possible, with incentives moving in the direction towards an agreed marine policy statement for the United Kingdom to which all the devolved Administrations are signed up, but in a sense there is a reserve position in order to deal with the matter if it is not possible.

Lord Taylor of Holbeach: Is that the reason for Clause 46, which concerns the withdrawal of the devolved authorities from such a statement? Did this clause have to be included as part of the agreement?

7.45 pm

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: I am not sure that I want to go into the detail of the discussions. Clause 46 sets out the circumstances in which withdrawal from a

28 Jan 2009 : Column 310

statement may be made, while Clause 43, which we shall reach shortly, describes the flexibility provided so that an MPS may be prepared by all the policy authorities acting jointly, which is very much the desired option. It may also be prepared by the Secretary of State and by one or another of the other devolved Administrations or, in the end, it could be prepared just by the Secretary of State. There is flexibility in the legislation, but I am confident that there is sufficient understanding between all the Administrations that the benefits of working together far outweigh not doing so. It is necessary to have this kind of measure in the Bill to deal with circumstances where working together is not possible, but I am confident that it will not have to be used.

Lord Tyler: I am grateful for the support of the noble Earl, Lord Cathcart. This is an important part of the Bill and I, too, am sorry that the debate has been slightly truncated by the hour. The Minister referred to our optional amendments to Schedule 5. Perhaps I should have made it clear that although we do not believe that we have heard the last word on this subject, we are slightly disappointed that he feels that no such assessment of sustainability appraisal needs to be provided for in Schedule 5. We shall certainly look at the issue again.

I warmly welcome the Minister’s assurances about the discussions held at ministerial level with the various devolved Administrations about this part of the Bill, because that is absolutely critical. He used the word “hope” at one point, but he has also used the word “confidence”. I hope that his confidence is well placed because if the development and implementation of the MPS does not work out, there will be a major problem at the very heart—

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: Based on my understanding of the agreement reached by Ministers that has led to the statement, along with the discussions between officials from the UK Government and the devolved Administrations, I am optimistic about the conclusion.

Lord Tyler: I thank the Minister. I am also grateful for his statement that a great deal of consultative discussion has already taken place with a number of stakeholders about the form and content of the MPS and that that is to continue; obviously that is right not just as the Bill progresses through both Houses, but thereafter. Perhaps I may repeat the point I made earlier: if those who are most concerned about the success of this legislation are not adequately consulted about the way in which the policy statement is developed, there would be a lacuna at the very heart of the Bill.

I come back to the issue of the relevance of the SEA because I am concerned that we should be as confident as possible that we are using the right mechanism to ensure that the sustainability appraisal is really effective. I understand that there is another option known as the sustainability appraisal, but to be frank that is a rather tame weapon to use in this context. There is widespread concern that by apparently turning down the possibility of the SEA process, we may be adopting a rather limp approach. Incidentally, I am sure that I recall reasonably well the Minister saying in

28 Jan 2009 : Column 311

his response that sustainability appraisal was inherent in the preparation of the MPS and therefore reference to the SEA directive is not really necessary. That does not quite accord with the Government’s response in taking forward the draft marine Bill in response to the Joint Committee report from the noble Lord, Lord Greenway. The Government stated that while they believed that they would not be required to undertake an SEA for the MPS, they said that they were,

Frankly, nothing we have heard this evening has really fulfilled that promise. Perhaps it is still ongoing work and we shall hear about it later, but no assessment mechanism has been built into the Bill at the moment.

We have had a brief but useful debate. However, these issues will come back in various forms. We shall ponder carefully between now and Report what the Minister has said, but in the mean time I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 85ZA withdrawn.

Amendment 85ZB not moved.

House resumed. Committee to begin again not before 8.49 pm.

Gambling Act 2005 (Gaming Machines in Bingo Premises) Order 2009

Copy of the Order
1st Report from JCSI

Motion to Approve

7.50 pm

Moved By Lord Davies of Oldham

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, in moving the Motion on the Gambling Act 2005 (Gaming Machines in Bingo Premises) Order 2009, I shall speak also to the Gambling Act 2005 (Variation of Monetary Limit) Order 2009.

The first order is intended to help to address the severe economic downturn in the bingo industry by increasing from four to eight the number of category B3 gaming machines that bingo halls can offer customers. Category B3 machines have a maximum stake of £1 and a maximum prize of £500. In June last year it was announced that the Government intended to make such an increase in response to a campaign by the Bingo Association, a campaign that also attracted the support of Parliament. Such widespread cross-party support was influential with the Government in making our decision.

The order is intended to help the bingo industry, which is facing difficult trading conditions. While the current economic climate is an issue for the gambling industry as a whole, there remains strong evidence that the situation in the bingo industry is particularly acute.

28 Jan 2009 : Column 312

A number of special circumstances apply to bingo halls. These include the fact that the industry’s business model means that there is very high demand for these machines during relatively short periods of the day—that is, between the sessions of bingo play. Also, while gaming machine entitlements in casinos, betting shops and adult gaming centres were increased through the 2005 Act in return for the taking on of enhanced social responsibilities, bingo halls retained the same gaming machine entitlements as they had under the Gaming Act 1968.

Most important, however, is the role of bingo halls in local communities. They fulfil an important social function and provide a softer gambling environment, where the gaming machines offered remain ancillary to bingo. Of course there are risks attached to an increase in the number of these machines, not least with regard to their being seen to promote harder forms of gambling and problem gambling in general. That is not the case. These machines are already on bingo premises, while under the 2005 Act a comprehensive new system of regulation for gaming machines was established with consumer protection at its heart. The number one priority remains the protection of the public. That is why the Government rejected the Bingo Association’s view that the number of B3 machines should be increased to 16; we felt that that went too far. We have agreed on eight, which is consistent with the precautionary approach that we take to gambling regulation.

It should also be borne in mind that all categories of gaming machines must comply with strict regulations and technical standards to ensure that vulnerable and problem gamblers are protected. Stringent controls on entry by under-18s to areas in bingo halls offering gaming machines are already in operation via the mandatory conditions attached to the premises licences. We can with confidence see this increase in machines without creating significant social problems.

On the question of lotteries, the House will be aware that society lotteries are lottery draws run by charities, sports and leisure clubs to raise money for good causes. Few societies currently reach the present limits relating to the maximum proceeds and prizes for individual draws; at the moment the proceed limit is set at £2 million and the prize limit at £200,000. However, the Lotteries Council and the Hospice Lotteries Association argued that these limits were holding them back from raising significantly higher sums for good causes, particularly by preventing a number of societies from coming together to promote a larger one-off annual draw—for example, a Christmas bumper draw—and these arguments were reflected in both Houses.

The Government have always been willing to consider representations made on behalf of charities and other bodies that benefit from society lotteries and, in response to those arguments, we announced last July that we intended to raise to £4 million the maximum proceeds for individual society lottery draws and that the top prize had also doubled to £400,000 for each draw. It should be made clear that the Government do not intend to raise the limit on maximum annual proceeds for society lotteries, which will remain at £10 million. The maximum £25,000 prize for society lotteries whose

28 Jan 2009 : Column 313

proceeds are below £250,000 will also remain unaltered. This level of increase, from £2 million to £4 million, is wholly consistent with the licensing objectives of the Act and achieves a satisfactory balance between providing a valuable boost to hospices and other bodies that raise funds from lottery draws and retaining the character of society lotteries. That view is supported by the Gambling Commission, which has advised that there is no evidence that an increase such as this would give rise to gambling concerns.

The Government also recognise the unique position of the National Lottery and its enormous contribution to the public good. I therefore assure the House that we have considered the impact that the proposed increase in proceeds may have on the National Lottery and believe that such an increase would not threaten income for the good causes. Society lotteries operate on a quite different scale from the National Lottery. Moreover, they target different markets. People generally play society lotteries to support a cause rather than to win a prize, whereas playing the National Lottery is about the possibility of winning a life-changing amount, with the good causes a secondary consideration. The Government remain of the view that the suggested increase to society lottery limits will not affect that difference. However, to ensure this, we will ask the National Lottery Commission to monitor the impact of the revised limit on the National Lottery and ask for a report to be made three years after implementation. I commend the orders to the House.

Lord Howard of Rising: My Lords, I thank the Minister for introducing these orders. I declare an interest: the lottery for my local church, which I have to tell the House will not be approaching any limit at all, goes forward in my name.

According to the Henley report, bingo provides a social service and acts as a lightning conductor for gamblers, who without bingo might well drift into hard gambling, with its far greater percentage of problem gamblers. With over 100 bingo halls closing over the past two years, there is clearly a strong argument for assisting the industry by changing the restriction on the number of machines allowed. However scientific one pretends to be, it is anyone’s guess what the right number of machines is. The Minister might consider keeping the number under review to ensure that the restrictions thought necessary to prevent problem gambling still allow the industry to function properly.

The other order before the House increases the ceiling from £2 million to £4 million for a society lottery—that is, a lottery run for the benefit of charities, sporting bodies and non-commercial activities. My first question is: why is there a limit? The Budd review called for the removal of a limit, and that was supported by the joint scrutiny committee in its report on the draft Gambling Bill. There is also a limit of £10 million on the amount that can be sold by any one society in a year.

The restrictions on the activities of those working for the good of others do not make a great deal of sense. The argument has been made that, if there were not these limits, there might be an adverse effect on the

28 Jan 2009 : Column 314

National Lottery. I have two points on this. First, as societies give 58p or 59p of every pound raised to charity, as against the National Lottery’s 28p, the prize money that they offer could not compete with that offered by the National Lottery. If there was concern that, as the lotteries grew in size, societies would reduce the proportion of money received that they donated, the minimum amount that must be given under Section 99(2) of the Gambling Act 2005 could be amended from 20 per cent to a higher figure—say, 40 per cent. This would ensure that lotteries run by societies would retain their character, which is distinctive because, as the Minister said, the prime motivation is to benefit the cause rather than to win large sums of money.

Secondly, if societies continue to give so large a portion of what they receive to good causes, they should get the maximum help and encouragement. Good causes would be better off and there would be more opportunity for people spending money on lotteries to ensure that the money went directly to the beneficiary of their choice. If there is to be a limit, it is disappointing that it is not to be increased to the £5 million requested by the Lotteries Council. Perhaps, rather than complain, one should be grateful for the increase that the order gives.

8 pm

Lord Addington: My Lords, I shall not detain your Lordships’ House long. Let me take the orders as they are presented to us. As bingo is currently suffering, one wonders whether having machines in the bingo halls is a straw for them to cling to or a lifeboat. As bingo halls are in structural trouble, I hope that when the Government consider any future increases they will also consider the fact that this is supposed to be a “soft” environment. However, I have no fundamental objection. As to the raising of the limit, the only thing that occurs to me is that the limit will presumably have to be increased over time, provided that there is no adverse effect on other bodies. Will we have an order every time, or would it not be sensible to have some system to look at this automatically? It might save a few rushed dinners in both Houses of Parliament if there were some way forward. I hope that the Government can provide us with some of the thinking behind these matters.

Lord Mancroft: My Lords, I have little to say about the first order, on bingo. I am not a great expert on bingo. However, I noticed that the Minister referred to the economic downturn. I do not think that that has any real consequence for the bingo industry. The downturn in the bingo industry has been a consequence of the enactment and slow implementation of the Gambling Act, which has frankly nearly destroyed it. That is why we have this order today, and my only comment is, “Too little, too late”.

I want to talk about society lotteries. In doing so, I remind your Lordships that I have a personal interest in them. I have been a licensed operator of society lotteries since they started having professional operators in 1993-94. In fact, I moved the amendment to the then National Lottery Bill which allowed external

28 Jan 2009 : Column 315

lottery managers to start operating. I also then moved the first ever increase of monetary limits to lotteries, bearing in mind that lotteries have existed in this country since the Lotteries and Amusements Act 1976. So lotteries had their first increase in 1993-94, the second in 1998-99 and this is the third. That is three increases in 32 years; not a good record for Governments of either hue.

This increase was first lobbied for in 2000. It has taken eight years. It was lobbied for a great deal harder during the passage of the then Gambling Bill through this House. Your Lordships will remember that the Bill passed through Parliament in the wash-up period in April 2005, when after one day in Committee it went through its remaining stages within 25 minutes in your Lordships’ House, following a statement made by the then Minister, the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh. He gave an undertaking to your Lordships that the monetary limits for society lotteries would be reviewed as soon as possible. That was in April 2005. This is how quickly the Government carry out their undertakings. In fact, the consultation process for this increase was completed by Christmas 2005, but I understand that, owing to the pressure of work at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, there was no time to send it back.

My goodness, the noble Lord, Lord Addington, puts his finger on it sometimes, does he not? Why will we have to go through this every three years? We talked, debated and lobbied about the idea that there should be triennial reviews of stakes’ and prizes’ monetary limits in the Bill. The Government said that it was not necessary. The lottery people said, “You don’t care about us; we will always be at the bottom of the heap”. “Oh no you won’t,” said the Government, “We will look after you”. Here we are, all these years later. We were right and the Government were wrong. This is a story of poor quality and shabby government.

The Government said in their document supporting this that they have virtually unanimous support. They have seven out of 10. Two of the three that did not support them are the National Lottery and its own private regulator, the National Lottery Commission; you would hardly expect it to support them. I do not know who the third was, but the reality is that this increase this evening has not got unanimous support. Everybody was told that either they took the £400,000 or they would not get anything. The noble Lord, Lord Addington, and my noble friend on the Front Bench are absolutely right. Sir Alan Budd’s review of the gambling industry before we had the Gambling Act asked what was the purpose of limits—any limits at all—for society lotteries, and said that they should be removed.

The joint scrutiny committee on the draft Gambling Bill, on which I had the honour to serve in your Lordships’ House along with Members of another place and other noble Lords, also recommended to the Government that all these limits should be removed. The Government finally agreed to remove the limit on stakes in the Bill, but have kept the monetary limits on pools and prizes. Like my noble friend on the Front Bench, I still do not know why it is.

28 Jan 2009 : Column 316

When he winds up, it would be awfully helpful if the Minister could tell us what the policy objective of this order is. The policy objective of the Gambling Act is to prevent crime, ensure that all gambling is fair and to protect the young and vulnerable. The order has absolutely nothing to do with that at all. In fact, we can see, despite the fact that Ministers and officials have denied it for years, that this is about protecting the National Lottery. But protecting the National Lottery is not a policy objective of the Gambling Act. It has nothing to do with it all.

The Minister said in another place, when the order was passed through the Second Delegated Legislation Committee on 19 January, that the protection of the National Lottery must not threaten income for good causes. My noble friend on the Front Bench had it absolutely right. The reality is that, pound for pound, society lotteries give a great deal more to charity than the National Lottery. The biggest beneficiary of the National Lottery is not good causes but the Treasury. Let us be absolutely straight about this. No exchequer anywhere else in the world takes more money out of its state or national lottery than ours. It can do that if it likes, but not, I suggest, at the expense of charities. The charities that run society lotteries do so for the most vulnerable in our society. Those I have been involved in have raised many millions of pounds for many charities. Last year we had “Brainwave” for brain-injured children. That is more important than the Treasury’s coffers in my view, and I think that of your Lordships’ as well.

The Minister said that prizes had not been breached, as though that were a reason for not increasing them. Does that mean that if we all drove at 81 mph the Government would increase the speed limit? Not breaching them is not a reason for increasing them. That is a ludicrous idea.

I would therefore like the Minister to tell us why the limit is £400,000. Why not £600,000? Why not £550,000? What is the logic in that? It is completely illogical. Why, too, should it be 10 per cent of the pool? Why not 5 per cent? Why not 15 per cent? In fact, what has it to do with the Government at all? Why do the Government care what percentage it is? The answer is, they do not really know.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page