Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Although a number of respondents blamed the category B2/B3 machines—so-called FOBTs—for enticing away their trade, we were not provided with any evidence of this. Neither, despite repeated suggestions that category B2/B3 machines are an increased source of problem

21 Apr 2009 : Column 1439

gambling, were we provided with any hard evidence to support these suggestions. Until we see evidence to the contrary, any changes to the present regulations governing category B2/B3 machines are unwarranted. I am certain that the Gambling Commission will be keeping a close eye on this and that the moment that it sees something going wrong with such machines it will immediately jump up with some proposals.

We do, however, agree that bookmakers have a significant advantage over the operators of, for example, seaside arcades, who depend on machines for their livelihood. Much more needs to be done as a matter of urgency to help these operators who do not operate betting shops, or many will not survive much longer. The latest figures given by the Minister prove that arcades, especially in seaside areas, are going out of business.

More than one respondent drew our attention to the perceived high cost of the Gambling Commission’s offices in Birmingham and the increased staff. They felt that, despite all the money spent, there was a poor level of service. We do not agree with that, but it was their point of view. This was causing them extreme difficulties, and resentment was building up in the industry.

We received lots of evidence of job losses in the gaming machine industry. The blame for this was being laid at the door of the Government, for not understanding the gaming industry in the way that they should have before the legislation went through. However, we welcome this small step, which we hope will help the gaming industry. We think that it has come a little too late, but nevertheless it has come.

Lord Carter of Barnes: My Lords, I thank noble Lords for taking part in the debate this evening. It is fair to say that the contributions reflected the broad spectrum of opinion that the Government received during the consultation process. I am not going to join the noble Lord, Lord Addington, in speculating about which part of the Government’s, or my own, anatomy is relevant here, or in speculating about whether this is enough, too late, too little, whether there should be more, or whether there should be any at all. Suffice it to say that the Government have sought to strike a balance between these understandably competing views.

I shall answer some of the specific questions. The noble Baroness, Lady Howe, if I understood correctly, was suggesting that in some way, shape or form public money was being invested in these areas. That is not the case. We are providing a relaxation and, one could argue, liberalisation, to allow the operators to become more commercially attractive and more competitive, but this is in no way, shape or form government money, let alone more government money.

The noble Lord, Lord Addington, asked whether this is enough or whether it is too late. We believe that we have moved things on as quickly as we could and as we should. I understand the point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Golding, that there are many voices in the industry which would like to see more and would like to see it faster. The Government are trying to get the balance right. The Gambling Act is relatively new legislation. I do not think that it is a legitimate criticism

21 Apr 2009 : Column 1440

from the noble Lord, Lord Luke, to suggest that it is in a muddle and it is time for a review. We do not know enough yet to know whether we should be reviewing what was essentially a new regime that was put in place. He and his colleagues in the other place may have the view that now is the time to reverse the more damaging aspects of the 2005 Act. The Government’s view is that we do not yet know enough to be able to make those determinative judgments.

We thought that it was right to take the time to consider the concerns raised by groups in consultation, and we also needed to take the time to ensure that the changes to individual areas were consistent with the overall licensing objectives that were a central part of the 2005 regime. We would not describe that as a muddle in the market; we would describe it as a balance in the regime, hence the reason for taking the time that was asked for.

The right reverend Prelate asked questions around whether this is a contradiction of the comments, or possibly the promises, that the previous Secretary of State had made on this measure. This is not a relaxation in any way, shape or form of the regulatory regime. The regulations, as I said in my opening remarks, need to be considered in the context of the whole regime. The increases are being enacted via secondary legislation. Although I was not involved in the debate at the time—I was an observer—I think that the Government were referring to those aspects that were debated in Parliament through the Bill, which is the overarching regulatory regime. I was reassured to hear that the right reverend Prelate has participated in penny-falls and crane-grabs, not least because I am a parent. It would be inappropriate for a government Minister to make an observation on the odds of that crane actually ever bringing anything to the point where it gets dropped into the waiting hands of the paying customer. Nevertheless, it is the case that there is a clear level of customer satisfaction and enjoyment.

For what it is worth, I am not a gambler, at least not in the financial sense of that word, but I share the view of the noble Baroness, Lady Golding, that gambling is an entertainment activity that for many millions of people is a very legitimate form of controlled and balanced entertainment and satisfaction. It is entirely appropriate for this House to speak up for that vibrant and thriving industry.

It is clear that the arcade operators need to find a route to competition. I think that the noble Lord, Lord Addington, was making that point about the real attractiveness of those operations. Clearly, we need to get the balance right between the arcade operators and what might be called the harder gambling environments. We do not believe for a second that this provision answers all of those problems, but it will contribute to the industry’s ability to reinvent itself and make it competitive.

The noble Lord, Lord Luke, asked why we had not looked at category B3 machines. Our view is that we brought forward this particular issue exceptionally to look at category C and D machines. I think that we have made it clear to the industry that we are not yet convinced that a sufficient case has been made for increasing the category B entitlement. If we were

21 Apr 2009 : Column 1441

bringing that to the House today, considerably stronger voices would be raised saying that that case has not been made. I feel comfortable that the Government are in the right place on those issues.

Overall, gambling is a delicate area but not a difficult one. We need to get the balance right and these are small changes for a particular area of commercial activity. We do not for a second believe that this will reinvigorate the English seaside resort. However, as a regular attendee of UK seaside resorts, I think that it would be fair to point to the improvements made over the past 12 to 15 years in water quality and the bathing environment, in the quality of meals in pubs and in the opportunity for people to enjoy that holiday environment—not to mention the competitiveness of sterling, which is making UK resorts ever more attractive. This small measure will, we hope, allow our seaside arcades to make themselves more attractive, more competitive and more commercially viable.

Motion agreed.

8.12 pm

Sitting suspended.

Marine and Coastal Access Bill [HL]

Copy of Bill
Explanatory Notes
1st Report Delegated Powers Committee
1st Report Constitution Committee
11th Report Joint Committee Human Rights

Committee (11th Day) (Continued)

8. 35 pm

Amendment A337A

Moved by Lord Taylor of Holbeach

A337A: Clause 292, page 179, line 33, leave out “take reasonable steps to”

Lord Taylor of Holbeach: As I mentioned before the break, my amendments in this group strengthen slightly the consultation requirements on Natural England when preparing its report. My first two amendments probe the consultation with those with a relevant interest in the land. We have talked about the definition of that. Given the rather tighter definition of relevant interest that the Government insist on in the Bill, as opposed to the CROW Act, the number of consultees will not necessarily be as high. I should like some assurances that Natural England will do all that it can to seek out the views of those who are not large landowners or are not plugged into national or even local organisations so that they are involved in the development of the legislation. They may not even know about the development of this route and will certainly not know that they need to keep an eye out for what is proposed by Natural England.

National and local organisations will also be important. The briefings that Peers on all sides have received from some of them show how useful they can be in identifying the concerns of both potential users and those who will be affected. To ignore them would be a big mistake. My third amendment would ensure that they, too, are consulted properly during the preparatory stages. I beg to move.

21 Apr 2009 : Column 1442

Baroness Byford: My Amendment 338A is in this group. In page 179, line 42, it would leave out paragraph (e). It is a probing amendment. My noble friend talked earlier about the whole question of the MoD and MoD land and the possibility of access land. The reason for my amendment is to ask the Minister how Natural England will know what available land falls within the national security category. It is also linked with new Section 55D(6)(b). Will Natural England be able to explain any exclusions or restrictions resulting from defence or national security considerations? If not, what price openness and transparency? Between the two provisions, it seems that any military land that may be used or opened up for access could in the first instance not to be known to Natural England. I suspect that it would be known to local authorities, but it does not say that in the Bill; it just refers to Natural England and the Secretary of State. That is the reason for my first amendment.

My name is linked to the second amendment tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Mallalieu, which concerns Statutory Instrument 1993/12. The list in that statutory instrument works well at present. It is simple; it is well known to everybody; it has 10 people to consult in all. They are: the Auto Cycle Union, the British Horse Society, the Byways and Bridleways Trust, the Open Spaces Society, the Ramblers’ Association, the British Driving Society, the Cyclist Touring Club, the Peak and Northern Footpaths Society, the Chiltern Society and the Welsh Trail Riders Association. It seems odd, if something is working well, that it will not be included. I am happy to support that amendment as well.

Lord Davies of Oldham: I am grateful to the noble Lords who have spoken on this amendment. We have had some discussion about these issues on the previous amendments. There is a requirement on Natural England to consult various relevant bodies before drawing up the report, in addition to the persons already included in Section 51(4) of the 1949 Act, which include the national park authority, joint planning board, county council and county district through whose park or area the route may pass. So I would be surprised, as I think the noble Baroness, Lady Byford, perhaps partially conceded, if people were not aware of the issue of the coastal path—certainly as far as these representative organisations are concerned. I do not see how Natural England could be in any position other than being fully appraised of local considerations in those matters. We have the key local bodies listed.

The problem with Amendments A337A and A338, proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, is that, rather than having to take reasonable steps to consult and notify persons with a relevant interest in affected land, Natural England would be required to consult all such persons in preparing its report. Now who are these persons? We do not have, in England, a land register, so we might be imposing on Natural England a task which is actually an impossible burden. If we say “all” in the legislation—all land interests—then the body would be open to challenge if it failed in any respect with regard to a part of the coastal path. That is not just an onerous task: it is a burden which Natural England could not accept and carry out, even in the best possible faith, because of the problem of

21 Apr 2009 : Column 1443

identification. What we will do is provide regulations requiring Natural England to give those with a relevant interest an opportunity to make representations on its report once it has prepared one. That is certainly our intention.

Amendments A338ZA and A340, along with Amendment A339, proposed by the noble Baroness, Lady Mallalieu, the noble Baroness, Lady Byford, the noble Lord, Lord Dear, and the noble Baroness, Lady Masham, seek to insert other bodies into the list, including charities and organisations set out in Schedule 6 to the Wildlife and Countryside (Definitive Maps and Statements) Regulations 1993. Amendment A338A would remove the requirement to consult the Secretary of State on defence and national security interests. I do not think we could accept that proposition. The MoD owns quite a lot of land which is close to the coast, and surely it is right and appropriate for Natural England to consult the ministry when drawing up its report. There are significant problems with that land, as the noble Baroness, Lady Byford, identified. I am thinking of the Dorset position, for example. Those are the issues that apply with regard to restrictions. We would obviously expect the Secretary of State for Defence to be consulted about these matters.

8.45 pm

The organisations listed in Schedule 6 will have an opportunity to make representations on the report when it is completed but I do not think that we could require Natural England to consult them at the initial stage. If Natural England considers that such bodies have particular knowledge or that they can make a particular input at the initial stage, I am sure it will recognise that it is in its interests to consult them. However, that is different from making the issues mandatory in the Bill. I am not seeking to decry the significance of these organisations, nor am I saying that the likelihood is that their interests will be ignored. However, there is a difference between Natural England seeking to consult them about the report, when published, and being obliged to do so in the Bill at the initial stage.

I recognise the significance of anyone with an interest in land, and I very much appreciate the argument put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Taylor. However, we cannot put an obligation on Natural England which it cannot be guaranteed to fulfil, and I do not consider that it would be able to meet the requirement suggested in the amendment.

I turn to the consultation list to which the noble Baroness, Lady Byford, referred and the list that she read out. These bodies can make their issues known to Natural England during consultation, but she will recognise that that list is derived from legislation which sought to achieve other, although related, objectives. There is nothing to stop these bodies making their views known to Natural England, as they will no doubt do, and there is nothing to stop them making representations, which will be summarised by Natural England and put before the Secretary of State. However, that is a little different from translating a list of organisations from one piece of legislation where they were listed because of the nature of that legislation.

21 Apr 2009 : Column 1444

Natural England has been working with Defence Estates on issues of appropriate access. In the concept of this coastal path, questions must be asked of landowners and the Ministry of Defence is significant in that respect. It is right that questions are asked about access which may, in the view of noble Lords, have been particularly restrictive in the past, although I have no doubt that my colleagues at the Ministry of Defence would emphasise the extent to which they have sought to minimise restrictions on the public. Natural England has been working with Defence Estates to clarify the question of defence land being available for the coastal path as far as possible. There may just be circumstances where it is not possible, but Natural England is already considering that matter because we recognise the strength of the noble Baroness’s case.

Baroness Byford: I thank the Minister for giving way. It is clearly a practical problem: some of the information is very sensitive and obviously should not be in the public domain. However, if there is to be a coastal route, surely people will ask why it does or does not go across particular areas, and that is why I raised that.

On the other issue, the trouble is that, once you have a list of those whom Natural England must consult, it becomes clear that there are those who are not included. Indeed, the amendment of the noble Baroness, Lady Mallalieu, to which my name is added, clearly reflects that they are not included. I accept that this is always a difficult matter but I gather that there are only 10 people in all. It would have been a fairly simple task, involving, I believe, about seven letters, but it would have been worth doing. I heard what the Minister said but it is on the first point that I am sensitive to the difficulties that the Government face. Clearly, it does not matter if some of this information is in the public domain but with some of it, it obviously does.

Lord Davies of Oldham: I am grateful to the noble Baroness because none of us can envisage the concept of the coastal path without appreciating that it does involve defence land. The question is how those conflicting issues can be resolved and, of course, some of them are very sensitive indeed. I wish to reassure all noble Lords that Natural England knows this to be a challenge and has already begun work.

Lord Taylor of Holbeach: I thank the Minister for his response. To some extent I can understand his reluctance to see a requirement in the Bill, but planning law and compulsory purchase law are full of obligations on public bodies to make contact with people who are affected, even if it is putting notices on telegraph poles to make them aware of what is going on. The principle behind my amendments is that it is important that we involve all the parties at the earliest possible stage. Getting people involved makes it so much easier and avoids differences of opinion after the event. It is far better to have the advice, help, assistance and guidance of interested parties at the earliest stage. I note what the Minister says and I am particularly interested in what he had to say about defence land. There are other

21 Apr 2009 : Column 1445

key installation sites which are coastally situated which, I am sure, also have a bearing on all this, but, at this stage, I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.

Amendment A337A withdrawn.

Amendments A338 to A341 not moved.

Amendment A342

Moved by Lord Greaves

A342: Clause 292, page 180, line 29, leave out “may” and insert “shall”

Lord Greaves: We are here talking about what happens when the final report is sent out. In moving Amendment A342, I shall speak also to many more in this group, which also contains a government amendment and various Conservative amendments. This is really about who is consulted when Natural England produces what I think it calls a “final report” for a particular piece of coast, after it has done all its work, and presented its proposals to the Secretary of State. The amendments in this group amount to the mother of all lists. Amendment A342, however, is slightly different. The Bill says that the Secretary of State “may” make regulations in relation to the consultation processes. We are saying that the Secretary of State “shall” make regulations in relation to the consultation processes. No doubt these regulations are going to be made and therefore there is no reason why the regulation should not describe what “shall” happen and not what “may” happen. Amendment A343A is the first of a number of amendments that add to the list of organisations and persons who, when a report is sent to the Secretary of State, have to be consulted and given the opportunity to make representations to Natural England and then on to the Secretary of State. This is an important group. Amendment A343A refers to,

which is in a similar position.

This provision is important not just because these elected local bodies ought to be consulted, informed about what has happened and given the opportunity to make representations. Principal local authorities, whether they are counties, districts, unitaries or anything else, and parish councils are, in their own right, recreation and leisure authorities. Not to consult them on a major recreation and leisure facility being proposed in their area would be wrong. Many of them are also planning authorities and, again, not to consult them on a major change in land use in their area would be wrong. So they should be included. However many others should or should not be included, principal local authorities and parish councils should be—not just access authorities which have direct responsibility for access provision.

Amendment A344 is a consequential amendment. Amendment A345, tabled by my noble friend Lord Tyler, is about the Youth Hostels Association. Amendment A346 lists,

21 Apr 2009 : Column 1446

which are in CROW legislation. We suggest that they should be listed here too.

Amendment A349 concerns,

Amendment A349A, which refers to,

concerns flexibility, not the rigidity of which we were accused as regards the last amendment before the dinner break. Amendment A349B refers to “any resident”. Clearly, residents do not have to be written to individually, but there are plenty of ways to advertise so that residents know what is going on. Amendment A349C refers to,

Anyone who feels that they wish to contribute should be able to do so and Natural England should have to consider their comments. Some of these amendments clearly are probing in the sense that they overlap.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page