Offshore Gambling Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 1:23 pm on 25th January 2013.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Philip Davies Philip Davies Conservative, Shipley 1:23 pm, 25th January 2013

We have had an excellent debate today, and I commend everybody who contributed to it. It has been very informative. Some strong opinions have been expressed on both sides of the argument, but I think that they have also been well-informed.

Before I get into what I want to say, I refer Members to my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests. Unusually, I do not think there is anything in there that is worth declaring, but in case anyone does, I would like them to have a look at it and pore over it themselves to see what they can find. Just to give a complete disclosure, the only thing that I think is of any relevance is a subscription from which I receive no financial benefit whatsoever, from a company called Peninsula Business Services Ltd. It does what it says on the tin: it deals with employment services, and that is how I dealt with it when it approached me about an employment matter. It happens to be owned by Peter Done, the brother of Fred Done, who owns Betfred and now the Tote. You might think it a rather tenuous link, Mr Deputy Speaker, but others might not, so it is all there on the record for anyone to pore over. I reiterate that I receive no personal financial benefit from it. If I was ever to invoke the subscription I receive, it would be to the benefit of the taxpayer, rather than me.

Even though we have had an informative and extensive debate, I think it would be fair to say that it has not been incredibly helpful to the Minister or the Government. My hon. Friend Miss McIntosh made an excellent speech. I did not necessarily agree with all the points she made, but she made them very well. In my first intervention on her, however, I asked her what she thought the main thrust of the Bill was—whether it was to improve regulation of the gambling industry and player protection, whether it was to raise money for the Treasury, or whether it was to provide more money for the racing industry. I stand to be corrected, but my hon. Friend seemed to say that the thrust of what she is trying to achieve was to bring in more money to the racing industry. As she made perfectly clear, she represents a community in which racing has a large presence, and she is, quite properly, trying to do the best for her constituency, constituents and local community. That is why she feels so passionate about it, and more power to her elbow in that regard. I take it that that is why clause 4, which relates to the levy, is so important to her and why its omission from the Government’s own Bill, which covers many of the same matters, is unacceptable to her. That is her opinion and we all appreciate the clarity with which she expressed it.

Paul Farrelly also made an excellent speech. I, like him, commend bet365, and not just because it has stayed in the UK to pursue its business interests and has not gone abroad like everybody else. It has been helped by the fact that it is family-owned and does not have any shareholders to account to. I think I am right in saying—I will apologise to the company profusely if I am wrong—that, when its representatives gave evidence to the Culture, Media and Sport Committee as part of our inquiry into the Gambling Act 2005, they themselves acknowledged that had bet365 been a public company on the stock market, they would have found the pressure to move abroad irresistible. Nevertheless, it could still do that as a family-owned business. The fact that it has not shows—this is what I took from the evidence its representatives gave us—a deep-seated commitment to its local community. That should be commended. They are very proud of the fact that they employ so many people in Stoke and of the impact that they have on the local community—the hon. Gentleman mentioned the football club—and that is to their credit.

However, by talking so much about bet365—as he is entitled to do, because it is a big employer of his constituents—the hon. Gentleman seemed really to be focusing on the tax implications of the Bill and the idea that it offered an opportunity not only to level the playing field with regard to the competition that bet365 faces from people who have moved abroad, but for the revenues that such a move would generate for the Treasury. This seems rather inconvenient for the Government and, no doubt, for the Minister.

The Minister’s knowledge of these matters is greater than mine, so I would happily be corrected, but, as I understand it, the thrust of the Government Bill, which so closely mirrors this Bill—the point of consumption bit is virtually the same, if not identical—is not actually about bringing money in to the horseracing industry, which may well fall foul of European law. It would probably be tested in the courts and, as we have seen in the past, it is very difficult to predict the verdict of the European Court of Justice.

To illustrate the point, there was a court case in which the racing industry was trying to argue that it had data that it could sell on to bookmakers on a commercial basis. I think that the industry was very certain that it was going to win its case against William Hill when William Hill challenged it in the courts, and it seemed to be a great surprise to the industry when it lost. Court cases seem to be unpredictable.