‘After section 89(1) (remote operating licence) of the Gambling Act 2005, insert—
“( ) The Commission shall hold a list of persons who have registered to be excluded from remote gambling.
( ) It shall be a condition of a remote operating licence that an operator must exclude any person who has registered for self-exclusion with the Commission.”.’. —(Jim Shannon.)
This New Clause would give the power for the Commission to hold a list of those who wish to self-exclude. It would be a condition of a remote operating licence that individuals on the list must be excluded.
Brought up, and read the First time.
Question put, That the clause be read a Second time.
The House divided:
Ayes 223, Noes 283.
I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.
I begin by thanking all those from across the House and outside who have taken part in the debates on the Bill. In particular, I thank the Chairmen of the Committee, my hon. Friend Mr Bone and Hywel Williams.
The Bill has its origins in the previous Administration’s review of the remote gambling regulatory framework. I thank Mr Sutcliffe in particular for his contribution during the Bill’s progress. I thank the Culture, Media and Sport Committee for its thoughtful and thorough pre-legislative scrutiny, which was key in helping to strengthen the Bill.
I believe I am right in saying that the Bill enjoys support from across the House, although some believe that it does not go far enough. Several issues have been debated at various stages, including today, and several new clauses have been tabled. I have explained as carefully as I can the reasons we have chosen not to accept them. Although the Government have not accepted any amendments on these matters, as we do not believe the Bill is the right vehicle for such changes, we have noted the concern on these matters and hope to make progress on them through a non-legislative avenue.
The Bill is a prudential measure which will provide greater protection for consumers based in Great Britain. It will tighten current legislation to ensure that all remote gambling, whether provided in Britain or overseas, is a licensed activity, subject to the Gambling Commission’s standards and controls. I commend the Bill to the House.
In spite of all the amendments that we tabled, we welcome the Bill, as far as it goes. It brings an industry that has grown to £2 billion a year under the UK Gambling Commission as the licensing authority and, in respect of licensing, it will create a level playing field between remote gambling operators, those that have remained onshore and our high street betting shops.
The questions that we have raised will be tested by how well the Gambling Commission enforces the requirements that are laid out in the Bill and implicit in the licence. Aspects such as research, treatment, the protection or self-exclusion of individuals, enforcement tools using IP blocking, financial blocking, and possible change to the watershed will all be subject to enforcement by the Gambling Commission. We will have to remain vigilant and see how that is implemented to ensure that the Bill has the desired effect, as expressed by Members in all parts of the House.
I pay tribute to my hon. Friend Mr Sutcliffe for the work that he initiated in government. Shortly after the remote gambling regulations were put in place in 2007, he and the present Comptroller of Her Majesty’s Household, Mr Foster, who is not in his place and to whom I pay tribute, identified the need for further regulation. It has taken some time for us to get to the point where we have the legislation before us, but we are here now and the Bill, as far as it goes, has support from all parts of the House, because we want to set the very highest standards here in the UK, which others will follow across the world in the regulation of remote and online gambling.
We certainly want the Gambling Commission to set the very highest standards so that people can enjoy the pastime of gambling in safety and in the knowledge that everything is being done to ensure that they can do so without fear of any harm. We commend the Bill and hope sincerely that everything required by it will be realised under the licensing regime applied by the Gambling Commission.
I, too, rise to support the Bill, although not necessarily for the reasons it was introduced. The Government introduced the Bill—if we believe what they say—for the purposes of regulation, but it seems to me that for the purposes of regulation it is completely unnecessary. In fact, it will probably make the regulatory system worse, because although virtually every gambling operator used by UK consumers is currently properly regulated, either here or in other places such as Gibraltar, the chances are—the Treasury’s own forecasts show this—that as a result of the Bill around 20% of betting will take place with unlicensed and unregulated operators. As far as the regulation of gambling is concerned, the Bill represents a step backwards, rather than a step forwards.
However, I support the Bill for the real reason behind it, which the Government dare not say: it will allow them to tax gambling companies currently based in places such as Gibraltar and allow people in the UK who place bets with those companies to be subject to taxation. I think that is a perfectly legitimate thing for the Government to do, but I understand that for legal reasons within the EU they do not want to say it. I am pretty certain that is the reason for the Bill, and on that basis I support it.
I have one question for the Minister, which I hope she can answer. She will be relieved to know that it is not about sport. I was tempted to ask her the name of this year’s winner of the grand national—a clue is that it was trained in my constituency—but I will resist that temptation. Will she give me a guarantee that the Bill will not lead to any empire building by the Gambling Commission, which could claim that it needs ever more resources, ever more money and ever bigger fees to do the regulation that will be expected of it as a result of the Bill? The Culture, Media and Sport Committee was keen to get assurances on that during our pre-legislative scrutiny. I hope that she will make it clear to the Gambling Commission that the Bill cannot be used as an excuse.
My hon. Friend makes a fair point. Does he accept that one way to avoid the needless spread of bureaucracy would be for the UK’s Gambling Commission to use some of the expertise that exists in the Alderney gambling control commission or Gibraltar’s commission, where there is likely to be spare capacity? Using what is already there, rather than inventing new methods and posts, might be a way of achieving sensible regulation at a reasonable price.
I very much agree with my hon. Friend. He gets to the nub of my concern about the Bill, which is that companies based in places such as Gibraltar are already particularly well regulated by the authorities there, which is why the Bill is complete nonsense from any regulatory or licensing perspective—it is clearly about taxation. Once we get over the emperor’s new clothes situation, I hope that the Government will take my hon. Friend’s advice, because the most effective way to license and regulate those industries will be by using the expertise that already exists.
Notwithstanding my concerns about empire building by the Gambling Commission, which I hope will not be a consequence of the Bill, and the fact that I consider the regulatory system for gambling to have taken a step backwards, I support the Bill and hope that the revenue raised will be useful in paying down our debts. The success or failure of the Bill will depend not on the legislation, but on the rates of taxation the Treasury places on the gambling industry as a consequence of it. The Treasury—I hope that the Minister will take this message back—must not stifle some of the smaller niche gambling companies, which employ many people in this country, because they would be finished off by a rate of 15%. The big gambling companies can look after themselves, but the smaller ones need a competitive rate. Otherwise, they will go out of business and we will end up losing jobs and tax revenue. Notwithstanding those concerns, I support the Bill.
It is a pleasure to follow Philip Davies. We disagree on some things, but he is an excellent advocate for the horse racing and betting industries. We might draw different conclusions on the purpose of the Bill, but I think that we agree that it is important. I pay tribute to the Minister for bringing it forward. The process started, as my hon. Friend Clive Efford said, more than three years ago. I also pay tribute to the officials in the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, because it is important that they work with the Gambling Commission and the sector to understand the nature of the industry, which is very important to this country given the number of jobs it creates, the amount of tax that it pays and the investment it makes in the economy.
Opportunities to discuss the gambling industry in the House are few and far between. One of the difficulties is that some people take a blanket approach to gambling and oppose anything to do with it because they think that it is alien to our country, but in reality that is not the case. As we have seen with the success of the national lottery and national institutions such as the derby, the grand national and many other racing events, sport and gambling are interlinked.
The important thing about the Bill is that it offers a consumer safeguard, and in that respect it fills a gap in the previous legislation, the Gambling Act 2005. However, we have put a lot of trust in the Minister today—I do not doubt that it will be honoured—to do things we have asked her to do. We have asked her to look at the casino industry and, outside the scope of the Bill, the opportunity to put right some of the wrongs for that industry. I look forward to hearing what she has to say as a result of her consultation with the sector in due course.
I think that the Minister is wrong not to support the new clause on the horserace betting levy. The horse racing industry is important to the country. The problem is that if it takes four years to reach a conclusion for the next negotiations, some race courses and parts of the industry might not survive. I hope that she can give some momentum to that. I referred in Committee to the other place, and I am sure that when the Bill goes to the other place its Members who are even more committed to racing than we are in this House—if that is possible—will remind her of the levy’s impact on the industry.
The Bill is a good one. I am grateful to the Minister for listening to the comments that have been put to her from both sides of the House. I look forward to its passage through the other place. However, I feel that the House needs to look at the impact of gambling on society, because there are people who have problems, and Jim Shannon is right to raise those concerns. It might sound like a small percentage—0.9%—but my hon. Friend the Member for Eltham is right about the number of people affected, so there needs to be adequate research, education and treatment. I support the Bill.
I thank the Minister for her response. Although we did not get the response we wanted, as the Minister acknowledged, she did make a commitment to consider pushing the industry in the direction in which we all want it to go. From the Government’s point of view, and that of the Opposition, I think that the overall consensus is that we need to help those who need help. That is where I and many others come from in relation to problem gamblers and vulnerable people.
With regard to new clause 14, I hope that when the Bill goes to the other place, with due diligence—to use that terminology—perhaps something might be added that this House can endorse. I would be glad to see such a move in the right direction. I would also be pleased to see money from dormant bank accounts going to help those with gambling addictions—
Order. It is not about understanding it; the point is that you have to talk about it. I am not too worried about the understanding.
I stand corrected, Mr Deputy Speaker. I understand it very well and I will now get it right.
When the Bill returns to the House, I hope that we will have an opportunity to address all those issues. I look forward to legislation that empowers problem gamblers and vulnerable people to get help when they need it most. If we can achieve that, we will have achieved a lot.
Question put and agreed to.
Bill accordingly read the Third time and passed.