Permanence of the National Assembly for Wales and Welsh Government

Part of Wales Bill – in the House of Commons at 4:00 pm on 24th January 2017.

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Photo of Alun Cairns Alun Cairns The Secretary of State for Wales 4:00 pm, 24th January 2017

I will come on to that specific point, because a review is being conducted by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport which will address the specific issues that the hon. Gentleman raises. For the moment, I shall stick to explaining the rationale behind the amendments on fixed odds betting terminals.

One proposal was for the powers to be devolved to stop the proliferation of these so-called fixed odds betting terminals. We concluded that these powers should be devolved in Wales, as they are in Scotland, coming out of the Smith commission. Amendments 36 and 52 therefore ensure that the Bill mirrors the provisions in the Scotland Act 2016 in respect of high-stakes gaming machines. The amendments apply to sub-category B2 gaming machines, and would provide the Welsh Government with a means to address public concerns in Wales regarding the proliferation of these machines. These machines were regulated by the Gambling Act 2005, which was introduced when the Labour party was in power.

The Opposition amendments would go much further than what is already devolved in the Scotland Act by extending this provision to all existing gaming machines with a stake of more than £2, and by devolving powers over existing licences. We did not believe that that was appropriate. As I mentioned a moment ago, the Government have already announced a review into the issue because we recognised the flaws in the 2005 Act. As a result, we are carrying out a thorough process to examine all aspects of gaming machine regulation, including the categorisation, maximum stakes and prizes, location and number of machines, and the impact that they have on players and the communities in relation to, for instance, problem gambling and crime. All those factors are potentially relevant and interrelated. The powers that we have agreed to devolve are intended to enable the Welsh Government and the Assembly to take action to prevent the proliferation of fixed odds betting terminals.

The review that we have announced is the appropriate mechanism for consideration of all those issues in a far more holistic way. I urge Opposition Members not to press their amendments to a vote, but if they pursue them, I shall do my best to respond to some of the issues that concern them. I urge Members to support the Lords amendments.