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 Susan Elan Jones Susan Elan Jones Labour, Clwyd South 4:00 pm, 24th January 2017

I support Labour’s amendment (a) to Lords amendment 36, which would reduce the relevant stake for fixed odds betting terminals to £2. I welcome the review that is being carried out by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, and I also welcome the move to devolve this power to the Welsh Assembly. My reason for doing so is very much in line with all the work that has been done by my hon. Friend Carolyn Harris, but I fear that we could find ourselves in a ridiculous position. All of us—apart from certain advocates for the betting industry—know that what is happening with fixed odds betting terminals is deeply concerning. Figures as high as about £1.7 billion have been quoted as the profits made on these horrible machines, which cause so much devastation in our communities. We all agree that something must be done fairly urgently, but I fear that the House of Commons could collectively vote to put in place a stake of below £10 but then, if we pass the Lords amendment as it stands, the stake could be reduced only to a minimum of £10 in Wales. That does not seem right to me.

Let me put it another way. Collectively, the House could vote for a maximum stake of £2 in England and Wales, but once the matter is devolved to Wales, the Welsh Government would be limited to £10 and then the House of Commons could not go for a lower stake here, simply because the Government would tell us that that this was a case of English votes for English laws and we would be banned from lowering the stake.

All we are asking for is something very pragmatic—something that would give us the right to decide the level of the stake and benefit communities. Let us make no bones about it: these machines, and what is happening in the gambling industry, are hitting our poorest communities the hardest. We see the impacts of it in our industrial villages and in our towns. Let us say once and for all to the harder elements of the gaming industry, some of whom I am sure will be e-mailing us all later, that the nonsense of what is happening with FOBTs must come to an end. Let us say, “Do not think you can intimidate us, or those in the communities who are fed up with the hold that you have on them.”

It is time for us to act firmly. It is time for us to give the Welsh Government full devolution in this regard. It is time for us to lower the stake even further, if possible. It is time for the Welsh Government to have the power to do that, and, hopefully, this place will as well.