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.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Jo Stevens Jo Stevens Shadow Secretary of State for Wales 4:00 pm, 24th January 2017

As the Secretary of State has pointed out, there are a lot of amendments in the group, many of which are welcome and deal with important issues. Given the limited time that is available, however, I shall focus on Lords amendment 36 and our amendments to it.

We welcome the Government’s Lords amendment, as we did when it was moved in the other place, but, as has already been said, we want it to go further. Today gives us the opportunity to achieve that. Our main point of contention with the amendment is that it limits the powers that are being devolved to the Welsh Assembly to regulate fixed odds betting terminals. That ability to regulate will apply only to machines licensed after the Bill becomes law that have a stake of £10 and above.

The Campaign for Fairer Gambling has been campaigning on this issue for some time. It has been an invaluable source of help in our work on the amendments, so I want to put on record my thanks to it. I also thank the all-party group on fixed odds betting terminals, which is so ably chaired by my hon. Friend the Member for Swansea East (Carolyn Harris). It has just completed its inquiry into the machines and is due to publish its report very shortly.

Both groups are clear, as we are, that the £10 threshold set by Lords amendment 36 is still too high. FOBTs are the only machines on the high street with stakes of £2 and above; all other machines in pubs, arcades and bingo halls are capped at £2 and under. Amendment (a) to the Lords amendment would allow devolved regulation of machines with stakes of £2 or above, rather than £10. Only fixed odds betting terminals would be covered by the amendment, so any fears that the Welsh Assembly would be overstepping agreed devolution limits on gambling would be unfounded.

In a similar spirit, amendment (b) to the Lords amendment would ensure that the Assembly had the power to regulate all current and future licensed FOBTs from the point that the Bill becomes law. That is important because there are an estimated 1,500 terminals in Wales and according to the latest figures, which cover 2015, £50 million was staked and lost on them during that period.

The financial and social problems and harm that these machines cause in communities across Wales is well known. Having the ability to regulate those terminals already in place would ensure that the Welsh Assembly would not have its hands tied when seeking to deal with this issue.