I rise to speak today to express my sheer frustration at the refusal of this Government to change the implementation date for the stake reduction on fixed odds betting terminals. A six months’ delay from April 2019 to October 2019 may appear to be a short period, but in that six months, the bookies stand to gain nearly £1 billion profit, while many families will lose a loved one.
The industry has known about the stake reduction since April this year, yet, arrogantly, it has made no plans to alter the technical capacities of the machines, and we have to ask ourselves why. Why has it refused to authorise the necessary changes? Why has it refused to accept the moral argument that these machines are dangerous? And how has it been able to use a flawed report, funded by it and structured only to support its argument, to convince this Government to stall the implementation date? Every day snippets appear in the press suggesting that things are not as they should be when it comes to this decision. Private conversations with no opportunity for scrutiny seem to have had more influence than the evidence of the all-party group on FOBTs, the Church, the voluntary sector and, most importantly, the families of those affected and the gamblers themselves.
Unfortunately for this Government, the strength of feeling right across this House regarding this shocking decision to delay the stake reduction will have consequences that may make their position very uncomfortable. I urge the Treasury to accept that it is wrong; that the decision that it has made is immoral; and that people’s lives are more important than the bookies’ profits. However, if the Government are not prepared to do the right thing, I and 76 Members across this House are prepared to do so. We will table a new clause and an amendment after the Second Reading debate tonight to ensure that the real story behind these dreadful machines is heard on the Floor of this House.
Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker, for giving me this brief opportunity to raise this issue about which I am passionate and to which I am committed.