Northern Ireland (Executive Formation etc) Act 2019 Section 4

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 9:01 pm on 30th September 2019.

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Photo of Jim Shannon Jim Shannon Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Human Rights), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Health) 9:01 pm, 30th September 2019

I thank my hon. Friend and colleague for that intervention. I believe that that is the case, which is why we are looking to the Minister to see what we are going to do about it. If we do not have the legislation in Northern Ireland that we should, as the hon. Members for Swansea East and for Congleton want and, I believe, every person in this House wants, let us get it in order.

The gambling report we are discussing today cites Northern Ireland industry groups “implementing social responsibility measures” and

“adhering to industry codes of practice and protocols” to protect people who might be experiencing problem gambling. Again, that is a commitment in words if not in deed.

I have five questions for the Minister, and I have asked him some already. Will the Minister clarify whether these are voluntary measures for the industry, which would at the minimum be welcome, or, where we are talking about online gambling, they are a requirement of a Gambling Commission remote operating licence? If it is only the former, I would be grateful if he can be clear about the protections that Northern Ireland online gamblers receive as a result of section 5. What redress do individuals have if they feel they have been mistreated by the online betting companies but live in Northern Ireland? If there are player protections for online gamblers in Northern Ireland under the licensing conditions, are these clear to individuals who may need them? It is important that these questions are asked, and I ask them respectfully of the Minister. My constituents have asked me them, and they see possible legislation that does not do what it should or go as far as it should, as my hon. Friend Emma Little Pengelly mentioned.

Much needs to be done to bring Northern Ireland legislation into the 21st century. Bring it forward from 1985—wow!—to today. I welcome the news reported in today’s Belfast Telegraph that the Department for Communities is planning to hold a fresh consultation on gambling law and policy in the near future. I wish the near future was this week or next month—this cannot happen soon enough. I should like to hear greater detail of what the Minister in the other place described as a “high-level strategic review”. What does that mean? Both steps are helpful. Where there is good work done, let us welcome it, and where there is other work that needs to be done, let us ask for it. Of course, we need a Minister in place to execute policy change.

I hope that the Executive and the Assembly will get back up and running, so that they can tackle this important issue. Consumers need to be clear about the law and the help and support they can receive in their communities from betting companies. Whenever I think of Peter and Sadie Keogh from Fermanagh, their lost son and the many others like them, I think we need legislation not tomorrow but today. Although it will not bring the Keoghs’ son back, they and others like them are very worried about gambling in Northern Ireland. Hopefully, I have given the Minister much food for thought and many questions to answer. I know that he is well up to answering those questions. The people of Northern Ireland want to see gambling legislation in place that actually works and controls the online gambling that we are all really concerned about. It cannot happen soon enough.