Clause 14 - General betting duty: overseas bet-brokers

Part of Finance Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 9:30 am on 16th May 2002.

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Photo of Dawn Primarolo Dawn Primarolo Paymaster General (HM Treasury) 9:30 am, 16th May 2002

Always, as a recent statement by Senators of the Jersey Parliament will testify.

The hon. Member for Christchurch (Mr. Chope) asked whether the clause sits comfortably with European law. It does. It is common practice in member states closely to regulate the gambling industry. Like the hon. Gentleman, I cannot claim to have personal knowledge of the industry, but member states take different views on allowing gambling. The European Court of Justice decision on the Schindler case found that the United Kingdom was entitled to limit the distribution of material concerning the lottery. The Schindler ruling therefore supports the provision, which protects UK business from unfair competition and the UK betting customer from unwittingly betting with unregulated offshore bookmakers and brokers.

I cannot be drawn into offering hypothetical situations concerning what might happen if another country were to take a particular route on targeting. Although the provision on protection in advertising has hardly ever been used, it is necessary and is there in case we need to use it. As I said in my previous answer, it is to protect the UK betting industry from unfair competition and punters from unwittingly betting with unregulated bookies or brokers.

Of course, it is not always necessary to go as far as prosecution. When companies have breached the law in the past, what is politely called ''education and advice'' from customs officers has generally been sufficient to rectify the situation, and that approach will continue.

The hon. Member for Mid-Worcestershire (Mr. Luff) asked about the Channel Islands. I must be honest with him and state that we have not considered that dimension in terms of specific targeting. Although I would rather answer him on the record, I must say that I need to investigate further. I will send him a note that I will circulate to all members of the Committee. Should he wish to return to that question, I should be delighted to settle it with him. I do not believe that there is an issue there, but I should prefer to double-check and ensure that every member of the Committee is aware of the answer.

The provision is fully square with UK and European law. On anti-avoidance, the provision is there to protect and underline, and has never had to be enforced because we have used the persuasive powers of our customs officers.