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

To address the hon. Gentleman's point, perhaps it is best to explain how the provision will apply to online advertising.

The primary aim of the clause, as the hon. Gentleman has identified, is to make it an offence for a person in the United Kingdom to advertise the services of a bet broker that is not located in the UK. The responsibility is on the person advertising, not on the individual who goes on to the internet. A person in the UK advertising such services must settle the issue.

We are levelling the playing field with bookmakers. The main vehicles for advertising betting services are industry publications, such as the Racing Post—I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman reads that avidly, but I do not—and text services on terrestrial television, which I have not scrutinised either. Online advertising is a narrow issue.

As hon. Members should be aware, the legitimacy of online advertising that originates in other European member states will ultimately be determined by reference to the e-commerce directive. Although that is intended to facilitate the proper functioning of the internal market by ensuring the free movement of information services, including advertising, it contains provisions to protect consumer interests. The change in the clause relates to protecting UK betting business from unfair competition, and UK punters from unwittingly betting in unregulated, offshore bookies and brokers; it does not relate to restricting legitimate competition. It will reinforce powers that are already in place.

If the hon. Member for Christchurch is asking me whether I guarantee that some bright spark will not find a way through, given the creativity of some who use the internet, I can say only that I would mislead the Committee to give such an undertaking. However, to the best of our knowledge from consulting industry and from looking at the way in which it operates, the clause provides the best protection for the industry and the punter that we can afford with the powers available.