Clause 1 - The licensing objectives

Part of Gambling Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 10:45 am on 9th November 2004.

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Photo of Mr Nick Hawkins Mr Nick Hawkins Conservative, Surrey Heath 10:45 am, 9th November 2004

In answer to the hon. Gentleman, the chief constable's views should be paramount in the decision making because we are seeking to protect our fellow citizens by keeping out organised crime and avoiding social problems. Who better than the chief constable to do that, particularly in the light of the example that I have given from Guildford? The chief constable is more aware than anyone else of the problems and has specific responsibilities for the safe policing of an area. He is the man more responsible than any other for ensuring that the twin objectives of safety for the law-abiding and keeping out organised crime are met. I would have a great deal more faith in the decisions of chief constables than in those of the sort of regional authority to which the Government seem to be wedded and which I was delighted to see the voters of the north-east so decisively reject, to the enormous anger and frustration of the Minister's former boss, the Deputy Prime Minister.

I hope that we will give the police a greater role. Putting matters to consultation is not enough. We all know that people can be consulted to death. I often feel when I read Liberal Democrat policy proposals that they believe so much in consultation that no decision would ever be reached at all. There is death by consultation in any area of the country where Lib Dems are within an iota of power. I do not believe in consulting but in decision making. I happen to have a great deal of faith that chief constables would make the right decisions on the matter because I know how much they worry about what happens in their area.

There is a second reason why I use the example of Guildford. It just so happens that the man who owns nearly all the late-night drinking bars in the part of Guildford where all the clubs are next to one another and problems arise—all Surrey MPs have seen the closed-circuit television—has already publicly made it clear that he wishes to have a casino under the provisions of the Bill. He wants to turn some of the late-night drinking clubs into a casino operation because he envisages great opportunities for making money. I have never met the gentleman, nor do I know much about him, other than what he has himself said publicly, but I would be very concerned about that. I know the effects that his clubs have on law-abiding citizens, including many of my constituents for whom Guildford is a centre that they wish to visit. I know of the problems.

I may have identified at least a possible solution. I do not completely rule out some alternative wording, as long as it is not just about consultation to death. I do not ever suggest that my drafting is much better than that of anybody else in the Committee.