Clause 1 - The licensing objectives

Part of Gambling Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 11:00 am on 9th November 2004.

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Photo of Clive Efford Clive Efford Labour, Eltham 11:00 am, 9th November 2004

The hon. Lady continues to make my points for me. I thank her very much. Given that we agree with 90 per cent. of the Bill, and if there is so much that is good about it, I am surprised that hon. Members have voted against it. The duty of hon. Members is to amend legislation. Our duty is to improve that 10 per cent. of the Bill, so that we can move forward with consensus. It is important that there be consensus on such a Bill.

Let me move on. I sympathise with the intention behind the amendments, but I have to question whether this is the right part of the Bill to deal with the issues that they raise. If, as a consequence of the Bill's introduction, we finish up with disorder on our high streets as a result of people over-indulging in alcohol, the legislation will have failed. Frankly, if the Bill sanctions over-indulgence in alcohol as an accompaniment to gambling, it is a squalid Bill that will fail to protect people from the worst forms of exploitation that we can imagine on our high streets. However, I do not think that the Bill is going in that direction.

I say to Opposition Members that the place to deal with the issue—I am putting my hon. Friends on notice that I might propose an amendment in a future debate—is clause 23. I am surprised that that clause does not mention anything to do with alcohol and gambling. We need to deal with the issue in the code of practice. If we create a situation in which, while gambling in casinos, people can indulge in alcohol to the extent that people fear, the legislation will have failed. It is essential that the code of practice includes a reference to alcohol to the effect that expectations are high.

I had the privilege of speaking yesterday to people employed in the gambling industry in America and I was astonished at the level of regulation in the American casino industry. They were very complimentary about the level of regulation. They also explained that staff are trained, including in how to spot people who are over-indulging in alcohol while gambling. There are notices in some casinos warning the public about drinking alcohol while gambling and asking people to come forward if they identify anyone who is too much under the influence of alcohol while gambling. The Bill should deal with those matters, rather than public disorder on our high streets.