Clause 2 - Licensing authorities

Part of Gambling Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 3:15 pm on 9th November 2004.

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Photo of Mr Nick Hawkins Mr Nick Hawkins Conservative, Surrey Heath 3:15 pm, 9th November 2004

I suspect that I am not alone in being slightly puzzled by the words that the Minister just read out. They sounded like the kind of thing that Sir Humphrey might have said in ''Yes Minister''. There may well need to be some further explanation. The amendment brings forward wider issues. I mention that now in case the debate is extended, although I may have the opportunity to talk on stand part.

One reason for inserting ''unitary council'', in addition to the avoidance of doubt in the light of what the Minister has just said, is to make it absolutely clear that the principal decisions will always be made by the authority closest to the people. I am very concerned indeed—this came up briefly during the exchange with my hon. Friend the Member for South-West Hertfordshire this morning—about the way in which the Government are continuing to pursue their agenda of pushing as much decision making as possible from local people to regional level.

I have already referred to the fact that the Deputy Prime Minister's plans were severely derailed by the massive and sensible vote by the people of the north-east last week, but it is crucial to ensure that everyone knows that vital decisions on these issues will be taken by the level of government closest to the people who elect that government. I tabled an amendment, which was not selected but may be able to be covered in a stand part debate, seeking to state in this part of the Bill, for the avoidance of doubt, that no such decisions should be taken at regional level. That is not germane to the amendment before us and I would stray out of order if I talked too much about that, but it would be helpful not only if the amendment were accepted, for the avoidance of doubt, but if we made it absolutely clear to those who send us here—