I beg to move amendment No. 86, in
clause 6, page 3, line 6, leave out 'a prize' and insert 'winnings'.
The clause deals with gaming and games of chance and gives us some definitions in that regard. Currently, the difference between the definition of ''winnings'' under section 51(1) of the 1968 Act and ''prizes'' relates to the accepted definition of a lottery. That was defined in a law case—Readers Digest Association Ltd v. Williams—in 1967. We therefore believe that the definition should refer to ''winnings'' rather than ''a prize''. Reference to gaming as meaning
''playing a game of chance for a prize'',
rather than winnings, will certainly cause some uncertainty about whether an activity is gaming or a lottery. That might lead to litigation.
This is a probing amendment. We want clarification and we want to know not only that the Bill takes on board previous litigation and law cases, but that its wording will not cause any uncertainty.
The amendment proposes a change to the definition of gaming in the clause. It tries to reintroduce a concept from the 1968 Act in a manner that undermines the regulation of gaming in the Bill. In section 52 of the 1968 Act, gaming is defined as playing a game of chance for winnings. That set up a scheme whereby gaming for prizes was regulated differently from gaming for winnings. In recent times, that has led to a thoroughly unintended consequence: the use of section 21 of the 1968 Act to provide machine gaming for prizes. This Bill regulates all gaming, whether for winnings or prizes, under a unified definition in clause 6. The industry asked us to do away with the antiquated distinction that controls the minutiae of the types of rewards offered, which we have done. Particular allowances are needed for prize gaming, and those are set out in part 13. The amendment would separate gaming for prizes so that it does not come under the regulation of gaming, which cannot be sensible. Gaming includes gaming for prizes and must be regulated through licensing and permits.
On the hon. Gentleman's point about lotteries, we have different definitions of prizes for lotteries and for gaming. Therefore, I ask him to withdraw the amendment.
The Minister's response included the words ''prizes'' and
''winnings''. In view of observations that there could be confusion about which is which, would the simple remedy not be to add the phrase ''a prize or winnings''? Then, there could be no doubt over what we are talking about.
My notes tell me to look at subsection (5), which the hon. Gentleman should look at. We believe that—[Hon. Members: ''Roll over now.''] I will wait for my next piece of paper.
Subsection 6(5)(b) includes both ''prizes'' and ''winnings''. It states:
''including both a prize provided by a person organising gaming and winnings of money staked.''
That clearly defines the Bill's intention in terms of the law.
With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:
Amendment No. 77, in
clause 6, page 3, line 13, after 'chance', insert
'except skill with price machines'.
Amendment No. 88, in
clause 6, page 3, line 14, after 'sport' insert 'or a lottery.'
Amendment No. 132, in
clause 6, page 3, line 29, leave out subsection (6).
Amendment No. 90, in
clause 6, page 3, line 29, after 'activity' insert
'other than a game of skill'.
Amendment No. 103, in
clause 6, page 3, line 30, after 'activity', insert
'other than a game of skill'.
I shall not be speaking to amendment No. 77. I apologise for not asking that it be deleted from the amendment paper.
Amendment No. 87 would leave out sub-paragraph (iii). The sub-paragraph is superfluous because the involvement of an element of chance should be objective—it either is or is not a game of chance. We are not sure why the words
''is presented as involving an element''
are included. They dilute the clause; it would be stronger if they were left out, because we accept that gaming involves an element of chance.
At present, a bingo-type ticket on a video screen, where the card is automatically marked and the participant wins a prize, is considered to be a lottery and not gaming. Amendment No. 88 would clarify that that will continue to be the case, by providing that a game of chance does not include a lottery, and by ensuring that lottery provisions are addressed separately.
Amendment No. 90, would insert the phrase:
''other than a game of skill''.
Pure games of skill are not intended to come within the scope of the Bill and amendment No. 90 clarifies that. Amendment No. 103 inserts the same phrase—
I rise not only to support my hon. Friend's amendments, but to speak to my amendment No. 132. I wanted to probe two matters. First, one concern, which is widely shared by many commentators, is that the Bill leaves far too much open to the Secretary of State to make subsequent secondary legislation. We do not know what those regulations will look like. That was touched on in some of our debates on Tuesday.
Several Opposition Members have said that we hope that the Government will at least agree to provide some drafts of what they have in mind. It is a great deal easier for any parliamentary Committee to consider the detail and for those who may be investing to make informed decisions if they know not only what the Bill will look like when it reaches the statute book, but what the secondary legislation might be. We all know that, in practice, not as much parliamentary scrutiny is given to subsequent regulations. There are short statutory instrument debates that often—far too often in my view—go through almost on the nod. With such a major reform of gaming legislation, where the Government are seeking to write a blank cheque and say that they will flesh out the bones and add the details later in regulations, we need to know, people in industry need to know and people in towns and cities across the land need to know, what those regulations will look like.
Does my hon. Friend agree that the problem is that there is no chance to amend the regulations that we debate? It is a question either of accepting them or chucking them out. Given the Government majority, it is virtually impossible to chuck them out unless they are absolutely dire.
My hon. Friend is right. I was fortunate enough when a Front-Bench spokesman to serve on a couple of Statutory Instrument Committees where, because the Government had made mistakes, they had to withdraw the legislation—but that is very rare. These things effectively go through on the nod. In practice, given the size of the Government's majority, the legislation is unamendable. That is the difficulty.
I hope that the Minister will give us an undertaking. He said some helpful things on Tuesday about trying to provide us with some drafts. I hope that that will be before Third Reading. The hon. Member for Eltham (Clive Efford), along with several other hon. Members,
pointed out that unless the Bill changes, he will not be happy to vote for it on Third Reading, although he voted for it with some reluctance on Second Reading. That makes it even more vital that we see the detail.
This is the first major clause in a Bill that is front-end loaded. Much of the meat comes at the beginning, which is why we are spending quite a bit of time going through these early clauses in such detail. I hope that the Minister will respond positively to that and will be able to give us some draft regulations. That brings me to my second point.
There has been a lot of controversy about the definition of a sport, in which I, as deputy Chairman of the all-party group on sports and a former shadow spokesman on sport, have been involved. The hon. Member for Colchester (Bob Russell) has expressed his concern about darts, for example, and chess has also been mentioned; I tabled the amendment to remove subsection (6) to enable us to discuss the matter. However, the statutory definition of a sport is also relevant to the entire clause. If there is such a definition, I hope that the Minister will tell the Committee. If he cannot do so today, he can consult his officials and write to members of the Committee. I look forward to hearing what he has to say.
The hon. Gentleman's contribution on regulation, and on the definition of sport, was interesting. I remind the Committee that his party is trying to reduce the regulatory burden, and so are we.
Of course, the Minister is right: as a party we are in favour of reducing the regulatory burden, but that is no answer when a Government with a huge majority propose a clause that will make regulations. We, as a party, will have no opportunity to remove those regulations, and the industry and people in the country who follow our proceedings want to know what those regulations will be.
I hear what the hon. Gentleman says, although I may disagree with him.
It is the job of the Bill not to give a statutory definition of sport, but to define ''gaming''. The hon. Gentleman knows that the definition of sport has been given many times from the Dispatch Box when we have been challenged in respect of chess and many others—
The amendments propose a series of changes to the definition of gaming in clause 6. I can see the positive purpose of some of the amendments, but they would not improve the clause and in some cases they would harm it.
Amendment No. 87 would remove games that are presented as having an element of chance from the definition, but the Government believe that such games should be included. People should not be presenting games as having an element of chance unless they are prepared for them to be regulated as gaming. For example, the classic sting of the
three-card trick is fraud, presented as a game of chance.
I have been listening to the debate with growing fascination, and I will make a couple of points in the clause stand part debate. On the definitions that the Minister gave, and which he is defending, can he tell me whether, for example, a pub quiz would fall under the definition of gaming, since it would appear to cover all the points in the clause?
That is the interpretation—[Hon. Members: ''Ah!''] That is the interpretation in the Bill. I will answer the hon. Gentleman if he will listen. It is because skill is needed. I do not know who compiles the quiz questions in his pub, but those who do so believe that answering them requires an element of skill.
I entirely accept that pub quizzes require an element of skill. Indeed, the element of chance can be almost eliminated by superlative skill, but that does not alter the fact that a pub quiz includes an element of chance—for example, but not exclusively, in the questions that the individual competitor or teams are asked.
Quite honestly, the hon. Gentleman is dancing on a pinhead. Is he saying that the questions are fixed? That is tantamount to saying that if the authors are skilful, there is no element of chance any more than there is in football. The hon. Gentleman will be saying next that pub quizzes are fixed, which is a disgraceful thing to say to people throughout the country.
Surely, if the right hon. Gentleman is right and if the questions had been fixed, there would be no element of chance; but if the questions had not been fixed, surely there would be an element of chance in which questions are put to which competitor.
No. I do not want to go too far down this road, but it depends on who knows that the questions have been fixed. Some people would be trying to use skill, but some questions would have been fixed and that would be unfair.
Mr. Kevan Jones rose—
Order. Before I call Mr. Jones, I would like to give the Committee some guidance. I want the Committee to observe two minutes' silence at 11 o'clock, in accordance with Mr. Speaker's ruling the other day. I know that the Government must do something with programming at some stage and I want to ensure that we do not get into difficulty with the two things clashing. I offer that guidance to the Minister and the Committee to be helpful.
I shall not respond to that.
As I was saying, the classic three-card-trick sting is an example of fraud that is often presented as a game of chance. The 1968 Act regulated that as gaming and the Bill does the same.
Amendment No. 77 tries to remove prize machines requiring only skill from the definition of gaming. That is quite unnecessary, because a machine that requires only skill, such as an arcade video machine, is not caught by this clause. Gaming does not cover contests of skill. The machine must involve a degree of skill and chance to be a gaming machine, so the amendment would serve no purpose.
Amendment No. 88 is wholly unnecessary. Lotteries are defined in clause 14, and clause 16 deals with their overlap with gaming, so the amendment is redundant. I therefore ask the hon. Member for North-East Cambridgeshire not to press it.
Amendments No. 90 and 103 are, again, wholly redundant, although I understand their motivation. The clause does not and cannot, in the light of what we have been saying about the powers of the Secretary of State, allow her to designate something involving pure skill as a game of chance. She would be acting outside the scope of the clause if she tried to do so. If hon. Members are concerned, they can rest assured that the clause delivers what they seek. Therefore, the amendments would serve no useful purpose.
Amendment No. 132 refers to the new sports conceived to avoid controls on gaming. There is no intention of using that for the sake of safety. With that explanation, I hope that the hon. Gentleman will not press the amendment.
I beg to move amendment No. 89, in
clause 6, page 3, line 19, at end insert—
'but the provisions of Part 13 of the Act shall apply in respect of prize gaming where such provisions are inconsistent with the provisions of this section.'.
The amendment is easily understandable. We assume that there is no intention in clause 6 to cover prize competitions as set out in part 13. The amendment is designed simply to clarify that the provisions on prize competitions are in no way affected by clause 6.
As I mentioned, clause 6 provides a unified definition of gaming. Part 13 sets out entitlements to provide prize gaming. That is only a subset of gaming as defined in clause 6, so there cannot be a contradiction between clause 6 and part 13. I appreciate that the amendment is intended to be helpful, but it is not needed to make the meaning of the Bill clearer. I therefore ask the hon. Gentleman to withdraw the amendment.
I beg to move amendment No. 78, in
clause 6, page 3, line 23, leave out paragraph (b).
The amendment would delete the phrase
''whether or not he risks losing anything at the game.''
That refers to a person playing a game of chance for a prize. It is a probing amendment: we should like the Minister to explain why that subsection is in the Bill and in which circumstances it will apply. We can think of some examples but not many. The amendment is designed to elicit some response from the Minister.
You asked us to move along speedily, Mr. Pike, and we are doing so. I thank the hon. Gentleman for tabling this probing amendment, as it gives me an opportunity to explain what this aspect of the Bill is about. The amendment would remove an element of the definition of gaming that has existed for some 40 years: the requirement that gaming does not need someone to be at risk of losing something in order to be gaming. That requirement is a necessary part of the definition to ensure player protection. In the case of gaming machines, it is lifted in part 10, in which clause 232 permits use of machines if no payment is made for them. However, when it comes to real games of chance, such as poker or blackjack, it is important that we capture gaming in all its forms, including those where there is no apparent outlay by the consumer.
When I read that, I thought that it was a little offbeat. After all, not losing anything is one of the protections. However, it is again important to underline what we are taking from the 1968 Act and putting into the Bill to protect people and to maintain the integrity of the industry. Experience has taught us that apparently minor changes to the gambling regime can have significant unforeseen consequences. We have been down this road before, with apparently modest concessions ushering in large abuses. The requirement has served us well over some 40 years, and we think it prudent not to remove it now. With that explanation, I hope that the hon. Gentleman will withdraw the amendment.
Before I consider doing so, will the Minister answer a question about scratchcards? Often when people buy a newspaper, a scratchcard drops out. They then have a go in what is presumably a game of chance. They did not pay to enter the game; they paid for the newspaper. Some proprietors are concerned that the measure might catch them in that situation. Will the Minister clarify whether they are involved under the subsection?
The answer is that they are not, because what the hon. Gentleman describes is classed as a lottery, not a game of chance.
I beg to move amendment No. 79, in
clause 6, page 3, line 34, at end add—
'(7) For the purposes of subsection (6)(b) and (c) the Secretary of State shall consult with all recognised sporting bodies and organisations.'.
The amendment is fairly clear; it would provide a comfort zone for those involved in sport. Subsection (6) states that the Secretary of State may introduce regulations defining the activities that can be encompassed in the Bill as gaming or games of chance. We had a discussion about what is and is not sport. It seems only fair and reasonable that some comfort be given to sporting bodies that they will be consulted on the boundaries between the different activities if at some stage such regulations are introduced.
Amendment No. 79 would the Secretary of State to consult sporting bodies before she made regulations about the distinction between games and sports. I am fairly sure that she would want to consult sporting bodies if she were to use that power, but I do not believe that a duty to consult would be helpful, particularly if there were a need to act swiftly to deal with a specific uncertainty. If an activity were being abused for commercial gain, outside regulation, it would be important to get it under control as quickly as possible. The clause tries to protect against that situation. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will withdraw the amendment.
I heard what the Minister said, and the Hansard record will show that he gave an assurance that a Secretary of State would want to consult before introducing any regulations. On that basis, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.
During my remarks on amendment No. 132 in one of the earlier groups, I specifically asked the Minister to indicate whether he would be able to provide drafts of the regulations during the Committee stage—at any rate, before Third Reading—but he did not answer the question. Indeed, the answer that he gave at the end of his response to the whole group of amendments was read so quickly that I did not understand a word of it, apart from understanding that he did not respond to my specific point. Therefore, I raise it again on clause stand part.
As I said earlier, it is crucial that not only parliamentarians but all those who will be making commercial decisions and others carefully following the proceedings on the Bill know when they will see the regulations, as the devil is always in the detail in such matters. We want to hear from the Minister very clearly and firmly whether he will be able to provide Parliament, and this Committee in particular, with a draft of the regulations that he has it in mind to introduce under this important clause before the Committee finishes its consideration or, at the very least, before Third Reading.
I have been saying that the intention of the Bill and the powers that it gives to the Secretary of State and the gambling commission is to try to make
the system foolproof, wherever possible. The hon. Gentleman knows that there have been some difficulties. In fact, the whole reason for introducing the Bill was to bring the law up to date and to regulate to protect people, to a large extent because of the changes brought about by electronic and remote gambling, which we are aware is possible.
The powers in subsection (6) will be used only if a new problem arises. One cannot draft for something that may or may not arise. The clause is about future-proofing, where we can, within the constraints that I outlined earlier. It would therefore be impossible to provide draft regulations.
Clause 6 provides the definition of gaming for the purposes of the Bill. That definition is based on the definitions in the 1968 Act, but with improvements to take account of the fact that games can now be played against computers, and not just in person. The clause provides for greater clarity and certainty about the distinction between games of chance and sport by giving the Secretary of State the power to specify on which side of the borderline a particular activity should fall. We all know that there is an element of chance in all sports; for example, whether the golf ball hits the pin and drops into the hole, which does not often happen to me, or whether it is deflected into the bunker, as often happens to me, is often a matter of pure chance. However, golf is a sport, and we do not want the Bill to make golf, when played for money, subject to the same regulation as gambling. Gambling on the outcome of golf matches is, of course, another matter. In the case of traditional sport, it is clear what the activity is, but with other activities it may be less clear. We do not want to leave loopholes through which a commercial gambling operator can claim that something which is, in reality, gambling and has the characteristics of gambling, is exempt from the control because it is defined as a sport within the subsection.
I have been reflecting on what the Minister said in response to my point. I understand his valid point about future-proofing and the need to leave a future Secretary of State the discretion to take account of something new being invented. That is an adequate answer.
However, may I pose the question the other way round? This may give some security to people who are planning investments in this area or who may have to consider licensing or planning as a consequence of the Bill. Is the Minister able to state that, based on the current definitions of ''game of chance'' and ''sport'', he does not expect to have to produce regulations under subsection (6) immediately after the enactment of the Bill, but wants the power only for something that might be invented in future? If the Minister were able to make such a statement, that would give some certainty. I fear that if the Secretary of State and the Minister cannot give such an assurance, we might be faced with a situation in which something that everyone at present treats as a game, a sport or a game of chance suddenly changes immediately after the Bill has come into force. I hope that the Minister will understand why I put it in that way.
I understand the hon. Gentleman's argument, but I do not accept it. In explaining why the
Committee should resist the amendment, I said that there were clearly defined areas in which the Secretary of State should act. Now, in the stand part debate on clause 6, I am again explaining the parameters within which the Secretary of State would act, and also the reason why she would act in that particular case. It is against that background that the hon. Gentleman must accept that we either tie everything down and partly future-proof the Bill or we leave some discretion, but within the confines that I explained when asking the hon. Member for North-East Cambridgeshire to withdraw the amendment. I can go no further than that.
The Minister used an illustration of his playing golf, in which a great deal of skill is involved—particularly, I am sure, in his case—but said that that was not regarded as gambling, whereas someone betting on the outcome of the Minister's match would be gambling. What is the difference between his playing golf and a person taking part in, for instance, a professional poker tournament? Card playing also requires considerable skill—it is not a game of chance. Would someone who was playing cards in that context also be regarded as not gambling, but as taking part in a skilful activity?
All I can say is that, given my handicap of 22, I hope that the hon. Gentleman never bets on me to win anything at golf. Poker is a game of chance.
I do not want to over-complicate the matter, although the Minister's reply has caused some consternation among the Opposition, because we are all aware that there are huge professional poker tournaments, which involve the development of great skill.
I wanted to put a slightly different question to the Minister. We know that people can play video golf games—virtual reality golf—on the internet. If the Minister rests his case for golf being a game on the skill involved in playing, I foresee a problem when the Bill and the debate on it come to be studied. What would happen if someone cleverly invented a betting game on the internet coupled with a virtual reality golf game? Would the Minister not then have a problem?
That is exactly why there is a need for this type of clause in the Bill. The clause is intended to ensure that someone who distorts sport for gambling or gaming is caught, so it would be used not for sport, but for other purposes. That is why the Secretary of State will have this power. The hon. Gentleman answers his own question.
I am conscious of your advice, Mr. Pike. I am beginning to think that the Minister would have done well to take note of it and to be briefer, because the more he speaks, the more confusion arises.
I have two questions for the Minister. He said that a game of poker was a game of chance, presumably because of the uncertainty of which cards will be distributed. If so, why did he tell me that a pub quiz
was not a game of chance, when the questions given are a matter of uncertainty? He also said that a game of golf included an element of chance—he gave the example of where the ball might go when it hits the pin—but he got out of it by saying that it does not matter because it is a sport. Therefore, how can he explain whether a darts competition is included, because a dart hitting the wire on the board is a matter of chance, yet by his own admission on the Floor of the House, darts is not a sport?
There is a simple explanation. The hon. Gentleman is getting excited about pub quizzes, but a pub competition is not a game; it is a competition. As I said, poker is a game of chance. With that explanation the hon. Gentleman should throw the shovel away and stop digging that hole.
Subsection (6) provides a useful safeguard in the form of reserve powers.
I am sorry that my right hon. Friend does not think that darts is a sport, because I think that it is. Could he help us by telling us the difference between luck and chance?
I will, Mr. Pike. As I said, subsection (6) provides a useful safeguard in the form of reserve powers, which the present law lacks. Experience suggests that it would be wise not to leave loopholes in gaming.
Question put and agreed to.
Clause 6 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Sitting suspended for a meeting of the Programming Sub-Committee.
I beg to move,
That the Order of the Committee of 9th November be varied as follows:
The order for consideration of proceedings set out in the table shall be varied so as to provide for consideration of Clause 7 after Clause 132 (and within the group specified in the first row of that table).
We welcome the Government's amendment to the programme order, but it is a most extraordinary proposal. The Bill has been three years in preparation; it has had lengthy scrutiny, debate and consultation, yet now, at one minute to midnight, the Government say that they need more time to get it right. Nothing better illustrates the depth of the chaos of the Government's policy than that they cannot debate the crucial clause in the Bill without being given more time.
We said at the start of the Committee stage that we wanted the Secretary of State to fulfil her undertaking to listen; if this is a demonstration that the Government are listening, then we welcome it. I hope that it is an indicator that they are prepared to climb down on a number of concerns. The proposal
requires clause 7 to be taken after clause 132, but the timetable motion requires us to complete consideration of the Bill up to that point by 5.30 pm next Tuesday. You will not need reminding, Mr. Pike, that we have already had two sittings; we are half way through the third, and we have just finished considering clause 6. At that rate of progress, it seems unlikely that we will reach clause 132 by next Tuesday evening.
I should therefore be grateful if the Minister would confirm that on Tuesday there will be a further amendment to the sittings motion so that we can take clause 7, because it is fundamental to the Bill and will require a lengthy and detailed debate. I would like the Minister to give the Committee an absolute assurance on the record in that respect.
I join the hon. Member for Maldon and East Chelmsford (Mr. Whittingdale) in welcoming the proposal if it provides a breathing space so that the Government can finally decide how far they will back down on the Bill.
I have no doubt, Mr. Pike, that, like me, you are a keen viewer of ''Have I got News for You?'' You will know that that programme often has a guest publication; because I am a member of this Committee, I have looked at magazines I might not otherwise read. I draw the attention of the producers of ''Have I Got News For You?'' to the excellent magazine Coin Slot International. A recent editorial in that publication, under the heading ''Viewpoint'', stated:
''The government must be looking at the tsunami of unrest with outright despair.''
''The ball is now in the government's court. Having been shown quite clearly that this Bill is not just unpopular, but largely derided by UK plc, some major amendments have to be a serious option.''
I entirely agree with that editorial; I made clear in Committee and on Second Reading which amendments my party wants; we hope that the additional time for the Government to consider where they are going will lead to their accepting the sort of proposals that we recommended.
Like the hon. Member for Maldon and East Chelmsford, I seek the Minister's assurance that there will be a different programme order when we return in the next sitting but one. I would also like him to give us a clear undertaking that any announcement that he makes about major changes to clause 7, or any other part of the Bill, will be made first to the Committee and to no other organisation.
In saying that the Bill is incredibly unpopular and that it should be ditched, Coin Slot International is naive, as I am sure the hon. Member for Bath would acknowledge. I remind the Committee that we came to the Bill by way of the Budd report. It is unfortunate that on Second Reading there was a difference between what was reported in the press and the reality in the world outside. Today, many people are vulnerable because the House of Commons has not introduced regulations and powers to deal with the new technologies of remote and internet gambling. Many young and vulnerable people have been exposed
because of the law's inability to act. Indeed, 90 per cent. of the Bill is about protecting those people. I had responsibility for gambling when I joined the Department two or three years ago, and I had a dialogue with the Churches, GamCare and many others. That dialogue is what the Bill was predicated on, and to a large extent it still is. Some newspapers ran headlines of ''Kill the Bill''. If the Bill is killed, many people will remain vulnerable to some of the biggest sharks. That is why we are doing what we are doing.
Let us keep the issue in proportion. There was discussion about one part of the Bill—casinos—and it was brought to our attention that it was creating concerns. That is absolutely right. We have responded in a way that, as the Secretary of State clearly said, shows that we take those concerns on board. Surely, that is what the democratic process and consultation are about. The Bill is about a change in the law from 1968. I agree that because it tried to take crime out of gambling, that area of the law was draconian, prescriptive and time-consuming for the House of Commons and the legislative process. We are trying to move it to a modern pattern for the 21st century, but with all the safeguards that we need.
We would have abrogated our responsibilities had we not brought a Bill of this nature to Parliament, so I make no excuses for doing so. We went out and consulted. I make no apologies for coming to the Committee and saying, ''Can we have a few more days?'' We want to return with a considered statement so that we can respond in full to concerns on that limited part of the Bill. I do not know what Coin Slot International and the others are lobbying for, but naive editorials, such as the one in the Daily Mail, saying that they want to kill the whole Bill do a disservice to millions of people in this country.
I give the hon. Member for Maldon and East Chelmsford an assurance that on Tuesday we will make sure, subject to your agreement, Mr. Pike, that there is plenty of debate on clause 7. We will be more than ready to accept such scrutiny. In reply to the hon. Member for Bath, there will be no public statements or announcements before I come to Committee.
I am not certain that I will be pleased by the announcement of my right hon. Friend the Minister on clause 7, but I support his approach. I remind the Opposition that if a Government are prepared to listen and reconsider they are acting responsibly. It is strange to hear Opposition parties couple pejorative terms such as ''climb down'' and ''retreat'' with the word ''welcome''. It adds to the fevered language of politics that we hear so much about when decisions and the reasons for them are discussed in the media.
No, I will finish my point. One cannot have a change of mind, or even listen, without being accused of retreating, which is why people despise the language of politics and, in many cases, politicians.
I am trying to get out of my mind an image of the hon. Member for Bath sitting up in bed reading Coin
Slot International and I can only send my great sympathy to Mrs. Foster.
The Opposition are prompted to respond, following the protestations from the Minister and the hon. Member for West Ham, who is my friend and who, I suspect, will be displeased by the Minister's remarks next Tuesday. The Minister has had a number of years to consider the legislation; the Government have not come up with it in the past six months. They established a scrutiny Committee, which spent many months doing a great deal of hard work on the issue. I disagreed with many of its proposals, but nevertheless its members treated the subject seriously. The Government were supposed to take the Committee's view into account, given that they initiated the scrutiny process. It is therefore disingenuous of the Minister to say that the Government are listening and that it is fine for them to backtrack on some of their proposals.
The Government had a long time to consider the issues, but they did not produce a solution acceptable to the House and have been forced to retreat. The Minister talked about the great things that the Bill will do and I accept that the provisions on internet regulation are right and proper. Indeed, they are welcome and needed. However, the legislation is limited because, as the Minister admitted just the other day in Committee, there will be no jurisdiction over sites not based in the United Kingdom. There is a limit to how much harm can be regulated by the Bill. However, the simple fact is that the most important part of the Bill, which deals with casinos, was to do a great deal—
Order. I remind hon. Members that they must speak about the programme order. Although they can debate it for half an hour, I am mindful of the fact that hon. Members have already referred to which part of the Bill they need to reach by Tuesday night. We must ensure that we debate all the provisions that are moved.
Finally, I am grateful that the Minister will table new amendments on the casino problem, which is at the heart of the Bill and is the most important part. The harm that the Government's original proposals would have done to the gambling scene in this country would far outweigh any good achieved by the other regulation in the Bill. I am therefore grateful for what the Minister said, but he and the hon. Member for West Ham protest too much.
I want to make two points about the programme order. First, I said on Tuesday that I thought it extraordinary but, sadly, all too typical of the Government that they had abandoned the convention adopted by Governments of both parties of allowing a clear week between the week in which Second Reading takes place and the week in which the Committee stage starts. The programme order makes it clear that the Government were unwise to ignore that convention—had they abided by it they would not have needed to introduce this panic measure. They
would have a clear week and could consult everyone who is influencing them to make the changes to clause 7 that we shall hear about. They would not need to go through what to the outside world will seem a strange procedure and introduce an emergency programme order today to delay consideration of clause 7 until we have considered clause 132. We understand that when we return next Tuesday there will be another programme order to move consideration of clause 7 to some as yet unspecified time. I hope that the Minister and the usual channels accept that the indecent haste with which the Bill was rushed into Committee was a mistake. They should learn that lesson for the future. As I said on Tuesday, there was no need to rush the Bill into Committee, given that the Government have introduced a carry-over motion. I hope that they will acknowledge their mistake.
Secondly, it was remarkable that the hon. Member for West Ham, of all Members of Parliament, should decry the use of fevered language. We all recognise his wit, which I have experienced since I was lucky enough to hear him respond to my maiden speech 12 and a half years ago. I was grateful to him then and I am grateful to him now, but I think that he would accept that he is the last hon. Member, of whatever party, whom one would expect to protest about the use of fevered language. He and I will have to wait and see what the Government come up with to discover whether his views, which are not dissimilar to mine on liberalisation, reflect what is needed. However, I suspect that he may want to reflect a little further before he, of all people, protests about fevered language undermining the status of politicians.
Question put and agreed to.