We are making rapid progress and I have no intention of detaining the Committee for long. All members of the Committee have said how much they welcome the establishment of the gambling commission to replace the Gaming Board, and its increased powers. We did that without a murmur—we voted clause 19 straight through with no problem. Now we come to the schedule on the details of how it should be set up and operated and who should sit on it, and surprise, surprise, the obvious set of amendments have come from hon. Members wanting to ensure that their favourite people are among the commissioners on the new body.
I am well aware that the Minister will answer that he does not like lists because the people who are not on them are offended. I accept that he will tell me that he is sympathetic to the suggestion in my amendment that representatives of local government should serve on the commission, that he is certain that the Secretary of State will bound to ensure somebody like that will serve on the commission, and that his reply is a good enough assurance and we will all be happy. I just want to persuade him to give me that answer, which at least means a postcard to Mrs. Foster.
I hope that the Minister is well aware of the importance of the role that our local councillors will play in this legislation. Clause 24(4)(c), for example, refers to the importance of consultation with the LGA on guidance for local authorities. Clause 23(11)(a) talks about the importance of consultation with the LGA on codes of practice, and so it goes on. The Bill already refers to the importance of close work with those who serve in local government.
The Health and Safety Commission has gone even further than my suggestion: it ensures that among its commissioners there is a representative of local government—an elected councillor. There is nothing particularly onerous about my amendment; it places no great burden on the Secretary of State. I merely want an assurance from the Minister that we can be certain of the representation of at least one commissioner from local government. A postcard to Mrs. Foster at the end of a very long day would be very welcome.
I want to comment on the representation of workers on the commission, which gives me an opportunity to make a few points about employment conditions in the new casinos. We have not discussed the regulation of the employment relationship, but we have talked a lot about the regulation of the industry in general.
As many people are aware, there are two main unions for casino workers—the Transport and General Workers Union and the GMB. They have formed an alliance with Unite Here, the American trade union that organises in the gaming industry, to enter into early discussions with prospective investors about the setting up of new casinos.
It is important to consider the question of employee representation on the commission, because of the comparative experience of employment relationships and worker representation in different casinos at state level in the States. If one compares the situation in any of the 29 unorganised casinos in Mississippi with that in the 12 organised casinos in Atlantic City, one sees extraordinary differences between union and non-union wage premiums and the general terms and conditions enjoyed by people who work in the casino industry. The national gambling impact study commission stated:
''The commission recommends to state, local and tribal governments that communities with legal gambling should look to cooperation between labor unions and management as a means of protecting job quality.''
When considering an application, the new commission should take on board the views of staff in its deliberations as well as taking account of casino operators' previous employment practices—overseas, if necessary. There should be two representatives of the work force on the commission to represent the interests of workers in the industry. We should ensure that licences are granted to operators who will provide a decent working environment, careers and job opportunities for their staff. Many jobs will be created in the sector over the next few years, and we should seek to ensure that they are quality jobs, not
minimum wage jobs with few protections. Worker representation on the commission would be a positive step to ensuring that that objective is achieved.
I reiterate that the establishment of a gambling commission is at the heart of the Bill. If we do not get the commission and its structure right, we will be in trouble. The Gaming Board has done a marvellous job, but the role is to be expanded dramatically and the amount of money available will rise from some £4 million to between £9 million and £11 million. It is time to move on.
The amendment puts a finger on the difficulty that faces us all. We want the gambling commission to have the flexibility to react to change and to do so through regulation, but we do not want it to be so free and flexible that it does not have firm guidelines in primary legislation. The hon. Member for Bath made a valid point. Some people should be members as of right, rather than having a membership that is too broad and flexible and that could come from any sector of the community. Representation of the local authority is particularly relevant, because such people will have experience of licensing. My hon. Friend the Member for Surrey Heath spoke about some of the problems in Guildford. I am not saying that a local authority representative would have intimate knowledge of the matter, but they would have the ability to tap into the local authority network to get the vibrations on whether an applicant for a casino licence, for example, was the right sort of person and what operating experience they had.
There is a delicate balance to be struck and we must try to get it right when setting up the commission. We do not want to prescribe it so tightly that it has no room to breathe and no time to move and react to changed circumstances, but nor do we want it to be so free and sloppy that anything could happen.
I am sorry to say that I shall not be recommending that, because the number of organisations that could then claim such representation would become legion. If the hon. Gentleman went through the gambling industry, he could produce section after section of workers who would want representation. The commission would become a vast and unwieldy organisation.
Local authorities cover licensing throughout the length and breadth of the land and could advise not just on casinos but on many other areas, such as how betting shops and FOBTs are performing and how GamCare's responsibility is working through in a local area. There would be so much more that a local authority representative could touch on without their role being tight, narrow and specific. My left-wing and socialist heart is sympathetic, as opposed to the hon. Member for West Ham (Mr. Banks), who would be much harder and right-wing than me on such matters. I shall draw my remarks to a close with the comment
that a local authority representative would be a good thing.
I support the amendment tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Dagenham (Jon Cruddas). When I had the discussion with the workers' representatives from the USA, to which I referred on Tuesday, I was struck by their degree of ownership and commitment to the industry in which they were working. That came from the fact that they had good conditions of employment and a high degree of training. All staff are vetted to ensure that they are fit and proper people to work in the gambling industry. They are provided with training so that they can care for and look after customers to ensure that no one is gambling to excess. If they identify such people, they bring them to the attention of management. They are also trained to identify anyone who may be under the influence of alcohol and incapable of making a decision about gambling. They take great pride in their relationship with the industry and their commitment to it, and the value and worth that they attach to their employment would add a great deal to the commission.
The setting of high standards of ownership in and commitment to the industry in order to ensure that it does not fall into the trap of the worst forms of exploitation, which we are concerned about, would be underlined by allowing those workers to participate in the decisions of the commission and have two representatives on it. I support amendment No. 128.
Thank you for allowing me to catch your eye, Mr. Gale. I decided to make a short speech on the schedule, because, frankly, I am getting a little bored. I urge the Minister to reject both amendments.
Paragraph 1 does not tell us how many commissioners there will likely be. I urge that there not be too many, as a huge board becomes unwieldy and difficult for the chairman to manage. I imagine that the Secretary of State will first appoint a chairman, and then she and the chairman will have discussions as to who the other commissioners should be. Perhaps the Minister would clarify the process.
Whether representatives of local authorities, workers, employers, the Confederation of British Industry or anyone else I can think of who might belong to a special category, the type of people who are appointed are, sometimes, excellent, but sometimes they are put there purely because it is Buggin's turn, or because an individual body wants to get rid of someone who is a nuisance, saying ''Let us put them on that commission to get them out of the way.'' There are all sorts of reasons why reserving positions for specific categories may result in people who are not satisfactory.
Mr. Foster rose—
Anyone who starts by saying that their contribution is based on the fact that they are getting
bored and fails to reflect that their contribution may add to other Members' boredom is in some difficulty. Can the hon. Gentleman just remind me—I have a memory problem—about the last Bill Committee on which he and I both served, whether the Bill established a body and whether he pressed amendments to specify membership of that body? I am sure that by now he will have recalled the Bill and may wish to share that information with the Committee.
On that occasion, I was not getting bored, as the hon. Gentleman may recall. I was actively involved with that Bill, and the circumstances were different. I am sure that there were good reasons for those amendments.
I simply say that these amendments are not a good idea, and I hope that the Minister rejects them.
I wish to support the amendment. I do not have the same problem as the Minister. Settling on who will be on the commission is an important matter, and we all have our own choices. I would like someone to be appointed who would take care of the animal welfare issues that arise. [Laughter.] The hon. Member for Maldon and East Chelmsford (Mr. Whittingdale) is laughing, but the fact is that greyhounds and horses are a crucial part of the gambling industry in this country, and their welfare is a matter of concern. I am sorry that he does not share my concern or that of the animal welfare movement and, indeed, most responsible people in the betting industry that those considerations should be taken into account.
I hope that the hon. Member for South-West Hertfordshire will find it in his heart to support such a move. He thinks that I have turned into a fascist, and I suppose that he will suggest, because Hitler loved animals, that I am rapidly becoming a Nazi. However, animal welfare is a consideration, and I hope that when the Minister replies he will say that these are matters that he will give guidance on, or thought to, so that at a later stage we can adopt a more constructive approach.
After all, this is the stage where the views of elected Members ought to be taken into consideration. When the chairman of the commission is being appointed and the commissioner in charge is deciding who his colleagues will be, I hope that he will be able to look at these proceedings and conclude that there was a great deal of support both for a worker representative and for someone who looks after animal welfare.
In keeping with the hon. Gentleman's new-found free-market thinking, does he not agree that the best commissioners would be people appointed on merit rather than because they are in a particular category?
Merit is obviously a major consideration, but I would not agree with any suggestion that no one who represents the employees of the casino industry or one of the organisations in the animal welfare movement has merit. If I may say so to the hon. Gentleman, it is just as well that this Committee is not selected on merit because he might not be here if it were.
I intervene with a degree of reluctance because I realise that my hon. Friend the Member for Cotswold will go to sleep immediately I start to talk.
The hon. Member for West Ham has a curl on his forehead that is coming down, and I ask him to comb it back because it is getting quite worrying. Does he not agree that, because important Bills are being cruelly curtailed by timetables, it is not possible to go through every single aspect of all the amendments that we would like to have tabled and debated? Therefore, we require short, sharp amendments such as this to give the Minister the chance to flesh out the guidance for the commission and to respond to some perfectly logical questions. Approximately how many commissioners will there be? Are we considering drawing them from any specific areas? Will any particular qualifications be regarded as touchstones in order for their appointment to reflect the whole industry?
If we had more time, we could address such issues, but we are treated like charnel before the Government machine, so let us hear what the Minister has to say.
I am grateful for the hon. Gentleman's tonsorial advice. Perhaps if I held my comb under my nose that would confirm all his deeply held suspicions about my political odyssey.
The hon. Gentleman has a good point, however. I had to raise animal welfare issues in the way that I have because by the time I had seen the Bill and found out I was to serve on this wretched Committee—I mean this lovely Committee, Mr. Gale—it was too late for me to bring them up in another way. However, I will raise them again at a later stage, and I am grateful for having been allowed to intervene now.
I rise to endorse the amendment in the names of my hon. Friends the Members for Eltham (Clive Efford) and for Dagenham. It is important that we send a message to the people employed in the gambling industry. There are large numbers of them, and some of them are concerned about what effect the Bill might have on their future. They want to be confident that their voice will be heard.
If we are to develop hotel casinos along the lines of some of those in America, and particularly Las Vegas, the voice of everybody in the industry must be heard. The Unite Here union represents chambermaids, cleaners and others involved in making the gaming experience a high-quality product.
I am moved to speak in support of my hon. Friend the Member for Cotswold. I recall that we had a lengthy debate during our consideration of the Communications Bill.
Sitting suspended for a Division in the House .
I do not want to detain the Committee much longer. I merely want to say, in
support of my hon. Friend the Member for Cotswold, that when we were debating the Communications Bill a couple of years ago, there were several moves to have specific sectional interests represented on the board of Ofcom. The Government sensibly resisted that suggestion, and they did so for three reasons, which are particularly applicable in this instance.
The first reason is that if specific members are identified as representing individual interests, inevitably a much narrower pool will be drawn from in appointing them. Amendment No. 128 seeks to have a commissioner representing the interests of casino employees. One assumes that that is code for saying a member of the GMB, which is clearly the major representative of those employees. Essentially that amendment would require there to be a trade union commissioner, which would be a backward step.
The second reason is that if one group with an interest is identified as necessitating a commissioner, every other such group will immediately demand the same treatment. The British Casino Association will want a commissioner and the Casino Operators Association will then want one; the overseas operators do. Of course, the gambling commission goes far wider than casinos, so every section of the industry will claim that they are being poorly treated unless they too have a representative on the commission.
The third reason is that if a responsibility is deliberately given to a commissioner to represent a particular sectional interest, they will not represent the wider interest. They will see their job as focusing particularly on the interests of that group and not on the general public good. Therefore, it is far more sensible that the commissioners be appointed on the basis of their own merit and not with specific responsibility to look after one group or another. I urge the Minister to resist the amendment.
I want to clear up a couple of points.
On the question of the composition and the numbers, I think that everyone knows that we are going to use the Gaming Board as the core of the new gambling commission, and then build on that. There are nine members on that board. However, it will be up to the Secretary of State which of them becomes a commissioner.
Amendment No. 122 would impose an additional requirement on the Secretary of State to appoint commissioners who appear to represent local authorities, and amendment No. 128 relates to the interests of casino employees. As the hon. Member for Maldon and East Chelmsford said, the problem is whether a sectional interest should be represented. If one is not careful, there could then be a conflict of interest. I am sure that the Secretary of State, in replacing, or indeed in adding to, the current Gaming Board, will have due cognisance of the wider issues.
When I was setting up the regional development agencies and the relevant Bill was being taken through the House, we had a group core. I wanted to ensure that civil society—the constituency of the community—was represented. That could be represented by voluntary sector trade unions. Quite a
lot of groups come under the term ''civil society''. I believe that broad sections of society ought to be reflected in the decision making of an important body, such as the gambling commission. I am sure that the Secretary of State will take that on board. It will be good for the decision-making process. We will make it very clear that the people involved should be representative not of a particular sectional group, but of a wider constituency, which ought to impact on and influence the decision making of the commission.
As for people who want to represent certain interests, including local government, there is nothing to prevent them from applying for the post of commissioner. Anybody could do so. It is interesting that when one is in the process of selecting people such as commissioners or members of the boards of RDAs, one looks for people who have got wider experience and who are wearing two or three different caps, because they probably bring more wisdom.
As far as local authorities are concerned, the gambling commission has a duty to consult persons representing local authorities and the gambling industry when issuing its policy statement, codes of practice and guidance to local authorities. Under the process, there is need to make sure that the decision making of the commission is informed, and it has a statutory duty to consult those various sectors. That should be reflected in the quality of the commission's decisions.
I underline the fact that the Government have already rejected the scrutiny Committee's recommendation that we put a representative from the National Lottery Commission on the gambling commission. That was rejected as being very sectional. However, I acknowledge what the hon. Member for Maldon and East Chelmsford said: the gambling commission ought to reflect wider sections of society. With that, I hope that the hon. Member for Bath will withdraw his amendment.
May I share with the Committee my deep concern that the intervention of the hon. Member for Cotswold and the more recent intervention of the hon. Member for Maldon and East Chelmsford appear to cast doubt on whether Mrs. Foster will be entitled to her postcard? The hon. Member for Cotswold is not here, but I hope that he will not mind me pointing out that, during our brief suspension for the Division, he told me that if she is not entitled to a postcard, he will be more than happy to make it up to her by buying her a drink. Perhaps honour has been satisfied.
It has been suggested that those on the Front Bench are having difficulty being heard by some sections of the Room today. If that is still the case, it is perhaps worth making absolutely clear my interpretation of what the Minister has just said. On the number of members of the gambling commission, he helpfully told us that the Government would use the existing Gaming Board as the core—that is nine people—and that he intends to add to that. I therefore confess that I have no idea how many members the commission is likely to have. [Interruption.] As he is about to intervene, perhaps he could clarify that.
There is no absolute number; I was just trying to explain that nine members will create the core of the commission. Some of those are coming up to retirement in the not-too-distant future, so there will be replacements. Who those replacements are will be a matter for the Secretary of State, who will take a view of the wider role that the commission now has. Under the Bill, it will also be within her powers to supplement the commission with other members to bring experience to the gambling commission, if she believes that that is needed. There could be replacements on the one hand and additions on the other.
I am grateful for that clarification, but I think that that is what I said: there will be nine, and potentially more. We still do not know how many more. Nevertheless, I am grateful for the further explanation.
In respect of what the membership is likely to be, the Minister was less than helpful but used some very fine words. We are all grateful to hear from him that the Secretary of State will ''have due cognisance of the wider issues.'' That is enormously helpful, although we have no idea what it means.
Mr. Caborn rose—
That is exactly the point that I was making: the gambling commission is now taking on a much wider remit than the Gaming Board had. The Secretary of State and I believe that that must be reflected in the composition of the gambling commission. Many people will be affected by the Bill in terms of employment, and the role of local authorities in gambling will be much more effective in licensing than it was before. Again, I have no doubt that the Secretary of State will have to take that on board in considering the composition of the gambling commission. I do not think that that explanation takes a lot of imagination. We are being practical about the matter.
I mentioned—and I am sure that the hon. Gentleman knows about this—the composition of the regional development agencies. That formula has been used before. He may ridicule it in his presentation, but I can assure him that, if he reconsiders the record he will find that when we were considering how to set up the RDAs we had small boards of 12 to 15 representing some 5 million people, so it was difficult. We were able to consider those broad definitions of constituencies, and one that we used was that of civil society. That should not be ridiculed because the board members have worked quite well in terms of their representation on the nine regional development agencies.
the complexity of the wider interests that we now have to take into account, we are likely to have people with three or more caps, as the Minister said. [Interruption.] I see that my hon. Friend the Member for Colchester is getting fidgety and wishes to intervene.
As the Minister has said that the numbers on the board could be almost any number one could think of, does he feel that the interested sectors of society who should be represented are those who have to deal with the consequences of problem gamblers, and possibly those from Churches and others who have opposed the Bill?
I am grateful to my hon. Friend; he is now guilty of adding to that long list. I hope that the Minister has taken note of what he said and that in advising the Secretary of State, who we are told should have cognisance of wider interest, he will ensure that my hon. Friend's points are borne in mind.
I think I have received some sort of semi-assurance that there might be some thinking about local government somehow fitting in somewhere, even if we are talking about someone with two hats other than a local government one.
No, I will not because I am sure there will be an opportunity for points to be raised later. Given the semi-quasi-possibility, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
With this it will be convenient to discuss the following amendments:
No. 193, in
schedule 3, page 156, line 33, at end add—
'Disqualification from membership of Scottish Parliament
19 In section 15(1) of the Scotland Act 1998 (c.46) (disqualification from membership of the Parliament) there is inserted—
''(ba) he is a Commissioner of the Gambling Commission,''.'.
No. 194, in
schedule 3, page 156, line 33, at end add—
'Disqualification from membership of National Assembly for Wales
19 In section 12(1) of the Government of Wales Act 1998 (c.38) (disqualification from being Assembly member) there is inserted—
''(ba) he is a Commissioner of the Gambling Commission,''.'.
I am really just probing, and I tabled the amendments because when I was doing research for the Committee I examined—as I am sure many hon. Members did—the main piece of legislation that the Bill will replace: the Gaming Act 1968. My attention happened to be caught by the fact that in section 10 of the 1968 Act, the first of my amendments
appears as subsection (4). If that provision was made in the 1968 Act, I thought that we ought at least to debate whether it should be repeated in the Bill. Since that time, we have had the creation of the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh Assembly, so with the assistance of the Clerk I have been able to table two further amendments that match the provision.
It is not a matter about which I feel particularly strongly, but as it was in the original Act and no reason has been given for its not being in the Bill, I wonder whether the Minister is minded to appoint sitting Members of the House, the Scottish Parliament or the Welsh Assembly to the commission. We should be told, as a certain publication frequently says, and I thought it was worth having a short debate, but I make it clear that I am probing on this matter.
From what the hon. Member for Bath was just saying, I thought we were going back and taking due cognisance from the days of ''solemn and binding'' when everything that was said by a previous Labour Government was based on solemn and binding commitments. The same publication that says ''Perhaps we should be told'' used to talk about a character called Solomon Binding, who was a trade unionist, not an MP. We have to consider carefully who will be on the gambling commission, and I would be grateful to hear what the Minister has to say.
I thank the hon. Gentleman for that little bit of history. I shall reflect on it when I read Hansard.
The amendment would prevent current Members of this House, the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh Assembly from being appointed as gambling commissioners. However, legislation already prevents MPs and MSPs from sitting on the Gaming Board, so the same provision will apply to the commission when it is established. No such provision exists for Members of the Welsh Assembly, because gambling is not a devolved matter. The Assembly therefore cannot make its own regulations in this respect. The Bill will not change that position, so I suggest that there is no need for the amendment.
The panel can also be elected in the way in which the GLA is elected, which is similarly elected under devolved functions. I ask the hon. Gentleman to withdraw the amendment.
I am happy to withdraw the amendment on the basis of the Minister's assurance. I am, however, still slightly puzzled, because he stated that the disqualification will continue, but he did not explain why. Does he mean that the relevant part of the 1968 Act continues in force, or does he mean that some other piece of legislation continues the disqualification? I have not been able to find it in the Bill, so I am slightly puzzled about the basis on which he says that it will apply. I am happy to accept his word, but it would be helpful if he could clarify that.
In that case, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Schedule 3 agreed to.
Clause 20 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Schedule 4 agreed to.
Further consideration adjourned.—[Mr. Watson.]
Adjourned accordingly at twelve minutes past Five o'clock until Tuesday 16 November at half-past Nine o'clock.