Codes of practice

Gambling Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 5:00 pm on 16th November 2004.

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Photo of Malcolm Moss Malcolm Moss Shadow Minister, Home Affairs 5:00 pm, 16th November 2004

I beg to move amendment No. 206, in

clause 23, page 10, line 25, leave out 'whether'.

Photo of Mr Peter Pike Mr Peter Pike Labour, Burnley

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

Amendment No. 207, in

clause 23, page 10, line 26, leave out 'or by another person'.

Photo of Malcolm Moss Malcolm Moss Shadow Minister, Home Affairs

If the amendments were agreed to, subsection (1) would read ''The Commission shall issue one or more codes of practice about the manner in which facilities for gambling are provided (by the holder of a licence under this Act).'' Including the words ''whether'' and ''or by another person'' at the end could mean that another licence under another Act—for example, the Licensing Act 2003— might be brought into the compass of the meaning behind subsection (1). Removing those words would clarify the situation and ensure that the provision would relate only to a licence under the Bill and not to any other licensing regime.

Photo of Don Foster Don Foster Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

I am rather surprised by the explanation for the amendments that the hon. Gentleman gave. Will he confirm whether my interpretation is more correct than the one that he offered? Would the amendments not ensure that the licensee takes responsibility for all of the aspects of the running of the casino, as opposed to others who are currently responsible, such as operators, administrators or people who give advice? Surely, his amendments would sensibly ensure that an individual—the licensee—would take sole responsibility for the matters that are covered in the clause?

Photo of Richard Caborn Richard Caborn Minister of State (Sport and Tourism), Department for Culture, Media & Sport

We have had two explanations of the same amendment, which is very good. I will try to answer both at the same time.

As I see it, the amendments would exclude those persons who do not hold an operating, personal or premises licence under the Bill from having regard to codes of practice issued by the gambling commission. That means that permit holders and holders of temporary use notices under the Bill would be free to offer facilities for gambling without the restraints that the codes of practice could impose. That is certainly not something that this Government—or, I am sure, Opposition Members—want. Anyone lawfully providing facilities for gambling under the Bill, including holders of licences, permits and other authorisations should be required to have regard to the codes of practice issued by the commission. I therefore ask the hon. Gentleman to withdraw the amendment.

Photo of Malcolm Moss Malcolm Moss Shadow Minister, Home Affairs

I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment proposed: No. 93, in

clause 23, page 10, line 33, at end insert

'and

(d) setting forth reasonable steps that such a person might take which will constitute a defence to an offence under the Act.'.—[Mr. Moss.]

Photo of Mr Peter Pike Mr Peter Pike Labour, Burnley

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following amendments:

No. 223, in

clause 23, page 10, line 33, at end insert

'and

(d) ensuring that alcohol is not consumed in areas where category A gaming machines or casino games are played.'.

No. 224, in

clause 23, page 10, line 33, at end insert

'and

(d) preventing a person from gambling where there is reason to suspect that they may have consumed too much alcohol.'.

No. 225, in

clause 23, page 10, line 33, at end insert

'and

(d) providing training for staff in the identifying of individuals who may have consumed too much alcohol or have problems related to gambling.'.

Photo of Richard Caborn Richard Caborn Minister of State (Sport and Tourism), Department for Culture, Media & Sport 5:10 pm, 16th November 2004

I cannot think that amendment No.93 reflects any disagreement between the Government and the Opposition. We are agreed that the gambling commission should be a tough regulator, working for the public interest and pursuing social responsibility.

Sitting suspended for Divisions in the House.

On resuming—

Photo of Richard Caborn Richard Caborn Minister of State (Sport and Tourism), Department for Culture, Media & Sport 5:40 pm, 16th November 2004

I was just explaining the effect of amendment No. 93. The hon. Member for North-East Cambridgeshire wants the commission to give people guidance on how they might succeed in avoiding offences. I appreciate that the purpose of the amendment is quite innocent. The gambling industry is a complex and evolving environment but the offences under this Bill are quite clear. It is for the operators to be sure that they are acting within the law. It cannot be for the commission to give advice.

Amendments Nos. 223, 224 and 225 would require the commission's codes of practice to include provisions on avoiding excessive consumption of alcohol on gambling premises and to preclude alcohol from being consumed in casinos. As such, the amendments have laudable aims. Excessive alcohol consumption is never to be welcomed. However, laudable as they are, the amendments are misguided. Not all gambling premises serve alcohol now. It is not permitted in betting shops and we have no intention of changing that. Alcohol is permitted in casinos and bingo halls now under separate alcohol licences by virtue of the Licensing Act 2003. If there are problems with the way in which establishments are conducting themselves, they put that licence at risk. It is right that they should be dealt with under the Licensing Act, rather. We should not create separate obligations under this Bill.

Alcohol has been served on the gaming floor in casinos for some time now and there is no evidence to suggest that operators are doing so irresponsibly. However, if there is evidence of a problem arising, the Bill gives the commission the power to act. For those reasons, I ask hon. Members not to press their amendments.

Photo of Clive Efford Clive Efford Labour, Eltham

I shall be brief as I am aware that we are way behind. These are probing amendments. I believe that the sale of alcohol in proximity to casino gaming and category A gaming machines could leave people vulnerable to some of the sharp practices in this industry. We have to legislate against the worst possible scenario.

I do not go to casinos myself. I buy the odd lottery ticket and that is about as far as my gambling goes. I understand that alcohol is not consumed around gaming tables in casinos. The practice is to restrict it. The industry is perhaps showing slightly more restraint than we are trying to show in the Bill. I will not press the amendment to a vote, but I urge my right hon. Friend the Minister to investigate the matter, so that we can perhaps have some amendments on Report that restrict the sale of alcohol in these large casinos.

Photo of Richard Caborn Richard Caborn Minister of State (Sport and Tourism), Department for Culture, Media & Sport

Licensing authorities can regulate where alcohol is served. My hon. Friend is right. Some casinos allow alcohol to be taken at the table; others do not. It is up to them. For the two years during which there has been a relaxation, there has been no report of misuse. We believe that there is no need for this measure to be included in the Bill.

Photo of Malcolm Moss Malcolm Moss Shadow Minister, Home Affairs

I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment made: No. 19, in

clause 23, page 11, line 11, at end insert—

'(aa) Her Majesty's Commissioners of Customs and Excise,'.—[Mr. Caborn.]

Clause 23, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.