Clause 24 - Guidance to local authorities

Gambling Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 5:40 pm on 16th November 2004.

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Amendment proposed: No. 94, in

clause 24, page 11, line 39, leave out 'shall have regard to' and insert 'must follow the'.—[Mr. Moss.]

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

Local authorities will have a key role to play. They will have responsibility for licensing gambling premises in their areas, and will be accountable to their local communities. It is important, therefore, that they have some discretion when exercising their licensing function, but the amendment would prevent such discretion. One size does not always fit all. Making the gambling commission's guidance to local authorities mandatory would limit an authority's ability to do what is right for its locality.

It is important to bear it in mind that it may be difficult for local authorities to comply with guidance, which will inevitably be general in nature, to the letter. It is important that they should be able to take account of their local circumstances in applying the guidance. That is why the Bill enables general guidance from the gambling commission and individual policy statements from authorities. I know that local authorities will welcome the availability of the commission's guidance when developing their licensing policies. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will 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Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.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 made: No. 20, in

clause 24, page 11, line 42, at end insert—

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

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

I beg to move amendment No. 3, in

clause 24, page 12, line 4, at end insert

'and

(f) one or more persons who appear to the Commission to represent chief constables of police forces.'.

Photo of Mr Peter Pike Mr Peter Pike Labour, Burnley

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

Amendment No. 4, in

clause 24, page 12, line 8, leave out paragraph (a).

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

I have a lengthy briefing, but let me say briefly that the amendments are based on the principle that representative chief constables should always be consulted when the commission issues guidance on the manner in which local authorities should exercise their functions, particularly on the principles to be applied by local authorities when exercising functions under this legislation. As the Bill stands, representative chief constables of police forces are to be consulted only if the commission thinks it appropriate given the nature of the guidance. Bearing it in mind that the key objectives of the Bill all relate to activities about which chief constables are, quite reasonably, likely to have views, we think it vital, notwithstanding the lengthy evidence that I have to back up what I am saying, that the amendments should be accepted.

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

Amendment No. 3 would require the gambling commission to consult representative chief constables before issuing guidance to local authorities. Under the Bill, the commission is required to consult representative chief constables when that is deemed appropriate, rather than on a mandatory basis. Amendment No. 4 follows from amendment No. 3, and would remove the reference to chief constables in clause 24(5).

Before issuing guidance to local authorities under clause 24(4), the gambling commission must consult a number of interested parties, including representatives from local authorities and the gambling industry. Under clause 24(5), the gambling commission may also consult chief constables of police forces and members of the public if it thinks that appropriate on

the basis of the guidance. The Government believe that it is unnecessary to have a mandatory requirement for the commission to consult representative chief constables in all cases. If there is an issue that merits involvement from the police, the commission will, under clause 24(5), consult them about it.

If that involvement is not merited, the commission's guidance will be issued to local authorities without police consultation. However, that does not mean that the police will not have a say about how local authorities conduct their licensing responsibilities. Under clause 327(3), it is compulsory for local authorities in England, Wales and Scotland to consult chief constables of police forces before finalising the publication of their three-year licensing statements. In the Government's view, sufficient measures are in place to ensure that all necessary parties, including chief constables, are properly consulted about the way in which local authorities exercise their licensing functions under the new regime. I ask the hon. Gentleman to withdraw the amendment.

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

Given the assurance that I have received, particularly on clause 327(3), I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 24, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.