Clause 22 - Policy for licensing and regulation

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

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Photo of Mr Peter Pike Mr Peter Pike Labour, Burnley

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

Amendment No. 111, in

clause 22, page 10, line 18, at end insert

'which are affected by the statement or revision'.

Government amendment No. 19.

Amendment No. 92, in

clause 23, page 11, line 14, after 'businesses', insert 'or industry trade bodies'.

Government amendment No. 20.

Government new clause 1—Consultation with Commissioners of Customs and Excise.

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

Amendments Nos. 18 to 20 require the gambling commission to consult Her Majesty's Customs and Excise on areas that have implications on Customs policy, procedure or functions. Those areas are: the preparation of the commission's policy statement, the issuing of codes of practice to operators and the preparation of guidance to local authorities.

Photo of Malcolm Moss Malcolm Moss Shadow Minister, Home Affairs

I want to speak briefly to amendments Nos. 111 and 92. Their intent is obvious, so I do not need to speak to them at great length. No doubt the Minister will have comments to make about them. By tabling the amendments, we sought to achieve greater clarity in the Bill.

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

Amendment No. 111 would require the gambling commission, in issuing or revising its policy for licensing and regulation, to consult only those businesses that were affected by the statement or a revision to the statement. Under the provisions of the Bill as currently drafted, the commission is required to consult organisations representing gambling businesses. That duty is wider than would be the case under the proposed amendment.

The Government believe that it is unnecessary to restrict in that way the commission's ability to consult the gambling industry. When the commission issues its policy for licensing and regulation, it will cover how it will apply the principles to all sectors of the gambling industry. It is therefore right that the commission should be able to engage in a wide consultation exercise across the industry. That applies equally to amendments to the policy proposed by the commission; gambling businesses that are not directly affected by a revision but that may have to deal with its consequences should have the opportunity to make their views known. The amendment would preclude that in an unnecessarily restrictive way.

Amendment No. 92 would require the Commission to consult industry trade bodies before issuing or revising a code of practice. The amendment appears to be based on a misunderstanding of clause 23. As drafted, clause 23 requires the commission, before revising a code of practice, to consult

''one or more persons who appear to the Commission to represent the interests of persons who . . . carry on gambling businesses.''

The clause therefore already provides the commission with the scope to consult industry trade bodies.

Amendment agreed to.

Photo of Malcolm Moss Malcolm Moss Shadow Minister, Home Affairs

I beg to move amendment No. 156, in

clause 22, page 10, line 22, at end add—

'(6) In performing their duties for the purposes of this section, the Commission must have regard in all cases, to—

(a) the principles under which regulatory activities should be transparent, accountable, proportionate, consistent and targeted only at cases in which action is needed, and

(b) any other principles appearing to the Commission to represent best regulatory practice.

(7) In reviewing their functions under this section it shall be the duty of the Commission—

(a) to have regard to the extent to which the licensing objectives are already achieved, or are likely to be achieved, by effective self-regulation or co-regulation; and

(b) in the light of that, to consider to what extent it would be appropriate to remove or reduce regulatory burdens imposed by the Commission.

(8) In determining whether for the purposes of this section the encouraging of procedures for self-regulation or co-regulation is desirable and effective the Commission must consider, in particular—

(a) whether those procedures are administered by a person who is sufficiently independent of the persons who may be subjected to the procedures,

(b) whether a person represents an existing established means of regulation, and

(c) whether adequate arrangements are in force for funding the activities of that person.'.

The amendment would introduce a new subsection (6) to clause 22. The wording used is identical to that used in the Communications Act 2003 for the duties in that Act relating to Ofcom. We suggest that the gambling commission should have the same very onerous regulatory requirements placed on it as those on Ofcom. The proposed subsection would place a duty on the commission to follow the Better Regulation Task Force's five principles on better regulation. That would be an important addition to its responsibilities under the Bill.

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

The clause requires the gambling commission to prepare a statement containing the principles that it will apply when undertaking its licensing and regulatory functions. The amendment would merely set out in the Bill what this Government already expect the commission's licensing and regulatory statement to contain. It goes without saying that we expect the commission to exercise its regulatory activities in a transparent, accountable, proportionate, consistent and targeted manner. We also expect it to apply best regulatory practice, and it is expected that it will review the application of its functions with regard to the pursuit of the licensing objectives.

As a result of that review, we anticipate that the commission will consider whether the regulatory burdens imposed on the industry are appropriate. We also expect the commission to give due consideration to the best form of regulation for the industry and its implications, be that self-regulation, co-regulation or the imposition of additional regulatory burdens.

So, while I agree with the content of the amendment, I do not think that the requirements that it sets out need to be in the Bill. I therefore ask the hon. Gentleman to withdraw the amendment.

Photo of Malcolm Moss Malcolm Moss Shadow Minister, Home Affairs

In view of the assurances given by the Minister that the wording of the amendment, or something similar to it, will be incorporated in the gambling commission's regulatory framework, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 22, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.