Clause 225 - Supply, &c. Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Gambling Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 4:00 pm on 7th December 2004.

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Photo of Mark Prisk Mark Prisk Conservative, Hertford and Stortford 4:00 pm, 7th December 2004

When I read the clause, it appeared to be fairly straightforward because it is rather short. It states:

''The Secretary of State may make regulations about the supply, installation, adaptation, maintenance or repair of a gaming machine or part of a gaming machine.''

If we stop to think about our discussions on what constitutes a gaming machine, the clause does not allude only to the gambling industry. Through earlier discussions we understood that computers are to be included as potential or in part gaming machines. We understood that regulations may be applied in the software industry. We were led to understand that interactive televisions will be included in the process, not least because of the overlap in technology between new hard drive controls and interactivity with televisions and computers. The phone industry will also be included.

If one stops to think for a moment about the implications of subsection (1), we can realise that it includes televisions, telephones, the software industry and computers. A wide range of industries may be affected by the Bill. We are talking not simply about

the people who manufacture those things, important though they are, but about the people who adapt, maintain or repair them, so the provision is actually a very wide net.

I looked at subsection (2) to try to understand the parameters of the regulations, but again there is that infamous word, ''may''. Subsection (2) says:

''Regulations under subsection (1) may identify matters (whether or not addressed by other provisions of the regulations) as to which a condition may not be attached to an operating licence or to a premises licence.''

A condition may be attached; however, it may not, and that is the difficulty. That is a very woolly description of what the regulations may or may not do. Given that that provision applies, I imagine, to almost all of our manufacturing industry—what is left of it—let alone those who provide the maintenance, adaptation and repair of the equipment, the British industry needs to consider the provision as a whole.

I would be grateful if the Minister gave us some suggestion of the purpose, limit and scope of those regulations, from the business and industry point of view. Clearly, the provisions will not affect just those in the gambling industry, important as they are; the measures goes far wider. Those are my principal concerns.

Photo of Mr Richard Page Mr Richard Page Conservative, South West Hertfordshire

I am conscious that I will now be partially arguing against what I said earlier; I would like to get that in before anyone else does. As I understand it, my hon. Friend is making the point that a business could be going about

''the supply, installation, adaptation, maintenance or repair of a gaming machine'', quite legitimately, as it thinks, and then suddenly discover, through no fault of its own, that the Secretary of State has had a rush of blood to the brain and has issued regulations that makes the business illegal. Once again, there is a nightmare with the regulations. I really do not see how we can proceed with the Bill if we do not have the regulations and do not know how the clauses refer to them.

Photo of Mark Prisk Mark Prisk Conservative, Hertford and Stortford

I am very grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for South-West Hertfordshire—I should just say that this is not a Hertfordshire coalition. It is very good of him to play devil's advocate with the professionalism that he always brings to such processes. I think that he is right: the heart of the matter is that we understand that the gaming and gambling industry will follow the progress of the Bill, but a local repairer of personal computers will not have the faintest idea that there are regulations on such a subject, although they may intrude on his business. The same will be true for people who repair or maintain televisions, or who deal with telephones.

I am trying to identify and clarify the parameters and what the Government are seeking to do through the regulations, so that industry can be forewarned.

Photo of Mr Nick Hawkins Mr Nick Hawkins Conservative, Surrey Heath

I not only endorse what my hon. Friends the Members for Hertford and Stortford and for South-West Hertfordshire say, but think it particularly important that we remember, when considering the manufacturing, supply, adaptation

and installation of such machines, that that sector of industry has been particularly successful in recent years. Anyone who has worked, as I have done, with BACTA, and who has been to its trade shows this year, will have seen that we have a business that supplies places across the world. Every year in which I have been to the trade show, I have heard better and better trade figures for the UK businesses.

If the only thing that Parliament has seen is the guidance that the Minister promised me when we discussed clause 224, and there is nothing—not even by way of draft—for it to look at on the detail of the regulations, there is no way that this incredibly successful and expanding industry will have any security for the future. Given that the Bill has been so many years in gestation, it is not good enough for the Government to say, ''Well, we have given some guidance, and we are now revising it.'' It must not be beyond the wit of man or woman in the DCMS to show the regulations to Parliament before we pass the benighted Bill. I do not accept that we cannot see them in draft form before the Bill is discussed on Report and Third Reading, and before it goes to another place. That is important.

As my hon. Friend the Member for South-West Hertfordshire said, if the Bill were accepted, all the powers would be in the hands of the Secretary of State, not the new commission. We might have more faith if the powers were to be in the hands of people with professional expertise of the industry. However, I do not believe that measures should be introduced in such a way. I agree absolutely with my hon. Friend. That is especially important when we are considering the supply side, the manufacturing side and installation and discussing a business that has been one of the United Kingdom's big success stories. If the Minister will not give an undertaking that we shall see the regulations in draft, just to make the point, whatever other members of the Committee want to do, I say now that I shall press the Question to a Division and I hope that other hon. Members support me.

Photo of Richard Caborn Richard Caborn Minister of State (Sport and Tourism), Department for Culture, Media & Sport 4:15 pm, 7th December 2004

I shall try to explain the matter to the hon. Gentleman, so that he does not to call a Division on clause stand part. Clause 225 allows us to make regulations about the

''supply, installation, adaptation, maintenance or repair of a gaming machine''.

It covers the supply chain before a machine is made available for use. The regulations will allow the control of any aspect of supplying gaming machines. [Interruption.] I hope that the hon. Gentleman is listening to me because he asked the question. Although we expect the commission to do much of the day-to-day work on such matters, the regulation-making power ensures that we have all the tools necessary to ensure that unsafe or unfair machines do not appear on the market in Great Britain. That should protect our industry, too.

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

Not at the moment. As I have already said, we will look to the gambling commission to advise the Government on the detail of what controls are best to achieve the licensing objectives. It is clear that gambling is regulated, not the equipment—unless it is a gaming machine. For example, telephones and interactive television are not machines that have to be regulated. An operating licence is required to supply a gaming machine. At present, the Gaming Board regulates the supply and repair of gaming machines. Broadly speaking, we are taking measures from the 1968 Act and putting them into the Bill—no more and no less.

Photo of Mark Prisk Mark Prisk Conservative, Hertford and Stortford

The Minister used the word ''unsafe''. I should be grateful if he clarified what he meant by that.

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

I meant unsafe in the sense of someone installing a piece of machinery that would be unsafe in its physical operation or would not pay out what was agreed under the licence. A machine can be unsafe in two respects. The Bill is wide ranging and we want to make sure that it protects the punter.

Photo of Mr Nick Hawkins Mr Nick Hawkins Conservative, Surrey Heath

The Minister is right to say that regulations are in place now. I should be a lot happier if he said that he will supply to all Members of Parliament a copy of the present regulations before the Bill is discussed on Report. I am reasonably familiar with many of them, but many other hon. Members will not be, including those who have not come across the gambling industry in detail prior to the Bill. If the Government supplied a copy of the regulations and said that, in the light of the new Bill, they are the proposed changes that they want to make under clause 225 to take account of recent technological developments, that would satisfy me. However, for the Minister to say that the industry is regulated now, but that he still wants a general power under which the Secretary of State can completely change the regulations is not good enough.

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

I cannot give that undertaking. It is one step too far. We have had many consultation processes following ''A Fair Bet for Success'', the White Paper and discussions in the scrutiny Committee. In February 2004, we advised broadly what the regulations would be. We can play debating games, but I am sure that Members of Parliament do not want such detailed information arriving through their letter box. If they want such information, we are more than willing at the appropriate time to give it to them. We have been as open about this Bill as any other Bill that has gone through Parliament. There has been more consultation on it than there has been on many other Bills and that will make for good legislation. Being pedantic to the degree wanted by the hon. Gentleman would be a waste of my officials' time and that of hon. Members.

Question put, That the clause stand part of the Bill:—

The Committee divided: Ayes 11, Noes 2.

Division number 5 Adults Abused in Childhood — Clause 225 - Supply, &c. Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Aye: 11 MPs

No: 2 MPs

Ayes: A-Z by last name

Nos: A-Z by last name

Question accordingly agreed to.

Clause 225 ordered to stand part of the Bill.