Clause 220 - Gaming machines: Categories A to D

Gambling Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 2:30 pm on 7th December 2004.

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Question proposed [this day], That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Question again proposed.

Photo of Ann McKechin Ann McKechin Labour, Glasgow Maryhill

As I was saying when we adjourned this morning, the Opposition parties have tried to suggest that category A machines should be piloted in medium-sized and small casinos, which exist under the current gambling legislation. However, both parties failed to recognise the fundamental difference between the type and, in particular, the location of medium-sized and small casinos, and super-casinos.

In my city, for example, the majority of the five or six small to medium-size casinos are on the high street in the middle of retail centres. They are located in similar places to the local bookmaker. The type of premise that they are in, the clientele that they are likely to attract and the times that they are likely to open are therefore substantially different from those of the so-called super-casinos, which will, in the norm, be in separate locations. Visiting them would involve a specific intention, rather than their being something on the high street to pop into on the way to the shops or to visit relatives. Using super-casinos is a specific leisure activity, which requires specific intention and, normally, a visit.

The second thing that the Opposition suggestion ignores is that the reason the Government have agreed to consider super-casinos is the potential that they offer for regeneration in areas that require greater economic growth and investment. If we decide to pilot the category A machines in a host of different locations, many of which are not in regeneration areas, the likely benefit of locating in a regeneration area will be diminished. The likely consequential improvement to economic growth and employment to regeneration areas will also be diminished. In fact, the fundamental intention of the Bill—in terms of creating super-casinos—will be put at risk.

Photo of Malcolm Moss Malcolm Moss Shadow Minister, Home Affairs

Will the hon. Lady tell the Committee why the scrutiny Committee, which considered the issue in great detail and took a huge range of evidence, recommended that category A machines should be placed in both small and large casinos?

Photo of Ann McKechin Ann McKechin Labour, Glasgow Maryhill

With respect, the Government are entitled to consider what the scrutiny Committee stated and then make their own views known. They also take into account not only the views of the industry, which Opposition parties have referred to throughout because it is to the industry's advantage to pilot category A machines, but the interests of our constituents and other groups and organisations that have expressed concern about the way that we control gambling.

The Government, having listened to the concerns that were expressed on both sides of the House on Second Reading about the number of casinos to be initially introduced, were right to decide that the number of super-casinos to be introduced will be low; that given the size and nature of the development concerned, super-casinos are likely to be located off the high street; and that we can then judge whether, based on the review that the Government have said they will implement, category A machines have a disadvantageous effect on gambling addiction problems.

I do not understand how a pilot scheme in high street locations would be an improvement. In fact, I think that it presents greater dangers, the like of which—as is clear from the sentiments expressed by various Members on Second Reading—Members do not wish to face at this stage. They prefer to adopt a more cautious approach.

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

I rise with a degree of hesitation, because when I spoke on clause 219, the Minister said that, although I am normally fair-minded and use a broad-brush approach, this time I was pedantic and approaching the issue as if in a debating society. It seemed to me that I was getting somewhere near the truth of the matter. The Minister was starting to squirm a little, because I was making the point that the powers given to the Secretary of State under that clause were excessive. Defending democracy and the liberties of the individual, I felt that some transgression was taking place. It is with temerity that I go on, and I am not too sure how the Minister will react to what I say. If he says that I am broad-brushed and open-minded, I will have failed in what I am trying to say today, but there we are, that is the way the cookie crumbles.

In an earlier intervention in this debate, I made a point about the time scale. The scrutiny Committee, on which I had the privilege and pleasure to serve, made several recommendations. With new casinos, after three years the agreed entitlement should be reviewed. The Government's response stated that they were

''minded to await the results of at least two prevalence studies, after the implementation of the new regime, before considering significant alteration to the gaming machine entitlements of all types of casinos.''

In an intervention, I made a point, which, realising its strength and power, my hon. Friend the Member for North-East Cambridgeshire (Mr. Moss), seized upon. I wish to re-emphasise it. The prevalence studies are carried out by organisations that are very knowledgeable about the gaming industry. For

example, I refer to the Association of British Bookmakers, which has agreed a code of practice with the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and the Gaming Board for Great Britain which has been adopted by the betting industry. It is being rigorously applied, enforced and policed through a formal compliance committee. That does not come cheap, but it is being carried out by the industry for the good of society. It has already cost the industry £200,000, and it will cost another £200,000 to introduce it and bring it to completion.

The inherent understanding in that agreement is that the code will be enshrined in regulations to be applied by the gambling commission. If we are going to carry out this work, we want to ensure that the results agreed are enshrined in the day-to-day operation of the gaming and gambling industry. The ABB has funded extensive research, conducted not by itself—because it might be said that it was all in-house—but by MORI and European Economics, aimed at ensuring the code's effectiveness. Again, although the research is funded by the ABB and the DCMS are getting the results for free, the Department has been fully engaged in defining the terms of reference of the research.

This is not, as is so often the case when Governments undertake reviews, a question of the industry defining, investigating and monitoring itself; it is an external operation. I therefore feel that the Government should state the time scale in which they expect to respond to the results of the review. The Minister owes it to the Committee to say when they will respond, explaining how they will deal with the results of all those studies. The review under discussion is just one, costing £400,000. I know that it is not the Government's money, and they are fairly careless and cavalier with other people's money, so, on behalf of the industry, I ask the Government to state the time scale for their response to and implementation of measures for the benefit of the gaming industry.

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

Welcome to the Chair, Mr. Pike. It is good to have you back.

The clause allows the creation of four categories of gaming machine to be defined in regulations. Category D machines will have the lowest maximum stakes and prizes, and category A machines will have no limits on stakes and prizes. Subsection (2) will allow regulations to subdivide category B. That means that we can create B1, B2, B3 and B4 categories of machine to cater for the different allowances in betting offices, bingo premises and clubs.

Regulations made under the clause must categorise machines by reference to the nature of the gambling facilities provided. They may refer to amounts paid to use the machine, the nature and value of prizes and the premises where a machine is used. Our present proposals on stake and prize limits have been published in the regulatory impact assessment, which was referred to by several hon. Members earlier. In making these proposals, we received representations—I am sure that Committee members will hear this—

from every part of the gambling industry. To date, the discussions have been one-sided because of the voices we have been hearing in the prosecution of the case.

Those making representations argued for higher stakes and prizes for themselves, and lower stakes and prizes for their perceived competitors. We have also received representations from faith and children's groups who urged us to be even tougher on machine gambling. We believe that it is right to proceed cautiously and look closely at the evidence to make sure that we are not taking unacceptable risks. The clause gives us the power to make new regulations if the evidence shows that any of those machines are driving up levels of problem gambling. Therefore, we propose that category A machines be limited to regional casinos for the time being.

Category B machines include all machines currently known as casino jackpot machines as well as fixed odds betting terminals now found in betting offices. B1 machines will be available in casinos, and B2 in betting shops. Bingo halls and adult gaming centres will be allowed category B machines with prize limits of £500, and clubs and institutes will, under part 12, be allowed category B machines with £250 prize limits. Those will be B3 and B4 machines respectively.

Category C machines, with a £25 prize limit, will be available to premises licensed for alcohol and to licensed family entertainment centres. Finally, category D machines, with a prize limit of £5, will be available to family entertainment centres with permits, covering, for example, many seaside amusement premises and travelling fairs.

By setting stakes and prize limits in regulations, the Secretary of State will be able to make changes at any time, subject to the approval by Parliament of those changes. The regulations will be made using the affirmative resolution procedure.

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

May I ask the Minister about two points? First, will he repeat what he said about B2 machines? There was some confusion earlier as to whether FOBTs could be used in premises licensed for betting other than betting shops Secondly, he acknowledged earlier in his deliberations, and has repeated again today, that there is little evidence concerning category D machines to date, and more research is needed. Can he explain why, without any detailed final convincing research, the Government are making the major change of reducing the prize limit for those machines from £8 to £5?

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

I will go through all the questions that were asked and give answers. A question was asked about category A machines and small and large casinos. We rejected the recommendation from the pre-legislative scrutiny Committee for very good reasons. It was clear on Second Reading that access to category A machines was of real concern to the House and the public; that concern manifested itself during the debate. That is why we reacted as we did and limited the number of regional casinos to eight. If we had not done that, there would have been real problems in returning to the House with a Bill. It would, therefore, be ludicrous to accept eight regional

casinos, but then to allow 130 casinos that already operate on our high streets to have category A machines as well. Indeed, we believe that we responded properly to the public mood and that is why we limited the number of regional casinos to eight and limited category A machines to those eight regional casinos.

Photo of Mr Nick Hawkins Mr Nick Hawkins Conservative, Surrey Heath 2:45 pm, 7th December 2004

Because of my commitments to a Select Committee, I did not hear the latter part of this morning's proceedings, but I want to comment on what the Minister has just said and to ask him if I understood him correctly. He seemed to be eliding what the Government said on Second Reading with their subsequent U-turn on eight casinos. On Second Reading, they argued the opposite of what they more recently argued when making their U-turn in Committee. Is the Minister adopting the scrutiny Committee's report, or is he saying that, following the Government's huge U-turn, the scrutiny Committee was wrong? Which is it?

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

What I am saying is simple. There was a debate in the House. My Secretary of State said clearly in the House and in public that if there was a force of evidence to suggest that we had not got it right, we would reflect on that, and we did. Sometimes, we have to be big boys and return to school to tell pupils in the school yard what we have done. I make no apology for that, because that is democracy. When the House spoke, it spoke positively. Some of my hon. Friends were concerned about the matter and we reacted to that. There is nothing wrong with doing that in a democracy. We have done it; we are big enough; we have come back; that is what we have done. I hope that we now have agreement across all parties.

Photo of Malcolm Moss Malcolm Moss Shadow Minister, Home Affairs

I rise as a bully in the school yard.

Photo of Malcolm Moss Malcolm Moss Shadow Minister, Home Affairs

The implication was there. I am puzzled by some of the logic. The Government rejected the scrutiny Committee's recommendation on category A machines in existing small and large casinos months ago and before Second Reading. At that time, the Government had in mind 20 to 40 regional casinos, each with 1,250 category A machines. To repeat what I said this morning, that could mean a maximum of around 50,000 category A machines. The Minister was correct in that he and his colleagues responded to the arguments on Second Reading, the press campaign and the reaction in the country to such a large number of regional casinos, but the Government were happy to reject category A machines in ordinary existing casinos when it was contemplating 50,000 machines elsewhere. Now they have changed their tune to eight regional casinos and a reduced number of, say, 10,000 category A machines. Why would the extra 900 machines that we are proposing should go into small and large casinos on a proportional basis cause any difficulty whatever?

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

I go back to the earlier argument that we want to control the number of category A machines in regional casinos, whether there are eight or 20 of them. That was the Government's position. We responded to concerns about the number of regional casinos. If we accede to the suggestions that have been made, we would be extending the provision on category A machines to the 130 casinos that are already operational. We are not prepared to accept that.

Photo of Bob Russell Bob Russell Liberal Democrat, Colchester

Have there been any representations from the American backers of regional casinos who do not want existing UK casinos to have category A machines?

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

Not to me; I would not accept such representations. If they have been made to other Committee members, so be it, but as far as I am concerned the answer is a categorical no.

FOBTs—category B2 machines—are already in betting shops, and that was an agreement with the industry. We said that that was a probation arrangement and it still is. The hon. Member for North-East Cambridgeshire mentioned the report. I have not seen it, but it is in my Department. My officials have a copy of it and I believe that they went to a seminar on it some time last week. Hopefully I will receive it in the next few days.

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

Just to get the flow of things right, the Minister will see that I tabled a parliamentary question about this very issue. Perhaps he can answer it now to save a lot of time for officials. Will he assure the Committee that, once he has read the report—I accept that he says that he has not yet read it—he will place copies in the Library of the House and make them available to members of the Committee?

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

Yes, although the report will probably be in every betting shop, because it is not just our property. It is the ABB's property, as well as ours. I have no doubt that it will be in every betting shop and the Library of the House of Commons, so all the informed people will be able to read it.

On the decision on the B2s, and why they are not in the bingo halls, at the moment bingo halls can have four machines with a payout of £250, but they will be able to have four machines with a payout of £500. That is a new promotional opportunity. I am talking not about FOBTs, but about category B3 machines with a payout of £500. They have the same maximum prize money of £500, but the stake is different. Why? It is because there is hard gambling in betting shops; if someone wants to put thousands of pounds on horses, they can do so. There is a difference between where hard gambling and where softer gambling take place, which is why we believe that category B3 machines—with a £1 stake and a maximum payout of £500—are right for bingo halls, and FOBTs are right for betting shops. FOBTs will also be allowed in large and small casinos: 150 in the large and 80 in the small. I think that was what the hon. Member for Bath (Mr. Foster) was referring to.

The hon. Member for South-West Hertfordshire (Mr. Page) asked in great detail who had paid for the research that is being done. Earlier there was some suggestion that the Department for Culture, Media and Sport may have put a few bob into it. It did not. It was paid for in totality from outside, although—

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

I would hate the Minister to run away with the idea that I suggested that the DCMS put any money in at all. It was the industry that put the money in to work out the code of conduct for those particular machines.

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

If the hon. Gentleman had listened to what I said, he would know that there was an hon. Member earlier in the debate who said that he thought that the DCMS had put some money in.

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

I made it clear that the ABB paid for that out of the small profits that its members made.

Photo of Malcolm Moss Malcolm Moss Shadow Minister, Home Affairs

Now that this has become public I must make a grovelling apology to the ABB for even suggesting that the DCMS put one penny into its research.

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

Miracles take a little longer, if I may say so. I reiterate for the record that we did not provide any of the money.

On the important question of time, as has been indicated, we propose to restrict the prevalence studies to two over a six-year period. Therefore, there will be a prevalence study every two to three years and change will not be possible until six years after implementation. That was clearly known during pre-legislative scrutiny.

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

I have a simple question for the Minister: has he ever run a business? Does he really think that people can hang on for six years waiting for the Government finally to make up their mind? That is an incredible admission.

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

Is it a matter of making one's mind up? I do not think so. It is a matter of having the advice and information with which to make an objective judgment. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman knows about medium and long-term strategies. All I am saying is that there is concern in the House, and Members wanted to run, in the words of one hon. Member, pilot studies. We have responded to that. Such studies need time to bed down. Once the results are known, the House will decide whether it wants to proceed with any further regional, large or small casinos. We made that very clear. Opposition Members asked us to do that. We have provided that lock, and the final decision will rest with Parliament. That is what people asked for; that is what we responded to; and that is what I announced when I said that we would limit the number to eight casinos.

Photo of Mark Prisk Mark Prisk Conservative, Hertford and Stortford

I also listened to that admission with great concern. Will the Minister respond in a positive tone to this request? If it becomes clear from representations made by the

industry that the provision is having an onerous and undue effect on the industry, will the Minister consider them seriously and decide whether the Government are able to respond? Six years is a worryingly long period. Returning to this morning's discussion of owner-managers, this measure might be the difference between them having a successful business in the future or not.

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

I do not quite follow the logic of that. Members asked, ''What is the period of time before the decision will be made?'' I have said that there will be two prevalence studies—one every two to three years. That is because we are informed that a certain period is needed to gather that information, to analyse it and to make some well based conclusions on which decisions can be made. Shortening that period would run certain risks: incomplete evidence, on which wrong decisions may well be made.

Photo of Malcolm Moss Malcolm Moss Shadow Minister, Home Affairs

Why is the Minister talking about two consecutive three-year prevalence studies? Why cannot a prevalence study on category A machines in regional casinos and the FOBT research that is currently being undertaken run together in the first three-year period? I am not sure that I understand why there must be another three years after the first three years.

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

We have never said that they would be coterminous; we have said that there would be two prevalence studies. Our view, which probably now needs to be defined a little more clearly, is that they will not run in parallel. They will run not consecutively but in two three-year periods. That was and still is our intention. We believe—as indeed does the House—that that period is necessary to be able to make a sound decision, and we will bring back that information.

Photo of Malcolm Moss Malcolm Moss Shadow Minister, Home Affairs

I need to get on the record exactly what the Minister is saying, because I am still very confused. Is he talking about studies of the eight regional casinos? Do they come into that trial and study period? If so, it will be three to four years before the first regional casinos are up and running. He then talks about six years added to that—so, 10 years is that? I have notes from one of the American casino developers which say that three years is too long. If the Minister is talking about 10 years, the Government can say bye-bye to any future investment from worldwide casino developers.

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

There is a slight contradiction here: we are being accused on one hand of attracting American money, and on the other of ensuring in a systematic, transparent way that the American developers do not come to this country. I do not accept that argument. The prevalence studies are national studies on gambling behaviour. We are moving into a different era. I say again for those who have seen what has happened in Australia and other countries, we want to be absolutely clear on how we take this nation forward in this area. Therefore, we will be very cautious.

The prevalence studies are important to informing the House of Commons and Parliament so that they can make a sound decision. The hon. Member for

South-West Hertfordshire asked me to spell it out. He may not like it, but I have now spelled it out in very clear terms. We believe that as national studies of gambling behaviour the prevalence studies need three years and then a further three years to get the advice and evidence that is necessary for the House to make a sound decision.

Photo of Don Foster Don Foster Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport 3:00 pm, 7th December 2004

Notwithstanding the information that the Minister gave the Committee, which will be of concern to many, will he confirm that, despite the lack of new regulation on the matter for the period that he described, it would be perfectly possible for the commission to use its powers to pursue the licensing objective to make significant changes to the way in which any of the machines in any of the categories are operated, given that the commission will have powers in relation to prize, frequency and so on?

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

The answer to that is: ''No, it will not.'' It will not have that power other than if harm has been proven and the commission came back. It can then intervene. However, in terms of increasing numbers and payouts, the answer is, ''No, it will not''. As we said about the triple lock that we have put on, this is one of those that we are saying clearly needs to be spelled out to give reassurance to people that those things are not going to run away.

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

What if the commission were to obtain, by whatever means, evidence that has not necessarily come from the official prevalence studies but from other sources—perhaps from GamCare—that there needs to be a change in, for example, the level of prizes? My understanding from what the Minister told the Committee some weeks ago is that, through discussions with the Secretary of State, the commission would be able to lead to changes being made in the prize or frequency with which machines operate. That was my clear understanding. Is the Minister now saying that the commission will be barred from taking any such action for the six-year period?

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

The commission cannot do it itself. [Interruption.] Sorry, that is not what the hon. Gentleman said. Let me put it on the record. It can recommend to the Secretary of State, who can then vary, but it will be the Secretary of State coming back to the House of Commons. That is what I believe the House of Commons was saying clearly in that Second Reading debate.

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

The Minister has now got me thoroughly confused. Does that mean that, if the gambling commission recommends something that the Secretary of State likes in the six-year period, that recommendation can be implemented in less than six years, but the prevalence studies cannot be implemented in that six-year period? I am muddled of South-West Hertfordshire.

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

There can be a variation on a Secretary of State recommendation, but the policy is to wait for six years. So, the policy that we are setting now is that there can be variation. I take that, because we cannot move on six, for example. What the House was saying clearly on the question of the eight regional casinos and, indeed, what we eventually said on things such as that, that will not move. That is what the real concern is.

If we are talking about variation in terms of opportunity on a recommendation from the gambling commission, let us be clear what we are saying. In terms of policy, there will be no movement. In terms of variation in that policy, that would mean, if one wanted to do that under the Gaming Act 1968, that one always had to come back because it could make recommendations to the Secretary of State.

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

May I remind the Minister that we are debating clause 220, which defines the four categories of machines with their various subcategories? It defines the stakes and prizes that would be allowed for each category.

My question was whether we could get clarification that the Secretary of State could, before the six-year period is out, receive advice from the gambling commission that some change should be made to the amount paid in respect of the use of the machine, the value of prizes, the nature of prizes and the premises where machines are used. Those are the categories covered in the clause. If the gambling commission, based on whatever evidence it has, makes a recommendation to the Secretary of State that a change be made to various aspects of the various categories, can the Secretary of State, if she or he is so minded, make regulation subject to approval by both Houses of Parliament to make those changes in a period shorter than six years?

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

The answer to that is yes. The confusion arose when we were talking about prevalence studies. A prevalence study goes much wider—I want to be absolutely clear about this—than categories of machines. People were challenging us on the question of regional casinos and there are eight regional casinos. That is policy, and it will stop for that six-year period. On the question of variation within that—that is, categories of machine—the answer is yes, on recommendation to the Secretary of State, and yes, in the House of Commons.

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

I want to raise two quick points. Yesterday, awards were given out by the Plain English Campaign and I shall take the Hansard containing the Minister's contributions on this point and submit it, so that he is a nominee for the awards in 12 months' time for lack of clarity in Government statements.

I also wanted to tell the Minister that when I popped out of the Committee Room just now, I found a large briefing document on the Government's latest amendments on the message board, which includes guidance from the Government on clause 226. We shall come shortly to that clause, which affects gaming machines of categories C and D. As we have had a wide-ranging debate on all aspects of categorisation, I

wanted to find out from the Minister whether he has ensured that all Committee members have that document. If I have only just picked one up from the board, and if it affects clause 226, to which clause 220 makes overarching reference, all Committee members ought to see it. I do not know whether that is a point of order, Mr. Pike.

Photo of Mr Peter Pike Mr Peter Pike Labour, Burnley

Order. Do not confuse the Chair by referring to clause 226. We shall have to consider where we are on that matter. I received several papers on different amendments earlier today.

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

The Chair will have to determine whether that has been made available to Committee members. I cannot answer that question. I shall probably be here during the next Session of Parliament to answer such questions; the hon. Member for Surrey Heath (Mr. Hawkins) might not. [Interruption.] If the hon. Gentleman wants to bash it around a bit, fine—we will all start bashing it around a bit.

Clause 56 deals with the reserve powers referred to by the hon. Member for Bath. He asked why we needed similar reserve powers for category A machines, which children cannot play. The reason that we have taken the powers under clause 56 concerns the age of those using category D machines. We do not need the reserve powers as far as others are concerned.

Photo of Malcolm Moss Malcolm Moss Shadow Minister, Home Affairs

I just want to make absolutely certain that I have this right in my simple mind. Subsection (4) allows regulations to be made about the amount paid in respect of the use of a machine, which is the stake; the value of the prizes, which is the payout; the nature of the prize, whether it is a cuddly toy or cash, and the premises where the machine is used. Those are critical points, which relate to everything we have discussed for the past several hours—category A, B, C and D machines, what they pay out, how much one can bet and where they are located.

Is the Minister saying that at any time the gambling commission can revisit all the arguments we have deployed since 10 o'clock this morning and make recommendations to the Secretary of State for changes to be made? Can that happen at any time once the gambling commission is up and running?

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

The answer to that is yes. It can make any recommendation it wants to the Secretary of State, and if he or she believes that the recommendation should be put to the House, that can be done by statutory instrument. However, the final decision rests with the House.

Photo of Mark Prisk Mark Prisk Conservative, Hertford and Stortford

I am not clear whether the Minister has finished.

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

I thought the hon. Member for North-East Cambridgeshire (Mr. Moss) wanted to reply.

I shall return to my point about category D machines and clause 56. The reason we have adopted the powers under clause 56 relates to the age of children playing. Maximum prizes have been reduced from £8 to £5 because machines with non-monetary prizes encourage people to play again. We have

reduced the temptation to play, and that was generally accepted across the piece. With non-redeemable and non-monetary prizes, the maximum stake can be 30p.

On BACTA, when I previously had responsibility for gambling, the number of concessions we made in trying to ensure the viability of seaside arcades in relation to what we got from Budd and the White Paper, ''A Safe Bet for Success'', was considerable. One concession we made was on 30p for non-monetary prizes. We had extensive discussions with BACTA. If, at the end of the day, BACTA's only problem and greatest objection is over a £5 teddy bear and an £8 teddy bear, quite honestly, I do not believe that that will bring down family arcades.

Photo of Mark Prisk Mark Prisk Conservative, Hertford and Stortford

The Minister seems to say that the matter is of no great concern. However, may I ask for his response to the point made by my constituent, Mrs. Elliott, who runs Lakeside Superbowl? It employs 25 people, and the machines are crucial, because they represent 20 per cent. of her revenue. We wrote to the Minister on 28 October and have yet to receive a reply. Nevertheless, I ask him to respond to that point positively and to realise that it means people's livelihoods. That lady employs real people. In this case, they are not at the seaside, but they are still important jobs in small businesses that are struggling with the regulations he is proposing.

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

When I had that portfolio, we had extensive discussions. Those particular machines may represent about 20 per cent. of revenue, but moving from £8 to £5 does not mean that that part of the marketplace will disappear. That is not the case as far as I understand it. We accept that an £8 teddy bear is desirable, but we conceded 30p—from 10p to 30p—for non-monetary prizes in part of those discussions.

Photo of Bob Russell Bob Russell Liberal Democrat, Colchester

I ask the Minister not to change any minds today, because he is clearly in his stubborn mood, but to reflect on category D machines and cuddly toys as well as the £5 payout. Does not he accept that, although the headlines will be about super-casinos, the reality in many communities will be the loss of the fish and chip shop caused by the loss of an important part of the turnover and profit of that enterprise?

Furthermore, perhaps the Minister can tell us when the value of the cuddly toy was fixed at £8, and will he also explain who will determine the value of the £5 cuddly toy? Is it the retail value, the manufactured price, the discounted wholesale price or the unit price per item as purchased by the person running the amusement arcade? I can think of at least four definitions of how to reach £5, and I am sure that the industry will find others.

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

The industry may. Clause 322 defines the value, so if the hon. Gentleman would like to wait until then, we can have another debate about teddy bears. Anybody would think that the greatest thing on this Bill was £5 to £8 teddy bears and that the whole viability of seaside resorts rested on teddy bears at £8.

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

Given that the Minister has a detailed knowledge of the Bill, as judged by his answer, will he tell us where in clause 322 that definition is explained? My reading of the clause is that the definition will be by regulation. Do we have a copy of the draft regulation in order to answer my hon. Friend's question?

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

When I come to clause 322, I will answer those questions. That would be the most appropriate time to answer them, unless I get an answer quickly now. The answer is in a regulation because it is so complex, but that is the answer I will give when we get to clause 322. When we get there, I will explain how we will deal with the value of £8 and £5 teddy bears. We will enshrine it in regulation, and it will be laid clearly before the world.

I do not know about the hon. Member for Surrey Heath not being told about some of the information he needed for the debate, but The Guardian reported this morning, ''Tories raise stakes over bingo.'' We were informed that their ex-colleague asked them to table some amendments this morning. That is the headline in that paper. At least we had some knowledge, but not to worry because the report quotes the hon. Member for Maldon and East Chelmsford (Mr. Whittingdale) explaining that the amendments were only ''probing amendments'' from the Tories.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 220 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Photo of Don Foster Don Foster Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport 3:15 pm, 7th December 2004

On a point of order, Mr. Pike, given that I suspect that you will include clause 226 in the list of clauses that you seek to put together, I ask you to reflect on the request that has already been made that before we move on to that clause copies of the document referred to by the hon. Member for Surrey Heath should be made available to all members of the Committee. I certainly wish to raise a number of points on that clause.

Photo of Mr Peter Pike Mr Peter Pike Labour, Burnley

I note what the hon. Gentleman says and I will leave clause 226 at the moment. If anyone shouts out when I mention any of the clauses, I will take that clause separately. I will put clauses 221, 222, 223, 224 and 225 together. The question is that those clauses stand part of the Bill.

Photo of Mark Prisk Mark Prisk Conservative, Hertford and Stortford

On a point of order, Mr. Pike. We would like to raise some questions.

Photo of Mark Prisk Mark Prisk Conservative, Hertford and Stortford

In my case, as I indicated, clauses 221, 222 and 223.

Photo of Mr Peter Pike Mr Peter Pike Labour, Burnley

I will take them separately and then anyone who wants to make a point can do so. I am sorry; I misunderstood. I thought that the hon. Gentleman was nodding in agreement to taking the clauses en bloc. It was my misunderstanding.Clause 221 Adult gaming centre