Clause 260 - Bingo

Gambling Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 3:15 pm on 9th December 2004.

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Photo of Eric Illsley Eric Illsley Labour, Barnsley Central 3:15 pm, 9th December 2004

I beg to move amendment No. 351, in clause 260, page 116, line 10, leave out '£1,000' and insert '£2,000'.

Photo of Roger Gale Roger Gale Conservative, North Thanet

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

No. 352, in clause 260, page 116, line 12, leave out '£1,000' and insert '£2,000'.

No. 353, in clause 260, page 116, line 16, leave out '£1,000' and insert '£2,000'.

No. 354, in clause 260, page 116, line 18, leave out '£1,000' and insert '£2,000'.

No. 355, in clause 266, page 118, line 7, leave out '£1,000' and insert '£2,000'.

No. 356, in clause 266, page 118, line 9, leave out '£1,000' and insert '£2,000'.

No. 357, in clause 266, page 118, line 12, leave out '£1,000' and insert '£2,000'.

No. 358, in clause 266, page 118, line 14, leave out '£1,000' and insert '£2,000'.

Photo of Eric Illsley Eric Illsley Labour, Barnsley Central

We now come to the most important part of the Bill so far. It is a pleasure to move the amendment on behalf of the clubs movement, and it is a pleasure also to speak in Committee, because one or two of us on the Government Back Benches have been slowly losing the will to live.

The amendments are straightforward—simply replacing the limit of £1,000 with £2,000. Although that is a doubling of the limit, it is still a very moderate figure, particularly when one takes into account some of the sums for casino and other forms of gambling that the Bill deals with. I will go into more detail as we go along, but the original declaration of the gambling review body left the figure at £1,000. When the Joint Committee scrutinised the draft Bill, it thought that the figure should have been £2,000, and recommended   that. The Government did not accept that, because they felt that such a figure bordered on commercial bingo, and decided to stick with £1,000. The point that I wish to make between now and 5.30 pm next Tuesday is that perhaps £2,000 is more appropriate. It does not relate to commercial bingo; in fact, far from it.

In order to consider the matter in more detail, we must go back to the Budd report, which recommended the £1,000 limit. Chapter 8 of the report does not even mention bingo in clubs—not once. The only time that the report mentions bingo in relation to clubs is in the chapter about recommendations, and in particular from paragraph 25.15 onwards. In those paragraphs, the committee said that it understood that there were plans to introduce linked bingo to working men's clubs to be run by a commercial company, with prizes of up to £20,000. Obviously, that would be commercial bingo, but the report mentioned neither where that proposal came from nor how far advanced it was.

The report continued by stating that a figure of that magnitude would be commercial bingo and that there should be some control over commercial bingo. No one would disagree with that. It went on to say:

''We recommend that where the size of prizes for equal chance gaming (such as bingo) in pubs or clubs is beyond the limit of £1,000 per week, it should be regulated''.

Even the Budd committee itself started talking about a £20,000 commercial limit, but then put a limit on working men's clubs of £1,000. One must ask why the Budd committee did not recommend a limit of £10,000 or £5,000. Why did it propose a limit as low as £1,000? My view is that its comments on a linked game for a prize of £20,000 were a red herring to justify the limit of £1,000.

We have to remember that that £1,000 is averaged out over seven days. Let us consider some of the larger working men's clubs, which are mainly in the north of England. We have referred to Conservative clubs, which I am sure run bingo competitions as well. I should say that I am probably the only man in Barnsley who has not been in the Barnsley Conservative club, such is the quality of its snooker table. Some of the clubs have a huge membership and £1,000 is easily achievable over several days of bingo in the course of seven days. A limit of £1,000 would mean that many clubs would have to go through the bureaucratic procedure of obtaining the relevant permits. So, I question the Budd report and why the committee came up with the figure of £1,000. It has misled people into fearing linked commercial games in every working men's club for a prize of £20,000, which probably should require a permit.

The Budd report made other recommendations on commercial bingo. It said that there should be

''no statutory limits on the stakes and prizes in bingo games'' and that

''there should be no restrictions on the frequency of multiple bingo games''

It went on to say:

''We recommend that roll-overs should be permitted'' in commercial bingo. The Budd committee effectively said that the commercial sector could have a free-for-all—what prize money it wants, roll-overs and the rest of it—but that the naughty working men's clubs in the north of England should be allowed prize money totalling only £1,000 over seven days. To coin a phrase, there is a touch of snobbery about some of this. For some reason, there is a theme of limiting working men's clubs to £1,000, but letting commercial organisations have what they want. It is worth bearing in mind that the Club and Institute Union and the Committee of Registered Clubs Associations did not give evidence to Budd—oral evidence perhaps—whereas the Bingo Association did. There is a slant towards the commercial game.

Photo of Mr Tony Banks Mr Tony Banks Chair, Speaker's Advisory Committee on Works of Art

Does my hon. Friend not think that perhaps there is a class issue involved—that somehow working men cannot handle that sort of money and will spend it only on ale and whippet food? Does he not think that the recommendations betray a certain class prejudice?

Photo of Eric Illsley Eric Illsley Labour, Barnsley Central

I am not sure that I would like to follow my hon. Friend down that route, but there is an air of paternalism and a theme that the commercial sector can have exactly what it has asked for—unlimited restrictions. There probably is a class issue as well; because they are working men's clubs, they have to have a £1,000 limit.

We started with the Budd committee suggesting £1,000, but that was rejected by the Government. The Government then came forward with the view, which they have since re-emphasised in correspondence, that £1,000 over seven days is bingo on a commercial scale. In the letter from Lord McIntosh, the Government had no idea how much bingo took place in working men's clubs, but they said that it was on a commercial scale. They could not quantify it—they never even tried to do so—but they wanted to impose a limit to £1,000.

There is a very interesting section on bingo in the regulatory impact assessment, which says that there are 696 commercial bingo clubs in this country, which received a total stake of £1.381 million in the last year for which figures are available. That equates to a stake of about £16.90 per person. If one considers that a commercial bingo outlet has a membership of, say, 100 or 200, one can see how much is achievable on a single night—because that £16.90 will be staked in one evening. Let us compare that to £1,000 in seven days in a working men's club. The two figures are way apart. Even the regulatory impact assessment—the Government's own assessment—suggests that commercial bingo involves far larger figures than those covered by the £1,000 limit.

One of the two big commercial enterprises in bingo is the Gala Bingo chain. I remember reopening the Gala Bingo club in my constituency after it had been refurbished. It was quite amusing as, while I was on stage trying to reopen the club, I was heckled for interrupting the bingo game. The heckler was well known, but I cannot say who it was. I was interrupting the game, so people were heckling like anything. A group was playing on stage and the lead singer helpfully turned to me and said, ''Be careful, sir,   there's a pyrotechnic in front of you.'' I said, ''Do you mean an indoor firework?'' He said, ''Yes''. It went off and for about 30 seconds I was staggering about the stage unable to see a thing because of smoke.

The club had 26,000 members at the time that I reopened it. With the best will in the world, a working men's club will not have anywhere near that number. There are some big clubs but they do not have 26,000 members. That bingo club was for one small town in the north of England. Obviously, the bigger cities will have commercial bingo clubs with larger memberships. So, there is a great difference between working men's clubs and proper commercial bingo.

The limit of £1,000 is obviously far too low. As I said, the Government's regulatory impact assessment tends to support that view, which brings us back to their subsequent rejection of it. The Club and Institute Union and the Committee of Registered Clubs Associations have said that they believe that a club playing bingo three or four times a week could easily exceed the £1,000 limit. The limit risks including far too many clubs in the requirement to obtain the requisite permits, which would put a financial and administrative burden on them. It also introduces an offence.

Photo of Joan Humble Joan Humble Labour, Blackpool North and Fleetwood

Earlier, the Minister referred to light-touch regulation on category D machines. I wonder whether my hon. Friend wishes to argue that we need light-touch regulation in this case and that raising the limit to £2,000 could achieve that.

Photo of Eric Illsley Eric Illsley Labour, Barnsley Central

My hon. Friend is right. The Bill implements light-touch regulation for commercial premises, but uses the heavy hand of bureaucracy for working men's clubs. It is interesting that my hon. Friend intervened. As she knows, a television programme on BBC 1 helps me to understand the Gambling Bill: the programme about the casino in Blackpool. It is a toss-up as to who will get the casino licence first—the real Blackpool council, or Ripley Holden from the programme. We will have to wait and see. Yes, regulation should have been light touch, but the measure uses the heavy hand.

As a consequence of the requirement, many clubs will have to obtain permits or licences for small-scale bingo, and we will be criminalising club members who inadvertently fail to renew or obtain that permit or allow their prize figure to exceed £1,000. They will be guilty of an offence under subsection (7). We should move those clubs out of that bracket. It is worth bearing in mind that there is no known history of abuse or irregularity in bingo; it is small-scale, equal-chance gaming.

Photo of Bob Russell Bob Russell Liberal Democrat, Colchester 3:30 pm, 9th December 2004

In light of that last observation, will the hon. Gentleman hazard a guess as to why the Budd committee and Lord McIntosh seemingly know more about how working class bingo halls operate than do the Committee of Registered Clubs Association and the Bingo Association? If there is elitism, as he suggests, and he may well be right, can he explain   why the new Labour Government are siding with the toffs and not with the workers?

Photo of Eric Illsley Eric Illsley Labour, Barnsley Central

Well, they are siding with the Budd committee, I suppose. I cannot explain that, but the Government must be guided by the Budd report. My point is that perhaps that report, which has provided the basis for this figure, has taken far too much notice of what it has been told by the Bingo Association about the perceived threat from working men's clubs and small-scale bingo. If one is a representative of the Bingo Association or the bingo clubs, the commercial side of the industry, one will try to cut off every avenue of competition in every way possible in order to maximise one's club's membership. As I said earlier, it is heavy-handed, because with even a £2,000 limit, working men's clubs will not provide any real competition to the commercial enterprises, especially if the Budd recommendations for commercial bingo—roll-overs and bigger stakes—are introduced. Even with that limit, which the CIU and the Committee of Registered Clubs Association have suggested, the activity does not impinge on what commercial bingo clubs have to offer.

Photo of Malcolm Moss Malcolm Moss Shadow Minister, Home Affairs

We are very sympathetic to much of what the hon. Gentleman says, but, if he is going to press the amendment to a vote, it would be helpful before we come to a final decision if he could take the Committee through the present regulations, if they exist, and the sorts of limits that such clubs reach within seven days. Where does the figure of £2,000 come from? Is it like the figure of eight regional casinos—plucked out of the air?

Photo of Malcolm Moss Malcolm Moss Shadow Minister, Home Affairs

Or is it scientific, as the Minister says? It would help us come to the right conclusion if we knew the reasons for the £2,000 limit, the current limit for clubs and where the pressures come from. If no regulations pertain to them, they may be trading at £5,000, £6,000 a week—who knows? Perhaps the hon. Gentleman could enlighten us.

Photo of Eric Illsley Eric Illsley Labour, Barnsley Central

I am pleased that the hon. Gentleman asked me, because the short answer is that, like Lord McIntosh, I have not got a clue. It is an important point, however. No one knows; there is not enough research into the matter to suggest a figure of £1,000 or £2,000. That is one point that I am making: the Budd committee made the recommendation for a limit of £1,000, but only it knows why. When it came to bingo in working men's clubs, Budd started referring to that fear of a £20,000 commercial gain and went on to recommend the limit of £1,000. For the life of me, I cannot understand why it went from a fear of a £20,000 gain to a £1,000 limit. If there had been any evidence that there would be a £20,000 prize for linked games in working men's clubs, it would suggest that the limit would have been nearer to that prize. That is one of the problems on which we are working.

Photo of Malcolm Moss Malcolm Moss Shadow Minister, Home Affairs

I think that we are getting there. It would be logical to conclude that if the clubs associations are happy with a £2,000 limit, it would suggest that they are currently trading below that figure during a particular week, which would give them   a comfort zone and ensure that they were not caught by the clause.

Photo of Clive Efford Clive Efford Labour, Eltham

On a point of order, Mr. Gale. It would be helpful if we could have some guidance. It has just occurred to me that some of us are members of CIU clubs, and I wonder whether we should declare an interest.

Photo of Roger Gale Roger Gale Conservative, North Thanet

I imagine that hon. Members' interests are declared in the register, but it is always helpful to the Committee for any Member to declare an interest prior to speaking. If any hon. Member seeks to catch my eye and has an interest to declare, that would be the moment to declare it.

Photo of Eric Illsley Eric Illsley Labour, Barnsley Central

I would like to declare an interest, Mr. Gale.

Photo of Roger Gale Roger Gale Conservative, North Thanet

Order. That does not mean that the hon. Gentleman has to go back to the beginning of his speech.

Photo of Eric Illsley Eric Illsley Labour, Barnsley Central

It slipped my memory that I should have declared that I am a member of the Barnsley trades and Labour club.

Photo of Joan Humble Joan Humble Labour, Blackpool North and Fleetwood

I have to say that, as a woman, I am not a member of any working men's club. The explanatory notes refer to the fact that with parliamentary approval the Secretary of State could amend the £1,000 figure. If the Minister is unwilling to accept my hon. Friend's amendment, will he perhaps look to the future, when the gambling commission or some other body could consider the matter and report back to the Government? The Secretary of State could reconsider the figure to ensure that there is fair play for working men's clubs and other institutions covered by the clause.

Photo of Eric Illsley Eric Illsley Labour, Barnsley Central

I am grateful to my hon. Friend, but I would not want to adopt such a negative view because I am optimistic that the Minister will have some positive news when he responds. However, my hon. Friend is absolutely right: if the Government do not want to increase the limit at this point, it would not be difficult to obtain research showing the level of activity in working men's clubs—the number of people playing bingo is easily recordable—and the type of prizes given.

I return to the point made by the hon. Member for North-East Cambridgeshire (Mr. Moss) that the CIU would accept a figure of £2,000 because it feels that that would exclude the majority of clubs from the requirement to have a permit. Some of the bigger clubs would still exceed the £2,000 figure, but they could carry on with the activity if they obtained the relevant permit.

Photo of John Pugh John Pugh Shadow Spokesperson (Education)

What this debate seems to lack is a clear, precise definition of commercial bingo. A contrast is being drawn between club bingo and commercial bingo, and it is alleged that bingo in which stakes go above £1,000 would be virtually the same as commercial bingo. In one sense, that is not true because the profits go to the club and not to a limited company. Commercial or virtual commercial bingo—and I have some sympathy with the industry in this   respect—should be defined as such when it is judged by the commercial bingo sector to be in competition with it. The hon. Gentleman resented that approach, but I cannot see any other obvious approach, other than plucking a figure out of thin air.

Photo of Eric Illsley Eric Illsley Labour, Barnsley Central

That is a reasonable assumption to make. I am not sure that I resent the comparison—it is probably right—but I wanted to show that when we talk of the commercial bingo sector, the figures are vastly higher than they are in working men's clubs.

I agree with the hon. Gentleman. There is a lack of available information on the issue to justify either party's standpoint. The Government have no information or research to justify the figure of £1,000, and little information is coming from the clubs to counter the point. The nearest definition of commercial bingo is in chapter 3.3 of the regulatory impact assessment, which states:

''There were 696 commercial bingo clubs operating in Great Britain, at 31 March 2004.''

There is no definition of commercial bingo other than that reference to clubs. It does not tell us how many members there are, what the stakes are, what is the value of the prizes or anything else. We have a ballpark figure of £1.3 billion for the amount of money staked with 81.5 million admissions, which gives an average stake per person of £16.90. Again, that is probably higher than in working men's clubs where bingo tickets probably cost 50p, or £1 at most. There are huge differences between the figures involved, but no definition of what constitutes commercial bingo.

Photo of Mark Prisk Mark Prisk Conservative, Hertford and Stortford

The hon. Gentleman is making an important point on what may appear to be a narrow issue, but it is an important one. Will he confirm a point that the hon. Member for Blackpool, North and Fleetwood (Mrs. Humble) rightly highlighted—that the amendment applies not only to working men's clubs but to other clubs of a similar character?

Photo of Eric Illsley Eric Illsley Labour, Barnsley Central

Yes, I can confirm that. Perhaps a better phrase would be ''social clubs'', which would include working men's clubs.

Photo of Ben Chapman Ben Chapman PPS (Rt Hon Richard Caborn, Minister of State), Department for Culture, Media & Sport

Can my hon. Friend confirm that that would extend to, for example, Royal Air Force Association clubs, Victory clubs, ex-services clubs and so on?

Photo of Eric Illsley Eric Illsley Labour, Barnsley Central

Yes, I am sure that such clubs would fall within the definition, as well as Conservative clubs and all sorts of social clubs.

Returning to the point made by the hon. Member for Southport, Budd did not take any substantial evidence on why a £1,000 limit should be introduced. Its report simply refers to the possibility of a £20,000 linked game. That is the only justification in the Budd report for a £1,000 cap. The review body did not visit, say, 10 working men's clubs, and take the average number of tickets sold to arrive at a figure. We are simply told that there is a possibility of a £20,000 linked-prize game of bingo, and a figure of £1,000 was chucked in to hold that figure down.

I said earlier that there is no known history of abuse or irregularity in bingo in social clubs, and there is unlikely to be because there is no facility to abuse club   bingo. It is well monitored and well stewarded, and it takes place in private social clubs. All the activities in such clubs are for the benefit of the membership because they are not allowed to make a profit. Any money that they make over and above their expenditure is returned to the club for the benefit of the club alone. No one is profiteering or making money from it other than the club itself. There is no private gain. Yet, the regulatory and financial burden that could be imposed on the majority of clubs by the £1,000 limit could put some of those clubs in a difficult position and prevent them from continuing. We heard in the Committee this afternoon that almost all of us in the Room benefit from a social club, working men's club or political party club in our area.

I hope that I have made the point that commercial bingo and bingo in working men's clubs and social clubs are miles apart in terms of the figures involved, the stakes, the prize money and so on. I believe that a limit of £1,000 over seven days is far too low, and the figure should be doubled to relieve the burden on those clubs that face having to obtain a permit in future.

Another aspect is that, as I understand it, the same clause would cover bingo in pubs. Bingo in pubs might not be as common as bingo in social clubs—it is only on a limited scale at the moment—but the problems facing the pub industry are such that it is looking for other ways of maximising its income. It is now competing with, and losing money to, fixed-odds betting terminals in betting shops and it might be looking to use bingo as a way of increasing takings in pubs. The British Beer and Pub Association supports the amendment because it knows that it will benefit its pubs as well. I hope that my right hon. Friend the Minister will have some good news for me when he comes to respond.

Photo of Mr Richard Page Mr Richard Page Conservative, South West Hertfordshire 3:45 pm, 9th December 2004

If I could slide in between the hon. Member for Barnsley, Central (Mr. Illsley) on the left and the hon. Member for West Ham (Mr. Banks) on the right wing, we would have a political spectrum of unity on this matter. I declare at once the life membership that was given to me by Workington Conservative club—for a short time, Workington saw the light and had a Conservative Member of Parliament. When I was their Member of Parliament, I visited an enormous number of clubs: miners' clubs, an Orange club, the Royal British Legion—the list goes on. There was even a Labour club, if I remember rightly.

I would not want to underestimate the social importance of those clubs to the cohesiveness of the area and to character building in that regard. To see them damaged, to see them go, would be a disservice. They are part of the glue that holds a society together. All their activities are well known to us, but there is also the neighbourliness and social support that comes through. If a member is in a little trouble, the others rally round. I hardly think that we shall see such cohesiveness and support when people go to their mega-casino. I cannot see a mega-casino worrying about your personal circumstances if you run into   some form of trouble—not that you would run into any trouble, Mr. Gale; I am talking about members of a mega-casino who may run into trouble.

It is warm and comforting to go to those clubs. Of course, as the Member of Parliament, I was made instantly welcome wherever I went in Workington. I felt welcome. I would not want those clubs to be put in peril, but that is happening. They are under pressure. There are so many different commercial attractions to take people away from them. The clubs want to keep going for all the reasons that I have described and they also need to keep their membership costs down. Doing that means that they must run a series of other activities. I will not go through all those activities, because Members know them. Suffice it to say they include Christmas savings clubs, darts matches and competitions with other clubs, and even, as the hon. Member for Barnsley, Central said, snooker, which is quite a common attraction for pulling in revenue among members. I am sure that nobody wants to see clubs reduced into thousands of mini bingo halls, but as the hon. Gentleman said, if we just consider £1,000 as a total stake, and subtract from that moneys that will be paid out in prize money, the amount left will hardly challenge the Rank empire in the bingo world. We are dealing with peanuts.

I was on the scrutiny Committee, along with the hon. Member for Southport (Dr. Pugh), and I can say quite cheerfully that we carried out no analysis on the £1,000 figure, but we had a gut feeling that it was far too low and thought that it should be doubled. We did not receive an enormous number of representations on the figure, but we felt that doubling it to £2,000 would be a step in the right direction. It would help the clubs to continue, and aid social cohesiveness. It hurts me to say this, but I will support the hon. Member for Barnsley, Central if he presses his amendment to a Division. I will be with him in voting for clubs, as a good, working Conservative.

Photo of Clive Efford Clive Efford Labour, Eltham

I support the attempt of my hon. Friend the Member for Barnsley, Central to get the Government to move on this issue. People join clubs for a variety of reasons. When I stood as a councillor in 1986 I recall talking to number-takers outside the polling station. One chap said, ''I don't know what I'm doing here. I've just been in there and voted Labour, but I'm collecting numbers for the Tories because they won't let me play snooker in the club unless I collect some.'' That was a long time ago, and I am sure it has all changed now.

I declare an interest as a member of the Eltham Hill working men's club and an honorary lifelong member of the Woolwich Catholic club. The Budd report took a very curious view of working men's club in my opinion. I recall having to lobby to get the Budd report to delete its recommendation that higher value gaming machines should be removed from working men's clubs. That recommendation seemed to be based on anecdotal evidence that the clubs could not manage the machines properly, and that children would play on them and become encouraged to gamble. There was no solid evidence to back up the assumption that they were not capable of managing those machines, and   there is an element of classism, because the Budd committee went nowhere near those establishments.

The clubs are extremely well run and cases of rules being broken are few and far between, and are often dealt with very swiftly. Clubs that I know in my area are extremely well run and make an enormous contribution to the local community by turning round the money that they make in bingo, and from gaming machines and the sale of alcohol. The amendment tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Barnsley, Central is very moderate, and I hope that the Government will listen on Report, if not today.

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

I also support the hon. Member for Barnsley, Central and I will support him if the matter is pressed to a Division. I declare an interest as a life member of both the Stanley and the Tyldesley Conservative clubs in Blackpool. I echo everything that has been said by hon. Members of all parties about the enormously important work that such clubs do for the community as a whole. One has to remember that as well as the kind of clubs that we have talked about so far, such as Eagle clubs, RAF clubs, British Legion clubs, working men's clubs, miners' clubs, Labour clubs, Conservative clubs—

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

Liberal clubs, too. One has to remember that many communities comprised of particular groups that have moved to the UK have fantastically successful clubs. The hon. Member for Blackpool, North and Fleetwood may know, as I do, the Polish club in the centre of Blackpool that serves the whole area. I used to go there regularly because there were many invitations from the Polish community to all those involved in public life in Blackpool and Wyre and Fylde, regardless of party affiliation. It is important that communities that have moved to the UK have clubs to use as a centre.

One of the Polish airforce squadrons had been stationed during the war at what was then the RAF station at Squiresgate airfield, which is now Blackpool airport. As a result, there was a huge Polish community in and around Blackpool. I was used to working with a Polish community because I grew up in Bedford, which also had a big Polish community and successful Polish clubs. There are clubs of every conceivable nationality. I mentioned the one in Blackpool because I know that it had a successful bingo operation, but many such clubs depend for their fundraising on operating activities such as bingo. I would not want that to be damaged. In addition to the types of club that the hon. Member for Barnsley, Central and other hon. Members talked about, the clubs representing minority communities are fantastically important for our society. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman agrees with me.

Photo of Mr Tony Banks Mr Tony Banks Chair, Speaker's Advisory Committee on Works of Art

I declare my interest: I am a member of the Reform club. [Laughter.] I find it extraordinary that the Minister thinks that a matter of hilarity. On this occasion, the Reform club will stand shoulder to shoulder with the working men's club in Barnsley. I add my support to the amendment tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Barnsley, Central. There is something patronising in the measure that it   opposes—that somehow working men and women cannot handle anything more than £1,000; that that should be enough to feed the whippets and buy a new black cat.

Under the circumstances, I think that the bourgeois Budd attitude is not one for the Minister, who is a flinty son of the soil. He will undoubtedly be sympathetic to my hon. Friend's amendment. I add my strong support and that of all the members of the Reform club to my hon. Friend's amendment.

Photo of John Pugh John Pugh Shadow Spokesperson (Education)

I also support the amendment moved by the hon. Member for Barnsley, Central. I think that he seriously underestimates his argument. He has, in a sense, provided a criterion that would work in determining what the figure should be—£1,000, £2000, £3,000, £4,000 or whatever. What we have been searching for is a way to draw a legal difference that would work in practice and henceforward. One can do that in terms of volume, ratio of profits or, though it will not be too efficacious in this case, by what the money is used for at the end of the day—whether it is ploughed back into the club or into somebody's bank balance.

The clear fact is that, as it stands, there is a legal difference between the commercial and the voluntary club. That is defined by their objectives. There is no problem with that. We are trying to find a further criterion that enables us to set a figure. I suggest that the hon. Member for Barnsley, Central gave us such a rationale in what he said. It seems to me that the commercial sector has no complaint if a voluntary club is not in a position to act as a serious commercial competitor. If it is the case that the normal commercial club requires a turnover of at least £20,000—that that is the norm—then a club that is working on stakes of £1,000, £2,000, or even slightly higher, is not a serious commercial competitor. The commercial sector could not in those circumstances complain about that threshold being higher.

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

I declare an interest. I am a member of the CIU and president of the Sheffield trades and labour club. So, I have an interest but I am putting that aside and will be absolutely objective in my reply, which will, I hope, be an acceptable conclusion to the matter.

The arguments have been put powerfully by Members of all parties. A number of hon. Members have referred to the debate and discussion we had on returning gaming machines in clubs to a jackpot of £250. The most powerful point in prosecuting that argument was the good that was done with the profits from those machines, which sent some kids off to the seaside for the summer and ensured that members of the old age pensioners club got their lunch and a couple of free pints at Christmas. I know that because I am a member of a club.

I remember when the discussion was taking place about the £250 jackpot—I think that Sir Alan Budd recommended the £25 machines. I go to Sheffield Trades and Labour club on a Sunday evening at about quarter past 9 most weeks when I am in Sheffield. I always have the same table and there are always   roughly the same people there. We have long discussions. On this occasion, when the provisions were being discussed and I had responsibility for gambling, I walked into the club at 9.15 on a Sunday night and saw three secretaries from adjoining working men's clubs. I thought, ''Well, they haven't come here to buy me a drink this evening.'' When I sat down to talk to them, they strongly advised me that the £250 machines ought to be brought back and that Sir Alan Budd's recommendations ought to be rejected. They were powerful arguments and I brought them back to the House and deployed them along with many others. We came to the conclusion that Budd was wrong on that occasion.

Photo of Bob Russell Bob Russell Liberal Democrat, Colchester 4:00 pm, 9th December 2004

Will the Minister say again what night he goes to his club, so that I can make an appointment?

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

The hon. Gentleman was not listening. It is the Sheffield trades and Labour club, not the Liberal club. If he wants to be a member, I will make sure that he gets a form, but he will have to pay the £5 entry fee.

Photo of Bob Russell Bob Russell Liberal Democrat, Colchester

Absolutely. That is no problem.

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

I will arrange that. At least it will mean more income for the club.

The arguments that have been made this afternoon are powerful. In terms of consistency, the issue is also about future-proofing. We want to ensure that all the elements of the Bill are future-proof. There is an element of future-proofing in considering moving from a £1,000 limit.

As a realistic politician, I also know that there are times during the discussions on a Bill when we have to concede, because if we do not, we are likely to get beaten anyway. It looks as though that might be the case this afternoon. One could call it a tactical retreat, future-proofing or acknowledging the power of the arguments. However, I genuinely believe that we ought to revisit the issue, particularly in light of what the pre-legislative scrutiny Committee said. Arguments have been deployed this afternoon by hon. Members on both sides of the Committee. If my hon. Friend the Member for Barnsley, Central will withdraw his amendment, I will consider returning to the issue.

Photo of Malcolm Moss Malcolm Moss Shadow Minister, Home Affairs

Will the Minister clarify how much a club would have to pay out on any game of bingo? If it took £1,000 in a week, how much of that would be retained by the club? If it is a fixed proportion, we can work how much would be retained with a £2,000 limit. It will be peanuts. I do not see the problem with accepting the amendment.

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

The calculation, in broad terms and as far as I understand it, is that the club retains a maximum of about 10 or 20 per cent. Most working men's clubs pay out about 80 or 85 per cent. of the takings. I do not think that most of them would get anywhere near the £2,000 payout. My club probably has three or four games of bingo a night and the prize for each is probably about £20. Let us say that the total is £100 a night. I would guess that we are talking   about a payout of £700 or £800 a week. That is a club with a membership of 600 or 650 people. I think that my hon. Friend the Member for Barnsley, Central is referring to the bigger clubs, of which there are some around. However, I do not think that that will threaten the commercial side at all.

We will reflect on the issue and, if my hon. Friend will withdraw his amendment, I hope to return with an amendment on Report that will probably follow what the Committee is saying and make the limit nearer to £2,000 than the £1,000 in the Bill.

Photo of Eric Illsley Eric Illsley Labour, Barnsley Central

I am grateful to the Minister and also to hon. Members for their expressions of support. My right hon. Friend is right to say that there is considerable sympathy towards the amendments and towards the clubs' view that there should be a higher limit of £2,000. What worries me is when he says that he will return on Report with a figure nearer to £2,000. I ask him to return with a figure of £2,000.

Given the interest that the amendment has generated in the Committee, I am sure that it will generate the same sort of interest from hon. Members on both sides of the House on Report, mainly because of hon. Members' involvement in clubs in their constituencies. In the interests of pursuing the matter, I am happy to withdraw the amendment in the hope that my right hon. Friend will return with an amendment specifying £2,000 on Report. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Hon. Members:

No.

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The Committee divided: Ayes 10, Noes 7.

Division number 6 Adults Abused in Childhood — Clause 260 - Bingo

Aye: 10 MPs

No: 7 MPs

Ayes: A-Z by last name

Nos: A-Z by last name

Question accordingly agreed to.

Amendments proposed: No. 352, in clause 260, page 116, line 12, leave out '£1,000' and insert '£2,000'.

No. 353, in clause 260, page 116, line 16, leave out '£1,000' and insert '£2,000'.

No. 354, in clause 260, page 116, line 18, leave out '£1,000' and insert '£2,000'.—[Mr. Illsley.]

Question put, That the amendments be made. 

The Committee divided: Ayes 8, Noes 9.

Division number 7 Adults Abused in Childhood — Clause 260 - Bingo

Aye: 8 MPs

No: 9 MPs

Ayes: A-Z by last name

Nos: A-Z by last name

Question accordingly negatived.

Photo of Malcolm Moss Malcolm Moss Shadow Minister, Home Affairs

On a point of order, Mr. Gale. May I just get this clear in my own mind? We have now voted to change £1,000 to £2,000 in one instance in the Bill and to reject the consequential amendments to later references to £1,000. Where does that leave the Bill?

Mr. Caborn rose—

Photo of Roger Gale Roger Gale Conservative, North Thanet

Order. Let me respond to the hon. Gentleman, and then if the Minister wishes to comment further he may do so.

The hon. Gentleman is not entirely correct. The Committee has chosen to reject amendments Nos. 352 to 354. There are further consequential amendments to clause 266, which, properly, I should put to the Committee when we reach that clause. They have not yet been rejected. I do not know whether that answers the hon. Gentleman's question, but it is the answer that he is getting.

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

We heard what the Committee said, and it voted for the £2,000 limit. If it will be helpful, and members of the Committee agree, we will table properly worded amendments to the Bill which will deliver the £2,000 limit and make the necessary consequential amendments.

Hon. Members:

Hear, hear.

Photo of Roger Gale Roger Gale Conservative, North Thanet

Order. The Committee has heard what the Minister said. That, of course, is a matter of record and it will be taken as it should be in good faith. I have no power, I fear, to undo what the Committee has chosen to do. That is a matter to be dealt with on Report, but it can be done.

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

On a point of order, Mr. Gale. I am confused. The Minister, in his summing up, said that he would go away and think about the figure, but he has now committed himself to £2,000, the figure that he just asked the Committee to reject. I really am completely and utterly at a loss.

Photo of Roger Gale Roger Gale Conservative, North Thanet

That is not strictly a point of order for the Chair. However, I heard, and therefore I assume that the rest of the Committee heard clearly, the Minister indicate that, taking cognisance of the Committee's vote, that was what he proposed to do.

Photo of Eric Illsley Eric Illsley Labour, Barnsley Central

On a point of order, Mr. Gale. In view of the current confusion, as we have a figure of £2,000 in one part of the Bill and a figure of £1,000 in the remainder, at what point could I ask to withdraw the amendments to clause 266, rather than cause any further confusion?  

Photo of Roger Gale Roger Gale Conservative, North Thanet

The amendments to clause 266 have not been moved. As and when they are called, the hon. Gentleman simply has to say, ''Not moved.'' That will not be a problem, but I have no power to overturn a properly carried vote of the Committee.

Clause 260, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 261 ordered to stand part of the Bill.