New Clause 9 - Operating licences: conditions: information

Gambling Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 10:00 am on 11th January 2005.

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'(1) A condition attached to an operating licence by virtue of section 71 or 74 may require the provision of information of a specified kind to—

(a) the Commission, or

(b) another specified person or class of person.

(2) A condition attached by virtue of this section may, in particular—

(a) relate to information about the use made of facilities provided in accordance with the operating licence;

(b) require a person to provide any information that he suspects may—

(i) relate to the commission of an offence under this Act,

(ii) relate to a breach of a rule applied by a sporting or other body, or

(iii) lead to the making of an order under section 315.'.—[Mr. Caborn]

Brought up, and read the First time.

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

I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

Although the new clause applies to all operating licence holders, it may be helpful to consider it with betting exchanges in mind. It is essential to ensure that the gambling commission has the teeth to do its job properly. At present, clause 115 requires licence holders to provide information only to the   commission. However, it is essential that betting operators share information with others, including sporting authorities. That information may include details of suspicious betting patterns on an event or the identity of an account holder suspected of having access to inside information about a sport.

Sharing information is vital if we are to provide adequate safeguards for consumers and protect the integrity of sport. The new clause brings in stringent requirements on betting exchanges, giving the commission the power to force them to surrender information to the relevant authority.

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

I am grateful for the Minister's explanation. For gaming in this country to advance, we must ensure that we have the cleanest and most open operations in the world. Without that we will not attract the revenues that are out there in the world. I am sure that that revenue will come to this country once people know that we continue to operate a rigorous, open and honest gambling regime.

I ask the Minister to be a little more detailed in his explanation of the requirements for operators to register and to provide details. Will those requirements apply exclusively to betting exchanges or will other gambling operators, such as bookmakers, also be required to release all the names of their credit customers? To what extent will the gambling commission have the power to go into all of those bodies?

Betting exchanges have created an audit trail that did not previously exist. I welcome that audit trail, and I think that it is to the benefit of racing, although it obviously extends into other areas of gambling. To what extent will the clause influence the regime of following and checking those taking part in gambling?

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

The detail of the requirement is for the commission to settle. I have said many times during the deliberations of the Committee that we are setting up a regulator, and we are giving effective powers to that regulator. The gambling commission has powers and the clause will settle in detail how it uses them. It has clear terms of reference to follow, and will act within them.

The provision is not singling out betting exchanges; it applies to all licences held in gambling and betting. I gave betting exchanges as an example, but the provisions cover all those who are licensed.

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

The Minister again makes a point that has been a bone of contention and a worry to me. We are giving blanket permission to the regulator inside the gambling commission, and his or her terms of reference will come in due course through secondary legislation. I wonder whether that is desirable. Should we not have on the face of the Bill the limits, controls and powers of the regulator? At the moment, we seem to be giving a carte blanche to the regulator, enabling it to do whatever it wishes subject to regulations following at a later date.  

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

That is unfair. What we have done about the powers of the commission is laid out in the Bill. We have included the checks and balances and described where the commission can be challenged if it is deemed to be acting irresponsibly. As the hon. Gentleman said when questioning the new clause, we have to keep integrity in the industry; that is paramount.

Our aim is to translate the 1968 Act into the modern setting, which the Bill will do. At the heart of that process is the integrity of the industry. We are ensuring that the commission has the powers to act in a fast-moving industry in a way that was not possible under the 1968 Act. It is right that we grant those powers, but we must include in the Bill the necessary checks if it is deemed that the gambling commission is acting irresponsibly.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause read a Second time, and added to the Bill.