Only a few days to go: We’re raising £25,000 to keep TheyWorkForYou running and make sure people across the UK can hold their elected representatives to account.Donate to our crowdfunder
I rise to try to persuade the Minister to explain precisely why clause 3 is before us. It changes the description of whoever might receive the new licence to run the national lottery when the current licence expires. As we know, there will be a competition and the Government’s desire, which I and my colleagues share, is that it will be a single licence, although there will be a reserve power to break it up. We expect that one entity will win the new licence, whether it is Camelot or a replacement.
The clause changes references to “body corporate” to “person” because the recipient of the licence could be a person. I suspect that the Minister will say that that is to enable the choice of operators to be widened to allow an individual or person to come forward for the great honour of running the lottery. However, it would be helpful if the Minister could give us at least a short explanation of why there should be a change in the wording.
The hon. Gentleman nearly got it right, but not quite. The explanation is slightly wider than he suggested. The clause amends the 1993 Act to allow the National Lottery Commission to award a licence to run the national lottery or a game that forms part of the national lottery to any person instead of only to a body corporate. I am introducing this change so that national lottery legislation will mirror the recent Gambling Act 2005, which introduced personal licences. The National Lottery Commission should be able to award a licence to an individual if it wishes to do so. The change will not alter the commission’s ability to award a licence to a company or other corporate body.
I am grateful to the Minister for reminding me—I should have known about that because I served on the Committee that considered the Gambling Bill with him for many long weeks. I want to clarify this issue. Is the Minister saying that a person who holds a personal licence that was awarded under the Gambling Act might receive the great honour of running the national lottery at the end of the current licence? If so, were a body corporate to win it, presumably there would be a nominated person within that body who would hold the personal licence. Given all the issues that we debated on the problems that can occur if the nominated person within a body corporate drops dead, might there be a problem about who holds the licence? I remember the riddle and conundrum on that—will the Minister clarify that issue?
I, too, remember that very well. The body corporate is its own entity. No, there will not be an individual licence holder: the body corporate will hold the licence. We are extending the Act to allow the National Lottery Commission to award the licence to a person who has a personal licence from the Gambling Commission, and who, therefore, will be a fit and proper person, because the Gambling Commission will make sure of it. However, the National Lottery Commission will want many more assurances than just a licence from the Gambling Commission before awarding the licence. We do not think that individuals who have gone through the licensing procedure should be debarred. The clause is an extension. We are trying to ensure that we do not close off any avenues. All the issues that the hon. Gentleman raises will have to be part of the procedure to grant the licence.
I apologise, Mr. Cook, for stretching your patience, that of the Committee and, no doubt, the Minister’s. I may be the bearer of a small brain, but I am genuinely confused. The Minister says that the clause extends the options. If he had said, “We are now saying ‘body corporate or person’”, I would be perfectly happy, but the clause does not add “or person” to the 1993 Act; it deletes “body corporate” and inserts “person”. I have before me what I am led to believe is called the Keeling version of the Bill, which has been referred to frequently, and which deletes the words “body” or “body corporate” and inserts “person” several times. Therefore, it does not say “body corporate or person”. If I am right to say that the term “body corporate” will go, who is the person in a body corporate to whom the Minister refers?
I can give the hon. Gentleman only the legal interpretation—I admit that I am sometimes bemused by legal interpretations. I am advised that “person” includes “body corporate”. I am probably as bemused as the hon. Gentleman, but that is the legal advice. Just to make sure that he and I are absolutely clear—
And everyone else, including the hon. Member for East Devon, if I may say so—he will probably disagree with that, but at least I have tried my best. I will get the wording clearly defined. The common-sense approach is that the clause extends the Act to include a person as well as a body corporate. I will write to the hon. Gentleman on that.
I promise that I will not intervene on the Minister on this point again, Mr. Cook, but I ask that in the explanation that the Minister makes available to me and, I am sure, members of the Committee and you, he should make something absolutely clear. He says that “person” includes a body corporate. Earlier, he said that if that person was a single, individual human being, they would have to have a personal licence under the Gambling Act. However, he also said that a body corporate did not have to have a licence. That needs to be sorted out, because we cannot have a person who is defined one way needing a licence, but a person who is defined another way not needing one. I am confused and I look forward to the explanation.
I am grateful to the hon. Member for Bath for repeating what he thought the Minister had said, because that is what I thought he had said, too. I was not clear, however, on what basis he was saying it. He asserted that a person who was a human being, rather than a body corporate, had to have a licence under the Gambling Act, but I can see no reference to the Keeling version in sections 5, 6 or 7 of the Act, even as amended. Was that assertion correct?
This is a completely separate licensing regime from the one in the Gambling Act. The purpose is to allow a person or body corporate to hold a lottery licence. From a common-sense point of view, the legal interpretation can create some confusion, and I shall try to get that interpretation put into lay person’s words to explain the object of the exercise.
I say again that a body corporate licence, which is not an individual licence, can be awarded in the same way as in the past. We are now extending such provisions to individuals. I shall make sure that what the lawyers are trying achieve is fully explained to the Committee—probably in words of one syllable and definitely in common-sense terms. I am assured that what they are trying to achieve is the right way forward.
I am grateful to the Minister and I hope that he will include Conservative Members when he informs the Committee how he arrived at his position. However, there is clearly something behind the drafting, because it applies to the licensing of bodies in sections 5 and 6. When the Minister gives us the legalistic, definite interpretation of what he seeks to do, will he also tell us what representations, or even protests, made him want to change the wording, so that we can see how that thought process evolved?