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Clause 5 deals with the annual fee payable by the licence holder. The amendment would say exactly what level of fee should be paid by the operator. I am grateful to the Minister for telling me in a written answer the level of fee previously paid into the Consolidated Fund.
I make what I hope is a helpful suggestion; the Minister should place in the Bill a precise definition of what the fee should be so as to avoid confusion. That would guard against the possibility of fee being used as a revenue-raising operation, and would reassure those bidding for the operator licence. It would also ensure that a less fair-minded successor to the Minister could not rack up the licence fee, rather as the Chancellor did with the 3G mobile phone network. It is a straightforward amendment, seeking clarification and it invites the Minister to define precisely what it is to which he is alluding.
The holders of operating licences under clause 5 and gaming licences under clause 6 pay fees relating to the cost of issuing or renewing licences. That has proved to be a somewhat inflexible arrangement, as it requires frequent changes to be made through secondary legislation in order to set fees. It risks becoming a barrier to innovation, particularly in the development of new games, and it takes time to amend the regulations.
Clause 5 therefore provides a simplified arrangement, more akin to the arrangements for the application and annual continuation fees payable by holders of licences issued by the Gambling Commission under the Gambling Act 2005. It is our intention to set the fees at levels that are broadly revenue-neutral, allowing for inflation, over the lifetime of the licence. The fees will reflect the commission's expenses in exercising its functions of granting licences, considering new games and monitoring the licences, which is important, rather than reflecting its expenses in issuing the licence as at present.
Amendment No. 23 would allow us to go further and set the fee at a level to reflect all the commission's and my Department's costs in performing their functions under national lottery legislation. We do not think it appropriate for the fee to be set at such a high level nor for such costs to be met by the annual fee, as suggested by the amendment. Costs should continue to be met out of the national lottery distribution fund, as should part of the commission's costs. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will withdraw the amendment.