Before we begin, I have a few announcements. Please will hon. Members ensure that electronic devices are turned off or switched to silent during Committee sittings? As a general rule, my fellow Chair and I do not intend to select starred amendments, which are those that were not tabled with adequate notice. The required notice period for a Public Bill Committee amendment is three working days, so amendments should be tabled by the rise of the House on Monday for consideration on Thursday and by the rise of the House on Thursday for consideration on the following Tuesday. This Thursday is therefore the deadline for amendments for the first day of line-by-line consideration of the Bill on Tuesday next week. The Public Bill Office will accept amendments until 4.30 pm, notwithstanding the recess.
Not everyone is familiar with the process of taking oral evidence in Public Bill Committees, so it may be of help if I briefly explain the procedure. The Committee will first be asked to consider the programme motion, on which debate is limited to half an hour. We will then proceed to a motion to report written evidence and then a motion to permit the Committee to deliberate in private in advance of oral evidence, which I hope we can take formally. Assuming that the second of those motions has been agreed to, the Committee will then sit in private, at which point non-members of the Committee will be asked to leave the room for a short while. Once the Committee has deliberated in private, the witnesses and members of the public will be invited back into the room and oral evidence will begin.
I beg to move,
(1) the Committee shall (in addition to its first meeting at 9.25 am on Tuesday 12 November) meet—
(a) at 2.30 pm on Tuesday 12 November;
(b) at 9.25 am and 2.00 pm on Tuesday 19 November;
(2) the Committee shall hear oral evidence on Tuesday 12 November in accordance with the following Table:
Until no later than 10.15 am
Remote Gambling Association; Gibraltar Betting and Gaming Association; Sport Rights Owners Coalition
Until no later than 11.25 am
British Horseracing Authority; Sports Betting Group; National Casino Forum
Until no later than 3.15 pm
Salvation Army; Quaker Action on Alcohol and Drugs; Professor Jim Orford, Emeritus Professor of Clinical and Community Psychology, University of Birmingham; CARE
Until no later than 3.45 pm
Financial Conduct Authority
Until no later than 4.30 pm
Gambling Commission; Department for Culture, Media and Sport
(3) the proceedings shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion at 6.00 pm on Tuesday 19 November.
While the Opposition support the programme motion, I want to put on the record our disappointment at the short time that we had to call witnesses to give evidence. When we discussed the motion last night, it was pointed out that the Government had made a drafting error. We accept that it was an error, but its unfortunate consequence was that we had only one week’s notice to call witnesses, because we were under the impression that there was to be no oral evidence, which has meant that some of our witnesses have not been able to make it here with such short notice.
Mr Williams, it is a pleasure to speak under your chairmanship today. I will briefly respond to the shadow Minister’s remarks. I do not accept what he says and I want to set out the chronology. I am surprised that he has indicated that he has not had enough time to prepare the list of witnesses and to get everyone he wanted here.
The Bill has existed in the form that the Committee will consider today since May 2013. It was also subject to extensive pre-legislative scrutiny by the Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport. Unofficial conversations then took place between the Government Whip and Opposition Whip on Wednesday 30 October when it was agreed that there would be two evidence sittings and two scrutiny sittings. That was nearly two weeks prior to today’s hearing, so I suggest that the shadow Minister was on notice then that oral evidence was to be heard.
At Second Reading, which was on 5 November, the official Opposition chose not to vote against the programme motion or the motion to extend the Committee when the error was discovered. That is nothing to do with the time element for getting witnesses to today’s sitting and the two should not be conflated. The Opposition have had plenty of time to voice concerns about the timings and it is a shame that the issue was raised with me for the first time last night.
Notwithstanding that, I note that we shall be hearing from a very, very impressive list of witnesses today. In the knowledge that those who were unable to attend will be able to submit written evidence, and considering the extensive pre-legislative scrutiny, I hope the hon. Gentleman does not intend to delay this short but important and much needed Bill any further.
My only comment on the chronology that the Minister read out is about the omission of the fact that the error in the drafting was not corrected until 5 November. People were left with the impression that there was no evidence session, which is why some people found it difficult to be here at short notice. The Opposition were not slow in drawing up our list of witnesses—we responded almost immediately once we were aware that we needed to—but unfortunately, in the short time that was left because of the confusion, they were not able to re-arrange their diaries to be here. That is a shame. Given that it has taken four years since my hon. Friend the Member for Bradford South initiated the consultation on this subject when he was sports Minister, it is disappointing that we now seem to be taking undue haste when we could have been taking evidence from experts who would have better informed the Committee about the Bill.
Copies of the written evidence that the Committee receives will be made available in the Committee Room.
Written evidence to be reported to the House
GB 02 Betfair
GB 03 English Cricket Board
GB 04 Remote Gambling Association
GB 05 Sports Betting Group
GB 06 The Rank Group
GB 07 National Casino Forum
GB 08 Sports Rights Owners Coalition (SROC)