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The clause sets out the territorial extent and commencement provisions of the Bill. Clauses 1 to 3, which include the new licensing requirements, will apply only to England and Wales and to Scotland, as the licensing regime established by the 2005 Act extends only there. Northern Ireland has its own licensing regime, which reflects a different devolution settlement.
Clause 2(1), which repeals section 331 of the 2005 Act, also extends to Northern Ireland, and clause 4, which puts in place the new offence of advertising unlicensed remote gambling, applies only to Northern Ireland. Section 331 is one of the few provisions of the 2005 Act that extends to Northern Ireland. Its repeal would therefore create a gap in protection for consumers there, so the new offence remedies that, bringing Northern Ireland back into line with Great Britain, so that remote operators will be able to advertise remote gambling only if they have a licence from the Gambling Commission.
Subsections (4) to (7) of clause 1 come into force on the day on which the Bill is given Royal Assent. They confer power to make an order establishing an advance application process, whereby an operator may apply for a remote operating licence before the commencement of the remainder of the Bill. This ensures that arrangements can be put in place to minimise disruption to the business of those operators currently entitled to operate in Britain.
The Bill’s remaining provisions will come into force on such day as is appointed by order. Different days may be appointed for different purposes, and the commencement order may also include
“consequential, transitory, transitional or saving provision”,
as is generally the case.
I accept the clause, but I have a question about the elements of the commencement that are subject to approval by the Secretary of State. It is similar to a question I have already asked but, at the risk of repeating myself, I will ask it again. Does the Minister anticipate any delays in the commencement of the Bill, such as a gambling operator mounting a legal challenge that might hold it back? Given a smooth roll-out of the Bill, when would she expect those elements that are subject to the Secretary of State’s approval to come into force?
I do not anticipate any holdups, but—in a way this is connected to the timing referred to by the shadow Minister—I can say, in terms of transition, that the scheme will start in the spring of 2014. A statutory instrument is being created for that purpose to avoid any holdups or disruption to business. There is little further to add, save to say that at this moment I am not aware of any significant challenges that are about to be made.
The Minister is saying that the Bill will proceed in the normal fashion, regardless of whether there are any challenges whatsoever. That is important, because while some of the threats to challenge legislation might have been off-putting, she has reassured us that the procedure will carry on regardless.
I can confirm that the Bill will proceed, notwithstanding legal challenges. We are happy and content that the Bill is legally sound.