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Session 2001- 02
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Delegated Legislation Committee Debates

Draft Betting, Gaming and Lotteries Act 1963 (Schedule 4) (Amendment) Order 2002

First Standing Committee on

Delegated Legislation

Thursday 20 June 2002

[Mr. Peter Pike in the Chair]

Draft Betting, Gaming and Lotteries Act 1963 (Schedule 4) (Amendment) Order 2002

4.30 pm

The Minister for Sport (Mr. Richard Caborn): I beg to move,

    That the Committee has considered the draft Betting, Gaming and Lotteries Act 1963 (Schedule 4) (Amendment) Order 2002.

The purpose of the order is to remove the restrictions on the form of refreshment, other than alcohol, that may be sold in licensed betting offices in Great Britain. Betting offices are allowed to sell their customers only pre-packed food. In the vast majority of cases, that means packets of crisps or chocolate bars—not very healthy, I may say.

There can be little doubt that, in this day and age, there is no good reason to retain such a restriction. If bookmakers have the facilities to provide a wider, better range of food products, that must be to the advantage of their customers. It will also encourage competition between betting offices to improve services generally. Again, that must be to the benefit of the customer.

The order will not compel bookmakers to offer refreshments of any kind, but it will give them the opportunity to do so if they wish. It is clearly in line with other deregulation, which, in recent years, has allowed bookmakers to upgrade their betting office estates. In the process, they ought to attract new clients and retain existing ones. The result of the deregulation has been a gradual upgrading and improvement in most of the country's 8,000-plus betting offices, which is good news for the punters and for the many thousands of staff who work in those betting shops. In short, the changes have helped betting offices to move with the times.

The betting shop element of the gambling industry has a turnover of about £6 billion a year. Indeed, as a result of the Government's abolition of betting duty last October and, with it, the removal of bookmaker deductions from punters' bets, their turnover this financial year is expected to be at least 40 per cent. up on what in previous years was already an impressive figure.

That change to the tax regime and the previous deregulatory initiatives are encouraging examples of what can be achieved if the Government and the industry work in partnership. That is in our interest, the industry's interest and, crucially, the public interest. The Committee is aware that the Government consider the whole gambling industry to be squarely in the mainstream of the leisure sector. Indeed, continuing that progress is one reason why that

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responsibility was passed from the Home Office to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport after the election.

Following the report produced by Sir Alan Budd and his team in the independent gambling review body, we published our response, ''A Safe Bet For Success'', earlier this year. It outlines our strategy for upgrading and updating the regulation of gambling and for a range of measures to help the industry thrive in the 21st century.

Most of those measures require further consideration of detailed points, but they will form the basis of a new, wide-ranging gambling Bill. However, where we can help the industry in the intervening period, we shall do so. Indeed, the order is one way to help. It does not represent any fundamental change in policy and it will serve to implement a specific recommendation—No. 102—of the gambling review report.

The order is timely and it introduces a sensible extension of what is already permitted. As such, it should be welcomed. I have no doubt that many betting shops will open up tomorrow morning, and they could be serving bacon sandwiches. My hon. Friend the Member for West Ham (Mr. Banks) may be in a betting shop in his constituency, and I am sure that the bacon sandwiches will be sizzling there at about 7.25, just before England go out and beat Brazil.

Mr. Tony Banks (West Ham): May I say to my right hon. Friend that I certainly will not be eating bacon sandwiches as I am a vegetarian! I would rather eat my own extremities. I will be watching the match, though.

My right hon. Friend is making an interesting speech, but what on earth is he doing here? Why is he not in Japan to support our gallant lads tomorrow? This is very important legislation, I am sure, but he must have higher priorities to deal with.

Mr. Caborn: My hon. Friend, as an ex-Minister for Sport—

Mr. Banks: A distinguished ex-Minister for Sport.

Mr. Caborn: Yes, a distinguished ex-Minister for Sport. May I remind my hon. Friend that about 130 sports are played in the United Kingdom, for which he had and I have responsibility? I watched the first three matches in Japan—those against Sweden, Argentina and Nigeria—and our team played extremely well. I can assure him that, following our success tomorrow, a return trip to Japan may be called for. I would be able to cheer the England team, and I would also give an extra cheer for him.

I am straying a little from our debate on the order, which I commend to the Committee.

4.36 pm

Mr. Laurence Robertson (Tewkesbury): Thank you, Mr. Pike, and I welcome you to the Committee.

I enjoyed the Minister's speech, which went rather wide of the order. I would not now do the same had he not strayed, but I must respond on the question asked by the hon. Member for West Ham: the Minister is not in Japan, but for the life of me I cannot understand

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why he is not at Ascot. That leads me to giving the apologies of my hon. Friend the Member for Ryedale (Mr. Greenway), who would normally have dealt with the order. He is indeed otherwise engaged.

We could not possibly have any objection to what the Government are doing in this respect. Indeed, the fact that we have to introduce such an order in 2002 begs the question why the sale of cups of coffee and the like was prohibited in betting shops in the first place. If I am allowed to stray slightly wide of my brief for a moment, I might say that such restrictions make the public wonder whether politicians are in touch with real life, so in those terms I strongly welcome the measure.

The Minister referred to one or two other areas on which the Government have acted and I for one very much agree with that action. I have the great honour and privilege of representing Cheltenham race course in Parliament. Quite correctly, people in the betting industry make the point that racing and betting are separate industries, but they are closely linked and one would do well to survive without the other. In fact, they would probably find that impossible.

I have a constituency interest in the matter, and I welcome the gambling review and the fact that the Government are considering certain other aspects of

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gambling and horse racing, although I press the Minister to move rather more quickly on, for example, the change in the status of the Tote and its consideration of the future of the Horserace Betting Levy Board. Although that appears to be happening, I remind him that it is a number of years since the previous Home Secretary, the right hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw), announced at the Tote annual general meeting that the Tote's status would be changed and that we are still waiting for legislation.

I do not wish to detain the Committee any longer and, with those few words, I give the measure our support.

4.38 pm

Mr. Caborn: In my view, the order is compatible with the European convention on human rights and I commend it to the Committee.

Question put and agreed to.


    That the Committee has considered the draft Betting, Gaming and Lotteries Act 1963 (Schedule 4) (Amendment) Order 2002.

        Committee rose at twenty-one minutes to Five o'clock.

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The following Members attended the Committee:
Pike, Mr. Peter (Chairman)
Banks, Mr.
Baron, Mr.
Caborn, Mr.
Cranston, Ross
Dobson, Mr.

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Hoban, Mr.
Hopkins, Mr.
Kemp, Mr.
Robertson, Mr. Laurence
Vis, Dr.
Weir, Mr.


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