Mr. Moss: The Minister did not allude to the current Gaming Act, the 1968 Act, in which I understand there are provisions similar to those in the amendments. It would be helpful if the Minister were to flesh out whether the current legislationthe 1968 Act, which we have tried to replicateis working, and, if it is, whether this clause embraces those provisions and whether our amendment is necessary.
Mr. Caborn: As I understand it, the provisions that we are taking from the 1968 Act and incorporating in this Bill are operating satisfactorily. There are no lesser appeal rights in this Bill than there are in the 1968 Act, and we believe that the current provisions operate quite effectively and will cover all circumstances.
Mr. Moss: I am most grateful to the Minister for clarifying that point, and on the basis of what is now on the record, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Clause 137 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Stay pending appeal
Mr. Moss: I beg to move amendment No. 266, in clause 138, page 61, line 29, leave out subsection (2).
The Chairman: With this it will be convenient to discuss the following amendments: No. 335, in clause 138, page 61, line 30, after 'may', insert ', in exceptional circumstances'.
No. 339, in clause 194, page 89, line 4, after 'may', insert ', in exceptional circumstances,'.
Mr. Moss: The amendment proposes to leave out subsection (2) of clause 138. The clause provides that the commission may direct that a stay pending appeal will not apply. However, there are no grounds for such a direction in the Bill. Damage could, obviously, result from a decision from which an appeal was lodged and, therefore, either specific grounds for refusal to apply the stay pending appeal should be set forth in the Bill or that power should be deleted.
Amendments Nos. 335 and 339, the latter of which is consequential in clause 194, insert the words ''in exceptional circumstances''. Any decision by the commission under clause 138 to override the right to a stay pending appeal would have serious and immediate consequences for the operator in question. If the power is not to be the subject of possible abuse, such a decision should be taken only in exceptional circumstances. The application of a stay is part of the normal remit process and should be reflected here. No action should be taken by the commission until an appeal has been heard, unless there are exceptional circumstances to justify overriding that principle.
There may well be circumstances that do justify overruling the stay, and we do not argue against that provision. We merely argue that the commission's right to exercise that power must be balanced by the need to demonstrate the compelling reasons for doing so.
Mr. Caborn: I thank the hon. Gentleman for that explanation. However, I do not think that the changes are necessary. Any decision taken by the gambling commission or a licensing authority to override the stay pending appeal provisions will be open to challenge through the courts by way of judicial review. Clear justification for overriding the provision will be required. In effect, that restricts both the gambling commission and the licensing authority to using that power in a reasonable manner. Owing to the potentially significant effects that such a decision might have on a licensee, we would consider it
Both the gambling appeals tribunal and the magistrates courts or sheriff have the power to overrule any decision removing the stay pending appeal provisions if they believe that such a decision is not appropriate. The power is provided to the tribunal in paragraph 13 of schedule 7. For the magistrates courts and sheriffs, that ability is contained in clause 194(2). It enables any overrule to be made that is deemed appropriate.
I understand why the hon. Gentleman tabled amendment No. 266. It seems odd for the commission to have the power to direct its decisions or actions to take effect before a person has had his or her appeal against that decision determined. However, there is an important reason for including that power in the Bill. There will be circumstances in which, as a matter of public interest, it will be important that the decision of the gambling commission takes immediate effect. For example, if a self-employed bookmaker is alleged to have been involved in large-scale fraud, subsection (2) will enable the gambling commission to suspend his operating licence with immediate effect. He will still be able to appeal to the gambling appeals tribunal against the decision to suspend his licence, but in the meantime, in the interests of the public, he will not be able to continue to work as a bookmaker.
The removal of subsection (2), which the amendment proposes, would prevent the commission from taking that action. Instead, while the appeal is being heard, the bookmaker's operating licence would be considered to be valid. That could mean that he could continue to defraud his punters until the decision of the gambling commission was upheld. I hope that I have provided the hon. Gentleman with the justification that he required for the inclusion of subsection (2). On that basis, I ask him to withdraw his amendment.
Mr. Moss: I am happy with the Minister's explanation and I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Clause 138 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Mr. Moss: I beg to move amendment No. 267, in clause 139, page 61, line 40, leave out subsection (3).
Subsection (3) deals with rules providing for certain situations. It allows a summary conviction to be imposed if an individual fails to comply with a specified requirement imposed by the rules. Such a failure may not be material; there are no specified time limits. The provision appears draconian and should be deleted or replaced with a power for the tribunal to
Mr. Caborn: Subsection (3) serves to enable actions to be taken against persons who do not comply with requirements imposed by, or in accordance with, rules relating to the tribunal. It is important that persons who, for example, fail to obey a witness summons, alter concerns or destroy evidence should be held accountable. If subsection (3) is removed, the tribunal will be powerless to act, even if the actions of one person adversely affect the outcome of an appeal of another. I therefore ask the hon. Gentleman to withdraw his amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.
Mr. Don Foster (Bath) (LD): I would like to ask the Minister a question. We have just debated the maximum fine, which should not exceed level 3 on the standard scale. Will the tribunal, in assessing the level of fine, take into account the nature of the licensee, including his financial resources?
Mr. Caborn: The tribunal cannot fineit does not have the power to do sobut the regulations may specify that a particular class of person shall or shall not be treated as a party to put proceedings before the tribunal in onward appeals. It will be an offence for a person to fail to comply with the requirements, but a person found guilty of this offence will be liable to a maximum fine of £1,000. I hope that that explanation satisfies the hon. Gentleman.
Mr. Foster: No, it does not. Notwithstanding the fact that I may have made an error about who would issue the fine, will the Minister make it clear whether the person issuing the fine will have regard to the nature of the licensee, including his financial resources? I ask because that refers to the very rules that will apply to the financial penalties imposed by the commission.
Mr. Caborn: We have to follow the same rules as the commission would if it imposed a financial penalty.
Mr. Foster: Thank you.
Mr. Caborn: We get there eventually.
Question put and agreed to.
Clause 139 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Clauses 140 to 142 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Form of licence
Mr. Foster: I beg to move amendment No. 226A, in clause 143, page 63, line 36, at end add
Column Number: 350
The Chairman: With this it will be convenient to discuss amendment No. 227A, in clause 158, page 71, line 29, at end add
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