Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page


Lord Dubs : My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness. No formal meetings are planned with the Bar Council, but we shall consider whether the rules can be improved if experience shows that changes should be made. I am grateful for the support of the House.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Contracting Out (Jury Summoning Functions) Order 1999

2.45 p.m.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton rose to move, That the draft order laid before the House on 14th June be approved [22nd Report from the Joint Committee].

The noble and learned Lord said: My Lords, Section 69 of the Deregulation and Contracting Out Act 1994 enables a Minister, by making an order, to permit himself to authorise functions conferred on him to be carried out by another person or by the other person's employees.

The purpose of the order is to enable the Lord Chancellor to authorise another person, or that person's employees, to perform the functions of the Lord Chancellor under Section 2 of the Juries Act 1974 in so far as those functions involve the production and posting of jury summonses and the signing of certificates of posting under Section 2(6) of the Juries Act 1974.

The Act requires that jurors shall be summoned by notice in writing sent by post or delivered by hand. A certificate of posting must be signed by an "appropriate

23 Jul 1999 : Column 1258

officer". The court manager or, more usually, one of his or her staff, is currently designated as the "appropriate officer" for those purposes.

Jury service is an important civic duty. Every year over half a million people are summoned to serve. Currently each Crown Court uses old-fashioned and resource-intensive systems to summon juries. The Lord Chancellor intends to modernise that important part of the criminal justice system by introducing new systems and modern technology to support the process. One of the changes will be to establish a central summoning bureau for England and Wales. That will introduce a more consistent approach to summoning jurors, reduce costs and offer higher levels of customer service to those who undertake this important duty.

The civil servants who work in the Court Service, an executive agency of the department of the Lord Chancellor, will continue to be responsible for nearly all the procedures involved in summoning jurors and will staff and run the new central bureau. However, it will maximise the efficiency of the new procedures if the Lord Chancellor contracts out the functions of printing and posting the summonses and signing the certificate of posting.

Therefore, I am seeking a contracting out order under the Deregulation and Contracting Out Act 1994 to enable a private sector organisation to post the summons and to sign the certificate of posting in future. The intention of the Lord Chancellor is to authorise the Court Service's private finance initiative suppliers, currently EDS, to carry out those functions.

I stress to the House that no other aspect of the Juries Act will be affected by the changes that are introduced and that the selection of jurors from the electoral register and the administration of juror responses will remain with the Court Service staff.

The draft order seeks only to contract out the posting and printing of summonses and the certification of posting. I commend the draft order to the House. I beg to move.

Moved, That the draft order laid before the House on 14th June be approved [22nd Report from the Joint Committee].--(Lord Falconer of Thoroton.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Deregulation (Casinos) Order 1999

2.50 p.m.

Lord Burlison rose to move, That the draft deregulation order laid before the House on 5th July be approved [24th Report from the Deregulation Committee].

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this order contains modest relaxations of the law governing casinos in Great Britain. Casinos in this country will still be the most strictly regulated in the world. Most people have never visited a casino here and have a completely erroneous impression that they are like those in Las Vegas or Monte Carlo. In fact, British casinos are very discreet places, offering mainly blackjack and roulette in secure

23 Jul 1999 : Column 1259

and well ordered surroundings. They are run as members' clubs and are strictly regulated by the Gaming Board.

The order seeks to relax slightly the strict controls on membership, advertising and machines. It will make it a little easier to visit casinos while maintaining the controls which have maintained a respectable and well regulated industry.

The order amends the Gaming Act 1968 as follows: it removes the requirement that people must apply in person at a casino for membership, thus allowing postal applications; it allows limited casino advertising in written publications; and it increases the maximum number of jackpot machines permitted in casinos from six to 10.

There has been extensive public consultation on these proposals and scrutiny by the parliamentary deregulation committees. The committee in another place and the Delegated Powers Scrutiny Committee examined the proposals carefully. Neither committee had any concerns to raise about the order. The order was approved in another place on 20th July.

Lord Elton: My Lords, will the Minister kindly give way? It is reassuring to hear what was said about the Deregulation Committee. But the Order Paper says that this was the subject of the 24th report of the Deregulation Committee. I have that report in my hand, but this matter does not appear in it. Perhaps the Minister could tell us in which report of the Deregulation Committee it appears. Of course, if it does not require us to draw attention to it anyway, it is a matter of small importance. On the other hand, if it does, it is a matter of large importance.

Lord Burlison: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for his intervention. I understood that it was the 24th report, but I shall check that and write to the noble Lord.

Lord Elton: My Lords, my noble friend on the Front Bench handed me the 20th report. There is obviously a misprint on the Order Paper. Perhaps we can put that on the record.

Lord Burlison: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for his intervention and that correction. The order was approved in another place on 20th July. The Delegated Powers Scrutiny Committee recommended approval by this House. I beg to move.

Moved, That the draft deregulation order laid before the House on 5th July be approved [24th Report from the Deregulation Committee].--(Lord Burlison.)

Baroness Anelay of St. Johns: My Lords, I thank the Minister for outlining the purpose behind this order and echo his remarks on the way in which casinos and the way they operate are often misunderstood in this country. I was able to attend the annual trade fair for casino operators earlier this year. It was a fascinating visit. No gambling was taking place, but if there had been, I am sure I would have lost, as is my wont--not that I do more than take part in the National Lottery on a modest basis each week.

23 Jul 1999 : Column 1260

I have taken note of the report of the Delegated Powers Scrutiny Committee. The committee reported that it was satisfied that each of the proposed changes in the law would reduce a burden on the businesses which run casinos. That in itself would not cause us on these Benches to support the order without further reassurance about the level of protection afforded to the public being maintained.

Paragraphs 8 to 16 of the report deal with the question of what is "necessary protection" and I read them carefully. In particular there are reassurances regarding the anxieties raised by GamCare with regard to the under-18s--something about which this House is always concerned. I note that the committee considers that the necessary protection would be maintained under this proposal and consequently I am able to support the making of the order.

I want to make one further remark with regard to what the committee refers to as the "salami slicing approach" to the deregulation of proposals affecting casinos. The statement by the Home Office which accompanies this order refers somewhat opaquely to paragraphs 17 to 22, and to paragraph 7 as follows:


    "The Home Office has noted the Committee's comments on the future use of the deregulation power to amend the gaming laws and the need for a review of the legislation".

In fact, the committee raises some serious questions about how and when future reform should take place. At paragraph 19 of the report, the committee asks whether this will be the last in a series of deregulation proposals affecting casinos and observes that there is every indication from the Government that it will not be the last. The committee points out that the response of London Clubs International, which was submitted to the latest consultation paper, urged the Government,


    "to move quickly to allowing the introduction of at least 20 machines and a proper casino slot machine regime".

Can the Minister say whether this change could be made in the future under existing law?

The committee concludes its consideration of the problems of salami slicing by pointing out that one consequence of such an approach is,


    "that it becomes unclear as to when the principles governing the legislation are being fundamentally undermined".

The committee continues to say that it does not believe that that point has yet been reached, but concludes that the piecemeal relaxation of the gaming laws by way of deregulation is clearly unsatisfactory and that it is its strong view that the legislation is now due for review.

In the past, I have sat as a magistrate on a local betting and gaming committee. Like other noble Lords, I am perfectly well aware that reforming such a body of legislation is no easy matter; indeed, it would be a very complex task. However, if the Government are not able to undertake such a review in the short term, can the Minister say whether they have any plans in the medium term to carry out such work? In the meantime, I support the making of the order.


Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page