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All we are suggesting is a delay until 2010 and that Parliament will have another look at the matter. The noble Baroness, Lady Byford, who spoke on this issue at Second Reading—I fully understand why she could not be present in Committee—was quite right to say that the Commission for Rural Communities had been pretty silent on this. As she will know, I opposed the setting up of that quango, which can be no more than a voice. However, it is supposed to have direct access to the Prime Minister through its rural advocate and I wonder what he has been saying recently on this issue to the Prime Minister and if it has had any effect at all.

The amendment will provide a chance for the Post Office reorganisation, as the Government might

30 Jan 2007 : Column 163

euphemistically call it, to take place under detailed scrutiny from Postwatch, which it is best placed to deliver because it has been working on this issue for several years. No one can take its place in that regard. Our amendment offers a middle way. We are not saying that the reorganisation should never happen but simply that it should not happen at this time of enormous turbulence for the Post Office, which provides a crucial service for people in rural areas and is equally important for people in suburban and urban areas.

Finally, noble Lords on the Conservative Benches have raised the issue of the business sector. The business sector has asked me to express its disappointment at the Minister’s response on this issue. In particular, a letter stated that,

In rural areas, nothing is more important for small businesses than the postal sector, and that applies equally to the business sector throughout the UK.

Lord Truscott: My Lords, the amendment would require the Secretary of State to make an order to abolish Postwatch and to make that order subject to the affirmative resolution procedure in both Houses. Furthermore, the Secretary of State would not be permitted to make the order before 2010.

I recognise the concerns raised by the noble Lord, Lord Razzall, and the noble Baronesses, Lady Byford and Lady Miller, but I agree with my noble friend Lord Whitty that one of the main objectives of the Bill is the creation of a cross-sectoral consumer advocacy body that is stronger than the sum of its parts in addressing consumer issues that frequently exist across sectors of the economy. The new body must have the critical mass to engage effectively with government, regulators and industry sectors on the basis of expert and informed analysis and have the benefit of being able to draw on experience and expertise from a number of sectors. We recognise that maintaining the existing sectoral expertise in the postal services sector is vital to the success of the new body. We also recognise the importance of this in a sector that has only recently been opened up to competition.

We had a lively and informative debate in Committee on the principle of merging Postwatch with Energywatch and the National Consumer Council, and, given the extensive prior consultation on this issue, I am not convinced that it is necessary or appropriate to subject the proposal to incorporate Postwatch into the new council to the affirmative resolution procedure at a later date.

On timing, I understand the concerns raised by noble Lords that the postal services sector needs a strong advocacy body in order effectively to represent consumer interests in the post office network restructuring programme. In recognition of the importance of this issue to consumers, the new

30 Jan 2007 : Column 164

council will, under Clause 15, maintain the current function assigned to Postwatch of investigating any matter relating to the number and location of public post offices. Having a strong consumer advocate in the postal services sector and maintaining the sectoral expertise that Postwatch has built up and which the new council will inherit are vital to the Government’s proposals for a sustainable post office network.

We believe that delaying the inclusion of Postwatch in the new arrangements for consumer advocacy would merely prolong the uncertainty for existing staff and consumers and would increase the likelihood of staff retention problems and departures precisely at the point when Postwatch needs its staff most to feed into the post office network restructuring programme. The amendment would exacerbate the problem and be counterproductive, as it would extend that period of uncertainty, with consequent damage to morale and staff retention.

After careful consideration, therefore, I am not convinced that a delay in the creation of the new National Consumer Council and the associated abolition of Postwatch would benefit consumers of postal services, who would be faced with a delay in the creation of a stronger consumer advocate, as mentioned by my noble friend Lord Whitty, to represent their interests, and redress schemes to provide them with complaints resolution and redress as appropriate. Indeed, a delay might actually be harmful, creating a longer period of uncertainty for the existing staff of Postwatch, which I do not think was the intention of the noble Baroness, Lady Miller.

Lord Razzall: My Lords, I thank the Minister for his reply. We debated this extensively in Committee. I suppose that the best argument against the amendment tabled in my name and that of my noble friend is that it will be the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, who is responsible for proving us wrong. However, I am afraid that I am not persuaded, for two reasons.

First, I would be better persuaded if the world of this integrated authority to which the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, refers was that which is actually going to be put in place. We already know that the Department of Trade and Industry lost the internal turf wars and failed in its attempt to have a number of other councils, in particular the transport one, merged into the empire of the noble Lord, Lord Whitty.

Secondly, the Government have already conceded that water will not come in until 2010. I am not sure why the arguments that apply to water do not apply in spades to the Post Office and the Royal Mail, for all the reasons that I set out. I do not want to repeat those arguments, as we know what they are, but on this occasion I should like to test the opinion of the House.

5.08 pm

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 40) shall be agreed to?

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Their Lordships divided: Contents, 74; Not-Contents, 138.

Division No. 1


Addington, L. [Teller]
Alton of Liverpool, L.
Astor, V.
Avebury, L.
Barker, B.
Beaumont of Whitley, L.
Bradshaw, L.
Butler of Brockwell, L.
Byford, B.
Caithness, E.
Chidgey, L.
Clement-Jones, L.
Cotter, L.
D'Souza, B.
Dykes, L.
Falkland, V.
Fearn, L.
Finlay of Llandaff, B.
Garden, L.
Glasgow, E.
Goodhart, L.
Hamwee, B.
Hannay of Chiswick, L.
Harris of Richmond, B.
Haskins, L.
Holme of Cheltenham, L.
Howe of Idlicote, B.
Jones of Cheltenham, L.
Kirkwood of Kirkhope, L.
Lee of Trafford, L.
Lester of Herne Hill, L.
Liverpool, Bp.
Lyell, L.
McAlpine of West Green, L.
Maclennan of Rogart, L.
McNally, L.
Maddock, B.
Mar and Kellie, E.
Masham of Ilton, B.
Miller of Chilthorne Domer, B.
Northbourne, L.
Northover, B.
Patel, L.
Pilkington of Oxenford, L.
Powell of Bayswater, L.
Ramsbotham, L.
Razzall, L. [Teller]
Redesdale, L.
Rennard, L.
Roberts of Llandudno, L.
Rodgers of Quarry Bank, L.
Russell-Johnston, L.
Saltoun of Abernethy, Ly.
Sharman, L.
Shutt of Greetland, L.
Skidelsky, L.
Smith of Clifton, L.
Steel of Aikwood, L.
Stoddart of Swindon, L.
Taverne, L.
Thomas of Gresford, L.
Thomas of Walliswood, B.
Thomas of Winchester, B.
Tonge, B.
Tope, L.
Tordoff, L.
Trimble, L.
Tyler, L.
Vallance of Tummel, L.
Wallace of Saltaire, L.
Walmsley, B.
Walpole, L.
Wedderburn of Charlton, L.
Williams of Crosby, B.


Acton, L.
Adonis, L.
Ahmed, L.
Allenby of Megiddo, V.
Alli, L.
Amos, B. [Lord President.]
Andrews, B.
Archer of Sandwell, L.
Ashton of Upholland, B.
Bach, L.
Barnett, L.
Bassam of Brighton, L.
Berkeley, L.
Billingham, B.
Bilston, L.
Borrie, L.
Boston of Faversham, L.
Boyd of Duncansby, L.
Bradley, L.
Brett, L.
Brooke of Alverthorpe, L.
Brookman, L.
Campbell-Savours, L.
Christopher, L.
Clark of Windermere, L.
Clarke of Hampstead, L.
Clinton-Davis, L.
Cohen of Pimlico, B.
Corbett of Castle Vale, L.
Corston, B.
Crawley, B.
Davidson of Glen Clova, L.
Davies of Oldham, L. [Teller]
Dean of Thornton-le-Fylde, B.
Desai, L.
Donoughue, L.
Elder, L.
Evans of Parkside, L.
Evans of Temple Guiting, L.
Falconer of Thoroton, L. [Lord Chancellor.]
Farrington of Ribbleton, B.
Faulkner of Worcester, L.
Filkin, L.
Ford, B.
Foster of Bishop Auckland, L.
Foulkes of Cumnock, L.
Fyfe of Fairfield, L.
Gale, B.
Gavron, L.
Gibson of Market Rasen, B.
Gilbert, L.
Golding, B.
Goldsmith, L.
Gordon of Strathblane, L.
Goudie, B.

30 Jan 2007 : Column 166

Gould of Potternewton, B.
Graham of Edmonton, L.
Griffiths of Burry Port, L.
Grocott, L. [Teller]
Harrison, L.
Hart of Chilton, L.
Haworth, L.
Henig, B.
Hilton of Eggardon, B.
Hollis of Heigham, B.
Howarth of Newport, L.
Howells of St. Davids, B.
Howie of Troon, L.
Hoyle, L.
Hughes of Woodside, L.
Hunt of Kings Heath, L.
Janner of Braunstone, L.
Jay of Paddington, B.
Jones, L.
Jones of Whitchurch, B.
Kingsmill, B.
Kinnock, L.
Kirkhill, L.
Layard, L.
Lea of Crondall, L.
Leitch, L.
Lofthouse of Pontefract, L.
Macdonald of Tradeston, L.
McIntosh of Haringey, L.
McIntosh of Hudnall, B.
MacKenzie of Culkein, L.
Mackenzie of Framwellgate, L.
McKenzie of Luton, L.
Mason of Barnsley, L.
Massey of Darwen, B.
Maxton, L.
Moonie, L.
Morgan of Drefelin, B.
Morris of Aberavon, L.
Morris of Handsworth, L.
Morris of Manchester, L.
O'Neill of Clackmannan, L.
Ouseley, L.
Patel of Blackburn, L.
Pendry, L.
Pitkeathley, B.
Plant of Highfield, L.
Prosser, B.
Prys-Davies, L.
Quin, B.
Radice, L.
Ramsay of Cartvale, B.
Rendell of Babergh, B.
Rooker, L.
Rosser, L.
Royall of Blaisdon, B.
Sawyer, L.
Sewel, L.
Sheldon, L.
Simon, V.
Snape, L.
Soley, L.
Stone of Blackheath, L.
Symons of Vernham Dean, B.
Taylor of Bolton, B.
Temple-Morris, L.
Thomas of Macclesfield, L.
Thornton, B.
Triesman, L.
Truscott, L.
Tunnicliffe, L.
Turnberg, L.
Turner of Camden, B.
Uddin, B.
Varley, L.
Wall of New Barnet, B.
Warwick of Undercliffe, B.
Whitaker, B.
Whitty, L.
Williams of Elvel, L.
Williamson of Horton, L.
Woolmer of Leeds, L.
Young of Norwood Green, L.

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

Gambling: Casino Advisory Panel Report

5.19 pm

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, with the leave of the House, I shall now repeat a Statement made in another place by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport. The Statement is as follows:

“With permission, Mr Speaker, I would like to make a Statement on the recommendations of the independent Casino Advisory Panel. The panel has today published its report, and I should like to thank Professor Crow and his colleagues for their work.“Before I turn to the recommendations, I should like to remind the House of the context in which we are allowing new types of casino. Gambling is on the increase. People want to gamble, and technology allows many new forms of gambling. Existing regulation is inadequate and leaves people exposed. So, through the Gambling Act 2005, we have placed the protection of children and other vulnerable people at the heart of gambling regulation for the first time.

30 Jan 2007 : Column 167

“Yet if I believed everything I read in the papers about the Gambling Act, I would never have introduced it. So let me make it very clear: Las Vegas is not coming to Great Britain. British casinos will be subject to new controls, the strictest in the world.“For example, Las Vegas-style tricks of the trade will not be allowed. There will be no free alcohol to induce more gambling, and there will be no pumped oxygen to keep players awake. It will be a criminal offence to permit a child to enter the casino or the gambling area of the regional casino. All casinos will require staff trained to spot the signs of problem gambling and intervene where necessary. If they do not, they risk losing their licence.“It was safe in the knowledge of these protections that we took the decision, in response to demand from local authorities, to allow a limited number of new casinos. Sixty-eight local authorities, representing all the main political parties, subsequently made applications to the panel. The Act allows 17 in total: one regional, eight large and eight small. Because the new casinos will be different from those we have seen before, and because we have listened carefully to the concerns of Members and their constituents, we thought it was right to be cautious.“Now I can say this in 50 different languages, but the message would be the same: we cannot allow and will not even consider allowing any further casinos until a proper evaluation over time has been made of the effect of these 17 casinos on problem gambling, and such a decision would require a debate and vote in both Houses of Parliament in any case.“We have commissioned a group of academics led by Lancaster University to advise on the methodology for that assessment. The baseline study will be undertaken later this year, once Parliament has approved the new areas. The assessment process will be in place in good time for the opening of the first new casino. The assessment will not be completed until at least three years after the award of the first licence. The work is in addition to the prevalence studies of patterns of gambling, which we are undertaking every three years from 2007. The benchmark prevalence study is currently under way, and the findings will be published this autumn, when the Gambling Act takes effect. The findings of the next prevalence study will not be published until autumn 2010. I therefore wish to make it crystal clear to the House that these safeguards preclude any consideration of further casinos for the lifetime of this Parliament.“I am required by the Act to make an order identifying the local authorities where the 17 new casinos should go. So, in October 2005, I established the Casino Advisory Panel, under Professor Stephen Crow. The primary consideration for the panel throughout has been to ensure that the areas facilitate the best possible test of social impact. Subject to that consideration, I

30 Jan 2007 : Column 168

also asked the panel to include areas in need of regeneration that would benefit in employment terms from a new casino and to ensure that those areas selected are willing to license a new casino. The panel has been operating entirely independently of the Government, and I should like to place on record my appreciation for the rigour and professionalism that Professor Crow and his colleagues have brought to the process.“This has been an open and transparent process throughout, and the views of local people have been taken into account at every stage. The panel asked local authorities to include evidence of local consultation. Local people were invited to participate in the examinations in public that were held in the seven short listed areas. A number of areas, including Brent, Canterbury, Dartford, Thurrock and Woking, withdrew their applications to the panel in response to local opinion. A number of local authorities, such as Hackney, St Albans and Slough, have also taken advantage of new powers in the Gambling Act to resolve not to license any casinos in their area.“After 16 months’ consultation, and having considered all the evidence available, the panel has today recommended that the following authorities should be entitled to issue a small casino premises licence: Bath and North East Somerset, Dumfries and Galloway, East Lindsey, Luton, Scarborough, Swansea, Torbay, and Wolverhampton.“The following local authorities should be entitled to issue a large casino premises licence: Great Yarmouth, Kingston-upon-Hull, Leeds, Middlesbrough, Milton Keynes, Newham, Solihull and Southampton. And that Manchester should be entitled to issue the one regional casino premises licence permitted by the Act.“I congratulate Manchester and the other recommended towns and cities on their success and I acknowledge the disappointment of those towns and cities that have not been recommended. “I received a copy of the panel’s report just this morning. Because I am also conscious of the need to maintain the integrity of the independent process that we have established, it is only fair to all the applicants that I should take the time to consider its contents carefully. I am also required by the Gambling Act to consult Scottish and Welsh Ministers.“I am therefore announcing today that, following this consultation with the devolved Administrations, I am minded to return to this House at the earliest opportunity with an order which will enable Parliament to consider the panel’s recommendations and vote on the order. The order will be subject to the affirmative resolution procedure and the debate will be held on the Floor of the House. This means that Parliament will rightly determine the outcome of this process. “Gambling will always be a sensitive issue, and I understand the reservations that some Members and others have about casinos. However, I have always sought to ensure that the Government

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proceed cautiously, with the strongest possible safeguards and on the basis of the best evidence of public protection in the face of rising public demand. That is what we have done.“Once again, I thank Professor Crow and his panel for the thoroughness of their work and I commend this Statement to the House”.

My Lords, that concludes the Statement.

5.26 pm

Lord Howard of Rising: My Lords, I thank the Minister for repeating the Statement made earlier today in another place. I am sure that the choice of Manchester is a good one, but I find it difficult to join in the general congratulations when the whole concept of dramatically expanding the gambling industry in this country is so flawed. I find it even more difficult to understand why Her Majesty's Government should be so keen on this course of action when organisations such as the police and the British Medical Association have come out so strongly against the expansion of gambling because of the problems associated with it

For those who wish to gamble there already exists a plethora of ways of so doing, from the internet to the racecourse and plenty of stops in between. Casinos such as are proposed will only introduce new punters who might otherwise never have gambled. A proportion of those will become addicts, resulting most probably in the destruction of their and their families’ lives.

I very much hope that Her Majesty's Government will treat this properly as a pilot scheme to thoroughly assess the impact of these casinos, rather than just looking on the pilots as a method of introducing massive expansion of gambling through the back door, in the way that the 1968 Act has been used to give initial approval to 90 casinos.

Her Majesty’s Government’s commitment to a proper evaluation of the effect of the 17 casinos on problem gambling is welcomed. A rigorous set of criteria for evaluating the success or failure of the pilot scheme will do much to restore faith that Her Majesty’s Government have a desire to learn from what happens and to act accordingly.

It would be interesting to hear from the Minister how Manchester came to be chosen when it was ranked only sixth in the original shortlist and whether the preferred bidder will be Kerzner International.

5.29 pm

Lord Clement-Jones: My Lords, I thank the Minister for repeating the Statement made in another place and join in thanking Professor Crow and his team for their work. We welcome the fact that there will be the opportunity to debate the affirmative order. There is clearly some surprise—indeed, shock—in Blackpool and Greenwich at the outcome—

Noble Lords: And in Manchester.

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Lord Clement-Jones: And in Manchester, my Lords, as my noble friends point out.

No doubt the report will repay further reading in the run-up to that debate. I hope that the Minister will be able to tell us a little more about the timing of the debate, so that we will really have the opportunity to examine the grounds on which the decision was made, which has obviously been such a disappointment to many in those two areas.

This House, like the other place, will be surprised by the Secretary of State's statement:

Just before the general election, it was the opposition parties who were urging caution on the Government about the spread of casinos, especially the regional casino concept, not the Government. The Government were very gung-ho for the concept of eight super-casinos.

I very much welcome what the Secretary of State said today about not expanding the number of casinos beyond 17 until their ability to aid regeneration while not increasing problem gambling has been thoroughly tested. I hope that the Minister can confirm that we will be able to debate the methodology to be suggested by the University of Lancaster: how it is judged whether regeneration can take place without increasing problem gambling.

Today's announcement of 17 new casinos has hit the headlines, but the Minister may cast his mind back to a programme just this weekend that revealed that 68 new licences have been approved by the Gambling Commission in the past two years. Although some have had premises licences refused, that could lead to another 40 or 50 casinos on top of today's 17. There are even more applications in the offing. How does that square with the statement by the Secretary of State that the Government will not even consider allowing any further casinos until proper evaluation has been made of the 17 announced today?

Why did Mr Richard Caborn say two years ago that,

Was that not a complete misstatement? Doesn’t it look as though there will be more than that? What will be the final total of new casinos? I also wonder whether the Secretary of State regrets saying about three years ago:

the Gambling Bill—

She said in a recent “Any Questions” broadcast that,

Can the Minister confirm that that is indeed government policy?

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