HC Deb 30 April 1975 vol 891 cc627-9
Mr. Graham Page

I beg to move Amendment No. 5, in page 3, line 23, at end insert: '(3) A scheme approved by a local authority under this section may be varied or revoked by resolution of the authority at any time before any tickets or chances have been sold in a local lottery to which the scheme applies'. Clause 3 provides for the registration of local authority lotteries or the schemes for local authority lotteries. The amendment is a minor and simple administrative point. If a local authority registers a scheme and then wishes before the lottery is put into operation to alter it by resolution of its own council, it would have under the Bill to re-register the whole scheme. This seems a little piece of unnecessary red tape. Provided that the lottery has not started, that no one has sold any tickets, there can be no harm in the local authority registering with the board an amendment to its scheme, provided that the scheme is amended in this way, without having to go through all the palaver of having to register the whole scheme all over again slightly amended.

I hope that the Minister will find the amendment acceptable.

Dr. Summerskill

The amendment seeks to confer power to "amend" a local authority lottery scheme at any time before tickets are sold. Perhaps the right hon. Member for Crosby (Mr. Page) will bear with me while I explain the administrative arrangements under the Bill as it stands. His proposal is misconceived because every case of amendment is a case of making anew, but with changes. Every amended scheme is therefore, in the nature of things, a new scheme; and a local authority can make a new scheme at any time.

What is wrong about this amendment is that it makes no mention of registration with the Gaming Board. Registration is the essence of the matter. No tickets are to be sold in a local authority's lottery unless and until the relevant scheme has been registered. If the purpose of this amendment is to allow a scheme to be registered one day, amended the next, and acted upon the day after, without re-registration, that is quite unacceptable in principle.

If the purpose of the amendment is to oblige the Gaming Board to accept for registration a catalogue of amendments to a registered scheme without the courtesy of a clean copy, that is unacceptable on practical grounds. The Gaming Board cannot be expected to maintain an index of amendments to schemes.

Where one is dealing with the legality of an undertaking affecting large sums of money and any number of people, and the legality of the whole affair depends upon the fact of registration before a particular event, there is only one orderly way in which to deal with the matter. That is for each registration to consist of a complete document identified by name, number, and date of registration. On that basis everyone knows where he stands, and copies of registrations can be supplied without risk of error.

Afterthoughts about an unregistered scheme can be dealt with by registering the scheme only in its amended form. Afterthoughts about a registered scheme should be dealt with by a new registration, complete in itself.

I think that the right hon. Gentleman will agree that this arrangement is not only simple but makes for accuracy, and makes the possibility of a mistake far less likely than under his scheme.

Mr. Alison

What the hon. Lady has said merely troubles us further with regard to the Gaming Board's work load. If every change, every crossing of the t's and dotting of the i's, has to be reregistered as a separate scheme, as the hon. Lady seems to have said, the scope that the measure offers for schemes to be registered could be doubled, trebled or even quadrupled.

There are bound to be times when circumstances change in the gestation period before a scheme is launched upon the public, yet every amendment must be reregistered. The scope of the work for the board grows more gargantuan at every step we take in the Bill.

Is the Minister confident that the procedures she envisages will not prove oppressive and impossible for the board to carry out, even with a 50 per cent. In-crease in staff? That will only raise it from 70 to 105, of whom 30 will continue to be employed as inspectors outside.

Mr. Weitzman

If a scheme is revoked it will not require registration. If it is varied in any essential part it must require registration. That makes the amendment unnecessary.

Mr. Alison

Unfortunately, a scheme that is revoked will have been registered earlier. Therefore, the task of registration has already been carried out by the board. The revocation and the substitution of a new or amended scheme will simply add an enormous burden. I share with the hon. Member for Normanton (Mr. Roberts), who made an important contribution earlier, the fear that the board will be inundated with schemes.

My right hon. Friend has tried to introduce a bit of flexibility and common sense. A vast scrutinising and surveillance of the schemes will not be practicable. There will be far too many of them, possibly 20 to 40 a day coming to the board. It will not be able effectively to police them all.

The hon. Lady should seriously consider accepting the amendment, because the flexibility and common sense that it proposes are essential. Even if schemes have to be re-registered, the board will not be able to process them effectively. It will be a rubber-stamp, automatic affair.

Dr. Summerskill

I re-emphasise what I said on Second Reading, that lotteries are a form of gambling. This is a serious Bill, involving large sums of money. Many people will be handing over money in a gambling enterprise. It is very important that the whole affair should be properly organised on a legal basis. Registration is essential.

Amendment negatived.

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