HC Deb 28 April 1993 vol 223 cc973-6

10.—(1) The Secretary of State may by order prescribe—

  1. (a) the maximum number of lotteries that a society or local authority may promote under section 5 or 6 above in any period of twelve months; and
  2. (b) the minimum number of days that must elapse between the dates of any two lotteries promoted under section 5 or 6 above on behalf of the same society or by the same local authority.

(2) An order under subsection (1) above may make different provision for different cases or circumstances.—[Mr. Peter Lloyd.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

Mr. Peter Lloyd

I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

Madam Speaker

With this it will be convenient to discuss also the following: Government amendment No. 166.

Amendment No. 18, in clause 45, page 17, line 39, at end insert '; but nothing in this section shall apply to a registered charity or non-profit making organisation in respect of any lottery or lotteries which have been in operation for more than one year before the passing of this Act.'. Government amendment No. 190.

Mr. Lloyd

This new clause removes existing controls on the number and frequency of society and local authority lotteries. It responds to the many representations that I have received, as have, no doubt, many other hon. Members on both sides of the House, from football clubs and others about the effect of a provision in schedule 7 to the Bill designed to stop the practice of multiple registration. This arises where an organisation creates two or more separate societies, commonly operating from the same premises and with the same personnel, in order to circumvent the monetary limits on turnover or, once the Bill comes into force, to escape from Gaming Board registration.

I realise that, in order to maximise turnover, many football clubs and other organisations have been running 70 or 80 or more different lotteries a year. As the law stands, a society may only promote 52 lotteries in a 12-month period—that is, one a week. Organisations evade this restriction by registering perhaps three different societies—one to run a weekly draw lottery, another to run a monthly scratch card lottery, and a third, say, to run a large Christmas draw.

It is our aim, in the interests of fairer and more honest and effective regulation, to ensure that organisations register only the one society, but we do not want them to lose income as a result of limiting them to 52 lotteries a year. So, provided an organisation is operating within the £5 million new annual limit laid down in clause 46 of the Bill, I see no reason why it should be subject to an arbitrary limit on the number of lotteries that it may promote. If a football club decides that promoting 70 lotteries a year will maximise its income from this source, then so be it. That is a decision which ought sensibly to he left to the promoters of society and local authority lotteries. The new clause therefore removes from the face of the 1976 Act the restrictions on both the number and frequency of such lotteries.

I do not expect that this relaxation in the law will cause any regulatory problems, but the new clause contains an order-making power which will enable the Home Secretary to reimpose limits on either the number or frequency of lotteries, should the need arise. We will want to keep a close watch on the operation of the 1976 Act, as amended by part III of this Bill, but we would hope not to have to reintroduce controls of that kind. Amendments Nos. 166 and 190 are consequential on new clause 12.

Mr. Renton

Can my hon. Friend tell the House under what circumstances he thinks the need to reintroduce controls might arise?

Mr. Lloyd

I do not anticipate any problems, but if, say, societies were running lotteries so similar to each other at precisely the same time that it was impossible to distinguish whether the monetary ceilings were being breached, we might consider some further regulation to enable us to distinguish between them—but I see no reason why we should have to do this. Nevertheless, the opportunity exists to do so by regulations brought back to the House.

I hope that the hon. Members for Liverpool, Mossley Hill (Mr. Alton) and for Caithness and Sutherland (Mr. Maclennan) will agree that amendment No. 18 is now unnecessary. Its underlying purpose—to relax restrictions on the number of lotteries that may be promoted by a society in any year—is even more completely achieved by the Government new clause, which I commend to the House.

Mr. Stanley Orme (Salford, East)

I welcome the Government's move on this issue. At stake is the survival of hundreds of small cricket, football, rugby union and rugby league clubs. We welcome the removal of the barrier that would have meant that they could not run more than one lottery or scratch card competition at a time—perhaps at the same time as raffles on the Derby or Grand National.

I speak as the honorary president of the Lotteries Council, which, like the organisations I have mentioned, has welcomed the Minister's move.

Mr. David Alton (Liverpool, Mossley Hill)

I, too, welcome what the Minister has said. He has moved a long way since our debates in Committee and has listened to the protestations of the smaller clubs, based everywhere from Rochdale to Tranmere. Members of the Committee received representations from places that they did not even know existed. The right hon. Member for Salford, East (Mr. Orme) was largely responsible for that. He managed to generate one of the largest write-in campaigns that we have ever experienced—

Mr. George Howarth (Knowsley, North)

The hon. Gentleman knows all about write-in campaigns. He was responsible for 3,500 representations himself.

Mr. Alton

I am always happy to oblige. This has been a good example of the Government being responsive to positive and instructive arguments and in that spirit I am happy not to press amendment No. 18.

Mr. Corbett

The Minister will know of the great concern expressed by the smaller lotteries, not least those run by supporters clubs, when the Standing Committee was considering the Bill. He will forgive me if I slip on a black arm hand when I talk about supporters of Aston Villa, Birmingham City and Warwickshire county cricket club. Their great fear was that the introduction of the national lottery and of the lotteries of which it consists might damage their vital fund-raising activities on behalf of the clubs in which they take an interest. Probably the Premier division clubs are in a stronger position to face up to the competition from the national lottery—only time will tell.

The supporters clubs of small teams representing all sports were extremely apprehensive. We appreciate the way in which the Minister has responded to arguments in Committee and to the representations organised by my right hon. Friend the Member for Salford, East (Mr. Orme). I do not say that through gritted teeth, because it is important in Bills of this kind, dealing with matters that are not party political, to do our best to respond to what people outside with proper concerns say to us.

The Minister's proposal in the context of the Home Office is positively revolutionary, because it is a long time since the Home Office was prepared to let go of a beloved regulation. That applies especially to the grey areas in the Home Office. The Minister reminded the House of the remaining caution, and when his right hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Sussex (Mr. Renton) asked him about that, the Minister said, "We are not quite sure about whether to do this but in case we do, we want to have a fall back." It is difficult to envisage circumstances in which the proviso may be needed, but on balance the caution is probably sensible. I again thank the Minister. We are delighted to support him.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause read a Second time, and added to the Bill.

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