HC Deb 06 April 2000 vol 347 cc1149-50
15. Dr. Stephen Ladyman (South Thanet)

If he will make a statement on measures in his Budget to boost seaside arcade businesses and support the amusement machine industry.[116617]

The Financial Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Stephen Timms)

The Budget introduced a package of reform for amusement machine licence duty, which will reduce tax revenue in the first year and be neutral in the longer term. It targets extra help on seaside arcades. A new exemption from duty for 10p small prize amusement machines has been particularly welcomed by those concerned about seaside tourism.

Dr. Ladyman

Sober-suited business men seldom dance in the streets, but one or two in my constituency came close to doing so on Budget night because it is home to seaside arcades, suppliers of amusement machines and the world's two leading manufacturers, whose businesses were secured by what the Government did. Will my hon. Friend build on the good will thus created by ensuring that he meets at least annually with trade organisations for the industry so that they may discuss future opportunities for revenue raising and identify weaknesses in the industry so that we may continue to support it?

Mr. Timms

I have, of course, met representatives of the industry, and should be happy to do so again in the run-up to future Budgets if representations are made to me. My hon. Friend is absolutely right to say that our changes have been particularly welcome at the seaside and to manufacturers of machines. The gain is for machines with non-cash prizes, which are popular at the seaside, rather than for cash-prize machines. As we often do, we listened to representations from the industry and acted on them. I am pleased to hear that people are dancing in the streets as a result.

Mr. Edward Davey (Kingston and Surbiton)

The Liberal Democrats are pleased with the concession for small prize machines—a proposal tabled during progress on last year's Finance Bill by my hon. Friend the Member for Twickenham (Dr. Cable) and me. I am glad that the Government have accepted another Liberal Democrat idea, which will help British Legion branches, working men's clubs and even Conservative clubs. Given the number of pensioners who use such clubs and such machines, will the hon. Gentleman make representations to the Chancellor to improve pensioners' incomes rather than persisting with this month's measly 75p increase?

Mr. Timms

The changes we are introducing are good news for machines in social clubs as well. I pay tribute to all my hon. Friends who have made representations on behalf of seaside tourism in particular.

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