HC Deb 25 March 2002 vol 382 cc549-50
4. Mr. Mark Hoban (Fareham)

When the Government plan to bring forward legislation on gambling. [43145]

The Minister for Sport (Mr. Richard Caborn)

May I begin by expressing the shock and sadness felt, I believe, throughout the House on the tragic death of Ben Hollioake, the Surrey and England all-rounder? I would like, if I may, to send our sincere condolences to the family. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has today written to the family. Many would say that this accident has robbed us of one of our brightest young talents.

In answer to the question, we shall publish tomorrow a document setting out the Government's conclusions on the report of the gambling review body. It will include proposals for comprehensive modernisation of the law on gambling in Great Britain. We shall introduce a Bill when parliamentary time permits.

Mr. Hoban

I am grateful to the Minister for that answer, and I look forward to seeing him in the Chamber tomorrow when he makes an oral statement on the content of his proposals. The House will expect him to make that statement because of the enormous importance of the proposals to the gambling industry. Will he take this opportunity today to confirm to the House that his plans will safeguard the future of the jackpot machines on which so many members' clubs depend for their survival?

Mr. Caborn

There will be a debate on the document and the Bill in Government time. It is right that the document is printed tomorrow and that Members have time to reflect on the proposals. As the hon. Gentleman said, the document is a comprehensive response to the Budd report, so it would be wrong to have that discussion tomorrow. We believe that there should be a full debate in Government time, and that will be arranged.

The hon. Gentleman is right to draw attention to jackpot machines. Many of my hon. Friends, including my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-East (Mr. Turner), have campaigned very hard to retain jackpot machines in members' clubs. That has been considered very sympathetically, and we have decided to keep them because of the strong representations that have been made and because of the role that the clubs play in the social infrastructure in the areas where they operate.

Syd Rapson (Portsmouth, North)

Will the Minister consider carefully the effects of the proposals on the mostly family-run seaside fairgrounds and arcades? These are places of wholesome entertainment, not gambling addiction.

Mr. Caborn

That highlights the need to publish the document and let Members reflect on it. We shall have a thorough debate on it in Government time, and I hope that what my hon. Friend hears tomorrow will be helpful to him.

Mrs. Joan Humble (Blackpool, North and Fleetwood)

Will my right hon. Friend consider carefully the proposals for resort casinos contained in the report, and recognise that while they offer enormous opportunities for a town like Blackpool, some sections of the community are genuinely concerned? Will he ensure that there is full consultation on those important proposals with local communities, especially in towns such as Blackpool?

Mr. Caborn

My hon. Friend knows that the issue was raised in the Budd report; the Government will state their position in their response. The gambling industry is extremely important: it employs 125,000 people, has a turnover of £7 billion, and contributes in excess of £1 billion to this country's tax revenues. It is therefore important that we get our policy right. When hon. Members have read the document published tomorrow, they will take a view and we will debate the matter in the House.

Mr. Nick Hawkins (Surrey Heath)

It is good news that a full response to the Budd report is to be published tomorrow. Will the Minister confirm that as the Government's proposals develop from a response to the report and into a Bill, he will hold further consultation with the leaders of the reputable parts of that important industry, in particular the British Amusement Catering Trades Association?

Mr. Caborn

Yes. We have consulted the industry, including BACTA and many others who have a vested interest, to make sure that we deal with the gambling industry in a way that enables its potential to be realised, while ensuring that we keep the controls and restraints that have given the UK gambling industry its international credibility. We shall maintain a close working relationship and consultation with those who have a vested interest.