HL Deb 14 July 1983 vol 443 cc904-6

3.59 p.m.

Lord Irving of Dartford

My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time. The House was good enough to give a Second Reading on 9th May to a similar Bill which I introduced then. But, as with all uncompleted Public Bills including Private Members' Bills, it died on the dissolution of that Parliament. The Government, in the form of the Home Office and the Department of Trade, gave support to the Bill then and the noble Lord, Lord Glenarthur, was good enough to say that: the Bill was a modest Bill but one which could serve a useful purpose. It would open up a potential export market for some sections of the British printing industry". [Official Report,9/5/83: col. 377.] He also said that if the Bill were to be reintroduced later in the summer the Government would continue to support the principle.

This Bill is to correct an anomaly identified in paragraph 12.201 of the final report of the Royal Commission on Gambling in 1978. The anomaly is prejudicing the export of material by certain firms in our domestic printing industry which specialise in the production of tickets for lotteries conducted wholly abroad.

There can be no justification for United Kingdom legislation penalising our export industry. This is not merely a theoretical fetter on export effort and potential but can be illustrated by one undertaking's performance. Since 1973, its export turnover, which recently rose to 41 per cent. of the whole, has totalled £10,783,000, and in 1981 it was £2,745,000 to 22 overseas countries, giving employment to 300 people. These achievements have been secured in the face of the strongest overseas competition and despite the effects of the recession.

The anomaly arises in Section 2(1)(a) of the Lotteries and Amusements Act 1976 and can be traced back through Section 42(1)(a) of the Betting, Gaming and Lotteries Act 1963 to the Lotteries Act of 1823, when, no doubt, exports were of much less consequence than they are today. The final report of the Royal Commission in 1978 could hardly have put the case for clearing the anomaly more forcefully and succinctly. In paragraph 12.200 it said: We received formal evidence from Kenrick and Jefferson, an old-established firm specialising in security printing, complaining that Section 42(1)(a) of the Betting, Gaming and Lotteries Act 1963"— which has become, as I have said, Section 2(1)(a) of the 1976 Act— as at present Interpreted, had prevented them from exporting lottery tickets. They said in their evidence: 'Being an ethical house we obey the law. At the same time we know that overseas lottery tickets arc printed in the United Kingdom, and subsequently exported'. Far from suggesting that the offenders be made to toe the line, it is our contention that the law should be changed in order that others may legally participate in this trade". In the following paragraph the commission said: Our terms of reference are concerned with gambling in Britain, not with unnecessary hindrance to Britain's export trade. Nevertheless, it does seem absurd that a law which has remained unchanged since 1823 should he able to have this effect. We hope that the hindrance referred to by Kenrick and Jefferson will be quickly removed". Moreover, the reality of the threat to the printing undertakings of this country is shown by the representations made by their overseas printing competitors to our industry's potential customers abroad, alleging that those undertakings are in breach of United Kingdom law in making printed lottery supplies. A letter dated 23rd June 1982, addressed to the Finnish Embassy commercial department from the European representative of an American printing company, actually threatened that if the British printing company got the order they, an American company, would initiate a prosecution in this country against them. On the last occasion I said I thought this was an impertinence. Whatever it is, I am sure it is a situation which ought not to be allowed to continue. There is also no virtue in our police authorities being required to investigate complaints of this nature—as, indeed, has occurred.

It can he added that the present anomaly in Section 2 of the Lotteries and Amusements Acts 1976 is contrary to the Treaty of Rome as—and I quote from the treaty— disguised restriction on trade between Member States". Article 36 of the treaty says: The provisions of Articles 30 to 34 shall not preclude prohibitions or restrictions on imports, exports or goods in transit justified on grounds of public morality, public policy or public security; the protection of national treasures possessing artistic, historic or archaeological value; or the protection of industrial and commercial property. This is the point. It says: Such prohibitions or restrictions shall not, however, constitute a means of arbitrary discrimination or a disguised restriction on trade between Member States". The terms of the Bill have been limited strictly to curing the acknowledged anomaly. The source of the problem is in the opening words of Section 2(1): Subject to the provisions of this section, every person who in connection with any lottery promoted or proposed to be promoted either in Great Britain or elsewhere"— "or elsewhere" are the two offending words— shall he guilty of an offence". Put shortly, the new subsection (2A) proposed in the Bill removes the offences of printing and selling material to the promoters of any lottery conducted wholly outside Great Britain. It does not, for example, tamper with the offence of distributing in Great Britain tickets or chances in a lottery promoted outside Great Britain, such as the Irish Hospitals Sweepstake, for which tickets cannot be sold here.

It has been made clear that the Department of Industry and the Home Office are fully in sympathy with the modest purpose of the Bill, and the drafting of the Bill has been undertaken in consultation with their officials. Indeed, the noble Lord, Lord Glenarthur, asked that a technical amendment should be made at the Committee stage. I have incorporated that amendment in the new printing of the Bill.

What is plain is that, for the safeguard of the export potential of this sector of our printing industry, this alteration of the law is urgently needed. It should not await the uncertainty of the timetable for any future Government measure in this field. I beg to move.

Moved, That the Bill be now read a second time.—(Lord Irving of Dartford.)