HL Deb 01 July 1985 vol 465 cc1036-7

8.38 p.m.

Baroness Cox

My Lords, on behalf of my noble friend Lord Glenarthur, I beg to move that the draft Pool Competitions Act 1971 (Continuance) Order 1985, which was laid before this House on 20th May, be approved. The Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments has considered the draft order and has made no comment.

I do not wish to dwell for long on the history and background to the Pool Competitions Act 1971. It may be helpful to your Lordships, however, to recall that the 1971 Act was introduced as a temporary expedient to help a number of sporting and charitable concerns to overcome a difficulty which had arisen for them over the running of pool competitions to raise funds following a ruling in your Lordships' House that these competitions did not amount to lawful pool betting.

That decision led to great concern among a number of football clubs and charities such as the Spastics Society and Tenovus which at that time relied heavily on these competitions as a major plank in their fundraising activities. The Pool Competitions Act 1971 was designed to rescue these organisations; in effect it red-circled the organisations active in promoting pool competitions—at the time 18 so qualified—and said that for a limited period they should be able to continue with these activities. The Act had a life-span originally of five years but it contained a facility for further renewal. Parliament has been asked to renew the Act on an annual basis since 1976. The annual renewal of this Act has led to some criticism of the Government's approach. It has been argued that we should either let the Act lapse or provide a permanent framework so that these competitions may continue without any uncertainty.

In inviting your Lordships to approve the 1985 draft order, I should like to stress that we have taken a view of the longer-term position. As my noble friend Lord Elton explained in the same debate two years ago, having reviewed all the options, we were not persuaded that it would be right to make some permanent provision for pool competitions. Instead, we have said that we will recommend renewal orders for the lifetime of this Parliament only. We believe that this is the only reasonable course for us to take. It would be unduly harsh to let the Act fall now, just two years after the Government announced the conclusion of its review. The best available information suggests that the annual donations to beneficiaries for the remaining pool competitions have run from between £250,000 to nearly £900,000, and in one case have topped £1.6 million.

I should perhaps confirm to your Lordships that the way the 1971 Act is drafted does not allow us to go for what might be a somewhat tidier route of setting a date—say, five years since the last general election—for the expiry of the Act. Twelve months is the maximum period which may be specified in the order, and that is why we are committed to proceeding with annual debates. We want the football clubs and charities concerned to look for alternative methods of fund raising and there is evidence that the message is being heeded. This time last year six of the original 18 organisations were still actively running pool competitions. Now the figure is down to four.

My Lords, with this explanation of why we believe the 1971 Act should be extended for a further year, I ask the House to agree to the Motion before it. I beg to move.

Moved, That the draft order laid before the House on 20th May be approved. [23rd Report from the Joint Committee.]—(Baroness Cox.)

Baroness David

My Lords, I should like to thank the Minister for her explanation of the order and say that we agree to it.

On Question, Motion agreed to.