HL Deb 07 July 1986 vol 478 cc72-4

7.37 p.m.

Viscount Davidson rose to move, That the draft order laid before the House on 21st May be approved. [24th Report from the Joint Committee]

The noble Viscount said: My Lords, I trust that this order will be slightly less contentious than the regulations which we have just been discussing. I beg to move that the draft Pool Competition Act 1971 (Continuance) Order 1986 be approved. The Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments has considered the draft order and has made no comment. The order was considered in Committee in another place on 18th June.

The history and background to the Pool Competition Act 1971 will be familiar to your Lordships from the many debates on these orders in previous years. The 1971 Act was introduced as a temporary measure in order to assist various charities and sports clubs overcome a difficulty which had arisen for them over the running of "pool competitions". Your Lordships' House ruled in 1970 that these competitions did not amount to lawful pool betting. The prizes, for the most part, were awarded not for making accurate forecasts of the results of football matches but for holding or choosing numbers which happened to be lucky in a particular week.

The Pool Competitions Act 1971 allowed the groups then active in running these competitions to continue to do so, under Gaming Board licence, for a limited period of five years. Since 1976 successive governments have not found it opportune to bring the Act to an end and have continued to keep the Act alive in the only way possible—that is to say, by introducing orders annually.

Your Lordships may wonder why we believe that a further order should be made continuing the Act in force for yet another year, when it was so clearly intended as a temporary measure. In moving the equivalent order in 1983, my noble friend Lord Elton, speaking for the Government, said that, following consultation with the charities involved, the Government would continue to lay orders in this Parliament, but they saw no future for the Act beyond that time. For the first time the promoters and beneficiaries of these competitions were put on the spot and urged to seek other methods of fund-raising within the lifespan of one Parliament.

It would be depressing, frankly, if the message had been ignored. But in fact there have been positive signs. In 1983, there were six organisations running pool competitions. Now there are are only two. A further two organisations have retained their licences but are now trying other methods of fund raising. The Government's statements in 1983 were not just idle talk. There is no intention on our part of taking action to perpetuate the Act beyond the period covered by the Minister of State's undertaking two years ago. We trust the remaining organisations will accept this and look to alternatives. For the present, I ask your Lordships to agree to the Motion so that the Act may continue for a further year. I beg to move.

Moved, That the draft order laid before the House on 21st May be approved. [24th Report from the Joint Committee].(Viscount Davidson.)

Baroness Ewart-Biggs

My Lords, I should like to thank the Minister for this clear explanation of this order, for which we are most grateful. I agree with him that. unlike the previous order, there is not a very contentious element in it. I am grateful to him for giving us the background as to how this matter arose.

May I, without in any way disagreeing with the order, put two small points to the noble Viscount in order to seek further clarification? First, the Minister said that the Government decided to proceed through the renewal orders rather than to make some permanent provision for pool competitions or simply to allow the Act to lapse. I did not quite understand what the arguments were. Perhaps the noble Viscount could repeat the arguments for renewing the orders rather than coming out one way or the other.

Secondly, I think that the noble Viscount said that originally there were 18 organisations which raised considerable funds through pool competitions; and the sums mentioned were large and presumably made a great contribution to the important work that the organisations did. The noble Viscount has now told the House that only two of those organisations are left still raising funds through pool competitions. That means that 16 organisations have been dissuaded from continuing this practice, and have presumably found other methods of raising funds.

The question I want to put is simply whether they have found alternative methods which are as good; whether they have managed to raise funds which have fully replaced the ones previously raised through pool competitions; and whether they have been able to continue doing as much work as they did before. Apart from those two small queries, from this side of the House we should like to give our wholehearted support to this order.

Viscount Davidson

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness for her reception of this order. On her first point, the reason the Government decided to carry on with laying an order annually before Parliament was really in fairness to the charities involved following the assurances given in 1983, so that they would have a period of time in which they could reorganise themselves knowing that by the end of this Parliament they would have to be getting their funds from other sources.

We do not have information about the various fund-raising activities of organisations which may have run pool competitions of one sort or another since 1971, because once the organisations concerned ceased to renew their licences it was no part of the Gaming Board's function to look at the financial affairs of those charities and sports clubs. But it seems reasonable to suppose that alternative fund-raising projects will have proved more satisfactory for charities previously involved, as pool competitions inherently are an inefficient method of raising funds. Therefore, I do not think that the noble Baroness need have any worries on that score. I hope that answers the noble Baroness.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Baroness Hooper

My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now adjourn during pleasure until ten minutes past eight.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

[The Sitting was suspended from 7.45 until 8.10 p.m.]

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