HL Deb 19 January 1993 vol 541 cc75-6WA
Lord Gainford

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What plans they have to extend the evening opening hours of licensed betting offices.

The Minister of State, Home Office (Earl Ferrers)

In October, 1991, the Government issued a consultation document inviting the views of all interested parties on whether licensed betting offices should be open in the evening and, if so, at what times. Over 800 representations and a number of petitions have since been received. The views expressed fully reflected the arguments for and against evening opening. In the light of that consultation process, we have decided that evening opening should be allowed until 10.00 pm on Mondays to Saturdays between April and August inclusive.

Government policy on gambling is that there should be adequate properly regulated facilities available for those who wish to gamble. It is clear that the growth in the number of evening horseraces has created increased consumer demand for evening opening of licensed betting offices during the summer months. In those circumstances, the Government believe that there are no public interest or policy reasons to object to evening opening.

We are aware that many bookmakers, their staff and the greyhound racing industry are concerned about the effect which evening opening may have on them. We have taken account of those concerns and believe that the approach now proposed achieves a sensible and reasonable balance between the various interests.

This decision is broadly in line with the recommendations of the Home Affairs Select Committee of the House of Commons following their inquiries into the funding of horseracing and greyhound racing. However, as some horseraces are run after 9.00 pm and to allow time for payment of any winnings, we propose that the latest closing time should be 10.00 pm rather than the 9.00 pm recommended by the committee. This will be a standard latest closing time throughout April to August. A variable closing time, perhaps linked to the last horserace, would have created enforcement difficulties.

The Government are committed to removing unnecessary regulations on business and extending consumer choice where possible. Evening opening represents a further important measure of deregulation and will give bookmakers greater freedom to adjust their opening hours to suit the needs of their customers.

The opening hours of licensed betting offices are prescribed by regulation, subject to the negative resolution procedure. My right honourable friend the Home Secretary has today laid an order before Parliament which will permit evening opening with effect from 1st April 1993. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Scotland will lay a similar order to permit the same evening opening hours in Scotland.