§ 9.19 p.m.
§ Lord Harmar-Nicholls
My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.
§ Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(Lord Harmar-Nicholls.)
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.
§ House in Committee accordingly.
§ [THE DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (LORD AMPTHILL) IN THE CHAIR.]
§ Clause 1 [Bingo advertising]:
Lord Harmar-Nicholls moved Amendment No. 1:
Page 1, line 7, leave out from beginning to end of line 41 on page 2 and insert:
("(1A) In subsection (1), at the end of paragraph (c) there shall be inserted "or
(d) containing an inducement to the public to take part as players in a game of bingo, or to become members of a club to which section 20 of this Act applies, or
(e) containing any such matter relating to any relevant premises, to any activities carried on at any relevant premises or to any club operating from any relevant premises as may be specified or described in regulations made by the Secretary of State.
(1B) After that subsection there shall be inserted—
(1A) For the purposes of this section any advertisement displayed on a sign or notice which—
(1C) In subsection (2), for "The preceding subsection" there shall be substituted "Subsection (1) of this section".
(1D) In subsection (3) (a), after "force" there shall be inserted "other than bingo club premises
(2) At the end of paragraph (c) of subsection (3) there shall be inserted "or
(d) the display on any bingo club premises (whether or not so as to be visible from outside those premises) of a sign or notice indicating the amount, value or description of anything that has been or may be won in a game of bingo—
(e) the display on any bingo club premises, so as not to be visible from outside those premises, of a sign or notice indicating the amount, value or description of anything that has been or may be won in a game of bingo by a player regarded, by virtue of section 2(1) of the Gaming (Bingo) Act 1985 (multiple bingo), as present on those premises for the purposes of section 12(1) of this Act, or
(f) the inclusion in an advertisement in a newspaper circulating throughout England and Wales or Scotland of information as to the amount, value or description of anything that has been or may be won by a player in a game of multiple bingo, or
(g) the inclusion in an advertisement to which subsection (3A) or (3B) of this section applies of—
(2A) After that subsection there shall be inserted the following subsections—
(3A) This subsection applies to any advertisement displayed on a sign or notice where—
(3B) This subsection applies to any other advertisement in documentary form where the advertisement—
(3C) References in subsections (3A) and (3B) of this section to a relevant inducement are references to anything which (with or without indicating that they are relevant premises) constitutes an inducement—
§ The noble Lord said: I believe that it is unusual for the sponsor of a Bill to be the only person to table amendments at Committee stage. It is usually people 548 who wish to be critical of the Bill or who want enlargement on some of the features who table the amendments. It is a pity that as regards the exchange that we have just heard, which was enlightened and in many ways very impressive, the procedure was not followed that my noble friend and his department used on this Bill. This Bill is just as intricate as some of the matters which we have heard discussed between the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Elvel, and my noble friend Lord Reay.
We shall take a very short time indeed (only minutes) compared with the previous business because all the intricate problems were settled outside in order that we do not waste the time of the Committee unnecessarily in having to go into detail. It is perhaps an example that could be followed on many more occasions. The Committee may remember that at Second Reading (on 18th December 1991 at col. 1429) I said:
The negotiations with the Home Office are continuing. I have learned within the past hour or so that … the Home Office has … reservations",
§ on one or two points but that the negotiations were still continuing. As a result of those negotiations, we are now in a position where it is agreed on all sides, with the approval of the people who have detailed knowledge of the problem, that we should put into words the principle that was generally accepted at the time of the Second Reading. All the amendments that are on the Marshalled List in my name in no way interfere with the general principle and substance of the Bill as it left this House at Second Reading.
§ The words are those which now satisfy the Home Office, myself and the people who will have to administer the terms of the Bill. The position was negotiated over the many weeks since Second Reading. The result is, as I promised then, that if the negotiations which were proceeding meant that we had to use new words without interfering with the principle that had been agreed, I would table appropriate amendments.
§ All the amendments tabled in my name to which I am now speaking contain the words which have been agreed and which mean almost exactly the same as the words that we included in the original Bill given a Second Reading by this House. It was helpful on the last occasion when the noble Lord, Lord Morris of Castle Morris, in an admirable speech, showed that he accepted the general principle. He recognised that one or two amendments were necessary to make the operation of the Bill more acceptable. I have every reason to believe that the noble Lord, in continuing the promise that he made then, gives full approval to the amendments that I am now asking the Committee to accept.
§ I shall not repeat the points that I made at Second Reading. I accept the new words which have been negotiated with everyone concerned. Without further detailed explanation which would merely reiterate the points I made at Second Reading, I beg to move the amendments standing in my name.549
§ The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Ampthill)
If the noble Lord does not mind, I suggest that he moves Amendment No. 1 and then moves the remaining amendments en bloc.
§ Lord Graham of Edmonton
In the absence of my noble friend Lord Morris of Castle Morris I should like to say that we on these Benches welcome the initiatives of the noble Lord, Lord Harmar-Nicholls. We do not intend to delay the business of the Committee unduly but I should like to invite the noble Lord, Lord Harmar-Nichols, to tell the Committee the general purport of the change in the words. I understand that we have an agreement and the words are now acceptable to the Government, to the noble Lord and to interests outside. However, it will assist me greatly if he takes a minute or two to give us the purport of the changes; why they were needed and what they do.
§ Lord Harmar-Nicholls
I shall be delighted to accept the invitation issued by the noble Lord. However, it may be better if the noble Viscount, who will be speaking on behalf of the Government, gives the explanations. It is as a consequence of the Government wanting different words, even though they would mean the same thing, that there is any need for amendments at all. Therefore, if we can leave that to my noble friend I am certain that the noble Lord will be quite happy.
As my noble friend Lord Harmar-Nicholls recalled during the Second Reading debate I indicated that the Government are prepared, in principle, to accept some relaxation of the controls on bingo club advertising and have agreed outline proposals with the bingo industry to that end. However, we had considerable reservations about how the Bill seeks to put those proposals into effect. I also said at Second Reading that we should like to see those reservations addressed before we could give the Bill our wholehearted support. I am happy to say that the various amendments—which I believe are almost, unusually, longer than the original Bill—moved by my noble friend fully meet our concerns and I warmly welcome them. Perhaps I may briefly outline the position of why that is so.
The position at the moment is that Section 42 of the Gaming Act 1968 prohibits advertisements informing the public about any premises, including bingo club premises, in Great Britain where gaming takes place, or inviting them to take part in such gaming or to apply for information about it. There are certain very limited exceptions to those restrictions. Apart from various formal notices in the press, advertising is limited to notices on the licensed premises to the effect that bingo takes place there.
The effect of these amendments to the Bill, and so to Section 42 of the 1968 Act, is to relax the controls on the advertising of bingo club premises so as to enable the industry to advertise, on a sign or notice or in documentary form, their location as bingo clubs, the fact that bingo is played there and to invite applications for membership.
550 The amendments also place new restrictions on the advertising of bingo prizes and of other inducements to the public to take part as players in a game of bingo or to become a member of a bingo club. The overall objective, of what is a complex series of amendments, is separation of the advertising of bingo club premises, on the one hand, and inducements to play bingo or to become members of a bingo club, on the other. That should ensure that the greater freedom to advertise particular premises does not lead to undue emphasis being placed on the gambling, rather than the important social aspects of bingo clubs.
Thus, with one exception, all advertising of bingo prizes away from club premises is prohibited. The exception relates to the advertising of the prizes that have been or may be won in the national bingo game. Such advertising is, however, confined to newspapers with a national circulation. In contrast and to ensure, as I have said, separation of prizes and premises, the advertising of particular bingo clubs is to be prohibited in the national press. They will be allowed to advertise in local papers and in signs or notices, but with no advertising of prizes. The prohibition on the broadcast advertising of bingo, as with all betting and gaming, is to continue.
I do not need to go through all the detailed provisions of the Bill. I have outlined what the amendments seek. Suffice it to say that the amendments implement the outline proposals we have agreed with the bingo industry and, as such, I have no hesitation in recommending them to the Committee.
§ 9.30 p.m.
§ Lord Graham of Edmonton
I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Harmar-Nicholls, who was wise enough to accept the offer made by the Minister at Second Reading. He is perfectly right that, without a fair wind, a Private Member's Bill will not get anywhere.
The Bill and the Minister are sensitive about the location of bingo halls. The Committee will know that, whereas many towns once had six cinemas, they now have six bingo halls. In Edmonton, which I represented in another place and where I lived for 35 years, and in Enfield and Southgate the cinemas which I remember—the Premier, the Odeon, the Capitol and so on—are now bingo halls. I take the point that what we are discussing is a change in the social milieu of the people of this country. I say nothing detrimental—in fact I say a great deal of good—about the bingo industry. It has tried to be sensitive about the damage that might be done not only to its own investment but also to the social fabric of the community. I say kind words about the industry.
I wonder whether the Minister can tell us who his department consulted on these matters. The proprietors are entitled to be consulted and are anxious for the outcome to be successful. I wonder whether the AMA, the ADC or the local authorities were consulted. After all we are talking about an industry that wants to be satisfied that it is in good order. I wonder whether the Advertising Standards Authority 551 had an input. I wonder whether the competitors of the bingo industry were made aware of what was going on.
I wish to make it clear to the noble Lord, Lord Harmar-Nicholls, and to the Minister that these are questions and queries rather than criticisms of the procedure. The Minister said quite fairly that the bingo industry is in a sense putting its house in order —not that it was a disorderly house—and making it more acceptable to the community. That is a wise thing to do. It is doing so without pressure or prompting. I have no catalogue of complaints about the bingo industry or about the premises from which it operates.
The Minister said that it is wise to separate the gambling from the social aspect of the business. If the noble Viscount thinks that more people go to bingo for the social aspect than for the gambling, he has another think coming. People like to gamble in a nice social atmosphere, but I can say as a punter with a dismal record over the years that they go to try to win a bob or two. On this side of the Committee we commend the Bill and the noble Lord, Lord Harmar-Nicholls, on his initiative.
§ Lord Harmar-Nicholls
Perhaps I may answer the question most authoritatively. The negotiations to which I referred were carried out by the Bingo Association of Great Britain which represents all of the operators, large and small. It was with the knowledge of the day-to-day administration that it was able to discuss the administrative details with the Home Office.
As I said at Second Reading, in a way the bingo business was the victim of a mistake. The noble Lord, Lord Graham, and I were in another place when the Gaming Board for Great Britain was set up. When the Government were trying to deal with hard gambling a mistake was made by including the bingo clubs in the same remit. They were put under the same restrictions as the hard gaming casinos. Over the years—this is my third Private Member's Bill on the subject—we have been trying to remove the unnecessary restrictions on the bingo industry which were introduced in order very properly to control hard gaming in casinos and other places of that kind.
I should point out that the Home Office has been most helpful. Moreover, the knowledge which has been gathered by the Gaming Board over the years has also played its part. There has been a real partnership between the people who run the business and those who, in theory, have to implement what Parliament desires. By getting together in this way, we have been able on this occasion to deal with the principle with which both sides agreed and we have also been able to find words which both sides accepted.
§ On Question, amendment agreed to.
Lord Harmar-Nicholls moved Amendments Nos. 2 to 7:
Page 2, line 48, leave out ("cable programme service") and insert ("programme service (within the meaning of the Broadcasting Act 1990) that is not a sound or television broadcasting service").
Page 3, leave out lines 3 and 4.
Page 3, line 5, leave out from (""inducement"") to end of line 7 and insert ("in relation to taking part as a player in a game of bingo, to attending any premises or to becoming a member of any club, means any of the following so far as they appear to be connected with taking part in such a game, attending those premises or becoming such a member, namely—
Page 3, line 11, at end insert:
(""relevant premises" means any bingo club premises or premises containing bingo club premises or any premises which are at the same location as any bingo club premises and are occupied with, or used in association with, those bingo club premises.").
§ Page 3, leave out lines 12 to 30.
Page 3, line 30, at end insert:
("( ) Section 2(4) of the Gaming (Bingo) Act 1985 and paragraph 14 of Schedule 20 to the Broadcasting Act 1990 (which are spent in consequence of the preceding provisions of this section) are hereby repealed.")
§ The noble Lord said: All these amendments are consequential upon the fact that the Committee has accepted Amendment No. 1. I beg to move.
§ On Question, amendments agreed to.
§ Clause 1, as amended, agreed to.
§ Clause 2 agreed to.
§ House resumed: Bill reported with amendments.