§ Baroness Gould of Potternewton
asked Her Majesty's Government:
Whether they will announce plans to bring forward draft proposals for a modernisation of the law on gambling. [HL3982]
§ Lord McIntosh of Haringey
We have today published for consultation a set of draft clauses that we intend to be part of a wider gambling Bill.
The Bill will make major changes to the way in which gambling is regulated and controlled in Great Britain. It will build on the work undertaken by Sir Alan Budd and the gambling review body that he led.
It is based on the three key principles. First, the principle that the system of gambling law and regulation must keep the gambling industry free of crime. Our industry has a high international reputation for integrity, which must not be put at risk. Secondly, the law must ensure that gambling is conducted fairly, so that players know what to expect. Thirdly, there must be effective protection for children and the vulnerable.112WA
The controls we have on gambling today date from the 1960s and 1970s. They have served us well, but have failed to keep up with society's attitudes to gambling and developments in technology and the leisure industries. They need to be modernised. But modernisation must not be allowed to generate an upsurge in problem gambling. I am determined that we will maintain the highest standards of social responsibility.
Sir Alan recommended the establishment of a new national regulator for all forms of gambling. It was proposed that this regulator, the gambling commission, should license gambling operators and key individuals involved in the provision of gambling, and that local authorities should license gambling premises.
In A Safe Bet for Success (published in March 2002, Cm 5397) we accepted the vast majority of the gambling review's recommendations. We have been working closely with the interested industries, representatives of groups encouraging responsible gambling, local authorities, consumer groups, other government departments and the devolved administrations to prepare draft legislation that would give effect to this new system of regulation, which will be centred on the creation of a new national regulator—the gambling commission.
The proposals published today allow for the establishment of a gambling commission, transforming the Gaming Board for Great Britain into a new body with wider functions, greater flexibility to act and stronger enforcement powers.
The clauses describe the three purposes of gambling regulation, which will guide the work of the Commission. They outline the ways in which the commission will be able to use codes of practice to ensure best practice across each sector of the gambling industry. Codes of practice issued by the commission will be an important feature of the new legislation, giving the regulator more flexibility to respond to changing circumstances that may raise issues of consumer protection or threats to vulnerable people.
The draft Bill goes on to describe the principal function of the gambling commission—the licensing of gambling operations and key personnel. The commission will have flexibility to impose licence conditions on categories of licences and, where necessary, on specific operators. It will also have powers to review licences where it believes conditions have been breached or where there is some threat to the three objectives of regulation.
Local authorities are to be responsible for the licensing of gambling premises. Details of these proposals will be published later this year.
The Government remain committed also to the sale of the Totalisator Board and the abolition of the Horserace Betting Levy Board. We will bring forward legislation to achieve these objectives as soon as parliamentary time becomes available. Should parliamentary time become available prior to the introduction of a gambling Bill, we will leave open the 113WA option of pursuing our horseracing proposals in a smaller, separate measure.
I understand that a Joint Committee of both Houses is to be convened to examine the Government's draft proposals. The draft gambling Bill is precisely the sort of legislation, cutting across party lines but with some potential for controversy, that will benefit from pre-legislative scrutiny by both Houses. Such scrutiny will improve the legislation and build parliamentary understanding and public confidence, enabling us to strike the right balance between deregulation and the protection of young and vulnerable people.
We will publish the draft Bill in full later this year.