PARLIAMENTARY DEBATES

HOUSE OF COMMONS

OFFICIAL REPORT

Fourth Standing Committee on Statutory Instruments, &c.

DRAFT POOL COMPETITIONS ACT 1971 (CONTINUANCE) ORDER 1986

Wednesday 18 June 1986

LONDON

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The Committee consisted of the following Members:

Chairman: Mr. Donald Coleman

Bright, Mr. Graham (Luton, South)

Dubs, Mr. Alfred (Battersea)

Field, Mr. Frank (Birkenhead)

Freeson, Mr. Reg (Brent, East)

Freud, Mr. Clement (Cambridgeshire, North-East)

Hamilton, Mr. Neil (Tatton)

Knight, Dame Jill (Birmingham, Edgbaston)

McGuire, Mr. Michael (Makerfield)

Madden, Mr. Max (Bradford, West)

Montgomery, Sir Fergus (Altrincham and Sale)

Neubert, Mr. Michael (Romford)

Normanton, Mr. Tom (Cheadle)

Page, Sir John (Harrow, West)

Pike, Mr. Peter (Burnley)

Prentice, Mr. Reg (Daventry)

Shaw, Mr. Giles (Minister of State, Home Office)

Viggers, Mr. Peter (Gosport)

Wolfson, Mr. Mark (Sevenoaks)

Mr. A. H. Doherty, Committee Clerk

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3 Fourth Standing Committee on Statutory Instruments, &c. Wednesday 18 June 1986

[Mr. DONALD COLEMAN in the Chair]

DRAFT POOL COMPETITIONS ACT 1971 (CONTINUANCE) ORDER 1986

10.30 am

The Minister of State, Home Office (Mr. Giles Shaw): I beg to move, That the Committee has considered the draft Pool Competitions Act 1971 (Continuance) Order (1986). I shall not dwell for long on the history and background to the Pool Competitions Acts 1971. The Act was introduced as a temporary expedient to help a number of charities and sports clubs overcome a difficulty that had arisen over the running of pool competitons. The House of Lords ruled in 1970 that those 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 that happened to be the lucky ones in a particular week. The 1971 Act was designed to rescue those organisations from the consequences of that ruling. In effect, th Act drew a ring around the organisations then running those competitions—at the time there were 18—and said that for a limited period of five years they should be able to continue with those activities. The Act included a provision to continue the Act in force beyond that time and Parliament has been asked to renew the Act on an annual basis every year since 1976. Frankly, I can understand that these debates have shown some signs of impatience in recent years. I should explain why we believe that a further order should be made continuing the Act in force for another year, when it was clearly intended in 1971 as a temporary measure. In moving the equivalent order in 1983, the then Minister of State at the Home Office—now my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary—said that following consultation with the charities involved, the Government would continue to lay orders to keep the Act alive in this Parliament; but they saw no future for the Act beyond that time. The promoters and beneficiaries of the competitions were urged to seek 4 other methods of fund raising. The message was driven home in a subsequent meeting at the Home Office and reaffirmed in debates since then. There is some evidence that the message has been heeded. There were six organisations running the competitions in 1983; now there are four holding valid Gaming Board licences and of those, two are at present trying other methods of raising revenue. I hope that the organisations concerned will take note of that. Certainly, nothing has happened in the past couple of years to persuade my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary that the Act should be renewed indefinitely and I must stress that there is no commitment to introduce orders beyond the life of this Parliament. As things stand, however, we think that it would be unduly harsh and inconsistent with the assurances given by the Minister of State in 1983 not to approve a further order this year. The two organisations that continue to run pool competitions are linked with the Tenovus medical charities and with the Spastics Society, and those charities benefit to the tune of about £750,000 a year, as a result of continuing the Act in force. Our approach both to renewal this year and the longer-term position is shared by the Gaming Board for Great Britain, and we think that for the remaining period, bearing in mind the income received by the two charities, we should ask the Committee to approve the continuation of the order. 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 of this nature. I hope that the Government's policy will be accepted by the Committee; it is clearly of benefit to the organisations affected—of which I remind the Committee that there are now only two—and the Act will not be continued beyond the end of this Parliament. I ask the Committee to agree to the motion so that the Act may continue for a further year.

10.33 am

Mr. Alfred Dubs (Battersea): I see no reason, on this issue, to dissent from the Government's view—although I dissent from them on most other matters.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved That the Committee have considered the draft Pool Competitions Act 1971 (Continuance) Order 1986.

Committee rose at twenty-six minutes to Eleven o'clock.

THE FOLLOWING MEMBERS ATTENDED THE COMMITTEE

Coleman, Mr. Donald (Chairman)

Bright, Mr.

Dubs, Mr. Alfred

Hamilton, Mr. Neil

Neubert, Mr.

Page, Sir John

Pike, Mr.

Prentice, Mr.

Shaw, Mr. Giles

Wolfson, Mr.