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Casino Advisory Panel

Volume 456: debated on Tuesday 30 January 2007

With permission, Mr. Speaker, I would like to make a statement on the recommendations of the independent casino advisory panel. The panel has today published its report, and I would like to thank Professor Crow and his colleagues for their work. Before I turn to the recommendations, I would like to remind the House of the context in which we are allowing these new types of casinos.

Gambling is on the increase. People want to gamble, and technology allows many new forms of gambling. Existing regulation is inadequate and leaves people exposed to risk, so, through the Gambling Act 2005, we have placed the protection of children and other vulnerable people at the heart of gambling regulation for the first time. Yet if I believed everything that I read in the newspapers about that Act, I would never have introduced it. So let me be very clear: Las Vegas is not coming to Great Britain. British casinos will be subject to new controls, which will be the strictest in the world. For example, Las Vegas-style tricks of the trade will not be allowed. There will be no free alcohol to induce more gambling, and no pumped oxygen to keep players awake—[Interruption.] I do not know whether you are considering providing it for Conservative Members, Mr. Speaker.

It will be a criminal offence to permit a child to enter a casino or the gambling area of a regional casino. All casinos will be required to have staff who are trained to spot the signs of problem gambling and intervene where necessary—if they do not, they risk losing their licence. It was safe in the knowledge of those protections that we took the decision, in response to demand from local authorities, to allow a limited number of new casinos. Some 68 local authorities, representing all the main political parties, subsequently made applications to the panel.

The Act allows 17 casinos in total: one regional, eight large and eight small. Because the new casinos will be different from those we have seen before, we have listened carefully to the concerns of Members of Parliament and their constituents. We thought that it was right to be cautious. I could probably say this in 50 different languages, but the message would be the same: we cannot and will not even consider allowing further casinos until a proper evaluation over time has been made of the social and economic effects of the 17 casinos—[Interruption.]

Order. The hon. Member for Bromsgrove (Miss Kirkbride) should be quiet during a statement. Back Benchers have said that they want a statement and they should have the courtesy to allow the statement to be made.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Such a decision would require a debate and vote in both Houses of Parliament in any case. We have commissioned a group of academics led by Lancaster university to advise on the methodology for that assessment. The baseline study will be undertaken later this year, once Parliament has approved the new areas, so that proper assessment of changes in the pattern of gambling can be made. The assessment process will be in place in good time for the opening of the first new casino.

The assessment will not be complete until at least three years after the award of the first licence, and it will be in addition to the prevalence studies of patterns of gambling, which we are undertaking every three years from 2007. The benchmark prevalence study is currently under way to establish how many people gamble and what proportion of them have problems with their gambling. The findings will be published this autumn, when the Gambling Act 2005 takes effect. The findings of the next prevalence study will not be published until autumn 2010. I therefore wish to make it crystal clear to the House that those safeguards preclude any consideration of further casinos for the lifetime of this Parliament.

I am required by the Act to make an order identifying the local authorities where the 17 new casinos should go. So, in October last year I established the casino advisory panel, under Professor Stephen Crow. The primary consideration for the panel throughout has been to ensure that the areas facilitate the best possible test of social impact. Subject to that consideration, I also asked the panel to include areas in need of regeneration, which would benefit—in terms of new jobs—from a new casino, and to ensure that those areas selected are willing to license a new casino.

The panel has been operating entirely independently of the Government, and I would like to place on the record my appreciation for the rigour and professionalism that Professor Crow and his colleagues have brought to the process. It has been an open and transparent process throughout, and the views of local people have been taken into account at every stage, as the panel has visited different local authorities around the country.

The panel asked local authorities to include their evidence of local consultation. Local people were invited to participate in the examinations in public that were held in the seven short-listed areas for the regional casino. During the process, a number of areas, including Brent, Canterbury, Dartford, Thurrock and Woking, withdrew their applications to the panel in response to local opinion, which is evidence of the Act working as it should. A number of local authorities, such as Hackney, St. Albans and Slough, have also taken advantage of new powers we put in the Act and resolved not to license any casinos in their area.

After 16 months of consultation, and having considered all the evidence available, the panel has recommended today that the following authorities should be entitled to issue a small casino premises licence: Bath and North East Somerset, Dumfries and Galloway, East Lindsey, Luton, Scarborough, Swansea, Torbay and Wolverhampton.

The panel also recommends that the following local authorities should be entitled to issue a large casino premises licence: Great Yarmouth, Kingston-upon-Hull, Leeds, Middlesbrough, Milton Keynes, Newham, Solihull and Southampton. In addition, it recommends that Manchester should be entitled to issue the one regional casino premises licence permitted by the 2005 Act. I congratulate Manchester and the other recommended towns and cities on their success, and I acknowledge the disappointment of those towns and cities that have not been recommended.

I received a copy of the panel’s report just this morning. Because I am conscious of the need to maintain the integrity of the independent process that we have established, it is only fair to all the applicants that I should take the time to consider the report’s contents carefully. Moreover, I am also required by the Gambling Act 2005 to consult both Scottish and Welsh Ministers. I am therefore announcing today that, following the consultation with the devolved Administrations, I am minded to return to this House at the earliest opportunity with an order that will enable Parliament to consider the panel’s recommendations and to vote on them. The order will be subject to the affirmative resolution procedure and the debate will be held on the Floor of the House, as agreed with my right hon. Friend the Chief Whip. That means that Parliament, rightly, will determine the outcome of the process.

In conclusion, I recognise that gambling will always be a sensitive issue, and I understand the reservations that some hon. Members and others have about it, and about casinos. However, I have always sought to ensure that the Government proceed cautiously on this matter, with the strongest possible safeguards in place and on the basis of the best evidence of public protection in the face of what is, undeniably, rising public demand. That is what is we have done.

Once again, I thank Professor Crow and his panel for the thoroughness of their work, and I commend this statement to the House.

I thank the right hon. Lady for giving me advance sight of her statement, and I add my congratulations to Manchester on its success in securing the proposed regional casino. I and my party hope that that will bring the promised regeneration to that great city in the north-west. We also congratulate all the other successful bidding authorities.

Today’s announcement is the latest chapter in the sorry story of this Government’s seeming addiction to gambling. No doubt the Chancellor is licking his lips at the prospect of tax revenues on the scale now evident in Australia. The Government’s handling of the liberalisation of gambling has been undermined by charges of privileged access and influence for overseas casino operators. As a result, despite today’s verdict from the casino advisory panel, many questions remain.

It has been noted already that Kerzner International, the prominent bidder that met Ministers and wishes to run the casino in the dome, is also the preferred bidder in the successful Manchester bid. Is it the Secretary of State’s understanding that Manchester will now be required to undertake a new open competition for the licence? If other operators are not allowed to tender in a fair and open way, questions will remain.

The Secretary of State’s recommendation must come before Parliament and will be subject to a vote in both Houses. When does she intend to come to the House with the final proposals? Can she also guarantee, categorically, that any increase in the number of super-casinos will be subject to a debate and vote in both Chambers?

Now that the recommendations of the casino advisory panel have been published, the top priority must be to ensure that the pilot scheme is rigorous and independently monitored. The will of Parliament was clear: because of the untested nature of super-casinos in this country, one regional casino should be piloted so that there can be a proper assessment of its social—[Interruption.]

Order. It also applies that the spokesman for the Opposition is entitled to be heard. He should not be interrupted—by Ministers or anyone else.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker, for your protection.

Only today, before the panel’s decision was even announced, we read reports that Ministers are already planning to increase the number of super-casinos. Once more, will the Secretary of State categorically deny any plans to increase the numbers?

Does the right hon. Lady agree with her Ministers that the legislation could lead to an increase in problem gambling? In her statement, she said that the decision to allow a limited number of new casinos was made by the Government in response to demand from local authorities. She is rewriting history, because she knows that it was the Conservative Opposition who argued strongly for a limited pilot after the Government initially envisaged about 40 super-casinos.

We need to be sure that the pilot is used to assess the impacts on crime, gambling addiction and the surrounding community, as well as to assess the economic benefits. That is what Parliament agreed to—a true pilot scheme, not a sly way of avoiding the issues that need to be investigated—and that is what we must have. Will the Secretary of State commit to a long and open consultation process for laying down those criteria, and will she confirm that the three years to which she alludes will start only once the doors in Manchester are open to the public?

The Minister with responsibility for gambling, the right hon. Member for Sheffield, Central (Mr. Caborn), said in the House that the numbers will not change unless the Opposition support an increase. I can say categorically that we support a pilot scheme of one regional casino and there should be no change until a proper assessment has been made. So, will the Secretary of State confirm that there will be no back-door increase?

Finally, the right hon. Lady makes much play of her determination to regulate gambling, yet the evidence proves that, thanks to her decision to leave the door ajar for applications under the Gaming Act 1968, in the past two years alone 90 casinos have been given initial approval, with a further 57 applications outstanding, which means a potential doubling of the number of casinos since the Government have been in power. Was that her intention? Did she anticipate such a rush for licences? Can she assure us that on no account will those casinos be allowed to trade up their licences and, as a result, bring £1 million jackpot machines to towns throughout the country?

In the 10 years of the Labour Government there has been a rapid rise in the number of people gambling and in the public’s access to gambling online, in pubs and, increasingly, in casinos. That is an unprecedented change and the Government will rightly be judged on its consequences on society. The Secretary of State may make statements about Las Vegas not coming to Britain or about oxygen and free drinks, but there will be alcohol and we will see unprecedented gambling in the UK. She claims that no children will be allowed into casinos, yet as she knows, she rejected the call for ID checks on entry.

As I said, we join in celebrating with Manchester and all the other towns in their success today, but we shall hold the Government to account on the many promises they have given to protect the most vulnerable and those most at risk from their legislation.

I am inclined to believe that the hon. Gentleman must have gone to sleep during my statement, as I could not have dealt more clearly with four of his questions; nor could I have been clearer about the Government’s determination to ensure that proper protection is put in place and that tackling problem gambling, which arises from the many increased opportunities for gambling, is one of the central objectives of the new legislation. That will make us the most toughly regulated gambling regime in the world, apart from countries that ban gambling altogether.

I take two thirds of what the hon. Gentleman said in the vein that he was desperately scrabbling around to find something to say. Of course Manchester will carry out a fair and open competition for the licence. The hon. Gentleman, with the protection of the House, should stop using this situation as an opportunity for smear and innuendo, which is not what we expect of him. Yes, there will be a vote in both Houses on the affirmative resolution, and yes, I have been absolutely clear throughout that any decision in a subsequent Parliament to increase the number of regional or any other casinos would be a vote of both Houses. This is a decision for Parliament and will remain so.

On the claim that there is no interest in casinos, I recall from memory that 131 local authorities expressed an interest and we had 68 applications, with 27 local authorities submitting applications for the single large regional casino. It is ridiculous to suggest that the Government are somehow foisting the proposal on unwilling local authorities, which are considerably more imaginative and in tune with their local populations than the hon. Gentleman.

Let me finish by saying that although the hon. Gentleman talks about the consents awarded before the 1968 Gaming Board licences were terminated in April last year, 13 of those applications have already been turned down by the licensing magistrates. At this stage of his Opposition career, the hon. Gentleman should know that licences—some have not even been considered yet—do not inevitably translate into casinos, as it is a long process. Consents depend on the support of the local authority and local people. This has been a period of great change and the people of this country would be at risk without the new Gambling Act 2005, not because of it.

My right hon. Friend will realise that the people of Manchester will be very pleased with the panel’s decision and its recognition of the regeneration impact that it will have on jobs in an area—the city of Manchester—that still has massively high unemployment. My constituents will also be grateful for her words today when she made it clear that there will be tight controls in respect of criminality and problem gambling. Can she guarantee that mechanisms will be available to crawl all over the Manchester casino over the next few years so that the public can see that they are getting value for money with jobs and regeneration and we ensure that the social consequences that some people fear simply do not materialise?

I can give my hon. Friend the absolute reassurance that he rightly seeks on behalf of his constituents. Indeed, from a brief reading of Professor Crow’s report, it is abundantly clear that the proposal that Manchester submitted very much puts social responsibility, protection of young people and keeping gambling crime-free at the centre of the proposal. I suspect that that is one of the reasons why it was recommended for the licence.

I thank the Secretary of State for advance sight of her statement and I join her in congratulating Professor Crow and his team on the work that they have done. We should also place on the record the fact that our UK casino industry has an enviable international record for probity—a reputation that we must maintain as the numbers grow. After the increases in gambling opportunities and greater risks of problem gambling through fixed-odds betting terminals, online gambling, TV advertising of gaming, pub poker and now more casinos, does the Secretary of State at least understand why people are beginning to think that her Government are addicted to gambling? In the light of those concerns, will the right hon. Lady at least thank both Opposition parties for watering down her original plans for an unfettered increase in the number of casinos? The House will surely have been surprised by her statement just now that the Government “thought it right to be cautious”.

I am delighted to hear that the Secretary of State has categorically accepted that the new casinos announced today will be thoroughly tested for their ability to aid regeneration while not increasing problem gambling before any further casinos are allowed. However, given that the assessment methodology has not yet been determined, will she agree to provide the House with an opportunity to debate it once she has received recommendations from Lancaster university? The 17 new casinos are meant to be the basis for such assessments, so is she surprised that of the 17 announced today, 11 are in areas that already have casinos—including Greater Manchester with 11?

On problem gambling, given that we spend £270 million on tackling the problems of alcohol addiction, is not the Secretary of State disappointed that the gambling industry is currently contributing only about £2.5 million to the main body responsible for dealing with the problem? Will she ensure that the new casinos make a fair contribution?

As the hon. Member for East Devon (Mr. Swire) has said, the 17 new casinos announced today do not include the extra casinos that may well arise under existing legislation. Will the right hon. Lady confirm that the Gambling Commission approved 68 new licences in the past two years, and that although some have had premises licences refused, that could lead to an extra 40 or 50 casinos on top of today’s 17? Are there not even more applications in the pipeline? How does that square with her statement—even if made in 50 different languages—that she will not even consider allowing further casinos until a proper evaluation has been made on the 17 announced today? Why did a ministerial colleague say two years ago:

“we can say with certainty that there will be no more than 150 casinos”?—[Official Report, Standing Committee B, 11 January 2005; c. 718.]

I wonder how many the right hon. Lady thinks there will be.

No one in the Chamber—I include the Secretary of State in that—wants much needed regeneration in our towns and cities to be based on the creation of huge increases in problem gambling. So, above all, will she give an absolute assurance to the House that she will stand by the answer that she gave only two weeks ago on “Any Questions”, when she said:

“every single bit of change in legislation, if it proves to give rise to harm will be rescinded”?

Will she give an absolute commitment that there will be no further growth in gambling opportunities until we test out what we already have and are likely to have following today’s announcement?

I thank the hon. Gentleman for that. I gave assurances about being able to rescind any change in the gambling legislation that is proven, on the basis of the social and economic impact study or the prevalence study, to give rise to problem gambling. Any such change will be revoked. That is fundamental to the development of the legislation, as he knows; it is not a new concession. I do not want to be harsh on the two Opposition spokesmen, but the person who has really contributed light, balance and intelligence to the debate is the hon. Member for Ryedale (Mr. Greenway), who chaired the original Joint Committee and now chairs the Responsibility in Gambling Trust, which raises money from the industry to deal with problem gambling.

We have made it absolutely clear—this is in the legislation—that if the industry does not pay the levy that we have determined, we will make that requirement statutory on the industry. My concern is the way in which the intention of the policy is wilfully misrepresented. That causes—quite rightly—alarm in the country. This is legislation that is designed to protect, that recognises the scale of technological change, and that is in the control of local authorities to implement in the interests of their communities. As a matter of honour, hon. Members ought to reflect that in the terms that they use in partaking in the debate in Parliament.

While I acknowledge the hard work of the casino advisory panel on this matter, I have concerns about the analysis of Blackpool’s case in the document that was produced. Therefore, I welcome the Secretary of State’s announcement that an order will be brought before us so that we can have a debate in the Chamber. Will she clarify the length and extent of that debate? Orders are usually debated for only an hour and a half, but the report needs a full and detailed debate, with as many Members as possible taking part. Can she reassure me that, through the usual channels, she will ensure that we have all the time that we need?

I thank my hon. Friend for that. As I said in my statement, I recognise that she and my hon. Friend the Member for Blackpool, South (Mr. Marsden) will be disappointed that Blackpool was not recommended, despite their powerful campaigning on behalf of their constituents over recent months. I am aware of the importance of allowing ample time for the debate, which will be unusual, so I am quite confident that that will be facilitated through the usual channels.

Is the Secretary of State aware of the view expressed by Professor Peter Collins—

“convenience is the single greatest spur to increase problem gambling”—

that led the Joint Scrutiny Committee to conclude that a regional casino should not be located

“in close proximity to residential properties”?

Is there therefore not a danger that choosing Manchester, rather than a resort destination, is likely to lead to an increase in problem gambling? Does the Secretary of State share my surprise that the report of the advisory panel states:

“problem gambling is more a town planning consideration rather than one for us”?

I should make it clear that the decision to allocate the regional casino to Manchester is made to the local authority. It will be for the local authority to decide precisely where the location should be. As I said in response to my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Central (Tony Lloyd), considerations about risks, problem gambling and keeping gambling crime-free—let us remember what a good reputation this country’s gambling industry has, as the hon. Member for Bath (Mr. Foster) said—will be taken into account when Manchester decides, following a fair and open competition, how to award the licence for the casino. I am aware of the work of Professor Collins, but I also know that the panel will have considered such matters very carefully when making its recommendation.

I am sure that my right hon. Friend is aware of the disappointment and surprise of many of us that Blackpool has not been included at all, as my hon. Friend the Member for Blackpool, North and Fleetwood (Mrs. Humble) indicated. I understand that one of the panel’s conclusions was that Blackpool needed more than one casino for regeneration purposes. Does the Secretary of State thus share my astonishment that Blackpool has not been recommended for any licence at all?

I realise that Blackpool is disappointed that it has not been recommended. However, I made it clear throughout the process—before we knew the recommendation—including during a recent sitting of the Select Committee, when I dealt with the matter fully, that we would accept the panel’s recommendations and put them to Parliament. As I have outlined, Parliament will have the opportunity to debate my hon. Friend’s point.

Those of us who thought that the process of implementing the Gambling Act could not get any worse—I include members of the Scrutiny and Standing Committees in that group—are frankly astonished by today’s announcement about the location of the super-casino. The decision of the casino advisory panel flies in the face of not only the main recommendation of the Scrutiny Committee—that such casinos should be resort or destination casinos, such as that proposed by Blackpool—but the Government’s main objective for the Act: to protect children and the vulnerable. How can one defend choosing the most deprived and vulnerable area of Manchester to test whether a super-casino that is open 24 hours a day, with free admission, will generate an increase in problem gambling? If, as I expect, the order is rejected by the House, where will the Government go from there?

I take the hon. Gentleman’s words as a contribution to the debate that we will have in the next few weeks.

My right hon. Friend said in her statement that we will have the strictest regime for casinos to be found anywhere. Will she add to that by telling the House who will monitor the performance and activities of the casinos? What sanctions will be available if casinos are found to be breaching any of the codes of conduct?

The Gambling Commission will oversee compliance with the very specific licence conditions, which will reflect the three principles of the gambling legislation. Those principles are protecting children and the vulnerable, keeping gambling crime-free, and ensuring that gambling is kept fair. Breach of any of those conditions can lead to a range of sanctions, some of them criminal sanctions, and can also lead to the operator losing their licence.

Given the residential location of the Manchester casino, does the Secretary of State agree that delivery of the social responsibility programme, which so impressed the casino advisory panel, will be critical if the scheme is to be a success? May I inform her and the House that Manchester city council has already held discussions with the Responsibility in Gambling Trust and GamCare, which we fund? Does she agree that significant contributions to the trust must be made, not just by Manchester, but by all 17 operators of the casinos that she today announced are to be created, subject to the approval of the House, so that we can further our work on public awareness, the education of young people, and research, and so that we can provide a safety net for people who gamble beyond their means?

I entirely agree with the hon. Gentleman. He is right to be reassured by the Manchester submission, and I agree entirely that there is a role for hon. Members in ensuring that the local authorities that have a casinos in their area do their bit to make sure that the contribution to the trust is made.

My right hon. Friend will be aware of the great disappointment and anger felt in Blackpool, now that the town that pushed the longest, had the strongest support, and made the most preparation, in terms both of regeneration possibilities and social responsibilities, has been set aside in the panel’s recommendation. Does she understand that concerns are already being expressed about inconsistencies in the report, particularly on the different criteria for destination and doorstep gaming and in respect of ignoring the regional context of the recommendations? Will she give an undertaking that the debate on the affirmative orders will include a thorough examination by Parliament of the criteria, and whether they were applied properly, and an assessment of how the effects of the recommendations are to be taken forward, and in what time scale?

I thank my hon. Friend, and again pay tribute to him for the way in which he represented the interests of Blackpool and his constituents throughout the process. I recognise the disappointment felt about the fact that Blackpool was not recommended by the panel. He will, no doubt, want to return in the debate to the questions and issues that he mentions, which arose from an initial study of the report.

What assessment has the Secretary of State made of the precise number of new jobs that will be created in each of the areas that is to be allowed a licence, and what percentage of those jobs are likely to be low-value employment, and to attract only eastern European migrant workers? In the areas concerned, what support will be made available to voluntary organisations and local councils to enable them to deal with the increase in gambling addiction, and what extra resources will go to constabularies to deal with the increase in crime?

The answer to the hon. Gentleman’s first question will obviously depend on the way in which individual local authorities take forward and develop the proposals. There certainly are estimates for the increase in the number of jobs. Experience from around the world shows that gambling operators range from some of the best employers in the world to among the worst. One of the reasons why the policy enjoyed strong trade union support is that, based on the evidence of some of the best employers in the American gambling industry, there is a clear understanding that the jobs are good and well-paid. I hope that local authorities will take seriously judgments about the quality of the employment, training and so forth extended to staff in the intended casinos.

As for the hon. Gentleman’s questions about addiction and crime, those issues are fundamental to the oversight of the casinos and the judgment about whether they should be allowed to continue to operate. Without the protective benefits of the new legislation, people are at risk from the vast new range of gambling opportunities that have developed in the past four to five years. Those opportunities are regulated by legislation that was placed on the statute book 40 years ago, which is why we must introduce new legislation.

My right hon. Friend will accept that there are marked differences in the characteristics of a northern city such as Manchester, a resort such as Blackpool and a destination for leisure activities such as the dome in Greenwich. While I entirely accept the importance of proper monitoring and detailed evaluation of the impact of the sites that have been chosen, does she not agree that it will be hard to draw any lessons about the suitability of future casino developments in locations such as my constituency and Blackpool on the basis of evidence from Manchester? That evidence may help to dispel much of the unwelcome scaremongering that has unfortunately characterised many of the contributions to the debate by the Opposition and their media allies, but it will not serve the purpose of the test that she announced, which is to assess whether the proposal can be extended more widely.

My right hon. Friend is right to reflect on the challenge of ensuring that we can use conclusions from one part of the country to draw similar conclusions about another town or city. The prevalent study of the number of people throughout Great Britain who gamble and the number for whom gambling is a problem will be supplemented by the social and economic study to which I referred. They have been commissioned to address precisely the questions raised by my right hon. Friend so that the regime in individual casinos is sufficiently attuned and vigilant to protect people who use them from harm. That regime will apply not just to the casino in Manchester but, subject to the Gambling Commission’s judgment, to the 16 local authorities that have been announced as areas that can have a new casino.

I hope that the Secretary of State accepts that the announcement is a body blow to the Fylde coast and Blackpool’s attempts to regenerate. In her statement, she said that she would “take…time to consider” the panel’s findings. Will she therefore confirm that she has not finally made her mind up about Manchester? Under what terms will that consideration be conducted, and will it be open to further representations from Blackpool and other areas if there are parts of the report with which they fundamentally disagree?

I know that that is a question that many hon. Members want to raise, and I wish to make the position clear. I have always made it clear—as I said earlier, I remember dealing with this when I appeared before the Select Committee—that the Government would accept the advisory panel’s recommendations and make them the subject of a debate and a vote in the House. That remains the position. Of course, I will listen to the debate and so forth, but those who wish to advocate an alternative to Manchester or any other recommended local authority should not assume that the recommendations will be varied by the Government. We have always made it clear that we would not do so.

First, congratulations to Manchester. Obviously, we in Sheffield are disappointed, but it is interesting to note that one of the main reasons why our bid was turned down was the recognised success of Sheffield’s regeneration which, it is assumed, will continue with or without the casino. Will my right hon. Friend give an indication of the earliest date by which lessons from the Manchester casino can be learned sufficiently to allow bids to be made by other cities that may have a long-term interest in a regional casino at a future date?

I set out the time scale in my opening statement. My hon. Friend should be clear that the Government have no intention of bringing forward proposals for further regional casinos. The time scale to which I am committed precludes that for this Parliament.

I thank the Minister for her statement and advance notice of it. I particularly welcome her comments regarding regulation in relation to new technology. She will know that the traditional casino industry in the UK is the best regulated in the world, making it the safest in the world. I note her comments about new controls, but can she explain the third paragraph of the statement, which says:

“It will be a criminal offence to permit a child to enter a casino or the gambling area of a regional casino”?

Does that mean that children will be able to enter regional casinos, and will merely be restricted from entering the gaming floor or other gambling areas?

What I said was straightforward. Although the planning is some way off, we expect that the regional casino will be part of a much bigger complex and development. It will not be possible for children to use the same entrance to go to a swimming pool or library as people use to go into the casino. Such separation is part of the way that we give effect to the regime to separate children and gambling.

Like the hon. Member for North-East Cambridgeshire (Mr. Moss), I followed the progress of the Gambling Bill closely, having been a member of the Standing Committee. I welcome the announcement today of 17 new casinos, but does my right hon. Friend agree that we are back where we started? We had permitted areas, which limited casinos. Under the proposals we now have 17 permitted areas, and legislation that many people supported because it was to have a liberalising effect on the gaming industry has become extremely restrictive, and would certainly have the former hon. Member for West Ham spinning in his grave.

Yes, bless him. My hon. Friend makes a good point, but a balance must be struck. Either we allow the market to drive the number of new casinos on the basis of demand, or as these are new forms of gambling, we proceed cautiously, because our overriding objective is public protection linked to securing the benefits of regeneration. They are not as restrictive as the old permitted areas, but my hon. Friend is right to say that casino development beyond these areas will not be allowed.

The Secretary of State’s announcement today will be deeply disappointing to many people across the country. The choice of Manchester heralds the arrival of doorstep gambling across the UK’s towns and cities tomorrow, with many people encouraged to gamble more than they can afford or their families can afford. Does the right hon. Lady not recognise, even at this late stage, the superior claim of places such as Blackpool as a resort destination casino, which would be an added boost to tourism? If she cannot do that, can she recognise the deep social change that her plans are unveiling today, and offer Labour Members a free vote when the measure comes before the House?

On the last point, the answer is no. On the point about deep social change, that social change is going on anyway. Every single television and mobile phone, as well as the internet, offers opportunities for gambling which were not available even five years ago. The Government are committed to public protection through legislation that protects the vulnerable, but we recognise that millions of people want to gamble as a legitimate leisure pursuit and should be allowed to do so. That is why we have presented the proposals. It is slightly disingenuous of the hon. Lady to talk about the result being deeply disappointing and then to condemn the Government for exposing the public to risk. We are certainly not doing that.

The advisory panel suggests that the gold standard for achievement as regards the award of the casino is regeneration. I agree with that. This part of east Manchester suffered as much as, if not more than any other part of the country during the recessions of the early ’70s and ’80s. The city council, working in partnership with this Government and previous Governments and using the Commonwealth games as a launch pad, has regenerated much of the area. I hope that the Government will not consider that the award of the casino means that the job is done. There is still much to be done in east Manchester, and I hope that the Government will continue to support investment there.

My hon. Friend will know how much hosting the Commonwealth games contributed to the regeneration of Manchester—a point that the advisory panel makes clearly. This is a stage in the regeneration of his city, and I know that he and those of our right hon. and hon. Friends who represent Manchester constituencies will continue their successful campaign.

I am sure that the Secretary of State will concede that there is support for and opposition to super-casinos. In that light, will she give her support to a local referendum in Manchester so that local people get the final say on whether we have a super-casino in one of the most deprived parts of the city?

I suggest that the hon. Gentleman reads the report and studies the way in which Manchester consulted local people, as did other bidding cities. If he also took the trouble to read the legislation, he would realise that local authorities have an obligation to ensure that the proposals, in their various forms, are supported by local communities.

In assessing the successful bid from Milton Keynes, the advisory panel pointed out that it is not a city that can be described as suffering from social deprivation overall, although there are some pockets of deprivation. In its bid, the city council did not specify a precise site for the casino. Will my right hon. Friend ensure that the site that is chosen maximises the benefits to the most deprived part of Milton Keynes in Bletchley in my constituency?

Again, I recognise my hon. Friend’s efforts on behalf of her constituency. The precise location will be a decision for the local authority, not for the Secretary of State, but I am sure that my hon. Friend will make her arguments as forcefully as ever.

I welcome the recommendation of Manchester because it will bring benefit to the city. However, I impress on the Secretary of State that this must be a proper pilot for the possible granting of casino licences in future. Will she assure the House that the progress of the casino in Manchester will be monitored very closely from the point of view of its effect on the local community?

I have given many right hon. and hon. Members precisely those assurances, which are fundamental to the Government’s approach.

Many people in Scotland, not only in Dumfries and Galloway, will be disappointed by the report. That applies particularly to the city of Glasgow. Will the cities that have failed be given a full explanation as to why that was; and will my right hon. Friend confirm that there is no right of appeal?

There is no right of appeal, since the panel is not a statutory panel in the formal sense of the word. I am sure that my hon. Friend will welcome the recommendation in relation to Dumfries and Galloway and that he and his constituents will want to study the report carefully, particularly what it says about Glasgow.

Scarborough already has one brand new casino. A local family—the Shaw family—has shown tremendous confidence in the town by investing £7 million in the Opera House casino, which opened last year. Will the Secretary of State reassure me that it will be eligible to apply for the new licence?

Again, that is a matter for the local authority. However, it is expected that some existing casinos will apply for licences for the new casinos.

As we all know, gambling addiction is on the increase and gambling attacks those who can least afford to pay. There is nothing romantic about casinos—they are not like “Casino Royale”. They are simply factories that suck in vulnerable people to lose their money. Will the Secretary of State explain how her announcement will add to the sum of human happiness?

Regardless of the hon. Gentleman’s depressed view of human nature, people with optimistic and positive views of their lives gamble in their millions in this country. That is up to them. They can utilise all the new opportunities that are available. The Government intervene to ensure that crime does not infiltrate gambling, that especially those who are very poor do not suffer through addiction and that the industry continues to be conducted fairly. We also want to ensure that the development of casinos allows opportunities for social and economic regeneration.

Many of my constituents who live and work in Blackpool will be bitterly disappointed that Blackpool has not received the super-casino. The decision sends the wrong message that regeneration in the north starts and stops in Manchester.

Given that the Secretary of State gave an assurance before she had read the report that she would follow the advisory panel’s recommendation, and in the light of some of the contradictory points in it—hon. Members of all parties have brought those out—will she agree to meet me and other hon. Members who represent the Fylde coast to discuss Blackpool and whether anything can be done to ensure that it has a second chance of a super-casino before she brings the order back to the House?

I am always prepared to meet hon. Members from all parties on constituency matters. That invitation extends to today’s announcement as much as to any other matter for which my Department has responsibility.