I have held discussions with the Chancellor of the Exchequer on the issue of gambling. The Government’s consultation on the gambling review closed on 23 January and we are considering the responses.
Vile machines are cynically clustered by shameless and irresponsible conglomerates in the poorest communities, where they destroy hard-working families. They are a magnet for crime, and they launder the proceeds of crime. Tawdry and soulless high street outlets drive decent shops away and repel family shoppers. Will the Secretary of State now call time on this racket, with its £1.5 billion a year welfare burden, and cut the maximum stake to £2?
I know that the issue of fixed odds betting terminals raises strong emotions in the House and around the country, and it is very important that we approach it properly. Especially coming from the right hon. Gentleman, who is widely respected across the House and was a member of the Government when the expansion of FOBTs happened, that is a telling statement.
It is not like the right hon. Member for East Ham (Stephen Timms) to give the House an ill-informed rant, but that is what we heard. I notice that the Secretary of State did not actually answer the question on the Order Paper, which is about the cost to the public purse of a reduction in the stake. Will he indicate what the cost to the Exchequer would be of the lack of tax receipts, increased unemployment benefit to pay to all the people who would be put out of work by a substantial reduction and the lack of business rates? Will he total up all those amounts and tell us how much it would actually cost the Government if they went for a drastic reduction in the stake?
Impact assessments on the question of FOBTs were of course published alongside the Government consultation in October. All the consequences of any changes in this area—we are committed to reducing the maximum stake on FOBTs—will be worked through, and that is part of the work we are doing right now to determine the appropriate response.
Further to the excellent points made by the right hon. Member for East Ham—not so much to those from the hon. Member for Shipley (Philip Davies)—with the consultation completed, it is time to get on with it. My Scottish National party colleagues have continually called for a £2 maximum stake. Will the Secretary of State confirm that this will finally happen, and if not, will he devolve these powers to Scotland so that we can finally take action?
I confirm that we will respond to the consultation in due course. I said in answer to an earlier question that this raises high emotions, and we have seen a demonstration of that today.
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With the gambling review just two weeks away, we need the Secretary of State to ensure that the Government take action against FOBTs, and they must intervene to stop these machines ruining lives and tearing families apart. My right hon. Friend the Member for East Ham is absolutely right, so will the Secretary of State answer my simple question and commit today to reducing the maximum FOBT stake to £2 a spin?
What I will do is commit to reducing the maximum FOBT stake, and to responding to the consultation in due course and in the proper way. We must ensure that we come to the right answer on this question.