Following the Government response to an Urgent Question on the delay to the implementation of the cut in stake from £100 to £2 for fixed odds betting terminals, Iain Duncan Smith calls on the Government to think again and bring the implementation date forward to stop FOBTs destroying lives and families.
In May, I was enormously proud of my Government for taking a bold and important decision that put lives ahead of profits. I assumed, after the APPG investigation, that the industry itself recognised that it needed about nine to 12 months to implement this. That would have taken us to April or May next year. The complaints about the delay for another year were specifically about that, not about April next year. I say to my right hon. and learned Friend that it is not too late. For the sake of those people whose lives and families have been destroyed, and many more may yet follow them, I urge him to think again and bring forward the date so that we may end this scourge.
The whole House has respect for my right hon. Friend’s passion on this subject and his commitment to change. Of course, he is not alone and I am sure that many other Members will speak who also deserve huge credit for their consistent efforts. I simply say to him that I have tried in my response to set out the logic of how we balanced out several different factors in making our decision. None includes consideration of the profits of the betting companies. There are considerations about the livelihoods of those who work in betting shops and it is perfectly proper for the Government to make them. He will know that, if we did what the betting companies wanted, the change would not be made at all. We have done this contrary to the strong wishes and consistent argument of the betting companies because we believe it is the right thing to do.
This is a good Budget and I will, without any question, support it enthusiastically tonight. However, there is the issue of the starting date for the reduction to £2 for fixed odds betting terminals. This is clearly not something we can deal with this evening, but I wonder whether my right hon. Friend would give an undertaking that we will certainly return to it in time for the Finance Bill.
I thank my right hon. Friend for his point. We have brought the date forward for FOBTs by six months. I do not believe that it is an issue for the Finance Bill, but I am certainly happy to discuss with him what more we can do.