The Government’s Gambling (Licensing and Advertising) Bill had its Report Stage in the House of Lords on 4th March 2014. The Bishop of Chester spoke to Amendment 1 and Amendment 7. He and the Bishop of Peterborough took part in a Division on Amendment 1. The Bishop’s speeches are below, with links to respective sections of Hansard on the Uk Parliament website where the speeches can be seen in the context of the debate.
Amendment 1 – Licensing of gambling companies
Amendment One (Baroness Howe of Idlicote) sought to “give the Gambling Commission a discretionary power to block financial transactions between people living in the UK and online gambling websites that have not secured a UK Gambling Commission licence”.
The Lord Bishop of Chester: My Lords, I want to associate myself fully with the remarks just made by the noble Lord, Lord Browne, and with the powerful and comprehensive speech made by the noble Baroness, Lady Howe, in introducing the amendment. I do not intend to repeat the points they made so powerfully, but I shall add a general consideration. With the introduction of the internet, we are living through a revolution that is probably more powerful than the invention of steam power or the internal combustion engine. One does not want to be critical of the many benefits that flow from the internet revolution but it brings with it, at every point, corresponding dangers of which the Government need to be very aware. If in doubt, I would say that the balance of the argument comes down on putting in place powers to regulate and prevent the abuses that the internet can open up. I hope that general consideration will support the specific points so powerfully made in the debate so far.
In the Division on the amendment there voted: Contents 171 // Not-Contents 185 // Result:Government Win
The Bishops of Chester and Peterborough both voted content.
Amendment 7 – Remote Operating Licenses
The Lord Bishop of Chester: My Lords, I associate myself very closely with the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Browne, and that of the noble Lord, Lord Phillips, so I will not repeat the points they made. Noble Lords will realise that it is quite rare for Members from this Bench to quote the scriptures. For understandable reasons we are a bit coy about doing that. However, I cannot avoid going to a verse from the First Epistle to Timothy, which says that,
“the love of money is the root of all evil”.
There is great truth in that. The lure and attraction of wealth so often lies behind the person who turns gambling from an innocent pastime into an obsession, an addiction or whatever. A responsible society has to do what it can to protect people against these false gods and false goals. When you get into the digital world, you simply raise the stakes, to use a gambling analogy. If I am a problem gambler and I have to walk down to the betting shop in Chester, there is a natural restraint—there may be only two or three people there and they will wonder what I am doing when I walk through the door. But if those restraints are taken away, you have to be cognisant of the potential dangers.
I often think that we are now, in the digital age, in a digital version of the wild west, where there was all the excitement and discovery and all the positive aspects in America when it opened up, but the reality of law and order had to come in later. We must provide proper protection to people in the online world.
I shall briefly refer to a completely different area that concerns me very greatly—the way in which the internet is used in relation to pornography. The noble Baroness, Lady Howe, has talked about this on previous occasions. I have had a particular problem with two or three clergy in my diocese who have innocently thought that accessing child pornography on the internet was somehow not as serious as interfering directly with an actual human being. Of course, the law quite properly says that accessing child pornography on the internet is to be complicit in the actual original abuse. People have that sort of innocent view of the internet so often. The more checks and balances that we can introduce, the better.
If the net effect of this Bill is that the advertising of online gambling is much more in our face and much more prevalent, it behoves us to put in place what protections we can. I warmly support the amendment.
[The amendment was withdrawn after debate]