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Culture Minister Tracey Crouch Quits Over Gambling Crackdown Delays

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HuffPost UK

Culture minister Tracey Crouch has dramatically quit the Government in protest at delays to a planned crackdown on addictive gambling machines.

Crouch resigned after Theresa May refused to reverse a decision to postpone the reduction in maximum stakes for fixed odds betting terminals (FOBTs) from £100 to £2.

Anti-gambling campaigners had hoped that the move would be introduced next April, but Chancellor Philip Hammond announced in the Budget that it would be delayed until October amid fears of a loss of tax income and job losses in betting shops.

Supporters of Crouch on both Labour and Tory benches were disappointed when Treasury Chief Secretary Liz Truss refused to back down on the issue in the Commons.

When Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith demanded a U-turn on the timing of the changes, Truss replied: “I don’t believe it is an issue for the Finance Bill but I’m certainly happy to discuss it about what more we can do”.

Friends of Crouch told HuffPost UK that she had sent a resignation letter to Chief Whip Julian Lewis on Wednesday and met him in person on Thursday morning.

Lewis agreed to look into the matter urgently and there had been speculation that the Treasury would announce a compromise amid warnings of a Budget rebellion by scores of Tory backbenchers.

Earlier, in an urgent Commons question, Culture Secretary Jeremy Wright claimed there had been no delay.


The Telegraph

Fixed odds betting terminals

But Wright admitted that the Government had to consider the cost to the taxpayer in lost tax if the FOBT reform was introduced before a new Remote Gaming Duty (RGD) kicked in next October.

In what sounded like a warning to Crouch, he also said that while his junior minister was doing a great job “in the end this is a decision that has to be taken by the Government collectively”.

Shadow Culture Secretary Tom Watson pointed out that ministers had made a “verbal promise” to lower the maximum stake in April 2019.

“In capitulating to the gambling industry, the secretary of state has not just let the victims of gambling down, he’s let his own team down, and ultimately, he’s let himself down,” Watson said.

Former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith was one of many Tory MPs who criticised the Government’s delay.

“It is not too late. For the sake of those people whose families and lives have been destroyed, and there may yet be more, many more, to follow them, I urge my right honourable friend to think again and to bring forward the date so we may end this scourge.”

Former minister David Jones was equally scathing. “He is engaging in pure semantics when he says that a period of time from April next year to October is not a delay when every member of this house can see that it is a delay,” he said.

Labour MP Carolyn Harris praised Crouch for her work in getting the maximum stake reduced.

“To say that I am incandescent along with other members across this House, including I would argue the Minister for Sport, who if she does resign will be a great loss to the frontbench because her integrity and bravery surpasses anyone else I see in here today.

“What is happening to the families who are losing children? What is happening to the children who don’t get Christmas presents because of an addictive parent? What happens to the people who go to foodbanks because they have an addiction to these machines?

“Don’t give me warm words, give me action, April 2019. We cannot lose anymore lives because of these dreadful machines.”

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