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Last Updated: Tuesday, 5 April 2005, 19:56 GMT 20:56 UK
Climbdown saves super casino plan
Roulette wheel
Ministers originally planned up to 40 super-casinos
Tessa Jowell has struck a deal with the Tories to save the Gambling Bill, by agreeing to scale down plans for eight super casinos to just one.

The culture secretary faces pressure to make the bill law before Parliament is dissolved next week for the election.

The Lib Dems welcomed the climbdown, saying it would allow for the introduction of a tougher regulator.

The government has also been forced to drop plans for ID cards after it failed to reach a deal with the opposition.

Loan sharks

Ministers say up to 16 of the 27 bills before parliament could be passed, if discussions with opposition parties succeed - "more than half the programme announced in the Queen's Speech".

Incitement to religious hatred offence in Serious Organised Crime and Police Bill
Gambling overhaul
Clean Neighbourhoods Bill
Charities Bill
Criminal Defence Service
Crossrail Bill
Equality Bill
European Union Bill
International Organisations Bill
Management of Offenders and Sentencing Bill
Mental Capacity Bill
National Lottery Bill
Road Safety Bill
Consumer Credit Bill

Commons Leader Peter Hain said the Finance Bill, which enacts the Budget, would go through all its Parliamentary stages on Wednesday.

The remaining stages of the Education Bill will be debated on Thursday and MPs could sit on Friday to consider further business, before Parliament is dissolved on Monday, ahead of a general election on 5 May.

Among other measures likely to be lost is the Consumer Credit Bill, which details tougher measures for tackling loan sharks, and a bill to make "incitement to religious hatred" a crime.

Deal 'welcomed'

On the Gambling Bill, Tory culture spokesman John Whittingdale said the government had accepted his party's proposal for one "prototype" supercasino and on that basis they were prepared to allow it to pass into law.

The location of the new casino will be decided by an independent panel, although the Tories say it should be a resort like Blackpool.

Lib Dem Don Foster said: "We welcome this deal, which crucially allows for the rapid introduction of a tougher regulator whose remit will include internet gambling."

The government's Gambling Bill originally included plans to allow an unlimited number of regional "super casinos", with up to 1,250 slot machines.

That was reduced to eight following pressure from Labour backbenchers and charities.

Vital business

Liberal Democrat spokesman Paul Tyler asked why the government was in such a rush for a general election when it could wait another 15 months - five years after the 2001 election.

"If there's so much vital business still to be scrutinised by Parliament, why does it have to go so early?" he asked.

Mr Hain said he could not help on the point raised, but said he was working with the opposition parties in an attempt to get "the normal orderly conclusion of business".

Shadow leader of the house Oliver Heald said the Tories were "prepared to be constructive" about the remaining bills.

But he warned, due to the "large number" still before Parliament, some would be lost.




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