The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (Chris Philp)
I congratulate the hon. Member for Sheffield Central (Paul Blomfield) on securing this important and moving debate, inspired by a young man, Jack Ritchie, whose life was tragically lost as a result of gambling addiction. I join him in paying tribute to Jack’s brave and determined parents, Liz and Charles, who as he says are with us this evening and whom I have had the privilege of meeting on at least three occasions since becoming the Minister responsible in this area, about six months ago, for their campaigning and work to bring something constructive and positive from their son’s tragic death. They have pursued their campaign with great vigour and have succeeded in getting the attention of Government and Parliament, as this evening’s debate clearly demonstrates.
The coroner’s report into Jack’s tragic death is very powerful, and I will turn to its contents in a moment. Clearly, the coroner’s report lays out, as the hon. Member said very eloquently and powerfully, a number of inadequacies and failings. I have in front of me a copy of the coroner’s Regulation 28 report, which says that
“the system of regulation in force at the time of his death did not stop Jack gambling at a point when he was obviously addicted to gambling.”
That was a point that the hon. Member cited in his speech. The second point that it makes, under its section “Matters of Concern” says:
“The warnings Jack received were insufficient to prevent him gambling.”
The record of inquest, a separate document, says:
“The evidence was that gambling contributed to Jack’s death.”
It makes it very clear that there was a link between the two.
I thank the senior coroner for the South Yorkshire West area, David Urpeth, for the time and trouble that he took in preparing this thoughtful report and in writing to us. He said in his report:
“I issue this preventing future death report in the hope that Government finds the concerns raised informative and of assistance, especially at a time they are considering the whole issue of gambling and its regulation.”
We do find the report informative and of assistance, and I am grateful to the coroner, to the family, Liz and Charles, and to everyone who played a part in that inquest for their work in bringing this report to the attention of the House and to the attention of Government.
It is worth putting it on record that there have been some positive changes since 2017, but, clearly, these do not go far enough. Just for the record, it is worth emphasising what those changes are. Clearly, this House voted a couple of years ago, after a powerful public campaign, to reduce the stake on fixed odds betting terminals—the B2 machines—from £100 down to £2 because of the overwhelming evidence that they were causing and fuelling gambling addiction. Gambling on credit cards has now been banned, online slot games have been made safer by design, the age limit for the National Lottery has been increased to 18, and there are tighter restrictions on the VIP scheme. In addition, there are currently two, about to be five, and there will be 15 gambling addiction treatment clinics funded by the NHS long-term plan, but, as I will say in a moment, these measures are not enough by a long chalk and we need to go further.