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Senior Tory denies stalling over plans to limit gambling stakes

James Brokenshire spoke after Tracey Crouch resigned as sports minister over the fixed odds betting terminals issue.

A Tory minister has insisted there has been no stalling over plans to limit stakes on fixed odds betting terminals (FOBTs) in an ongoing gambling row.

Communities Secretary James Brokenshire said “it is wrong to say there has been a delay”, despite former sports minister Tracey Crouch quitting because she said there had been a six-month hold-up in the plans she was overseeing.

Ms Crouch had repeatedly said she would cut maximum stakes on FOBTs from £100 to £2 and make the change in April 2019.

She was angered by Chancellor Philip Hammond’s decision to push back the change to October 2019. She quit in protest, saying two people would take their lives per day due to gambling addiction in the interim.

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Housing, Communities and Local Government Secretary James Brokenshire (PA/Aaron Chown)

Speaking on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show, Mr Brokenshire stuck to the Government line, contradicting Ms Crouch’s insistence there had been a six-month delay.

He said: “What I would say is that actually we were called on to introduce these arrangements prior to April 2020 and we have brought that forward to deliver this in October 2019, recognising we need to do this, we need to bring these stakes down.

“We want to see this delivered effectively, for all the reasons Tracey identifies.

“But it is wrong to say there has been a delay.”

It is wrong to say there has been a delay. Communities Secretary James Brokenshire

Mr Brokenshire said he regretted the resignation of Ms Crouch, who he said was “an outstanding colleague, someone who has worked very hard on this and is very passionate about the issues she believes in”.

Meanwhile, Ms Crouch told BBC 5 Live she quit because she could not accept any further delay.

She said: “I put forward my position as the Gambling Minister and the person who steered this policy for three-and-a-half years.

“It was one of the first things I requested we do and ultimately… I just couldn’t tolerate any further delay to it.”

I just couldn't tolerate any further delay to it. Former sports minister Tracey Crouch

Although Ms Crouch made reference to gambling lobbyists in her resignation letter, she refused to “name and shame” Tory MP Philip Davies, who lists gambling companies’ donations in his list of interests.

When asked directly whether she blamed Mr Davies, she said: “It’s a fact there are MPs very interested in the bookmaking industry and clearly they were more persuasive in their arguments than I was.

“Philip, who I admire on many issues, is very vocal in parliament on behalf of the betting industry.

“On this occasion I just clearly was not as persuasive.”

However, Ms Crouch said she had “no regrets” about her decision to quit, which drew applause from across the political spectrum and won the praise of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby.

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(PA Graphics)

Mr Welby tweeted: “@tracey_crouch who resigned as Sports Minister over the delay to reducing the maximum stake on fixed odds betting machines, is principled and courageous. May God bless her commitment to doing right.”

In a joint statement, leaders in the Church of England, the Methodist Church, the Baptist Union of Great Britain, the United Reformed Church, the Evangelical Alliance, Christian charity CARE and Quaker Action on Alcohol and Drugs backed Ms Crouch.

Mrs May replied that she was “disappointed” by Ms Crouch’s move and insisted there had been no delay, using the same statement as Mr Brokenshire to claim the October date was earlier than planned.

The Prime Minister did not immediately replace Ms Crouch as sports minister and is believed to be considering candidates for the role.

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