Blow for Theresa May as Tracey Crouch resigns as minister over delay to FOBTs crackdown
Tracey Crouch has resigned as sports minister over the Government's decision to delay a crackdown on Fixed Odds Betting Terminals.
The Tory MP was furious that the maximum stake punters can bet on the controversial machines will not be reduced from £100 to £2 until October next year - six months later than expected.
PoliticsHome has been told that Ms Crouch had previously threatened to resign on two occasions over the Government's approach to FOBTs, although that is denied by sources close to the minister.
She held talks with Tory chief whip Julian Smith this morning, but decided to quit after Treasury Secretary made clear to MPs that the Government would not be U-turning on the matter.
In a letter to Theresa May, Ms Crouch said she was leaving the post with "great sadness", but explained that that the delay was "unjustifiable".
“From the time of the announcement to reduces stakes and its implementation over £1.6bn will be lost on these machines, a significant amount of which will be in our most deprives areas, including my own constituency," she said.
“In addition, two people will tragically take their lives every day due to gambling related problems and for that reason as much as any other O believe this delay is unjustifiable…
“I know there is never a good time to resign and appreciate that this will be an unwelcome distraction but as the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport said in the House this morning, it is a fact of Government that ministers must adhere to collective responsibility and cannot disagree with policy, let alone when it is policy made against your wishes relating to your own portfolio.
Her departure from the Government is another blow for the Prime Minister, who has seen a succession of ministers quit the Tory front bench in her time in Number 10.
Earlier, a number of Tory MPs made clear their opposition to the Government's position and the Government now faces the prospect of a major rebellion if, as expected, Labour put the issue to a vote in the Commons.
Former Cabinet minister Iain Duncan Smith said: "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 that we may end this scourge."
Culture Secretary Jeremy Wright denied that the Government was delaying the FOBT crackdown, insisting that the changes were initially touted to come in in April 2020.
Defending the Government's position, he said: "It was also right to consider planning to reduce the effect of job losses of those working in betting shops on the high street and allowing time for that planning to take effect.
“It also has to be recognised that right though this change is, money for public services coming from the use of FOBTs has to be replaced or public services will have less funding.
“The Chancellor has decided to that with an increase in remote gaming duty and it is right that that happens at the same time as the FOBT stake change."
Tom Watson MP, Labour’s Shadow Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Secretary, said: "Tracey Crouch has taken a courageous and principled decision to resign from the Government over Jeremy Wright’s decision to delay cutting the maximum stake on FOBTs.
"She poured her heart and soul into a significant review of these destructive machines, faced down a systematic lobbying attempt by the gambling industry and took the right decision for those suffering from problem gambling, their families and communities.
"The new Secretary of State has threatened all of this good work. He has prioritised corporate interests over victims, profits over public health and greed over good. He should be thoroughly ashamed."