§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ Mr. Speaker
Before I call the Home Secretary, I wish to say that I propose to call the Amendment standing in the name of the hon. Member for West Ham, North (Mr. A. Lewis), and I would add that a reasoned Amendment presents the Chair with some difficulty as regards keeping the debate in order, when, as in the present case, the Amendment is declaratory of a principle differing from that in the Bill.
For instance, in this case, the discussion of the conditions under which betting on greyhound racing is carried on would be in order only in so far as it is an argument for giving or not giving the Bill a Second Reading.
§ 4.0 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. R. A. Butler)
I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.
This Bill gives us an opportunity to complete some hitherto unfinished business. This was envisaged at the time of the passage of the Betting and Gaming Bill through Parliament, and I have always thought that the scheme for the control of bookmakers which passed into law this summer would not be complete without proposals for a levy. The House will be aware, however, that this question wants examination and is not without difficulty. That is why I appointed in November last year a Departmental Committee under the chairmanship of Sir Leslie Peppiatt to consider two things. The first was whether a levy was desirable and the second was, if so, whether a practicable scheme could be drawn up.
The Committee reported with commendable speed in April to the effect that a levy was desirable and that machinery—the framework of which it suggested—could be devised. The House will remember that the recommendation that a levy was desirable is included in paragraph 19 of the Peppiatt Report, in which the Committee said:… there is an almost unanimous opinion, on all sides of the racing industry (including the bookmakers)"—876 I underline that—that a levy is required.The Report goes on to say:The United Kingdom has for a long time been in the lead in horse racing, and we think the infusion of fresh money should be regarded not as serving to bolster a declining industry but as an aid to improving it. Weighing the evidence as a whole, we consider that a levy is desirable.So much for the desirability.
An opportunity was given to the House in May last to debate the Report, and I think that I am right in saying that the recommendations of the Report were generally welcomed by the House. In the further consultations and considerations that we have had, I have also found general support for a levy on bookmakers among the various racing interests, including the bookmakers themselves.
The object of the Government in promoting the Bill is to enable an industry to help itself. As is pointed out in the Peppiatt Report,… the problem and its solution are domestic to the sport of horse racing.I understand that an Amendment is to be moved in relation to the possibility of a levy for the benefit of greyhound racing. I will leave my hon. and learned Friend the Joint Under-Secretary of State, who is to wind up the debate, to answer the point of view of hon. Members who are to put that case. I will confine myself to one or two remarks at this stage, in view of the words of the Peppiatt Committee that… the problem and its solution are domestic to the sport of horse racing.I understand that the idea of those who are interested in extending this to greyhound racing is that what is good for one is good for the other and that the two sports are similar and should have similar treatment. I am sorry, but I cannot accept this argument. I do not believe that people feel that the needs of the two sports are equally pressing. Moreover, what I am saying is complimentary to greyhound racing. The amenities of greyhound racing tracks are, on the whole, adequate and the large tracks excellent. It is more difficult to make a case that greyhound owners are in economic difficulties when it is a fact that their numbers are increasing. However, as I have said, we shall listen to the arguments put forward.
877 Lastly, from this particular aspect of the matter and to show the importance which we attach to it, the Peppiatt Committee was fortunate, as the members of it pointed out, in finding complete unanimity of opinion in the horse racing industry in favour of a levy. I purposely underlined the words in the Report about bookmakers being in favour of it. In the horse racing industry, not only the beneficiaries but also representative bookmakers favour the imposition of a levy. I have no evidence of similar agreement in the greyhounnd racing industry.
§ Mr. Butler
The hon. Gentleman will be able to state his case later, which will be listened to and answered by the Government. We wish to hear it most clearly put forward.
The general consideration which we have in mind is that it is one thing for the Government and Parliament to provide machinery to give effect to an agreed scheme for the horse racing industry and a very different thing to impose a scheme for the benefit of greyhound racing, which has not been the subject of examination or negotiation. I should be interested to hear the arguments of those who favour the extension of the levy in this way.
§ Mr. R. J. Mellish (Bermondsey)
The right hon. Gentleman said that, as far as he knows, bookmakers favour such a levy. With great respect, I have been unable to find any bookmaker who is looking forward to being levied.
§ Mr. Butler
I do not think that anyone is anxious to have a levy imposed upon him, but the representatives of the bookmakers on the Peppiatt Committee and bookmakers as a whole have stated that they think they have a part to play, and, while, humanly, many of them may not like the idea, I think that they realise where their duty lies.
I should like to stress that the Bill is not designed to assist any sectional interest in horse racing. The justification for it is the need to provide the machinery by which a great national sport and a national industry can be prevented from 878 getting into trouble or declining. If, as a result of the Bill, public support for horse racing can be maintained and increased, that purpose will be further advanced by the Bill. In my view, it is in the national interest that our prestige and, indeed, our pre-eminence in the breeding and racing of bloodstock should be maintained. I believe that this Bill will help to maintain it.
It is contemplated that, once the various boards and tribunals are set up, they will be, as far as possible, autonomous. This is why I think that the Bill is well drafted and well conceived, because the Government intervention will be kept to a minimum. The Home Secretary will have same limited functions—that is, approving schemes for the distribution of the proceeds of the levy, appointing certain members of the boards and tribunals and approving remuneration and allowances. But, in general, the Government feel that they will have fulfilled their responsibilities if they provide the horse racing industry with the necessary machinery to operate the scheme. So much for the general reasons behind the Bill and the attitude of the Government in not intervening too much in its operation.
I now turn to the provisions of the Bill. Clause 1 sets up a Horserace Betting Levy Board. In the Peppiatt Report this was called the "Central Board." It is being set up with responsibilities for collecting a levy from bookmakers and from the Totalisator Board. Therefore, the Bill not only operates in relation to the new levy, but assumes the general responsibilities for collecting a levy from the Totalisator Board and also applying the proceeds for certain specified purposes set out in Clause I connected with the advancement of horse racing. These purposes, which, as I say, are set out in paragraphs (a), (b) and (c) of Clause 1 (1), are the same as those now assisted by the Racecourse Betting Control Board.
The Levy Board will consist of a chairman and two members appointed by the Home Secretary, two members appointed by the Jockey Club and one by the National Hunt Committee, and the Chairmen of two bodies to be set up under the Bill, namely, the Bookmakers' Committee and the Totalisator Board.
879 The House may remember that there were two schools of thought about the composition of this Board. The first advocated a small and disinterested Board containing representatives of the Jockey Club and National Hunt Committee, who are concerned with the good of racing as a whole, but not representatives of sectional interests. Racecourse owners, horse owners and breeders would represent their views to the Board but would not share in its decision. The other view was that the Levy Board should be widely representative of racing interests. The Peppiatt Report, however, favoured the small Board and the Bill follows this course and adopts this view.
The Bill departs from the Peppiatt Report in proposing that the Home Secretary should appoint two independent members. The reason is to follow up what I said about the Home Secretary not interfering too much and to ensure that the Board should settle its own affairs. I believe that this is a sensible device for achieving that end. If there is disagreement about the amount of the levy or the means of collecting it, it does not seem to me that the Home Secretary is well qualified to resolve it, and that is why the two independent members have been added. It makes it possible to provide that, in the event of disagreement, the chairman and these other two independent members, by their casting votes, so to speak, should be able to decide.
Clause 2 confers on the Levy Board powers and duties connected with the advancement of horse racing similar to those which Section 11 of the Betting and Gaming Act gives to the Racecourse Betting Control Board. Under Clauses 3 and 4 the Bookmakers' Committee, about which I shall say more later, will in each levy period—that is, a period of twelve months beginning on 1st April—draw up a scheme for levying bookmakers. The scheme must secure that the levy shall be payable only by a bookmaker who carries on, on his own account, a business which includes betting transactions on horseraces. Bookmakers taking bets only on sports other than horse racing, such as greyhound racing, are not liable.
The scheme must divide bookmakers into categories, and hon. Members may remember that the types of category were 880 set out in the Peppiatt Report in some detail. The scheme must then determine the amount to be paid by bookmakers in each category. This gets over one of the original difficulties seen about the possibility of a levy being levied at all. With the aid of the Peppiatt Committee and the provisions of the Bill, we have overcome this difficulty. The scheme must require bookmakers to make declarations as to the category into which they fall. I should like to make it clear that it is for the Bookmakers' Committee to make the first move in preparing this scheme. They are the people who know about bookmakers and their methods of business.
All that the Levy Board has to do in this initial stage is to fix a date by which the scheme should be ready. When the Bookmakers' Committee has drawn up the scheme, it will be put to the Levy Board for approval. If it is approved, it will be promulgated. If, however, the Levy Board wishes to comment, the scheme can be referred back to the Bookmakers' Committee for revision. Only if agreement cannot then be reached after this process does the matter have to be decided by the chairman of the Levy Board and the other two independent members. I hope that I have explained how the Board will work and how, if necessary, the chairman and the two independent members will operate.
§ Mr. Ede (South Shields)
I see nothing in the Bill which limits the operations of the Bookmakers' Committee to the scheme adumbrated in the Peppiatt Committee's Report. It seems to me that the Committee is completely free to devise such schemes as it thinks fit, irrespective of anything that the Peppiatt Committee may have said would be suitable for operation.
§ Mr. Butler
The Committee is free subject to what I have said—subject to the final decision of the Levy Board and the manner of deciding it which I have described.
§ Mr. Butler
This is a matter which we can examine during the later stages of the Bill. I have explained the intention. I can, however, see the right hon. Gentleman's point of view. If we have to put 881 anything further in the Bill—which I very much doubt from the investigations which we have made—we shall have to do it during the passage of the Bill.
Clause 4 deals with the procedure once the scheme has been put to bookmakers. They will be required to make declarations to the Levy Board as to the category into which they fall and, normally, they will be assessed according to their declaration. If, however, the Bookmakers' Committee decides, for one reason or another, that the declaration of the bookmaker cannot be accepted, the Committee can reassess him. The bookmaker then has a right of appeal to a special appeal tribunal set up under the Second Schedule to the Bill. The tribunal may confirm, increase or reduce the assessment or grant the appellant a certificate of exemption.
The procedure under Clause 4 depends upon two bodies which will be set up under the Bill. The first is the Bookmakers' Committee. The Peppiatt Committee contemplated that a Bookmakers' Committee should be responsible for the actual collection of the levy, but the Bill places this responsibility on the Levy Board because it must, in practice, be undertaken by a staff, and this staff can be most conveniently controlled by the Levy Board.
The Bookmakers' Committee, however, in addition to drawing up a scheme, will scrutinise individual assessments which are in doubt. What the Bookmakers' Committee does not do under the Bill is to undertake the actual collection of the levy. The virtual autonomy of the Committee is stressed by the provisions of the First Schedule, to which I draw hon. Members' attention.
It is, of course, essential that the Bookmakers' Committee should be representative of bookmakers generally. It is, therefore, proposed that it should be constituted in such manner as the Home Secretary may prescribe, after consulting with any body representative of the interests of bookmakers generally.
The other body to be set up is the appeal tribunal, or, rather, tribunals, since there will be one or more for England and Wales and one or more for Scotland. These tribunals will have important functions to perform. In view of this, my colleagues, the Lord Chancel- 882 lor and the Secretary of State for Scotland, intend to make an Order under section 10 of the tribunals and Enquiries Act, 1958, bringing the appeal tribunals under the Council on Tribunals. That will bring them under the latest supervision and scrutiny. The Second Schedule has been drafted with this in mind.
Paragraph 2 provides that appeals tribunals shall consist of three members: the chairman will be appointed by the Lord Chancellor in England and Wales and the Lord President of the Court of Session in Scotland and must be a lawyer. It will be for the Home Secretary or the Secretary of State for Scotland to appoint the other two members. Under paragraph 3, the rules of procedure of the tribunals are to be prescribed by the Lord Chancellor or Lord President of the Court of Session.
So much for the appeal system, which, I think, is well conceived and done in some detail. Clauses 6 and 7 deal with the contribution to be made from the operation of totalisators. As the House is aware, totalisators are at present operated by the Racecourse Betting Control Board. The broad effect of Clauses 6 and 7 is to reconstitute the Board under the new name of the Totalisator Board.
Since it will no longer be concerned with the distribution of a levy, Clause 7 (3) provides that, instead of a widely representative Board, the new Board should be composed of a chairman and three other members, all of whom will be appointed by the Home Secretary. It is contemplated that these four members will be appointed primarily for their business ability, although this should no doubt be combined with an interest in and enthusiasm for racing. The procedure for determining the amount of the contribution by the Totalisator is similar to that relating to the bookmakers' levy. The amount will be determined by the Totalisator Board in consultation with the Levy Board; but in the event of disagreement, the matter will have to be decided by the independent members.
Clause 8 makes provision for the audit of accounts of the Levy Board and the Totalisator Board. A report on the proceedings of both Boards, including their accounts, is to be made to the Home Secretary by the Levy Board and laid before each House of Parliament.
883 Clause 9 makes transitional provisions for dividing the assets and liabilities of the Totalisator Board between that Board and the Levy Board. So much for the terms of the Bill.
The House will wish me to say something about the taxation position, since this closely affects some of the provisions in the Bill. I understand that the levy on bookmakers will be allowable as an expense in computing a bookmaker's profits for tax purposes. As regards the Totalisator Board, the contribution will be similarly allowable. In other words, in both cases the contributions would fall before tax and not after. Nor would the money from the levy on bookmakers or the contribution from the Totalisator Board be taxable in the hands of the Levy Board itself.
The tax treatment in the hands of beneficiaries—those who get the grants—is more complicated, since it depends upon the circumstances of the recipient and the use to which the money is put. Broadly, however, in the hands of a person carrying on a trade—for example, a racecourse owner—a grant earmarked for revenue expenditure would be brought in as a trading receipt; a grant earmarked for capital expenditure would not. A grant to persons not carrying on a trade will not, in general, be liable to tax. The position, however, depends upon the general tax law, and I am giving only a general outline of what is the position.
I have been asked whether this is a hypothecated tax, whether it conflicts with the principle that all revenue raised by way of taxation should be paid into the Consolidated Fund and that all payments which are made by the authority of Parliament should be paid out of the Consolidated Fund. Perhaps I might deal with that point.
There is, of course, a distinction between tax raised by the State, which should not be hypothecated for a particular purpose, and a statutory levy raised by some body other than the State. The Peppiatt Committee goes into this in detail in paragraph 22, in which it gives some precedents for such a levy, and states:… the levy on cinema takings for the benefit of British film production; the sugar 884 surcharge mechanism; the levy on the cotton industry; and the levy payments under Agricultural Marketing Schemes."—although it points out that—None of these provides an exact analogy to what would be necessary for the horse racing industry; but they serve to establish precedents for a statutory levy within a particular industry.It might also be said that the levy payments, either by the bookmakers or the Totalisator Board, should be allowable against their profits for tax purposes, and, if so, in effect this means that a proportion of the levy is coming out of the Exchequer. The only answer to that is that the public at large will, in fact, benefit. The scheme is domestic to the industry, but its results will provide certain facilities which will be available to, and be very often used by, the public. I should like to make this clear. As I said in general about the tax, these concessions have not been specially agreed in relation to tax in regard to this Bill; they are in relation to the operation of the Income Tax law as it now is. That is all that I am trying to explain to the House.
If Parliament decides, as I hope we shall, that there is to be a statutory levy it follows that certain tax reliefs are enjoyed under the ordinary law. These reliefs are not absolute. The tax treatment in the hands of the beneficiaries will depend upon their circumstances and the use to which the money is put. Therefore, not all the levy will escape tax and it would be oversimplifying it to say so. I hope that the House has borne with me in this reversion to my previous habit of introducing Budgets, although this is very much more complicated than any such occasion, and I hope that I have made clear that the levy will not entirely escape tax.
I want to say a word about the timetable for the collection of the levy. The Peppiatt Report suggested that a provisional timetable, which involved the first full levy payments by bookmakers, should be made towards the end of 1962, and I see no reason why this should not be done. On the other hand, I see danger in any attempt to accelerate that timetable unduly. Much depends upon the care and skill which is put into the preparation of the first scheme. It would be a mistake, as there are not many precedents to work upon, to jeopardise the 885 smooth working of the Bill by trying to hurry this preparatory work. So much for the explanation of the Bill, how it is designed to work, and some of the reasons for its introduction.
§ Mr. George Wigg (Dudley)
May we take it that the timetable laid down by the Peppiatt Committee stands, as far as the right hon. Gentleman is concerned, as a target at which we should aim?
§ Mr. Butler
I prefer to make it a target because so much depends on how soon we can get the Bill through our own machinery and that of another place. We are trying to stick to that sort of target and to the date which I mentioned in my speech.
The Bill, which might be regarded as unusual, strikes a chord. Literally millions of people, including hon. Members of the House, indulge in the pastime or sport of horse racing. The bloodstock industry is one of our most important and not by any means our most favoured, but one which can contribute to our export trade. It is also one of the prides of our country that we have the bloodstock industry that we have. There have been many hon. Members who have taken an interest in racing, not least Lord George Bentinck, who used to vote in the Lobby, in the time of Disraeli, wearing full hunting clothes and arriving only just in time for the vital Division of the day. I do not say that the Patronage Secretary would tolerate such behaviour in these times, but I do say that there are hon. Members, including some sitting opposite, who would not for a moment miss an opportunity of attending racing, of supporting it, or of getting it on its feet.
We have the example of the totalisator levy. This is a Bill for a bookmakers' levy. It says a great deal for the industry as a whole that there has been so much agreement that such a levy should be raised, and that we have, in a comparatively short time, been able to frame a scheme which, although complicated, will, I think, work in the outline that I have put for the consideration of the House. I therefore hope that the House's political and sporting instinct will support the Bill.
§ 4.27 p.m.
§ Mr. Gordon Walker (Smethwick)
As the Home Secretary rightly said, this is a somewhat unusual Bill, and we have had to consider very carefully what our attitude to it should be. On consideration, we support the Second Reading, although,I may say, with rather less enthusiasm than some of the racing interests.
As I shall try to show during the course of my remarks, I think that we need some safeguards and Amendments in the Bill to make sure that its machinery is not too much exploited by some racing interests to the disadvantage of other racing interests; and, so far as I am concerned, also to curb the somewhat exuberant appetite of the Jockey Club.
It seems to me that racing interests, or, at any rate, some of them, tend to exaggerate both the virtues and tribulations of racing today. It is true that racing is an agreeable and attractive part of the British scene and has a very considerable popular following. It is, in many ways, a democratic sport, but it is true, also, that racing is one of the bastions of snobbery in this country. And one should face this side of racing as well as its more attractive side.
There are, no doubt, people who own horses primarily for reasons of prestige and social standing, although not all of them; but there are such people. It seems to me that where there are such people it is quite right that they should pay something for what they get out of it. It does not seem to me self-evident that they should also be guaranteed a steady profit.
I shall listen with great interest to what my hon. Friend the Member for West Ham, North (Mr. A. Lewis) has to say on his Amendment, with which I have some degree of sympathy. It seems to me that one of the reasons why there is this obstinate refusal to extend to greyhound racing the sort of benefits given by the Bill to horse racing derives from this snobbery which is attached in some degree to racing. I have been looking back over some of the previous debates and to a speech made by the right hon. Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill), in the debate in 1928, on the Racecourse Betting Bill, when he was Chancellor of the Exchequer. Having lauded horse 887 racing, quite rightly and very eloquently, he then went on to dismiss contemptuously greyhound racing and greyhound tracks asanimated roulette boards".—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 16th March, 1918; Vol. 214, c. 2349.]This is wrong. One should not put these two forms of sport on such a totally different basis.
I think that another reason why there is this refusal to treat greyhound racing on the same broad basis as horse racing in this respect is the argument that horse racing contributes a very valuable export. Indeed, the right hon. Gentleman mentioned this point, though not, I admit, in this particular connection, but it has often been urged as a reason for discriminating between horse racing and greyhound racing. I hope that we shall not hear any more of that argument, because nowadays we hear a very different story.
The Peppiatt Committee was told that one of the reasons for this levy was that the export of bloodstock was now undermining British breeding. It is no longer now a good thing that these exports should be driven further and further; they are now regarded as a danger to breeding in this country.
There must, of course, be same balance between the export of animals and the retaining of animals for breeding here. The present export runs only at about £2 million to £2½ million per annum. If that is an excessive amount, if, as the Peppiatt Report suggest, it has to be reduced, if, in addition to that, more foreign horses have to be bought, then I do not think that one can say that horse racing will make any very significant contribution to the nation's balance of payments problems.
There is a tendency by some racing interests also to exaggerate the plight, the tribulations and the woes of racing today. One would think, to listen to some advocates of the Bill, and to this idea of a special levy as proposed in the Peppiatt Report, that horse racing was totally unaided at the moment and that it was on its last legs. Of course, neither of these things is true. Horse racing, in fact, receives under an Act of Parliament a very considerable annual subsidy running at well over a £1 million 888 a year. Racing gets £700,000 a year or so in respect of the Totalisator and £450,000 from charges on the on-course bookmakers.
Racing is, generally speaking, not in a desperate plight. The Peppiatt Report, in paragraph 19, says quite specifically—and the Committee was not unfriendly to horse racing—It is not our view, however, that without a subsidy horse racing will rapidly decline or die. This is clearly not so.So I do not think that there is any need for us to break our hearts about the plight of racing.
None the less, there seem to me to be cogent reasons, though rather more modest reasons than we have had put forward, for supporting the Bill—cogent arguments in logic and equity. It is, of course, true, as the right hon. Gentleman said, that British racing has to compete, in effect, with racing in a number of other countries, and that we are falling behind—falling behind in the amount of prize money, in the subsidy for transporting horses, in the amenities on courses, in the rate of entrance charges, and in the introduction of new technical devices like the roving camera or the equipment for watering courses. We are falling behind our main competitors in other nations in these respects.
When we talk about falling behind I do not think that it is only because of lack of money. I think that it is, in part, due to rather self-satisfied complacency on the part of the racing authorities. I am not an expert on this, but when I look at these things going on it seems to me that the day has now long passed since British racing was leading the world in the introduction of new techniques. As regards the introduction of any new, modern devices, like starting-gates or the photo-finish—these things are at first rather pooh-poohed in this country, and then they are only rather reluctantly introduced. We are not leading the way any more.
I think, from the little race going I do, that there is grave neglect of the rights of the public on many of our courses, and I would have thought that one of the quickest ways of improving amenities on any course would be to make it a condition of this levy that every steward should spend some days 889 every year in the ordinary public enclosures to see the sort of things the public have to put up with.
None the less, although this is not the only factor, it is quite clear that we have other countries competing with us where more of the stake money is, in fact, ploughed back because most of their betting is done through the Totalisator, and it is, therefore, very easy to take a cut out of it. Most of our betting is done through off-course bookmakers, and it has so far been impossible to find a way of levying them. It was only when the Betting and Gaming Act was passed that it became possible at all to levy off-course bookmakers. Some people say that this Act was passed primarily to make it possible to introduce the Peppiatt proposals. Be that as it may, it does make it possible to levy off-course bookmakers, because they are now registered and licensed, and it does seem to me just that they should be brought in with the others, the Totalisator and on-course bookmakers.
It seems to me right on general considerations of equity that off-course bookmakers should be brought in in the way that is done in this Bill, but, of course, if one is to use what seems to me the really strong argument in favour of the Bill, the argument of equity, this principle of equity must be carried right through the whole of this set-up. As The Times pointed out on 16th October, if the proposals of the Peppiatt Committee are carried out the Totalisator will bear a very unfair burden compared with bookmakers.
The Peppiatt Report proposed, roughly speaking, as it calculated the sums, a levy at about £1 million or so out of a turnover of about £200 million. The Totalisator is paying four times, as The Times pointed out, as large a proportion of its turnover. As I read Clause 3—perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will tell me this—and Clause 16 it will be a duty of the Levy Board to remedy this sort of inequity as between the Totalisator and the on-course bookmakers and the off-course bookmakers.
The Bill, as the right hon. Gentleman pointed out, is, even if rather reluctantly, supported by off-course bookmakers. I do not think that, on the whole, they are inspired by a philanthropic desire, as the right hon. Gentleman suggested, to 890 share the burdens of their fellow practitioners. This is shown by the total failure to levy them on a voluntary basis. The voluntary levy on off-course bookmakers raised about £60,000 a year compared with the £450,000 a year which comes through on-course bookmakers.
§ Mr. Gordon Walker
I was using the word "levy", I agree, very loosely. I meant a charge which they could not escape.
§ Mr. Gordon Walker
Those bookmakers have to pay five times as much as the public. But I agree with my hon. Friend that I was using the word "levy" loosely. I hope that I may be allowed to continue to use it as meaning a charge which Parliament makes possible.
One effect of the Betting and Gaming Act was to remove from bookmakers the fines which they always used to pay on cash betting. This was a rather heavy charge upon them, and, of course, the ending of those fines is a considerable off-set against the new levy. Moreover, as the right hon. Gentleman pointed out the payments they make under the new Bill will be deductible expenses from Income Tax. In addition to that many of the recipients of the benefits of the levy will also receive them tax free in their hands. If this is, as the right hon. Gentleman rightly argued, merely due to the operation of the tax law, it still remains true that it constitutes an element of public subsidy which would not be there if the Bill were not passed.
The Bill brings new people and new payments under the benefits of the Income Tax Acts and law which would not be brought under those benefits but for the Bill. Therefore, this strengthens our right to demand a degree of public control, because there is an element of public subsidy as a result of the Bill. We should bear this in mind when we look in detail at the provisions of this Measure.
891 One feature of the Bill which causes me great concern is the way it breaches the fundamental principle of parliamentary control of taxation. This worries me very much. The Home Secretary said that he did not want too much Government interference. I can quite see that; but by getting rid of responsibility he is getting rid of parliamentary control at the same time. If the right hon. Gentleman takes some degree of responsibility, to that extent he is answerable to us. If he refuses any degree of responsibility we lose all control.
Although the Bill does not impose a general tax on everybody, it imposes an impost. This, from the individual bookmaker's point of view, is a compulsory payment imposed and enforced by law. For him it is a tax, and it has been a longstanding principle of the law that where people are taxed it should be done by Parliament. As I see it, the Levy Board can levy taxation and can vary the amount from year to year. It can also vary it as between categories. It can not only vary the total but actually the amount that falls on particular bookmakers as between one and another.
We should not allow the Board to have this sort of power of taxation on our behalf. It is not enough to delegate this power to the three nominees of the Secretary of State. They too are independent. They are not in any way answerable to Parliament and they should not have the right to tax in this way. The very least that the Home Secretary should do is to ensure that the levy has to be approved by him and has to be laid before Parliament in some form or another and considered by us. This seems to me a matter of great importance and the present Minister of Health made a very strong speech on these lines on 23rd May last. He is a right hon. Gentleman whose probity we all admire and I am sure that he will continue, with his increased authority as a Minister, to press his views upon the Government.
There is one other related point of principle relating to Clause 4 and I should be grateful if the Joint Under-Secretary of State would apply his mind to this. As I read Clause 4, the onus of proof lies upon the bookmaker if he appeals from the Levy Board to the 892 appeal tribunal. This was in the Peppiatt Report. It shocked me very much when I saw it there, but to see it in the Bill shocks me very much more. It is wrong and repugnant to our idea of law that any citizen, bookmaker or anybody else, upon whom a charge is laid by Parliament, direct or indirect, should have the onus of proof laid upon him when he challenges it. It should be put the other way round. If the bookmaker challenges the charge, the onus should not be put on him. He is a taxpayer in this connection. The onus should be put on the Levy Board.
As I read the Bill, I do not see anywhere in it anything that makes certain and obligatory that the appeal tribunal should sit in public. If there is not, it should be made clear. Obviously, the tribunal should be made to sit in public, but there is nothing in the Bill to say that it must.
I think that besides reasons of principle there are important practical reasons why the right hon. Gentleman should have to approve the levy and lay it before Parliament. The major issue for the Board will always be the amount of levy. On this, I think that there will be some rough jockeying for position and that the Jockey Club itself will be prominent in this jockeying. The Jockey Club and the National Hunt Committee want the highest possible levy.
Frankly, I am fearful of the backstairs influence of the Jockey Club. It is one of the highest and one of the most haughty embodiments of the Establishment in this country and it has already shown its influence in the Bill. Why are there two representatives of the Jockey Club on the Board? The Peppiatt Report said that there should be one. The Home Secretary gave no explanation of this. It certainly ought to be changed. The Levy Board is grossly overweighted by having three out of its eight members representing those who are committed to the highest possible levy. If Parliament itself is to make it possible to raise the levy—as I think, on balance, it should—we should have enough control to make sure that it is not excessive.
As to the disbursement of the levy, under Clause 2 schemes for paying out the levy have to be approved by the Secretary of State, but I do not know 893 whether they have to be laid before Parliament. Accounts have to be laid before Parliament, but I am not sure whether actual schemes for spending the levy have to be laid before us. If not, they should be. There are points of public policy which ought to be discussed in public and controlled by Parliament.
The levy should not be used to prop up small uneconomic courses. This was recommended to the Peppiatt Committee—by interests who are themselves in favour of a levy. Paragraph 17 of the Peppiatt Report says:Other witnesses, whilst agreeing that a great deal of money could usefully be spent on racecourses, drew our attention to three qualifications which should be taken into account:——the third of these was thatSome of the smaller racecourses could never be made economic and should be closed.This seems to me sensible. Part of the plight of racing arises from the uneconomic use of valuable land. It would be better to have fewer courses, better equipped and more continuously used. As the Economist said on 3rd December, it would, incidentally, release a lot of valuable urban land which we badly need and cannot allow to be wasted.
The other point about the disbursement of the levy is that it seems to me that not nearly enough of it in the past has been spent on public purposes. Under the Racecourse Betting Act, 1928, a lamentably small amount was spent—only £60,000 out of £700,000 for breeding, veterinary science and education. There are no details of how much has been spent on veterinary science and education. These figures must be known, though I have never seen them. I suspect that it is a very small amount, and the Peppiatt Report makes very modest proposals for expenditure for public purposes.
I was disturbed by the statement by the Duke of Roxburghe, senior steward of the Jockey Club, as reported in The Times of 6th April. In welcoming the proposed levy, he said:It is of the utmost importance that it is used to the best possible advantage and not frittered away on a diversity of objects.That sounds suspiciously like a demand that as little as possible should be spent on public objectives, although the levy 894 is only made possible by a Statute of the Realm. If this attitude is likely to be represented—indeed overrepresented on the Board, there is all the more reason why Parliament should have proper means to watch over schemes for the spending of the levy.
§ Mr. Gordon Walker
I am grateful to my hon. Friend. It shows how ignorant I am, in these matters, but my guess is that the amount has been very small.
§ Mr. Wigg
If my right hon. Friend wants the particulars I will read them out to him. Under the heading, "For the Advancement and Encouragement of Veterinary Science and Education" there are £20,000 for the Equine Research Station of the Animal Health Trust, £300 for the Craft of Farriery, and £400 for the University of Cambridge, Department of Veterinary Clinical Studies, making a total of £20,700 out of £76,750 devoted to the improvement of the breed of horses.
§ Mr. Gordon Walker
I am very grateful to my hon. Friend; I wish that I had looked up the figures, because they strongly support what I have been saying. It is a laughably small amount devoted to public purposes out of a levy which is made possible only by an Act of Parliament. This must be remedied. I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Workington (Mr. Peart) will catch Mr. Speaker's eye later and will develop at rather greater length the question of the use of the levy for public purposes.
The Opposition support the Second Reading, although we think that some rather important Amendments should be made to tie Bill in Committee—some to remedy omissions and some to remedy defects, one or two of which raise very great matters of principle and which must certainly be put right before we finally part with the Bill.
§ 4.51 p.m.
§ Mr. Simon Wingfield Digby (Dorset, West)
The right hon. Member for Smethwick (Mr. Gordon Walker) made 895 an interesting speech. Although I would agree with some of it, there was a lot with which I would not agree. I would agree with him straight away when he talks about the neglect of the public in our racecourses. That is a matter which, we hope, will be remedied with the help of the Bill. At present, our racecourses do not provide for the general public in the same way as, we are told, is done abroad.
Perhaps at this stage I should declare an interest, because, in a small way, I am a breeder and also, in an even smaller way, an owner, but I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that I do not do it for reasons of social prestige.
I think that the right hon. Gentleman has slightly misunderstood the question of exports of bloodstock from this country. He spoke as though the £2½ million exports would have to be brought back in some way. Surely that is not the point. We have the finest blood lines in the world, and there is a danger that we shall let go the goose that lays the golden eggs. Indeed, some of the very finest stallions that we have had have in recent years been sold abroad, and there is a danger that unless we replace them adequately buyers will not come back here as they have been wont to do in the past and as they did last week from all over the world—from places as far afield as Japan and South America—to buy these products. I have no doubt that the net exports of the industry will remain very valuable indeed to our economy.
The right hon. Gentleman dealt with the question of smaller racecourses and whether racing in this country might not, with profit, be centralised rather more as, I believe, it is in France. There, I confess, I have considerable sympathy with him. There are a large number of very small racecourses which are not very attractive from the point of view of owners or spectators. However, he went on to say that he hoped that this would release urban land. I certainly hope that no such thing will happen if he had in mind building. If racecourses were closed for racing, I would hope that they would remain permanent open spaces.
During the long hours upstairs when we were discussing the Betting and Gaming Bill, many of us in the Standing Committee wondered whether it would 896 really be possible for the recommendations of the Peppiatt Committee, then sitting, ever to be implemented in the time we had in mind. I congratulate my right hon. Friend on the way in which he has been able to bring the Bill forward at such an early date. Appreciating the difficulties of getting legislation into the programme, I congratulate him very heartily on that achievement. I believe that he has produced a Bill which is neat and sound.
I also think that my right hon. Friend has produced a Bill which is flexible. I was a little anxious lest he should try to enact too completely the various recommendations of the Peppiatt Committee. I am very glad to see that he has given a good deal of flexibility to the Levy Board in its implementation of the intentions of the Peppiatt Committee. I believe that racing and the breeding of bloodstock not only gives a great deal of pleasure to a large number of people in this country, but, as I said in answer to the right hon. Member for Smethwick, has a very real part to play in the national economy.
There are not all those industries, even if they are small ones, in which our preeminence is so complete as it is in the bloodstock world, and it would, indeed, be sad if we were to cease to draw people from all over the world, as we did at the December sales last week, to buy our bloodstock. It is noticeable that even buyers from the Soviet Union were present and purchased our bloodstock.
My reading of the Bill is perhaps not quite correct, but as I see it, the Levy Board will be a new power in the racing world. I find it very difficult to see how it will be otherwise, because, ultimately, it has very considerable powers over those engaged in racing. Like the Inland Revenue, it is to be responsible for assessing and collecting, but, unlike the Inland Revenue, it will be ultimately responsible for redistributing. That may make it somewhat more popular. I have no doubt at all that, like the Jockey Club, which has monopolised the field as a private body for so long, it will be subject to a certain amount of criticism from time to time. No doubt people will enjoy criticising it in the future, but I hope that it will live down that criticism.
897 In the field of private sport we are perhaps a little loath to see the introduction of Government nominees, as we see being done in the Bill, because the real power in the Levy Board will reside in the chairman and the two independent members who come into play directly there is any dispute. I believe that we must regard them as the important people in the new Levy Board. However, I believe that that had to be done.
In view of the somewhat difficult principle mentioned by the right hon. Gentleman about the transfer of money by Act of Parliament between one branch of citizens and another, I am very glad that my right hon. Friend dealt with the point about contributions and their liability to tax. I think that this argument has been used to a certain extent falsely, because there are, after all, many trade associations in this country whose members are allowed to make their contributions allowable for tax purposes, and although in those cases the compulsion is different, it is a somewhat similar principle. My right hon. Friend also made it clear that in the hands of the recipients this money collected by levy will attract tax in the ordinary way. I have no doubt that many racecourses and others which will receive this money will find it very difficult not to attract a certain amount of tax.
I find very little fault with the composition of the Levy Board. As I have said, I believe it is right that the Government should have the three nominees. I wonder whom the Home Secretary will find suitable to carry out these powers. I hope that he will find for the chairman, in particular, someone with a good deal of foresight who will be able to make the new system work. I also wonder what the Government's intentions are with regard to salaries. In paragraph 339 of the Willink Report it was recommended that there should be increased salaries for the Racecourse Betting Control Board, which now becomes redundant. What is to happen in the case of the Levy Board?
The right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) speaks with a great deal of wisdom on these matters, and he has criticised the Bill because it does not make the category procedure more specific. My mind has worked in the 898 opposite direction. When the Peppiatt Committee came down in favour of the principle of assessing bookmakers by category on turnover, I was a little puzzled as to how it arrived at that decision and not preferred the Irish practice of having copies of betting sheets. Indeed, I still do not know why it turned down that proposal.
Consequently, it seems a pity that we should write into the Bill the system of categories, which many have critcised as being unfair as between one bookmaker and another. It seems to some of us an over-simplification to imagine it so easy to put all bookmakers into six different categories who can then pay accordingly. I hope that the Government will consider in Committee whether a little more latitude can be given on this point.
The Horserace Totalisator Board, as it will be when it is reconstituted, will mean five more appointments to be made by the Home Secretary. I hope that he will find sufficient people of the right calibre to carry this out. I believe the new Totalisator Board will have some very important work to do if it is to take advantage of the new situation created by the Betting and Gaming Act. That Act gives the Totalisator Board a monopoly in Tote odds, which will raise many questions. I believe that the Board thinks that by a system of commissions it will attract small off-course bookmakers into using Tote odds. I am told that that is probably not the case and that small bookmakers in country towns find it too difficult.
That leads to the very important question whether there should be Totalisator betting shops or not. There is not one Totalisator agency in the whole of the county which I represent. The nearest one is in Somerset. It will take something very much stronger than the Tote to amalgamate Dorset with Somerset in that or any other respect. I believe that the new Horserace Totalisator Board will have a very difficult task and that the chairman will have to be a man of considerable drive.
I have nothing but praise for the provision that there is to be an adequate report to Parliament every year about what is being done under the Bill. I only hope that it will be more specific 899 and enlightening than some reports we have received from other bodies in the past.
There are a number of other points, largely Committee ones, which come to mind—for example, the distribution of the levy when it has been collected. In the Bill, the veterinary services are not related in any way to horses. I should have thought that they definitely must relate to horses and be of benefit to horses. I heartily endorse the right hon. Gentleman's suggestion that much more money might be given to veterinary science, which in this direction has made most amazing strides which could be of very great benefit to the industry. I refer particularly to the Animal Health Trust, at Newmarket, which is so ably run. It receives a very small amount in relation to its importance.
I have in this House criticised some of the distributions that have been made by the Racecourse Betting Control Board in the past. I hope that they will be looked at carefully, so that the money is spent to the best advantage to the whole bloodstock industry.
This is a sound Bill, which will be to the benefit of the industry as a whole, and to all those engaged in it. Among those I include the stable lads, who do not receive very high wages, but who carry out a task which is very exacting and involves considerable risk to life and limb. The Bill should enable them to get slightly better wages.
I hope that people who are interested in, but who seldom attend, race meetings will benefit as well as those who attend regularly. I hope that the Bill will do something to help a breed which we have developed over the past three hundred years and countless generations and which has been built up from something which was of interest to a few to something which is of interest to a great many and which is of benefit to our national economy.
§ 5.5 p.m.
§ Mr. George Wigg (Dudley)
In accordance with the traditions of the House I must declare two interests. First, as most hon. Gentlemen know, I am a member of the Racecourse Betting Control Board, in which position I followed the very distinguished services rendered by my hon. and learned Friend 900 the Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget).
The second interest is a passing one—at any rate, it has passed. For a brief period I was interested in a racehorse. That was not for reasons of prestige, but because I was interested in that particular horse. Unfortunately, as I came to suspect, there was something wrong with the horse and he will not race any more.
I had the horse long enough to discover that what my right hon. Friend the Member for Smethwick (Mr. Gordon Walker) said is very far from the truth. I certainly did not acquire an interest in the horse from the point of view of snobbery and I certainly did not do it for profit. Anybody who believes that ownership of a racehorse, particularly one racing under National Hunt Rules, is connected with either of those two objects should have gone racing at Lingfield last Saturday afternoon. One acquires a horse because one is fond of horses and likes being out in the rain. The physical conditions at Lingfield were about as unpleasant as they could be, and no one would have gone there unless he liked being out in the open. Racing is an impelling force. It takes people away from the fireside to watch horses in all sorts of weather.
I was also interested in what my right hon. Friend said about the influence of the Jockey Club. I agree that, on paper, it seems to be a rather haughty, aristocratic institution. It is a survival of a system which has worked very well since the eighteenth century. The idea that it is haughty and takes to itself positive powers of direction is as far from the truth as it can be.
Since I have been on the Racecourse Betting Control Board I have learned that the Jockey Club does not provide the leadership which one expects. If the Home Secretary has a complaint against this important body, it is not that it is haughty, but that it is diffident and incapable in this modern age, because of the way it works, of acquiring the necessary knowledge to be able to give the lead which racing unquestionably requires at present.
My right hon. Friend spoke also about the disbursement of money under the Racecourse Betting Control Board Charity Trust for veterinary science, etc. 901 The Board is limited by the demands made upon it and the availability of money for other purposes. The total sum available is rather less than £700,000. Many demands are made upon it. So far as I know, it has never turned down a demand for more money made upon it by those concerned with veterinary science. What the future will hold when very considerable sums of money may be available is another matter entirely.
It is important to realise that the Bill is a triumph for what are, after all, the typically English virtues of common sense and compromise. It is for that reason that I commend it to all those who seek the well-being of racing and, further, to all those who through their presence in the House are concerned with the government of their fellow men. It is an exercise in the political art by the right hon. Gentleman, who is superb in this field. The public is not greatly interested in this subject, and in very difficult circumstances the right hon. Gentleman is seeking to obtain the highest level of agreement.
On the whole, he has succeeded. The only people complaining about it at present are those like my hon. Friend the Member for West Ham, North (Mr. A. Lewis), and I think that, in the event, it will be shown that their bark is much worse than their bite. There is not a great deal to be said for my hon. Friend's suggestion that greyhound racing should have been included in the Bill. However, I shall not spend time on that aspect, because other hon. Gentlemen will wish to do so.
It is perfectly clear that the consideration of this Bill is not merely a question of providing for certain vested interests. There is a great deal more in it than that. We are not merely considering the shutting down of uneconomic racecourses. If that were done we should be eliminating what we call the smaller racecourses. By doing that we should not be hitting at the rich racecourses like Ascot, or the big courses in and around London, but at the smaller courses like Uttoxeter and Wye, and such courses which supply local needs.
If hon. Gentlemen will take the trouble to look at the actual distribution of meetings over the course of the year—I will weary the House by giving it the details 902 —they will see that on ninety days there is one meeting; on ninety days two meetings; on sixty days three meetings; on thirty-eight days four meetings; on ten days five meetings; on six days, six meetings; on two days, seven meetings; on one day, eight meetings; on two days, nine meetings; on one day fourteen meetings and on one day sixteen meetings. Of course, the days on which there is a tremendous number of meetings are Bank Holidays, when thousands of work-people escape from their humdrum lives and go racing.
It would be a very real loss to racing and to our national way of life if any-think were done to interfere with these meetings. Indeed, this is one of the answers to those who make comparisons between what happens in England and what happens in countries abroad. Foreign countries have a Tote monopoly and a degree of centralisation. Those who, like myself, have had the opportunity to go to race meetings abroad—in my case, it was while I was in the Army—sometimes became a little weary towards the end of the season. The splendour and colour of English racing is its variety, and that we want to retain as far as possible. But of course, we have to pay a price for it.
A friend of mine went to Düsseldorf a week ago and he assured me that the standard of racing there was the standard that we expect at Folkestone. The price of admission was about 8s. One of the amateur riders of the day carried off a prize of £1,200 and the total distributed was nearer £5,000. These are things that we can only dream about in this country. They are beyond our means. We should be paying a very heavy price if we went too hard after them too quickly, because it would be at the expense of some of the smaller meetings I was surprised that my right hon. Friend did not talk about our Midlands courses. I have the good fortune to live in the Midlands. I think that places like Wolverhampton and Birmingham are doing a job the importance of which ought to be recognised. Let us take Wolverhampton, for example. Its course is leased from the corporation for twenty-one years. It does not attract horses of very good class. The races are arranged in such a way as to give reasonable fields. Those concerned have 903 introduced a system of watering. They have three tracks, or rather will have—a steeplechase track, a hurdle track and a flat-racing track.
By arrangement with the local authorities the course is also used as a playing field by the young people. The same sort of thing is happening in Birmingham. I want to see that arrangement extended. I do not want to see our green fields built over in the interest of Mr. Cotton and Mr. Clore. If people want to play rugby, football, cricket or tennis, or want to swim, one way of doing these things, it seems to me, is by using the racecourse between meetings for that purpose The extent to which—
§ Mr. Wigg
I am delighted to hear that the greyhound tracks do that, but that is not all that they do. I do not want to become involved in polemics on that point.
The racecourse in the proximity of an important industrial area does something more than provide a facility for what is termed the snobbish section of the population. That is certainly so in the case of Wolverhampton and Birmingham. Both these places are performing a very important function in the areas which they serve. The snobbishness is, of course, to be found in the management of Ascot. There is no case for money being given under this Bill for the survival and extension of Ascot as it is organised at the present time. And the Ascot office is an anachronism which ought to be abolished and I am sure that every well wisher of racing would agree with me when I say that. However, one cannot make out a case on the 904 basis of what happens at Ascot. One has to take what exists over the country as a whole.
That leads me to the point of what this Bill does and what it does not do. It seems to me wrong to suggest that the Home Secretary, the Racecourse Betting Control Board or others interested in the Peppiatt Report and the Betting and Gaming Act are concerned to establish a Tote monopoly. One of my hon. Friends said in the course of the right hon. Gentleman's speech, "Ah, the first step towards a monopoly."
Anyone who goes racing is anxious to retain the bookmaker and to create the conditions in which he can fulfil his legitimate function. For the bookmaker adds to the charm of it all. It would be rather flat if the bookmaker were not there, for even if one backs a loser it is some consolation to get 3 to 1 about a 6 to 4 chance. It is small satisfaction, but it is there. If a Tote monopoly ever comes about the people mainly responsible will be those bookmakers who have refused to accept the underlying principle of this Bill which is based on co-operation between Tote and bookmakers.
I think that the Home Secretary's approach has been based on a desire to consult with all the interests concerned and to secure their co-operation. I am sure that I speak for all my colleagues on the Racecourse Betting Control Board. It has been their policy to get the co-operation of the bookmakers in the interest of racing as a whole. I should have thought that it was of direct interest to all those who earn their livelihood in racing that the industry should flourish.
One has to accept that to many like myself racing is a sport while to others it is a business. These are divergent interests, but I am sure that the one thing that unites everyone is the desire not to eliminate the bookmakers but to place the industry on a sound foundation. In my judgment, that sound foundation is to be found not in the prosperity of the owner, because the average owner, if he has any common sense and if he is interested in the limited way in which I operate—having a share in a few hairs in the horse's tail—knows before he starts that he is going to lose money.
905 People may boast that they make a profit out of owning horses but, in the main, they do not. If they are wise they accept the fact that they are not going to make any money. The prosperity of the industry is really tied up among the breeders, on the one hand, and the trainers, on the other.
I want to see the industry run in such a way that the trainer who is moderately successful and can make a living by practising his art without having to fall back on betting. Once he has to do that, when he has to get a reasonable return for his money and the horses will start to be "readied" to ensure not only that they will win when "wanted", but that the price is a good one.
What the public want above all, and what my right hon. Friend's constituents in Smethwick as well as mine in Dudley and those in Birmingham and Wolverhampton want, is a run for their money. They want a chance to have a bet and I see nothing wrong in that. Having had that, however, they want to be able to go to the races and to take their wives or their girl friends. One has only to see the popularity of some of these meetings to understand how the figures soar. At evening meetings, or at Bank Holidays, people want to be able to go to the races at a fair price and to have reasonable amenities. They say frankly, however, that the feeding and drinking arrangements at some of our major racecourses are a public scandal. They should not be tolerated for five minutes. The charges are excessive and the facilities are offered on a take-it-or-leave-it basis. These things should be put right.
Here again, however, we have been caught up in two world wars. Economically, matters have been somewhat "dicey" and it is only now that we find ourselves getting round to this problem. I believe that the Government's approach is the right one in framing the Bill as they have done, to have the Levy Board and to have a representative on it from the Bookmakers' Committee, and to leave the bookmakers to work out their own affairs and then to come forward to the Levy Board with their proposals, which, I believe, in the majority of cases, will find acceptance.
The Home Secretary is trying to secure co-operation and I believe that he will get it. I believe that he has had 906 adequate consultation with the bookmaking interests. Despite what individual people may say, I believe that although there may be a few teething troubles, it will all work out in such a way that the powers reserved to the independent members and the chairman of the Levy Board will not be required. The bookmakers will be given the opportunity to work out the position in their own way.
That is an answer to my right hon. Friend the Member for Smethwick concerning what he regarded as something of a scandal about the production of evidence. Each bookmaker will himself be given the choice of saying into what category he thinks he should go. It is quite simple. The categories will be drawn fairly widely and the bookmaker will make his choice. If his fellow bookmakers consider that he has been "dodging the column", they may say, "You say that you should go into that category, but we think that you should go into another." They then say into which category they think he should go and it is loft to him to prove that he is right and they are wrong.
On the question of political theory, regarding it as an outrage that a Bill of this kind should be used as a form of taxation, I can almost see the ghosts of John Stuart Mill or of Cobden, or even of Gladstone.
§ Mr. Wigg
Or of Hampden, as my hon. Friend suggests.
It is all very well to conjure up ghosts, but we are living in the year 1960 and we on this side, above all, have turned our back, so I had thought, on the principle of laissez-faire. I understand it from the right hon. Member for Wolverharnpton, South-West (Mr. Powell), because he is a Gladstonian Liberal, but I do not understand it from these benches. I would have regarded it as a principle by which we stand that the power of the State should be used to regulate and to regulate as far as is compatible with freedom.
That is exactly what the Bill sets out to do from the outset. It sets out to give the maximum amount of freedom. As, however, the Home Secretary is answerable to the House of Commons, he must somewhere have a handbrake and he is 907 to have it through his seven nominees on the Totalisator Board and on the Levy Board. With one proviso, the Home Secretary is meeting all possible arguments.
The one proviso is the size of the levy. The guess of the Jockey Club is that it should be £3 million. The Peppiatt Committee come down with a figure of £1¼ million. Hon. Members should realise that perhaps one of the greatest problems of all, when the money has been raised, is how to spend it. Let us do a little sum. The Racecourse Betting Control Board spends, say, £600,000. The workings of the tax provisions will mean that that sum is doubled. Then, there is £1¼ million. This is a considerable sum to spend. The pattern of racing might, in fact, be distorted for a long time to come unless this money is spent wisely and gradually.
It is true that we do not quite know how this will work out. Estimates may be made about how much money should be raised, but it may so happen that because of prosperity, because of lower charges, better racing and increased amenities, racing may tap a new public, in which even a levy based on a principle which, if soundly conceived, would yield £1 million, might bring in £2 million. The point could be reached—it has been reached in other countries—when too much money has been an embarrassment. As we have already seen, by giving considerable prizes to handicaps we may already be distorting the values of sires in the eyes of breeders, not only in this country but abroad.
Therefore, given the Bill as it stands, the House should accord it a Second Reading, but we should also remember that wisdom lies upon the lines of one step leading to the next. If I may push this just a little harder in relation to the affairs of the Tote Board, if one looks at the figures with care it is clear that there appears to be what I would call a natural increment. The amount of the turnover increases every year by about 3 per cent. That is because the idea of betting on the Tote is catching on. More and more people who go racing begin to see that in certain categories of races, on certain horses at certain prices, the Tote will invariably pay better prices than, say, the starting price bookmaker. Therefore, for that reason, plus the impact of 908 television, the turnover tends to increase and it is likely that when the Bill becomes law—none of us quite knows how it will work—we might get a sharp break-through.
If, for example, as a result of an advertising campaign or steps of that nature, or even because the public became increasingly aware of the advantages of the Tote, with the result that it became popular overnight, enormous problems would be created. Already, when demands are made for extra windows on racecourses, it is extremely difficult to find the staff to deal with them. Possibly, the only way of handling any expansion is mechanisation, but that would involve the expenditure of large sums of capital. This, too, needs to be considered with caution, particularly if the Jockey Club and the National Hunt Committee force upon the racing authorities some degree of centralisation on the ground that too much money must not be tied up in electric wires, electric bulbs and the like.
To hon. Members who have doubts about the wisdom of the £1¼ million, I can only say that we do not know. The Government do not know. I thought that in his speech of 23rd May, the Home Secretary was adopting the right line when he said that he would leave it—to what? It is being left to the common sense of the two representatives of the Jockey Club, the representatives of the National Hunt Committee and of the Bookmakers' Committee and the three nominees to work out a scheme, not only for the raising of the money, but for its spending. I believe that hon. Members who think that there is a danger in not having a ceiling are worrying themselves unnecessarily, because it will not be as easy to spend this money wisely as would at first appear.
So far, I have spoken in my personal capacity, but I would now like to make one or two points on behalf of the Racecourse Betting Control Board. There is one point in particular which the Board wishes me to put before the House. In the past, each year an amount of money, as approved by the Home Secretary, has been paid into the Racecourse Fund out of the annual earnings of the Totalisator. The money from this fund has been distributed to racecourses in accordance with a formula Which has been agreed 909 to by the Jockey Club, the National Hunt Committee, and the Committee of the Racecourse Association. The formula has been on a maintenance and Totalisator turnover basis.
Racecourses have, therefore, known that in the normal course of events they would be credited each year with a certain amount of money from the Racecourse Fund and, in consequence, they could plan their expenditure accordingly. Some courses have spent several years anticipated grants in one year, knowing full well that they could expect to be reimbursed in due course. The expenditure receives the approval of the Home Secretary as a proper subject for payment from the Racecourse Fund, and each racecourse which has undertaken an approved project has eventually been reimbursed by its annual allocation from the Racecourse Fund.
At present some courses have a number of outstanding approved claims which will not be satisfied by the amount of money available for distribution from the Racecourse Fund by the Racecourse Betting Control Board early in 1961 out of the money earned by the totalisator in 1960. If the Racecourse Betting Control Board continued to distribute the Racecourse Betting Fund it would see to it that all approved claims were eventually satisfied.
However, under the Bill, the distributive function of the Racecourse Betting Control Board is to be transferred to the Levy Board, together with certain assets and liabilities, including the Racecourse Fund. It means that these outstanding approved claims, which in the ordinary course of events racecourses could expect to be met, are not liabilities in the strict sense of the word, but the expenditure has been undertaken by them in good faith and in the belief that they would be reimbursed in due course from the Racecourse Fund.
Clearly, the policy of the Levy Board cannot be anticipated but the Racecourse Betting Control Board feels that the Levy Board should recognise the moral obligation to meet all outstanding approved claims on the Racecourse Fund. I realise that a Board which has not been legislated for, let alone is in existence, cannot be committed, but the Racecourse Betting Control Board—and, of course, the Racecourse Association and 910 individual racecourse owners back this up—would be grateful if the right hon. Gentleman could give an assurance that the attention of the Levy Board will be drawn to this situation so that it can take it into account in deciding its distribution policy.
In other words, there are moral obligations here which the Racecourse Betting Control Board would normally honour and which it naturally expects and hopes that the Levy Board will undertake to meet. It hopes that the Levy Board will meet these approved claims which have been entered into in good faith.
I hope that when we have finished with the Bill today our Committee stage will not be protracted, but there are two or three points which I should like to draw to the right hon. Gentleman's attention. First, Clause 7 (6) amends Section 11 (3) of the Betting and Gaming Bill, 1960, in such a way as to restrict the Totalisator Board's investments to trustee investment. It seems to me that such a restriction is, in principle, unnecessary, and in practice inappropriate for a statutory body whose accounts are subject to audit and scrutiny by the Home Office. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will look at the possibility of amending Clause 7 (6), lines 42 to 45 by deleting the words from "and" to "other". If he does that, and if at this same time he amends Clause 2 (1, d), it would remove the same restriction from the Levy Board. It would, I think, remove what might be an obstacle to the future success of the Totalisator Board and the Levy Board.
There are two other small points. First, Clause 9 (3) deals with compensation to Tote employees who are not given employment with the Levy Board. I do not think that this is likely to arise in practice, but it seems to me that a period of one month is unreasonably restrictive. I wonder whether the right hon. Gentleman would consider whether six months would be more—
§ Mr. Wigg
I agree. I am only making points which might arise, and which the right hon. Gentleman might like to consider. I am not putting them forward 911 as Amendments, but putting forward what might be weaknesses in the Bill. I have not the detailed information on which to make up my mind definitely.
The third point is this. If the right hon. Gentleman looks at Clause 3 (1), the Levy period is given as the "first day of April". There may be considerable argument for the levy period being the period of the financial year, but I would point out that one can get two Easter Mondays in one levy period, and, because of the popularity of racing on Easter Monday and over the Easter holidays, it would make comparison between the periods difficult. I wonder, therefore, whether the right hon. Gentleman would look at the possibility of the levy period being the calendar year rather than the period in the Bill.
I am sorry to have kept the House for so long, but the points I made on behalf of the Board are of such substance in the interests of the Board, and of racing generally, that it was necessary that they should be made. I think that this is a good Bill. I think that it is a wise Bill. I think that it could be altered, but I am not sure whether any attempt to alter or amend it would necessarily improve it. The Bill therefore has my support. I hope that it will speedily become law, and that those who are engaged in the task of operating it will do so on the basis of securing the maximum co-operation, in the interests of racing, between those who seek to serve those interests either as a sport or as a business.
§ 5.38 p.m.
§ Mr. Richard Stanley (North Fylde)
I am pleased to follow the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg). He made an extremely sensible speech on this subject, as I knew he would. One thing about following the hon. Gentleman is that one never has to say so much oneself because he has made all the extra points which one intended to make.
I was sorry to hear that he had had bad luck on the first horse he owned in this country. I am sure that he was more successful when he owned horses in Bagdad in the old days, perhaps even riding them himself. Even though he 912 cannot do that in this country, I wish him success.
I too must declare my interests. I am a breeder, it seems rather an unlucky owner, and a member of the Jockey Club. The Jockey Club is called a lot of names, and has a lot of things said about it, but never before have I heard it called a backstairs club. I always thought that it was called the complete opposite, but it was surprising to hear the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Smethwick (Mr. Gordon Walker) call it that. People do not seem to think that it is quite so haughty as one hon. Member said.
When we look at the purposes of the Bill, we see that money is needed for racecourse amenities. People who do not go racing but who bet should obviously pay their contributions. Everybody who puts money on a horse should contribute, and the bookmakers ought to pay something. The bookmakers sit back and make a pretty good living. I know that some are not too successful, but others make very large profits out of racing. They may scream and say that they do not wish to pay the levy, but I see no reason why people who take a lot of money out of a sport should not put something back. At the moment people who go to see racing have to pay a lot to do so. That is because very few people can go. Those who do not go derive a great deal of pleasure from racing; one needs only to stand outside the gates of a factory in the rush hour to see people buying evening newspapers. They do not want to look at the headlines on the front page. They do not want to read anything about the Big Three; they wish to know who won the 3.30 p.m., and at what price. People who derive that kind of pleasure from racing should put something back into it.
I agreed with much of the speech of the right hon. Member for Smethwick, but he got a little muddled when he was talking about the breeding of racehorses. He was out of his depth when he talked about the technicalities of the sport. He spoke about jockeying for position, but I do not think that in this respect he had a position to jockey for. In the years before the war we could keep our best racehorses and export the second-best. The prices we got were very high, because there is no doubt that Britain is the best 913 breeding ground for horses, cattle or sheep, and people have to come here to buy their stock. Now we are allowing certain of our best horses to go out, because there is not sufficient money in the industry and people have to sell their best horses in order to make a profit. I hope that the Bill will help to remedy this situation.
Some people might say, "It is all very well to say that, but there seem to be more and more horses in training than ever before." There certainly are, but they are short-distance horses, which run mostly as two-year-olds and can get only five or six furlongs. These are the horses that people like to have, because they need keep them for only one year. This involves them in less expense, and they can have a few bets on them. They are useless for export, because no one wants them. From inquiries made of the three leading export bloodstock agencies I have discovered that over 88 per cent. of their exported horses are animals which can get a mile or more. It is more expensive to keep and breed these horses, and we must therefore ensure that money is available to enable this to be done.
We would probably all agree that some money must be given to veterinary science. I do not agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Dorset, West (Mr. Wingfield Digby) that veterinary science in respect of racehorses has reached a high level in this country; I think that it is deplorable. I am not blaming the veterinary surgeons. They have had little money, and have not been able to expand. Their knowledge of horses is on a par with the knowledge of doctors in the eighteenth century. If a horse is lame a veterinary surgeon will say, "Rest it for three months." That is not an awful lot of good. I am sure that these people would be able to attain a far greater knowledge of the subject if they could study longer and could obtain up-to-date instruments.
I wanted to have one of my animals X-rayed. The machine had to be brought up from Newmarket, but as it was raining the X-ray operators said that it could not work because they could not do X-rays in the rain. Surely there must now be places where one can always have a horse X-rayed. There are many cases like that. I do not believe that it 914 is yet possible to carry out proper X-rays on the whole of a horse's body. It is always said that it is quite impossible to obtain an accurate X-ray photograph of a horse's body. Money spent in veterinary science would be all to the good.
The right hon. Gentleman said that we should have brand-new and up-to-date racecourses, meaning a centralisation of racing. Considering the matter purely in terms of commercial interests he is absolutely correct, but it would nevertheless be a disastrous day if it happened. Many people make a day out of their visit to a racecourse. They go there on Easter Monday, or at Whitsuntide, or occasionally on a Saturday. They go in parties with their friends, and have a terrific time. Sometimes the racing is merely an excuse. They get there at about noon and leave at about ten in the evening. They have a jolly good time. Commercial interests should not weigh too much in this matter.
There is another factor in respect of which owners will have to pay more money but which helps those people who do not go on to the racecourses. Overnight declarations have come in. This is a terrific loss of liberty for owners, and I feel that they are entitled to get something back. Formerly they could make up their minds whether or not to run their horses as late as three-quarters of an hour before the race. Under the new Jockey Club rule, however, an owner must make up his mind by 11 o'clock on the day before the race, and if, after having said that he is going to run his horse, he changes his mind without a reasonable excuse, he will have to pay a heavy fine. Owners are entitled to get a little extra in prize money.
Two other factors which help non-racegoers are the ciné camera and the photo-finish apparatus. Both these instruments are there to ensure that the correct result is arrived at. I am not absolutely certain of my facts here, but I believe that less than half a dozen of our National Hunt racecourses have photo-finish apparatus. I do not know whether the ciné camera is used at all National Hunt racecourses; it has been used only occasionally on the flat. It is very expensive—£150 a day—and the small courses cannot afford that. I hope that the Board will finance the project so that all racecourses can have 915 the best means of arriving at the fairest results.
Another aspect of the problem is doping. In the summer and autumn there was much talk about this. Many horses were said to be doped. A horse in the stable where my horses are trained was doped. It was nearly killed. It could hardly stand for 48 hours. This points to the need for better security precautions, and they cost money. All this would help to safeguard the person who has his bet without going near a racecourse. Therefore, as he would be given a fairer run, I think that he should not grumble about having to pay some of the expense.
This is a very sensible Bill, because it ensures that off-the-course bookmakers will have to pay back something for what they derive from the sport. In the financial page of one of our newspapers I saw the turnover figures of a big firm of bookmakers, and it seemed to me that, in view of the very large profit it made, a little aid to racing would not do it much harm. On the whole, bookmakers have been very sensible about this. They have agreed in principle that it would not be a bad thing if money were given to the sport which keeps them going. To have obtained agreement on anything among a lot of bookmakers was a pretty good job, because they are the greatest individualists of all. The sport owes a terrific debt to Archie Scott, the man responsible for getting the bookmakers together. He deserves much praise for the work that he has done. We have heard that some bookmakers are saying that the levy is like a bloodsucker. I find it amusing to hear bookmakers call anything a bloodsucker; I have heard punters call bookmakers bloodsuckers on many occasions.
I think it a good and sensible Board. We must look at the Levy Board membership to see who has been selected and why. There will obviously be three people from the Home Office, and then we have the Bookmakers' Committee and the Totalisator Board representatives and the Jockey Club and the National Hunt Committee representatives. When this thing was first envisaged I was keen that breeders should be represented, but when I put forward that idea it was explained to me 916 that if the breeders were represented, there would have to be representatives of the racecourses and every other racing interest. Then the Board would become too unwieldy and each member would be looking for something for his section. But these other people can go to the Board and explain what money they want and why.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. David Renton)
I think it may have been a slip of the tongue, but my hon. Friend referred to "three people from the Home Office". That is, of course, quite different from what is stated in the Bill—that there will be three people appointed by my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary.
§ Mr. Stanley
I apologise, I was entirely wrong. I meant that they were appointed by my right hon. Friend.
Whether people like it or not, racing is ruled by the Jockey Club and the National Hunt Committee. Some people think those the wrong bodies: I think they are the right bodies. But whoever rules racing must be represented on the Board which distributes the money for racing. The people appointed by my right hon. Friend cannot be experts, and therefore it is a good thing that they will be advised about the distribution of money for racing by representatives of the people who rule the sport. If the Bookmakers' Committee cannot make up its mind how to get the levy and therefore it is to be done by the chairman and the Home Secretary's two nominees, it is equally right that representatives of the Jockey Club and the National Hunt Committee should not take part in that, because if they did they would be saying how much money they wanted. It is their duty to consider how the money should be distributed.
There are one or two things I wish to say about the Bill. They are small matters. Why should it be that if a Member of Parliament serves on either body he is to be disqualified from his membership of the House of Commons? In the past there have always been Members of Parliament on the Totalisator Board. Both the present members are doing good work. I hope that if Members of Parliament wish to become members of these bodies, they will be able to. Another question I have not 917 seen answered is, when is to be the change-over from the present Betting Control Board to the new organisation? I hope that it will be fairly soon so that the new body can settle down and work out its long-term plans. I hope that when my right hon. Friend picks the chairman of the Tote Board—
§ Mr. Stanley
—the chairman of the Levy Board, he will select someone with good business experience. In the past I have maintained that the chairman should be a full-time worker, but I realise that that is not possible. He should spend at least three-quarters of his time at this work, but if he has other interests he cannot be expected to drop them in favour of a job which may last only five years.
I hope that the chairman of the main body will be a racing enthusiast as well as being someone who possesses the necessary knowledge. He will have to make difficult decisions. The important thing is to see that all parties have a real confidence in the organisation and then everything will run smoothly. I congratulate my right hon. Friend on the excellent Bill he has introduced. I think that its provisions will make racing much more successful and more pleasant for everyone.
§ 5.55 p.m.
§ Mr. Ede (South Shields)
I welcome the Bill I regret that its provisions were not included in the betting and gaming legislation, which was passed during the last Session. Subject to some reservations on Committee points, I propose to vote for the Bill, but I hope that we shall have an opportunity to consider it very carefully during the Committee stage.
One of the astounding things about it is that there is no requirement in the Bill that the Bookmakers' Committee shall include a bookmaker among its members. Bookmakers are gentlemen who look after their own interests pretty well, and they would like to be assured that there will be a number of bookmakers on that committee.
§ Mr. A. Lewis
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. It has been the custom for many years that when a 918 matter is debated, and where it is known that there is controversy and different points of view, the Chair shall, so far as is possible, call hon. Members from either side of the House to express a point of view for and against the subject debated. This afternoon I have listened to every hon. Member who has spoken and they have all been in favour of the principle of the Bill. My hon. Friend the Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) was overwhelmingly in favour of the Bill.
In view of the fact that there is a reasoned Amendment in my name on the Order Paper which Mr. Speaker has stated he intends to call, and because it has been the custom and practice of the Chair invariably to call a reasoned Amendment immediately after the two Front Bench speakers have spoken, may I ask why it is that, to me at least, it appears that those interested in opposing the Bill are not able to be called?
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir Gordon Touche)
The hon. Gentleman must be a little patient. The reasoned Amendment is to be called, but it was thought fit to have a general discussion before introducing the reasoned Amendment.
§ Mr. Lewis
Further to that point of order. I brought in the question of the reasoned Amendment at the latter part of what I was saying. I was trying to explain that it is the custom and practice that hon. Members who have opposing points of view to the matter under debate should be called. I have been sitting here and I am not—
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
Order. I cannot discuss with the hon. Member the selection of speakers by the Chair. Mr. Ede.
§ Mr. Ede
I have no objection to my hon. Friend's Amendment being called at such stage as seems convenient to the House, but I understood from what Mr. Speaker said to us that the exact wording of the Amendment might impose some difficulty about a full discussion on the general principles of the Bill.
§ Mr. Lewis
May I assure my right hon. Friend that the point I was making was not so much in relation to the calling of the reasoned Amendment but to the fact that there is known to be a difference of opinion about the Bill? 919 Leaving aside the question of the Amendment, it appeared to be—as always—that the horse racing interests and hon. Members in favour of the Bill were being called to speak, and I wondered why that was happening.
§ Mr. Ede
I do not know what any hon. Member will say until he speaks. I certainly gave no indication to anyone about which side I should come down. I was taken by surprise at the overwhelming enthusiasm of my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) for the Bill—or any Bill. I imagine that it was almost as much a shock to the Government as to me.
I wish to deal with the Bookmaker's Committee. I do not see any provision in the Bill for more than one committee. It is true that there are some sorts of committees of which there may be more than one, but England, Wales and Scotland cover a great amount of territory and there is a considerable variety of dealing in matters concerning racing and bookmaking in particular.
Will it be possible for local committees to be formed? I am assured by those who are well informed on this matter that there are 18 reputable bookmakers' associations in the country. Whether they vary in degree of reputability or not, I should not like to say, but I am assured that generally 18 associations are recognised. I should have thought it would be desirable that in some ways, either by grouping these associations or otherwise, there could be an assurance that the Bookmakers' Committee will be representative of the opinion of that particular calling right through the country and that it might also be possible for sub-committees, district committees, or some organisation of that kind, to be available to focus opinions in such a way tha tthey can be assured that all views on the matter are represented.
My correspondence discloses very considerable opposition among some of the members of the bookmaking fraternity to the proposal embodied in the Bill. I will not read what they have written to me, because much of it seems to be very uncharitable and, judging by the experience of my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley, carries a quite unjustifiable assumption that all owners are extremely successful and do not need any 920 further prize money or anything else to keep them in at least the same state of life as bookmakers enjoy.
The hon. Member for North Fylde (Mr. Stanley) approached the matter, I thought, in a way which makes it somewhat difficult to support the point of view he put forward. He said that the owners have lost a little liberty and ought to get some money in compensation. I understand that liberty is a thing whose price is above rubies. Any suggestion that because they have to make an overnight declaration they should be able to make a call on the fund to be provided by bookmakers seems a proposition which cannot be supported in the House.
I want to speak about another matter raised by the hon. Member for North Fylde. I understand, and it concurs with my recollection, that the members nominated by the Secretary of State on the Racecourse Betting Control Board are not paid. There may have been power to pay them, but I understand that they are not paid. I also understand from my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley that he has never even made a claim for expenses incurred in attending to the duties of the Board. I see no reason for disqualifying people who accept a position like this if it is an honorary position, that is to say, if they do not receive any remuneration.
If the Home Secretary says that the duties of members of the Levy Board will in future be so heavy that he could not expect people to undertake them without remuneration, and would not consider anyone willing to undertake the duties voluntarily, I can understand the reason for putting this provision in the Bill. I should have thought that the House, the country and racing had been so well served in the past by the nominees of the Secretary of State that, unless it is to be said that they must accept remuneration, disqualification should be confined to those who demand or accept remuneration.
What will happen if a member of the Jockey Club, who is a Member of this House, is appointed to the Levy Board? Presumably, he would not get any payment from the Secretary of State, but suppose the Jockey Club proposed to make a small payment to one of its more impecunious members, if it has any—in 921 guineas, of course, not in pounds—for his services. Would he then be disqualified? If a member appointed by the Secretary of State is to be disqualified whether he accepts a salary or not, I cannot see why other Members of the House, nominated by other people, should be able to go on to the Board and receive some remuneration for their services without any disqualification.
I have only one particular case to bring before the House about which the Bill appears to be silent. It relates to Epsom. I am told that Epsom is now the only course on which bookmakers can set up a "joint" and carry on their business without being under the control of somebody or other. All the other open courses, I am told, have now been so controlled that every bookmaker is under some surveillance. Anyone can get on to the course at Epsom, but the Grand Stand Association is sharp, if anyone is seen setting up a "joint" on the Downs, to exercise its power to collect money off him.
On the assumption that a man is able to practise there, would he have to display his name and address? That is a matter which should be within the purview, either of the Bookmakers' Committee or the committee which manages the Jockey Club's racing personnel, whose assistance to racecourse executives in this matter is, I understand, fairly considerable.
Apart from that and some other points which are purely Committee points, I accept the Bill. I hope that it will become law and that the Committee stage will be taken on the Floor of the House.
§ 6.8 p.m.
§ Mr. John Arbuthnot (Dover)
It is clear that the objectives towards which the Bill is directed are entirely approved on both sides of the House. We realise that aid is required to improve the horse racing industry generally and we would all agree with the right hon. Member for Smethwick (Mr. Gordon Walker), who said that racing in this country was falling behind in competition with horse racing in other countries. It would, therefore, appear to meet with general consent that something has to be done about it.
922 It is probable that there would be no dissent from the proposition that those who benefit from horse racing most and who at present make no appreciable contribution towards its expenses should be made to do so. Therefore, with the overall principle of what this Bill seeks to achieve I find myself in general agreement. Where I am not happy, is about the means through which the Bill seeks to reach those overall objectives.
When we were discussing the Peppiatt Report on 23rd May, my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary asked for the views of hon. Members and said that attention would be paid to them. My right hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell), who was at that time speaking from the back benches and who was chairman of the Conservative Party Finance Committee, described the Peppiatt proposals, now reproduced in this Bill, as:… a departure from what I might call the principle of the Consolidated Fund, upon which the public control of finance by this House basically rests—the principle that all revenue which is raised by the authority of this House shall be paid into the Consolidated Fund and that all Payments which are made by the authority of this House shall be made out of the Consolidated Fund.It does not matter whether the impost on the bookmakers is called a levy or a tax. It is a compulsory extraction from them and it amounts to the same thing whatever it is called, since it is a statutory extraction made by the authority of the House.
Furthermore, the Bill earmarks the proceeds of that tax for certain purposes. In other words, it amounts to a hypothecated or tagged tax. When moving the Second Reading, my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary told us that this was a problem and solution which were both domestic to the support of horse racing. We have heard from a number of hon. Members how surprising they think it is that the bookmakers have been prepared to agree to pay the tax. It is not in the least surprising to me that the bookmakers have been prepared to do so. If the position is translated to the sphere of the road user, and the same proposition was put to them then road users would hold up their arms and every other limb if it were suggested to them that the tax which they pay would be used for the 923 benefit of the sport which they enjoy. I cannot see that there is any fundamental difference between hypothecated taxation in the case of those who love horse racing and hypothecated taxation in the case of those who love and use roads. I am profoundly disturbed by the introduction of this hypothecated taxation in the Bill and I do not feel that it is a principle which we ought to encourage.
It has been suggested that there are precedents for this, but the Peppiatt Report itself says that none of the precedents presents an exact analogy. When dealing with the question of the timetable, my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary said that there were not many precedents to work on. However, my right hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West dealt with that question succinctly in these words:the mere existence of a precedent for doing something of this kind is no argument in its favour."—[FFICIAL REPORT, 23rd May, 1960; Vol. 624, c. 93–4.]It is, therefore, with the greatest misgivings that I regard the method by which the Bill proposes to achieve objectives however reasonable in themselves.
By the Bill we are taking out of the control of the House the raising and spending of this money. The right way to do it would be for the levy to be made on the bookmakers by the Chancellor of the Exchequer in his Budget and for provision to be made under the subhead of a Vote for disposal of the money so raised. The tax and the use made of it could then be considered by the Comptroller and Auditor General, and, if necessary, investigated by the Public Accounts Committee.
My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary told us that the accounts will be submitted to him and that he will lay them before Parliament. I take it that they will then be available for investigation by the Comptroller and Auditor General and the Public Accounts Committee. If not, I think that they ought to be.
Clause 1 (2, a) says:The Levy Board shall consist of a chairman and seven other members of whom—that is to say, the Home Secretary. The hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) told 924 us that there might be difficulty about spending the money which was likely to be raised by the levy. He also foreshadowed a steady rise in income. I would not disagree with either of those comments, but they point to the advisability of having someone appointed by the Chancellor of the Exchequer to represent the point of view of the Inland Revenue rather than having all three Government appointments made by the Home Secretary, although my right hon. Friend made it clear that the appointees would not be representatives of the Home Office, but independent persons.(a) the chairman and two other members shall be appointed by the Secretary of State;
The Bill is trying to do the right thing, but in an extraordinary way, and I hope that we shall examine it very carefully in Committee.
§ 6.18 p.m.
§ Mr. Arthur Lewis (West Ham, North)
I beg to move, to leave out from "That" to the end of the Question and to add instead thereof:this House declines to proceed further with a Bill which, while providing for a levy from bookmakers for purposes connected with horse racing, fails to take similar provision in regard to the sport of greyhound racing notwithstanding that a ten per centum pool betting duty is at present imposed on bets placed with the totalisator on greyhound racecourses while there is no equivalent duty payable in respect of the horse racing totalisator.I have been in the Chamber throughout the debate. As hon. Members know, there are hon. Members on both sides of this House who are well known as horse-racing men. It is rather strange that, with the exception of the hon. Member for Dover (Mr. Arbuthnot), everyone who has spoken has declared an interest of some sort in horseracing—it is true that my right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) did not actually declare his interest. The Home Secretary's interest is in the Bill itself, and the interest of my right hon. Friend the Member for Smethwick (Mr. Gordon Walker) is that he was speaking for the Opposition.
There is not only a distinct bias in favour of horse racing but a distinct bias against greyhound racing and that is why I have moved my Amendment. I want to make it quite clear that I do not have a horse—not even a hair from the horse in which the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) says he is interested. I have no interest in horse-racing, greyhound 925 racing or any other such sport, either as a breeder, an owner, a director of a track or anything else. I am, however, secretary of an all-party committee in the House that has been set up to secure the abolition of this 10 per cent. Pool Betting Duty. It is true also that in West Ham we have one of the finest greyhound tracks in the country, and my purpose in moving this Amendment is to draw the attention of the House, the Government and the public to the discrimination against greyhound racing and the favour shown to horse racing.
I should like here to thank my right hon. Friend the Member for Smethwick, who quite rightly said that from his cursory examination of this Measure he felt that it was being brought forward without giving due consideration to greyhound racing. I think that that summarises his point. There is this complete antipathy on the part of the Government against greyhound racing; deliberately penalising this sport whilst encouraging horse racing.
You, Mr. Speaker, may not be aware, although those hon. Members who have already spoken and have horse racing interests are aware, that at most horse racing tracks there is a Totalisator. Those Totalisators are made by firms in this country. The well-to-do person who places a bet on the Totalisator at the horse track does not lose anything by way of duty or taxation. If the same Totalisator made by the same people and operating in exactly the same way is at a greyhound-racing track, the punter immediately loses 10 per cent. of his money in tax.
I am not for one moment arguing whether or not there should be a tax. If the Government want revenue and decide on even a 50 per cent. betting tax, I am quite happy, but they should put it fairly on both sports. It seems very unfair that the well-to-do company director who goes to Ascot or Epsom and bets on a horse should not pay tax, whereas the dock worker, the engineer, the bricklayer or the carpenter, who cannot go to the horse racetrack because he is working—the horse race meetings usually take place during the day—but goes to the greyhound track in the evening should lose 10 per cent. when he bets. That is discrimination, and I see no reason why it should be continued. Not only is it to be continued, but this 926 Bill will further aggravate the discrimination.
The Bill proposes a levy on bookmakers to improve and help the sport of horse racing. Incidentally, to digress for a moment on the subject of the Totalisator, I should add that although the user of the Totalisator at the horse-racing meeting pays no tax, a 4 per cent. levy is deducted by the Racecourse Betting Control Board to assist the development of the sport. That money is used for the benefit of that sport, but the same benefit is not given to greyhound racing from the Pool Betting Duty.
I do not object to a levy to help horse racing, but if the Government feel that that is right, why do they not feel the same about greyhound racing? Is it because horse racing is known as the sport of kings and is, perhaps, supported mainly by the well-to-do, while greyhound racing is supported by the working man? I do not know. The Home Secretary said that he did not think that there was an exact analogy. In what way? He mentioned that he had been to greyhound racing tracks that were really first-class. That, of course, is true. Some of the greyhound tracks in the big cities are first-class, but the right hon. Gentleman should see some of those in the suburbs that are not first-class. They have to struggle to keep going at all, and I know of at least four that have had to close down.
The Home Secretary also spoke of the cost of horse breeding, and of exports—if not today at least on other occasions. Greyhounds are exported to some 15 countries, and millions of pounds are earned by the Irish, who do a great export trade in them. If greyhound breeding and racing were to be encouraged, there is no doubt whatever that the greyhound breeders and the greyhound racing people could earn quite considerable sums by exporting greyhounds to America, which is one of the fifteen countries I have just mentioned.
I am glad to see that the Home Secretary has returned to the Chamber, because I say again that in this connection there is an exact analogy between horse racing and greyhound racing; with the exception, of course, that, in the main, greyhound racing is supported by the poorer section of the population 927 whereas horse racing is supported by the not-so-poor section—
§ Mr. Lewis
I agree that occasionally the working man does seek to get in on the rich man's preserves, and gets a few crumbs from his table. I do not want my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley to interrupt me again. He spoke for 33 minutes, and it is not my intention to speak for as long as that, because I hope that some of my hon. Friends who share my point of view will have an opportunity to take part in this debate—
§ Mr. Lewis
I am sorry, but I cannot give way. I want to carry on because, as I have just said, I hope that it will be possible for some hon. Members to be called who have not yet had an opportunity to put the other side of the picture. If I give way too much and, as a result, take too long, perhaps only those supporting the horse racing side will be called.
I understand that this levy will be made on bookmakers on a basis of profits and that the money will be used to help horse racing. That may be all very well, but a name comes to my mind—Mr. Jack Solomons. He is, perhaps, known better for his activities in the boxing world, but he also happens to be a bookmaker. Jack Solomons takes bets on horse racing and on greyhound racing. In fact, the bookmaker who takes bets on greyhound racing will be in the position of having to contribute towards a levy for the improvement of horse racing, and some of the money will come from greyhound racing. Again, there will be this anachronism. The off-course bookmaker who gets his money from those who put their bets on greyhound racing will be making a contribution.
§ Mr. Eric Johnson (Manchester, Blackley)
Will the hon. Member explain that? I thought that he would contribute only from such moneys as he took on horse racing.
§ Mr. Lewis
I am very glad that the hon. Member has taken that point. If the suggestion is that it will be possible to differentiate between what is earned on horse racing and what is earned on greyhound racing, there is no reason why there should not be a levy, with proper differentiation, on the amount earned from greyhound racing ploughed back into greyhound racing as opposed to being ploughed back into horse racing. The argument has always been that it is difficult to differentiate between the two. I am very glad that the hon. Member has made his intervention. There is no argument at all to show why there should not be some system of levy for the benefit of greyhound racing. Obviously, the amount would not be so large; it could be agreed among people in the industry.
The Home Secretary has said that there is unanimity of opinion on this matter in the horse racing world but there is not such unanimity in the greyhound racing world. I have met no one in the greyhound racing fraternity who would object to what we propose. The various societies and associations in the sport would be quite willing to operate on a basis exactly similar to that which is envisaged in the Bill. I see no reason why the Home Secretary could not, if he liked, set up another Peppiatt Committee to investigate the greyhound racing side, asking such a committee to be as speedy with its recommendations or proposals as, apparently, the previous Committee was asked to be quick with its consideration of horse racing. Perhaps my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley, who is not here at the moment, who suggested that there should be expedition in getting this Bill through the House in favour of horse racing, would ask that the same expedition should be shown in respect of a similar Bill concerned with greyhound racing.
I shall finish in a moment or two because I hope that hon. Members opposite who share my views on this matter, and who have no personal interest whatever in greyhound racing, will have an opportunity to speak in support of the Amendment. I emphasise that I am not against the Home Secretary's Bill as such. In my view, however, the time is long overdue when this pernicious discrimination against one kind of sport in favour of another should cease. If the Treasury 929 feels that it needs money for the revenue and that the Totalisator should be taxed, the tax should apply whether the sport be horse racing or greyhound racing. If it is felt that the sport of horse racing should be helped, then there is no reason at all why the sport of greyhound racing also should not be helped.
§ 6.34 p.m.
§ Wing Commander Eric Bullus (Wembley, North)
I am glad to associate myself with the remarks made by the hon. Member for West Ham, North (Mr. A. Lewis), and I should like to underline one or two of the arguments which he advanced. If I do not speak so vehemently, that is not because I do not support wholeheartedly the Amendment which he has moved. At the outset, I should confess that I have no personal interest in either horse racing or greyhound racing. Indeed, I have been to a horse race meeting only once in my life, many years ago, and I have been to a greyhound track only twice, about thirty years ago, in order to see how the Totalisator worked!
I do not bet on either of these two sports. My own interests are more active ones in other forms of sport. Like the hon. Member for West Ham, North, I have a greyhound track in the borough part of which I represent. As is well known, we have in Wembley an international stadium, and there is regular greyhound racing there. Thousands of people enjoy the sport, and very many of my constituents and the constituents of those who support me on this occasion regularly attend greyhound racing.
I have for some years been the chairman of the all-party group set up to concern itself with the interests of greyhound racing. For all those years, we as a committee have sought to be treated as fairly as the horse racers. Our greyhound committee has, over the years, seen successive Chancellors of the Exchequer in order to press for the abolition of the discriminatory 10 per cent. greyhound racing betting tax. The justice of our case has always been accepted: the difficulty has been one of finding the money, or forgoing the money. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, when he was Chancellor of the Exchequer, received one of our deputations, and he knows that money was the difficulty.
930 Again now, we ask that we should be treated fairly. We ask that the proposals in the Bill should, in equity, be applied also to greyhound racing. On this occasion, money from the Government is not the trouble. I put to my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary these questions: what is the trouble this time? Will it open the door to other sports? If so, which are the other sports? In moving the Second Reading of the Bill today, my right hon. Friend asked why greyhound racing should be included. Surely, all the reasons for the proposed levy on horse racing and all the arguments apply to greyhound racing. What would prevent the same machinery being used for the collection of a greyhound racing levy? Such a levy, as the hon. Member for West Ham, North pointed out, would help to provide a national stud for greyhounds and restore the position we once held as a recognised centre for greyhound breeding in the world.
My right hon. Friend has all the details in a very extensive brief which has been prepared. I hope that he will sympathetically consider the arguments. Perhaps he feels that greyhound racing is conducted altogether more efficiently than horse racing. Should there, therefore, be a premium on efficiency? Should the sport be treated unfairly because the promoters conduct the affairs of greyhound racing so well and so efficiently?
I ask that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary should look again at the proposals we have made. In several capacities, my right hon. Friend is at this time and in this Session seeking to reform and bring up to date our social laws. How can he perpetuate another anomaly? He will do just this if he leaves greyhound racing out of his proposals. It is to be hoped, therefore, that in equity my right hon. Friend the Minister of State and the Under-Secretary will give these proposals their sympathetic consideration.
§ 6.41 p.m.
§ Mr. James Dance (Bromsgrove)
I too must declare an interest in this Bill to the extent that I am a director of a racecourse, but I must also in a way declare an interest in the Amendment, to the extent that I was once the owner of a dog. This dog, unfortunately, was more efficient at fighting in going round the last bend of the course than it was 931 in getting its nose in front of the others. What I am trying to say is that I am interested in both these forms of sport, and my only reason for intervening for a short time in this debate is to stress the point that I believe that at the present time there is a lot of confusion in the public mind about why the money is required.
I think there has been misrepresentation, indeed deliberate misrepresentation, by certain interests as to where this money is to go. There are suggestions that it is to go into the pockets of the rich. This is quite untrue. All we are asking for is a fair contribution from those people who enjoy the benefits of racing without at present contributing to racing in any way. I refer to the off-the-course punters and bookmakers, but with the one proviso that the Totalisator in the past has made, and I hope will continue to make, a very substantial contribution to racing. The off-the-course bookmaker at present contributes absolutely nothing.
I have read in the newspapers that it has been suggested that this is really a levy on off-the-course punters. That is perfectly true, and I think it is quite fair. For example, at Birmingham fairly recently, we staged one race called the Triumph Herald Handicap, which was put on with the great assistance of the Triumph Herald Distributors' Association. The prize money was about £7,000, which included a novelty, a car for the owners of the winner, second and third. As a result of this, we had about twenty horses running, and would have had more had it not been for coughing. Nevertheless, our attendance was a mere 7,000 people.
I do not for a moment say that people are not interested in horse racing. They are, but it was those 7,000 people who attended that race, plus the Triumph Herald Distributors' Association, who made the race possible. This was an ante-post betting race, and millions of people must have placed their bets on this race but made no contribution to the actual staging of the race, the upkeep of the racecourse and so on, and therefore I feel that it is essential that these people should contribute in some way.
In the last debate in which I spoke on this subject on the recommendations of 932 the Peppiatt Committee, I went into great detail showing how every £ of our revenue was spent and where it went. I will not weary the House by going into these details again, but I should like to say that we must improve the amenities of our racecourses. Some hon. Members have mentioned how bad some of them are, and that is true in many cases, but I am quite convinced that it would be very unwise to try to tackle this problem in a piecemeal way by patching here and patching there. I think that there is a fine example of what is required and what is being done at present at Ascot, where the whole of the Tattersall's Stand, not the Members' Stand, was pulled down after racing stopped, and a completely new stand of modern design has been provided, with escalators to take people up and down. This is the sort of thing that we need, and which the public should have in racing in this country, but, quite clearly, very large sums of money are required if this object is to be fulfilled. I mentioned in the last debate that we in Birmingham have spent £35,000 in providing one bar, in the course enclosure which shows that money does not go very far when we come to these large projects.
There is another point which I have mentioned before and must repeat. We must have substantial reductions in the amounts charged to the public for ad mission. By comparison, we are charging two or three times the amounts charged in other countries, for example, in France. We must also provide better prize money for the owners, and I myself am particularly keen to see that travelling and training expenses are brought down. They are very high at the present time. It costs something like £1,000 a year to keep a horse in training. I do not believe that owners can go on paying this high sum for ever, and I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for North Fylde (Mr. Stanley), who went into great detail on the question of breeding. It is only by making available better prize money for the owners that we shall give them the return they require and indeed deserve.
§ Mr. A. Lewis
I agree with the hon. Member and I am sorry that he did not develop his interest in greyhound racing. Is it not the case that it is only a question of degree, and that the principle can 933 be stated in exactly the same way with regard to greyhound racing? I do not dispute what the hon. Gentleman said, but I had hoped that he might develop a kindly word for the dog that he once had.
§ Mr. Dance
In reply to the hon. Gentleman's intervention, I would say that I certainly have sympathy with the greyhound racing people. I agree that they have certainly got a good case, and it may be that my right hon. Friend would consider some further legislation in future. If we could differentiate between the betting that goes on greyhound racing and that which goes on horse racing, I think something might be done, but certainly the greyhound racing people have my sympathy, and there are quite a few people in my own constituency who have greyhounds and are interested in greyhound racing.
In addition to improving the amenities, giving better prize money and reducing the admission charges to racecourses, there are other facilities which it is very important that we should develop besides those which have been mentioned. One is the question of watering courses. It may be that this is not a very appropriate moment to mention this matter, when we remember that Worcester racecourse is under water at the moment, but even Worcester can get very hard and a race can be carved up and may have only two or three horses running, which is not good for the public, the bookmakers or anybody. It is not always quite so simple to water a race course as one might think. It is not every course which has a beautiful river running beside it, and we in Birmingham are spending and will have to spend vast sums in putting down boreholes to get the water long before we hope to water the race course.
Then, there is this question of the camera patrol, which is expensive. It costs £150 a day, but, having seen it in operation and having seen a very clear picture of the last three furlongs of a race, I realise that very great assistance can be given to the stewards of a meeting in making their decision when an objection is made. I believe that it would be for the benefit of racing as a whole—the ordinary man in the street, the owners and the bookmakers—if the camera patrol could be installed at more 934 racecourses, although I appreciate that £150 is quite a large sum even for a comparatively prosperous racecourse such as Birmingham.
Another amenity which should be provided is better accommodation for stable lads. We in Birmingham have spent quite a considerable sum in that direction. The horse-box drivers also want somewhere to get a reasonable meal and same comfortable place in which to eat it. All these things must be considered.
I think that under Clause 1 (9) and Clause 7 (8) Members of Parliament are precluded from being on either the Horserace Betting Levy Board or the Horserace Totalisator Board. I think that this is a pity. Here I should like to pay tribute to the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg), who has done excellent work on the Totalisator Board. It would be a great pity if he were precluded from carrying on the work which he has done and if his services in the future should not be available I am delighted that the contributions each year are not specifically laid down. Clearly the amount needed in racing will vary. For example, the money which I foresee will be spent on magnificent new stands will not again be required for that purpose and that sum will be saved I therefore welcome the flexibility which will be possible under the Bill.
There are bound to be teething troubles, but with the good will of all concerned—bookmakers, the public, the racecourse executives, and owners and trainers—I am certain that the Bill, when it becomes an Act, will work well and will be generally for the benefit of racing as a whole including breeding. I therefore welcome the Bill and congratulate my right hon. Friend on bringing it forward.
§ 6.54 p.m.
§ Mr. Eric Johnson (Manchester, Blackley)
The hon. Member for West Ham, North (Mr. A. Lewis) has raised the question of greyhound racing in his Amendment. I have a great deal of sympathy with what he said, but I feel that it should be a matter for separate legislation. If my right hon. Friend brought such legislation forward, I would be disposed to support it. However, I cannot agree entirely with him that 935 both cases are strictly comparable. There is no doubt that the cost of keeping, owning and training racehorses is very different from that associated with greyhounds. In addition, the cost of running a racecourse is different from that of running a greyhound track.
§ Mr. A. Lewis
As I understand it, the hon. Gentleman is in favour of the principle of my Amendment. The only difference is that the degree may vary. The method can be negotiated and discussed through the usual channels. The principle could be introduced in new legislation if not the actual amount concerned.
§ Mr. Johnson
The hon. Member has put what I had in mind.
My hon. Friend the Member for Bromsgrove (Mr. Dance), who speaks with very great knowledge of the administrative side of racing, mentioned admission charges. In the debate on the Peppiatt Report last May, I referred to the fact that the cost of seeing the Grand Prix at Longchamp is very much lower than the cost of seeing the Derby at Epsom. I had practical experience of that last summer. I made it my business to visit one of the big courses in France and one of the smaller ones. The cost of admission to Longchamp was 9s. and to one of the provincial courses, Vichy, 6s. The stands were excellent and even at the provincial course were up to the high standard which, I admit, is set at Birmingham.
As the Bill is based on the Peppiatt Report, I do not propose to repeat the arguments which I used in the debate in May. Before saying something about the Bill, I should like to make one point in case there are some hon. Members who do not believe that there is a need for a levy to help racing and think that racing is doing quite well. I wish to draw attention to a report which appeared in the newspapers on 29th October to the effect that Mr. Bruce Hobbs, who is probably known by name to anyone connected with racing, was giving up his position as assistant trainer to Captain Boyd-Rochfort. However, he was not doing this, as one might suppose, to start training on his own.
If ever there was anyone to whom the door seemed wide open for a successful career as a trainer it was Bruce Hobbs. 936 He rode the winner of the Grand National at the age of 17. I have every cause to remember this because I looked after the horse which he beat by a short head into second place. After that he was a successful steeplechase jockey. He served with distinction for 4½ years in the Forces, came out as a captain and became assistant to Captain Boyd-Rochfort, who is one of the most successful and best known trainers in the world. Despite all this, Bruce Hobbs is not to set up in training on his own. The reason he gave was this:… with stakes so small and costs so high, a man cannot be sure of a living as a trainer unless he bets and wins.Everyone would agree that it is most undesirable that trainers should have to rely on betting in order to keep his business going. For Bruce Hobbs, that was not good enough, and he was quite right.
Those who are interested in racing are well aware of the trainer's position. He receives so much a week for each horse he trains and 10 per cent. of the stakes which his horses win. The fees which he receives are not enough to pay for the keep of the horses and, with the exception of the very few trainers who win a number of our big races, he cannot make both ends meet out of his fees and the 10 per cent. of the stakes.
I do not intend to go into the question of stablemen's wages. They are doing a difficult job and are not getting high wages by any stretch of the imagination. While the trainer cannot make both ends meet, I do not see how he can possibly pay his stablemen higher wages. It is clear, therefore, that the need to help racing is not confined to owners or even to the public. It is spread over the whole of racing, from the stable boy to the public and everyone connected with racing. The only way in which we can make racing prosperous is to reduce the costs of the people who own the horses and pay the bills. One of the ways to do that is to reduce entry fees for their horses. If that is to be made possible more customers will have to be attracted to the race courses. That can be done only by giving them better value for their money in the form of lower admission charges and better accommodation.
I have no hesitation in supporting the Bill because I believe that the levy on betting will make those things possible. 937 I like the Bill all the more because I think that it is right that Parliament should pass legislation to set up this machinery and then leave it to those directly concerned to operate it.
I should like to say a word about the bookmakers' contribution. Such bookmakers as I have spoken to about this have all expressed themselves as ready and willing to pay. It will be left to them, I understand, to set up the Bookmakers' Committee, which will prepare a scheme whereby they will be divided into categories and pay the levy according to the category in which they are placed.
In introducing the Bill, my right hon. Friend referred to the categories given in the Peppiatt Report and the right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) also referred to this. What is not clear to me is whether, in the Bill, we are adopting rigidly the categories that were set out in the Peppiatt Report. There does not seem to be any indication in the Bill of how many categories there will be or on what basis a bookmaker will be placed in his proper category.
It seems to me that the Bill will allow the Bookmakers' Committee to assess the categories of bookmakers in any way it likes, whether on the basis of their profits, on turnover or in any other way. I regard turnover as a much better basis than profits. I am sure that it is right and preferable for the bookmakers to try to work out their own scheme and to do the best they can. I believe that many of them are quite ready—the more sensible ones are certainly ready—to do the best they can and to make as good a contribution as they can, because it will prove to be very much in their interests in the long run.
The Levy Board will have a formidable task in distributing the money, even if it is not called upon to decide the scheme for the bookmakers' levy. It may have to decide how the bookmakers are to be assessed and how much they pay. It is possible that the Levy Board as a whole will not approve of the recommendations of the Bookmakers' Committee. It would then fall to the lot of the three members to be appointed by my right hon. Friend to adjudicate and to decide upon the scheme for the levy. They, too, I suppose, can assess 938 the bookmakers in any way they like, whether on profits, turnover, the number of telephones they use or the number of their employees. I should like to know whether the Board's approval or rejection of the bookmakers' proposals must be unanimous or by a simple majority. It is important to know this in view of the composition of the Board.
It is certain that the three members of the Board chosen by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State must be selected with great care. If, eventually, they have to make the decision of how much the bookmakers must pay and what sort of scheme they are to have, at least one of them should be an accountant. If the fairly frequent practice of appointing an ex-civil servant is followed, it would be wise to appoint one with experience of the Board of Inland Revenue, because they will have a lot of hard work to do in assessing the amount of the levy.
I entirely agree that the Jockey Club and the National Hunt Committee should be represented on the Levy Board. I have referred already to the need to attract the public to our courses in greater numbers, but the people want more than merely cheaper admission charges and better accommodation. What they want is to be certain of getting a fair deal and a fair run for their money when they get there.
Undoubtedly, there has been a good deal of uneasiness this year—my hon. Friend the Member for North Fylde (Mr. Stanley) referred to this—about doping. I do not suggest that the practice is widespread—it is not—but it certainly exists. It is imperative that the ruling bodies who are to be represented on the Board which will get money in this way should take vigorous steps to put their house in order. I should be out of order if I attempted on Second Reading to suggest how they might do that, but to my mind it is grossly unfair that a trainer should be deprived of his livelihood if somebody succeeds in administering a drug to his horse despite all the precautions he has taken. We must have a reliable and generally acceptable way, which at the moment we do not have, of testing horses against having drugs or stimulants administered to them. It should be the responsibility of the authorities to do this. Much more vigorous action 939 must be taken against what I regard as the far more serious crime of doping horses to prevent them winning.
I would go further as regards the Jockey Club and the National Hunt Committee and say that if Parliament agrees to channel this money into racing, as it will do by the Bill, a good deal more should be made known about the financial position of the Jockey Club and its stake holders. We should be told, for example, what happens to all the fines. What happens if somebody is fined for using the wrong colours? When the new rule comes in about overnight declarations, what will happen to the money from somebody who does not run his horse? We are entitled to know these things if the money is to be given to racing.
I am not altogether happy about the suggestion that the three independent members should be judges in the event of a disagreement with the Bookmakers' Committee as well as having to do the normal day-to-day business of the Board. It might well put them into too strong a position. One reason why I have asked about how the decisions of the Levy Board are to be taken—whether by a majority or unanimously—is that if they had to be unanimous, the three independent members would be able to vote against the bookmakers' proposals and then impose one themselves under the powers given to them in Clause 3 of the Bill. I wonder whether it might not be better to consider whether disagreements between the Levy Board and the Bookmakers' Committee should be referred for decisions to a separate tribunal set up somewhat on the lines of the various appeal tribunals which are referred to in Clause 4.
As to the Totalisator Board, the Levy Board is taking over many of the old powers of the Racecourse Betting Control Board and it will now be solely concerned, I understand, with the operation of the totalisators. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary said that one of the reasons on which the appointment of members of the Board should be based was business ability. I suggest that my right hon. Friend should do his utmost to get people with practical and expert knowledge of the operation of Totalisators. People who have been 940 abroad and done a lot of racing in countries where the Totalisator is the only form of betting have told me that we have a lot to learn. There are many new and up-to-date ideas in Totalisator engineering which the new Board should introduced. Many of us who have seen the tote at work in other countries feel that we are not getting anything like as much out of it as we should.
My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary rejected the suggestion that as the donors will be represented on the Levy Board, the recipients should equally be represented. I am not convinced one way or the other. The suggestion has, however, been made and it is worth further consideration whether the recipients should not be represented by a nominee of the Racehorse Owners Association, the Thoroughbred Breeders' Association and the Racecourse Association.
I imagine that the bookmakers would object strongly to that if the decision of the Board had to be taken by a simple majority, because they would feel that those three and the Jockey Club and the National Hunt Committee would all vote against them. They would dislike it much less if there were an independent body to decide in the event of dispute between the Bookmakers' Committee and the Levy Board. If there were such an independent body, they would not be able to object on the ground that people would gang up against them. If those three representatives were included, expert knowledge would undoubtedly be available to help the Levy Board in carrying out the requirements laid down in Clause 1.
I have occupied the House for an unduly long time, but this is a matter in which I am particularly interested. I hope that my right hon. Friend will consider some of the suggestions which have been put to him today from all sides of the House. I congratulate him upon producing the Bill. I believe that I speak for all those millions of people, in all walks of life, who enjoy a day's racing in thanking my right hon. Friend for what he has done in bringing forward the Bill, which will give great help to the sport in which we are interested.
§ 7.10 p.m.
§ Mr. Stephen McAdden (Southend, East)
I remember saying at the time that there would not have been the enthusiasm for the latter Bill, with its registration of bookmakers and so on, had it not been for the fact that it was hoped that, as a result of the regisration of bookmakers, we should be able to secure a sum of money for the benefit of racing. That is why there was enthusiasm for that Measure, and why there is still enthusiasm, which I am glad that the Home Secretary pointed out, shared by all those interested in horse racing, not only the racecourse owners and breeders but the bookmakers as well. There is a genuine desire by all of them to devise some method of helping racing.
The Home Secretary set up the Peppiatt Committee whose duty it was to inquire into two things—whether it was desirable and necessary for racing to be assisted in this way, and, if so, how it should be done. The Peppiatt Committee came to the conclusion that it was desirable to assist the business of horse racing and that about the right figure of assistance that ought to be given to the industry was £1¼ million.
I invite my right hon. Friend's attention to the fact that we have had the benefit of a speech this afternoon from the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) to whom many tributes have been paid from both sides of the House as being one of the best-informed upon matters of horse racing generally. The hon. Member for Dudley made it clear—I hope that my right hon. Friend will bear this in mind—that one of the problems with which the horse-racing industry will be faced in the very near future is an embarrassment of riches. It will get not only an increased amount of money as a result of the alteration in the taxation system from the former Racecourse Betting Control Board, but also a sum of money not yet defined under the terms of the Bill.
I hope that my right hon. Friend will bear very clearly in mind that the Peppiatt Committee has laid it down in no uncertain terms that £1¼ million is now the right figure. As against that there are hon. Members of this House, 942 and certainly members of the Jockey Club, who have mentioned figures far higher. They have talked of £3 million as the kind of figure that ought to be borne in mind. When we look at the composition of the Board which my right hon. Friend is setting up, we find that two members are to be appointed by the Jockey Club, and one member by the National Hunt Committee. I should not have thought it unreasonable to expect that they would share the same view expressed by other members of the Jockey Club, that the figure arrived at by an independent body, the Peppiatt Committee, was not the figure that they had in mind.
My right hon. Friend ought to bear in mind and write into this Bill some kind of maximum figure beyond which this outside body, not responsible to Parliament, should not go. We have heard a lot in this House about the evils of delegated legislation. I should have thought that the same arguments could be advanced about the evils of delegated taxation. Why on earth should this House pass to some outside body the responsibility for levying what amounts to taxation without any indication of the amount that that body may raise by this form of taxation nor any indication of the limits to which this taxation may go?
The hon. Member for West Ham, North (Mr. A. Lewis) advanced the cogent argument that there ought to be a levy not only on horse racing but on dog racing to bring about a certain amount of equity because dog racing is subject to a 10 per cent. tax. He could go further. It could be argued that football betting is subject to a 30 per cent. tax, and there is a duty on the Totalisator but not on the fixed-odds bookmaker. We shall have a succession of people, unless there is some control over this by the Home Secretary, who will all be able to make their claims, and suggest that they should have more money for football pitches, for greyhound tracks and amenities of various kinds. I would point out to my right hon. Friend that we should consider whether or not a maximum figure should be inserted in the Bill beyond which this independent outside body should not go in levying taxation on Her Majesty's citizens—and bookmakers are Her Majesty's citizens—and 943 should bear in mind that the amount of money that horse racing should receive, estimated by the Peppiatt Committee as £1¼ million, is a figure that ought to go down and not go up.
If this £1¼ million to be received in the first year of operation is properly used and applied to improved stands and to reduced admission charges, one would expect an increase in the number of people participating in horse racing, and by that increased revenue would be provided for some of the amenities without a levy of £1¼ million each year. I hope that my right hon. Friend will take particular notice of this and consider whether there ought to be written into the Bill a maximum limit beyond which no outside body should levy taxation on Her Majesty's subjects.
I should like to ask him this question. Most Members of this House have stressed the importance of the rôle that will be played by the chairman and the two nominees of the Home Secretary who are to serve upon this committee, and who, in the event of disagreement, are to be the final arbiters as to what is to be done. I should like to have a specific assurance from the Under Secretary that the nominees who will be appointed by the Home Secretary will in fact be truly independent members; that we shall not have members associated with horse racing in some other form or people who have a financial interest in racing, because there is no safeguard whatever if the people nominated by him are not in fact 100 per cent. independent members having no connection with racing. I hope that my hon. and learned Friend will be able to give me that specific assurance.
The other thing I would draw to my right hon. Friend's attention is the constitution of the Board as it is set out in Clause 1. One member only shall represent the bookmakers. And that member shall be the Bookmakers' Committee's chairman for the time being. I would have hoped that as it is to be the duty of the Bookmakers' Committee to raise this considerable sum of money from among its members, they might have been entitled to greater representation than one, but if my right hon. Friend cannot see his way to agree to that I hope that he will not think it unreason- 944 able if I suggest to him that the chairman or his deputy should be able to attend that body so that they should at least have a voice and be present in the consideration of matters which concern them.
I was delighted to hear that in his speech my right hon. Friend dealt with the question of taxation. I think it a very important point that the taxation question should be dealt with by the recipients of the money and not by the fund itself.
I would draw my right hon. Friend's attention to another point which, I think, is of substance, and that is that it really is not good enough that a scheme for levying taxation upon bookmakers shall be approved by this Board, a chairman and two independent members and a few other people, as my right hon. Friend sets out in the Bill. I think that this question of the raising of this sum of money, and the scheme for the assessment of the levy, should be approved by the Home Secretary as well. I should like to retain some semblance of Parliamentary responsibility for what is being done. I really do not think it is good enough for Parliament to wash its hands of it by saying, "Horse racing needs money; the bookmakers have got it; set up a committee; let it decide how much to raise; let it decide the ways the money is spent." I really do not think it is good enough to write that into the Bill without laying down that the Home Secretary should have the opportunity of supervising the way in which the money is spent when it has been raised. I think that he should have a say about this and have to give approval to the way it is raised. I do not think that Parliament should abrogate its responsibilities in this way.
I have kept my remarks brief because I know that other hon. Members want to speak and I know that it is hoped to conclude the debate at a not unreasonable hour, but I have tried to emphasise one or two points which, I hope, will be of value to the House, for I think that the essential thing is that Parliament should not depart from its responsibilities. It should write into the Bill a maximum sum beyond which taxation shall not be levied, and it should retain the principle of Parliamentary control through the exercise by the Home Secretary of some supervision over the activities of this body which it is proposed to 945 set up under the Bill. Subject to those provisos I, with every other Member of the House, I think, give this Bill good will, but good will will not persist unless some alteration of a substantial nature is made to the Bill in Committee.
§ 7.22 p.m.
§ Sir John Barlow (Middleton and Prestwich)
I am very glad to follow my hon. Friend the Member for Southend, East (Mr. McAdden) because I rather disagree with him. It seems to me that in a Bill of this kind it would be a great mistake to write in a maximum figure. There are so many unknown imponderable things in the Bill. We do not know in the very least how it will work out; we do not know whether perhaps greater amenities or lower entrance fees at courses will attract a greater public; we do not know the size of the amount of the money to be raised at all; we do not know whether it will increase or diminish. For that reason I think that the Home Secretary should leave it very flexible indeed. After all, he has very great powers in the three men whom he appoints, and he has subsequent powers himself, so that I really do not think there is need for so much fear in this matter as my hon. Friend has suggested.
Perhaps I ought to declare a small interest in horse breeding, as I have bred horses for a great number of years. I used when younger and lighter and had more puff to do a little steeplechasing, but those are days of very long ago. From the betting point of view I am not in the slightest interested in horse racing. Literally, I have not had a bet for the last thirty-five years. I found it much too easy to lose money in those days, and I have not taken it up since. However, I am greatly attracted to horses and horse breeding, and occasionally have a steeplechaser in training, and that is the limit of my interest and experience.
The hon. Member far Dudley (Mr. Wigg) said that many of us occasionally went to race meetings, not because of their snob value but because we thoroughly enjoyed them, and he mentioned the fact that it was not pleasant at Lingfield on Saturday. However, I can assure him that it was infinitely less pleasant in the downpour on the Manchester course on Saturday.
946 I should like to add a word to what my hon. Friend the Member for North Fylde (Mr. Stanley) said about encouraging small race courses. We know that many other countries have great concentrations of racing, and it probably suits them to do so. We may concentrate a certain amount of racing, but it would, I believe, be deplorable if we did away with the small country meetings, especially the small jumping meetings, which, perhaps, hold only two or three meetings a year; it may be, perhaps, a couple of days in the spring and one in the autumn. These are part of English country life. They are not expensive to run. They give an enormous amount of local pleasure, and I should like to see them helped in a reasonable sort of way. They do not require tremendous prizes, nor great amenities, but they do need some help, and I hope that they will not be lost sight of.
It seems to me that one of the greatest difficulties which this Levy Board will have in disposing of the money will be how best to spend it. There are so many ways in which it could be usefully disbursed. I suppose the greatest ways in which it would help would be by improving race course amenities, in their widest sense, increasing prize money, and, perhaps, helping to lower entrance charges. That is a matter which it will have to sort out, and I suggest that it will have to go into this to begin with with a very open mind, because it is very difficult to tell how much difference in the situation may be made by better amenities, more comfort and so on; alternatively, how much it will help thoroughbred breeding as a whole when bigger prizes are offered. The prizes given in this country at the present time I believe deplorable compared with those awarded in many other countries.
I am very glad to have spoken shortly after my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Blackley (Mr. E. Johnson), who is a great authority on racing and a very near neighbour of mine. He apparently had considerable doubt as to the composition of the Levy Board. I think he said he had an open mind, but he thought it might be a good thing if the thoroughbred breeders' interests and other interests were represented on the Levy Board. Personally, I am glad the Home Secretary has taken the view he 947 has in keeping this Board very small. I think he is much more likely to have satisfactory results with a small, fairly knowledgeable Board, which can more or less take evidence as to the requirements of racing in the different spheres. I feel that will have much happier and better results than a larger board, and if we were to increase the size of the Board I suggest it would have to be very much larger—at least double the number.
§ Mr. E. Johnson
I admittedly said three extra members might be wanted. What I meant to say and forgot was that the Home Secretary might appoint only the chairman and drop off the other two independents. That would keep it down.
§ Sir J. Barlow
Yes, that is true, but I feel that the present proposals of the Home Secretary are likely to work pretty well.
Perhaps it is not so well known that the Racecourse Totalisator Charity Trust contributes a good deal of money to other bodies than thoroughbred breeders directly to help horse breeding in this country. For example, last year it gave £4,000 to the Olympic Games and International Equestrian Fund. That helps horse breeding in this country indirectly, and adds to the prestige of British jumpers, and I feel that it is a very worthy object.
In the same way several of the pony societies in this country are supported by the Trust. We know that there is an increasing demand from America and other countries for Welsh and other ponies and it is of considerable value that these societies should receive some help. Another substantial contribution is made to the Hunter Improvement Society, though in this case I am a little critical because that Society's policy for a great many years has been to use thoroughbred stallions for travelling the country ostensibly to breed hunters.
It was the right policy many years ago when there was a large number of farm mares and clean-legged mares about that would breed good hunters, but the Society's policy should have been changed. That has not happened. It is useless in most cases to send thoroughbred stallions round the country to cover mares which are much too light to be expected to breed a reasonable medium 948 or heavyweight hunter. I hope for this reason that when the Levy Board makes contributions it will check up periodically with the different societies to which it is making payments and find out whether they are using the funds wisely.
Racing in this country is a tremendously valuable national asset. We should like to see an encouragement of middle and long-distance horses. This is of great importance, but another side of racing which has not been mentioned today is the encouragement of overseas visitors. We all know that a large number of people from overseas come here for the Derby, for Ascot, the Grand National and other great meetings. These meetings form part and parcel of the great entertainment which can be found in this country in the summer. Unless these meetings retain the prestige which they have enjoyed in the past, many wealthy visitors who come and spend large sums of money here will tend to pass us by and go to other countries where they can find better value. I commend the Bill. I hope that it will be passed.
§ 7.33 p.m.
§ Mr. John Farr (Harborough)
I should like to add my commendations of the Bill and to congratulate my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary on its introduction. I was most interested to hear the contribution to the debate by the hon. Member for West Ham, North (Mr. A. Lewis) and his comments on greyhound racing. I share his interest in that sport. I possess a whippet and I have been to several greyhound tracks in the London vicinity with my hon. Friend the Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Lagden). I have had several enjoyable evenings with my hon. Friend, but I never noticed, as was described by the hon. Member for West Ham, North, that there is such a big difference between the standard of person who attends horse racing and the person who attends greyhound racing. I have never been enveloped in such a cloud of cigar smoke as I was on the evenings when I accompanied my hon. Friend the Member for Hornchurch to a greyhound racing track.
§ Mr. A. Lewis
That is just the point. The reference to cigar smoke is very relevant. The position now is that a man who smokes Woodbines pays 10 per 949 cent. tax and a man who smokes cigars pays no tax at all. When a man goes to a greyhound racing track he puts his bet on the Tote and pays 10 per cent. tax, but when a man bets on a similar tote on the horse racing track he pays no tax. I submit that both should be treated alike.
§ Mr. Farr
The hon. Member has misunderstood me. I said that I had been with my hon. Friend the Member for Hornchurch to dog racing meetings and that on each occasion I have been enveloped in a cloud of rich Havana cigar smoke the like of which I have never seen at any horse racing track I have visited. I fully support the principle that the hon. Member for West Ham, North advocates. My objection is that he should seek to tack it on to this Bill and, if possible, have the House decline to proceed with the Bill. I entirely support the hon. Member's interest in dog racing, but I believe that it is not the time or place to introduce it in connection with a Bill dealing with horse racing.
Last week I was fortunate enough to spend a few hours at the Newmarket sales. The right hon. Member for Smethwick (Mr. Gordon Walker) made some obscure remarks about the exports of British bloodstock. He implied that if we helped the British horseracing industry by means of the Bill there was the possibility that bloodstock breeders would not have to export to the same extent as they are doing now and, therefore, that it might not be a good thing to help them. I think that the Government's intention is to fry to increase the export of British bloodstock all over the world and at the same time not denude our own stock and make our own position relatively weaker.
On 23rd May this year, in the debate on the Peppiatt Committee's Report, a statement was made to which not enough attention has been paid. It was said from this side of the House that, in the last 15 years, of the top ten horses each year in the United States, making a total of 150 over that period, no fewer than 55 were British horses. It is recognised generally that our bloodstock breeding industry has been the fountain from which many of the major horse racing countries have drawn. Last week at the Newmarket sales nearly 50 per cent. of 950 the £1½ million worth of horses sold were exported. A total of £708,000 was paid by various buying agencies and 90 per cent. of that total was for export.
Not only is the racing industry an earner of foreign currency but it is an attraction for foreign tourists. We have in the Epsom Derby a race which possesses a glamour that no other race in the world possesses. It has possessed this glamour for one hundred years and more, but this is about the only unique thing that it possesses compared with many other top-class races in other countries. The Epsom Derby is a race worth a considerable amount of money, but in no way does the prize money compare with that for the Kentucky Derby or for the principal races in France. In no way does the comfort of patrons at Epsom compare with that in Paris and at many race tracks in America.
I have had a little experience of race tracks in France and America. At Hialeah Park in Florida in 1955 I was not only provided at a modest charge with a reserved seat in covered accommodation but with detailed statistical information, supplied electronically, about every horse running to help me make my selection, and in between races, on two lakes built in the centre of the racecourse, I was treated to aquatic displays by groups of bathing beauties on water skis. In between, pink flamingoes swam from island to island. I am not suggesting that we should do that at Hurst Park, Doncaster or even Leicester, but we must improve the facilities of our courses.
One further reason why I welcome the Bill is that if we can improve the financial standing of our racing industry there is a very good chance that we can not only improve the accommodation from which our patrons watch but reduce admission charges to the public.
Clause 1 (1, c), refers to the improvement of horse racing. This includes the provision of modern stands, drainage, watering, photofinish equipment, race control cameras and so on. As has already been said, this will mean help to improve accommodation for stable lads, and we must not forget jockeys' changing rooms, of which I have visited a number and have found some of the conditions there absolutely archaic.
951 Clause 1 (1, a) refers to the improvement of breeds of horses. I should like to see some of the money put to this use channelled into the purchase at some stage of a particularly famous race horse which we may produce here in a year or two's time for use by the National Stud as a stallion. In the National Stud, we have a very fine establishment owned by the nation. I hope it would not be impossible far my right hon. Friend to make same arrangement whereby money raised by the Bill could in part be used to buy any stallion, which may be considered from time to time essential if British bloodstock breeding is to maintain the prominent position it now enjoys.
Clause 1 (1, b) refers to the advancement or encouragement of veterinary science or veterinary education. At Newmarket the Equine Research Station has been in existence for a number of years, and it is doing very valuable work. That is an effort which is carried on at the moment largely through the generosity of individuals. For instance, at the sales which have just concluded several individuals owning good stallions decided, out of the generosity of their hearts, to donate a nomination to their stallions for 1961 to be auctioned for the benefit of the Equine Research Station. If the industry is to remain up-to-date, if bloodstock raising in this country is to flourish and if veterinary science insofar as it relates to horse breeding and bloodstock is to continue to advance it is not good enough to rely on voluntary contributions of this nature.
As to the composition of the Levy Board, I think it would be only fair for two bookmakers' representatives to be included. At the moment it is proposed to have a chairman and seven other members, including one from the Bookmakers' Committee. After all, the bookmakers will be paying by far the biggest proportion towards maintaining the British racing industry, and it will be only reasonable that they should have two members. The Bill is silent about the amount and the method. I should like to see at least £1½ million annually provided to begin with, and I should like to see the method of assessment as originally envisaged by the Peppiatt Committee in respect of bookies' profits.
952 Finally, I support the Bill because it provides an ideal opportunity of bringing forward useful, beneficial legislation which is painless. It requires no contribution whatever from the taxpayers. Those who enjoy a flutter on or off the course will support the industry in which they find their enjoyment. The real reason why racing conditions in the United States and France are superior in many ways to those in this country is that all betting there is channelled through the Tote—there are no bookies—and the Tote takes a fair proportion of the money laid in bets to support the racing industry.
I should be the last person to wish to see the bookie disappear from the English racing scene, for he is part of it, and the scene would not be complete without him. But I feel that if the bookie is to continue to enjoy the predominant position which he now enjoys in our racing, he must be prepared to pay his fair share of the cost of its upkeep.
§ 7.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Godfrey Lagden (Hornchurch)
It is obvious that I have not been fortunate enough to go to the same attractive tracks as my hon. Friend the Member for Harborough (Mr. Farr). I have never been fortunate enough to see Bathing Beauty out of Swimming Pool, although I have no doubt that that filly is a very desirable sight.
I thank my hon. Friend very much indeed for mentioning certain hospitality at greyhound tracks and the cigar smoke which he found so attractive. I can assure him that, in the interests of my own education, I shall be only too happy to accompany him at his invitation to some track of his choice, which I have no doubt will be just as delightful.
The Amendment, which carries my name, is a splendid one. However I hope that the House will not vote for it, because obviously the Bill would be lost. I should be the very last person to want to see that happen, but sometimes one has to do a certain amount of circumvention in order to present a case which is, perhaps, not wholly unacceptable to the Home Secretary.
We often hear the phrase "the sport of kings" in connection with horse racing. I think that too many people are living in the past and thinking of 953 greyhound racing as "the sport of knaves" That is certainly not so. It has become a great industry. There are many great greyhound racing stadiums, and there is little or no doubt that it is a sport which has great security. Indeed, it would almost seem that the security of the greyhound racing world is now greater than that of the horse-racing world. Nevertheless, I am certain that both sports endeavour to achieve a security which will make members of the public who visit these great sporting tracks feel that they are getting a safe and fair run for their money.
I well remember in days gone by visiting the White City with great consistency. With the hope that a young man very often has, I used to have a few modest shillings on a greyhound which rejoiced in the name of Nil Desperandum. The animal never gave up, but it taught me a severe lesson and I did in due course—chiefly because it was a hurdler and used to jump the hurdles in the manner of a kangaroo instead of a greyhound.
My right hon. Friend seemed to make the point that the great greyhound racing stadiums in London and elsewhere were not really in need of money, because they were so comfortable and beautiful. I would ask him to investigate the position a little further. In some parts of the provinces there are tracks which are desperately trying to make a living and build themselves up and which are not, for financial reasons, offering to the public the facilities which they would like to offer and which would make the public support them even more.
I am conscious that tonight probably everyone is hoping that the House will rise fairly early. If I continued to speak to my brief, I could inform the House of many reasons for my view that greyhound racing should at least be fairly treated. It should have the same treatment as horse racing. I do not propose to do so. All I propose to say is that I sincerely hope that, in addition to my right hon. Friend saying, as I am sure that he will, that he cannot at this stage do very much for greyhound racing, he will promise to look deeply and sincerely into the possibility of legislation being introduced to give greyhound racing comparable facilities with horse racing, but perhaps on a slightly different basis.
§ 7.51 p.m.
§ Mr. Frederic Peart (Workington)
The hon. Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Lagden), like my hon. Friend the Member for West Ham, North (Mr. A. Lewis) and the hon. Member for Wembley, North (Wing Commander Bullus), when discussing a Bill dealing specifically with horse racing, sought to press an Amendment to include greyhound racing. I did not have the advantage of hearing all his speech but I am told that my hon. Friend argued the case very vigorously and cogently. I am in sympathy with his point of view. I obviously accept that any reforms to be applied to horse racing should be applied also to greyhound racing.
§ Mr. Peart
I am thinking of betting sports. I should have thought that that was obvious. I should like there to be a Peppiatt Committee on greyhound racing. I hope that my hon. Friend's campaign will achieve success in that direction.
Some hon. Members have declared their interest—for instance, as breeders, racehorse owners, and ordinary punters. I must declare my interest. I am a Privy Council representative—a layman—of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons. I am interested in the purposes of the Bill. I am a lover of horse racing, in the sense that I like to go to race meetings and I enjoy a day at Epsom as much as anyone in the House. Strange to say, I much prefer another form of animal racing, namely, hound trailing in my own constituency. A day at a hound trail meeting, where we watch hound dogs running down a Lakeland Fell, and the associated friendly throng of bookmakers and farmers, is much more exciting than even a day at Epsom. However, I enjoy attending race meetings and I hope that we shall ensure that this great industry and sport, which is beloved by all sections of the community, prospers.
It is in that spirit that I approach the Bill. I agree with the viewpoint which was so well expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg), who argued not only as an expert, but as one who loves racing and its whole atmosphere. I in no way 955 oppose the Bill. I hope that the recommendations in it will work and that the legislation will be successful.
However, I want to pinpoint some of the criticisms which have been expressed. The hon. Member for Southend, East (Mr. McAdden) made a very valid point. He said—I agree with him—that the House should have control of taxation. Whether we call it a levy or a tax, it is taxation. The House of Commons must control it. I hope that the Secretary of State will examine this matter carefully, not only after Second Reading, but in Committee and on Report and Third Reading. It is a very important question for those who are to provide the levy. Let us not be mealy-mouthed about it. The people who are to provide the levy are the bookmakers.
§ Mr. Peart
That is a very academic point. Let us be honest. The people who will provide the money will be bookmakers. Punters, like myself and others, subscribe money, but we do it fairly and openly. If a bookmaker receives money successfully, that is his business. My point is that he provides the levy. Whether we like it or not, the people who will provide the money will not be breeders of horses or trainers. It will not necessarily be representatives of the Jockey Club or other organisations who will pay. It will be bookmakers, whether they be rich bookmakers in the higher category which has been mentioned or bookmakers in the lower category.
Therefore, the bookmaker is concerned that there should be a limit. This was one of the arguments raised by the Peppiatt Committee, and part of its Report deals with this. Certain people interested in horse racing, particularly from the point of view of the Jockey Club, suggested that the levy should be about £3 million. The Peppiatt Committee recommended a lower figure. If we weight the Committee a certain way through certain representatives, the figure regarded as reasonable and realistic by the Peppiatt Committee may well be substantially raised. Then those people who provide the levy will be placed in a position in which they have no control.
956 The hon. Member for Southend, East made the important point, which was reinforced by the views and arguments of the hon. Member for Harborough (Mr. Farr), that there should be more Parliamentary control and that the Secretary of State should have some control also over how the levy should be used. Any scheme which may be proposed by the new Board should be subject, above all, to the Secretary of State's scrutiny and, in the end, his approval.
We merely argue that there should be Parliamentary control. That was the main point made by my right hon. Friend. We are anxious to establish Parliamentary control over taxation. My hon. Friend the Member for Dudley misunderstood my right hon. Friend's argument. My right hon. Friend was merely seeking to establish Parliamentary control over this form of taxation and over its use.
Another point which was mentioned by the Secretary of State and by the hon. Member for Dover (Mr. Arbuthnot) was the argument about hypothecated taxation. I disagree with that viewpoint. It is reasonable and proper that the Bill should specify for what purposes money or resources, whether from a tax or from a levy should be used. Clause 1 (1) states three specific purposes:
That is reasonable. We are here dealing with a specific levy affecting a section of the industry, and are merely saying, as a Parliament, that the resources which will be contributed by that section shall be used for specific purposes. I hope that there will be Parliamentary control in this question. Even though there is no specific mention of the Secretary of State's having detailed supervision of the scheme, at least we know that the Levy Board will produce an annual report. I hope that this will be submitted to the House by the Secretary of State and that we shall be able to cross-examine Ministers upon it. My right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) asked how fax we had Parliamentary control and to what extent we could debate the matter and check the purposes of the Bill in order to see whether the resources were being used properly, so 957 fulfilling the spirit of the Bill. I hope that the Minister will reply to that point.
- (a) the improvement of breeds of horses;
- (b) the advancement or encouragement of veterinary science or veterinary education;
- (c) the improvement of horse racing.
§ Mr. Wigg
My hon. Friend has suggested that I misunderstood what my right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) said. I do not think I did. If my hon. Friend will read paragraph 22 of the Peppiatt Committee's Report, he will find that although it points out that there is no exact analogy, it gives examples of other industries in which levies are raised. In this case the Home Secretary is instituting the levy and is leaving the industry to run its own show.
As to control, the Home Secretary has it in two ways. First, he achieves control through the Board's chairman and independent members. It may be that my hon. Friend has forgotten Clause 2 (1) which says:The Levy Board shall have power … with the approval of, and subject to any conditions imposed by, the Secretary of State …That is the second control.
§ Mr. Peart
I have read Paragraph 22; indeed, I noted it when I looked again through the Report to prepare my brief. On the other hand, it may be that there are bad precedents. Although I know that precedents have been established in connection with the agricultural marketing scheme and the levy on cinema takings for the benefit of film production, they are not necessarily justified. I still say that in his speech my right hon. Friend emphasised the importance of having Parliamentary control over the raising of revenue. That was the view put forward by the hon. Member for Southend, East.
§ Mr. McAdden
The hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) is right in saying that there is a measure of Parliamentary control over the distribution of this money, in that it has to be reported to the Home Secretary. But there is no control over how much shall be raised, or how it shall be raised.
§ Mr. Peart
That is the point I made earlier. There is a danger that too much money will be extracted from a section of the industry, and that the views of certain interests on the Board will prevail to the detriment of other sections. That would be bad for the Board and for the industry. Therefore, the view 958 put forward by the hon. Member for Southend, East ought to be considered.
§ Mr. Wigg
It may be that I am stupid. What principle is my hon. Friend seeking to establish? It is not for me to defend the Home Secretary, but I submit that he is doing two things. First, he is establishing control, and secondly, he is conceding the maximum amount of freedom. To that extent he carries me with him, because his argument is based on the analogies mentioned in paragraph 22 of the Peppiatt Report, whereas it seems to me that my hon. Friend is arguing that there must be no taxation without complete control by the Executive.
§ Mr. Peart
I do not want to pursue this point too far. I accept the principle of Parliamentary control but I think that the Executive should be controlled by this House, and that there should be a check on it.
In regard to other points, I strongly agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley. I accept his view about the amenities of race courses, namely, that we do not necessarily wish to have the type of racecourse that we see on the Continent or in the United States of America. The great charm of our racecourses lies in their variety. Some hon. Members have argued that certain courses should be closed down, but I hope that we shall not close any. I like the small racecourses in our rural areas and the small point-to-point meetings that are held there. They add charm to our life, and form an integral part of it.
I hope that we shall not look upon horse racing with the idea merely of creating a central, official organisation which establishes super-luxury race tracks in great cities. I like the charm of the countryside and the small meetings which are run alongside the larger ones at such places as Epsom. Nevertheless, we must remember that many of our race courses—Birmingham and Wolverhampton have been referred to in this connection—provide not only a place to hold race meetings but also facilities 959 for sports and recreation. That is admirable, and is obviously the approach to be desired.
The hon. Member for North Fylde (Mr. Stanley) spoke as an owner, a breeder, and a member of the Jockey Club, and he obviously has a very important position in racing. My hon. Friend argued that the Jockey Club does not give leadership. The Bill will give the Jockey Club representation by two members on the Levy Board, which is twice the number of bookmakers' representatives. Perhaps the Home Secretary ought to consider this matter again. If my hon. Friend is correct, and the Jockey Club is lethargic and has no positive contribution to make, why should it have an undue representation on a body which ought to provide leadership in the industry? That is why we argue for a Levy Board. One hon. Member said that the Board will provide leadership and that it will occupy a most important place in horse racing. It will be concerned with amenities, admission charges, breeding, bloodstock, veterinary education and veterinary science. It will be a key body.
My hon. Friend the Member for Dudley said that he could not be certain whether the Bill could be altered for the better. I could certainly alter it in such a way as to improve it. I hope that my right hon. Friend and my other colleagues will be able to improve the constitution of the Board when it is discussed in detail in Committee. In my opinion the constitution is overweighted. I take the view that if one purpose of the Bill is to improve veterinary education and veterinary science there ought to be a Member of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, or a representative of the veterinary profession—perhaps a member of the B.V.A.—on the Board. Why should we not reduce the Jockey Club representation? Would not that be far better, instead of having—
§ Mr. Stanley
I think the hon. Member is getting away from the point. I discussed this matter myself. The idea of having representatives of the Jockey Club and the National Hunt Committee—whatever may have been said by the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg)—is that they are the rulers of racing. Unless we alter the whole racing procedure, they must be the people to do 960 the distribution. Such people as representatives of the veterinary colleges and race courses can come before the Board and explain what money they want, but they must leave it to the ruling bodies of racing to distribute the money.
§ Mr. Peart
I cannot accept what the hon. Member says. He will remember that the Peppiatt Committee did not recommend what is in the Bill. It recommended a central board with a chairman and one representative from the Jockey Club, one from the National Hunt Committee and one from the Bookmakers' Committee and the Levy Board. They would advise the central board. There was also to be one from the Totalisator Board.
This Bill goes further and gives increased representation to the Jockey Club, and I cannot understand why. It is not for the hon. Member for North Fylde to make out the case for the Jockey Club. He is a partisan and naturally he is biased. He is a member of the Jockey Club. That is an honourable organisation and I am not denigrating it. I am merely arguing that the Jockey Club, on the recommendation of the Peppiatt Committee—an important Committee—was to have only one representative. The Government are saying that they do not accept what the Peppiatt Committee recommended and that they propose to give increased representation only to the Jockey Club.
The Secretary of State has not produced an argument for this increased representation, and I think it may well prove to be a bad thing. I feel that the Jockey Club would be quite happy with one representative. After all, there are other interests apart from the Jockey Club, although it may be one of the supreme bodies in racing. Why not increase the bookmakers' representation because they provide the levy?
§ Mr. Peart
That is why I want Parliament to exercise a check. Technically, as Members of Parliament, we represent the community, including the punters, and that is why we wish to have a check on the Levy Board.
I hope the Minister will reconsider this matter. After all, if there were one representative from the Jockey Club 961 there could be another representative or increased representation for other organisations on the lines suggested by the hon. Member for Southend, East There could be a representative from the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons or, if necessary, and independent member. These are the people concerned with the main purposes of the Bill, the improvement of veterinary education and veterinary science. The hon. Member for North Fylde remarked on the lamentable state of veterinary services available to horse breeders. He referred particularly to the lack of X-ray facilities. That may be an argument for having on the Board a representative of the veterinary science who could see to it that some of the money is used specifically for veterinary education and research.
I have here some figures provided by my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley showing the amounts given by the Trustees of the Racecourse Totalisator Charity Trust since 31st August, 1959. There are details of how much money has already been taken out of racing and given to veterinary education. The total figure is £20,700. I do not regard that as sufficient. It is divided up here for the advancement and encouragement of veterinary science and education. The Equine Research Station of the Animal Health Trust received £20,000; the Craft of Farriery received £300, and the University of Cambridge Department of Veterinary Clinical Studies had £400. Those amounts are inadequate. I hope that when this Bill becomes law and the levy is exercised much more money will be devoted to veterinary education and research which will have an effect on breeding, on the position of our bloodstock and on racing in general.
I have here a communication from the British Veterinary Association giving details, with which I will not weary the House, of what is needed in relation to veterinary education and research. It is accepted that more money is required in many branches of veterinary science dealing specifically with the horse. The hon. Member for Dorset, West (Mr. Wingfield Digby) emphasised that. It is not sufficient to give money for veterinary education and science; it must be specifically related to solving the problems of horse breeders, and for 962 equine research. This is something which should have careful consideration because, originally, when money was farmed out to veterinary establishments—the proceeds from the Totalisator Charity Trust, etc.—most of it was given for veterinary education generally. I want money to be farmed out specifically for veterinary research concerned with the horse and problems arising therefrom. I have a list of the things urgently required and how we need more scholarships and fellowships for investigation into veterinary problems concerning the horse. They have been outlined by the British Veterinary Association. We wish to see money which the Levy Board collects used properly and for specific research which is important.
I welcome the Bill. Its purposes are admirable. I think the Peppiatt Committee did a good job, and I am glad that the Home Secretary complimented the Committee on its alacrity. It took evidence from a number of witnesses, including representatives of the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, the National Stud, the Animal Health Trust, the British Veterinary Association and the Racecourse Betting Control Board. Even my hon. Friend the Member for West Ham, North hopes that there will be a Peppiatt Committee for the greyhound racing industry. The four main questions which it set out to answer—was a levy desirable, could a practical scheme be devised, how should the amount of the levy be computed and how could the levy be assessed and collected—were answered satisfactorily. Today we have been considering how far this Bill fulfils the main principles of the Peppiatt Report, and how far we can give Parliamentary sanction.
I am satisfied that the Bill is a desirable Measure and that the State should intervene. Although we are not having a State subsidy we are creating conditions whereby the industry, with proper safeguards, can provide resources to improve horse racing and for the purposes specifically mentioned in the Act.
Today we have had no real opposition to the Bill. I should have thought that some hon. Members, because they are opposed to gambling, would have opposed this Bill on principle. I am 963 very pleased we have not had that. Most of us in this House this evening believe that horse racing, in the words of the Peppiatt Report, is part of our British way of life. It is a source of recreation. We all have a great interest in it and that interest is growing.
Not only the thousands who have a small flutter, and attend race meetings, but those who watch racing on television on a Saturday afternoon find that horse racing provides great enjoyment. We merely wish to have proper standards for those in the industry and for those who bet. I was glad that many hon. Members mentioned security. All this costs money. We need more amenities, they are important from the point of view of the ordinary person who, like myself, attend race meetings now and then for enjoyment.
Let us not be smug about the bookmaker. I know that some people regard them as outcasts and pariahs. I believe they perform a useful service in the industry. Although many hon. Members emphasised that bookmakers may not have opposed the Bill because inevitably they would have to expect a levy, most of those I have met in my constituency and elsewhere are hardworking men who wish the industry well. Some may be successful and some not always successful, but they make a major contribution to the industry. Therefore, their views should be considered. That is why in Committee, when we discuss the composition of the Bookmakers' Committee, the points raised by my right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields about how far we can control the composition of that Committee should be carefully considered.
If it will improve horse racing, this Bill deserves our support. Horse racing is rooted in history; I need not elaborate on that. It is part of our life. Tonight we have argued about the levy and we shall argue about details in Committee, but we on this side of the House do not oppose the Bill itself. We hope it will succeed. I hope the Minister will consider carefully some of the detailed points raised by my hon. Friends. In Committee we shall certainly seek to improve the Bill by making constructive Amendments.
§ 8.22 p.m.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. David Renton)
My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary is grateful for the measure of support which the Bill has received in this Second Reading debate. I think it true to say that the only important cleavage of opinion has been on the amount of Parliamentary control there should be over the various schemes in the Bill. I should point out that a degree of Ministerial responsibility is already written into the Bill. The Secretary of State will appoint the chairman and two independent members of the Levy Board and also members of the new Tote Board.
As previously, under the Racecourse Betting Control Board, the Secretary of State will have to approve schemes for distribution of money obtained from the levy and to lay reports before Parliament. It was suggested by the hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Peart), who quite rightly said that there has been no real opposition to the Bill, and by his right hon. Friend the Member for Smethwick (Mr. Gordon Walker) that we should have a much tighter form of Parliamentary control over the various things envisaged by the Bill. That is a matter which we shall have to consider at a later stage.
As was pointed out by the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg), we must be very careful not to fall into the trap of making the control so tight that we deprive the industry, to which this great opportunity for improving its affairs is given, of that freedom to take advantage of the greater opportunities provided, and of the greater rationalisation—if I may put it that way—of the bookmakers' business, which may very well lead to increased prosperity of certain sections at least of the bookmakers' business. It would be a pity if we were to frustrate those new opportunities by having too tight a control.
As the Home Secretary said, the object of the Bill is to enable the industry to help itself. I ask all those hon. Members who, with the best intention, have put forward various suggestions for improving the detail and tightening the control to bear that in mind. I must confess, having lived with this subject for several years, that it was very gratifying to hear the right hon. Member for 965 Smethwick say that there were cogent arguments of logic and equity for supporting the Bill. It was also gratifying to hear the hon. Member for Dudley, who speaks with such great knowledge of the matters we have been discussing today, describe it as a triumph for the English virtues of reason and compromise.
I feel sure I speak for my right hon. Friends the Home Secretary and the Minister of State, both of whom have taken such a great interest in these matters, when I say that, although between us we have made very great efforts to try to rationalise the whole of the betting and gaming life of the country, we never hoped that such generous words would be used with regard to this rather difficult Bill, which incidentally is unprecedented in what it attempts to achieve. It is not completely unprecedented, as has been pointed out by reference to paragraph 22 of the Peppiatt Committee Report, but in its own terms it is unprecedented.
The right hon. Member for Smethwick said that the schemes for the spending of the levy should be laid before Parliament. I should point out that those schemes have to be approved by the Home Secretary. There is that measure of indirect Parliamentary control, and there will be a summary of each scheme in the annual report of the Levy Board. We know from experience with the present Tote Board that those schemes can be so full of detail that it would not be really sensible to lay the whole mass of detail before Parliament, but the summaries will be there.
My hon. Friend the Member for Dorset, West (Mr. Wingfield Digby) referred to the chairman and the two independent members and asked whether they would receive remuneration. There is power for them to be remunerated and it is the present intention of my right hon. Friend that they should be remunerated and, of course, adequately. When speaking of the chairman and two independent members of the Levy Board, I should also refer to the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Southend, East (Mr. McAdden), who asked whether they would be truly independent, independent of any vested 966 interest connected with the industry. I am able to assure him that they will.
My hon. Friend the Member for Dorset, West referred to the new Tote Board's commitments, and I am very glad that he did so, because they will be important commitments and the members of the Tote Board will have the opportunities given in the Betting and Gaming Act, 1960, especially in regard to the increased power to arrange for bets at Tote odds and to appoint agents for them.
The hon. Member for Dudley, in his very helpful speech, pointed out that the present Tote Board has been entering into various commitments. Before referring to those matters, I want to say how pleased we were about the welcome to the Bill which he gave not only on his own behalf, but also, I think, to some extent on behalf of his colleagues on the Board of which he has been a distinguished and, I believe, very helpful member for some years.
With regard to the liabilities of the Board and in particular its commitments for the future, about which there is a gentleman's agreement between the Board and the racecourse executives, the hon. Gentleman explained how the racecourse executives had undertaken expenditure in the expectation of grants. As a matter of law, those promises would not be binding on the new Board, but they were made and accepted in good faith, and I can hardly believe that the new Levy Board would wish to ignore them.
As the hon. Member said, Clause 9 provides for the transfer of assets and liabilities, having regard to the functions which are to be transferred to the Levy Board. However, the Bill can transfer only liabilities which are enforceable at law and not moral obligations under gentleman's agreements. Of course we would not want to destroy any such moral obligations as there might be and, so far as any opinion of mine carried any weight, I am sure that it would be right for the Levy Board, when established to seek to honour the commitments, and there it is.
Clause 9 also requires that there shall be consultation between the Tote Board and the Levy Board about the transfer of assets and liabilities, and this matter 967 will probably be raised in those consultations. The hon. Member made a number of points of detail on behalf of the present Board which we shall be glad to consider between now and the Committee stage.
My hon. Friend the Member for North Fylde (Mr. Stanley), my hon. Friend the Member for Bromsgrove (Mr. Dance) and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) drew attention to those Clauses which impose disqualifications on Members of Parliament from sitting on these Boards, and my right hon. Friend has asked me to say that we will bear in mind what has been said in the debate and no doubt we shall consider these matters further in Committee. There is certainly no question of our having closed minds on this subject.
My hon. Friend the Member for North Fylde asked when the change from the old to the new Tote Board would be. To some extent that depends on how Parliamentary business goes. The sooner we get the Bill, the sooner my right hon. Friend can name an appointed day for the various parts of the Bill, including this takeover.
The right hon. Member for South Shields said—and it was a fair comment to make—that it was not apparent from the Bill that the Bookmakers' Committee would include bookmakers. We want it to be broadly representative of the bookmaking interests, and we shall consult the organisations concerned and we shall bear in mind, as the right hon. Gentleman pointed out, that there are no fewer than eighteen of them. If the right hon. Gentleman will let us have his list, we would be glad to check it with ours.
§ Mr. James McInnes (Glasgow, Central)
Do I understand that in setting up the Bookmakers' Committee the Government will consider the regional or geographical basis on which it is constituted and will bear in mind the position of the organisations in Wales and Scotland?
§ Mr. Renton
We would take account of geographical, as well as of other relevant considerations.
It was suggested by my hon. Friend the Member for Dover (Mr. Arbuthnot) that the levy proposed in the Bill conflicts with the well-established principle that all revenue raised by way of taxa- 968 tion should be paid into the Consolidated Fund, and that all payments made by the authority of Parliament should be paid out of the Consolidated Fund. That is also a fair point, and I am glad to have a chance to say a word about it.
It is true that for more than a century successive Parliaments and successive Governments have accepted the principle that all revenue should be paid into and payments made from a single fund, and that, with only occasional exceptions, they have set their face against what is called hypothecation of revenue to particular forms of expenditure, but the principle has never been taken to the length of entirely ruling out a statutory levy that is collected, as in this case, from one part of an industry for the benefit of another. In recent years, we have had the levy under the Sugar Act, 1956, and the levy under the Cinematograph Films Act, 1957.
I do not suggest that those two examples, and others that can be mentioned, are exactly on all fours with the present case, but we certainly gave careful consideration to the point of view that has been expressed today, because it had been expressed in a previous debate before we prepared this Bill. We came to the conclusion that, in the quite unusual circumstances of the subject matter of this Bill, the device that we have put into the Bill would not be in any way improper.
My hon. Friend also asked whether the various accounts that may have to be kept as a result of the Bill will be scrutinised by the Public Accounts Committee. The answer is "No", because these are not public funds in the true sense of the word.
I now come to the Amendment moved by the hon. Member for West Ham, North (Mr. A. Lewis), and supported by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Wembley, North (Wing Commander Bullus) and by my hon. Friend the Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Lagden), suggesting that the Bill should not be given a Second Reading, not, as I understand it, because it is intrinsically defective, but because it does not include any reference to the greyhound racing industry.
I do not make any point about the tactics that were used; they may well have been the most suitable for them to use to establish their point. I make no 969 complaint whatever, but my answer to the substance of the case—
§ Mr. A. Lewis
The hon. and learned Gentleman knows, of course, that that was the only way in which we could raise this subject.
§ Mr. Renton
Well, I have assumed it, anyway.
First, I must emphatically answer the point made by the hon. Gentleman that there was discrimination against greyhound racing and in favour of horse racing. There is no question whatever of discrimination. The circumstances of the two industries are quite different, as my right hon. Friend pointed out and as I shall also endeavour to show. We listened with great interest to the case somewhat movingly put, I thought, by the hon. Gentleman. The argument seems to be that what is good for horse racing is good for greyhound racing; that the two sports are similar, and should have similar treatment.
On the facts, we cannot accept that as a proposition. The way has been fully prepared for this Bill relating to horse racing. There has been an impartial inquiry by an independent committee, and prolonged consultations with the interests concerned, including the bookmakers. None of these considerations applies to greyhound racing. It is true, that several hon. Members suggested to my right hon. Friend that there should be a levy for greyhound racing, but I am sure that they would agree that the ground has not been prepared in anything like the same way as has this levy on horse racing—
§ Mr. Renton
I must ask the hon. Gentleman to give me a chance to attempt to answer the case which has been put so very fully.
We are surely right in saying that it cannot logically be maintained, in all common sense, that the needs of the two sports are equally pressing. The amenities of greyhound racing tracks vary, but there are many extremely prosperous greyhound racing companies which, to their great credit, are making profits for themselves and providing wonderful amenities for those who go to see the races.
As for the suggestion about the importance of a potential export trade, I 970 really must suggest that we should keep a sense of economic proportion about this. The hon. Member mentioned the Irish export trade. The Irish have for many years been to the fore in the export of greyhounds, but their exports to countries other than the United Kingdom have never exceeded £30,000 in any one year.
Whereas the Peppiatt Report suggested that a levy was desirable to arrest a decline in horse racing, the argument with regard to greyhound racing is that the levy is required, not to halt a decline, but to build up a potential new business in breeding greyhounds for export. Although we have found justification for a levy for horse racing in the circumstances which have been proved, we find no circumstance which would justify a levy for greyhound racing.
§ Mr. A. Lewis
Is it not a fact that only last year £619,000 worth of greyhounds were imported into England from Ireland? Does not that prove that, if assistance were given to our home breeding, there would be no need for such imports and at least £619,000 would be saved and, if breeding were improved, there would be a great possibility of exporting from this country to America, Australia, New Zealand and elsewhere?
§ Mr. Renton
That is arguable in more than one way. It is possible to conceive that, as a result of the greyhound racing industry being built up to an even more prosperous state, the number of imports from Ireland would have to be even greater in order to supply the number of dogs required, at any rate for some years.
The point is that there has been the most elaborate formal independent inquiry and there has been consideration by the House of Commons of the case which led to the presentation of the Bill. There has not been such in the case of greyhound racing. I express the hope that the Bill will be considered on its own merits and that it will be judged on what it contains rather than on what it omits.
I will add this on the subject of greyhounds. There is, of course, nothing to prevent those bookmakers Who are interested in greyhound racing from giving any voluntary support to the sport that they like.
§ Mr. A. Lewis
I am much obliged to the hon. and learned Gentleman for giving way. My right hon. Friend the Member for Smethwick (Mr. Gordon Walker) quite rightly pointed out that this again is evidence of bias against greyhound racing. The Government very quickly—quite rightly, perhaps—agreed to set up the Peppiatt Committee. That Committee very quickly came forward with its Report, and the Government very quickly got on with the job of preparing and introducing this Bill. That is the point. Why could there not be a Peppiatt Committee for greyhound racing? Why has there been this bias in favour of horse racing?
§ Mr. Renton
There has been no bias whatever. A very strong prima facie case was made out for the Peppiatt Committee on horse racing and no such prima facie case has been made out for a committee of inquiry into greyhound racing.
My hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Blackley (Mr. E. Johnson) asked an important question about the categories which are mentioned in the Bill as being categories which the Levy Board, on the initiative of the Bookmakers' Committee, in drawing up a scheme must arrive at before contributions are levied on bookmakers. He asked whether the categories suggested by the Peppiatt Committee would necessarily be the only categories which the Bookmakers' Committee and the Levy Board could consider. The answer is "No". So long as they lay down categories, they can be based on any principle and make any division which these two Boards consider right I should say, in passing, that if they fail to reach agreement, it is the chairman and the two independent members of the Levy Board who will have to decide the matter.
My hon. Friend also wanted to know how the members of the Levy Board would come to a decision, bearing in mind that there are eight of them. The position is that if necessary the Levy Board can arrange its own procedure in such a way that the chairman would be given a casting vote, which would mean that he would have two votes, whereas all the rest of the Board would have only one.
My hon. Friend the Member for Southend, East suggested that there should be a ceiling written into the Bill as to the 972 annual amount of the levy. May I presume to advise him and his friends on that questions? There is surely a danger that any ceiling is likely to become a target, instead of merely being regarded as a maximum. If we write a ceiling into the Bill, it might well have the exactly opposite effect from that contemplated by its advocates.
The question arose and was mentioned in many speeches as to the composition of the Levy Board, and this is clearly a matter which we shall have to consider in Committee. Meanwhile, I was glad of the support of my hon. Friend the Member for Middleton and Prestwich (Sir J. Barlow), who speaks with considerable knowledge, not of betting, but of horses, and who said that he was glad that the Levy Board was to be small. I think there is broad agreement that, whatever the precise composition of the Board should be, if it is to do its job effectively, it should be small.
It is gratifying to find that the Bill in broad principle has received the support of the House. There are matters for discussion in Committee, but it is a good thing that the Committee stage should start in the same agreeable atmosphere as that in which this debate has taken place.
§ Question, That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question, put and agreed to.
§ Bill read a Second time.
§ Bill committed to a Committee of the whole House.—[Mr. Noble.]
§ Committee Tomorrow.