HC Deb 19 March 1968 vol 761 cc277-8

I turn first to the duties on betting. I have approached them with the conviction that the House and the country are ready for considerable increases. My only regret is that the increases I am able to propose are not as great as I would have wished. This is not through any weakening on my part, but because of the need to ensure that a new tax, which has built up well since its introduction in 1966, does not break in our hands and lead to widespread evasion, with all the undesirable social and indeed criminal consequences which that could have, through trying to put too heavy a weight upon it. The experience of my illustrious predecessor in 1928 shows that these are real dangers.

There is also the consideration that while a great volume of money changes hands through betting, much of this is a purely circular movement of funds—the laying-off of bets which small bookmakers have to do extensively if they are to operate prudently is an example of this—and the amount of new money coming in, and still more the amount of money going out into purchasing power, is only a small fraction of the total. In consequence, the present 2½ per cent. duty is roughly equivalent to a 35 per cent. Purchase Tax on a commodity.

I therefore propose a doubling of the duty to 5 per cent., the maximum, I am strongly advised, which the tax could bear at the moment without endangering its whole basis. I also propose to increase the pool betting duty on football pools and fixed odds football coupons betting from 25 to 33½ per cent. of stakes. The changes will in each case apply from Monday next, 25th March.