HC Deb 16 July 1969 vol 787 cc647-79

For the purposes of the general betting duty on bets made on or after 1st October, 1969, section 12(2) of the Finance Act, 1966, shall have effect as if in place of paragraph (b) thereof (under which the amount of the duty is an amount equal to five per cent. of the amount staked) there were substituted the following paragraph, namely—

  1. (b) shall be of an amount equal, in the case of a bet made on an approved horse racecourse or licensed track, to two and a half per cent. of the amount staked and, in 649 the case of any other bet, to five per cent. of the amount staked; and.—[Mr. Temple.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

5.15 p.m.

Mr. John M. Temple (City of Chester)

I beg to move, That the Clause be read a Second time.

This is not the first occasion that I have been involved with a new Clause aimed at altering the general betting duty. I remember that in 1966 my hon. Friend the Member for Isle of Thanet (Mr. Rees-Davies) moved a new Clause of a somewhat similar nature and in 1968 my right hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, West (Mr. Iain Macleod) tried to do the same thing. Today, I hope to prove to the Financial Secretary and the Government that the situation for on-course bookmakers and on-track bookmakers at greyhound tracks is deteriorating very considerably.

It is against that background of deterioration of the on-course betting situation and having regard to the considerable malaise in the betting industry that I move this Clause. The Government will recollect that earlier this year the levy extracted by the Horserace Belting Levy Board was doubled under the direction of the Home Office. This year there is to be a new heavy betting licence. Admittedly, this will only affect betting offices operating off-course betting, but all this taxation added together is a gigantic impost on the industry which is in effect supported by the punters.

As a revenue raiser betting duties have been fairly successful and basically my right hon. Friends and myself support the m. There are limits to all duties and I shall try to prove that with on-course betting the law of diminishing returns is now operating. The new Clause alters the 1966 Act, reducing the amount of duty to 2½ per cent. on-course from the 5 per cent. at which it stands.

I shall prove also that the on-course betting market needs a shot in the arm because a great deal depends on the on-course market in regard to that enormous industry called the stating price betting industry mainly conducted through betting offices.

The object of the Clause is clear. It was made clear by my right hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, West last year. It is to encourage the betting market on which the starting price on racecourses is based. Significantly, Lord Wigg, who, I suppose, is the most respected expert in the racing industry, made a pronouncement on this matter comparatively recently. I shall quote from the Daily Telegraph, which is also highly respected, of 4th June, in which Lord Wigg, Chairman of the Horserace Betting Levy Board, is reported as having said: Betting in this country is based on the on-course prices, a tiny foundation for an enormous inverted pyramid. There is no doubt that the on-course bookmaker is under considerable pressure and must be given immediate relief if racing, as we know it, is to be saved. Those are extremely strong words—"if racing…is to be saved".

Lord Wigg probably knows more about racing than any other man in this country because, as chairman of the board, he is responsible for getting as large a number of people to attend race tracks as possible. That is why he is very interested in the preservation, and indeed in the strengthening, of the on-course betting market.

I am always a little anxious when making any forecast, because the Chief Secretary has a habit of pulling me up if my figures are not absolutely exact. I got into difficulty with the right hon. Gentleman last year because I said that I had hacked a winner at 3 to 1 on, but that due to the operations of the tax it was a 4 to 1 on bet. He said that it should have been 3⅞ to 1 on. Therefore, I propose to talk about these matters in round figures.

Last year, I ventured a forecast. I said that there would be a drop of about 50 per cent. in the amount of money changing hands on the racecourses. In fact, in the first three months of this year, there was a drop of 40 per cent. in the money wagered on all tracks and racecourses. But I was almost correct about horserace courses because the drop in the money wagered on-course on horserace tracks dropped by 46 per cent. —very close to the 50 per cent. which I forecast. This is the justification for bringing forward the new Clause again because there is no doubt that the serious situation which we forecast is coming to pass.

Mr. James Dance (Bromsgrove)

I am interested in my hon. Friend's figures for on-course betting. Has he the equivalent figure for off-course betting over the same period? I have an idea that it has gone up, whereas the figure for on-course betting has gone down.

Mr. Temple

My hon. Friend is partly right. Lord Wigg forecast that on-course betting would go down by 15 per cent. Overall, off-course betting has dropped by about 11 per cent. Therefore, the off-course situation is very much better than the on-course situation.

It has been said in several quarters that on-course bookmakers are a dying race. I again quote from the article in the Daily Telegraph: The average age of the on-course bookmaker is 60 and it's going up. Having a little experience of racecourses, I do not think that I should want to make a book on a racecourse unless it was a reasonably profitable business, because bookmakers face all kinds of weather and make a book under incredible difficulties, very often in wind and rain in the winter and probably in excessive heat in the summer. Nevertheless, it is the rails bookmakers who are responsible for making the starting price.

As my right hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, West explained in detail on one occasion, it is not the "bookies" who make the starting price, but the representatives of the Sporting Chronicle and the Sporting Life. But they get their information from the rails bookmakers. At two Northern meetings recently there were only two rails bookmakers operating. We cannot be absolutely certain that the betting taking place on the course is a true reflection of the chances of the horses in the race.

I come to the real difficulty of a weak course market. I understand that deputations have seen the Financial Secretary recently about the effect of hedging on-course. It was said to me that the hon. Gentleman was extraordinarily sympathetic about hedging bets on-course. But, with the operation of the 5 per cent. general betting levy, hedging on-course has dwindled almost to nothing. Therefore, the strength of the course market and its capacity to reflect the amount of money moving in it has been severely handicapped.

With a relatively weak market, it is possible to rig or manipulate the market. It is possible to make false favourites. A great deal of money goes on the favourite at the post in the starting price market. I have a little experience of false favourites. One or two let me down very badly. At small Northern meetings it is comparatively easy, in a very weak market, to influence the market so that it does not truly reflect the capacity of an animal to win.

Some years ago I had the good fortune to race not infrequently in Australia. The Australians are more devoted to racing than to any other sport, even cricket. There has been a betting tax in Australia for many years. Experience there is that a 2½ per cent. general turnover tax is too high and that all racing will stand is a 2½per cent. turnover tax. I warn the Government that the upper limit is being exceeded in all the levies and duties introduced in recent years. But, as was pointed out by Lord Wigg, the fulcrum of the matter is the course market.

Mr. John Mendelson (Penistone)

As a citizen who has only an occasional bet, I am alarmed by what the hon. Gentleman says. Is he saying that above a certain percentage of levy there is inevitably grave dishonesty and fraud? If so, is not this more a case for Scotland Yard than the Chancellor of the Exchequer?

Mr. Temple

I shall come to that point, because the hon. Member for Woolwich, West (Mr. Hamling) has spoken on it fairly frequently. I shall warn the Treasury about that matter.

It will be known to the Financial Secretary that the Committee over which Sir Henry Benson presided recommended a vast modernisation programme for horse-race courses. This has been accepted by Lord Wigg. A lot of the money collected by the Levy Board is going into this modernisation programme. It is not the slightest good providing better facilities if the public do not frequent racecourses. This is one of the main new arguments for an alleviation of the heavy impost on wagers made on the racecourse.

5.30 p.m.

Greyhound racing is a sport of which I know very little and to which I am not particularly attracted, but it is Britain's second largest spectator sport. On-course betting at greyhound tracks, as reflected in duty, accounts for about two-thirds of all revenue from on-course betting. Greyhound racing is, therefore, a very significant factor in this connection. In 1968–69, the total betting duty raised on-course was about £9 million, of which £6 million came from greyhound racing.

Greyhound racing is now facing a very serious situation. Attendances have approximately halved in the last 10 years, although the number of meetings held has gone down by only about 8 per cent. The Financial Secretary will know that tracks are closing very quickly. They are very often valuable open spaces fairly near the middle of big areas of urban development. Both from the point of view of revenue and of keeping these areas of open space in urban development, the Treasury should think very carefully before deciding to keep the rate of duty so high that the greyhound racing industry is driven to the wall. The loss of revenue will be enormous.

The return on greyhound racing tracks is at present only about 4 per cent.—a very meagre return for the amount of capital involved. This is why there are so many applications for planning permission by greyhound racing organisations: the development potential of the area is very much greater than its value as a greyhound racing track. The greyhound racing world is fighting for survival, and the Revenue is vitally interested in that survival.

I warn the Treasury that owners are racing their horses overseas but that overseas owners are not bringing their horses to Britain just because the on-course situation is not as satisfactory as it used to be. As the on-course market is weakened and the number of punters and bookmakers declines, the on-course situation is rapidly deteriorating. I warn the Treasury that many tracks and courses face deep financial difficulty.

I come now to the point made by the hon. Member for Penistone (Mr. John Mendelson). I well remember the Bill which introduced betting shops. I did not welcome that Measure, but I realised that belting shops were necessary if betting was to be made legal and kept clean. I am now anxious about a deteriorating situation. I give a very severe warning that information has come to me only comparatively recently that the present very high rates of duty must be an encouragement to illegal betting. I leave it at that, but do so as a very real warning.

We on this side want to see a thriving, healthy and honest racing industry. Encouraging the on-course bookmaker, creating a market that will be strong and will give a fair starting price to the public would be the right way to organise the betting industry. Equally, it would be right for the Treasury in the long run, because the worst thing that could possibly happen would be to have racing driven underground, as it was formerly. I very much hope that in this changing situation—indeed, in a changed situation —the Government will have second thoughts, and will accept the Clause.

Mr. William Hamling (Woolwich, West)

I have several reasons for hoping that my right hon. Friend will accept the Clause. The hon. Member for the City of Chester (Mr. Temple) has told us that information has come to him about illegal betting. It has come also to me. I referred in Standing Committee to the growth of illegal betting. Looking at the returns of the small bookmakers, and some of the larger bookmakers—and the Mark Lane group as well, which is not small—one sees that their turnover is falling, and I have little doubt that the money is going to other forms of gambling.

It may be going into the gaming clubs, but I suggest that the small punter's money is going back on the streets, where it used to be, and into the pubs, the clubs and the factories. We all know that in most large factories a syndicate operates. Without mentioning names, I know that a syndicate of bookies is operating actually in a factory down the Thames. Whether the firm also pays the wages, I do not know—perhaps some of our colleagues who complain about pay might look for a job there.

Mr. Timothy Kitson (Richmond, Yorks)

I understand that a good deal of betting goes on from this country with bookmakers in South Africa, who return the starting prices on British racecourses. Tax for bets is not deducted in South Africa. This would also seem to be an illegal method.

Mr. Hamling

I do not have the hon. Gentleman's knowledge, and I do not know how bets are shifted to South Africa, as he obviously does, but I hope that my right hon. Friend will also bear that aspect in mind. My information is that the Revenue is concerned about illegal betting, and has been watching some places. In view of the loss to the Revenue that will ultimately result and the diminishing returns that will ultimately come about, although they may not yet have done so, I regard the decision taken elsewhere in the Bill as foolish, although I would be out of order to refer to it now.

When money goes into illegal betting, all sorts of strange people start getting their hands on the "dough". Hitherto, we have managed to keep betting free from the large-scale gangsters, but I have no doubt that if illegal betting develops and more and more money goes in that direction it will prove very attractive to some of the criminal gangs which operate in this city and elsewhere in the country. I impress upon my right hon. Friend that this is no idle threat. It is a very important consideration from the point of view not only of the Revenue, but of the moral health of the nation—and, as the Committee knows, I am very strong on these moral questions.

The need is to create a strong on-course betting market to provide a reasonable basis for good starting prices, and this is one of the main purposes of the Clause. Such a market is important, not only for the on-course bookmaker and the on-course punter, but for the off-course punter as well. There is no doubt that for bookmakers on the racecourses the fixing of S.P. fixes the market for betting as a whole. This is of indirect advantage to the Revenue. If there is a strong betting market that helps the punter off-course as well as on, and this ultimately is of benefit to the Revenue.

Mr. Dance

Does the hon. Member agree that if there is a lot of illegal off-course betting a lot of money will not go to the racecourse and there will be a fictitous price?

Mr. Hamling

That is absolutely true; it is the other side of the coin. When the market is weak there is not a good S.P., but a false price. We have seen that in recent weeks.

Another aspect is the very small fields which are operating. I looked at the results of about four meetings recently and found that in three-quarters of the cases the favourite won, and in most cases it was odds-on. I suppose that there is an incentive to the punter, but very few bookmakers, especially the small ones, will keep their doors open for long in that sort of market. One has to be fair all round in this matter.

The small bookmakers to whom I have spoken recently have argued very strongly in favour of a differential for the on-course market. This would help to break down the monopoly of some very big bookmakers. I am not sure that having a monopoly for a few big bookmakers will necessarily help the small punter, particularly because he is not the sort of chap for whom the big bookmaker is looking. He is not interested in the punters, but in the big bets. The small bookmaker services the small punter. It is no good my hon. Friend the Member for Bedfordshire, South (Mr. Gwilym Roberts) shaking his head at that. If he goes into a betting shop in his constituency the proprietor will tell him that it is so. He should do that; it would improve his education. He would also meet many more of his constituents.

This differential would also help small bookmakers to put up their stands and make the courses more colourful and attractive for visitors and racegoers. One of the objects is to make going to the races more attractive. What is wrong with that? I am all in favour of improving the racecourses rather than increasing betting at home. I regard it as a healthy sport.

My hon. Friend the Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Ryan), coming from the other side of the water—the right side, where racegoing is a national pastime more than it is here—would agree with that. This would be a help to the industry as a whole. It would improve attendances, courses could be modernised and made more attractive, and it would bring owners and trainers back to the courses. It is necessary that prices should be better so that owners are attracted and money, tourists and visitors are brought to this country.

That is the advantage of the new Clause. After these remarks, I am sure that my hon. Friend the Financial Secretary will be only too eager to accept it.

5.45 p.m.

Mr. W. R. Rees-Davies (Isle of Thanet)

I join in what has been said, adopt it, and agree with it. The purpose of having a racing industry in this country, having races and a bloodstock industry, is to enable people to enjoy a way of life, the sport of kings—which is racegoing, not telly-watching. Therefore, we should assist one of our major sports not to perish under an undue burden of taxation.

The difficulty is that there is an increasing burden of taxes year by year upon the racing industry. It has reached levels which now show clearly the law of diminishing returns. I am not so concerned about the returns as to prove categorically that we must have a differential between those concerned in participation in racing as opposed to those who merely want to enjoy betting. Those two are quite separate and distinct in principle.

It is unique that everyone concerned with racing agrees with this new Clause. It is very unusual to find the racing industry agreeing about anything, but I have found recently that a large number of bookmakers in London and in the country, those concerned with judging, those concerned with the Jockey Club, with trainers, owners and racecourses all agree in principle with this new Clause.

The Racing Industry Committee of Inquiry said in June. 1968, that there is …a strong case for assisting on-course bookmakers by remitting the tax on course. Lord Wigg has already been quoted. Major-General Sir Randle Feilden said the same on behalf of the Jockey Club and the stewards. The trainers have all agreed that it is most important to have a differential between on-course and off-course betting, however high it may be. The jockeys agree, the owners agree—

Mr. Hamling

Even the horses.

Mr. Rees-Davies

Of course, the horses agree because it will be to their benefit as their breeding will be all the better. The Government must concede the principle today. We should be quite clear that this year it is the intention of the House of Commons, both parties—the Liberal Party as usual, is not present, but leaving them out as one always does in matters of sport—

Mr. Hamling

What about indoor sport?

Mr. Rees-Davies

I was about to say pleasurable sport, I hope we shall have this inured as a principle.

International competition in horse-racing is growing fast. The Japanese are interested and so are the Germans, the French and the Americans. They are all beginning to recognise that with the coming of the jumbo-jets sport is international. Colour television militates against race-going. In the year ahead we shall find whether there is an opportunity to see such a perfect picture of the Royal Enclosure at Ascot and perhaps next year there will be an even greater wish to take the idle way out and not to go to the races but to telly-watch.

Another factor is that off-course betting is so much cheaper. If there is removed one of the only real advantages of going to the races, which is that one may get a better price to bet, and one gets no financial advantage but has to pay 30s. or £2 to go on to the course, one asks, why carry that heavy additional burden? Why should one do it in face of the greater difficulties of traffic to and from the course? The racegoer often has a difficult and costly journey in heavy traffic. He has the burden of paying the entrance fee. He then has to spent his money there. Bookmakers have high overheads for their staff on course, in addition to the cost of entry.

There is also the fact that the United Kingdom has infinitely lower prize money than overseas countries have. As a result, most of our leading owners have at least one French trainer and at least one horse being trained in France. This year the number is rising considerably.

Therefore, we must seek to encourage people to go to the races and the owners to keep their horses here. We must encourage foreigners to send their horses here. I have noticed a desire on the part of people overseas to become owners in Britain. There is room here for a substantial invisible export by encouraging overseas owners to send their horses to trainers in Britain.

This is why I say that, whatever the tax be, it should be half on course. It stands at 5 per cent. at present. It will be virtually 6 per cent. There will be a 5 per cent. tax plus an additional 1 per cent. on the rateable value. Some of the small bookmakers, if they were given the advantage which would accrue from the Government's accepting the Amendment, might, as they will have to do anyway, give up their premises and form a small body and become on-course bookmakers. This year there is a fall of 20 per cent. in the number of bookmakers on course.

I ask the Financial Secretary to make it clear that this procedure will be adopted and to say in terms that action will be taken by the Government to reverse this tendency of diminishing attendances on course, with the resulting diminishing turnover. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, West (Mr. Iain Macleod) pointed out in Committee, the position of the Tote is deplorable. Many racecourses must close because racecourse profits are down considerably. There was a heavy loss of £10,000 even on Eclipse day at Sandown. That should have been one of the leading days of the year. If there was a loss on that day, hon. Members can imagine the losses which have occurred at other racecourses. Practically all the bookmakers who are remaining on the rails are doing so not for profit but for show —to sustain their reputation off-course.

I do not think that the Government have recognised that it is easy to be perfectly lawful and place bets in Jamaica and Singapore and thereby pay no tax. I leave this with the Government as my final thought. This is going on extensively. I do not know whether the Government recognise that there are a large number of people in Hong Kong, Singapore, Jamaica, the Bahamas, France, the Canary Islands, Pakistan and India who bet on races in the United Kingdom; they bet regularly in their own countries on the outcome of British races. They do not even have the benefit of television to watch the racing. This is potentially a large industry. All of those who use the market presumably do not pay the tax.

It would be sad if there were a reversion to the old position. I was one of those concerned in pioneering legislation on betting. I always did so with the feeling that the bookmaker should be able to become rather like the publican. My aim was to make the bookmaker into a respectable man with a strong community sense and with great pride in his job. We wanted to take the bookmaker off the streets. This has happened. In the great majority of cases bookmakers are now in a similar position to publicans.

However, there is here a tendency to go too fast: under this Government the tax of 2½ per cent. as at 1966 was increased to 5 per cent. in 1968. Now there is to be a further tax which will make the tax much higher than even the betting industry of Australia would begin to have with its 2 per cent. on turnover. This is higher than we can stand.

It is for these reasons that I commend the Amendment to the Government. It is one which my right hon. and hon. Friends and others would like to see enshrined in principle in the Bill and we hope very shortly carried into effect.

Mr. Albert Roberts (Normanton)

I have been impressed by the three speeches which have been made. I shall speak in support of greyhound racing. A Home Secretary said many years ago that if his family was in mortal danger apart from saving himself he would save his wife and his horse. I would try to save my wife, my dog and myself.

The sport of greyhound racing as I know it can be well recommended to the general public at any time. I was surprised at the admission by the hon. Member for the City of Chester (Mr. Temple) that he knew little about it. I believe that greyhound racing is good value for money, particularly in London, where it is a good, clean, open sport. One can go at any time of the year in comfortable surroundings and have a West End meal at a much lower price. That is why I am anxious to save my dog.

From time to time there have been vicious onslaughts on greyhound racing. From 1948 to 1964 it bore a 10 per cent. tax which was imposed by Sir Stafford Cripps when Chancellor. In 1948 there was far more money than goods and there was no objection in the main, because crowds were going to greyhound stadiums.

Today, it is a case of diminishing returns. The Betting and Gaming Act, 1960, created betting shops and gave freedom of action in that sphere which was denied to greyhound racing. It is time the Chancellor considered what action to take about betting in general. Over the last few years it has been a case of hit and miss. It required a great deal of persuasion before anything was done about bingo and one-armed bandits. I believe that a proper review of the position would result in benefits being given to on-course betting at the expense of off-course betting.

The question of high pressure, particularly where there is urban development, has been referred to. A few days ago there were newspaper reports of offers for Wimbledon Stadium. When all is said and done, we have to consider the position of shareholders, but as Members of Parliament we must consider also what is good for the public and whether a place like London or some of our provincial towns really need good clean outdoor sports of this kind. If these tracks disappear, not only will it be a loss to the general public but it will be a great and sad loss to any Chancellor of the Exchequer.

6.0 p.m.

It is in the national interest and the local interest that we should not be forced to accept the way these changes are going. If the Chancellor will only give due consideration to the situation as it is now, some of our tracks, particularly in the larger centres of population, will start once more to flourish. Aggregate trading profits over the past few years, notably in 1968, have been very little more than 4 per cent. in relation to assets, a very low standard in comparison with present-day industry.

Attendances have been falling over the past 10 or 12 years and are continuing to fall. If the decline is to be arrested, the Chancellor must adopt the course embodied in new Clause 19. He must give every encouragement to people interested in the sporting world to visit courses and not just stay at home. I think that I can speak impartially on this matter. I have heard what hon. Members have said on both sides, and I have read a little on the subject. I am greatly concerned when I see sports which are good for the public folding up almost overnight simply because those responsible have not given due consideration to the problems. The hon. Member for the City of Chester said that the racing is the second largest spectator sport, in spite of dwindling attendances. It is in great jeopardy now, and action must be taken either at once or in the very near future.

I give wholehearted support to the Clause because it provides that advantage could be given to on-course betting as compared with off-course betting. A man who is prepared to go to the course and watch the sport is really interested, he wishes to be entertained at a sporting event where one finds no hooliganism, at which one can spend two or three hours in good pleasure and enjoyment of a good clean form of racing. Such a purpose can do nothing but commend itself to the House as a whole. I am sure that other hon. Members will support it and urge the Chancellor to help a sport which is now in jeopardy.

There are those who have said scathing things from time to time about horse racing and greyhound racing. As a regular churchgoer, I say at once that I have attended this sort of sport in various parts of the country. I am convinced that it is a sport which can readily be recommended to anyone not familiar with it. It is my hope that the Chancellor of the Exchequer will give due consideration to what is urged upon him so that a sport which is good for the public can be maintained and encouraged.

Earl of Dalkeith (Edinburgh, North)

It is unusual to find an atmosphere of such harmony and peace prevailing in the House. I warmly support everything said so far in commending the new Clause, including the two speeches of considerable good sense which we have heard from the benches opposite. I had thought that the hon. Member for West Ham, North (Mr. Arthur Lewis) would lead for his own side, but perhaps he will wind up. I hope that he does, because we can expect a favourable answer from him.

Mr. Arthur Lewis

Fortunately, or unfortunately, I am not the one who decides which Members should be called. Otherwise, I should probably have called myself first.

Earl of Dalkeith

Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will wind up for the Government, in which case we can rely on him for the right answer.

I support the case which has been made in respect of horse racing, but my primary concern in this debate comes from my first-hand knowledge of greyhound racing in my constituency. Because of the problems facing greyhound racing which are daily becoming more plain, and because of the anxieties which I have on that account, I add my voice in an effort to persuade the Government to heed the arguments put in support of the Clause.

The declining profitability of greyhound racing is now so serious that it could easily lead to the closing of many excellent establishments. This is no mere repetition of arguments which have been put forward year after year. The warning has been given year after year, but now it must be heeded if some important tracks are not to close. There have been references to the law of diminishing returns. The Chancellor must pay regard to that, but it is not the principal standpoint from which I argue the case.

A community of the size of Edinburgh —there are countless others of the same sort of size—deserves to have a high-quality stadium of the kind which we have at Powderhall. If there were not such an establishment already there, a strong case could be made for one to be built, and, what is more, I have no doubt that a request could be made to the Minister for Sport to provide a grant to assist its building. When we have a track such as Powderhall in existence and contributing so much to the life of the city, it would be a tragedy if we sat back and allowed it to die. That would be bad enough, but if the Government reject the new Clause they will do something even worse; they will deliberately run the risk of directly killing tracks such as Powderhall.

It can be argued that there are other factors which contribute to the decline in attendances, but these are not matters over which anyone has immediate control. The pool betting duty, on the other hand, and the manner in which it is levied is in a different category; it can be adjusted at the will of the right hon. Gentleman. In considering what to do, he must ask himself the simple question: is it desired to allow greyhound racing to survive, or is it intended that it should be killed? It is as simple as that.

We are not asking for State aid for a non-viable industry, as happens from time to time, and as I may do on occasion in regard to certain sectors of farming. This is a totally different matter. It is a case of asking that a penal provision which is preventing a venture from being an economic success should be removed or alleviated. When it is in respect of a venture giving pleasure to countless thousands, the Government would be sensible to listen to this plea.

For many years greyhound racing has been unfairly discriminated against as compared with other sports. The rates of duty have been varied from time to time to take account of the circumstances. This means that the Government are not being asked to depart from precedent. They are being asked to accord with precedent in accepting the Amendment.

There is no reason why the Inland Revenue should suffer any loss from the sort of adjustment envisaged to the rates affecting on-course and off-course betting. It could put the law of diminishing returns into reverse and result in a gain, which would be to the nation's advantage.

It might be held that by lowering the rates on on-course betting and increasing the rates on off-course betting we should be unfair to those who have betting shops and the like. But in the long run if greyhound racing collapses because of the taxation burden those who own betting shops will stand to lose as much as, if not more than, anybody else. Therefore, I do not think that even from their point of view the change would be unfair.

One significant feature of today's debate compared with previous debates is that previously these points were generally speaking, put forward from the greyhound racing lobby, but this year we have been joined more strongly than ever by the horse-racing fraternity, and it is excellent that we should see this unity.

The situation in my constituency is particularly worrying, because one of the reasons for the decline in attendance at Powderhall is undoubtedly the savage squeeze on the pockets of Edinburgh people because of the incomprehensible way in which the Government are treating Edinburgh in the matter of development district status. I shall not enlarge on that, because I suspect that I should be out of order.

If the Government ignore our plea and Powderhall dies as a result, I shall make it my business to ensure that it is as widely known as possible that the reason for its death was the Government's failure to listen to this elementary, simple and straightforward Amendment. I might even go so far as to erect a memorial tombstone engraved with words such as, "Powderhall: murdered by Roy Jenkins".

6.15 p.m.

Mr. Arthur Lewis

The hon. Member for Edinburgh, North (Earl of Dalkeith) began his speech by making a remark about my activities and speculating on why I had not spoken earlier. The real reason was that I wanted to hear one of the best speeches this afternoon, which came from the hon. Gentleman, and so I had to wait until he had spoken.

It is right to say that I have expressed interest in this subject for nearly 21 years now. I well remember how on this and similar subjects I was the lone voice in the early days, and almost everyone in the House was against me. It was then thought infra dig to speak here on behalf of greyhound racing. In those days I was disparagingly referred to as the spokesman for the dog-tracks. In view of my rather slim figure, I did not have to declare an interest in dog tracks then, and I do not have to do so now.

I am glad to see the hon. and gallant Member for Wembley, North (Sir E. Bullus) present. He and I started to take an interest in the matter because it is not only a question of greyhound racing. Some of our greatest sports have been developed and improved because of greyhound racing. We should all like to obtain tickets for the Cup Final, although we are not always successful. Wembley Stadium would not be in existence but for the money it was able to earn from greyhound racing, to keep it ticking over ready for those odd days when it presented the Cup Final and other football matches. One finds the same sort of thing all round the country.

I think that the hon. and gallant Member for Lewes (Sir T. Beamish)—a marvellous name for a constituency—has had to leave the Chamber to go to a meeting. But I am sure that he will not mind my speaking about his interest in greyhound racing. He is a director of the Greyhound Racing Association, the largest greyhound racing organisation. I have no connection with it, although I know some of its directors, and on a few occasions I have been to the Greyhound Derby. I think that the right hon. Member for Enfield, West (Mr. Iain Macleod) was lucky enough to go to the last one. I do not know whether he was lucky, but he went. He probably was lucky. I hope that he was.

Mr. Speaker

Order. I hope that we shall not be too discursive in this debate.

Mr. Lewis

I am trying to explain why it is essential that we should have a differential in the on-course and off-course betting tax. I am sure that White City, which is one of the Greyhound Racing Association tracks, and which puts on the Greyhound Derby, makes quite a lot of money out of that venture. It is from such ventures that it has been able to help athletics, the Horse of the Year Show, and the like.

I here declare an interest. I was one of the original Members to press the Treasury to impose fair taxation on all forms of betting, gambling and gaming. A former Chancellor paid a tribute to me when he introduced the taxation on horse-racing. But I emphasise that what I wanted to see was a fair system of taxation. I agree with the noble Lord the Member for Edinburgh, North that for years greyhound racing was discriminated against. It paid the 5 per cent.—originally 10 per cent.—Tote tax, and horse-racing got away scot free. Now there has been some levelling up, but there is still the difficulty and unfairness that many big tracks are having to close down or, as in the case of White City and some of the others, to sell off some of their property for development, and/or reduce the size because there is a falling off in the number of supporters going to the tracks. One of the reasons for this is that people find it much better and easier not to pay to go to the track but to bet at the off-course betting shop.

Here I declare an interest, and shall speak against my own interests. I have the dubious honour of having in my constituency the largest number of betting shops in any borough in the country. West Ham, Newham and East Ham together have the largest number of betting shops of any town in the country.

should like to see fewer betting shops everywhere. We could do this by trying to channel back to the tracks some of the money now going into betting shops. If we could achieve this, the Treasury would, in my belief, get a bigger return and there would be more money for the promoters—the same argument applies to horse racing—to develop not only greyhound racing but to help improve track facilities and make them more attractive to the public as well as to help in the development of other sports, such as athletics, tennis, cricket, swimming and football. All of these have been helped in the past because of the money being spent at the tracks.

Wing Commander Sir Eric Bullus (Wembley, North)

Does the hon. Gentleman recall that the late Sir Arthur Elvin used to point out regularly how much the Olympic games held at Wembley owed to the fact that greyhound racing was successful at Wembley, and that this had advantages for other sports as well?

Mr. Lewis

I am glad to be reminded of that, and the hon. Gentleman is quite right. Strangely enough, it was because of greyhound racing that Wembley became an internationally-known place through its association with football and the World Cup. There would have been no Wembley Stadium at all had it nor been for greyhound racing there.

There is the question of the law of diminishing returns. I am all in favour of getting as much money in taxation from betting, gambling and gaming as it is possible to get reasonably without killing the sport. Someone reminded us in a recent debate on this issue that we must not kill the goose that lays the golden egg but that is precisely what has been happening over the years. Indeed, the Government have killed the goose in one instance. They have killed the whole return on income from fixed-odds betting.

One of the biggest bookmakers in the world—indeed, it is claimed to be the biggest—is William Hill. William Hill himself has been a Socialist all his life and a very good and active one. He has had to finish up his fixed-odds betting in football pools and horse racing because taxation has killed it. That is the sort of thing happening now. Because of the unfair method of taxation, we are killing the sport.

New Clause 19 would mean that there would be a differential between the tax on those who go to the tracks and the tax on those who bet off the tracks. If a person knows that he is going to get better odds at a local betting shop, he will go there and will not incur the expense of travelling to the track and paying the admission charge and programme charge. Does my right hon. Friend the Financial Secretary to the Treasury want to make a witty remark, because I should like to hear it?

Mr. Harold Lever


Mr. Lewis

Very well. I believe that what I have explained is what is happening to most tracks in the country. My hon. Friend the Member for Normanton (Mr. Albert Roberts) mentioned Wimbledon. I have been there a number of times in his company. It is good spectacle and it is a first-class track where one can take one's family. If the tracks find that their competitors in the betting shops are privileged in relation to taxation, it is no wonder that the chances are mounting that the tracks will be taken over or closed down, because people can make a better return for shareholders out of property development than out of greyhound racing. I cannot see why the Treasury should not accept new Clause 19 and why it would not be advantageous to the Treasury if it was to allow a differential to on-course bookmakers so that money was encouraged to go to the track.

Such a course might, in the long run, have the effect of closing down a few unnecessary betting shops, which is what I want to see. In my constituency, there is a betting shop in almost every street, and this is quite unnecessary. If we encourage people to go back to the tracks, we could close down some of the less necessary of these shops. There would, therefore, be an advantage from that point of view as well as from the point of view of the development of sport generally. I ask my right hon. Friend to give favourable consideration to new Clause 19 and having a differential between on-course betting and off-course betting, whether it be on horse racing, greyhound racing or anything else. It would be to the advantage of all concerned.

Mr. Eldon Griffiths (Bury St. Edmunds)

The most remarkable feature of the debate is the unanimity of opinion from a great variety of sources in the House. I support new Clause 19, so ably moved by my hon. Friend the Member for City of Chester (Mr. Temple), for two reasons, one particular and the other general. The particular reason is that I have in my constituency the horse-racing capital of this country and possibly of the world—Newmarket. There we have many thousands of splendid horses and some thousands of splendid people who look after them, train them, race them and sell them. I am, therefore, most anxious to do anything to assist the racing industry.

In Newmarket, we have a number of bookmakers—although perhaps not so many as the hon. Member for West Ham, North (Mr. Arthur Lewis) has in his constituency. I know many of them well. There is no more cheerful, hard-working and, at the moment, hard-pressed section of the community. I am sure that new Clause 19 would be of material help to them.

My general reason for supporting new Clause 19 is the very high rate of taxation, and especially the high level of taxation on on-course betting. This is damaging to the racing industry as a whole and is a serious matter nationally, because racing gives great pleasure to very large numbers of our fellow citizens. It provides the Inland Revenue with a substantial amount of money which it would find difficult to obtain from other sources, and racing is a strong earner of foreign exchange. It is, therefore, important that the good health of racing should be recognised by this House.

6.30 p.m.

I am fortified in these conclusions by the Benson Report, paragraph 60 of which contains these words: There is insufficient money circulating in the industry to maintain or improve the present standard of racing; to match competition from overseas; and to maintain the bloodstock industry. I ask the Financial Secretary to note these wise words: In consequence, the racing industry in this country is deteriorating and it is losing ground as compared with racing in overseas countries. The next paragraph underlines the case: Recent increases in taxation have placed exceptional burdens on the racing industry which are greater than those borne by other industries. The Benson Report gives further support to the new Clause by showing how drastically attendances at racecourses, where on-course bookmaking is general, has been falling. In 1958 the total attendances at flat and national hunt course meetings was 8,100,000; by 1964 it had fallen to just under 7 million; it is now barely over 6 million. There has been a decline in attendances at racecourses from well over 8 million to a little over 6 million during the last ten years, and this is a serious matter.

I do not say that the betting tax or the absence of a differential are the only or even principal causes of this decline in attendance. There are many other factors such as the weather, traffic, the habit of watching racing on television and the fact that we still have far too many race tracks, but I have no doubt that the betting tax, and particularly the absence of a differential between on-course and off-course rates, is the largest single factor in pulling down racing and the bookmaker.

I draw from two respected commentators in the British Press these comments; first, from the Guardian, where Mr. Richard Baerlein wrote this on 13th March this year: If the Chancellor does not agree to a reduction in the tax on on-course betting, then course bookmaking is finished, and racing will take one further serious knock—a knock which could easily end in a complete k.o. To go to the other side of the political spectrum, to the Daily Telegraph, the racing correspondent said this: Without doubt the biggest factor contributing to the fall-away in attendance…is taxation. The initial impost of 2½ per cent. in October 1968 rocked an already shaky industry back on its heels. The subsequent double-up in March last year may have been the final blow. These are not my words, but the words of intelligent commentators who have at heart the best interests of the industry.

The figures make the case overwhelming. The on-course turnover has fallen from £133 million in 1967–68 to £103 million in 1968–69. That is a fall of 22½ per cent. over the last 2½ years. Since then the position has deteriorated. In spite of a late Easter this year and nine more fixtures, which incidentally put off-course betting up by 9 per cent., there has been no effect on the accelerating slump in on-course betting. In April of this year, the last month for which I can obtain figures, on-course betting fell by another 10 per cent. to £458,000, and this figure is not enough to keep body and soul together in the bookmakers' fraternity. Comparing January, February and March of the financial year 1967–68 with the same three months of this year, the on-course turnover fell by more than 40 per cent. As I have said, there may be other factors, but the absence of a differential between the tax on on-course and off-course betting is the main factor in bring this about.

I would like to give one or two specific examples, more eloquent than all the arrays of figures. In Tattersalls Ring at Epsom this year the number of bookies attending has fallen very dramatically. Whereas ten years ago on average there were not less than 75 bookies in Tatter-sails, today there are seldom more than 60. It is the same in the Silver Ring, down from 33 to 24, and Langlands, down from 23 to 10. The average number of bookmakers on our racecourses on any racing day in 1959 was 145. Last year it was 90, and this year it will be down to little more than 80.

The Financial Secretary will have all the evidence, but if he will examine the charts drawn up by the British Bookmaker, he will find in the sharp decline in bookmakers' attendances in racecourse enclosures that there was a steady downward trend, but just before the introduction of the 2½ per cent. tax. it had levelled out. The tax was imposed and there was a further sudden drop. When the tax was increased to 5 per cent. there was again a precipitate drop. The Financial Secretary can place no other interpretation on these figures than that which has been given this afternoon by my hon. Friends.

I wish to mention one or two other individual cases because bookmakers are individuals like the rest of us. Last January at Newbury one bookmaker who has many regular customers took, not made, only £213 from six races. Another bookmaker provided the Customs and Excise forms which showed that all he could gather during the entire proceed- ings was a miserable £7. At Nottingham another well-known bookmaker, Mr. Norman Fogg, kept his records and sent photostats of them to Lord Wigg. The records showed bets placed with him of 10s. on the first race, two guineas on the second and 2s. on the third. Mr. Fogg, after that, went home, and after paying his staff and his betting tax, which admittedly was not very much, he estimated that his net loss for that day was more than £20. This may be an exceptional case, but Mr. Fogg's experience as a bookmaker is by no means untypical these days. The average bookmaker in Tattersalls Ring nowadays pays £12 for his betting badge, £3 for his own entrance fee and a further £9 for the entrance fee of his three assistants. He also pays 10s. to the Bookmakers Protection Association, 7s. 6d. for his racing lists, and 10s. or more, when the Bill is passed, for his S.E.T. The outgoings of an average bookmaker on an average day add up to not less than £26 or £27.

What about his income? To give reasonable odds the bookie has to keep his gross profit down to about 10 per cent. If he takes, say, £1,000 in bets, which is a realistic figure, he can expect to make £100 gross. From his £100 gross he must first deduct the £50 tax—5 per cent. of his £1,000 turnover—and a further £25 7s. 6d. for his other expenses which I have indicated. From the remaining £24 12s. 6d. he has to pay the wages of his three assistants, his travelling expenses, and buy his food. And all this on not a bad day at one of our normally quite popular meetings. There is very little in it for the on-course bookmaker. The off-course bookmaker does not have to meet these many charges. The case which has been made out is quite overwhelming and is unanimous.

I want to put two final points to the Financial Secretary, because there are other considerations in the matter of differential. The first point is that there is no doubt that it stimulates tax avoidance. The second is that it weakens the Government's own long term prospects of keeping up their revenue from the betting and race course industry.

On the matter of the positive encouragement of tax avoidance, I would refer to a most excellent article which appeared in the Daily Telegraph of 6th April and was republished in the Sporting Life. The article said: …people are getting together in clubs to bet illegally. In the sporting papers one can often see advertisements for clubs with 'tape and blower services available': these are often places where big backers can go, get odds direct from the course and bet on an undeclared book. Sums change hands in these clubs which would scare the course silly. Here is tangible evidence of sizeable tax avoidance, and I suspect the Financial Secretary has included Clause 53 in the Bill in part because he is aware of this growing problem.

It seems to me that the Government are in danger of damaging their long term prospects of revenue. A collapse of the on-course betting market—and such a collapse is now possible—would imperil not merely the whole betting market, because it is the on-course bookie who makes that market, but it could, perhaps more easily than the Treasury realises, put at risk off-course betting and with it the entire racing industry.

Last year revenue received from the betting tax was over £54 million. That is a very large sum indeed to put at risk through over-taxation. I submit that the Chancellor is being greedy. He wants to have his cake and eat it, and he would be wise to accept the arguments put forward this afternoon. Perhaps the best answer would be to reduce the tax overall. But he will not, of course, accept that. However, he ought to give some relief to the hardest pressed section and the section which makes the bookie market, that is to say the on-course bookmakers. It is a choice between those who go to the tracks and those who sit at home. For the benefit of the industry as a whole, for the benefit of the revenue and of lawful taxation, it would be in the interests of the Chancellor of the Exchequer and of this country to create this differential and to do it today.

6.45 p.m.

Mr. John Ryan (Uxbridge)

I intervene briefly in the debate to urge the Financial Secretary to accept the new Clause. I intervene with some hesitation because I have no particular constituency interest. My hon. Friend the Member for West Ham, North (Mr. Arthur Lewis) described his constituency in a way that would almost make an ideal sating for some escapade by Damon Runyon. However, I have no such problem in my own constituency.

I intervene because I feel that the Financial Secretary ought to consider the many social implications in the present arrangements for the taxation of betting. It is the experience of those of us who represent urban areas that the legislation and licensing of betting shops removed one of the grosser evils, namely, the street bookie and the attendant petty crime and illegal activity that surrounded him. I felt that this was a great step forward.

We are now getting to a point when we face situations such as exist in my own constituency at London Airport where illicit betting is taking place. The tax is being avoided by the operation of syndicates within the airport. This is a most retrograde step and is extremely difficult for the police to deal with. People will not give evidence against their workmates and they will not jeopardise family connections which they feel are providing a service. In the general context of the betting tax, we may well be reaching a situation of diminishing returns. In the social sense, we seem to be bringing about an increase in illicit betting which is what originally we have sought to avoid.

I close by mentioning the differential tax suggested as between on-course and off-course bookmakers. There is a strong element of moral overtone to this debate. Many people regard bookmakers as people who get a living out of racing. A bookmaker takes more out than he puts in or he would not stay in business. If one accepts this situation, then there is a differential input between the bookmaker who goes to the course and the bookmaker whose transactions have no place on the course.

If the Financial Secretary accepts the new Clause, he would conform with other aspects of the Government's policy in regard to tourism. Our racing is the admiration of the world. The decline of on-course betting is an integral part of the general problem of attendancies at race courses. It is a problem which should be put right not only in the interests of racing but in the interests of tourism. With those few words, I would ask my right hon. Friend to accept the new Clause.

Mr. Harold Lever

This has been an impressive debate for the unanimity of opinion in support of the proposal in the new Clause. I shall indicate right away that the Chancellor has always had firmly in his mind many of the considerations which have been pressed upon us today in argument. I know that at this stage of the Finance Bill it is high season for geese laying golden eggs, although I do not recall any occasion which has been as roughly treated by my hon. Friend the Member for West Ham, North (Mr. Arthur Lewis) in his brief intervention. I take the point that one must take care in the imposition of the duty that one does not go into the famous area of diminishing returns. We have not done so in spite of warnings.

Many people seem to feel that the market is in danger unless the Chancellor makes a sharp differential between the on-course and off-course bookmakers. Nobody has mentioned that for the first time this year a differential is made between the two. The Chancellor has imposed a duty on off-course bookmakers, for which he has exempted on-course bookmakers, in the form of a rateable value duty charge. For the first time there is something approaching a 1 per cent. differential between the on-course betting duty and the off-course betting duty which will reflect marginally to the advantage of the on-course bookmaker.

Those who advocate making this concession have rather overstated their case in believing that it will reverse a trend which has been going on for many years. Long before there was any duty on horse racing there was a decline in attendances at meetings. Many hon. Members have recognised that it was going on long before the duty on horse race betting was introduced. I notice that my hon. Friend the Member for Normanton (Mr. Albert Roberts) is present. He is both a churchgoer and racegoer and is probably in a position to know from both his attendances that they tend to decline even when they are not taxed. There may be a long-term trend in one direction which only the changing psychology of people will alter after an interval of time.

Earl of Dalkeith

It is true that attendances at greyhound race meetings have been declining for some time, but greyhound racing has been singled out for discriminatory taxation for many years, and it is still continuing.

Mr. Lever

The noble Lord is wrong in supposing, as he implies, that greyhound racing attendances declined because they were singled out for taxation over many years. That is not so. Horse racing attendances declined in the same way although they were not subject to tax. In fact, horse racing was given a differential advantage over greyhound racing in which greyhound racing was heavily taxed and horse racing was never taxed. Nevertheless, both attendances declined together.

Hon. Members have to be candid with themselves. The attractions of colour television and the tendencies of family life these days all have an effect on attendances at race meetings, taxed or untaxed. I will not go into all the social philosophising which goes on about the recreational aspects of our lives, but all have an effect.

We shall brood carefully over everything that has been said, and we shall watch to see whether any of the dire consequences on the market develop. We are concerned at the warnings of hon. Members about the danger of the growth of illegal betting. This becomes very important. I know that when we have discussed the betting tax on previous occasions some hon. Members have tended to think that the rates were very low. I think that that is because they do not understand the weight of this duty on a turnover of the betting kind.

My right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer is aware of these problems, and we are keeping a close watch on the situation both from the point of view of preserving the market on-course and from that of preserving the duty.

Mr. Arthur Lewis

I am grateful for my right hon. Friend's promise, but can he given an assurance that in keeping a watch on the situation he will not do it to the extent that it was done in the case of fixed odds pools on football and horse racing, when it was watched for so long that that form of betting went out of existence?

Mr. Lever

I cannot remember promising to keep an eye on fixed odds pools—

Mr. Lewis

I meant the Treasury not my right hon. Friend personally.

Mr. Lever

My hon. Friend is raising a different point where a duty was fixed in relation to an activity, and it was brought to an end because the duty was so high. Whether justified or not, that is a separate question.

While I have to reject the proposals which have been put forward, I assure the House that we shall take fully into account all the matters which have been pressed upon us. The remedy proposed by the Clause will not really achieve the great and dramatic ends urged by its advocates.

Mr. Eldon Griffiths

My hon. Friend the Member for the City of Chester (Mr. Temple) or my hon. Friend the Member for Isle of Thanet (Mr. Rees-Davies) pointed out to the right hon. Gentleman that, even if he could not accept the Clause as it stood, it was hoped that he would comment on the principle that there should be a differential for the many reasons which have been put forward.

Mr. Lever

I have already made one comment about the principle and said that we have brought in a differential this year. It was a matter closely in my right hon. Friend's mind in coming to his decision. I do not say that that is the last word on betting tax, but we have shown already some recognition of the fact that we wish to impose a lighter burden on on-course betting compared with off-course betting. From this year on, there will be a lighter burden on on-course betting. But certainly we shall keep in mind the other point made by the hon. Member for the City of Chester (Mr. Temple) about the problems of the market in laying off, placing bets and the like. But I cannot accept the Clause, and I have to ask the House to reject it.

Mr. Iain Macleod (Enfield, West)

I am grateful for the support of hon. Gentlemen opposite for the Clause. However, I hope that they will not mind if I express the hope that they have now exhausted some of their eloquence. If they talk one for one with us throughout the Report stage, we shall be here for another week or two. Although that does not worry me, it might worry the Chancellor of the Exchequer and even Mr. Speaker in due course.

I agree with much of what the Financial Secretary has said, though I do not think that he can base any part of his case on the fact that by the betting premises licence the Government have introduced a sort of Irishman's rise in a differential by taxing even more savagely those who do their betting in shops. That is not relevant to the point with which we are concerned.

I want merely to emphasise two matters, and I do not intend to ask my right hon. and hon. Friends to divide the House on this Amendment.

First, the right hon. Gentleman said that he would look carefully at the evidence that there are some signs, not yet formidable but beginning to be seen, of an element of illegal betting coming back. Naturally, at this time of the year I get an enormous postbag, and there is clear evidence from many different parts of the country that the runners are again going into the factories and that men are again standing on street corners. This would nullify much of the work which both sides of the House have tried to do over recent years.

The second and only other point which I wish to make is to emphasise to the Financial Secretary the key importance for the health of racing of a strong on-course market. Although overwhelmingly the weight of betting is off-course, the prices are determined entirely by the betting that is on-course.

I will not go into the details of how it is done. I did that in the debate on a similar Amendment a year ago. It depends on the absolute integrity of two racing journalists taking the prices that are ruling on the rails at the moment of the "Off". Those prices are accepted at once and without question not only in this country but all over the world. The health of racing depends to a great degree, therefore, on whether the on-course market is sufficiently strong.

I am closely interested in these matters, and I have studied the Benson Report carefully. I do not agree with all its findings, but I believe that there are only two possible solutions to the sort of situation which we have now. One is a Tote monopoly and the other is a strong on-course market. I know the arguments for a Tote monopoly, but I do not want to see it. I like the pattern of racing that we have. I prefer the participation of the bookmakers.

That pattern of racing needs a strong on-course market. If the market is desperately weak, and the tail is wagging a very big dog because the prices returned influence many millions of pounds in the betting shops and, indeed, all over the world, it is easier to rig it. It follows that, with a very weak market, a comparatively trifling amount—£200 or £300 —sent back through the blower on to the courses could give an entirely artificial return and, therefore, although in a perfectly open way, could rig the market. If that on-course market is strong, £200 or £300 would be nothing. Nor would £2,000 or £3,000, for that matter. It would be absorbed. On a really strong market like Epsom on Derby Day or a Royal Ascot meeting, the market cannot be rigged because the money is too strong.

7.0 p.m.

What concerns us, and I am sure that it concerns the financial Secretary, is that in the ordinary day's humdrum racing, as my hon. Friend the Member for the Isle of Thanet (Mr. Rees-Davies) said, there has been a fall of about 20 per cent. in the attendance of on-course bookmaking. This has reflected itself in turn in the weakness of the market, and this lays the way wide open to undesirable possibilities.

I draw these two points seriously to the attention of the Financial Secretary, who has shown that he is aware of them. I believe that the principle is right. The money is not very large, but I think that there ought to be a clear differential between the tax on on-course betting and the tax on off-course betting. I hope in a not-too-distant future Budget that will come about.

The Financial Secretary has shown himself to be well aware of the matters which have been pressed from both sides of the House. Therefore, I am content that the new Clause should be negatived.

Question put and negatived.

Mr. Speaker

Perhaps it is convenient to remind the House that we have ahead of us, in the two remaining days on Report stage, 40 debates at least. Therefore, reasonably brief speeches will help.

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