§ 10.26 p.m.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Elystan Morgan)
I beg to move Amendment No. 1, in page 2, line 7, leave out subsection (4).
The effect of the Amendment would be to remove subsection (4), which was inserted in Committee against Government advice. The subsection applies when the Secretary of State has to determine a dispute between the bookmakers and the Horserace Betting Levy Board about a scheme for a levy period. It requires the Secretary of State to have regard to the needs of horseracing, horse breeding and veterinary science, and also to the capacity of bookmakers to pay. Both these factors, the needs of horseracing and the capacity to pay, are expressly related by the subsection to the levy period in question.
The arguments for including the subsection were based broadly on two grounds—first, that the requirement to take into account a bookmaker's capacity to pay had formed part of the agreement with the bookmakers when the Levy Board was set up in 1961, that this secured their co-operation with the arrangements and, for that reason, should be regarded as an agreement that had been written into the Act; and, 564 second, that it provided an essential safeguard for the bookmakers. Discussion of this issue is central to the Bill.
As I hope to explain, there is not a wide gulf between the Government and the Opposition on the substance, but I hope that I can also convince the House that to leave the subsection in the Bill would not only serve no useful purpose, but would also be positively objectionable. I readily accept the contention of right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite that the inclusion of this provision in 1961 constituted a recognition of the desire of the bookmakers for a safeguard and that recent events have not led the bookmakers to feel any diminution of their grounds for anxiety. What I hope to persuade the House is that this requirement never constituted the safeguard that it appeared, that the recent history of the levy demonstrates not the value but rather the harm of such a provision and that the supposed safeguard will no longer be relevant in the changed situation which will result from the Bill.
The determination of the levy for any particular period is, in the last resort, a simple matter of striking a balance between the needs of horseracing and the ability of bookmakers to pay. In passing, I would mention the fact that the capacity of the Totalisator Board to pay also has to be included in the balance. This factor was included in the 1961 legislation, but was omitted from this subsection, with consequences to which I shall refer in a moment. The operation is simple enough to describe; it is much more difficult to carry out, because both sides of the equation are variables.
The bookmakers' capacity to pay is at least subject to the limit of their maximum resources, though it is a matter for argument whether this should be taken to include capital or resources other than those deployed in their book-making activities. However, this question must be asked: what part of their resources is it within their capacity to pay? According to the strict, grammatical interpretation of the words, if they are allowed to retain no more than enough to maintain themselves and their families at subsistence level, then, strictly speaking, they are capable of paying the 565 remainder, after tax and duty, to the levy. That is the strict and proper interpretation of the Amendment which was carried in Committee and which we now seek to delete. That cannot be what the protagonists of the Amendment had in mind.
Interpreted in this way, it would clearly represent no safeguard whatever. All concerned would probably agree that the intention at which we are aiming is to determine not what bookmakers are capable of paying, but what it is reasonable for them to pay. Their view of this will often, if not always, differ from that of horseracing interests.
The other side of the balance, the needs of racing, is not subject to any precise limit. We are, therefore, faced with a situation in which it is a matter of determining a reasonable level of expenditure to match a reasonable level of levy. Moreover, one's view of reasonableness is likely to differ according to whether it is held by a bookmaker or somebody else concerned with racing. It may also vary from time to time.
Under the present law, bookmakers are required to prepare schemes for the Levy Board. If a scheme is approved by the Board, or if a bookmaker fails to submit one, a determination is arrived at by the chairman of the Board, assisted by two other independent members of the Board. It is in this situation that Statute requires the three members to consider and compare the three items of the needs of horseracing, and so on, the capacity of bookmakers to pay and the capacity of the Totalisator Board to pay. As I have mentioned, this requirement to consider and compare inter alia their capacity to pay is regarded by the bookmakers as an essential safeguard which they are not prepared to abandon.
I ask the House to consider the circumstances which have made the Bill necessary. During the early years of the levy the bookmakers did not seriously question the amount of the contribution sought from them. Eight levy periods have occurred since the passing of the 1961 Act and six levy schemes were made without demur. It was only with the seventh levy period, and, more particularly, with the eighth that, they challenged the amount and went so far as to 566 declare it illegal. If this was a good challenge, I cannot understand why the courts have not been asked to determine the issue. But this has not happened. Instead, it has proved necessary to introduce legislation to amend the arrangements because a complete deadlock was reached and a breakdown occurred.
I cannot believe that it can seriously be contended that a safeguard should be such that, when relied on, it brings about an impasse from which legislation is the only way out. In the view of the Government, therefore, not only is capacity to pay an imprecise, if not meaningless, criterion for the context; it is also one which has failed to operate properly as a safeguard on the first occasion when it has come to be relied on.
I pause to comment on the suggestion made in Committee that a capacity to pay is not an imprecise concept because it is one constantly used in the courts in fixing the amount of fines. The two contexts are quite different. What I have said about the possible meanings of "capacity to pay" disposes of this. I cannot believe that the bookmakers would be content that the only limit placed upon the levy was the consideration that they would not be required to pay the levy if their resources were such that they would not be required to pay a fine in similar circumstances.
We come back to the same point; "capacity to pay" can be given an objective meaning in the context of enforcement of criminal sanctions, but this is a very different meaning from the one which I have in mind where the issue is much more subjective. The Government have produced the Bill, which provides a quite different safeguard. Under the Bill the responsibility, in the event of a dispute in determining the amount of levy, has been transferred from the independent members of the Levy Board to the Secretary of State.
§ Mr. Morgan
I was mentioning this in the context of the deadlock which had occurred.
It had become clear that the independent members of the Levy Board, who must necessarily be closely associated 567 with claims of expenditure on horse-racing, had come to be seen by the bookmakers as insufficiently independent to exercise this determination. The same charge cannot be levelled against the Secretary of State, who will be completely independent in exercising this function. I stress that beyond all the argument and rhetoric we had on Second Reading and in Committee it is this transfer of responsibility which will provide the bookmakers with their real safeguard.
It has been asked why, when the Secretary of State is to exercise this judgment in a manner which is not only to be independent, but also seen to be independent, he should object to the words in the subsection which require him to act in the way that he will undoubtedly have to act. I assure the House that if there were not solid objections to these words, the Home Secretary would be content to accept the Amendment made in Committee. I also give the House this assurance. In exercising the functions conferred on him by the Bill, the Home Secretary will have regard to the capacity of the bookmakers to pay and also of the ability to pay of the Tote Board. At the same time, he will have regard to the needs of horse-racing.
I cannot see how the Home Secretary could carry out this function without having regard to these factors, but I am fully aware of the anxieties that have been expressed by the bookmakers and, for that reason, I give that considered assurance.
§ Mr. Arthur Lewis (West Ham, North)
We accept unreservedly the promise and pledge given by my hon. Friend, but he knows as well as I that, much as we would like the present Home Secretary to be in his job for all time, he cannot always be there. We cannot be sure that the pledge will be carried out by whoever holds the position in future. Why not write it into the Bill?
§ Mr. Morgan
If it were written into the Bill, it would be competent for a subsequent Home Secretary to introduce new legislation to change it again. I appreciate the anxieties expressed by bookmakers on this account, but it is not acceptable for these words to be written 568 into the Statute. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why not?"] The situation as it will be when the Bill becomes law will not be the same as the situation created by the Act of 1961. That Act set up in the three independent members of the Levy Board an independent tribunal and gave them guidelines for exercising their functions.
Events have shown those guidelines to be wholly illusory. The bookmakers' safeguard appeared to be the independence of the determining tribunal and the intention of the term "capacity to pay". The independence has been called into question, and the words "capacity to pay" have proved to have no objective content to which a further appeal can be made.
Therefore, the lesson we must learn from this is that in the peculiarly difficult situation of this adjudication we must rely on seeking objectivity in the adjudicator, and not in vague, woolly, imprecise criteria. Against this background, it would be wrong to suggest in the legislation that in exercising his new functions the Home Secretary would be governed by an external criterion which has proved only a source of disagreement, and which it has proved impossible to translate into a satisfactory and practical guide. To include this provision would be no more than to incorporate the illusion of a safeguard and to perpetuate the arid disputes which have led to the introduction of the Bill.
The bookmakers' guarantee is the Home Secretary's independence, and the assurance I have given that he will act impartially and have regard to what it is reasonable—and I maintain that that is the real criterion—that the bookmakers should pay. It is primarily for this reason that I ask the House to accept the Amendment.
In addition to this fundamental objection of principle, there are some technical objections to the Amendment made in Committee. First, the subsection fails to reproduce fully the provisions of the 1961 Act which are now being omitted, in that it makes no reference to the contributions to be made by the Totalisator Board. It is a relevant part of the calculation resulting in the determination of the levy to compare the contribution that can be made by the bookmakers and the Tote Board respectively.
569 The omission of the Tote Board would of itself make it impossible for the Home Secretary to carry out his functions properly. As I stressed in Committee, it is not a question of considering the capacity to pay in vacuo, but the capacity of the bookmakers to pay in relation to, and as compared with, the capacity of the Totalisator Board to pay.
If this were all that were wron? with the subsection it would not be difficult to amend it by including a reference to the Tote Board, but the wording of the subsection is significantly different from the wording of the original legislation in another respect. The latter required the independent members of the Board to consider and compare the three factors enumerated, and to make their own determination in the light of that consideration and comparison.
§ Mr. Timothy Kitson (Richmond, Yorks)
Is not it a fact that before the Tote decides on its dividends it deducts the taxation and its contribution to the levy, so that it is never in a position where it is unable to pay?
§ Mr. Morgan
I think that I must accept the point the hon. Gentleman has made, but I am sure that if he reads carefully Section 27(5) of the Betting, Gaming and Lotteries Act, 1963, he will see from the very way the three criteria are set out that it is obvious that they are to be considered in apposition one to another, and not just in isolation. I am not making any point over and beyond that.
Under the wording of the subsection introduced in Committee the Secretary of State appears to be required to have regard to the two factors mentioned to the exclusion of any other consideration which might be relevant. This is not acceptable, and I therefore invite the House to accept the Amendment, which will have the effect of deleting the Amendment made in Committee.
§ 10.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Fergus Montgomery (Brierley Hill)
I have not heard such a weak case from the Government Front Bench for a long time. I do not know what the Under-Secretary of State is playing at. I wonder what we who were on the Committee were doing in considering the Bill line by line. The Government were defeated in Committee after a fair debate 570 but, instead of accepting defeat gracefully—something which the Government seem unable to do—they now use their Lobby fodder to get this objectionable Measure through.
§ The Amendment carried in Committee was moved by my hon. Friend the Member for City of Chester (Mr. John M. Temple), and there was a full discussion of it. It was a sensible Amendment. The 1961 Act was largely brought about because the bookmakers agreed to cooperate on the understanding that it would be written into the Act that they would not have to pay beyond their capacity. My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Huntingdonshire (Sir D. Renton), then at the Home Office, made this clear in the Standing Committee considering the Act when it was still a Bill, and it was never really denied. Now the Government are going back on the undertaking given to bookmakers then.
§ The Under-Secretary of State assured us on Second Reading that the Home Secretary would consider bookmakers' financial capacity in proposing any levy scheme. Why, then, are the Government seeking to delete the Amendment made in Committee? The Amendment was designed to remove an ambiguity, to make the situation clearly understood. Despite that Second Reading assurance, I can assure the hon. Gentleman that the bookmakers are very concerned about this legislation. We have been told time and again that they have nothing to fear, but certainly the bookmakers, including those in my constituency, are still concerned, particularly about the removal of the Amendment carried in Committee.
§ Mr. Elystan Morgan
I have tried to make it clear, on Second Reading, in Committee and on Report, that, whereas my right hon. Friend is willing to accept the spirit of that provision, he regards, as I regard, the wording of the Amendment as being so imprecise as to be incapable of proper definition. Furthermore, in any event he is not willing to confine his discretion to that element.
§ Mr. Montgomery
That will not do. If the hon. Gentleman does believe that, why not put the provision into satisfactory wording? That is surely the whole purpose of this exercise. The bookmakers 571 are not satisfied with the assurances they have had from the Government. The Levy Board says that they can pass on this charge to the punter. That means that the bookmaker must make a bigger deduction on any winning bets, which could mean the growth of illegal betting and the ruin of the smaller bookmaker.
The point has been made repeatedly that many small bookmakers are concerned about this, although the Under-Secretary of State shook his head in disagreement, I think, when I mentioned it on Second Reading. If the small bookmakers are driven out of business, and there is a growth of illegal betting, this will mean that the amount of turnover that takes place amongst registered bookmakers is likely to drop, with a consequent reduction in the amount of money accruing to the Board.
I ask the Government to think seriously about this again. If they are of the same option as those of us on this side, could they not bring forward a provision which would put this matter clearly into the Bill, thus ensuring that the bookmakers have their safeguard? I hope that the hon. Gentleman will be more forthcoming and will try to ensure that the safeguards the bookmakers are seeking are included in the Bill.
§ Mr. Brian Walden (Birmingham, All Saints)
From many points of view, this Amendment is unfortunate. It must have been apparent to my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State and to everyone else who served on the Standing Committee that the majority of the Committee wanted the Bill but that they had doubts—mine were very strong—about Clause 1. However Clause 1 was phrased in its entirety—and that is not what we are now discussing—there are doubts, and hon. Members had sufficient doubts to make them change the nature of the Bill in Committee on the matter of capacity to pay. [interruption.] My hon. Friend interjects to ask how I voted. I voted with the minority, with the Government, upstairs, and I will explain why, and why the Government have been unwise to act in this way.
I accepted upstairs, and all along, one part of the argument my hon. Friend makes, but I hope to show him that he 572 is trying to have it both ways. I accept that part of his argument where he says that capacity to pay has never been construed in the courts and has no legal validity but might conceivably be much against the bookmakers' interests, and that therefore if they thought this was a safeguard they were mistaken, and it would therefore be unwise to have this provision in legislation.
All this seemed to me to be so, but there are strong arguments on the other side which my hon. Friend did not meet or mention. Bookmakers do think it a safeguard. They may be in error—people frequently are—in thinking that they have a safeguard, but it cannot be stressed too often that this legislation cannot work as it was originally intended to if one does not have the co-operation of the bookmakers. If they are put in a position where they feel they are being coerced, the situation will be unfortunate and the Government—not just this Government but any Government—will find that what was originally intended to work Will not work. One will not get bookmakers putting up acceptable proposals and there will be constant appeals to the Home Secretary. That cannot be the Government's objective. Their real objective is to cut the Gordian knot and to get the present levy scheme accepted.
Once the bookmakers are persuaded that they have no real safeguard and are being coerced and that unjust amounts are being taken from them, that will tend to be a permanent situation. That should be taken into account. Many things difficult to construe in legislation are believed to be guarantees which in the courts are found not to be so. but nevertheless the citizen and the interested group often cherish them, and my hon. Friend does not need to convince me of that. That is a point to which the Government should have had some regard.
If I accept my hon. Friend's arguments—and from so distinguished a lawyer I have no difficulty in doing that—about the legal worthlessness of the guarantee, it is difficult to see why the Government are so eager to remove it. Why brush aside the objections? If the objections were because this had been wrongly drafted, the Government could have put down the necessary technical 573 Amendment to tidy it up. They have not, and my hon. Friend was careful—as he always is—to say that this proposal was unacceptable to the Government. It is bound to stir suspicions if all we were doing was trying to put into the Bill a guarantee which bookmakers in their wisdom thought was of some value, whereas the Government in their wisdom strongly suspect that it is not. If the Home Secretary were a man of folly instead of a man of sense, he could use this to make the bookmakers' life intolerable and the Government would have said: "Let them have it". That would be the normal reaction. If the Government did not take that view there is bound to be some suspicion.
I make it clear that I accept the guarantees which were given by my hon. Friend that the Home Secretary's intentions are to be construed with regard to capacity to pay, but the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for West Ham, North (Mr. Arthur Lewis) should be borne in mind. I am tired of being told, not only on this Bill but on many others, that one Parliament cannot bind another and that one Home Secretary cannot make judgments which bind another Home Secretary. My hon. Friend's guarantees, though valuable, therefore, are, to say the least, limited.
Moreover, I am not wholly certain that we have heard the entire story. I do not suggest that anything which my hon. Friend said was untrue or was meant to be untrue, but I feel that much was not said. We are to go over to the principle of a turnover tax. That seems sensible. The Chairman of the Board wanted that change and, as so often, he is right. Previously it has been a tax on profit. I understand that the bookmakers were prepared to accept the principle of turnover, and if so they were wise, because a tax on profit is not satisfactory from the point of view of providing the revenue which is needed.
But a tax on profit has at least one advantage: the capacity to pay is fairly easy to construe. Any court can have some regard to the amount of profit which has been made and a judge can take into consideration what appears to be a reasonable amount which should be abstracted in levy. If it is said, as it has been said in the House, that bookmakers 574 sometimes conceal profits and do not always declare what they ought to declare. That is a matter for the Inland Revenue and for the courts, and in this context it is not a matter for the Government.
The situation in considering turnover is quite different. A bookmaker can easily have an extremely large turnover and a very small profit. I will not weary the House with examples, because I promised to be brief, but I could give several ways in which it is by no means unlikely that a bookmaker would have a very large turnover and a very small residual profit. That situation is well known to all the interested parties—bookmakers, Levy Board and, I suspect, the Government.
This, I suspect, is the unstated reason why the Government are reluctant to have reference to capacity to pay. They are reluctant, not because it might go to the courts and prove to be no guarantee, but because when it goes to the courts probing questions will be asked about how capacity to pay relates to a levy based on turnover. The Government understandably sees difficulties and complexities and wishes to be rid of them. I take the other view, because if what I suspect is, in fact, true, we may well be removing a genuine safeguard from the bookmakers which was contained in the original legislation and which was included to cover a number of aspects of hypothetical change within the Levy Board, one of which was not at the time, as far as I am aware, but might have been, a shift in the nature of the levy.
I bring these points to my hon. Friend's attention. Taking them into account and weighing them against the very fair points which he made, I think that the balance lies with the Amendment passed in Committee. The Government have been unwise to reopen the subject.
§ 11.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Charles Morrison (Devizes)
I cannot believe that the Under-Secretary of State can be anything other than convinced, if he would be prepared to be objective for a moment, by the arguments put to him by my hon. Friend the Member for Brierley Hill (Mr. Montgomery) and the hon. Member for Birmingham, All Saints (Mr. Walden). 575 The arguments put forward tonight by the Under-Secretary were no more convincing now than they were in Committee, and they have been weakened by all that has been said by those who have spoken.
I cannot see why subsection (4) of Clause 1 should be a stumbling block or a disadvantage to any reasonable levy scheme which might be determined by the Home Secretary. Equally, on the other hand, it provides a safeguard for the bookmakers. With the subsection in the Bill the bookmakers will continue to feel reasonably secure and they will continue to believe that they have an assured future, but without the subsection the bookmakers will, in my opinion, look forward each year with fearful anticipation to the announcement of the next levy scheme if it has to be determined by the Home Secretary.
It may be said that it will never be the intention to destroy the bookmakers as we now know them, because they are the geese which lay the golden eggs for racing. It may be claimed that it is not intended to create a Tote monopoly. Indeed, the Benson Report, racing's own report on the industry, said that although a Tote monopoly was feasible it was extremely unlikely that a situation could arise in which there could be a Tote monopoly for at least 10 years. Nevertheless, without the safeguard contained in the subsection, the bookmakers will have to live with the fear that they can be slowly bled into extinction. They will fear that a Tote monopoly can be created via the back door.
I do not deny the possibility that at some time in the future, whether it be 10 or 20 years ahead, it may be right and proper that there should be a Tote monopoly, but if there is to be a Tote monopoly let it be debated openly in the House of Commons and decided here. Do not let it occur by any backdoor method such as might result from the removal of subsection (4).
Therefore, I appeal again to the Under-Secretary to reconsider what he has said. To do so would be not only in the interests of the Government, but I believe that it would be in the interests of the bookmakers and of the whole racing industry.
§ Mr. Arthur Lewis
I was pleased to hear my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, All Saints (Mr. Walden) address the House on this matter, because he was challenged about what he did and he explained what he did. I want to explain not only what I did but my attitude to the Amendment and to the whole Bill.
It has been rightly said that the majority of the Standing Committee were in favour of the Bill. I was the odd man out, and I am still the odd man out. I am against the whole principle of the Bill because of the Amendment, which shows how unfair the whole position is. Only one member of the Standing Committee was against the Bill. After full, free and frank discussion, the Committee came to a decision. Incidentally, all the points now being discussed and debated, including those put forward by my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary, were put in Committee, and yet the Government lost the day.
§ Sir D. Renton
It is not true to say that the Under-Secretary deployed in Committee the elaborate case that he has deployed tonight. Many of the points that we have heard from him tonight were not put by him before.
§ Mr. Lewis
It is true that his explanation of the legal interpretation was additional. I was going on to say, however, that the general principle was put in Committee, including the fact, which my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary has stated tonight, that the Home Secretary is not only in favour of giving the guarantee of the principle to pay, but has said that he means to observe it. I interjected to say that I had no doubts of the honesty and sincerity of the Home Secretary and the Under-Secretary. I believe what the Under-Secretary said on behalf of the Home Secretary, but the present Home Secretary will not always hold that office. As my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham All Saints said, the interpretation of Acts of Parliament is difficult and sometimes has to be decided by the courts.
The Under-Secretary has made a declaration in the House on behalf of the Home Secretary, but two years hence if the present Home Secretary is no longer in office, will we then be able to say, "Yes, but in 1969, late at night, after 577 other important business had been discussed, an Under-Secretary said that this was then the Home Secretary's intention"? Whoever may be the Home Secretary then, whether on this side or on the other side, would say, "I am not responsible for what that Home Secretary said: I did not say it; I am implementing the Act."
If the Home Secretary is willing to give this guarantee, why is there a need for the Amendment? If the Under-Secretary is right that the Amendment carried in Committee was not drafted as well as it might have been, a properly worded Amendment could have been drawn up by those qualified to do so which could have been brought in either here or in another place. If, as the Under-Secretary says, the Home Secretary is willing to give this guarantee, why could it not have been incorporated in a suitably-worded Amendment?
I do not agree with my hon. Friend about the levy being on turnover rather than on profits. I am not here speaking for the bookmakers, although I am with them on this one issue.
The hon. Member for Brierley Hill (Mr. Montgomery) said that ultimately the punters will pay this levy. Thus the ordinary man or woman will be paying an additional tax with no opportunity of deciding how it is to be spent. My hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, All Saints, is in favour of the Bill because it helps horseracing; so it does up to a point. But it also gives a very large tax-free subsidy to wealthy racehorse owners.—[Interruption.] It may be that hon. Members think this is out of order, but if the question of the capacity to pay is in order this must be in order, because if the money is not found then the Horserace Betting Levy Board will get no money, and without the money these huge tax-free prizes could not be given. It is all tied up with the question of capacity to pay.
Going through the record, I have been amazed at the number of right hon. and hon. Members who raised this very point when they were not in Government. The present Minister of Public Building and Works was described by Mr. R. A. Butler, then the Home Secretary, as the champion of the bookmakers. The then Home Secretary agreed that it was not right to 578 take this money officially from the bookmakers unless some consideration was given to the question of capacity to pay. A former Deputy Speaker also spoke then in similar vein——
§ Mr. Lewis
The present Leader of the House, the present Foreign Secretary and the present Lord Chancellor all spoke in favour of this idea. So did the present Minister of State, Home Office, Lord Stonham. Lord Stonham is on record as saying of the bookmaker:He is almost always at risk because he is rarely able to lay against the whole field, and hardly ever able to make his book so that, like the Tote, he is certain of a profit, whichever horse wins. His profits are frequently in inverse ratio to his turnover, because his turnover is always bigger when his customers are enjoying a winning run and are therefore reinvesting. In a year of bigger turnover a bookmaker often makes less profit than in a year of small turnover."—[OFFICIAL REPORT. House of Lords, 28th February, 1961; Vol. 229. c. 18.]I could quote others—there is a whole list of them.
I have never heard any logical reason given for introducing this Amendment now. If the Home Secretary is in favour of this principle, perhaps I may be given an assurance that provision will be made in another place. If I were to get that assurance, I would not even oppose the Third Reading.
§ Sir D. Renton
It is not unknown for Governments to reverse decisions of Standing Committees, but it is not usual for them to do so unless there are very good and strong reasons for it. We have not been given any such reasons in this present case. If good and strong reasons are not given for disagreement with Standing Committees, there is the risk that members of Standing Committees may feel that their time and effort are being wasted, and it really makes Standing Committee procedure into somewhat of a mockery, as my hon. Friend the Member for Brierley Hill (Mr. Montgomery) quite rightly pointed out.
As for the reasons put forward by the Government in support of their attitude that when the Home Secretary has to decide these matters he should not need to have regard to the needs of horse-racing and the capacity of bookmakers 579 to pay, the Under-Secretary has at each stage shifted his ground. On Second Reading the hon. Gentleman said that among the things that would have to be taken into account, besides the ability of the bookmakers to pay and the needs of horseracing would be all manner of other considerations—the financial policies of the Government and wider social considerations.
§ 11.15 p.m.
In Standing Committee we criticised this attitude, and I said:
''I can imagine nothing more calculated to destroy confidence in the Government's intentions than the thought that this levy scheme might depend upon the general financial policies of the Government and wider social considerations instead of the only two things that are relevant …"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee E, 18th February, 1969; c. 117.]
I went on to mention those two factors.
§ In Committee, the hon. Gentleman, wisely and not surprisingly, made no attempt to justify what he had said on Second Reading. Indeed, by implication he abandoned it altogether. Instead he used the argument that although it was right that the Levy Board, especially the "three wise men", should have to have regard to these factors under the 1961 Act, the Home Secretary should not in future, as he put it, be "cabin'd, cribb'd., confin'd." in this way. The hon. Gentleman claimed that by bringing in a Minister of the Crown in place of the three wise men a totally new situation had been created which did "not call for guidance".
§ Tonight he tries to justify the Government's extraordinary behaviour by a number of elaborately deployed but hair-splitting arguments. It would take a long time to deal with all of them in detail, but I think that I should mention what appeared to me to be the climax of his speech when he said the question that the Home Secretary would have to decide would be not what the bookmakers were capable of paying, but what it was reasonable for them to pay in the light of their resources. Therefore, we have to infer that it may be considered reasonable by the Home Secretary to ask them to pay beyond their capacity, and yet in the next sentence or so of his speech the hon. Gentleman gave an assurance that that would not be done.580
§ It leaves us in a most extraordinary position. It is unreasonable in any circumstances to ask bookmakers to pay beyond their capacity whether it has been decided in the courts or is ever likely to be.
§ Mr. Elystan Morgan
I never suggested that any Home Secretary would ever seek to make the bookmakers pay beyond their capacity. What I said was that if the words had to be interpreted by a court strictly in accordance with their grammatical meaning, it would be logical for the court to come to that conclusion, which is rather different.
§ Sir D. Renton
The hon. Gentleman dishonours the judicial branch of our profession if that is his view. How can it be considered to be reasonable to ask people in these circumstances to pay beyond their capacity to pay?
However, I shall not split hairs with the hon. Gentleman, because I want to come to what I think is the more important aspect which was mentioned by the hon. Member for Birmingham, All Saints (Mr. Walden), who made such valuable contributions to the Committee's debates. As he rightly said, with the exception of the hon. Member for West Ham, North (Mr. Arthur Lewis), everybody agreed that the Bill was needed, although most of us had doubts of one kind or another about Clause 1. I was one who had to try to persuade the bookies in 1960–61 that it was right that Parliament should call upon them to make compulsory contributions—and let us not forget that they were compulsory contributions—for the first time by Statute for the benefit of horseracing.
I say that the Government are making a great mistake in going back on what was clearly the understanding of Parliament and of the bookmakers at the time that that legislation was passed. I cannot understand why the Government have been so obstinate about this. So far tonight there has not been one speech in the hon. Gentleman's favour. If the betting levy schemes are to work effectively in future so that racing benefits, it is essential, as has been pointed out by my hon. Friend the Member for Devizes (Mr. Charles Morrison), to retain the confidence of the bookies, whether we support them or not against the Tote.
581 As the hon. Member for Birmingham, All Saints has said—and nobody can deny this—the bookies regard the insertion in the Bill of these words which are in dispute tonight as a safeguard. But the confidence of the bookies will be badly shaken if the Home Secretary, when approving those schemes referred to him after disagreement between the three wise men and the bookmakers, can make his decision without any guiding principles at all being laid down by Parliament.
The Home Secretary—I do not say this Home Secretary, because we have had an assurance tonight—will be free in law to make an impost which would require the bookies to pay beyond their capacity. That would be wrong, unfair, and a breach of the undertaking expressly written into the 1961 Act, but now to be repealed by the Government. This is utterly deplorable, and I advise my right hon. and hon. Friends to divide against the Government on this matter unless the hon. Gentleman, having heard the very strong words used on both sides of the House, will take the responsibility upon himself of saying that the Government are prepared to have second thoughts about it.
If the Minister wants it tidied up, it can be dealt with in another place. There were particular technical reasons for not making the Tote Board subject to this provision on this occasion. I will not weary the House with those technical reasons, but it was not through any prejudice against the Tote Board or in favour of the bookies. There were sound technical reasons. But if the Government feel that that should be done, let it be done in another place. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will take the responsibility upon himself tonight of having these second thoughts. Otherwise, I suggest that we divide.
§ Mr. Roy Roebuck (Harrow, East)
On a point of order. Is there to be no opportunity for those hon. Members who happen to be in support to give an expression of view in the light of what has been said by the right hon. and learned Member for Huntingdonshire (Sir D. Renton)?
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Harry Gourlay)
I understood the Minister to rise. It is the normal practice of the House to call the Minister if he rises. But if the Minister wishes to give way, perhaps those Members who wish to speak would indicate their desire to do so.
§ Mr. Roebuck
I think that the bladder of nonsense which has been inflated by hon. Members who have spoken so far can be punctured swiftly.
First, I will deal with the argument that somehow or other the proceedings on which we are engaged tonight are undemocratic. This view was put forward by the hon. Member for Brierley Hill (Mr. Montgomery), who got so excited I feared lest he should go into orbit on the matter.
But what are the facts? The hon. Gentleman maintains that somehow or other the Standing Committee was persuaded by the great oratory coming from himself and other hon. Members opposite to turn this matter aside and not go along with the Bill as it was. The facts are somewhat different. The vote went that way because two hon. Members on the Government side of the Committee happened to be out of the room at the time the vote was taken. It is as simple as that—[Interruption.] I hardly think, therefore, that it can be maintained that we are engaged on an undemocratic procedure in considering it again.
That point of view was put somewhat more lucidly, but even more nonsensically, by the right hon. and learned Member for Huntingdonshire. If the House of Commons should not reconsider these matters on Report, I should like to know why we have Report stage at all If one were to take the right hon. and learned Gentleman's argument to its logical conclusion, one might suggest that Bills went from Second Reading to Standing Committee and then straight to Royal Assent.
§ Mr. Roebuck
That is so, but I am, with respect, replying to certain arguments which were put forward.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. I allowed certain hon. Members to make incidental references to what happened in Committee. I do not think that the point should be pursued at length.
§ Mr. Roebuck
I have no desire to pursue the point at length. As I think I said, it is a point which does not need to be pursued at length; and, having made it, I trust with some degree of effectiveness, I shall leave it.
The other issue is whether we are in some way being unfair to bookmakers. I dissent strongly from that view, because it seems to me that the whole object of the Bill is to give them more protection. The position will be that instead of bookmakers going to some body which is not responsible to Parliament, we shall be responsible. Therefore, the Home Secretary can be questioned in the House and be subjected to various other restraints and disciplines which hon. Members can put on him. I think that the arguments which have been advanced on this issue by some hon. Gentlemen opposite and by two of my hon. Friends, one of whom has had a blinding conversion on the matter since we met in Standing Committee, fall to the ground. I do not underestimate the strength of the House of Commons in dealing with matters such as this both on the Floor of the House and in private representations.
Nor is it true, from my study of a journal called Sporting Life, which is a new journal to me, to say that all bookmakers are opposed to this Measure. Indeed, there appears to be a division of opinion, and many bookmakers appear to be in favour of it, so that is another false point.
Those bookmakers whom I have met since becoming engaged on this Measure have impressed me greatly. The bookmaker has always been part of the Nonconformist demonology. He has always been regarded as a somewhat horrible man, but those whom I have met while on the Committee have changed my view. I find them much pleasanter characters than those other gamblers, the stockbrokers. Why it should be thought that stockbrokers are fit for decent society while bookmakers are not, I do not know.
I find none of the arguments which have been put forward, apart from that 584 of my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary, at all convincing, and I shall support my hon. Friend if hon. Gentlemen opposite are foolish enough to divide the House.
§ Mr. William Hamling (Woolwich, West)
The House has every right to disagree with what Standing Committees say, and I am sure that no one would deny the right of the House—[Interruption.]—I shall tell the hon. Gentleman privately where I was when a certain vote took place. I was not in the Crypt.
§ Sir D. Renton
Would the hon. Gentleman agree that absenting oneself from a Committee room when there is about to be a Division is one of the best ways of crypto abstention?
§ Mr. Hamling
One is sometimes misinformed by the Whip about when a certain vote will take place. We have one or two outstanding examples of that with us tonight.
I have made the point that the House is within its competence in disagreeing with a Standing Committee. After all, a Standing Committee represents only a small section of opinion. I am glad to see the Opposition Chief Whip agreeing with me for once.
§ 11.30 p.m.
§ The second point is the material one. The whole purpose of the levy is to produce revenue. No Government and no Home Secretary and no chairman of a levy board would accept a position where the Board's revenue would decrease because of some bias or act against bookmakers. It is bookmakers' income which provides the Board's income. I do not know what all the fuss is about. It is in the Board's interests that bookmakers' income should increase. This industry does not exist for the benefit of bookmakers. It exists for the benefit of people who take a joy in horseracing. This is not a charter for the bookmakers. It is a charter for people who attend race meetings. My view of the Board's operation is that it is the Board's purpose to maximise the revenue and make racing attractive to the public. The subsection is irrelevant to the basic purpose of the Bill.
§ Mr. Elystan Morgan
Mr. Deputy Speaker, I would not wish to incur your displeasure by dwelling for too long on the constitutional question of how far 585 the House on Report is entitled to reverse a decision taken in Standing Committee. Since this question has been made one of the main arguments of those who oppose the Amendment, it is right that I should refer briefly to it.
It is alleged in a letter which was circularised to right hon. and hon. Members yesterday that the very fact of this Amendment being moved is contrary to the democratic decision of the Standing Committee. The vote was lost 9 to 8 in Committee. The Committee consisted of 20 Members. It was, therefore, only a minority of the Committee that reached that decision. Even if a Committee reached a decision by an overwhelming majority, I maintain that it is right for the House on Report—it is, indeed, a necessary function of the House—to take that into account and, if it wishes to reach a different conclusion, it is entitled to do so.
§ Mr. Kitson
Is the Under-Secretary suggesting that, unless he gets 50 per cent. of the House with him in the Lobby tonight, he will not have a democratic majority?
§ Mr. Morgan
I am not suggesting that. I want to disabuse hon. Members of the misconception that the Amendment was carried in Committee by an overwhelming majority. I do not want to go into the detail of that occasion and explain exactly how it happened. It might not be the most edifying record to give to the House. All that can be said of the Committee's decision is that the best argument on that occasion appeared to be a majority. I believe that there is only one way of refuting that argument. I trust that we shall be able to do that before long.
The old broken-winded nag of illegal betting has been trotted out again this evening. I repeat what I said in Committee. If hon. Members have concrete evidence of this and would tender it discreetly, the Home Office would be grateful. But no evidence has been produced——
§ Mr. Montgomery
But would not the hon. Gentleman agree that if the tax on the bookmaker is increased there is a danger of illegal betting at least in the industrial areas?
§ Mr. Morgan
It has been put to us that illegal betting would occur mainly because small bookmakers would be driven out of business. But, on the whole, the small bookmakers welcome the Bill, and they face an imposte which is lighter than under previous schemes. Even if they did not welcome it, there is every logical reason why they should.
With his usual skill, my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, All Saints (Mr. Walden) argued that, while half of what I had said in favour of including the capacity to pay and the needs of horseracing was reasonable, I had failed to deal with the other point. This is not just a question of drafting difficulty, but it would be difficult to put the principles described by hon. Gentlemen into legal form. There are other difficulties.
The greatest is the difficulty of securing finality when deciding on a levy for any particular period. If these criteria were put into the Bill, litigation, and even vexatious litigation, would be possible. I am sure that the actions of the present and future Home Secretaries would be well within the bounds of the Bill. Nevertheless, if such a legal process took place within a levy period, for a month or two or three, there would still be a remote and lingering doubt about whether or not the Home Secretary had the right to make such a scheme. It is that very doubt which would create the maximum damage.
I have given a solemn undertaking on behalf of the Home Secretary. I appreciate its limitations. It is binding only in a political context, but even if it were written into the Bill, it would not bind any subsequent Parliament. I take the point that, perhaps for eight years or more, bookmakers thought that this guarantee was valid, but, now, after the most detailed and microscopic examination, there can no longer be any doubts on that question and it would be wrong to reproduce, even broadly, the words of the 1961 and 1963 Acts in the Bill.
It is a somewhat unusual constitutional doctrine that legislation should proceed on the assumption that a Minister of the Crown is the only person to be entrusted with adjudication and, at the same time, to assume that subsequent holders of the office cannot be entrusted to have the integrity to be impartial in that situation.
587 I do not accept the indictment of the right hon. and learned Member for Huntingdonshire (Sir D. Renton) that I have changed my ground. If he will study in the OFFICIAL REPORT what I have said on this subject he will note that on Second Reading, before coming to the question of the necessity to bring in wider considerations than those mentioned in Section 27 of the 1963 Act, I dealt with the point that we were here dealing win a different situation.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman paid me the compliment of ranging wider
§ tonight than we did in the debate in Committee. He may regard that as a justification for raising the matter yet again. However, I ask the House to consider that the machinery we are creating will operate well, that it is a just system and that it will give finality and certainty to any levy scheme. That being so, I invite hon. Members to accept the Amendment.
§ Question put, That the Amendment be made:—
§ The House divided: Ayes 122, Noes 108.589
|Division No. 110.]||AYES||[11.41 p.m.|
|Alldritt, Walter||Hamling, William||Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)|
|Atkinson, Norman (Tottenham)||Hannan, William||Murray, Albert|
|Bagier, Gordon A. T.||Harper, Joseph||Norwood, Christopher|
|Bishop, E. S.||Harrison, Walter (Wakefield)||Oakes, Gordon|
|Blenkinsop, Arthur||Haseldine, Norman||Ogden, Eric|
|Boyden, James||Hattersley, Roy||O'Malley, Brian|
|Brooks, Edwin||Heffer, Eric S.||Oswald, Thomas|
|Brown, Hugh D. (G'gow, Provan)||Herbison, Rt. Hn. Margaret||Owen, Dr. David (Plymouth, S'tn)|
|Buchan, Norman||Howie, W.||Palmer, Arthur|
|Buchanan, Richard (G'gow, Sp'burn)||Hoy, James||Pardoe, John|
|Carmichael, Neil||Huckfield, Leslie||Parkyn, Brian (Bedford)|
|Coleman, Donald||Hughes, Roy (Newport)||Pavitt, Laurence|
|Conlan, Bernard||Hynd, John||Peart, Rt. Hn. Fred|
|Dalyell, Tam||Janner, Sir Bar nett||Pentland, Norman|
|Davidson, Arthur (Accrington)||Johnson, James (K'ston-on-Hull, W.)||Perry, Ernest G. (Battersea, S.)|
|Davidson, James (Aberdeenshire, W.)||Johnston, Russell (Inverness)||Rees, Merlyn|
|Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.)||Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)||Richard, Ivor|
|Davies, Rt. Hn. Harold (Leek)||Jones, T. Alec (Rhondda, West)||Roberts, Cwilym (Bedfordshire, S.)|
|Davies, Ifor (Gower)||Judd, Frank||Robertson, John (Paisley)|
|de Fratas, Rt. Hn. sir Geoffrey||Kelley, Richard||Roebuck, Roy|
|Dempsey, James||Leadbitter, Ted||Rose, Paul|
|Dobson, Ray||Lever, L. M. (Ardwlck)||Ross, Rt. Hn. William|
|Doig, Peter||Lomas, Kenneth||Rowlands, E.|
|Dunnett, Jack||Loughlin, Charles||Silkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford)|
|Dunwoody, Mrs. Gwyneth (Exeter)||Lyons, Edward (Bradford, E.)||Silkin, Hn. S. C. (Dulwich)|
|Dunwoody, Dr. John (F'th & C'b'e)||McCann, John||Spriggs, Leslie|
|Eadie, Alex||MacColl, James||Steel, David (Roxburgh)|
|Ellis, John||Macdonald, A. H.||Thomas, Rt. Hn. George|
|Evans, loan L. (Birm'ham, Yardley)||Mackenzie, Gregor (Rutherglen)||Urwin, T. W.|
|Faulds, Andrew||Maclennan, Robert||Varley, Eric G.|
|Fernyhough, E.||MacMillan, Malcolm (Western Isles)||Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne Valley)|
|Fitch, Alan (Wigan)||McNamara, J. Kevin||Walden Brian (All Saints)|
|Fletcher, Raymond (Ilkeston)||Mahon, Peter (Preston, S.)||Walker, Harold (Doncaster)|
|Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)||Mahon, Simon (Bootle)||Watkins, David (Consett)|
|Foley, Maurice||Mallalieu, J.P.W.(Huddersfield, E.)||Watkins, Tudor (Brecon & Radnor)|
|Fowler, Gerry||Manuel, Archie||Williams, Clifford (Abertillery)|
|Freeson, Reginald||Maxwell, Robert||Williams, Mrs. Shirley (Hitchin)|
|Galpern, Sir Myer||Mendelsen, J. J.||Wilson, William (Coventry, S.)|
|Cray, Dr. Hugh (Yarmouth)||Millan, Bruce|
|Grey, Charles (Durham)||Miller, Dr. M. S.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Griffiths, Eddie (Brightside)||Milne, Edward (Blyth)||Mr. Concannon and|
|Hamilton, James (Bothwell)||Morgan, Elystan (Cardiganshire)||Mr. Neil McBride.|
|Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead)||Brewis, John||Dalkeith, Earl of|
|Astor, John||Brinton, Sir Tatton||Dance, James|
|Atkins, Humphrey (M't'n & M'd'n)||Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. Sir Walter||Dean, Paul|
|Awdry, Daniel||Brown, Sir Edward (Bath)||Digby, Simon Wingfield|
|Baker, W. H. K. (Banff)||Bruce-Gardyne, J.||Eden, Sir John|
|Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gos. & Fhm)||Buck, Antony (Colchester)||Elliott, R.W.(N'c'tle-upon-Tyne, N.)|
|Biffen, John||Carlisle, Mark||Eyre, Reginald|
|Biggs-Davison, John||Carr, Rt. Hn. Robert||Farr, John|
|Black, Sir Cyril||Chichester-Clark, R.||Gilmour, Sir John (Fife, E.)|
|Blaker, Peter||Clegg, Walter||Glover, Sir Douglas|
|Boardman, Tom (Leicester, S.W.)||Cooper-Key, Sir Neill||Goodhart, Philip|
|Body, Richard||Crouch, David||Goodhew, Victor|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hn. John||Crowder, F. P.||Grant, Anthony|
|Boyle, Rt. Hn. Sir Edward||Currie, G. B. H.||Gresham Cooke, R.|
|Gurden, Harold||Miscampbell, Norman||Russell, Sir Ronald|
|Hall, John (Wycombe)||Mitchell, David (Basingstoke)||Scott-Hopkins, James|
|Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye)||Monro, Hector||Shaw, Michael (Sc'b'gh & Whitby)|
|Hawkins, Paul||Montgomery, Fergus||Silvester, Frederick|
|Heald, Rt. Hn. Sir Lionel||More, Jasper||Smith, John (London & W'minster)|
|Holland, Philip||Morgan, Geraint (Denbigh)||Stainton, Keith|
|Hornby, Richard||Morrison, Charles (Devizes)||Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)|
|Howell, David (Guildford)||Murton, Oscar||Taylor, Edward M.(G'gow, Cathcart)|
|Hunt, John||Nabarro, Sir Gerald||Taylor, Frank (Moss Side)|
|Jopling, Michael||Neave, Airey||Turton, Rt. Hn. R. H.|
|Kaberry, Sir Donald||Nicholls, Sir Harmar||van Straubenzee, W. R.|
|Kershaw, Anthony||Osborn, John (Hallam)||Waddington, David|
|Kimball, Marcus||Page, Graham (Crosby)||Walker-Smith, Rt. Hn. Sir Derek|
|King, Evelyn (Dorset, S.)||Peel, John||Walters, Dennis|
|Kirk, Peter||Percival, Ian||Ward, Dame Irene|
|Lane, David||Pounder, Rafton||Whitelaw, Rt. Hn. William|
|Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry||Powell, Rt. Hn. J. Enoch||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Lewis, Arthur (W. Ham, N.)||Prior, J. M. L.||Wylie, N. R.|
|MacArthur, Ian||Pym, Francis||Younger, Hn. George|
|Maddan, Martin||Rees-Davies, W. R.|
|Maginnis John E.||Ronton, Rt. Hn. Sir David||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Maude, Angus||Rodgers, Sir John (Sevenoaks)||Mr. Timothy Kitson and|
|Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C||Royle, Anthony||Mr. Bernard Weatherill.|
|Mills, Peter (Torrington)|
§ Motion made, and Question proposed. That the Bill be now read the Third time.
§ 11.50 p.m.
§ Mr. Arthur Lewis
For the benefit of hon. Members, may I say that I do not think that there is any hon. Member on this side of the House who will support me in calling for a vote. I wish there were, but those hon. Members who wish to catch a train can do so. I am afraid that I shall be the only one who will vote, so they can leave without any fear.
As I have said throughout the passage of the Bill, I am very much against it. On Third Reading, one can debate only what is in a Bill and not what one would like to see in it but has been left out. I shall therefore explain why I think that it is a bad Bill, together with all that it contains. Ostensibly it levies money from bookmakers, but in reality it does it from those who bet on horses. The Horserace Betting Levy Board will then have the opportunity, in conjunction with the bookmakers, to draw up a scheme involving an unspecified sum, rumoured to be between £1 million and £3 million. No one will let the cat out of the bag, but I have seen statements attributed to various people giving various sums. This levy will be used for what is called encouraging the sport of horseracing.
I am not against its encouragement, but if it needs to be done let it be done by those who want to go to horseracing and are participating. I gave figures on Second Reading, which are material now, showing that even under the old levy a number of very rich Surtax payers were receiving as much as £97,000 a year tax 590 free from the old levy. An hon. Member interjected that it did not matter, because some of them were Americans. From my point of view, it makes it even worse for us to be here at midnight discussing how and why the levy should be instituted to give thousands of pounds of untaxed money to very wealthy Surtax payers when some of them happen to be American or from some other overseas country.
I am not against money being used for the encouragement of sport in general, but I cannot see why horseracing should be singled out, as the Bill provides. Why should money be levied from the punters, because that is where it comes from ultimately, to enable the trainers to draw fabulous sums——
§ Mr. Lewis
My hon. Friend can make his speech later. There is plenty of time.
During the Committee stage, a trainer called Sir Jack Jarvis died leaving £250,000—a fabulous amount, to me at any rate. Another trainer who died earlier left £150,000, which again is no small figure. I travel past Newmarket—I have never been to the track—and see, as one sees in other racecourse areas, great houses and training establishments, all of which get subsidies ostensibly for training horses. They also get their houses out of this levy.
§ Mr. Morgan
I am sure that my hon. Friend would not wish to mislead the House. Does not he accept that, out of the £17 million collected in total under the seven preceding schemes, £4.3 million has been expended on the improvement of racecourses? That is the biggest item of expenditure.
§ Mr. Elystan Morgan
It might save time if I remind my hon. Friend that £4.3 million was spent on the improvement of racecourses and about £3.8 million in prize money.
§ Mr. Lewis
I do not see why these wealthy racehorse owners should receive such a sum, be they Lord Wigg or anyone else. Lord Wigg is a racehorse owner. He took on his job at £4,000 a year but then got £4,800—an extra 20 per cent. before he started. He is a racehorse owner. [Interruption.] This may be unpalatable, but the fact is that this scheme is supposed to help the poor racehorse owners. Lord Wigg's salary went up to £6,000 within 12 months.
§ Mr. Lewis
What is my hon. Friend calling "Order" for? What has he to do with it? He is helping me make my speech. I say that one of the beneficiaries of the Bill will be a man who within 12 months has had a £1,200 increase in his salary. He is now getting £6,000 instead of £4,000 when he first took the job on. I do not think that that sort of man should be deserving of or in need of extra money on top a 50 per cent. increase in salary.
On Monday we discussed "In Place of Strife". This sort of proposal helps to encourage strife. The very wealthy, in addition to large salaries and being able to afford to run their own racehorses, are to get subsidies. It does not help us when we tell the workers on £10, £12 or £14 a week that the Government have their priorities right.
If this levy Bill were to say that part of this money was to be used to encourage all sports, whether it be running, swimming, athletics, boxing, football or the lot, I would say that it was fair, but I cannot see why horseracing should be singled out for preferential treatment. No one has given me a logical reason.
§ Mr. Lewis
My hon. Friend may think they have, but I do not. I cannot see why this sport of kings should have this kind of money pumped into it. I know it was suggested that if it were not it would collapse, but the same could be said of football, cricket and other sports. I cannot see that this is a good Bill, or why the Government should give it priority above other measures which are far more important and urgent than this measure.
As I am keeping a few hon. Members here, I am hoping that one may support me so that we may have a vote, because I think the Government should spend time and energy in getting through measures of general import to the general public rather than this Bill. I have spoken against the Bill and I will vote against it.
§ 12.2 a.m.
§ Mr. W. R. Rees-Davies (Isle of Thanet)
I should like to say a few words at this stage because I did not serve on the Standing Committee. I did not realise that hon. Gentlemen were so anxious to 593 serve that there was a veritable queue and that within 24 hours of Second Reading the decision had been made who were to be Members of the Committee. I was left out because I had not spoken on Second Reading. It was not my deliberate intention not to take part at an earlier stage.
I will shortly have a direct interest in the matters about which we are speaking because I shall be concerned in the operation of a society which will aim at the betterment of racing and which will not be a non-profit making organisation. I should say that at the outset.
While I have had some misgivings about some features of the Bill, nonetheless I favour the Measure in that I believe that all sport requires assistance at present in one way or another. I point out to the hon. Member for West Ham, North (Mr. Arthur Lewis) that it is the intention of both parties gradually but progressively to give more assistance to sport in this country.
I have consistently pointed out that our very pleasant Minister of Sport has a most engaging character but is given no executive authority, and it might assist if future Ministers for sport or amenity were given more assistance by coming under the umbrella of the Board of Trade. This Bill does not come under the Board of Trade. It might have. I am not altogether happy, and I am not sure that those who support the measure are altogether happy, at imposing a further duty on the Home Secretary. We would rather have left the matter in the good care of racing and the Levy Board without outside or Ministerial assistance. I recognise the difficulties that have arisen. We know that from time to time some bookmakers have difficulties in their approach to taxation and levies.
The Bill seeks to bring about the better administration of the money which is raised as well as a system whereby it can be more easily obtained. The levy is intended to produce over £3 million in a year. The amount produced over the previous seven years was £17 million. I recognise the finely balanced arguments to the contrary, but if I had administered the money from the outset I should have concentrated on the amenities instead of increasing the prize money. At the same time, I know that it is contended that the prize money in this country is low in 594 comparison with that in France and the United States.
But the worst feature of racing is that people do not attend race meetings. They watch racing on television or go into betting offices. I was closely concerned with the legislation which introduced betting offices, and I had no intention—nor did I think for a moment that the legislation would have that effect—of permitting the blower to be used in betting offices so that bets could be laid freely while racing was taking place. Indeed, I subsequently advised that the Bill did not achieve that.
If we were able to get many more people to attend race meetings we should be able to provide much more money for those who engaged in racing. The amount charged to the individual who attends race meetings is high, even though years ago we abolished the tax on racing. We are not getting people to attend at racecourses. I greatly hope that the Levy Board and others who serve the interests of racing will restrict the expenditure of money on increased prizes at this stage and seek to spend money on improving the amenities on our courses.
We wish to bring many people to the racecourses, not only from this country but from overseas, but if those people arrived here many of our racecourses could not cope with them. The British Travel Association has done excellent work in bringing large numbers of theatre-goers from the United States for a special fortnight in this country. The Americans can do it cheaply because the price which they pay for a theatre ticket is about one-third of the price in the United States. It is hoped that we can increase the number visiting this country from overseas who are interested in racing, but that will require much better race tracks, and it will even need attention to the turf which on some racecourses which are used regularly is not good enough to stand up to the wear and tear of the future without substantial improvement.
There are the questions of the carriage of racehorses and of air-landing strips close to the racecourses. It seems to me that it is in this direction that the money which lies at the background of the Measure tonight should be divided 595 extremely carefully. It is important to recognise that only in the last resort should the Home Secretary interfere in the scheme by the exercise of the powers which he is being given. It is really a question of giving him deterrent powers that he can use if success cannot be obtained otherwise, and really no more than that.
I do not believe that anybody connected with racing, whether in the Jockey Club or those who operate the Levy Board, those concerned with veterinary science or racecourses, owners, trainers or anybody else, wants Government interference. They hope to see a situation in which they get the co-operation of everybody within the industry and the recognition that a great deal of money is needed to secure the benefits of those who go racing. They want also to get a little more interest in the Government to ensure that there is a greater understanding of the need to have a good look at our taxation, too, to see that encouragement is given to those who participate in the sport rather than those who merely want to watch it and not pay their fair share towards it.
Therefore, I have said these few things because I felt that they might take the debate away a little bit from the very narrow issues which, quite rightly, it has been constrained to pursue hitherto, both in Committee and elsewhere. I hope that now that the Bill goes through, everybody will look forward to the forthcoming season in a spirit of trying to work together in an all-party sense to do something to promote this sport, which is lucky, perhaps, to be the first sport to get a measure of assistance but which, I hope, will be by no means the last sport which will receive that assistance. I say it in the sense that I know that there are many hon. Members, on both sides, who will play their part to assist this and other sports to be able to be put on the basis which is deserving of our country.
§ 12.13 a.m.
§ Mr. Hamling
I do not want to detain the House long, but I should like to follow the remarks made by the hon. Member for the Isle of Thanet (Mr. Rees-Davies) when he said that he wanted to bring back the debate to the broader question behind the Bill—that is, 596 assistance to horseracing and to this sport—and not some of the narrow questions that we were earlier discussing.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. I hope that the hon. Member does not carry the debate too wide. I was trying to choose an appropriate moment to interrupt the hon. Member for the Isle of Thanet (Mr. Rees-Davies) because he went a little wide on occasions. Perhaps, therefore, the hon. Member will not go too wide on this issue.
§ Mr. Hamling
Certainly, Mr. Deputy Speaker, but I hope that I am in order in talking about the Bill on Third Reading.
§ Mr. Hamling
Yes, because we are discussing a betting levy Bill and assistance to the horseracing industry and not the narrow, mean, personal references that were made in an earlier speech on Third Reading. We are talking about the Bill and the encouragement that it will give to horseracing. That is what the Bill is about, and not some of the narrow, personal points that were made earlier in this debate. I hope that this goes on record.
The hon. Member for the Isle of Thanet was quite right in saying that we want to improve the amenities, and that is the purpose of the Bill, because unless we improve them, there will be no horseracing industry in this country. This is what the Bill is about. It is no good the hon. Member for Cornwall, North (Mr. Pardoe) shaking his head. He knows that attendance at horserace meetings has been going down for years. He knows that the number of horses taking part in races has been going down. He knows that certain meetings have ceased. He knows that the number of horseraces going out of existence has increased in recent years.
§ Mr. John Pardoe (Cornwall, North)
I must take up the hon. Gentleman on this point. The hon. Member for the Isle of Thanet (Mr. W. Rees-Davies) and he are in agreement in saying the main reason why people stay away from racecourses is because they can use the blower during the races to lay bets. That means 597 that the only people who are staying away from the racecourses are those who want to bet. If the only people who want to go to racecourses are those who want to bet, can he say that this is a sport?
§ Mr. Hamling
No. The hon. Gentleman has not listened to our earlier debates and what has been said in Committee and Second Reading. The main reason for the increase in off-course betting as against on-course betting is the trimming of the odds on on-course betting in favour of off-course betting. The hon. Gentleman did not make that point. This was a decision taken by the big bookmakers at a meeting in Cheltenham. On Second Reading I mentioned Newmarket by mistake. The big bookmakers at Cheltenham decided to fix the odds in favour of off-course betting against on-course betting.
That apart, we know that people have been discouraged by low prices. A far better return can be achieved by sending horses abroad, and one of the purposes of the Betting Levy Board is to improve the profitability of winning horseraces. I see nothiing wrong in that when one knows the costs of training horses and the costs of running training stables. My hon. Friend the Member for West Ham, North (Mr. Arthur Lewis) spoke of wealthy trainers; there are one or two wealthy trainers, but there are very many who are not so wealthy, and in recent years many have gone out of business.
The purpose of the Betting Levy Board is to improve horseracing and to improve the breeding of bloodstock, which is a very profitable industry. My hon. Friend speaks of my noble Friend receiving an increase in salary of £1,200 a year, but an improvement in this industry can produce not £1,200 a year for the British taxpayer and the balance of payments but many millions. That is what we are talking about, and that is what the Bill is about. It is an admirable Bill, and I hope that the House will carry it unanimously.
§ 12.18 a.m.
§ Mr. Walden
I told my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary when we were discussing the Amendment this evening that I would not make all my remarks on the Amendment but would say something on Third Reading. I did so deliberately because there is to be no vote and no one 598 need stay other than the Minister and his officials who will be bidding goodbye to the Bill, no doubt to their relief. I feel in honour bound to make one or two points in view of my consistent opposition to some essential points contained in Clause 1.
I agree with the purposes of the Bill, as I have always agreed with the purposes and the chairmanship of the Betting Levy Board. If that is a point at issue, I put it on record. The Betting Levy Board is a desirable and in many ways necessary institution which has been well run for the benefit of racing.
I do not want to follow my hon. Friend the Member for Woolwich, West (Mr. Hamling) and the hon. Member for the Isle of Thanet (Mr. Rees-Davies), but I hope that they, who have such a wide knowledge of this subject, will look at an article by the racing correspondent which appeared a week or two back in the Observer and which was about why anybody should ever bother to go to a racecourse when they could sit pleasantly in the club having a drink and watching it on television. I thought that he had a case.
One of the difficulties about racing in this country is that it never was a spectators' sport as the Americans understand it. The first American gentleman I ever met who had been to an English racecourse told me with amazement that he could not see the racing. He said that in America the tracks were designed to enable every yard of them to be seen. But even if those criticisms are true, and even if the correspondent of the Observer is right, as I suspect he is, in putting his finger on television as the main culprit in terms of declining attendances, I hope, with the hon. Member for the Isle of Thanet, that the Bill will be for the betterment of racing in the near future. I am sure that it will be.
Having said that, I must come back to my serious objections to Clause 1, and to the precedents which it could create, One can split hairs about the fact that the independent members of the Board are appointed by the Government—and they are. Virtually everyone in society is appointed by someone. But until the enactment of this Bill the Betting Levy Board will have been an independent body. We have struck a difficulty, as 599 one often does when dealing with independent agencies outside the ambit of Government. There has been a quarrel between different groups whose responsibility it was to bring in a levy scheme.
One could have thought of several ways out of that dilemma. It is not untypical, in the sense of the spirit of the age and the way in which we look at things, that we have chosen to cut straight through the difficulty by ensuring that in future the Home Secretary, and the Home Secretary alone, shall decide in the event of a dispute. That is a most important point, about which I shall say more. Once again, we have decided that when we have a difficulty with an agency outside the responsibility of the House of Commons, the solution is to bring it within the responsibility oft the House of Commons.
I could say a great deal about this aspect. My hon. Friend has heard me speaking about it in public and in priyate, and I shall not weary him again except to say that I am sure that this is wrong; and that this Bill enshrines to some extent a principle of which we shall have to rid ourselves in the 'seventies. What we shall need is a more independent agency, less interference by the Executive—and, for that matter, less supervision by the Legislature—because such supervision is in many cases, as I fear it will be in this case, very largely illusory.
I shall not run through all the discussions that took place in Committee about how comparatively valueless it is that the Home Secretary is subject to the scrutiny of the House—and that remark is not meant to be disrespectful of the House of Commons. As was proved in Committee, most media open to us are never used. The Opposition would not give a Supply Day for a vote of censure on such a matter. We then come to the Written and the Oral Question, and I do not regard either of those, valuable as both are, as really effective means of probing the intentions of Ministers or of their advisers. I do not want to drift off the subject, so I shall not go too deeply into that point, except to say that one of the reasons why Question time is so beloved is that it is so largely ineffective in controlling the people who make decisions in all the Departments.
That being so, I do not like, first of all, one of the central principles of the 600 Bill and one of the central assumptions so often repeated by my hon. Friend, about the Bill, that to take power from the Board and give it to the Executive on the ground is the simplest way and the best way of dealing with the matter, and the way in which Parliament will have most control over what happens. I find all that a most questionable proposition.
§ Mr. Hamling
Will my hon. Friend now come to the central point of why the Bill has come into existence? Is it not that unless we have this sort of power, there may be no agreement and that we have not had a levy because of a flaw in the existing arrangements? Will he suggest any alternative method whereby we could overcome this flaw without the long stop of the Home Secretary?
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
If the hon. Gentleman were to suggest an alternative, he would be out of order.
§ Mr. Walden
I will take note of that, Mr. Deputy Speaker, although it puts me in a rather difficult position. I am aware that I must speak about only what is in the Bill. The Bill grants the Home Secretary the power to solve the problem which my hon. Friend poses. I would have drafted the Bill to give the power to the Chairman of the Betting Levy Board. I shall not elaborate that incidental comment.
First, I do not like the general direction of Clause 1. Next, I like even less the fact, which we have elicited bit by bit, not because of any attempt by the Under-Secretary to deceive, but because of our own difficulties in understanding the Clause, that what the disputes procedure means is that, although in practice the Home Secretary may do a whole series of things in the event of a dispute, the Bill will bind him to do nothing other than produce a scheme. He does not have to take anybody's advice in producing it, and that includes the Chairman of the Betting Levy Board. As I said at the time, that seems to be wrong and a thoroughly bad idea.
My hon. Friend has given some assurances on behalf of the Home Secretary who, as he knows, is an old friend of mine. I would be the last man to question his word or his assurances. But I do not agree with my hon. Friend that 601 a Home Secretary—not the present Home Secretary—may be regarded as an impartial arbiter, a phrase my hon. Friend used many times. My hon. Friend often said that we could rely on the impartiality of the Home Secretary.
I do not believe a word of it. The Home Secretary is a member of the Cabinet, and he is the last man in the world on whose impartiality one can rely, and that is not meant in any offensive sense. The Home Secretary is a member of a team. If the Cabinet decides, for instance, that the sport of horseracing—or any other sport—could provide more money generally, if it thinks that the betting tax should go up, the first thing that will happen is that the Chancellor of the Exchequer will request the Home Secretary—not the present holder of the office, because he has given guarantees, but a Home Secretary not bound by those guarantees—to see him some time, or that they should have a drink, or that the Departmental officials responsible should meet for what would be called a general talk on the subject of betting. The Home Office and the Treasury would work together.
A Home Secretary would take infinitely more regard of the needs of his colleague the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the needs of his other colleagues in the Cabinet and the Government to which he belongs and to which he rightly owes loyalty than he would of any other single factor. In that sense, he would not be and never could be impartial. That is exactly the reason why I do not like decisions of this kind in the hands of executives.
§ Mr. Walden
No. I have to be careful to obey your Ruling, Mr. Deputy Speaker, but I mean no criticism of the Chairman of the Board when I say that he is not completely impartial, in the sense that what will concern him are the interests of racing. The present Chairman has already told us what his ideas are, and they seem to be sensible: he wishes to raise as much money as is needed for the betterment of horseracing, without going beyond the capacity of racing to pay
602 In that sense he is an interested party. But—and this is the difference—at least he is interested in the interests of horseracing. It is purely a question whether he thinks that, if he takes this much from one section or allows that much to another, that the levy shall be at this or that rate, it will be a good or a bad thing for racing. In the Bill we have taken away from the Levy Board the ultimate determination of that kind of matter. We have replaced it with what my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary calls an impartial agency.
I will redefine that. He does not mean an impartial agency. He means someone who is neither a protagonist of the Levy Board's view——
§ Mr. Walden
—nor a protagonist of the bookmakers' view. That does not necessarily mean an impartial arbiter. All executives carry the original blight and taint of being executives—of putting the Government's interests, quite rightly, ahead of anything else.
I am aware that the principles of the Bill were wanted by the Chairman of the Betting Levy Board. In the short term, I am sure that he thinks it is the best way out of his difficulties. But, in the long term, I am sure that he will regret the Bill, as will subsequent chairmen of the Levy Board.
What will happen eventually, if the Bill is passed in this form—as it will be—is that regard for the general amount of money that can be raised in betting duty will adversely affect the amount that can be raised for the betterment of racing. That is what always happens with Governments. They regard subjects—Chancellors do especially, and rightly so—as taxable units. But we have to see that the tax is apportioned properly and we must have regard to ability to pay, even though we have taken it out of the provisions of the Bill.
Therefore, I am afraid that when the betting duty, which has already proved to be highly successful, goes up again, the mere fact that we have passed the Bill in this form will lead to a situation which will suit the Chairman of the Levy Board no more than it will suit the 603 bookmakers. I have that significant objection to the principles of Clause 1.
I have this final objection. I cannot believe that the Bill, good though it is in many of its provisions and good though its intentions are, is a final solution. Throughout these discussions the Under-Secretary has consistently said that it was. He has taken the view that the original legislation of 1961, having been examined over a period of time, has led to the conclusions that produced the Amendments to the Bill. I will not argue with him yet again on that hypothesis. But I doubt that the Bill can have any finality, because I think that we will find it maximises rather than minimises disputes. I do not see in the Bill anything like the number of guarantees that would be needed to make it worth while for the contending parties——
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. The hon. Member can discuss only the Bill as it is, not how he would like it to be.
§ Mr. Walden
I take note of that, Mr. Speaker.
Therefore, I say that the Bill, as it stands, gives an inducement for matters ultimately to come to the Home Secretary. So far, one levy scheme in seven has ended there. I predict that in the next few years, as a result of the provisions in the Bill which make it hardly worth the while of contending parties to resolve their contentions within the Levy Board because of the real possibility of having them overturned by the Home Secretary, many more of these disputes will come to the Home Secretary.
The Home Secretary will be able to do one of two things. He will either work independently within his Department, taking such advice as he chooses, or he will take the advice of the men with whom he ought to have left the decision in the first place. I welcome the many good things that the Bill will do, but I hope that it is the last Bill of this kind that the House will be asked to pass, shifting as it does from people who ought to know better, and ought to be in power to know better, responsibilities on to the Executive which the Executive is ill-equipped to discharge.
§ 12.35 a.m.
§ Mr. Kitson
We had a very useful discussion in Committee. While we on 604 this side of the House have opposed the Bill at some stages, we have done it in good heart, in an attempt to improve it, and many of us feel that if we had succeeded in getting rid of some——
§ Mr. Kitson
Many of us feel that if we could have made some alterations to Clause 1 the Bill would have been improved considerably.
The hon. Member for West Ham, North (Mr. Arthur Lewis) has continually pointed his finger at the Board and suggested that the money being raised under the Bill is for the benefit of rich racehorse owners who win vast quantities of money. I have declared an interest before, and only yesterday a horse in which I have an interest won a race at Doncaster. A £1,000 race had £600 contributed by the Levy Board.
When he talks in terms of rich racehorse owners, I beg the hon. Member for West Ham, North to bear in mind that this is a particularly good animal. It has won 16 races, eight of £1,000. It has been placed second on 22 occasions. It has been third on seven occasions, and it has been out of the first three on four occasions. I suppose it is as good a two-mile chaser as there is in the country. At the end of last season, other than its increase in capital value—and it is a gelding, so it is of no use for breeding—it was winning £15.
I beg the hon. Member for West Ham, North to realise what a struggle it is, even for people with good horses, to make a profit out of racing. They do not expect to, because they enjoy the game, and it is unfortunate that so many people, because of the advantages of having their horses trained in France, who win much better races—£1,000 sellers at country meetings—are being attracted to send their horses abroad to win races and to make profits.
§ Mr. Kitson
I am sorry if I strayed out of order.
I am sure that the Bill will do much to improve the lot of everybody involved 605 in the racing industry in this country. I am sure that the Board will spend the money that is raised by the levy to the advantage not only of the owner, the trainer, the jockey and the stable boy, but also the racegoer, and for that reason I welcome its main provisions.
§ 12.38 a.m.
§ Sir D. Renton
The hon. Member for West Ham. North (Mr. Arthur Lewis) described this as a bad Bill. My view of it is that Clause 1 spoils what is otherwise a good and necessary Bill.
I have felt very sorry indeed for the Under-Secretary of State. He has been very courteous, very patient, and very thorough There have been one or two events which must have shaken the hon. Gentleman during the passage of the Bill, but I really have been sorry for him, as one who once occupied his position, at having to defend this miserable vulnerable Clause 1.
I think that not for the first time in our proceedings the hon. Member for Birmingham, All Saints (Mr. Walden) made a very powerful speech, mainly in criticism of Clause 1. The hon. Gentleman's arguments are unanswerable, and I agree with most of them, but there is one point on which I must register my disagreement. I know that the hon. Gentleman did not mean it in any unkind way when he said that he doubted the impartiality of the Chairman of the Levy Board, because he felt that the Chairman, having the interests of racing at heart, would not be impartial when deciding as between the needs of racing and the interests of punters and, therefore, of bookmakers or, indeed, of the Tote.
I know the noble Lord, Lord Wigg, very well. We have often crossed swords, but I do not believe that he is lacking in impartiality in that sense. I said in Standing Committee, and I repeat, that I think that we should have complete confidence in the noble Lord's impartiality as an independent chairman. That goes, also, for the other two independent members of the Board. It should not be forgotten that the Chairman can, if necessary, be out-voted by those two gentlemen. It is they who in a sense have the key part to play. The three wise men together have been doing a good job over these years, first, under Lord Harding and, later, under Lord Wigg.
606 I emphatically agree with the hon. Member for All Saints that to pretend that we shall get a more independent judgment or a better informed judgment or greater impartiality from the Home Secretary is a plain delusion. The 1961 Act has stood the test of eight years. I doubt whether the Bill will stand the test of time for as long as that. The Bill will put us back to square one, because the Home Secretary does not, and cannot be expected to, know much about the ramifications of the betting side of the business. He will have to rely upon advice from the Home Office.
There is power under Clause 1(6) for the Home Office to call on unspecified types of outside advisers with unspecified qualifications. Even those advisers, when they are making an inquiry so that they can help the Home Secretary, will have to go to the Board and to the Bookmakers' Committee and get not only information but, inevitably, advice. The Home Secretary will find that he has to take a decision on his own. He is a politician with the prejudices to which all of us are unfortunately a prey.
I am not at all happy about Clause 1. It is a pity that an otherwise good and necessary Bill should be spoiled in this way. It is just as well that my hon. Friend the Member for Richmond, Yorks. (Mr. Kitson), having a share in that most remarkable horse, gave the facts about its successes, because they did something to redress the balance after some of the comments of the hon. Member for West Ham, North.
Referring to the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Isle of Thanet (Mr. Rees-Davies), I hope that under the powers given by the Bill it will be borne in mind that, if we want to improve racing, it is necessary, not only to improve prize money, but also to improve amenities for the public. The Board has been helping racecourse owners to improve amenities to a considerable extent, including, I am glad to say, at Huntingdon in my constituency. But this must not be forgotten. After all, the racing industry exists not primarily for the pleasure and benefit of the people in it, even people like my hon. Friend. It is a great national public sport and the public have a right to feel that they are being well served if they support it. 607 So my hon. Friend's point was well made——
§ Sir D. Renton
If you please, Mr. Speaker.
Whatever disputes we may have had during the passage of the Bill, I am sure that we all hope that, despite the powers contained in Clause 1, the independent members of the Betting Levy Board and the Bookmakers' Committee will somehow manage to agree so that the Home Secretary's powers do not have to be used.
When this legislation was introduced, we wanted the industry to look after its own affairs, and that is why we placed the matter firmly in the hands of the industry, subject only to the quasi-judicial decisions to be taken independently by the three wise men. I hope that that will continue as far as possible, and I am sure that the House would wish to join in extending to Lord Wigg and his colleagues and the Bookmakers' Committee best wishes for their success in that sense in the years to come.
§ 12.46 a.m.
§ Mr. Elystan Morgan
With the leave of the House, I should like to speak again. I speak only out of a sense of courtesy to those who have taken part in the debate. The Bill is now in much the same state as when introduced, except for certain mechanical but necessary Amendments made in Committee. We have covered the ground thoroughly. I welcome the fact that, with the sole but substantial exception of my hon. Friend the Member for West Ham, North (Mr. Arthur Lewis), all speakers have generally welcomed the Bill.
My hon. Friend referred to what he alleged to be an increase in the salary of Lord Wigg. It is certainly not my intention to comment on that, except——
§ Mr. Morgan
I was about to say that, while I do not accept my hon. Friend's 608 contentions, he has a Question down for tomorrow and we hope that he will be in his usual place, as usual, to ask it.
The hon. Member for Thanet (Mr. Rees-Davies) and the right hon. and learned Member for Huntingdonshire (Sir D. Renton) hoped that the procedure in the Acts of 1961 and 1963 will operate and that it will not be necessary to use the powers given to the Secretary of State in the Bill. I heartily agree and endorse the hope that this will be the case for many years to come.
My hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, All Saints (Mr. Walden) made a powerful speech. It was refreshing to hear him on this, as on other subjects. I cannot accept his argument that it was wrong to bring this matter within the jurisdiction of a Minister of the Crown. I will not go over this ground again, except to stress that as my hon. Friend's main argument is that there has been a substantial departure in principle from the state of affairs which has existed under the 1963 Act, I repeat the question I posed in Committee: since, under the present system, we have three independent members of the Board vested with these substantial powers and appointed by the Secretary of State, how can it be a real departure in principle if the final arbiter is the Secretary of State rather than his own nominees?
If one is talking in terms of absolute independence and impartiality, and if one were to accept that a future Secretary of State might be tainted with partiality, it follows that his nominees would be tainted with exactly the same partiality.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. We are debating the Third Reading of a Bill which, I suspect, has nothing to do with Henry II.
§ Mr. Morgan
In most cases the partiality of the principal is vested in his nominees and agents, with certain distinguished historical exceptions.
§ Mr. Morgan
We are here giving powers, vesting responsibility, in a Minister to be exercised in a judicial capacity. The Secretary of State, whoever he may be, will well realise the nature of these 609 duties and I am confident that they will be discharged properly and in accordance with that judicial function.
I remind hon. Members who have said that it might have been possible to have vested these powers in somebody else that the Peppiat Committee, which reported in April, 1960, gave the clear recommendation that these powers should be vested in the Secretary of State. I appreciate that a different policy was adopted by hon. Gentlemen opposite, but all that we are now doing is acting in accordance with that clear recommendation of the Peppiat Committee.
My hon. Friend the Member for All Saints said that there was a danger that a Secretary of State might hold conversations with the Chancellor of the Exchequer and would be prevailed on to reach a certain decision which would materially affect his judgment in regard to the way in which this money should be spent. I am not certain that my hon. Friend meant that, since money can be spent only in accordance with the provisions of Clause 24(1) of the Bill.
I will not go in detail into the question of the raising of the money, except to point out that if such conversations were to take place, then, in the main, the result would probably be to the benefit of the people from whom the levy was received. In other words, they would, by and large, be more likely to affect the Secretary of State's decision in lowering, rather than raising, the level of the levy. In any case, the jurisdiction is vested in him. As a Minister, he is answerable to Parliament and, although it may not be easy to raise these matters from day to day, ultimately Parliament has a full and effective check on his powers and I am sure that it will be exercised.
The hon. Member for Richmond, Yorks (Mr. Kitson) expressed sorrow that I was not able to accept Amendments in Committee. I feel somewhat sorry on that account, but if I made it impossible to accept Amendments from members of the Opposition, I hope that I made up for that by exhorting the 610 Committee to accept Amendments put down by the Government.
I am grateful to the right hon. and learned Member for Huntingdonshire for his very generous remarks and for the way in which he has conducted himself and his case throughout on this Bill. He has treated me with considerable generosity and chivalry which I appreciate, but I cannot accept his argument that the Bill would be improved if Clause 1 were not in it. The Bill would not be a Bill at all without Clause 1. It would be like a ship without a keel. The House has only to remind itself that in Clauses 2 and 3 we are giving considerable powers that amount to very sharp teeth in relation to sanctions against bookmakers who would be unwilling to pay the levy. If we took out Clause 1 we would be vesting——
§ Mr. Morgan
Yes, Mr. Speaker, I accept your stricture.
I hope that the House accepts that the Bill with Clause 1 as it is is a complete Bill and the inclusion of Clause 1 prevents vesting the Chairman of the Levy Board with what otherwise would amount to very considerable powers not answerable to Parliament.
The racing industry depends very substantially upon the moneys raised by way of this levy. Bookmakers have accepted this from the start. The benefits conferred upon horseracing thereby have been made possible by the Acts of 1961 and 1963. We are not adding anything material to those benefits. An impasse came about on account of the eighth levy scheme. The bookmakers were absolutely in conflict with Parliament on this issue. It was impossible on account of their opposition to carry out the statutory provisions. Hence the necessity for the Bill. I ask the House to allow it to proceed to be deliberated upon in another place.
§ Question put and agreed to.
§ Bill accordingly read the Third time and passed.