HC Deb 07 August 1972 vol 842 cc1395-8

Notwithstanding anything in section 30 of the Act of 1963 or the Horserace Betting Levy Act 1969 the contribution to be made by the Totalisator Board to the Levy Board in respect of business carried on under section 1(1)(b) of this Act shall be determined in accordance with the provisions of the said Acts applicable to the determination of the contribution to be made by bookmakers; and the provisions of the said Acts with respect to the assessment to levy of individual bookmakers shall for the purposes of this section apply to the Totalisator Board as if the Board were a bookmaker.—[Mr. Arthur Lewis.]

Brought up and read the First time

10.15 p.m.

Mr. Arthur Lewis

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

Mr. Speaker

It will be convenient to take also new Clause 70—"Determination of contributions by Totalisator Board".

Mr. Lewis

The purpose of the new Clause is to make the Totalisator Board and the bookmakers equally assessable for the levy paid to the Levy Board. It used to be said that the Totalisator Board was not properly a bookmaker and it was therefore treated differently. Now that the Totalisator Board is becoming a totalisator board-cum-bookmaker, with assistance, it is only fair that the bookmakers and the Totalisator Board should be treated equally. Justice must not only be done but it must be seen to be done.

My hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, All Saints, (Mr. Brian Walden) has put down a new Clause in similar terms and no doubt he will wish to speak to it.

Mr. Brian Walden

I have very little to say about new Clause 70. The Clause was put down to the Bill as it emerged from Committee, which is a totally different Bill from that which we shall pass on Third Reading. I agree with much of what my hon. Friend the Member for West Ham, North (Mr. Arthur Lewis) said. If the Totalisator Board were to operate as a bookmaker per se it should do so under the conditions that apply to all private bookmakers. I doubt whether that situation will ever arise and I therefore see no purpose in wasting the time of the House. There is no point in my making a long speech about how undesirable it would be for a public body to be given a beneficial arrangement by the State over a private body when it is operating as a direct competitor. That is a speech which I am sure would have moved hon. Gentlemen opposite to tears but which regrettably will not now be made.

Mr. Carlisle

The new Clause moved by the hon. Member for West Ham, North (Mr. Arthur Lewis) is similar to that moved in Committee by my hon. Friend the Member for Harborough (Mr. Farr), which he was good enough to withdraw when I undertook to look again at the matter. I have looked at it again, and I must advise the House that I do not think that a new Clause in the terms suggested either by the hon. Member for West Ham, North, or by the hon. Member for Birmingham, All Saints (Mr. Brian Walden) would be desirable in statutory form.

To take up the point made by the hon. Member for All Saints, I must make clear that, subject to Amendments that are to come, there is nothing in the Bill to prevent the Totalisator Board from going into the fixed odds market, into the starting price market, running a book or going into the off-course market. The purpose of an Amendment which I shall shortly be moving, and which has been anticipated by the hon. Gentleman, is merely to put a commencing Clause on the advantages that might have been granted to the tote in achieving that end. It is a matter for the commercial judgment of the board. The Bill will permit it to go into fixed odds and starting price betting both on-course or off-course.

The purpose of the Clause, as I understand it, is to say that if the board choose to take that course it should be assessed similarly for levy as a private bookmaker. The difficulty with the new Clause in this form is that the assessment for levy of the private bookmaker is highly complicated and depends on the category in which he finds himself, and this again depends on the proportion of income, whether it be credit betting, cash betting, on-course betting or off-course betting. It is unlikely that the Totalisator in its full functions would suitably fit into any of those categories.

I suggest that it is sensible and right that one cannot look at one portion of the Totalisator Board's potential income for levy purposes without taking into account its overall position. Liability for levy depends basically on the ability to pay of the totalisator or private bookmaker. If we look at the ability to pay of the totalisator, we must look at the overall turnover, whether it be from pool betting or fixed odds. I do not think it is appropriate statutorily to attempt to divide it and say, "On that you shall pay so much percentage of your turnover, irrespective of whether you are making a loss or a profit on the other part of your enterprise".

Having looked at the matter again, I do not consider the new Clause to be appropriate. It is, nevertheless, accepted that one of the principles of that assess- ment of the tote should be that the tote should not be in a position in which it can conduct fixed odds business on terms which, because of its separate levy position, favour it in comparison with other bookmakers. The Government intend that the Levy Board should not use its power to achieve that situation.

In all assessments made by the Levy Board it has, for understandable reasons, always assessed a higher proportion of the proportion of totalisator for levy as a non-profit making body than it has in regard to a private bookmaker. The fact is that the tote is a non-profit making body and the surplus will go back into racing. Implementation of the principle that the tote should not be in a favourable position because of its separate levy contributions calls for a sophisticated procedure which must take into account all the various factors on which an assessment is based. Therefore, I ask the House to reject the new Clause.

Question put and negatived.

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