HC Deb 07 August 1972 vol 842 cc1369-89 "The Levy Board shall have power to remit in whole or in part any sums outstanding at the passing of this Act in respect of the contributions payable to that Board by the Totalisator Board as mentioned in section 24(1) of the Act of 1963'.—[Mr. Carlisle.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

8.51 p.m.

The Minister of State, Home Office (Mr. Mark Carlisle)

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

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. E. L. Mallalieu)

With this proposed new Clause we are to discuss sub-Amendment (a), leave out 'in whole or in part' and insert 'up to one quarter of'; new Clause 39—(Payments by Board); new Clause 47—(Power of Levy Board to remit surplus revenue to Totalisator Board); new Clause 53—(Payments by Totalisator Board (timing)); new Clause 54—(Assessment by Levy Board of contribution); new Clause 72—(Remission by Levy Board of payments by Totalisator Board); new Clause 73—(Scale of remission by Levy Board to be determined by profits made by Totalisator Board); Amendment No. 61; Amendment No. 66; Amendment No. 67, and Amendment No. 81.

Mr. Carlisle

The Government Amendments hang together. The effect of the Amendments and the new Clause is, first, to delete—by way of Amendment No. 66—what is now Clause 6 of the Bill, then, by Amendment No. 61 to repeat Clause 6(2) as part of Clause 4, and, by new Clause 1, to provide a new power, namely, power to the Levy Board to remit in whole or in part any outstanding indebtedness of the Totalisator Board to the Levy Board.

Hon. Members involved in the Committee stage will remember that Clause 6 —Clause 5 as it was when the Bill started its life—enabled the Levy Board to give financial assistance to the Totalisator Board by way of grant, or by making or giving guarantees, or by loan. I made it clear in Committee that the Government had no intention of making the Totalisator Board a permanent pensioner of the Levy Board; that the intention was to enable the Levy Board to advance money to the Tote Board in the short term for the purpose of meeting its present financial situation, until it was able to take advantage of the opportunity given it by Clause 1.

I always appreciated the controversial nature of the Clause and the fact that it was felt by some to be a means whereby the Tote Board would be able permanently to receive money from the levy which had been provided by private bookmakers with whom, as a result of Clause 1, it might well be in competition. I made it clear in Committee that that was not the Government's intention, and it was for that purpose that a time limit was imposed in Clause 5. However, since the completion of the Committee stage, the Government have had an opportunity to look again at Clause 6 in the light of what I am glad to say is the very heartening improvement in the Tote's financial situation compared with some of the gloomy prognostications made about it in Committee.

Therefore, as the purpose of that Clause was to enable the Tote Board to obtain short-term financial assistance, if necessary, from the Levy Board, the Government have concluded, in the light of the Tote Board's present situation and the financial difference made to the Tote by the decision of my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer to lower the on-course duty, that the Tote Board no longer requires or is likely to require short-term financial assistance from the Levy Board.

The purpose therefore of Amendment No. 66 is to delete Clause 6. I am sure that that will be welcome to hon. Members on both sides, and I believe that it will be welcome to the Tote Board's new Chairman, who I am sure is anxious to show that the board is capable of being viable in its own right.

However, in Committee, the Government added to Clause 6 a new subsection, subsection (2), the purpose of which was declaratory. It was to make clear that the Levy Board, under its normal powers in the 1963 Act, could make payments to the Tote Board for assisting the Tote Board to provide facilities for sponsored pool betting on approved racecourses on the basis that that was a purpose conducive to the improvement of horse racing. I do not think there was any dispute that the Tote must retain various totalistaors on small racecourses which are financially unviable but whose very presence is conducive to horse racing.

Therefore, the effect of Amendment No. 61 is to retain that power so that the Levy Board will still be able to give financial assistance, should it choose to do so, either to the Tote Board or to those people who have the management of the totalisator on those courses, to help in the running of the uneconomic totalisators on some of the racecourses.

9 p.m.

By new Clause 1 power would be given to the Levy Board to choose if it so wishes to write off the present indebtedness of the Totalisator Board to the Levy Board. This to a large extent is historical. Since the 1961 Act, which set up the Betting Levy Board and brought to an end the old Racecourse Betting Control Board, the Totalisator Board took on an indebtedness of some £626,440 to the Levy Board as an agreed balance, which it received at that stage, of the assets and liabilities of the Betting Control Board. During the ensuing years payments have been made from the Totalisator Board in respect of the annual levy, with payments in respect of the original liability, but the fact remains that at this moment there is still left outstanding—at the end of the financial year, at 31st March, 1971 —a sum of £465,605 as the indebtedness of the Totalisator Board to the Levy Board.

If the principle of this Bill is to succeed, which is to provide for the future of a viable Tote, then, as I am sure almost all hon. Members on both sides of the House agree, it is only reasonable to the new chairman of that board and to the other members of the board at present, and future ones who may be appointed, that they should be given the opportunity to do that without having the millstone round their neck of a present indebtedness of very nearly £500.000.

Therefore, the effect of new Clause 1 is to enable the Levy Board to have power to remit the sum, should it wish to do so. At the moment, I am advised, the Levy Board, even if it wished, has no power to remit the sum. Whether it chooses to do so will, of course, remain a matter for the Levy Board, but I believe it would have the opportunity to do so, so that the new Totalisator Board with its extended powers under this Bill, may become, as I am confident it will become, and will continue to be, a viable organisation able to provide an alternative method of betting to that provided by the private bookmaker, and at the same time, being non-profit making, giving its share towards the upkeep of racing in this country. I think it is right that it should have the opportunity to achieve that end without an inherited indebtedness of this kind.

That is all I wish to say about the new Clause and the two Amendments proposed by the Government. As to the various Amendments to be taken with them I would just say to the hon. Gentleman for West, Ham, North (Mr. Arthur Lewis) that his proposed Amendment to my new Clause 1, the Amendment which would enable the board to write off an indebtedness of one-quarter, has no advantage or purpose, if I may say so with respect.

The purpose of new Clause 53 and new Clause 54, as I understand them, is to say that no levy should be payable by the Totalisator Board to the Levy Board till 1975. I can only assume that the hon. Gentleman put down those Amendments to support the interests of the tote.

It is the Governments' hope, as it is of the new Chairman, that the Totalisator Board should, as rapidly as its finances permit, be able to contribute to the Levy. That is in part the purpose of giving the Levy Board the opportunity to write off the existing indebtedness, so that the Totalisator Board can be seen to be making a contribution to that fund. It is neither desirable nor in the interests of the totalisator that that power should be prohibited until 1975, irrespective of how rapidly the financial situation improves.

I therefore commend the new Clause to the House to enable the board to start off without a millstone of indebtedness round its neck, by providing that the Levy Board can assist the Tote Board in running its uneconomic services on totes on course, but, on the other hand, withdrawing the overall power which the Bill originally gave to the Levy Board to advance money to the Tote Board.

Mr. Arthur Lewis (West Ham, North)

Before moving my Amendment to new Clause 1, I should like to make few comments on the Minister's opening remarks. He referred to the heartening situation of the Tote since the passage of the Bill in Committee. On Second Reading we were told what a perilous state the Totalisator Board was in and how terrible it was that we should have to come to the aid not of a lame duck industry but of a lame horse industry. From 20th April to 22nd June the Committee went through the Bill, and even gave permission to the Minister to adjourn the Committee so that he could go on a flip to the EEC. We were told how necessary it was to get the Bill through, yet now we are told that this lame horse industry is not in a perilous state.

Not only has the House been misled, but the Minister appears to have been misled. According to information published in Sporting Life, the Tote Board has made £250,000 profit, less corporation tax—a net sum of about £100,000. The Minister will know the true figure; perhaps he will give us that information when he replies. I do not know whether this is due to the fact that the board has now a progressive, go-ahead chairman and that since the time he took over he has been able to make a success of this so-called lame duck industry.

Mr. Carlisle

The hon. Gentleman might concede that it only shows that all the vilification he continually poured on the previous chairman was unjustified. He might be man enough to admit it.

Mr. Lewis

I was only going on the information given to Parliament by the board. After all, I did not introduce the Bill; I did not say the board was hard-pressed and hard up. The Minister and the Government said those things. I was under the impression that the board was in great difficulty. We now hear that that is not the case.

Since I felt the board was in difficulties I tabled a few Amendments, which fortunately have been selected, to enable the board to become a little more profitable. However, today, which is probably the last day of the proceedings, we are told that the board is not in such dire need and that this makes my Amendments probably unnecessary. I was seeking to be helpful by relieving the board of a number of its outgoings so that it could make a profit. In new Clause 39 I suggest that the Levy Board should take over from the Totalisator Board payment of rates and taxes. I thought that this would relieve the Totalisator Board of some of the difficulty. Had I been told earlier that the Tote Board was not in such a perilous situation, my new Clause would not have been necessary.

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

Therefore, the hon. Gentleman does not now need to deal with all these voluminous Amendments which stand in his name on the Paper, since he appears to accept what my hon. and learned Friend said on new Clause 1. Therefore, we can save time, at least on this part of the Report stage, and not trouble to deal with all the hon. Gentleman's other Amendments which now become unnecessary.

Mr. Lewis The hon. Member for Isle of Thanet (Mr. Rees-Davies) may have jumped the gun. He says that we do not now need my Amendments because the situation is different. But we were told a different story a few weeks ago.

I do not blame the Minister; I think he was misled—though not by the present Chairman and the present Board. The Minister then gave information which has not proved to be correct. How do we know that the Totalisator Board has even now given the correct information and that the earlier information was wrong? In case it is not correct, my Amendments seek to help the board a little more.

Mr. Rees-Davies

There is not a suggestion that the information which has been given is wrong. The information that the board had a deficit over a period was right; the information that it no longer has that deficit at present is right. It is the circumstances which have changed and they have been adumbrated today. The first is the change in the tax, and the second change relates to the arrangements which have been made with the bookmakers. They make the situation totally different.

Mr. Lewis

No. The hon. Gentleman must remember that the report and accounts relate to the past year and that the Finance Bill was passed only recently. As a result, the benefits proposed in the Finance Bill will not yet apply, though certainly they will apply in the future. The false information given previously was the information then available. The new improvements will affect only the future, not the past. New Clause 39 gives the Tote Board the chance to be relieved of its outgoings in terms of rates and taxes and charges.

9.15 p.m.

New Clause 47 provides that all surpluses of the Levy Board, less £10,000 for its day-to-day administration, should be allocated in toto to the Tote Board. I am being of great help to the Tote Board. In Committee I was accused of trying to attack the Tote Board. I must agree that that was the case. I did so because I believed the information that the House was given. I believed that the Tote Board was in great difficulty. Having been convinced in Committee, having heard all the arguments and having been persuaded by all those who supported the Tote, I felt that I had to admit I was wrong, that it was in dire trouble and, therefore, that the Levy Board should come even further to its aid and give all its surplus to help it other than £10,000 administrative expenses.

New Clause 53 provides that the Tote Board may be excluded from payment to the Levy Board until 1975. I am being very generous here. I am giving the Tote Board a five-year period of grace by providing that it shall not be liable to the Levy Board's levy for five years. This is very generous, but I am a very generous man.

If I had known that the Tote Board was not in such dire trouble, the probability is that I would not have tabled these Amendments. But I have to be sure what is the information. It is quite new. We have heard about the changed circumstances only in the last two or three weeks.

New Clause 54 is similar to the previous one.

New Clause 72 allows the Levy Board to remit in whole or in part moneys owing to the Levy Board where the Totalisator Board has a profit of less than £100,000. This is marvellous thinking on my part. I did not know at the time that the Tote Board had made a profit of £100,000. I did not know that the accounts were to be published. I must have guessed that this would be very helpful. It seems to be the sort of figure which might be applicable in this case.

It is true that I thought that probably £100,000 might be a bit high as the sum at which to fix a reasonable profit for the Tote Board. It was with that in mind that I tabled new Clause 73, which is similar in terms to the previous one except that I have reduced the £100,000 to £50,000. I realised that £100,000 for the poor Tote Board, which was always making a loss and was always in difficulty, might be a bit much. I fixed the figure at £50,000 in new Clause 73, taking the view that if new Clause 72 were not acceptable, new Clause 73 might be. All these are helpful proposals which the Minister may be inclined to accept.

This is a shocking example of a waste of parliamentary time.

Mr. Rees-Davies


Mr. Lewis

It is. It was the Minister. not I, who said that the Totalisator Board was going bankrupt and that a Bill must be rushed through to deal with this matter, to take preference, incidentally, over a Bill to deal with the needs of old-age pensioners or with the "lame horse" industry. However, the Minister was misled and, in the process of his being misled, every Member of the Committee was misled.

Mr. Rees-Davies

None of us was misled. I quoted the odds accurately, namely, that it was two to one on that the hon. Gentleman would be speaking at any given time between 20th April and 22nd June. During the sittings of the Committee the hon. Gentleman said nearly twice as much as all the other members of the Committee put together. I hope that there will not be a repetition tonight.

Mr. Arthur Lewis

I hope not, too. If the hon. Gentleman does not interrupt me in every other sentence, we shall be able to make progress. After all, I have introduced five new Clauses and five Amendments in about four minutes. The hon. Gentleman as a lawyer should know that it is not advisable to teed ammunition to one's opponent. Like the Minister, the hon. Gentleman should table a Motion congratulating the hon. Member for West Ham, North on having had the chance to have this matter thoroughly debated in Committee so as to delay the proceedings long enough for the Totalisator Board, albeit reluctantly, to come forward with the facts, thus enabling the Minister to table the new Clause and the Amendments. Had it not been for my efforts in Committee in delaying proceedings to enable the truth to out, the Minister would not have had the opportunity of tabling these wonderful Amendments. So the hon. Gentleman should congratulate me on my efforts, not castigate me.

I hope that before the debate ends the Minister will, in his usual charming manner, pay me a tribute for enabling him to table the Amendments which he could have tabled in Committee but did not. Similar Amendments were tabled by hon. Members in Committee but the Minister did not accept them. Almost every one of the Amendments tabled by the Minister on Report originates from points of views expressed by hon. Members in Committee, including my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, All Saints (Mr. Brian Walden).

My main objection on Second Reading and in Committee was that I saw no reason to debate horseracing or to look after bookmakers and the betting and racing fraternities when far more urgent and important things needed to be done. However, in Committee I was persuaded that there might have been a case. My hon. Friend the Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Ashton), speaking for the Totalisator Board, persuaded me that I was probably wrong. Now at the last moment, when the House is about to rise for the Summer Recess, I learn that all the information which persuaded me that I was wrong was wrong and that I was right.

The Minister now says that he is going to do all the things that he was aked to do in Committee, and all the things which the Minister and I turned down we are now to agree to. I cannot oppose the Minister, but I am pleased at long last to see some penitence on the part of the Department. Had this been done in Committee, the Bill could have gone through within a few days, or even within a few hours, and we should not have had to spend all this time on it today.

In deference to the hon. Member for Isle of Thanet I shall not explain all the new Clauses and Amendments at length. They are all good proposals and they are along the lines of what the Minister wanted in Committee.

Mr. Rees-Davies

I shall be brief, but after what the hon. Member for West Ham, North (Mr. Arthur Lewis) said I think we ought to follow what the Minister said and get the matter into a right perspective, at any rate for those outside the House who want to understand what had happened. The new Clause is probably the best place in which to do it.

The Totalisator Board was right to press the Home Office, and therefore the Home Secretary, to introduce a Bill. At that time there was considerable financial difficulty in making ends meet. It was necessary that we should be sure that we were not left with a bankrupt totalisator which could have led to a complete monopoly by the bookmaking profession.

That meant that we had to give certain powers, and one of the things that was most necessary was to enable a grant or loan to be made to the totalisator. It was known—and it is a fact—that there was a debt of about £500,000 and that it was going into the red at the rate of at least £250,000 a year—probably £500,000 a year. Consequently, it was necessary to introduce a Bill of this kind.

Furthermore, it was necessary to find some method by which we could make the Tote viable, and the method chosen by the Government was to give it the opportunity not merely to be full betting operators and run a tote, but also to have the chance to be bookmakers both off and on the course. The Clause is linked to the other new Clauses which we shall deal with later, in particular new Clause 3. Therefore, in looking at the matter in the round one first had to see whether it was necessary to inject money into the Tote—and it was, and it still is—and, secondly, to see how that could be done.

One way was to inject Government money in the form of loans either through the Levy Board or in effect direct. Happily, this evening the Government are able to withdraw Clause 6 which gives power for the Levy Board to make grants or loans to the Tote, and at the same time new Clause 1, if the House accepts it, and I feel sure that it will, writes off £500,000 debt which is a debt only in this sense, that the Tote has been unable to earn the necessary moneys to pay the grant that it had to pay. It is not a debt as we understand the word. It is a failure to meet the proper obligation imposed upon it. It seems that both those are right.

But the reason for not continuing with the grant and for having a Second Reading and a Committee stage has given us the time and opportunity to consider other administrative measures which have really achieved the purpose that has been set out. In Committee I said that the only way by which the racing industry could save itself was by its own exertions, and that applies to both greyhounds and horses.

With regard to horse racing, it was necessary in particular to see a new type of corporation merging between the public, the bookmaker and the totalisator. There was signally absent any kind of effective co-operation in particular between the bookmaking fraternity and the Tote.

9.30 p.m.

Therefore, it is an integral part of the debate, and the withdrawal of Clause 6 giving grants and loans, that the bookmakers and the Totalisator have now got together. It is essential that they should do so because if there was to be a thriving industry as exists at present, for example, in France, and if we were to be able to have racing for those who enjoy it at lower rates when they go on the course and pay for their day's outing, and if people were to go racing and thereby increase the number going racing rather than being the stay-at-home people who make no contribution, it was necessary to ensure that the Totalisator and the bookmakers got together.

This they have done, and, as I understand it, it means that we in this country will see the benefits of the tierce and the jackpot. We will see the introduction of the tierce along the French lines but by means of a new British system to be introduced, and which will be promoted for the benefit of the Totalisator. It will operate on one main race on a Saturday and the Tote will get the full benefit of it, but the agents for the Tote will be in the betting offices operated by the bookmakers. This will provide the real money, and will ensure that there will in future be a minimum income for the Totalisator of £1 million a year coming from the operation of the jackpot, the Totalisator and other matters of that kind.

This will be something which ought to assure in the main the revenue which in due course will inure to the benefit of the Levy Board and of racing, and will therefore be helpful and conducive to the interests of racing as laid down in the principles for which the Tote was originally created to promote.

It is essential that the Tote should operate, in the main, the betting offices on the course which are now being operated. Until very recently we did not have any betting on course. We had the Tote on course and we also had the genuine on course bookmakers but, on the other hand, we did not have the starting price operating for the benefit mainly of other courses on the course. This can now come about. This will be utilising much of the space which belongs to the Totalisator and this, again, should inure to the benefit of the Totalisator.

For these reasons, it seems to me that the Government are much to be congratulated on what they have done here. They are to be congratulated because they were right in initiating it, and they are very much to be congratulated on listening very carefully to all those concerned in the racing industry. In particular, my hon. and learned Friend is to be congratulated on seeing that Lord Mancroft together with those with him were concerned in response to requests made in Committee, so that he and the bookmakers have got together. There is nothing that the Government can do. The Government cannot lay down legislation in this field, it is not part of their duty, but they can give the opportunity for these others to come together, as they have done.

Now we can see the results of the Government's measures, one of them being the introduction of the changes in the Finance Bill in June, after the Bill had gone into Committee, which provide for a lower differential for on course betting. This must be of great benefit to the Tote. So all these matters have been altered. It would be wrong to criticise them by what would be hindsight by suggesting that they should have guessed all these matters 12 months ago, because by their action they have promoted a climate of opinion in racing here, the result of which has been to achieve these advantages and to set this industry now along the right path. That is why I commend new Clause 1 and also the removal of Clause 6 as sought by Amendment No. 66. In this way we will have gone a long way to setting things along the right path and in accordance with the principles which we on this side like to support.

Mr. Albert Roberts (Normanton)

I was amused by the speech of the hon. Member for the Isle of Thanet (Mr. Rees-Davies) who said that it was in the best interests" if the bookmakers and the Totalisator Board co-operated. Did he mean in order to carve up the public? I am disappointed about the change. It is a change certainly of course, if not of intent. I should like to be clear about it.

The Minister has changed his mind after considering the Amendment to which I spoke in Committee on 4th May concerning off-course betting on greyhounds. We are concerned not only with greyhounds and horse racing but with other sports. There will be nothing to prevent the board from purchasing a string of betting shops and then engaging in off-course betting on greyhounds. That would be entirely wrong.

The consensus in Committee was in favour of the Amendment and the Minister promised to consider co-operating with myself and other hon. Members. I am given to understand now that there is a change of action and I wonder whether it is a change of view. If we are to do the right thing at the right time there will have to be a change in outlook. I wonder whether it would be possible at this late stage to obtain an undertaking from the Minister about off-course betting and the Totalisator Board.

Mr. Carlisle

The hon. Member should realise that Amendments Nos. 27, 28, 29, 30 and 31 deal with this matter. What we are discussing has nothing to do with greyhounds. I should warn him, how- ever, that I shall not be sympathetic to him on those later Amendments.

Mr. Roberts

I appreciate that we shall be dealing with that in a moment, but I was making general observations because I was disappointed with what the Minister had said.

Mr. John Page (Harrow, West)

I welcome Amendment No. 66 which deletes Clause 6 and I support New Clause 1 which seems to be a sensible proposal. I congratulate the Minister on these and other Amendments which he has put forward and I feel that at this stage we have to congratulate him for the way he handled the Committee Stage and for the way he has brought forward new Amendments, which are entirely due to changing circumstances which it was not his responsibility to foresee.

I am not proposing to intervene again unless violently obliged to do so. The debates which took place focussed attention on the management of racing as a whole and that has been beneficial in many ways. I hope my hon. Friend will not overlook at some later date, when he comes to consider a new Statutory authority for racing, the Committee of Inquiry under Sir Henry Benson, and I hope that he can persuade the Government, when there is a slack moment in the parliamentary programme, in a few months time, to introduec a short Bill on the subject.

Mr. Brian Walden (Birmingham, All Saints)

I begin by declaring a financial interest in this matter. Though it is, I suppose, the most single important section of the Report stage, I do not intend to speak at any length, but I should like to make two or three comments.

First, I see no objection at all to what the Minister has left in, as he put it. New Clause 1 is not objectionable, for it seems reasonable, particularly in view of the way in which the financial obligation came about, that the Levy Board, if it wishes—and the Minister has said and the Bill says no more than that—may remit amounts which are outstanding from the Totalisator Board. It does not seem to me that we should hedge that concession around with any restrictions. I see no reason why that power should not go through, and I welcome new Clause 1. Similarly, I do not see why, for the benefit of horse racing, the Levy Board should not be empowered to advance certain sums to the Totalisator Board, and the Minister described that part of new Clause 6 as being declaratory. On the other hand, I greatly welcome the fact that Clause 6 has been taken out of the Bill, and it is probably worth saying a word or two on that subject.

First, I congratulate the Minister. It is always difficult, and, by some odd convention of the House, which I confess I have never understood, though I have often seen put into practice. for Ministers to change their minds. It is somehow felt to be wrong, to be infra dig, to be a reflection on the Administration.

The Minister has changed his mind and he has done so because there has come to him information that he did not have and could not have had before as to the financial viability of the board, and there were also the things mentioned by the hon. Member for the Isle of Thanet (Mr. Rees-Davies) which have been agreed in discussions between representatives of the Totalisator Board and the bookmakers, and I will mention those in a moment. The Minister has wisely decided in view of this information and in view of the concession made during the course of the Finance Bill in regard to the on-course market to take out Clause 6, saying in effect that there is no reason why the Levy Board should have to advance substantial sums to the Totalisator Board, and I think that that is right.

On the evidence we have before us, there is no reason why the old Clause 5, the new Clause 6, should have stayed in the Bill in that form and the hon. and learned Gentleman has pleased not only me but many of his hon. Friends by simply taking it out, by responding to the situation as it exists. I commend not only his wisdom, but his courage in that he has been prepared to do that and not to waste the time of the House by trying to argue for something that would have been extremely controversial in view of the facts that we now have.

I do not want to say much more except to take up what the hon. Member for the Isle of Thanet said about co-operation between the Totalisator Board and the bookmakers—and here I refer to my attitude in Committee and to that of the Minister. At every stage the Minister said that if it could be shown to him that there was a way of assisting the Totalisator Board into permanent viability without having to have recourse to some of the provisions of the Bill, he would gladly listen to any suggestion and would do all he could to facilitate it and would then be prepared to change the Bill to take account of those circumstances.

The Minister has been as good as his word; that is exactly what he has done. He has facilitated talks of the kind that the hon. Member for the Isle of Thanet believes will mean a new era for British racing, as I believe is the case and as a result, not entirely but partly, of the talks the Minister has been prepared to make certain changes in the Bill. I commend him for that, too. At every stage he said that he would do that if the opportunity arose and when the opportunity arose, he did.

9.45 p.m.

I said in Committee at pretty well every stage that I was convinced that if the bookmakers could talk to the Totalisator Board about their suggestions to ensure the Tote's viability the board would find that what was being offered was substantial and calculable and would produce the necessary viability. I shall not go into details of private negotiations other than to say that I think that that situation has come about, and that the hon. Member for Isle of Thanet is right in assuming that there will be a new era of co-operation between the Totalisator Board and the private bookmakers, with the private bookmakers on the Tierce and the jackpot, acting as agents of the board to produce a substantial revenue.

Therefore, it has all ended happily—lengthily, no doubt, in Committee terms, but happily. As we are all handing out bouquets freely, I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for West Ham, North (Mr. Arthur Lewis) on the commendable brevity with which he spoke to the new Clauses and his sub-Amendments.

I think that the discussions in Committee were of value and that the Minister has honoured to the full the assurances he gave. New Clause 1 is absolutely acceptable, and I think that the Minister was right to remove the old Clause 5, the new Clause 6. In other words, I think that the Bill as now drafted in relation at least to what we are now discussing—new Clause 1 and the omission of new Clause 6—is entirely right, as it should be, and something to which nobody in racing who had studied the issue could have serious objections.

Mr. J. R. Kinsey (Birmingham, Perry Barr)

I join the hon. Member for Birmingham, All Saints (Mr. Brian Walden) in congratulating the hon. Member for West Ham, North (Mr. Arthur Lewis). If we accept the arguments of the hon. Member for West Ham, North we must agree that it was the length of time he took in Committee that has allowed the results of the Totalisator for this year to be known. The hon. Gentleman proves that it is a long ill wind that blows nobody any good. It is good news that the Totalisator's finances for the past year have improved. My hon. and learned Friend the Minister of State had been working on figures for previous years, which had been dismal, and on the forecast for this year, which was also dismal. The results have been much better than anyone expected. It is good to know that the new chairman is confident that the Totalisator will work better in the future. We all wish the new chairman well in that.

I am glad that Clause 6 is being taken out of the Bill. The justice sought by the bookmakers has been provided by my hon. and learned Friend.

Like the hon. Member for Birmingham, All Saints and my hon. Friend the Member for Isle of Thanet (Mr. Rees-Davies), I am pleased that the National Association of Bookmakers has played its part in making the Totalisator a viable proposition for the future. I hope that the co-operation will continue.

I echo the many thanks to my hon. and learned Friend. I am pleased that he was flexible and ready to act so quickly when he had the forecasts. I am most grateful to him for what he has done.

Mr. Arthur Davidson (Accrington)

I congratulate the Minister on one thing—his coolness in presenting the new Clause and the Amendments. He did it in a way which suggested that they were minor drafting Amendments which were of little consequence and which the House would accept without much debate. They are not minor Amendments at all. The Minister has altered the whole emphasis of the Bill, and my hon. Friend the Member for West Ham, North (Mr. Arthui Lewis) is absolutely correct. Much as I respect and like the Minister personally, he cannot expect to get away scot-free, despite the congratulations of my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, All Saints (Mr. Brian Walden), who is very well pleased.

My hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, All Saints represents, as he has openly stated and is entitled to do, the interests of the National Association of Bookmakers, and of course the association is quite content with what the Minister of State has done. The bookmakers objected from the start to Clause 5, which has subsequently been elevated to Clause 6. They objected in principle. They did not like the thought of the Levy Board being able to give subsidies, grants, guarantees or money in any form to the Totalisator Board, since they themselves, understandably, had contributed to the Levy Board. That being the case, all the nonsense we had in Committee about five-year guarantees and time limits and limits on the money was really irrelevant and spurious. It was not my hon. Friend the Member for West Ham, North who wasted the time of the Committee but the Minister of State. I admit that my hon. Friend made odd relevant interjections from time to time, but nevertheless the Minister came out with a succession of Amendments which we now learn, to our astonishment, were wholly unnecessary.

Mr. Arthur Lewis

My hon. Friend has paid tribute to the Minister of State, in which I join. Will he also pay tribute to the Opposition? The Opposition Whips were going around to get the quorum to enable the Committee to continue. Had it not been for the Opposition Whips the Committee would have collapsed on several occasions.

Mr. Davidson

Of course the Opposition Whip on the Committee, who is sitting on my right, deserves every congratulation because he, like myself, represents one person—or, rather, several million—the average punter. I find it a little offensive that in what is, after all, an industry financed by small punters, who are rarely mentioned, matters should be decided behind closed doors between representatives of the Totalisator Board and the bookmakers, a circle into which the punter has not been invited and to which he has no access.

The Minister of State says that there has been a change of circumstances. He says that he has now heard that the gloomy prognostication which we got before and which he conveyed to the House with a great deal of gloom have not transpired and that the Tote has made a profit. What profit has it made? The hon. and learned Gentleman cannot just tell us that things are now better than they were without telling us what evidence he has for saying so. He has withdrawn what he claimed to be an essential Clause, although neither my hon. Friend the Member for West Ham, North nor I thought it essential.

Although I believe that the Government are capable of almost anything, I do not think that they put in Clauses for the sake of doing so. We were told that this was an essential Clause and now, after weeks and weeks of debate in Committee, we are told that it is not necessary after all. How does it come about that it is now not necessary? It is no good the hon. and learned Gentleman saying that he is now led to believe that the Tote is in better financial condition than it was before without also telling us just what its financial condition now is. It is no good his telling us what the financial condition is without telling us where he gets the information. Who informed him in the first place that the Tote was in such a perilous state that we had to have this massive Bill? The Minister has been less than informative to the House and the Committee.

I was interested to hear the optimistic sentiments of the hon. Member for Isle of Thanet (Mr. Rees-Davies). He talked loftily about the tiercé, and the jackpot and how beneficial these two methods of betting would be for the industry. We do not know that the agreement reached between the National Association of Bookmakers and the Tote of necessity means that the bookmakers will operate the tiercé system which is a complicated one and which I will not attempt to describe because I really do not understand it. We cannot presume that is the case and we cannot presume that the bookmakers will operate the jackpot for the benefit of the Tote. If there has been an agreement reached between the bookmakers and the Totalisator Board of which the Minister is aware, he ought to tell us about it.

I hope that the Minister will tell us before Third Reading because he might have changed his mind by then. I hope that Third Reading is taken tonight because I would hate to have to come again and hear him put the Clause back. I am not opposed to his taking the Clause out; at the same time I was not opposed to his putting it in because in my naivety I believed what he told me, as did the Committee. I am sure that the Opposition will not oppose this because, naïvely, we will believe the information that we have been given.

I agree about new Clause 1. It is right to give the Levy Board the power to remit the sums outstanding. We all welcome the appointment of Lord Mancroft but his presence, magical as it may well be, cannot by itself have made the difference between a Tote apparently losing millions of pounds being in a state of bankruptcy and now being in a profitable condition. He has not been there long enough even for him to do that. My hon. Friends will not oppose Amendment No. 66 but I hope that the Minister will be a little more forthcoming and tell us why this volte-face has occurred and why it was not possible to take this out in Committee when many hon. Members. including my hon. Friend the Member for West Ham, North, were pressing him to do so.

I hope that the Minister will give a belated message of congratulations to my hon. Friend, because had he not continually opposed this it may well be that the Bill would have been passed and these unnecessary provisions would have been on the Statute Book and we would have wasted our time.

Mr. Arthur Lewis

My hon. Friend will be aware that we sat on 22nd June and it is now only 7th August. Surely the Minister could have given this information in Committee if he had known it. I assume that it has come to him between 22nd June and 7th August. It does not really seem possible.

Mr. Davidson

I am sure that the Minister, whom we all respect, would have given us the information if he had had it. We certainly do not impuge his good faith but it is odd, to say the least, that we have had weeks of debate with all sorts of suggestions, not very novel ones, and yet it is only at the eleventh hour, to use that dramatic phrase, that the Minister comes here and tells us that what everyone has been saying is right and that he is wrong. But he does not tell up upon what he bases his information. I hope that he will now be much more forthcoming.

Mr. Carlisle

With your permission, Mr. Speaker, and that of the House, I should like to reply briefly to the extraordinary speech that we have just heard from the hon. Member for Accrington (Mr. Arthur Davidson). First, his suggestion that I took up a lot of time in Committee I find remarkable, since in view of the length of the Committee stage my contributions were reasonably small—

It being Ten o'clock, the debate stood adjourned.