§ (2) This section shall come into force on 31st July, 1972'.—[Mr. Patrick Jenkin.]
§ Brought up, and read the First time.
§ The Chief Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Patrick Jenkin)
I beg to move, That the Clause be read a Second time.
Horserace Totalisator Board to be exempt from betting duty
'Notwithstanding the provisions of the Betting and Gaming Duties Act, 1972, the Horserace Totalisator Board shall not be liable for payment of any form of betting duty on the facilities provided by it',
§ new Clause 30,
§ General betting duty on on-course bets
§ '(1) Section 1(1) of the Finance Act, 1970, which specifies the general betting duty payable in respect of any bet made on or after 27th April, 1970, shall be read and have effect as if in paragraph (a) thereof, which relates to on-course bets, for the words "5 per cent." there shall be substituted the words "3 per cent.".
§ (2) This section shall have effect in respect of any on-course bet made on or after the coming into force of this Act'.
§ new Clause 54,
§ Amendment of s. 12(4) of Betting and Gaming Duties Act, 1972
'(1) From the date of coming into force of this Act section 12(4) of the Betting and Gaming Duties Act, 1972, shall have effect as if in place of the definition of "on-course" bet there were substituted the following: —
'on-course bet' means—
(2) From the date of the coming into force of this Act section 12(4) of the Betting and Gaming Duties Act, 1972, shall be further amended by adding the following new definition: —
'cash bet' means a bet in respect of which the stake is paid at or prior to the time when the bet is made"'.
§ and new Clause 55,1195
Amendment of s. 1 of Betting and Gaming Duties Act, 1972
'In relation to any on-course bet made on or after 17th July, 1972 (section l(2)(a) of the Betting and Gaming Duties Act, 1972 (which relates to general betting duty), shall be read and have effect as if, in place of the words "5 per cent." there were substituted the words "4 per cent."'.
§ Mr. Jenkin
New Clause 5 deals with the general betting duty and its purpose is to widen the differential between the on-course and the off-course rate of duty. At present the off-course rate is 6 per cent. and the on-course rate is 5 per cent., giving a differential of one percentage point. If the Clause is carried the on-course rate will be reduced from 5 per cent. to 4 per cent. giving a differential of two percentage points. The cost of the new Clause would be about £2½ million in a full year.
Those right hon. and hon. Members who were members of Standing Committee E which considered the Bill will recollect that we had a very full debate on the problems which are at present facing the racing industry. The Government were pressed by hon. Members on both sides to recognise the difficulties, and I undertook, without any commitment, that the Government would study the case that had been made. This we have done. We have also had representations from bodies outside who have been good enough to provide us with a wealth of statistical and other information of which it is right for the Government to take notice.
The case that was made to us came under three heads. First it was argued that starting prices are based on bets placed on course and that the whole of the off-course betting market depends upon them. If the disparity in the total amount of bets placed is too wide, if the on-course market is too weak, the market can be open to manipulation with grave damage to the confidence of betters and to the yield of the duty. It was argued that the differential which was introduced in 1970 at a difference of one percentage point was not enough and that the market would be strengthened if the differential were widened.
The second and more general argument that was advanced was based upon the health of the racing industry as such. It was argued that what was needed was bigger attendances on the race course 1196 which would in turn lead to better prizes and a higher quality of racing and that it therefore needed a virtuous circle starting with higher attendances.
It was argued, third, that racing will be facing new burdens under VAT which will be imposed on entrance fees and, to some extent, on the fees paid by owners to trainers.
The Government have considered all these arguments most carefully. We do not place much weight on the last argument. Value added tax is a tax on the end consumer, and the consumer, whether he be a racegoer or a racehorse owner, should be in no different position from anyone else. On the other hand, we accept that there is a need to strengthen, if possible, the on-course market and that it is desirable to help race attendances. It is for that reason that my right hon. Friend has tabled the Clause.
The cost, which as I have said is likely to be about £2½ million in a full year, will largely be brought about as a diversion from the off-course betting market. We do not expect that there will be a substantial influx of new money. It remains to be seen how far that will be accompanied by any significant increase in attendances, but I believe it will be hoped by all hon. Members that that will be the result.
As a by-product of the Clause, the sum paid out by the Tote is likely to be reduced by £150,000 per annum. That may be of help to the Tote in its difficulties.
Every Chancellor faces competing claims for tax relief. This year has been no exception. However, racing is part of our national life and we are satisfied that there is evidence that danger to the health of the industry could arise and, therefore, that the total yield of the duty could be at risk if we did nothing. That case was pressed by my hon. Friends and by the hon. Member for Birmingham, All Saints (Mr. Brian Walden), among others, from the Opposition. We have felt it right to accept the case, and the Clause is the result.
§ Mr. Dalyell
The Chief Secretary referred to the health of the racing industry. If we are to talk about competing claims, I hope that this is a taste of what is to come. If we are to talk about the health of the racing industry, after all that went 1197 through in Committee, we also might talk about the health of some rather greater priorities, such as people. I hope having heard that remark, that other Amendments, such as that standing in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Willesden, West (Mr. Pavitt), will have a favourable response from the Treasury. The health of people should take priority as a competing claim over the health of the racing industry.
I should like to be clear that the £2½ million is the cost to the Revenue?
§ Mr. Dalyell
Then why could not it be equalled out? I understand the need to differentiate in favour of on-course betting, but why could not something be made up on off-course betting? There are many hon. Members who might think that if the Treasury has £2½million to give away there are better ways of doing so. I, for one, am less than happy about this.
§ Mr. W. R. Rees-Davies (Isle of Thanet)
It is not right to say that anything is being given away.
I pay tribute to the Treasury Ministers. None of them, from the Chancellor down, claims to be an expert racing enthsuiast, but all of them have shown a close interest in this subject which has been put to them on a number of occasions. I had the pleasure, with a number of my hon. Friends, to discuss this matter about a year ago in the House. The then Chief Secretary, who has moved to another task, pursued the matter further. Each of the three Treasury Ministers has heard representations both inside and outside the House, and has given careful consideration to a number of matters which have been raised.
§ 4.15 p.m.
§ This is not an easy subject and is definitely a matter for the expert. Following Second Reading I tabled an Amendment, which was discussed in Committee, to secure six to one. I do not resile from the fact that, if one is to achieve the betterment of the racing industry, a wider differential will in due course be necessary than that which has been put forward. I regard today's provision as a good down payment on account this year, but let the Chancellor be under no illu- 1198 sion that when VAT has to be paid by punters next year we shall expect to see a substantially wider differential. I am sorry that the Chancellor cannot accept an Amendment to secure half-and-half this year.
§ I also pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Surrey, East (Mr. William Clark), who took on the unenviable and not always easy task of arguing this matter in the debate which took place in Committee, supported by others of my hon. Friends. I am happy to say that there was good all-party support for the proposition. We do not want to get involved in party politics on these issues.
§ I shall briefly give some new material to the House to support my case for a wider differential next year, if we are prepared to accept the small differential now which gives us 6 per cent. off-course and 4 per cent. on-course. First, the Treasury has done far better out of this tax than it ever dreamed of doing. When we told the Treasury of the likelihood of its getting figures approaching these, it did not believe it. Betting on-course in 1971–72 produced £5½million. That is both horses and dogs. Betting off-course produced £69,647,000.
§ Off-course betting is 93 per cent, and on-course betting is a mere 7 per cent. The total turnover in 1971–72 was £1,161 million of which only £112 million was on-course. The result is that certain leading chains of bookmakers—one of the largest, in particular—no longer have to send any of their money on-course. As a result there has been a gradual fall in horse racing attendances and, consequently, a fall in amenities. In 1953, there were 693 racing days with a total on-course attendance of just under 6 million and TV coverage of only 27 days. By 1971 there were 855 racing days, attendance had fallen to 4¼ million, and TV coverage had risen from 27 to 242 days.
§ In the meanwhile, the Government had done very well. The tax was introduced in 1966 and by 1968 the Government were already getting £44½ million off-course and only £5 million on-course. Although they were getting £44½ million, they were still getting 10 per cent. on-course and 90 per cent. off-course. By 1971 the revenue to the Treasury had risen to upwards of £70 million, whereas 1199 on-course remained stagnant at only £5 million at 7 per cent.
§ If we get a differential on-course, we shall be able to get people to go racing. Television coverage has not had an entirely bad effect on on-course attendances. Racing through the lens has given people an opportunity to watch racing with great regularity and at last a number of new people would like to go to the course. For them to go on the course is very stupid in view of the present tax situation. The cost for an average day's racing is at least £2 to get into the members' enclosure and at least another £1 for food because of the very high catering rates, plus payment for drink and travelling costs. The total is £4 or £5.
§ If one goes on the course and bets as a reasonable man might and has two winners during the afternoon, one might get £4 back, with the tax of 3 per cent., as against 6 per cent. off-course. To put it in another way, one can get back most of what one has paid for a reasonable day's racing with the differential of 6 per cent. for off-course and 3 per cent. for on-course. If this is broadened and brought down to 6 to 1 the purpose of increasing attendances can be achieved.
§ We want to do this for two main reasons. The first reason can be stated simply. At present race courses have not the revenue with which to provide the amenities which are necessary. If the Levy Board could provide better prize money and had a better opportunity on-course, at least we could try to leave the revenue coming to on-course betting in the hands of those better able to promote it.
§ The other reason is as follows. It may be interesting to note that an astonishing position is now arising in regard to revenue for race courses. In Great Britain and Eire there is a total in stakes by way of purses of £4,224,263 in respect of racing. In France the amount is more than double, £9,848,484. The number of races in Great Britain is 3,306 and in France the number is 3,721. The average stake per race in Great Britain is £1,278 and in France is it £2,647. The average earnings per runner in this country are £555 and in France £1,278. Therefore, anyone in his right hand will run 1200 his horses in France and not in this country if he gets the opportunity. Fortunately a large number of racehorse owners are clearly not in their right mind and are quite willing to give us the advantage of spending their money on racing in this country.
§ There are several major reasons why it is essential to continue with the widened differentials. First, there is in substance no money coming to on-course betting. There is only one professional punter, a Maharaja. Nowadays no man can make a living out of racing as used to be done. Whether that was right or wrong, morally, it used to be done and it created a healthy on-course market. Soon the big bookmakers will not need to utilise the on-course services. The Extel services are down by £250,000 this year. Apart from a very strong off-course market, people would go to meetings and spend their money for the benefit of racing.
§ Why should there not be an advantage for some of those who are supporting racing whereas those of us who sit at home and watch racing on television are giving no support whatever to racing? It is reasonable that there should be a wide differential to encourage people to see the sport and to enjoy it. The third reason is that without a substantial difference we cannot get the on-course amenity and the purse which will enable this country to compete with France.
§ Therefore, I hope that with the demand we have seen this year, the obvious knowledge which Customs and Excise have of gaming and the interest of the Treasury Bench in the sport and expert economists who I am sure will join in this debate, we can ensure a healthy outlook and continue to help the racing industry.
§ Mr. Arthur Davidson (Accrington)
I think the Chief Secretary was quite right to put forward this new Clause. He will know that my hon. Friends and I tabled in Committee a new Clause which was identical to this—perhaps not actually identical, but the elegant superiority of the Treasury phrasing has produced a new Clause which would have exactly the same effect.
§ Mr. Davidson
In Committee I subsequently discovered that I had to indicate when our new Clause would come into operation, and I did so.
I welcome the concession, which it is right to make in the interests of racing, because it is essential that there should be a strong on-course market, not only for the benefit of racing as a whole but to prevent it from being open to any possible corruption and manipulation of the market. The present position is absurd, for comparatively trivial sums of money can alter the whole basis of the betting market and the person who always suffers in those circumstances is the punter, particularly the small punter. For that reason the purpose of the new Clause is to increase the differential, and this is welcomed.
I am little disappointed, however, that the Chief Secretary did not make reference to other new Clauses which myhon. Friends and I tabled, which would have enabled credit bets taken by the Tote off-course to be paid at the same rate as the on-course bets. This, I understand, would have increased the revenue to the Tote by about £22,000 a year. The hon. Gentleman told us that under this new Clause the revenue to the Tote will be increased by £150,000. That will be most welcome for the Tote in its present financial difficulties, which are considerable. They are so considerable that the Government have introduced a Bill to enable the Tote to get out of its difficulties. It would not be fair to refer in detail to that, but I merely say that in general the Opposition welcome those proposals.
It would have been helpful if the Chief Secretary had accepted the new Clauses to which I have referred, so that credit bets taken by the Tote for off-course betting would have been paid at the same rate of duty as on-course bets. That would have had the effect of increasing the Tote's revenue and in my view it would not have significantly changed the credit market or acted to the detriment of the Tote. It would have been a very useful extra measure. However, I do not wish to be churlish, and perhaps the hon. Gentleman may accept one of those new Clauses later in our proceedings.
This new Clause is a very useful step which will encourage more people to go racing instead of staying at home to watch 1202 it on television. Most of my constituents do not go into the rings which were referred to by the hon. Member for Isle of Thanet (Mr. Rees-Davies). They seldom go into the £2 ring; they go into the much cheaper one. But then, I have different constituents from the hon. Gentleman's. That is my good fortune.
I do not wish to be churlish. We all appreciate that the Chief Secretary has kept his word. He said that he would look at our proposed new Clause. He has in fact accepted it, and I welcome his new Clause.
§ 4.30 p.m.
§ Mr. William Clark (Surrey, East)
We had a comprehensive debate in Committee about on- and off-course betting. The House is grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Isle of Thanet (Mr. Rees-Davies) for giving us a resumé of that debate.
The one reason for reducing the on-course betting duty is to increase the attendance at race meetings. It will indirectly help the Tote. In Committee my hon. Friends and I tabled an Amendment to reduce the duty from 5 per cent. to 1 per cent., and then for Report we tabled our new Clause 30 to reduce it to 3 per cent. The Treasury has compromised by proposing to make it 4 per cent. Perhaps our tactics were wrong. Perhaps on Report we should have tried to reduce it to 1 per cent., when we might have obtained 2 per cent. or 3 per cent.
Be that as it may, I do not think the differential of one point, now two points, will have the material effect that my hon. Friend suggests. He says that the Tote will be helped to the extent of £150,000, which is very welcome in view of the Tote's position. We are all anxious to increase the attendances at racecourse meetings, and we now have the Treasury rowing with us. If those attendances do not increase sufficiently—and though I am not naturally a pessimist I do not think the one point drop will result in much increase in attendances—will my hon. Friend the Chief Secretary confirm that he has not closed his mind to a further reduction in the on-course betting duty next year, because it is essential to maintain the horseracing industry?
§ Mr. Simon Wingfield Digby (Dorset, West)
I should like to add a few brief 1203 words to welcome the concession in the Clause. I must immediately declare an interest, because I am a breeder and, in a much smaller way, an owner. Nearly all my racing takes place in a television room not very far from here, so it is unnecessary to explain to me what colour television has brought to racing.
The hon. Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) was a little unkind to punters, saying that they should have no concession. There are many of them, in all walks of life, and they need some consideration. In some ways the reduction in duty may help them.
My first point concerns the starting price. Many people will agree that it is sometimes a little difficult to justify, and I think the concession to on-course betting will help.
§ Mr. Dalyell
I am not being unkind to punters. I was simply asking, if £2½ million was available, whether parents with young children facing problems over the price of shoes and so on were not a priority.
§ Mr. Digby
I see the puritan approach to these matters, but there are times when recreation is justified, and I do not think that lowering a tax on the punter is altogether a bad thing.
My second point concerns the health of racing. I am grateful for what my hon. Friend the Member for Isle of Thanet (Mr. Rees-Davies) said about the comparison with French racing. Another relevant matter is the extent to which American horses are carrying all before them in this country. The thoroughbred is essentially a British product. Our exports of thoroughbreds have brought a great deal of money into the country in recent years, but those exports will tend to dry up if we allow the breed to deteriorate.
The French courses are certainly drawing many of the best horses. This is a time when the French thoroughbred is in temporary eclipse and when it is a very good plan to give a much-needed boost to British racing, where the rewards and attendances at courses are too small. For example, it is much more tempting for a Frenchman to go to Long champs, at a much lower cost, than it is for a British punter to go to many of our courses.
1204 For those reasons, I am very glad that my hon. Friend the Chief Secretary has made this concession.
§ Mr. Joel Barnett
I was very interested in the speech of the hon. Member for Isle of Thanet (Mr. Rees-Davies),who speaks frequently on this subject, with great knowledge. He should perhaps have a word with the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary, who spoke at the weekend about some people being rather greedy in their demands for wages and therefore increasing inflation. It seems that the Government have not done quite enough for the hon. Gentleman, although I appreciate that the £2½ million that the Chief Secretary talked about may well not be the actual loss of revenue.
Whether or not the differential, as amended by the Clause, is right or wrong is obviously arguable. The hon. Gentleman seeks a wider differential. Others would argue that perhaps the balance is about right. I do not know whether it is. We shall have to see.
§ Mr. Rees-Davies
The point is that if the revenue continues to go up off-course, it will be found that 6 per cent. is about the optimum chargeable. It will attract around £70 million. If the punter goes on to the course instead of staying off it, the money goes into the courses, the Levy Board does not have to provide the money, and the Government get that benefit. That is why we have the differential.
§ Mr. Barnett
I take the hon. Gentleman's point. On the general issue, I agree that it is very likely that there would be no loss of revenue. But the Government have estimated that the change will cost £2½ million, and therefore I understand the argument of my hon. Friend the Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell), which was not made from a puritanical point of view. It is not puritanical to suggest that there are better ways of spending £2½ million. I, too, would rather it went to parents to buy children's shoes, but I do not believe that there will be a reduction in revenue of £2½ million.
The hon. Member for Isle of Thanet said that no man can now make a living out of betting. There are many Measures I should like to see on the Statute Book, and many Amendments I should like 1205 to make to Finance Bills, but it has never been one of my greatest desires to see a Measure which made it possible for someone to make a living out of betting. If I thought that the Clause had that intention, or moved in that direction, I should not be supporting it now. When the hon. Gentleman told us how tragic it was that there was only one maharajah left on the courses, my heart bled for all the others who have been forced off. I am very sad about that, but I should not want to do anything to bring them back again. However, if they would like to return, I should not want to discourage them.
I accept the Clause for one reason above all others—the need to protect the small punters who do not go to the racecourse, the factory workers and the housewives who bet with their few bob and who are affected by the honesty of the on-course betting. If for no other reason, it is important that we should try to keep the balance right.
Therefore, I officially accept the new Clause. While I agree that we need to look at the balance in terms of the differential, I would not wish it to be thought that I accept that the present level of betting tax is right. However, we can leave that matter for another occasion.
§ Mr. John Cronin (Loughborough)
I wish to put two points to the Chief Secretary. First, the differential is so small that it can be beneficial only for people betting in very large sums, bearing in mind the cost of attending race meetings and the other expenses involved. I wonder whether it will be effective in bringing about an increase in the attendances at racecourses. Will the Chief Secretary give an assurance that he will open his mind to increasing the differential further in another Finance Bill if he finds that the concession is not having the desired effect?
Secondly, it is obviously necessary in the interests of British bloodstock and the export of British horses that race meetings should continue and should flourish. But the most important thing is to increase the prize money for races, because some of the prizes given in this country are derisory compared with those given in France, and even more derisory com- 1206 pared with those given in the United States.
Can the Chief Secretary say who will be the beneficiaries of the concession? Admittedly, it is possible that attendances will increase as a result of it, but what steps is he taking and what consultations has he had to ensure that the financial advantages derived from the concession lead to the betterment and improvement of racing?
§ Mr. Patrick Jenkin
The debate does not call for a long reply, but I have been most interested in the points that have been made.
The hon. Member for Loughborough (Mr. Cronin) and my hon. Friend the Member for Isle of Thanet (Mr. Rees-Davies) have cast doubt on whether doubling the differential is likely to have any significant effect on attendances. I said when moving the new Clause that we would have to wait and see. It does not mean that if there is a shift of money from off-course to on-course betting it will be accompanied by a commensurate increase in the number of people who go racing. It is most unlikely that it will. But it may attract some people to bet on-course instead off-course, and we shall watch the figures very carefully.
A number of hon. Members have asked whether we rule out doing anything further next year. As the House would expect, I must reserve the position of my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I hope that none of us ever has a closed mind on anything. We shall keep the situation under review.
The hon. Member for Accrington (Mr. Arthur Davidson) asked about the proposal which is embodied in his new Clause No. 54. We would feel reluctant to go down that road because an important principle of taxation and not merely of betting taxation is involved, namely, that those in like case should be treated in the same way. We would find it difficult to treat certain sorts of off-course betting or betting with certain betting organisations differently from others simply on the ground that one wanted to encourage, for example, the Tote. I should have thought that, in terms of betting duty, it would need to compete on level terms with the bookmakers. It has been said that the book-making organisations would look with 1207 favour on a differential of the sort which the hon. Gentleman has suggested, but I doubt whether that is so. We do not feel able to accept his suggestion.
§ 4.45 p.m.
§ My hon. Friends the Members for Dorset, West (Mr. Wingfield Digby) and Isle of Thanet compared the situation in this country with that in France. There are a number of differences. I hope that I shall not be taken as saying anything provocative, let alone giving any indication of policy in this regard, when I say that bookmakers do not exist in France. There is, I understand, a Tote monopoly there. That plainly makes a big difference. One of the attractions for many people of going racing in this country is to see the colourful characters lining the rails and to place bets with them. This is a matter of difference in national taste and national habit.
§ The hon. Member for Loughborough rightly drew attention to the importance of bloodstock exports. However, I must add acaveat, that the trade statistics do not draw a distinction between horses which are exported temporarily for the purpose of racing or breeding which return to this country and those which represent a genuine export earnings in the ordinary sense. We must tread warily when considering how much weight we should attach to that argument.
§ Mr. Cronin
Could the Chief Secretary take steps to ensure that the statistics set out the exact position?
§ Mr. Jenkin
I shall consider whether that can be done, because it would be helpful, but the exporter may not know what is likely to happen in respect of a horse which is exported.
|The Treasury may by order make provision for securing that where a television set—|
|(a) is supplied on hire for a period beginning before 1st April 1973; and|
|(b) is treated by virtue of regulations made under section 7 of this Act as supplied for successive parts of that period;|
|and such other conditions are satisfied as may be specified in the order, the tax on the supply for such a part ending on or before 31st March 1975 shall be chargeable as if the consideration for the supply were reduced to such extent as may be specified in the order; and different provision may be so made for different parts so ending and for different circumstances'.—[Mr. Higgins.]|
§ Brought up, and read the First time.
§ The Financial Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Terence Higgins)
I beg to 1208 market December sales that an enormous number of horses go abroad, thus earning a great deal of money?
§ Mr. Jenkin
I would rather not say more without studying the figures. I shall look into the matter to see whether we can produce more satisfactory statistics.
The hon. Member for Heywood and Royton (Mr. Joel Barnett) appeared at one time to be wanting his oil cake and eating it. He agreed with the new Clause and with his hon. Friend the Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell). I think that the general feeling in the House is that the modest increase in the differential which we are proposing is right in the circumstances. We shall wait to see what happens. I make no commitment, but this is a step in the right direction. I am glad that the new Clause has had a general welcome, and I recommend it.
§ Mr. Dalyell
Is it a question of a £2½ million erosion to the Revenue, or is it saved on the checks and balances?
§ Mr. Jenkin
Our best estimate is—and estimating is always very difficult in this matter—that this concession represents a net loss to the Revenue. It represents the lower rate of duty on that amount of money which will be switched from off-course to on-course betting. It is very difficult to estimate to what extent it will attract new money into betting, and we make very little allowance for that. It is better to make a conservative estimate rather than an estimate which may be too optimistic.
§ Question put and agreed to.
§ Clause read a Second time, and added to the Bill.