§ Mr. Brittan
I beg to move amendment No. 10, in page 5, line 28, after '9', insert—'(1A) In section 1(2)(b) of the Betting and Gaming Duties Act 1972 and section 17(1)(b) of the Miscellaneous Transferred Excise Duties Act (Northern Ireland) 1972 (general betting duty on bets other than on-course bets) for the words "7½ per cent." there shall be substituted the words "8 per cent.".'.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Ernest Armstrong)
With this it will be convenient to discuss Government amendments Nos. 11, 12, 13, 195 and 196.
§ Mr. Brittan
These amendments relate to matters that we debated last week. I shall treat them in a similar way to the tobacco duty amendments that we dealt with recently.
These amendments enact in legislative form the changes to the betting and gaming duties which were the subject of the Ways and Means resolutions that we debated through the night just eight days ago. In those debates we had the opportunity to consider the matter very fully. At that stage I tried to deal with the points of detail that arose. Again, as with the case of the tobacco duty, the same matters arise tonight. I shall confine myself to moving the amendment briefly, but I am ready to deal with any points with which the House would wish me to deal at this stage.
§ Mr. Cook
As the Chief Secretary said, we debated the substance of these amendments fully last Monday. I do not think that it will be necessary for the House to debate them at the same length on this occasion. In my case, I unfolded to the House the sum total of my knowledge and wisdom about betting and horse-racing last Monday, and I have nothing to add to what I said then.
However, it is worth putting it on record that the Opposition continue to regard the charges contained in these amendments both as unnecessary, in that they attempt to recoup a small sum of money on a meticulous understanding that the PSBR is carefully balanced and cannot afford a margin of error of less than £20 million in either direction, and as discriminatory in their nature, in that what we are doing in these amendments is increasing the duty on horse-race betting and on bingo but not increasing it on those who participate in gambling in casinos. The latter tend on the whole to be the kind of persons who can perhaps more readily afford the increase in duty, and ironically the Royal Commission on Gambling came up with the casinos as the particular sector of the gaming industry which could most readily and most appropriately bear a substantial increase in duty.
For those reasons, we remain unpersuaded of the case for these amendments.
1135 As the Chief Secretary will recollect, in our debate last Monday one or two of my hon. Friends who had, perhaps, more first-hand experience of betting and horse racing than myself advised him on the consequences of the Ways and Means resolution that he was then moving, which provided for these increases in duty. Since then I think that most hon. Members will have received a letter from Ladbroke's. Ladbroke's can certainly claim considerable knowledge in this field, although one recognises that it is not necessarily an impartial witness concerning increasing the duty in its industry. But Ladbroke's speaks from firsthand knowledge of its industry.
As Ladbroke's has pointed out in a memorandum to all hon. Members, it believes—after all, it has a firm basis of knowledge on which to found its belief—that this increase in duty willundoubtedly create problems for many sections of the racing industry. It will also create problems for the Home Secretary through an increase in illegal gambling.
Ladbroke's even includes an intriguing quotation from the Chancellor, of which the House should be aware before it passes these amendments. Speaking on 10 April of this year, a mere three months ago, the Chancellor said:Any further significant increase in gambling taxes would fail to raise anything like the amount of extra revenue needed and it would risk driving gambling underground into the hands of the criminal world.
That is a view which has now been expressed not simply by Ladbroke's and the Opposition Front Bench but also by the Royal Commission on Gambling, which was set up to examine these very questions. That is a formidable array of opinion against which the Chancellor and the Treasury Bench are pushing out their own boat in opposition to the tide of general opinion as to the consequence of the increase in duty.
We argued these points last Monday. We divided last Monday. We do not propose to divide the House again tonight on the same issue. We have made our marker plain, expressed our view and put on record the view of those who know the industry at first hand. The Chief Secretary cannot but be aware that in a year or two we shall want to return to the issue to discover whose speculation on the consequence of the amendments has proved correct and whether the consequence for the racing industry and the gambling industry turns out as those with first-hand knowledge have predicted or whether the more optimistic claims of the Treasury Bench are borne out by the facts.
§ Mr. Brittan
I shall look forward to resuming combat in a year or two on these issues. I would have left the matter there had the hon. Gentleman not mentioned some observations by my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer which I do not think he has represented accurately in the context in which they were made.
My right hon. and learned Friend was referring to questions raised at the time about petrol duty and its impact on certain sections of the community. It was in the context of achieving the recoupment of any change in petrol or derv duty that the question of gambling was considered. My right hon. and learned Friend was seeking to indicate that the scope for recoupment derived from an increase in the gambling duties was limited. So it has proved. Here, the betting and gambling duties that are increased raise, 1136 in total, only £20 million. There is nothing inconsistent in what my right hon. and learned Friend said at the time and what is being done today.
§ Mr. Freud
I am sure that all hon. Members have seen the letter from Ladbroke's. I wonder whether the Chief Secretary will give an assurance that he intends to monitor carefully the gaming receipts. If there is a diminution in the volume of betting, it will surely have been incredibly silly to allow such a small sum of money to kill the goose that lays such golden eggs for the Treasury.
§ Mr. Brittan
I am happy to assure the hon. Gentleman that in this matter, as in all revenue matters, we shall continue to watch the golden eggs with great care.
§ Amendment agreed to.
Amendments made: No. 11, in page 6, line 2, at end insert—
'(2A) In section 17(2) of the Betting and Gaming Duties Act 1972 (bingo duty)—
(2B) In section 23(1) of the Betting and Gaming Duties Act 1972 (rates of gaming machine licence duty)—
(2C) In the Table in section 44(4) of the Miscellaneous Transferred Excise Duties Act (Northern Ireland) 1972 (rates of gaming machine licence duty in Northern Ireland) for "£50" and "£300" there shall be substituted "£75" and "£400" respectively, and, as respects machines chargeable at the higher rate, for the entries in the second and third columns there shall be substituted "one or more machines" and "£200 per machine" respectively.'.
No. 12, in page 6, line 8 leave out subsection (4) and insert—
'(4) Subsection (1A) above shall be deemed to have come into force on 12th July 1981, subsections (1) and (2) above shall be deemed to have come into force on 1st July 1981, subsection (2A) above shall be deemed to have come into force on 27th July 1981 and subsections (2B) and (2C) above shall come into force on 1st October 1981.'.
No. 13, in schedule 5, page 122, line 4 leave out "7(1) and 8' and insert 'and 7(1)'.—[Mr. Brittan.]