§ 2.57 p.m.
§ Lord WIGG rose to call attention to the Fourteenth Report of the Horserace Betting Levy Board for the year ended 31st March 1975; and to move for Papers. The noble Lord said: My Lords, I rise to call attention to the Fourteenth Report of the Horserace Betting Levy Board which is before the House as a result of a statutory requirement; namely, Section 31 of the Betting, Gaming and Lotteries Act 1963. Before making my general remarks, I invite the attention of your Lordships to the fact that during the last three years, three Motions have appeared on the Order Paper, none of which, if I may use a racing aphorism, has come up to the starting gate.
§ On the 16th November 1967 the noble Earl, Lord Kinnoull, put down a Motion to call attention to the state of British horseracing, and to move for Papers. This disappeared from the Order Paper on 20th December 1967. On 23rd April 1973, the noble Duke, the Duke of Devonshire, placed a Motion on the Order Paper; namely to call attention to the need to implement certain recommendations contained in the Benson Report on the horseracing industry, and moved for Papers. This Motion last appeared on the Order Paper on 26th July 1973, but did not appear on the next Order Paper which was issued on 9th October 1973. The noble Lord, Lord Crawshaw, placed a Motion on the Order Paper on 18th March 1975, to call attention to the present state of the industry, and to move for Papers. This Motion remained on the Order Paper until Prorogation on 12th November 1975.
§ It is my submission that each of those three Motions was not the responsibility of Her Majesty's Government in any respect whatever. Her Majesty's Government are not responsible for the state of British horseracing, and nor are they responsible for the non-implementation of the Benson Report, which was the result of an inquiry undertaken by the Jockey Club into a matter which was the statutory responsibility of the Home Secretary. Whereas the Motion I bring to your Lordships today is strictly in accordance 1443 with the Statute; the Report is presented by the Horserace Betting Levy Board to the Government, to the Home Secretary, and in due course appears, if placed on the Table, in both this House and in another place.
§ Never before, it is true, has the Report been debated. But of course there always has to be a first time and I am very glad indeed that I have staked a claim for the Guinness Book of Records. But there is another matter which should be entered in the record at the same time. One of the requirements of the Statute is that the Horserace Totalisator Board has to present its Report to the Levy Board and then the two Reports are embraced in the one document, which is what I am asking your Lordships to consider today.
§ Now the Horserace Totalisator Board has achieved a record: it is a record which cannot be equalled in any country in the world. It is a statutory board, it exercises a monopoly and yet it manages to make a loss. That is a miracle of such magnitude that there must be reasons for it. I am not going to weary your Lordships today, although I have had some experience because I was a member of the Horserace Betting Control Board—placed there, may I say, by a Conservative Minister. I was also a member of the Totalisator Board, placed there by two Conservative Ministers. So I have a passing idea of how things should go on and how they are conducted, but I think this matter is one that should be considered by a Select Committee and by the Select Committee for Nationalised Industries.
§ I understand that a few years ago it was on the short list: I hope it will be placed on the short list again, because the well being of the totalisator as an alternative form of betting and as an instrument which could make a contribution to British horse racing, is highly important. Indeed the "tote" came into being in this country as a result of a Private Member's Bill in 1928, charged with just those two tasks. At the moment it makes no profit, nor does it adequately provide an alternative form of betting. So, as I have said, this performance is a unique one, placed perhaps alongside my minor record of raising the subject of the 14th Report for the first time.1444
§ I think too the House ought to take note, particularly at a time of vast unemployment, of the place which sport and recreation have in relation to Government policy as a whole. This must be an overall Government responsibility, and I remind your Lordships that Mr. Denis Howell, the Minister for Sport, on 5th April 1974 made a Statement. I quote from that respectable paper the Guardian, which said that Mr. Howell outlined his grand new design and announced the setting up of a committee to inquire into the Sports Council, the Horserace Betting Levy Board and a number of other organisations. I wonder whether we may be told how that inquiry is getting on, because responsibility for legislation connected with the Horserace Betting Levy Board and the Totalisator Board rests with the Home Secretary.
I suppose it would be frivolous of me to weary your Lordships with this point, were it not for another matter of some substance. On 16th July 1974 the Prime Minister informed the House of Commons in a Written Answer to a Question that he had taken a decision and given instructions that sport and recreation should be co-ordinated, and the co-ordinating responsibility would be exercised on his behalf by the present Minister for Sport,
who will henceforth be designated ' Minister of State for Sport and Recreation'.
He pointed out that the Minister for Sport and Recreation was a Minister of the Department of the Environment and that in future these matters would be dealt with by that Department. This again seems to me to be a matter on which the Minister might like to comment.
The Duke of DEVONSHIRE
My Lords, I wonder whether I might interrupt the noble Lord for a moment, in order to clarify a point? I think in the past the noble Lord has been associated with the Betting Offices Licensees Association and in his introductory remarks I have been expecting him to announce this to the House. As he has not done so, would I be right in assuming that the noble Lord no longer has any connection with BOLA?
§ Lord WIGG
My Lords, I am sorry if I have not at this moment declared my interest. I was going to do it at a later 1445 stage, but it is just as well that it has been raised. I will now go over the whole gamut of my interests. I have done it so many times before but I will do it again. I was a member of the Racecourse Betting Control Board, nominated by a Conservative Minister; I received no salary and no expenses. I was appointed a member of the Horserace Totalisator Board by Mr. Butler when he was Home Secretary; I received no salary and I drew not a penny of expenses. In due course, at the expiration of my first period, I was nominated again by a Conservative Minister, Mr. Henry Brooke, again with no salary and no expenses. Obviously, when I became a Minister I resigned. In due course I became chairman of the Horserace Betting Levy Board, for which I received a salary and expenses. In 1973 I was invited to become president of BOLA. I am still president of BOLA, and on every occasion on which I have spoken in this House on this subject, particularly on the Lotteries Bill, I have made my position clear ad nauseant.
I repeat again today that I speak entirely for myself, and in my introductory remarks I was bringing into focus the matter which I am bringing before the House. If the noble Duke, the Duke of Devonshire, thinks that in any way I have infringed the proprieties, then I beg his pardon and that of the House. But if he had waited a minute I should have done all that. I apologise. I thought my position was so well known, but if the noble Duke feels that it detracts from my argument—I am sure he would not wish to add anything to it—and if he thinks he has made an effective point, I hope he will not hesitate to interrupt me again as effectively as he has done on this occasion. I am much obliged to him.
I now pass to a point of some substance; namely, the publication by the Government of the White Paper on Sport and Recreation. This Paper was published in August of this year and it lays down certain principles, the most important of which is that financial resources are going to be extremely limited; and the White Paper says it would be unrealistic to issue any statement on Government policies and intentions for sport and recreation without indicating the extent to which the action is likely to be inhibited by our present economic difficulties. The 1446 White Paper goes on to make the point that the limited resources which are available for recreation must be employed with discrimination and in the most cost-effective way possible. The White Paper refers to "all public authorities", and I should like the Minister to be good enough to tell us whether the principles of policy—the introductory remarks to the White Paper—apply right across the board to all sports.
In my judgment—and this is the principal point with which I am concerned—racing, professional football, bingo and all the various ways in which people entertain themselves (because every man—or every woman, for that matter—chooses their own particular poison which they care to pay for) are important factors in the stability of our society as a whole. And while I certainly do not want Government-run sport, and I do not want a Minister of Culture, it is a fact that if limited resources are available they clearly must be used to the best possible advantage, having regard to the fact that we may be entering into the wastelands (if I may so describe it) or the deserts of too much leisure through unemployment. If that is so, the points at which people congregate, even if the points of congregation are those of which we do not approve, are important factors and therefore must be so regarded.
I came across a quotation, which I have been unable to check, from Walter Bagehot, who clearly in 1867 was thinking about the £ 10 freeholder and the effect of the extension of franchise. He used these words—I think he used them in a different context, but they seem to me to be apposite at the present time:A life of labour, an incomplete education, a monotonous occupation, a career in which the hands are used much and the judgment is used little, cannot create as much flexible thought, as much practical intelligence, as a life of leisure, a long culture, a varied experience and an existence by which the judgment is incessantly exercised and by which it may be incessantly improved.I would submit that for a large section of the population—although I am sure the overwhelming majority of your Lordships' House would not agree with me—the only opportunity they have of exercising a personal judgment the consequences of which they have to take into account in the balancing of their 1447 budget is when they back a horse. And just as in the days of Bagehot the public house or the gin palace was an important point of political congregation which had profound effects on the political life of this country, so also today are the betting shops and the bingo hall, as part of the leisure industry of which racing is also a part. Therefore it is no good being slightly superior about it and thinking "Well, thank God, I am not as other men are! This is all going on, but I have no part to play in it "It is the fact that to many of our fellow countrymen the betting shop, well lit, warm, with access to the newspaper and to people who are like-minded, is part of the social pattern and should be so regarded.
§ Lord GEORGE-BROWN
My Lords, if I may interrupt my noble friend for one moment, the quotation he read from Bagehot was really, if I remember aright, taken in its context, an argument for arranging that all men should be able to do what the last half of the quotation said only some men can do. How does he square that with the argument which he seems to me to be putting forward that we should all stay as the first half of the quotation says, and therefore should provide all the betting shops, the gin houses and God knows what, on the assumption that none of us is ever going to get into a different situation? I just do not understand my noble friend.
§ Lord WIGG
My Lords, I am sorry, but I do not understand the noble Lord, Lord George-Brown, so we are all square on that one. So far I have not produced an argument. What I have tried to do is to take this Fourteenth Report, which is presented to both Houses of Parliament, point out that they have not discussed it so far, and use my luck in the ballot to call attention to it, in order at the same time to draw attention to what is a very important social fact. I understand very well that noble Lords who live at the elevated spiritual level of my noble friend Lord George-Brown will not wish to take note of such mundane things as having a bet in the betting shop. I understand that. But being one of the lower mortals myself, I have and I do and I shall. So far I have not produced an argument. I will, however, struggle on.
1448 Having made my general remarks—and I am limited very much by time—I will turn now to the Report itself to see what is being asked for. First of all, let us do it against the background of the standard of judgment which is laid down for us by the Chairman of the Horserace Betting Levy Board which is responsible for this Report. He has come to the Home Office, in disagreement with the Bookmakers Committee, and has asked for more money. He wants more money for a purpose that he has not so far defined. What he said on 24th July 1975 was this:We have looked into every cupboard, saved wherever we could we have taken money out of bricks and mortar and put it into prize money, because we felt it would be better to spend the money now than to save it for a rainy day.So there is the standard. They have looked into every nook and cranny, every
The Chairman of the Levy Board has reported to the Homo Secretary, who has to take a decision in accordance of Section 1(2) of the Horserace Betting Levy Act 1969, that there is a disagreement; in accordance with the Statute the Home Secretary has to take a decision. cupboard, and now we are going to see what was in the cupboard.
The balance that is shown in the Fourteenth Report adds up to £4,864,000. It is fair to add that in the Notes to the Accounts on page 48 it says that there is a current liability of £2,037,000 for improvements to racecourses. It does not say what the racecourses are and it does not break down the amount, so I assume that this is a tentative contingency. But be it tentative or not, or be it in a specific form by this time, it would still leave a balance of £2.8 million. Furthermore, the same accounts show a surplus of revenue in 1974–75 of £2,753,319. This is almost certain to rise in 1976–77. On the face of it, in the presence of an uncommitted surplus of £2.8 million, it is somewhat difficult to understand the case for an increase in the levy rate, particularly having regard to the Chairman's remarks that he is not going to keep money for a rainy day and he has looked into every nook and cranny to see what money he can get. What the Levy Board have done is to report an expenditure of £1 million extra for prize money in the coming year. But even if one allows 1449 for that £1 million, with the surpluses they have got they are still very well heeled. One asks oneself the question what are they really after, what is the reason they ask for more money at this stage, with these very large uncommitted balances? I do not know what the reply is, but I venture a guess.
Perhaps I ought to mention and underline, for the benefit of the noble Duke, that I became Chairman of the Horserace Betting Levy Board in 1967, and I found one or two things. I found, for example, that by Statute the Horserace Betting Levy Board were required under Section 25, to seek the approval of the Secretary of State before they expended money on any scheme or any activity. That provision had been completely ignored, and it took me two years' hard labour and careful searching to make honest men of the Levy Board; because until an instrument was signed by the Secretary of State the actions they had taken from the 1st September 1961 up to the time the instrument was signed in May 1970 were ultra vires.
That provision had been completely ignored, except for two instances. One of them was in connection with Cheltenham, where a guarantee was given, and the Secretary of State at the time wrote in the most caustic terms expressing the hope that it would never happen again. And the second occasion was on the transfer of the National Stud. I also discovered something else of great interest. The Duke of Norfolk had presented a report recommending the setting up of pattern races. Nothing at all had been done about it. It was not until 23rd July 1968 that, as a result of increasing the levy, I was able to announce the doubling of prize money and the introduction of the pattern races. The whole concept of the increased grants for prize money—which in itself as a policy I certainly do not oppose; how can I, because in 1968 I doubled it?—is that it must be related to an overall policy and not just frittered away. That is what has now happened.
My guess is that the demand for more prize money now, the demand that has come to the Secretary of State for an increased levy, is because forces inside the upper echelons of racing administration have their eye on ever-increased money for pattern racing. The money for 1450 pattern racing, for flat racing, already approved is £602,000. I do not believe that the Levy Board as such has got the brass neck, at a time of great national economic difficulty, to come forward with a demand for increased prize money for pattern races, because they are won only by very good horses, and very good horses are owned by very rich men. A large proportion of the increase in prize money goes to those that bath, and the whole object of the exercise is that you shall give to those that hath. The Jockey Club, in their wisdom, and the Levy Board in their wisdom, imagine that they have a pre-emption upon all the money that is taken in a betting shop, and it is repeated ad nauseam. They say, "Look what happens in France; look what happens in other countries, and see the comparison with Great Britain". The simple truth is that any comparison of that kind is quite nonsense, because the French get their great volume of prize money through the Tiercé which is the equivalent of our football pools. They have no football pools. What the Jockey Club have their eye on is the vast turnover on off-course betting, and they completely overlook that there are other claimants.
I point out that the actual tax taken by the Government on a turnover basis from racing is of the order of £100 million. There is, however, a levy for racing approximating to £9 million. But take the parlous plight of football. From the professional game an equivalent amount is taken, and yet they get nothing. I point out that in the present political and economic climate, as sure as night follows day there is going to be a demand for a levy on football, or at least for the benefit of football. Indeed, it has already happened. A Committee was set up under distinguished chairmanship and they produced a report for the Ministry of Education to which the Minister of Sport was then attached. I note with interest that the Prime Minister's economic adviser, Dr. Bernard Donoghue, was a member of that Committee. They made a claim, in not very well thought-out terms, for a levy for football. Noble Lords should be assured that if the case is considered, never mind conceded, that there should be a levy for football, as sure as night follows day there will be a demand for a levy in the interests of dog racing, for cricket, for every sport.
1451 Therefore, in my view, the problem ought to be looked at anew, and we should certainly avoid the kind of thing which happened at the beginning of this year when a deputation composed of representatives of the Jockey Club and the Levy Board, led I believe by distinguished Members of another place, went to see the Chancellor of the Exchequer. They put forward the case that there should be a reduction in tax on betting of 1 per cent. and that that should be transferred by way of a levy, presumably to be spent by the Levy Board and the Jockey Club. To make such a demand at this time borders on the ridiculous. That was accompanied by the statement, "If you don't do this, there is going to be a reduction in the number of horses in training of at least 10 or 15 per cent."
I also noticed that at about the same time the Jockey Club spokesman who writes under the name of Mr. Charles Croft, on 15th November 1974, was forecasting as a result of a poll taken by the Racing Information Bureau that the number of horses in training would fall by 20 per cent. What are the facts? I have not relied upon my own figures—perish the thought! I went to the Jockey Club for the figures. In actual fact, although the Government have not done as the Jockey Club and the Levy Board and others asked—they did not reduce tax by 1 per cent., and there has not been a fall in numbers of 20 per cent.—the number of horses in training has increased. That is the objective fact of the situation. These arguments seem to go this way and that way according to the case that is being put forward.
I have already said that I am not against prize money as such. What I am in favour of is an overall policy; a policy of increasing the prize money. When I was in a positon to influence affairs it was in terms of making every racecourse viable; paying, for example, for the whole of the service of racing provided by the technical services. To those noble Lords not well versed in racing matters, may I say that this means that they would pay for the operation of the starting stalls, the photo-finish camera, all the comings and goings which make racing possible. In addition, they gave a grant that is called the "basic daily rate "and" the daily grant" These were given so that all racecourses had to do was to put on 1452 races, collect the money at the gate, pay it into the bank, and get on with the job.
That policy seemed to be succeeding. It was accompanied by a parallel policy of trying to encourage people to go racing; to get out in the open air and away from the betting shop; to go to see the improved amenities on taking the race track, and to make it possible for them to have an enjoyable day out actually part in the scene themselves. In 1963 my predecessors under the then Chairman, Field Marshal Lord Harding, and a Levy Board differently composed from the Board today or from the one over which I presided, recommended that when it was possible there should be a subsidy to reduce admission charges. That was in 1963. There was no money. There was a very distinguished secretary, General Sir Rupert Brazier-Creagh, who wrote the paper, The Extent of the Need, arguing that it was imperative that money should be spent for prize money, to bring racecourses up to date, and so on, but there should be an admission subsidy.
In 1968 the paper was brought up to date. The same conclusion was reached. There was still no money. When I became Chairman there was a list of debts, not least of all £614,000 to reconstruct New market, and a levy, not agreed, in dispute, amounting to £2,037,000. I had to raise more money, which I did, in conflict with and without much support from those who wanted to spend the money, put on a turnover basis. By 1972 it was possible to make a contribution towards reducing admission charges, particularly in the lower and cheaper rings where the mass of the people who provide the money attend when they go racing.
What has happened? No sooner had the dust settled from the controversy surrounding this matter than the opponents of this idea got to work. They set up two inquiries, one under the chairmanship of an organsation called Metra and the other one under Ogilvy, Benson and Mather. This was provided by the Racecourse Association. It cost over £5,000, and it was paid for equally by the Levy Board and the Racecourse Association. The whole purpose of this exercise was to get rid of admission charges without making any case at all. I have read these Reports in sheer wonderment and I will, with permission, refer to a few points 1453 in them. One passage starts off with this statement:The Racecourse Association has to negotiate with the Horserace Betting Levy Board on how funds can best be allocated for the benefit of the Flat and National Hunt race-goer.That statement is completely untrue. I remind your Lordships that when the Horserace Betting Levy Act was before the House of Commons, on 14th December 1960, there was a controversy. I remember it only too well because I had to vote against my Party on five occasions in one night, having been party to the negotiations as a member of the Horserace Totalisator Board and a subcommittee which had worked on the subject of deciding the composition of the Levy Board. It was the considered opinion of the then Home Secretary, now the noble Lord, Lord Butler—and it was announced by a Home Office Minister, Sir David Renton—that there should be a small, compact board and that there should be no question whatever of the board's having individual interests in the expenditure of the levy.
At that time—on 14th December, 1960—Sir David Renton said that that was a condition imposed by the Government, and I can tell noble Lords that it was a condition accepted on the word of the Jockey Club. But that condition was never kept, and from 1st September 1961 until I became Chairman in November 1967, there was no attempt whatever to comply with the undertaking that had been given about the various interests being consulted Consultation, yes; but through the three members of the Jockey Club whom the Government accepted as part of the price for effective consultation to take place. Thus, this attempt to say that negotiations had to be direct with the Racecourse Association about admission charges is completely untrue.
I will not delay the House by giving a great many further quotations from these reports. One says that it, the Report, is anxious to endorse the sanctity of the members' enclosure; that horse-racing as part of the leisure industry" was distinctly alien" to many members. The reports are really illiterate. Running through them is the theme that the objection that punters have to using a betting shop is that, by so doing, they can get 1454 only starting price odds. This, of course, is complete nonsense. It may be a defect of the betting shop as it is at present run, but many people who go there can take the current prices which come through on "the blower" There is one statement, however, in these documents about which I feel particular pride:The working man is not made to feel he is some sort of inferior citizen at Sandown.As I played a major part in getting Sandown reconstructed, I take pride in that. I did it with all the energy I could muster; to make it a home for everyone, irrespective of his or her social status—to combine the Silver Ring at Tattersalls and have a rate of admission which would invite people to go racing. I could go on at even greater length, my Lords —
§ Noble Lords: Oh, no.
§ Lord WIGG
This is a short debate, my Lords. I do not apologise for having taken my ration and if any noble Lords object, so be it. Only five noble Lords have put down their names to speak in this debate and although some noble Lords may think that I have spoken overlong, I assure them that I have only touched the fringe of the subject. I trust that I shall not be provoked because I am quite prepared to go on.
The point I am making now is simply that the expenditure in this field is a very important contribution to the Exchequer. I remind noble Lords that the total amount of taxation raised from betting and gaming in 1963, when the Labour Government took office, was —33 million. It is now over — 250 million, which is a very large sum indeed and one which has very important social consequences.
I assure the Minister who will reply on behalf of the Home Office that I have the utmost sympathy for his Department in the difficulties in which they find themselves, being landed with nominal responsibility for both the Totalisator and the sins of commission and omission of the Horserace Betting Levy Board. There is, however, nothing they can do about it; they are powerless, except at moments such as this when the levy comes forward for them either to approve or amend, as they wish. The Government and the Prime Minister have, by setting up a Royal Commission, demonstrated that there is an area here which should 1455 be inquired into. The Report of the last Royal Commission, in 1951, was left on the shelf for ten years, so that the defects which existed at that time were reflected in the legislation of 1960. There lies a warning because the volume of betting and gaming is now spread across our society to a much greater extent than in the past. I would be opposed to anyone who sought to suppress it. I do, however, believe in control, and in my view the controls which have been worked out are sensible, although I feel that control has to go a little further than it has so far.
I do not want Government-organised sport. I do, however, believe that all sports would best be organised if they organised themselves. Furthermore, if they want access to Government money, there must be public accountability on how that money is raised and spent. We cannot have what has been happening for the last 15 years. I would welcome the most detailed inquiry into the workings of the Totalisator Board, which I think would best be done by a Select Committee of another place, and an inquiry into the operations of the Horse-race Betting Levy Board because it is my belief—and if I wanted to encroach on your Lordships' patience I could easily demonstrate this—that the money that has been taken away from the admission charges subsidies has been frittered away in penny packets to racecourses, many of which are public companies and are profit earning, or ought to be profit earning, and this is not the first time it has happened.
It happened after the First World War with the bonanza of attendances and it happened again after the Second World War, when over 100,000 people went to the St. Leger. It was just frittered away and that is why there had to be a levy. I support the continuation of the levy, but it has to be spent in terms of the Government's White Paper; it has to be spent with discrimination and on a cost-effective basis. My Lords, I beg to move for Papers.
§ Lord TREVETHIN and OAKSEY
My Lords, as this is the first time that I have had the honour of addressing your Lordships' House, I understand that I am entitled to crave your indulgence. I have 1456 often made the same request of the Saints at the start of a novice steeplechase and I must say that the results in the past have proved variable. I am delighted to be reminded of your Lordships' very sensible convention that maidens in my position should stay as far as possible from the controversial. That suits me admirably, because it relieves me of the notoriously difficult task of becoming engaged in argument with the noble Lord, Lord Wigg. It also gives me an opportunity to pay him a tribute on behalf of racing. There was just a chance at one time last season that I might have worn the noble Lord's colours in action on a horse called Portman Square which was no doubt named after many happy hours spent there visiting his friends and members of his favourite club. Sadly, however, that never came off; I did not get the ride, and Portman Square was sold on Tuesday for a price which I fear may have reminded the noble Lord of the bearish and depressed state of the bloodstock market.
However, failure has never daunted the noble Lord and whatever he may think of the Levy Board's activities now, nothing will ever change the achievements of the Board when he was presiding over it. Probably the first and most important of those achievements was switching the basis of assessment from profits—which,for reasons I shall not go into, proved very difficult—to turnover. But for that change, the levy would never have reached its present size. Among many other successes was the deal which the noble Lord completed, thanks to the kindness and generosity of Mr. Stanley Wotton and which preserved Epsom Downs and the Racecourse forever at the disposal of British racing.
This is a debate on the Fourteenth Report and Accounts of the Levy Board. A good deal has been said about it already and I have no doubt that more will be said, but I hope that your Lordships will forgive me if I point to some pages in the Report which contain that rare commodity, good news. The year 1975 was a golden year for the National Stud, which, through the Levy Board, belongs to you and me and all of us. The best horse to run in England on the flat last year was undoubtedly Grundy. Thanks to the generous co-operation of Dr. Carlo Vittadini, the Levy Board 1457 bought 30 shares in Grundy for only £750,000. That may sound a lot, but it would have been a great deal more if he had gone to America. Admittedly, Grundy was beaten after that happened but that, to coin a phrase, is racing. After the National Stud bought him, the Oaks was won by Juliette Marny, daughter of another of the National Stud's young stallions, Blakeney. Of the other stallions there, the great Mill Reef, gallantly triumphing over the injury which ended his career, has got37 of the 41 mares which he covered last summer in foal and there is every reason to believe that his first runners in 1976 will further improve his status. One of his sons was sold as a yearling for a record 210,000 guineas, spent, I should add, by somebody who does not pay English taxation.
It must be admitted that into those successes, as into most racing successes, luck entered. Nevertheless, they were successes and the Levy Board is fully entitled to its share of credit for them. However, as the Levy Board and its Chairman will be the first to admit, there are bigger difficulties on its horizon. In paragraph 10 of the Report, the Board states the view that the improvement of the terms and conditions of employment of the racing workforce is of first importance. It also states—and I hope that this is not a controversial view —that that improvement can best be achieved by increased prize money. Certainly, the best argument for that theory is contained in the rule of racing which now compels owners to share out a percentage of their prize money with trainer, jockeys and stable staff. The percentages are too complicated to bother your Lordships with now, but overall the stable staff get about 3½ per cent. of all winning prize money, 1 percent. of second prizes and half a per cent. of third prizes. It may be argued that those percentages should be even higher, but their existence and the fact that they are paid is not only welcome but seriously weakens the argument that any increase in prize money would simply be a payment to already prosperous racehorse owners. With the same objective, the Levy Board has set itself to improve the accommodation at racecourses given to lads who are staying overnight with horses for the races. Ten schemes were approved last year and £92,000 were spent on them. There again, 1458 heaven knows! there is room for improvement, but everyone in racing believes that that money was well spent.
The Levy Board has also been indirectly responsible for the formation of a joint wages council to negotiate a minimum wage for stable lads. I am afraid that this is a controversial subject and I suppose that I am prejudiced about it, as a minor member of the joint wages council. However, I believe that the Board was absolutely right to make its last increase in prize money conditional on the negotiation of a minimum wage. I also believe—and perhaps this is where prejudice comes in—that, in forming or attempting to form their own association, the stable lads may for the first time be giving themselves a voice which will be heard, understood and, I hope, heeded.
Such are some of the successes that the Levy Board has had in the past year though, as I have said, the Board would certainly admit that, like everybody else in racing, it is engaged in a battle which is almost a battle for survival, at any rate survival at the present level. Victory in that battle is at present very difficult to discern. The enemies ranged against racing, as against so many other industries and ventures in this country, are inflation, taxation and foreign competition. Although racing could be saved much more easily and much more cheaply than, for instance, certain motor car companies, there is as yet no sign that the Government understand or, if they understand, that they intend to solve the problem.
That problem can perhaps best be described by a simple equation, except that it is not an equation because the two sides are not equal. It costs about £3,000 a year now to keep a horse in training on the flat and to run him. On the other side of the so-called equation, the average horse in this country can, provided he is successful, expect average winnings of only £1,000 a year. The shortfall of £2,000 is of course made up by the owners and I do not need to tell your Lordships that the number of people in this country now with that kind of money to spare for their hobby is dwindling fast and constantly. The only result if this trend goes on must be more serious unemployment, this time among the 30,000 people who are involved in racing and breeding thoroughbreds, to say nothing of 1459 the 70,000 who take part in the betting industry.
I hope for a chance early next year to discuss—controversially if necessary—the ways in which the necessary money might be raised. If it cannot come via the levy from betting, clearly racing will have to generate it itself. One possibility—and it is no more than that—is that there might be a change in the law allowing closed circuit television in betting shops, for which I gather the bookmakers would be ready to pay.
I fear that I am straying near the boundaries of your Lordships' conventions and for that I apologise. The question is: is racing worth saving in its present form? Your Lordships will not be surprised to hear that I believe that the answer has to be an emphatic, "Yes" Here we have a sport which provides employment for many, and pleasure, excitement and entertainment for millions more. It provides £100,000 in betting tax for the Government, and it is the basis of a healthy export trade.
We invented the thoroughbred, and we have reared and bred him in this country so successfully that, down the years, all other racing countries have constantly come back to us to replenish and improve their stock. Even now we still have some of the best horses, and we have men who can train and ride them at least as well as anyone else, and perhaps a good deal better. Is all this to be allowed to founder in a slough of impoverished mediocrity? If it is, I believe that our children will not forgive us, and I believe that they would be right.
I hope that I have not said anything too controversial, but if I have I hope that your Lordships will forgive me. I thank your Lordships for listening to me so kindly.
§ 3.51 p.m.
The Duke of DEVONSHIRE
My Lords, it is my singular good fortune to be the first to congratulate my noble friend Lord Trevethin and Oaksey on his most distinguished and remarkable maiden speech. Those of us who have the good fortune to know him will not have been surprised by the quality of his speech, nor indeed by what he had to tell us. Quite apart from his very distinguished career as an amateur rider—many 1460 of us have been thrilled by his exploits—my noble friend is today, I suppose, one of the most influential men in racing. There is no organisation connected with racing that does not want my noble friend's advice and counsel, and whether a committee be set up to inquire into the welfare of stable lads or perhaps into the future of the Grand National, the first person whom the chairman of such a committee wishes to see on his side, in order to inquire into the matter, is my noble friend. It is a source of great joy to noble Lords on all sides of the House that my noble friend has made his maiden speech and has made, too, a very distinguished contribution to the debate. I know that I speak for noble Lords on all sides when I say that I hope we shall have the advantage of his knowledge and wisdom, which extends to many other fields besides racing, on many occasions in the future.
I also wish to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Wigg, upon introducing this debate. As the noble Lord mentioned—although he was too polite to underline it—hehas succeeded where I failed two years ago. His debate has been brought to fruition, whereas mine withered by an unexpected frost at the last moment. I am delighted that the noble Lord has given us the opportunity for an airing of the subject of racing, and I should like to say how much I associate myself with a great deal of what he had to say. I also wish to endorse what my noble friend Lord Trevethin and Oaksey said about how much the whole racing world owes to the noble Lord—to George Wigg. My noble friend mentioned the 1969 amendment, and I think it fair to say that at that time there was no other, single man in the country who could have brought about that amendment to legislation. As one who loves racing, I am very conscious of the great debt which all who are interested in and love racing in this country owe to the noble Lord.
My noble friend touched on many of the points that I had proposed to mention and I do not intend to go over the ground again. I should like to confine my remarks largely to two aspects of racing, and one in particular which can, I believe, with justification be tied to the Fourteenth Report of the Levy Board. This is the matter of the whole organisation of racing. Listening to the noble 1461 Lord, Lord Wigg, it will have become quite clear that there are at least two bodies concerned with its running: the Jockey Club and the Levy Board. I have the privilege and good fortune to belong to the former and, indeed, I had the honour of serving as a steward. If I say some things which are not exactly critical of that body but which ask for changes in it, I hope that noble Lords will not think I am being disloyal to an organisation of which I am very proud to be a member. I can assure your Lordships that what I have to say to you I have said to my colleagues in the Jockey Club until they are blue in the face—or perhaps I should say until they are true blue in the face.
I feel that the time has come for a major reorganisation of the administration of racing in this country. Therefore I should very much like to support the noble Lord, Lord Wigg, in his request to the noble Lord who is to wind up the debate that an inquiry be set up into the whole matter of racing. In a letter I wrote to The Times earlier this year, following the singularly unhappy events at New market Heath, I asked for just such Ian inquiry. Should such an inquiry take place, as I hope it will, I trust that the earlier Report£the Benson Report—is studied very carefully. The Committee which produced that Report was set up by the Jockey Club in 1968. It was chaired by Sir Henry Benson, and his three colleagues were all members of the Jockey Club. I am very glad to see sitting on the Cross Benches the noble Marquess, Lord Abergavenny, who was a member of that Committee.
There is a great deal to be learnt from that Report. Indeed, in my view the major problems facing the reorganisation of racing are summed up in that Report and it would save any future Government inquiry considerable time and trouble if it could be seen fit to have at least certain sections of the Report reprinted. It is almost worth sending copies of the Report to Christies, because copies are scarce and very hard to find. The vitally important passages of the Report are sections 109 and those that follow. Section 109 recommends that a new organisation should be set up that would embrace the duties now carried out by the Levy Board, the Tote Board and the Jockey Club. It would be fair to 1462 quote from section 109 of the Benson Report:In our opinion, a new statutory body should be set up to control and develop all aspects of the racing industry".That, my Lords, is exactly what racing needs today.
Racing is very difficult to define because it is different things to different people. Certainly—and here I agree very much with what the noble Lord, Lord Wigg, said or, rather, hinted at—anyone (and I am among those who do) who is fortunate enough to be in a financial position to own a horse, or even part of a horse, must count himself singularly fortunate. My fellow owners resent bitterly being described as rich men, so I shall not describe them as such. But it seems to me that it is difficult to describe as being other than affluent anyone who can afford the figures mentioned by my noble friend Lord Trevethin and Oaksey in his speech, in relation to what it costs to keep a racehorse these days; but be that as it may. Those who are fortunate enough to own a horse, or part of a horse, must count themselves very lucky. There are arguments that it is not right that their hobby should be subsidised by the punter who risks 10 pence, 50 pence, or whatever it may be, in his hobby, which is backing horses.
I do not quite know how to put this, but if it is an admirable pastime to own horses, it must be an admirable pastime to bet on them. There is the strong political argument that the poor man, as represented by the punter, should not subsidise the rich man who owns the horses. It is argued that people who are fortunate enough to own yachts or grouse moors do not expect to be subsidised in their pursuits. This I regard as an over-simplified argument, and one to which I do not hold. But I see the strength of the argument, and I am also very conscious that it is not seemly for me to argue for more prize money for racing, bearing in mind my singularly fortunate circumstances. But the problem facing racing is that what we all want to see is more money in the lower echelons of the racing industry; more money for the stable lads, the stable girls and the stud hands, all of whom handle thoroughbreds, which in some cases are of immense value.
1463 Many people have spent many hours trying to think of ways in which money can be put into the racing industry so that it will affect those who are at the bottom of the pyramid, who receive the least rewards, but I think it is fair to say that no one has yet come up with any idea other than to increase the prize money, which, as my noble friend has said, percolates through on a scale of percentages right down to the lads in the winning stable. I personally think that after an owner's winnings have reached a certain point those percentages should be very sharply increased, but that is a matter for discussion.
I think the need to have one central body is because racing represents so many different interests, and neither the Jockey Club nor the Levy Board are fully representative of all the interests in racing. There are advisory bodies and consultative bodies, but, as the Benson Report says, we need one central statutory body at the head to lay down the overall policy of racing. In the Benson Report it was suggested that there should be an independent chairman, three nominees of the Home Office, four representatives of the Jockey Club, a representative of the Racecourse Association, a representative of the Racehorse Owners' Association, a representative of the Thoroughbred Breeders' Association and a representative of the bookmakers; and to that I would add one further group which is not suggested in the Benson Report, and that is a representative of the Stable Lads' Association. There we should have a totally comprehensive body in which all those interested in the racing industry could have their say.
A further problem in racing is that the interests of the different bodies concerned are not the same. The interest of the owner is not necessarily the same as the interest of the bookmaker. Indeed, bookmakers may wish to see put forward a certain type of race which attracts a lot of betting, whereas owners may prefer what the noble Lord alluded to as pattern races; that is, races designed to attract the higher class of racehorse. The breeders' interests may be different. There are all these different interests, and there must be one central forum where they can be reconciled and where a common policy, which will represent a compro- 1464 but which represents a consensus of all those engaged in racing, can be put forward.
Now under this new organisation the Jockey Club will still have a role to play. I should be the last to "knock" the Jockey Club. It has its critics, and it is quite right that it should. I am, without justification, proud of the fact that an ancestor of mine was a founder member of the Jockey Club, and I should be even prouder to be a member of the Jockey Club which saw a major reform of its role in racing take place. Again the Benson Report sums up very clearly what the role of the Jockey Club should be in the future. The true role of the Jockey Club should be to continue what it was originally:The formulation and administration of the rules and conduct of racing".That is what the Club as at present constituted is fitted to do.
It should not be forgotten that, so far as I am aware, not one of the 98 members of the Jockey Club derives his livelihood from the racing industry. Now this is a very great recommendation for their role as set out by Benson, which, I repeat, is:The formulation and administration of the rules and conduct of racing".But it is equally a condemnation of their being in charge of the racing industry. because, quite frankly, we have not got those qualifications. We have among our membership a number of very distinguished men of business and of very wide interests, but, naturally, if they are still involved in business, their businesses have the first call on their time, and if they are retired from their businesses they wish to enjoy racing as a sport, hobby and recreation, and do not wish to become involved in its administration, which is a hard and thankless task.
So, as I think there is an overwhelming case for a reorganisation of the way racing is run in this country, and I sincerely hope that the noble Lord, when winding up, will give us some hope that an inquiry into the organisation of racing will take place and that it will give due weight to the recommendations contained in the Benson Report which were accepted by the Jockey Club. Indeed, I think the Club has every reason 1465 to be proud of being the instigator of the Benson Report. They have not perhaps pushed the recommendations contained in paragraph 109 and those that follow as hard as certainly I should have wished, but it is conceivable that senior stewards, in their time, have felt rather like I understand Sir Winston Churchill felt when he was heard to say that he had not been elected Prime Minister to preside over the dismantling of the British Empire; it is not easy for the senior stewards and the stewards to preside over the dissolution of the Jockey Club. But it is my belief that the Club still has a vital role to play in the administration of the rules of racing, and if it does not willingly partake of a reorganisation of racing then it may cease to exist altogether.
The only other point I should like to make in discussing this 14th Report concerns the role of the bookmaker in racing. As the noble Lord, Lord Wigg, has said, people point out how much greater the prize money is in France than in England, and then they point out that there are not bookmakers in France but there are in England. I very much agree with the noble Lord, Lord Wigg, in his words on this subject. We admit that there are no pools in France, and the of nationalisation, while I hear few voices from those on the Left advocating Tiercé takes the place off football pools. In any case, bookmakers have always been part of the racing scene, and I just do not think it is practical to see them abolished. It is a rather curious thing that those who talk most keenly about the abolition of the bookmakers tend to be on the Right, if not the extreme Right, of the political spectrum, and to be those who are normally heartily opposed to any extension nationalisation of the bookmaking industry. It is certainly a very paying industry, and perhaps the noble Lord might think that this would be a suitable one to take over. However, as I say, it is a curious fact that the advocates of doing away with bookmakers tend to be Right Wing in their political views otherwise.
Bookmakers are here because I believe that, apart from anything else, the Home Office would never consider doing away with them. It believes that any effort to do so would lead to bookmakers going 1466 underground, with all that that would involve. So, whether or not we like it, bookmakers are with us and we must make the best job we can of it. They have a vital role to play; they are one of the estates of racing. To pretend that bookmakers are not vital to racing is like pretending that the lions are not in Trafalgar Square.
§ Lord WIGG
My Lords, I am much obliged to the noble Duke for giving way. Would he not concede that the point about bookmakers is that they are vital to the success of the Butler policy? In 1959, when the Conservative Party gave a pledge at the Election that they would deal with the twin social evils of the girls on the streets and illegal betting, they gave it because they were concerned about something which really is a worry to all of us—the corruption of the police. It was esential, if the Butler policy was to work, that wherever a man or a woman happened to be in these Islands he or she would be able to have a cash bet up to the "Off"; and in the carrying out of that policy it is the small bookmaker who really matters. If he goes, then the choice before the citizen is that he can do one of two things: not bet or bet illegally. Once we bet illegally, then we get a racket. I have said many times before (almost to the point of being like a gramophone record with the needle stuck) that I pay my tribute to Lord Butler because the Mafia has not got a grip in this country, and that is wholly due to the Butler legislation and to the noble Lord's courage in tackling those twin problems.
The Duke of DEVONSHIRE
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord. He has said more eloquently what I was about to say: that it is the Home Office who are the chief opponents of doing away with the bookmakers. The bookmakers are with us and we must make the most of them. Where I slightly disagree with the noble Lord, Lord Wigg, is over the question of the levy and the disagreement in getting the fifteenth scheme. Bookmakers do a great deal for racing by way of sponsorship but I should like to see the money which they channel into racing put through the levy rather than being done by individual sponsorships. This will be additionally valuable when we have one central body to run racing. I should like to go on 1467 record in paying tribute to the prize money which, through sponsorship, the bookmakers bring to racing; but, now that they are recognised and considered as an important part of the racing scene, I would ask them to act with total responsibility and to put aside what may be their possible immediate advantage in sponsoring races to attract big fields and a large betting turnover, and be willing to put what comes from that into the interests of the industry as a whole.
My Lords, to sum up, I should like to endorse my belief that there is a need for an inquiry into the organisation of racing; that a great deal can be learned from the recommendations of the Benson Report, and that it is wasting our time to talk about doing away with bookmakers. We can argue that they should contribute more; but that will be most effectively done if they were brought more into the councils of the upper echelons of the racing industry.
§ 4.12 p.m.
§ Lord CRAWSHAW
My Lords, I intend to say only a few words in this debate, for reasons which I will explain at the end of my speech. My principle reason for intervening is to add my congratulations to my noble friend Lord Oaksey on his magnificent performance at jumping this very difficult obstacle. I believe that I am right in saying that he has gone to the start in ten or eleven Grand Nationals, but that he found that child's play compared with addressing your Lordships' House. He has the unique experience that was mentioned by the noble Duke, and through the media he gives enormous pleasure to vast numbers of people. He and I, in fact, started our riding careers at more or less the same time at Oxford and it has always been a great source of pleasure to me to see the great success that he has since had. He, like the late Lord Mild may of Fleet, brought great distinction to this House, almost without coming here; and that is a unique achievement.
I do not really have much of an interest to declare in racing, except that I happen to be the owner of a brood mare. I have had the odd horse in training, but possibly not belonging to the more affluent class which the noble Duke mentioned; for that is beyond my pocket at this particu- 1468 lar time. I want also to thank the noble Lord, Lord Wigg, for initiating this debate this afternoon. It is a subject which, as my noble friend Lord Oaksey said, provides a livelihood for thousands and pleasure and interest for millions, but it is a subject which needs a great deal of airing. I think that this House is an eminently suitable place for that to be done.
My Lords, for nearly a year I have been in touch with Members of another place who are interested in the subject and also with the newly-formed Bloodstock and Racehorse Industries Confederation. I must say that I have gained the impression that there are vast numbers of groups of people in racing, all with the best interests of the sport at heart but who tend to be pulling in different directions. I have detected a certain amount of suspicion in certain quarters. In the same way as to produce a good and successful racehorse, understanding and team-work is required from a whole host of people—the breeders, the bloodstock agents, the trainers, the jockeys, the various lads and the horsebox drivers and the co-operation and interest of the owner and the racing public who finance the whole performance—we must try to create more team work within the industry. I think that this House, with the wide experience at our disposal, can help enormously, as is shown this afternoon. We have the advantage of direct contact with the Government of the day. I believe that if we can successfully fulfil this function, we shall not at the moment require the setting up of any further authorities, corporations, councils, committees, boards, et cetera, which are bound to add to the cost of public expenditure.
As we have already heard, the Report itself touches on a wide range of subjects. It mentions the various financial problems which beset the industry, the levy itself and the contentious issue of VAT. Like my noble friend Lord Oaksey, I would agree with paragraph 10 of the Report, which says that the improvement in terms and conditions of the industry's workforce is of the greatest importance and this can be best assisted by an increase in prize money, not only from the Board but also from the race courses and owners, so as to ensure, through deductions from win and place money, 1469 that adequate sums percolate down to those working in the industry. It is certainly a fact that not all the prize money stays in the pocket of the so-called rich owners.
The bookmakers' contribution is vital, but the system is complicated. We must not divert funds from this source into other sports if racing is to thrive and if courses are to provide the amenities which the bookmakers themselves and the general racing public will require. The contribution of the bookmakers through the Board and prize money is not only vital to those employed in the industry but crucial to maintaining the level of thoroughbred horses in this country, horses which can successfully take on the best in Europe and in the world. If our horses are continually beaten by the French or by others abroad, interest in the sport as a whole is bound to decline, in just the same way as football attendances fell off when England was knocked out of the World Cup.
My Lords, I promised to be brief because, all being well, we should be having a further full-day debate in your Lordships' House on February 4th, when I hope we can go more fully into the many and varied problems. While I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Wigg, felt that such a debate would be outside the field of Government responsibility, I feel that the Government have a responsibility and that their fiscal responsibility in particular has a great effect on the wide range of people concerned with racing. Perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Harris, might like to comment on that when he comes to wind up. I hope that all noble Lords who have spoken here today, and several who have not, will try to be present to resume this discussion on that occasion.
§ 4.19 p.m.
§ The Earl of MANSFIELD
My Lords, my first and very pleasant duty is to congatulate my noble friend Lord Oaksey on what I thought was an outstanding maiden speech. He is a natural, and indeed accomplished, athlete in many sports quite outside the field of racing. I hope that he will forgive me if I recall that when he was slightly younger he was one of the most thrilling amateur boxers I have had the good fortune to see in action. On present form, so to speak, I 1470 have no doubt that his future contributions to your Lordships' debates will be most warmly welcomed. Indeed, I think I am right in saying that he also has some form of legal degree; and, if that is so, his contributions may well be outside the field of what this House is discussing this afternoon.
My second task is to thank the noble Lord, Lord Wigg, for initiating this debate. If I do not follow him down all of the paths, or almost any of the paths that he has trod, it is for two reasons. The first is because I have not his comprehensive and detailed knowledge of the industry, the sport and everything that goes with it. Secondly, as my noble friend Lord Crawshaw said, in February there is to be a debate on the present condition and the future of racing. I know that the noble Lord, Lord Wigg, said, in effect, that the Government were not responsible for the industry as such; but I hope—and I echo my noble friend—that the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, will confirm that, responsible or not, the Government will take the present plight of the racing industry very seriously indeed, and that, whether it is for him or one of his colleagues in Government to reply in the February debate, he will assure us that the Government will take particular trouble to brief somebody who will be able to give the Government's considered view on the future of this very important industry.
My third duty is to declare a modest interest. I own a racecourse. It is described in this Report as a Group 5 Jumping. I do not think that you can get much lower than that. When I think of my noble friend the Duke of Devonshire's racehorses, I should think one of his racehorses is much more valuable than my racecourse, which is another indication of the extent of my interest. Further, the racecourse is let at a peppercorn rent to a club which runs it. It is non-profit making, though in fact they have a satisfactory trading surplus which they plough back into the facilities on the racecourse.
Many of your Lordships will be relieved that the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Wigg, were as moderate as they were. Some of us came along this afternoon wondering what it was we would be hearing by way of criticism of the Horserace Betting Levy Board and, 1471 indeed, possibly the Tote. So far as I was following the noble Lord, one may congratulate him—if that is right—on the moderation of his remarks. One of the matters which the noble Lord criticised was the amount of surplus which, at the moment, the Board has at its disposal. Speaking simply as an individual, with current assets of approximately £4½ million, but committed expenditure for racecourse improvements of slightly over £2 million, leaving slightly under £2½ million, that might be described as "sensible housekeeping". We live in a period of raging inflation; not only is it likely, if not probable, that help will have to he provided on a fairly massive scale, possibly for some future racecourse, but there might be a general decline in racing. So it is prudent for the Board to have a surplus of this nature.
The matter of prize money was mentioned. Here, I can speak with a small knowledge of what goes on at our own racecourse. The general increase in prize money over the past few years has been a matter of immense and continuing comfort to all those who are engaged in racing, whether they organise racing, own the horses that are raced, train them, or do a combination of all these, because some people wear many different hats, as does my noble friend the Duke of Devonshire. But whoever they are, and whatever hats they wear, certainly in the humbler spheres of the industry this continuing increase in prize money is something which is a matter for congratulation. Without it, the conditions under which racing is held would deteriorate very rapidly indeed. We can see from the Prize Money Scheme and Appendix 9 of the Report the plans which the Board have for the future.
It is also a matter of some satisfaction that, the increasing prize money of the future is to be linked to the Board's policy to improve the conditions relating to the workforce in racing. That is something upon which noble Lords would wish to congratulate the Horserace Betting Levy Board and, particularly, Sir Desmond Plummer, for the stand they have taken and the policy they have laid down. Whether the increased prize money is going only to the rich men is not something which I can comment about. I daresay there will be statistics and 1472 possibly some of them may be in the possession of the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, and, if so, he will no doubt comment upon them when he replies to the debate.
Another matter of criticism, as I understand it, was the ending of the admission charges option scheme. In my own experience, we have found that it is likely to make very little difference indeed. The amount of money was, as I recollect, slightly under £500,000 which went to subsidise admission to the cheaper rings. In any event, almost precisely the same sum has gone in the year 1975–76 to a racegoers' fund for the improvement of facilities for the racegoer in the cheaper rings. I would imagine—I doubt whether the noble Lord, Lord Wigg, would agree—from the experience of my own racecourse and the inquiries we have conducted among the public there, that this is a matter which is almost as broad as it is long. We found that the public do not mind the slightly increased charges, especially when we have, through the efforts of the Horserace Betting Levy Board, been able to add considerably to the attractions, amenities and facilities. I hope my noble friend the Duke of Devonshire will forgive me if I do not pursue him down the avenue of Section 109 of the Benson Report, if only for the very good reason that I am not one of those lucky enough to have to reckon my wealth tax with a copy of that Report. That is something to which we may return in the debate next February.
Speaking for myself, and in my limited interest capacity, a real word of congratulation and thanks is due to those who comprise the Levy Board for the care which they give to racing. It is a small point, but on page 21 of the Report, paragraph 102, under "Racecourse Technical Services Limited", my own racecourse was one of the first, if not the first, to be allowed to have the advantage of the RTS Omega photofinish and timing camera. This facility of a photofinish camera has been extended to a racecourse at an extremely cheap and advantageous rate. If it were not for the Levy Board producing money and expertise in this manner, I do not suppose we should continue to exist and prosper in the way we do. If it were not for the people who are prepared to take note of the conditions and difficulties throughout 1473 racing, and all who are concerned with it, racing would be poorer and rapidly come to an end.
§ 4.30 p.m.
§ Lord HARRIS of GREENWICH
My Lords, may I say, first of all, what a pleasure it is to follow the noble Earl. These days, he and I appear to discuss no issues other than hare coursing, but on this happy occasion we are not doing so. For that reason, if no other, I have pleasure in following him today. I also think that we have had today the opportunity of hearing a notable maiden speech by the noble Lord, Lord Trevethin and Oaksey. It was a speech of great authority. At a time of fairly significant national difficulty he brought us good news, even if relating only to the National Stud. We are very grateful to him and we shall look forward to hearing him on a number of future occasions. The only thing that surprises me is that a person who is capable of making a speech of such quality, moderation and good sense should be sitting where he is in this House!
I think we would all agree that we are grateful to my noble friend Lord Wigg for having initiated this debate on the Fourteenth Report of the Horserace Betting Levy Board. That Report, covering the year from April 1974 to March of this year, was published and presented to Parliament only last October and it is right that this House should find an opportunity to debate reports such as these which have been made under a statutory requirement. I should like to deal first with a point made by the noble Duke, the Duke of Devonshire, concerning the possibility of some form of inquiry into the state of horseracing. I am bound to say that I cannot hold out any hope for this in the immediate future. There are many priorities and although this is an important matter—as was pointed out by the noble Earl, Lord Mansfield—I do not think there is any prospect of the Government's embarking on an inquiry of this kind.
This brings me to the Report of the Benson Committee, to which the noble Duke referred. This Committee favoured the setting up of a single statutory racing authority. The Government felt, as did their predecessor, I suspect, that such a proposal, if implemented, would contain 1474 a danger that the Government could find themselves responsible to Parliament for a whole variety of decisions on matters such as fixtures, licensing, and discipline, and for that reason we do not feel it appropriate to embark on that particular course. We do, of course, look forward to the debate in your Lordships' House next February, to which the noble Lord, Lord Crawshaw, referred.
There was one point on which my noble friend Lord Wigg and the noble Duke were in total agreement: that is, regarding the nationalisation of the betting industry. If I may say so, we have a formidable coalition there. The noble Duke, indeed, said—and I was fascinated to follow him in this matter—that pressure for nationalisation came from the Right of British politics. I think I can say on behalf of the Government that we shall do our best to resist pressure of this sort, however intemperate it may be.
My noble friend Lord Wigg has directed his speech this afternoon at three main areas: the present policies of the Horserace Betting Levy Board, the relationship of the Board to the Home Office, and the need for a more positive Government policy. I shall try, in the time available to me, to deal with these three points. It may be helpful if I speak first about the statutory responsibility of the Board. The Board have the duties of assessing and collecting contributions from bookmakers and from the Horserace Totalisator Board, and of applying these contributions for purposes conducive, first, to the improvement of breeds of horses and, secondly, to the advancement or encouragement of veterinary science or veterinary education and, thirdly, to the improvement of horseracing.
The Levy Board are actively engaged in applying the levy for these purposes. As my noble friend knows, in recent months the Board took an initiative to increase prize money next year by a further £1 million, providing that certain conditions relating to machinery for negotiating a minimum wage for stable staff were met. I know that my noble friend played a significant part in achieving the settlement which was eventually arrived at in this dispute, as indeed did the present Chairman of the Levy Board.
The first of these conditions was met by the establishment of a National Joint 1475 Council for Stable Staff. This was not an insignificant achievement as regards labour relations in this industry. The Levy Board have already increased their prize money allocation for 1975 from £2.57 million to £3.35 million. In the calendar year 1974 the Levy Board provided 34 per cent. of the total prize money, the remainder being derived from owners, race-courses and sponsors. Nevertheless, in the Board's view there is a need to increase the prize money still further. The Board have decided to place this emphasis on prize money because they believe it is the best way of injecting money throughout the industry. Indeed, this policy has also been pursued in the past. The Ninth Annual Report of the Levy Board (for 1969–70) said in paragraph 4:… it is the one reasonably certain way of ensuring a fair spread of money throughout the industry and at the same time achieving an object at minimum administrative cost.As the noble Lord will recognise, that Report was issued during his chairmanship and so I believe I shall carry him with me at least on that particular point of my speech.
The Board's view that it is right to increase prize money is one reason why the Board did not accept the recommendation of the Bookmakers' Committee that the Fifteenth Levy Scheme for the year from 1st April 1976 should be a repeat of the Fourteenth Levy Scheme. Under that Scheme, no bookmaker pays more than 0.89 per cent. of his turnover to the Levy and the yield of the scheme is expected to be about £8 million. This dispute has been formally referred to my right honourable friend the Home Secretary, who will, in accordance with the Horserace Betting Levy Act 1959, determine the scheme for the Fifteenth Levy period. My right honourable friend is acting in a quasi-judicial capacity in this respect, and my noble friend will recognise that in a situation of that sort it would be inappropriate for me to comment further on this matter. Nevertheless, I have thought it right to refer to this dispute because it highlights the financial restraints within which the Levy Board has to work.
My noble friend Lord Wigg has expressed concern about the size of the Levy Board's reserves, and this point was also touched on by another speaker. 1476 These were shown in the Fourteenth Report as standing at somewhere over £4 million. In the light of these reserves the noble Lord questioned the Levy Board's case for increasing the levy. It is true, of course, that the Levy Board have accumulated a reserve of funds, but they have done this in their view as an act of prudence to provide a hedge against inflation and as a necessary safeguard against the need for any exceptional expenditure. The Board do not regard their reserves as excessive, considering recent and likely future rates of inflation and the need to increase prize money still further. Indeed, if there is no increase in the Board's income, it is argued that their reserves could be seriously depleted within two or three years.
I should like now to turn to the question of the size and composition of the Board. My noble friend referred in particular to the position of some of the Jockey Club members of the Board. The Levy Board consists of a chairman, appointed by my right honourable friend the Home Secretary, two independent members, also appointed by the Home Secretary, three members appointed by the Jockey Club, and ex officio, the chairman for the time being of the Bookmakers' Committee and of the Totalisator Board. I do not think that a Board consisting of a chairman and seven members can reasonably be held to be too large, particularly when it is also alleged (as it sometimes is) that the Board is unrepresentative. I understand that the present senior steward of the Jockey Club and his fellow members of the Levy Board are fully conscious of their responsibility to represent the racing world as a whole. But whatever one's view of their success in this, it is certainly not the case that the Levy Board merely echoes the Jockey Club. The three Jockey Club representatives are in a minority on the Board and at times decisions are certainly made with which the Jockey Club do not agree. I am certain that that must have been the case when my noble friend was Chairman.
§ Lord HARRIS of GREENWICH
My Lords, I was just trying to point out that 1477 representatives of the Jockey Club are in a minority on the Levy Board, and that in those circumstances the Board could not reasonably be said simply to echo the views of the Jockey Club. I added that I am quite sure that when my noble friend was chairman of the Board it in no way simply echoed the views of the Jockey Club.
I should now like to say something about the position of the Levy Board in relation to the Home Office. Since the legislation of the early 'sixties, successive Governments have proceeded on the basis that they should confine themselves, in dealing with the Board, to intervening only where it appeared that some activity was contemplated which went outside the statutory objects of the Board, or seemed likely to conflict with some larger public good. It was never the intention that the Home Office should actively intervene in the Board's affairs or attempt to settle its priorities for them. The instrument of approval agreed during the time when my noble friend Lord Wigg was chairman of the Levy Board, and signed by the then Home Secretary—now my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs—in May 1970, reflected this policy by allowing the Board a maximum degree of freedom. Broadly speaking, the instrument permits the Board to make payments for various purposes within the terms of the Betting, Gaming and Lotteries Act 1963 on such conditions as the Board in its discretion thinks fit. The value of the instrument of approval lies in the scope that it gives to the Board to manage its business without the need for undue reference to the Home Office. Governments have had no reason to regret these arrangements during my noble friend's own period of office as chairman of the Board, or subsequently.
My noble friend referred to the position of my honourable friend the Minister of State for Sport and Recreation. The development of the responsibilities of the Department of Environment for sport undoubtedly bear on the sport of horseracing; in particular, the more economical use of scarce resources, especially land, requires a co-ordinated approach to sporting and leisure-time activities in general. But there is a very close connection between horseracing and betting, and the social control of gambling re- 1478 mains one of the responsibilities of my right honourable friend the Home Secretary.
It can certainly be argued that the conceptions underlying the present legislation are outdated; that the time has come for the Government to play a more positive and directive role in the affairs of horseracing; indeed, that it is only right that the sport should accept such a degree of control in return for the money which it receives through the levy. But if it is thought that a more active role, or change of direction, is needed, the fundamental question that has to be faced is whether the existing statutory machinery of the levy provides an appropriate instrument, or whether it needs to be replaced by something perhaps significantly different. This is not a matter which permits an easy or immediate decision; it needs to be examined in depth, taking fully into account the views of the many interests involved.
It was because of the existence of such problems in the field of gambling that the Government decided to appoint the Royal Commission on Gambling under the noble Lord, Lord Rothschild. I know that my noble friend Lord Wigg would have preferred to see a Select Committee appointed. He argued the case with vigour in this House. But the Government felt that the complex subject of gambling, with its major social and economic implications, required comprehensive examination by a body with a wide range of experience at its command, and vested with the very substantial authority of a Royal Commission.
My Lords, I conclude by again thanking my noble friend Lord Wigg for having enabled the House to consider the subject of the Levy Board this afternoon. I am glad to have had this opportunity to confirm the Government's confidence in the work of the Levy Board and I pay tribute to all who have been involved in this, whether past or present, including, of course, my noble friend. I can assure him that confidence in no way implies complacency. The Government recognise that changes in both policy and machinery may be needed in the future, and this was one of the many reasons for the appointment of the Royal Commission on Gambling. The product of the Royal Commission must be uncertain. Nevertheless, I feel sure that those of 1479 your Lordships who have strong feelings on this issue will want to present your views to the Royal Commission so that they can be taken into account by the Government.
§ 4.46 p.m.
§ Lord WIGG
My Lords, I am much obliged to the noble Lords who have taken part in this debate, and I should like to add my voice to the congratulations which have been showered upon the noble Lord, Lord Oaksey, on the occasion of his maiden speech. I enjoyed every word of it and I look forward to the next occasion when, as he said, I can perhaps strike a more controversial note in my reply. But he conformed in the most charming way to the traditions of this House, and on this occasion I must act against my nature and try to do the same.
It would be untrue to say that I am entirely satisfied with the Government's reply. I think that there is an under-estimation of the situation as it has developed, and that the appointment of a Royal Commission is belated. I hesitate to do anything more than point a warning, but there will be a breakdown over a much wider field than racing. I have looked into the finances of other sports and I am quite alarmed at the picture which confronts football. It seems to me that there is a case here for more vigorous action than the Government have taken. I have been charged untruly—that does not matter very much, but I might have said unfairly—with advocating courses of action as if I myself believed in them with passion. It is rather like charging a man with wanting bad weather because he wears a coat outside. I am pointing out that it is raining outside. What I have been trying to do is to make crystal clear that I was outlining policy as it will almost certainly develop, because, sooner or later, a fundamental choice will have to be made.
If money is to be provided from public sources, should control accompany the money, or should efforts be made to persuade the Government to provide money free from detailed statutory control? That is the point of controversy between the noble Duke, the Duke of Devonshire, and myself. It seemed to me that what was required here was a statutory board which would take complete control and would be 1480 free from public accountability. I do not believe that is "on", and I say that because I lived through all the controversies—Iam the only survivor—which raged around the appointment of the Peppiatt Committee and its recommendations. I have come to the conclusion that the fundamental objections to Peppiatt, which were voiced by Mr. Enoch Powell in another place, were sound; that if you hypothecate you must take the consequences of hypothecation, and the consequences are there for all to see. If however this is disregarded, I have at least not wasted my time. I have pointed out to your Lordships what we were warned about; what has, in fact, happened.
Let us see what the Government conceded to those who spoke for racing in terms of the levy. They gave a power to myself as chairman, and the two Government appointed members, far beyond any powers possessed by the Cabinet or by the Prime Minister, or the Chancellor. I say that because if, as the Statute requires, we invited the bookmakers' committee to put forward their proposals for the levy and we did not agree with them, we were free to impose what rate we liked. When the Chancellor opens his Budget and imposes a tax, which is the transfer of money from one set of pockets to another, he requires a Resolution of the House of Commons that afternoon so that it may become operative, and subsequently he has to include it in a Finance Act. No such requirement was imposed upon either the chairman or the independent members of the Levy Board. When the Home Secretary of the day, Mr. Callaghan, faced with certain imperfections—and there were many—in the original legislation, agreed to legislate he said that they should not possess that power. I agree entirely. However, the Levy Board has come forward with a proposal.
We were told this afternoon, I think surprisingly, by the noble Earl, Lord Mansfield, who is a lawyer and whose Toryism I do not understand because it seems to me that he is almost a Poujardist in his approach, that he disregards the application of the law so far as the levy is concerned. This is an annual levy, yet he approves of balances being carried forward to the extent of £4,800,000 and 1481 of a requirement then being put to the Secretary of State for even more money without saying what the money is for.
§ The Earl of MANSFIELD
My Lords, perhaps the noble Lord will give way since he has accused me, quite rightly, of being a lawyer. May I ask him whether he has looked at Section 25 of the Betting, Gaming and Lotteries Act 1963, which defines the general powers and duties of the Board?
§ Lord WIGG
My Lords, of course, but I had to exercise those general powers and duties after they had been ignored. The requirement is that it shall be lawful to carry on any of the three activities in Section 24, provided always that one has the authority of the Secretary of State. The Secretary of State has to approve the activity or scheme before it becomes lawful. No such scheme has been proposed. A levy is asked for without a specific proposal for the expenditure having been approved by the Secretary of State.
§ The Earl of MANSFIELD
My Lords, I apologise for interrupting the noble Lord again but he is going into a matter of law. He must not confuse paragraph (a) of Section 25(1) with paragraph (b), and so on down the section. Paragraph (a) deals with approval, subject to the conditions imposed by the Secretary of State. For instance, the power to lend or invest money for the purposes in connection with any activity in which the Levy Board has power under paragraph (a) of this section does not need specific authorisation. If I am wrong about this, no doubt the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, will correct me.
§ Lord WIGG
My Lords, I am not going to rely upon the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich. My argument is with the noble Earl, Lord Mansfield.(1) The Levy Board shall have power —(a) with the approval of, and subject to any conditions imposed by, the Secretary of State, to engage in any activity connected with any of the matters specifiedin relation to this Act. It becomes a question of the interpretation of the Instrument which was completed in May 1970. For 7 years it had been ignored. I helped to draw up the paper which produced the Instrument. May I say to the noble Earl, Lord Mansfield, that if 1482 the Levy Board wish to increase the prize money still further they should specify what that increase should be so that the whole world may know what it is. It should not be put forward as an increase in the levy without any purpose being stated.
As the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, has said, it is perfectly true that the Instrument of May 1970 was drafted in such a way as to prevent the need to go back to the Home Office every five minutes. In the past they had not gone back to the Home Office at all. I cannot understand why the noble Earl, as a Tory who wants to control the use of public money, supports the Secretary of State who would be authorised to make a further increase in the prize money next year before the details of the increase have been announced.
At a time when this industry, like all other industries, is being asked to conduct its affairs with discrimination and with regard to cost effectiveness, and when there is a balance of £4,800,000, it is very odd indeed for anybody to turn round and ask for yet more money. It has to be related not to the working balance in the accounts of the Levy Board but to the amount which is raised by the levy. The levy is raised from those individuals who use betting shops and from bookmakers, the overwhelming majority of whom conduct their business on a marginal basis. They, too, are faced with rising costs for their telephones, electricity and labour.
If you create conditions in which the smaller bookmaker cannot conduct his business and make a living, what do you expect him to do? For 10 or 15 years successive Governments have been following the policy of trying to provide a cloak of legality. By administrative action, because it is awkward for them to face up to the facts, they have created conditions in which a man can conduct his business only if he starts to fiddle or to act unlawfully. Once ho begins to do that the great danger is that the base which the Butler legislation created, upon which it is possible for a man to serve the community within the law in an honourable way, will be altered. If a great prize has been won I do not want it to be thrown away.
I have been attacked with great violence by both sides at different times. I have 1483 been accused of wanting to have a Tote monopoly and of wanting to get rid of all bookmakers. The noble Lord, Lord Harmar-Nicholls, may remember that Dudley was flooded with leaflets attacking me for wanting just that. I want neither a Tote nor a bookmakers' monopoly. I know only too well that the Totalisator on the racecourse is an attraction to a very considerable number of people who go racing, particularly women. There is a case for the Tote.
Equally, one has to take into account the way that the average British punter bets. This seems to be unknown in certain quarters. He bets in such a way that it is impossible, if you are to make the concession of betting up to the "off", for the punter to use the Tote machine. As I have said many times before, it is perfectly true that there are only three types of bets: win, place and any-to-come. But the any-to-come bet as practised by my countrymen consists of doubles, trebles, accumulators, yankees, up and down, round the clock, patents—an infinite variety of methods of trying to win large sums of money with small stakes. However, it plays a very important part in morale.
It is all very well to be superior about this and to imagine that this is a habit which has no social consequences. We have plenty of time and I shall use it to tell a story. I well remember being taken by Ellis Smith to the Grand Hotel in Manchester to talk to Ernie Bevin about the continuance of racing during the war. He did not know much about it, and I said to him that this was a morale booster: that people were going to work each morning, very often in the dark, on a slice of Spam, and coming home in the dark; and the fact that they had a bet gave them hope during the day. It you stood outside a big factory and saw people buying the evening paper, with the news being passed round, you knew very well that the possibility of having a bet brought some colour into lives which were otherwise drab and monotonous.
I remember Ernie saying something else. He said," You should tell that to Stafford Cripps". That was a formidable undertaking, but Ellis Smith arranged for me to tell Stafford Cripps. I am not saying that racing continued during the war because of my efforts—I make no such 1484 claim—but I do say that both men were big enough to realise that in the conditions in which the war was fought and the strain that it imposed upon the civilian population, racing and the possibility of having a bet was part of the leisure industry of this country at the time and was an essential factor in maintaining morale during the war. I believe it to be equally true today.
§ Lord BOOTHBY
My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord whether he succeeded in persuading Sir Stafford Cripps?
§ Lord WIGG
My Lords, I do not know; I am not sure that I ever persuaded Stafford Cripps of anything—or perhaps he, me. I cannot answer that question; I can only say that I made the case both to Ernie Bevin and to Stafford Cripps that racing was not merely a pastime—and perhaps the noble Duke, the Duke of Devonshire, will give me a mark for this—of the idle rich, although I believe that the prize money scheme as worked out works to the advantage of those in the top class, who must be very rich men. It is perfectly true, as quoted against me, that I fought to get prize money against opposition. I doubled it in 1967;I introduced pattern racing, but on one condition. This is where my Socialism comes in as against current Toryism: I believe in the pricing system and will apply the pricing system but at the same time I am by nature a decentraliser.
I want to give prize money, up to a point, as a means of forcing the racecourses to do the job for which they exist. They are profit-making concerns, although at Perth they do not make a profit, it is all ploughed back. But they do make a profit on some other racecourses. By and large, the 63 racecourses—counting those at New market as two, otherwise it is 62 if one counts them as one—are basically inefficient. All the efforts have been made to get them run properly, to produce the kind of élan and panache that is present at Epsom through Air Commodore Brooks or as at York through Mr. Leslie Petch in hidey, or Mr. Bill McHarg at Ayr or Mr. John Hughes and others. If you can get that going in racing, you can take the prize money up to a certain level and then do what in fact the Levy Board has done and is still doing, pay for technical services. Give 1485 them a basic grant, give them a daily run and say, "Now, boys, you get on with it".
The point was made against me by the noble Earl, Lord Mansfield, about the admission charges and that the £470,000 odd which was taken was given back to the racecourses, including Perth, by way of amenity. Tosh! This is given back as a kind of a pourboire. It is given back in penny packets and is no good to anyone. You cannot argue that in actual fact the reduction in the admission charges makes no difference because it is small—may I just say "nineteen and elevenpence three-farthings." It is that marginal reduction that is inherent in the theory of Marshallian economics that makes the difference between making or not making a purchase. I hope the noble Lord, Lord Robbins, will not think I have gone completely off my head and become a reactionary, to base my economics on the late Professor Marshall. But there is something in this case of the argument of nineteen and elevenpence three-farthings.
Lord Harding, my predecssor, and the Levy Board in 1963 were also concerned about social justice. They were saying that the levy was raised as a form of taxation and that some of it should be given back to the people from whom it was taken. As I see it, it was not only a wise recommendation; it was socially just and economically sound. But after a year to take it away on the basis of the two Reports—well, I can only say to the noble Earl, Lord Mansfield, that the next time he makes a speech on this subject, on 4th February, I hope he will take the trouble to read the tommy rot that is in those two Reports. The only words to apply to it are "derisory drivel". For the Levy Board and the Racecourse Association to act as they did on those two Reports shows that something is happening to me if I was thought to be moderate this afternoon, because my thoughts about them are anything but moderate.
Here we come again to the weakness of centralisation. Noble Lords opposite are, to a man, opposed to the closed shop—except when it suits them. What do the Jockey Club do to the Racecourse Association? They want to control it, so what do they do? The rules say: 1486The stewards may license a racecourse provided it is a member of the Association of which at the time the Jockey Club approves".So of course it controls the Racecourse Association; it is ensconced in the same building. It holds all the effective key points, and this is the weakness. I believe the noble Duke, the Duke of Devonshire, knows this, and this afternoon he was very politely saying—he is the moderate, not I—that it is about time the Jockey Club brought itself up to date, and not necessarily in its practice. It may well be that if somebody looked at it he would come to the conclusion that, by and large, its actions are right, honourable, just and should continue; but the noble Duke knows just as well as I do that it needs to be looked at again from the inside.
When I oppose the present scheme which has been put forward by the Levy Board and when I oppose aspects of this Report I am not saying that I am right. What I am saying is that the matter should be looked at responsibly. I am saying that the Jockey Club and the Levy Board have gone wrong because they are acting as though they are equals—and they are not.
The Duke of DEVONSHIRE
My Lords, it is most kind of the noble Lord to give way. I think when he reads in Hansard what I said he will find that we are largely in total agreement. We had a mutual disappointment by a total refusal by the Government to have an inquiry into the organisation of racing. I should like to make one important point on the subject of racecourses. The Jockey Club is very much aware of its constitution and its undemocratic foundations. It is therefore, rightly, exceedingly diffident in opposing these powers. The ownership of racecourses goes to the very heart of the problems facing racing. The Jockey Club might well, in its wisdom, think that certain courses should not be licensed because it is not in the interests of racing as a whole, but because it is so constituted it quite rightly does not take such an authoritarian action. It is the victim of its own constitution.
§ Lord WIGG
My Lords, that is a very nice way of putting it. I would put it in another way: they have never taken an unpopular decision in their lives. They could very easily become members of 1487 the Wilson Cabinet, as currently composed. Whenever they are asked to close a racecourse, if there is an awkward decision to be taken somebody else will take it; they will not. This is the cause of the trouble. Of course the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, will give the noble Duke, the Duke of Devonshire, the "brush off "so far as the Benson Report is concerned. See what happened. I well remember that when I was appointed in November 1967, one of the first things the Permanent Secretary, Sir Philip Allen—a man for whom I had the highest regard, a wise and good public servant if ever there was one—wanted to talk to me about (and I am giving no secrets away) was the Benson Committee. I believe he thought it was an impertinence and I shared his views, because the Benson Committee was an inquiry into a field of activity for which the Secretary of State was totally responsible. Therefore, for the Jockey Club to set it up and then try to inveigle me into a priori acceptance of it by wanting me to go out to lunch and have a look at it in advance—well, you do not catch old birds with chaff! I was not wearing that.
On behalf of the Secretary of State Sir Philip Allen gave instruction that the Jockey Club Committee should (very properly) be supplied with any information that would be given to anyone else who applied for it. But when it came to accepting the recommendations of the Benson Committee interms of setting up a statutory board, that was different. After all, the Home Secretary is not a political child: he has to weigh the possibilities of the proposals he is asked to accept getting through both Houses of Parliament. He knows this is a non-starter. This is where I quarrel with the noble Duke, the Duke of Devonshire, and also with the noble Lord, Lord Trevethin and Oaksey. I do not believe there is a tremendous amount of difference here in the objectives we are pursuing. It is possible that the noble Duke and the noble Lord will be critical of me, perhaps because I have begun to widen my horizon and have become convinced that, the state of the game being what it is right across the board, racing must see itself as part of the leisure industry.
1488 My Lords, the Government will be forced to approach the problem from a very broad basis. In other words, you cannot neglect, overlook or pass by the undoubted troubles in football, which will get worse. After all, football appeals to millions of people, whereas racing appeals to thousands. Having said that, I believe we share agreement; we might even share agreement about prize money. What I am saying is that it should not be decided in the way it has been and then palmed off on the Home Secretary, leaving him with the most awkward of awkward decisions. It ought to be thrashed out through consultative committees. What I do not want is Government-run sport—and here I should like to think that many noble Lords share my view. I quite agree that the Home Office, the Government, must accept the responsibility for such a vital matter, involving as it does the expenditure of £2,500 million a year on betting and gaming. It goes right to the heart of the body politic. That I accept, but I do not want the Government to decide whether we are going to have a five-furlong or a six-furlong race at Epsom. They are not competent to do that. They are not competent to handle any form of sport and the more they stay in Whitehall, the more I am pleased.
My Lords, what is the alternative? It is that each sport itself shall look into its own difficulties, and shall do it through a series of consultative committees. I believe the Minister for Sport is on the right lines in so thinking, but he tends to go wrong in that he wants to turn them into executive bodies. I do not. I am quite content, and believe that the rules and the discipline of racing should rest with the Jockey Club. Here again, I carry with me the noble Duke, the Duke of Devonshire. When they spread out into the realm of economics, they learnt their economics at Eton—and you know what that is like!
§ Lord WIGG
My Lords, in truth there is no great difference between us, and if the noble Duke, the Duke of Devonshire, and the noble Lord, Lord Trevethin and Oaksey, will join with me in securing consultative committees right 1489 across the board, if necessary by legislation—although in this case I do not believe it is sonecessary—if we can do it on a voluntary basis we shall have done a great service for British sport, which incidentally may even have served the Government. We shall have served also the people of this country, because we may get competence and stability which, if we are entering an era of unemployment, is of vital concern to all of us. I thank noble Lords very much for listening this afternoon with such patience. I shall be back again on 4th February.
§ Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.