§ 4.14 p.m.
§ Debate resumed.
§ Lord HOY
My Lords, may I resume the debate on horseracing. I do so with some diffidence, but first I have the great privilege of conveying your Lordships' congratulations to the noble Viscount, Lord Leverhulme, on delivering his maiden speech. The only thing that I cannot understand is how anyone with the noble Viscount's powers of oratory should wait so long to display them. We were indebted for what he had to say. I feel that one or two of his historical references were not quite as I might have interpreted them; but I thought that he did the industry a tremendous amount of good in the case he presented this afternoon. On behalf of your Lordships, I should like to say that we hope that we shall hear from him in the future, but not have to wait for quite so long as we did for his maiden speech.
I will not attempt to emulate either the poetry of the noble Lord, Lord Crawshaw, or the historical speech of the noble Viscount, Lord Leverhulme, but will try to confine myself to what I think is the problem we are supposed to 1317 be discussing this afternoon. As I understand it, the industry is getting into difficulties for reasons not very much different from those affecting other industries; in other words, the escalating costs which every industry is having to face. What the industry is right to complain about is that the rewards at the other end are not matching the cost increases; so that what we are seeking to do today is to try to get more prize money for racing and to ask of the Government what contribution they can make. We are asking how much more money in going to come into racing to enable people to carry on the industry without being priced out of the market altogether. This, I understand, is what the debate is about.
My Lords, let us first consider how the costs have escalated. They are very considerable even though not too much is paid to the people engaged in the day-to-day work of the industry. We had an example of that when the stable boys took action. They say that they like the industry and enjoy working in it, but that they ought not to be penalised for working in it. It is providing work for thousands of people. As I understand it, the basic training fee works out at roughly £35 per horse per week. Let us look at this ever increasing scale of costs and compare it with the prize money available. If my information is correct, while over the past 20 years the prize money in other countries has increased by nearly 100 per cent., in Great Britain because of inflation, it has decreased by 5 per cent. to 6 per cent.
Obviously, if these facts are correct, we must think how to get more money into racing. At the present time, the prize money totals about £7¾ million. From the racecourses comes about £1,440,000; the Levy Board, I am told, provides something like £2¾ million; the sponsors, something over, but not very much over, £1 million; and from the owners, about £2.35 million. Can more money be got from these sources? As I see it, one is limiting oneself very much. It may be that the sponsors can put up more money. Some people may feel that the sponsors' money might be better spread, put to better uses or simply concentrated on specific events. If this has to be done all the money must be raised by those interested in the industry because 1318 what they should never seek to convey is that someone else must pay for their sport; they must bear a contribution themselves.
Then I understand that while this is the situation with regard to costs and prize money, the Government, on the other hand, have been having what many people regard as more than a fair share due to taxation. Last year I am told that they collected about £100 million. Perhaps my noble friend when replying will confirm whether this is so or not. In this connection, there is one other problem which gives some concern to the industry as a whole. There are about 700 non-resident owners involved in racing in this country. The great question of VAT is always being raised in connection with this industry. VAT can play a substantial part. As I understand it, our main competitors, Ireland and France, do not have the burden of VAT placed on the industry. Perhaps my noble friend will be able to tell me why there should be this difference or whether it would be possible either to reduce or to abolish VAT in connection with this industry and bring us into line—I do not ask for bettertreatment—with treatment afforded by our two main competitors. Maybe this is unfair; I do not know. But I am certain that your Lordships would like to know how much this particular tax produces in a year. We shall then be better able to make the assessment as to whether or not it could make an adequate contribution to the racing industry.
The reason why I take part in this debate is not that I am an owner; I have nothing at all to do with racing. I am one of the onlookers; I enjoy the colour and excitement of racing. I like watching it on television, and when the afternoons are bad this is a certain way of keeping me contented. Perhaps that is a selfish view to adopt, but racing provides sport and interest for thousands of people throughout the country.
I have always had great respect for my noble friend Lord Wigg. We met many years ago when he and I were serving in the Army in the course of the last War. He always told me that I was not educated unless I knew something about horseracing, so whether or not I wanted to I had to indulge in it. A few years ago we had to join forces with 1319 two or three noble Lords opposite. I remember that the noble Lord, Lord Kilmany, was one of them. We were engaged in a sortie to safeguard Mussleburgh racecourse. When there was likelihood of it being pushed out of existence, we united our forces—at least three of us are here today—and, if I remember correctly, the late James Chuter Ede was of considerable assistance in the fight we put up. That is my interest, my Lords, and I thought I ought to put my case to the Government to see whether anything could be done to save this industry. If these are the facts—and I merely say, "if"—obviously action is called for, not only from the industry but from the Government as well.
§ 4.22 p.m.
§ Lord GRIMTHORPE
My Lords, I crave your indulgence on making my maiden speech, although looking at the list of speakers to take part later it would appear that it is more a maiden race for northern Peers. I do not know whether I am out of order from this side of the House in congratulating my noble friend Lord Leverhulme on his most entertaining and instructive address. We have been friends for many years, and I believe my noble friend has been a Member of your Lordships' House for 27 years before today giving us the benefit of his highly instructive talk on the work of the Jockey Club. It is an appropriate moment to congratulate my noble friend on all that he has done as Senior Steward in this his last year of office. Few of your Lordships can know how much time the senior steward nuts in, unpaid, day in, day out—frequently through the night—answering telephone calls from secretaries and others for the benefit of racing throughout the country. I should like to congratulate him and his predecessors in the Jockey Club for all that they have done. This work is unpaid, but possibly if my noble friend attends your Lordships' House more often he can get paid for coming here which might help his finances in keeping his stud going.
My Lords, I believe I must declare my interests. I am a director of Thirsk Racecourse and a local steward at Liverpool and for the Military Races at Sandown Park. I am not a member of the Jockey Club or any other of the many racing 1320 associations. I had to sell my small stud last year purely due to inflation. They were very bad horses. As is your Lordships' custom, I will try to keep my remarks short and not controversial. I am delighted to support the remarks of my noble friend Lord Crawshaw. I have been a regular attender and punter on the English turf for many years, and it saddens me that inflation and the doom-casters may bring about a lowering of standards of both horses and racing in this country now and in the years to come.
I should like to draw attention to certain statistics and try to suggest a possible solution that the Government should consider in order that money can be injected into racing, not only for the benefit of those who own horses, of the breeders and all who go to the races, but of the 15,000 betting shops in this country, not forgetting the large number of visitors from abroad who come over for our more important races and provide a large amount of money for tourism. I hope to show the money will come from racing and not from the taxpayer's pocket. An enormous public enjoy a leisure day at the races during the year, and thousands more have a wager at the betting shops every day. It is not illegal, though I should like to see the betting shops open till 10 p.m., particularly in the summer. If the numbers of horses and racecourses decrease less money will be forthcoming by way of tax or levy for the Government and more unemployment will result among the 100,000 persons directly employed in the industry, because—as the noble Lord, Lord Hoy, said—industry is what racing is all about, not only for the horses, the trainers, but for saddlers, loriners, vets, horse transport, grounds-men, paid official and many more. They all depend on the continuance of racing in this country.
As many of your Lordships will know —these figures have been stressed by the noble Lords, Lord Crawshaw and Lord Hoy—at present it costs over £3,000 a year to keep a horse in training. The average prize money for winning a race last year was only about £756, so an owner after all expenses, is well out of pocket even if he is lucky enouch to win a race. Many owners never win a race. The help that the Levy Board gives to racing today—not only for prize money 1321 but in many other ways—is of enormous assistance, and thanks are due to the noble Lord, Lord Wigg, and his successor, Sir Desmond Plummer, as Chairmen of the Levy Board, for all they have done for racing over the past few years. But it is not enough. I will not dispute the figures of the noble Lord, Lord Hoy. I produced some figures, but he gave his so clearly that I am happy to rely on his information. Although money is produced in this country, in other countries racing has benefited to a much larger extent, notably in France, where the turnover was over £1,072 million of which over £83 million was put back into the sport.
Well, my Lords, what is to be done here to maintain our high standards and ensure that all our best bloodstock is not sold to go abroad together with some of our owners, and that English owners and breeders will have a chance of keeping in business and breeding and winning the better prizes here? I now come to dangerous ground as it must be obvious that there is only one place where the money generated by horseracing is and that is in the bookmakers' satchels, the betting shops and, to a lesser degree, the Totalisator. Here I must digress. As I said at the beginning of my speech, I have been a punter on the turf with both Tote and bookmakers for many years. I have had big wins and bigger losses. I am glad to say that I still have many friends among the bookmakers, and even the faceless Tote smiles on occasions.
I should here like to pay tribute to all the bookmaking firms and the Tote who have helped racing so much in recent years by sponsoring races all over the country—and in particular the firm that is helping to reinstate Liverpool and the Grand National. But I fear that few among them will care for my solution, which is that the betting tax on racecourses should be increased from 4 per cent. to 4½ per cent. and that on betting shops which is at present 8½ per cent. should be increased by 1 per cent. to 9½ per cent. By this increase it is estimated that an additional £15–£20 million could be added to the present millions already raised, thus providing £10 million of the amount referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Crawshaw. This will give a vital shot in the arm for the racing industry. It may sound simple, but it is by the simplicity and ease of collection that it 1322 recommends itself. My Lords, in a maiden speech I hesitate to make any further controversial suggestions, particularly today when there are so many other speakers.
Finally, I should like to thank your Lordships for listening to me so patiently. I have raced in nearly every country in the world, but I much prefer to visit English racecourses, with all their discomforts as well as their bookmakers. I sincerely hope, therefore, that the Government will take urgent notice of my suggestion so that they do not kill off the "golden horse" and enable racing here to continue to provide employment and entertainment for so many for years to come.
§ 4.32 p.m.
§ Lord TREVETHIN and OAKSEY
My Lords, as many of your Lordships will know, a "maiden" in racing jargon means a horse that has not won a race—and the way in which some of these "maidens" are performing the first time out, I think that the stewards might well inquire into whether they have been trying very hard in their previous racing! I have had the honour to belong to the regiment of which the noble Lord, Lord Grimthorpe, is colonel, and I have also had the honour—if that is the right word —to use the same bookmaker for some years. So I have had plenty of evidence in the past of his eloquence and grace both on the parade ground and on Tattersall's rails, and I am sure that all your Lordships will agree that that eloquence was demonstrated again here today. I hope not only that his economic figures are right but that as a predictor of what will happen he is better with figures than he has sometimes been with horses!
Apart from the delight of listening to all these elegant and eloquent "maidens", this is a sad occasion. It is a sad occasion because we would not be here debating the state of racing if all was well with the state of racing. It is a sad occasion, too, because I cannot think of any other significant racing country in the world where this debate would be thought either necessary or desirable. For example, you would not hear the French debating the state of racing, because they are far too busy thinking up golden incentives to lure our owners 1323 and breeders to own and breed in France. You do not hear racing being debated in Congress or in Australia or in whatever may be the Japanese equivalent of the House of Lords. They do not do it because they know that racing is thriving. The basic reason why racing thrives in those countries is because the ruling bodies of racing there have succeeded in persuading their Governments that a healthy racing and breeding industry is worth preserving and that the Governments, having been so persuaded, have decided to give racing a sufficient share of the take from betting to ensure its health and strength.
The ratio in which that share is given is all-important, of course. In some countries it even favours racing: that is, racing gets a bigger share than the Government. That happens in Australia, in Japan and in Italy. In some countries the ratio is about even money, with each getting around the same. In France, where the Government are not notable for their generosity, the Government take 3½ times more than racing gets. But here the ratio—I almost said, "the odds against racing"—is ten to one. As has been said, the Government collect approximately £100 million in betting tax each year whereas racing, through the levy, gets back less than £10 million. That is the crucial ratio which I am sure the noble Baroness opposite will explain to us in time, and it is that ratio which I am afraid represents a failure of communication between the ruling bodies of racing here and our Government. There may be many reasons for this, but the fact is that the Jockey Club and the Levy Board, the ruling bodies, have failed to persuade our Government that racing in its present form is worth preserving.
I have said there are many reasons, and that is true. There are external reasons, such as the Arabs, and there are internal ones, such as bookmakers. And talking of bookmakers, perhaps I should declare an interest. I have been betting with them for nearly 40 years and am now employed at Ladbrokes in a very part-time capacity as a director of Lingfield Park. I am proud to be so employed, in so far as I can assist in a very small way in rescuing Lingfield Park from extinction. I am even prouder 1324 to be slightly involved in their rescue of Aintree and the Grand National.
However, having said all that and declared my connection with the bookmakers, I must add that there is no significant racing country in the world where off-course betting is allowed to be carried on by bookmakers and alongside which a healthy racing industry exists. So we are trying to do something which is not done anywhere else in the world. We may be right to try. It may be an acknowledged fact that the English punter likes to bet with bookmakers; some people like to hear them shouting on the racecourse. It may be that all these things make well worth while the attempt to do something unique. But we are trying to do something which no one else has succeeded in doing and I hope that the bookmakers will remember that and remember, too, that, in the view of most of us, although they are doing a great deal for racing, they are less important than racing. If it eventually comes to the crunch, it may be the bookmakers who have to pay.
However, I talked of failure. One cannot have power without responsibility, and for longer than anyone here can remember the Jockey Club have held the power in racing. Since 1963 the Levy Board have shared that power, so they must also share the responsibility. If these two ruling bodies have failed racing in this respect, presumably we must consider how they can be altered or how their relationship with each other and with the Government can be altered, if possible without difficult and time-wasting legislation. The only reasonable alteration would entail a redefinition and division of their functions, so that these no longer conflict and overlap in the way that the noble Lord, Lord Wigg, could tell us has so often caused ructions and trouble in the past. Instead of overlapping and conflicting, each body should do the job for which it is best qualified. At least so far as the Jockey Club is concerned, I have no doubt whatever—and I do not believe my noble friend Lord Leverhulme has either—that that job is the conduct and maintenance of discipline and integrity in racing. That is what the Jockey Club was first set up for, and that is what it does supremely well.
1325 Racing is a sport in year, and the destination of that money depends upon men and women of infinite variety which very large sums of comparatively tax-free money are redirected every week throughout the from every conceivable walk of life, and upon the equally varied control which those men and women have over large, powerful, highly strung and often unpredictable quadrupeds. In a game like this, the rules must obviously be complex and firm, but to decide the rights and wrongs in such a game you do not need a learned judge and nice points of law. What you need is honourable, fair-minded, unbiased men who are answerable to nobody but themselves, and who have as much experience as possible of the problems involved. Such men the Jockey Club can and does provide in profusion, and I believe that, to its great credit, its stewards and members have now developed over the years a system of racing discipline which is at least as good as any in the world.
It was not always like that. There are still men living today who were as trainers warned off because a horse was found to have been doped in their yard, despite the fact that nobody even attempted to prove, or could have proved, that the trainer himself was responsible or knew anything about it. There are men who were convicted without legal assistance, and sentenced without being told when the end of their sentence was. But those were the bad old days. They are gone now, and I should like to congratulate the Jockey Club on the way in which it now exercises and enforces the rules of racing.
But I should also like to suggest—and it is here that the difficulty comes—that limits itself to what it does best; that is, enforcement. My reason for suggesting that limitation is that I believe whatever happens, whatever the future holds for racing, there will have to be infinitely difficult and probably unpopular decisions taken. Those decisions will not only have to be taken, but the body which takes them will then have to stand up and be shot at by all the varied, vested interests who feel that their toes have been trodden on. That body will also have to communicate closely and constantly with the Government, and in this regard I have to say that the Jockey Club's record is not 1326 good. I have described the failure regarding the ratio between betting tax and betting levy, and although things are better now there is no doubt that over the years since the last war communication with the Government has been moderate.
Obviously, if the Jockey Club limits itself to discipline and the conduct of racing, that will put a very much heavier burden on the Levy Board. But I suggest—still, I hope, without legislation—that a Levy Board so modified will properly represent those who make their livelihood out of racing. I say "properly", because my noble friend Lord Leverhulme has described to your Lordships how the Jockey Club appoints three members to sit on the Levy Board to represent the professional racing world. I can only tell your Lordships that the professional racing world does not regard that as satisfactory representation. It was this desire for much wider and more united representation that caused John Winter to invent BRIC, the Breeding and Racing Industries Confederation—
§ Lord TREVETHIN and OAKSEY
—which has caused very nearly all of the professional associations in racing to join it and now, I am glad to say, to give it substantial financial support. I am, in name at least, honorary treasurer of BRIC. a post which up till now has had very little honour and even less treasure about it. But I am glad to say that the trainers, who do not give money away easily, have now decided to contribute £10,000 a year to BRIC and there is very real hope that the breeders will contribute a small percentage of the sales from horses. So I think there is a real chance that BRIC is off and running, with a professional secretariat and sufficient money to put the case of racing to the public and to Government.
Finally, I would request the Jockey Club not only to withdraw from the business and the economic decisions of racing, and to confine itself to what it does so supremely well, but to give at least two and maybe all three, of its posts on the Levy Board—because these are the only posts on the Levy Board which by law can have an interest in racing—to representatives of the various associations, possibly from BRIC, although that is a 1327 question of administration, but certainly to people who make their living out of racing and whose livelihood depends upon it. The Levy Board would then be in a position not only to take the difficult decisions which must be taken and to make them stand up, but also to speak for racing to Government as we are trying to do today, and possibly, who knows, to make Government listen.
§ 4.48 p.m.
§ The Earl of HALIFAX
My Lords, as yet another of your Lordships' colleagues who is addressing this House for the first time, I, too, ask for your tolerance and patience, though I assure you that my contribution will be brief. It is very satisfying to feel that a number of noble Lords, such as my friends from my own county of Yorkshire, have also found this debate so important that they feel duty bound at last to open their mouths and to take part.
While I am fully conscious of the acute danger to the racing industry, which was so clearly explained by my noble friend Lord Crawshaw, I do not intend to follow the strictly financial line—that we must of course accept as the fundamental answer to all our problems—and it is on a different slant on which I should like to speak for a few minutes. I should like to speak about the horse itself, the heritage to which my noble friend Lord Crawshaw has already referred—the British thoroughbred.
Living as I do in what used to be called the East Riding of Yorkshire, a house called Ald by is very near to my home. It is the home of the Darleys, and I remember going over there as a boy and seeing in the great hall a magnificent picture of the Darley Arabian. At the time I did not appreciate the significance of that horse, and it was a number of years before I realised that the Darley Arabian, the Go dolphin Arabian and the Byerley Turk were the famous foundation sires of the British thoroughbred that we know today. The ancestor of the thoroughbred is old, and the British thoroughbred which evolved from these three stallions has played, and I think is still playing, a leading part throughout the world. One has to look only at the results of recent sales of bloodstock in this country to realise that some 80 1328 percent. of our best blood lines have been bought with foreign currency. Those of your Lordships who have attended Messrs. Tattersall's bloodstock sales will readily recall the occasions—I am afraid too numerous nowadays—when the auctioneer has asked for his initial bid, saying, "How much for this mare, tracing to one of the tap roots of" and then giving the name of a stud well known in this country. How strong on those occasions has always been the competition. My words, therefore, are an appeal for the preservation in this country of this priceless entity.
My wife happens to be a granddaughter of the Prime Minister Lord Rosebery and also a granddaughter of the late Lord Derby. I remember somebody saying when we were betrothed, "She, at any rate, ought to breed a classic winner"! My son, who has been unlucky in two recent election endeavours at Dearne Valley to persuade the electors to support him adequately, has not yet, I am sorry to say, fulfilled that prognostication. Through my wife, I am lucky enough to live with some of the great thoroughbreds of the past as my constant companions through the medium of masterpieces in oils by famous painters—Stubbs, Ben Marshall and others—great horses such as Mambrino, Dungannon, Velocipide and others whose names will figure in any history book about horseracing in this country, famous ancestors of today's thoroughbred.
Last year was European Architectural Heritage Year and the glories of the past have been commended to us for permanent conservation. Historical buildings and architectural gems are, rightly and deservedly, being faithfully guarded. But what about another equally important part of our heritage, the British thoroughbred? The British thoroughbred did not appear, like a mushroom, overnight. It has evolved by scientific breeding over many years and by its ultimate and only source of trial, which is on our racecourses. The result has been the production of an article which is still, despite worldwide competition, supreme. Quality has been the British password and that is what, in the bloodstock world, we have.
As a new season dawns we can look back with gratitude to owners of great classic winners last year, to others before 1329 them and to friends across the Atlantic who have magnanimously left their horses in this country. In this country we have the best blood lines in the world, but if the best are leaving these shores to find more profitable conditions abroad, then racing in England will sink to the level of a gymkhana in some distant land. We simply cannot afford to ignore one of our most valuable assets and treasures. We must make the supreme effort in order not to risk its loss. That supreme effort means a major change in the financial structure of the thoroughbred as well as the racing industry. Both are interdependent and inseparable and, of course, support is required for both in the manner which has so clearly been suggested this afternoon by my noble friends.
May I conclude by quoting a few words from Ronald Duncan's eulogy of the horse which so admirably sums up what I have been trying to say:The Horse.England's past has been borne on his back—All our history is his industry.We are his heirs, he our inheritance.
§ 4.57 p.m.
§ Lord KILMANY
My Lords, first I feel sure that your Lordships would like me to congratulate the noble Earl, Lord Halifax, on the very moving appeal that he has just made. This was an appeal from somebody with both a historical and a practical background. The noble Earl has been the senior steward of the Jockey Club on two occasions—from 1950 to 1951 and again from 1958 to 1959. He is chairman of York racecourse, and I do not believe that there is a better and more progressive racecourse in the country. Furthermore, he is a local steward at Don caster for the St. Leger. I am sure we all agree that we are looking forward to hearing him speak again on this subject and, indeed, so far as I am concerned, on other subjects, too.
May I also congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Grimthorpe, whose trenchant speech appealed to me very much indeed—possibly the more so because it was his father who, way back in 1948, seconded me for election to the National Hunt Committee. I have felt grateful to him for ever afterwards and I am bound to say that I have never served under a better local jumping steward than the noble Lord's father, the late Lord Grim- 1330 thorpe. Finally, may I come to the magnificent maiden speech of the senior steward. To face the task of combining a non-controversial maiden speech with an exposition worthy of the background and future of British horseracing was a great achievement and he did it, to my mind, very well indeed.
I see that the noble Lord, Lord Oaksey, has gone. I wanted to take up some of the points made by the noble Lord in his speech because it seemed that he was not well content with the administration of horseracing. This is a subject upon which all of us have different views. I would not suggest for one moment that everything is perfect, but it is my opinion that horseracing today is rather well run. Great credit for that should be shared by two men. One is the noble Lord, Lord Wigg, who is sitting opposite. The other is the late senior steward of the Jockey Club, General Sir Randle Feilden. Those two individuals, of widely differing temperament, were faced with the task of getting together to form a joint racing board. The noble Lord, Lord Wigg, was chairman of the Levy Board and General Sir Randle Feilden was senior steward of the Jockey Club. Between them they succeeded in thrashing out a policy which up to now has stood the test of time. The monthly meetings of the joint racing board are invaluable.
The noble Lord, Lord Oaksey, has now returned. I made a remark about him in his absence. Let me say, without going further, that if there is anybody I am prepared to listen to—and it may be to argue with—on the subject of racing, of course Lord Oaksey is one of the foremost. I think he was complaining that other bodies were not adequately represented in the top administration of racing. But I wonder, is that really true? I think the Joint Liaison Association which admittedly meets only four times a year, brings the Racecourse Owners' Association, the Racehorse Owners' Association, the Trainers' Association, the Jockeys' Association, The Permitholders' Association, the representatives of the Levy Board and the representative of the Tote all together to meet each other.
§ Lord WIGG
My Lords, I am reluctant to intervene, but it is not true that representatives of the Levy Board serve on the Joint Association. Indeed, it seems to me there is a complete misconception 1331 in the House this afternoon as to what that organisation is about. I intervene at this stage only to point out that the Levy Board, as such, is not and cannot be represented on the Joint Association. When I make my speech I hope to correct a number of major errors about how that body came into being, how it functions and how it should have functioned if the Jockey Club had honoured its word to the Home Secretary when the Levy Board was set up. The noble Lord and I spent many hours together and, pending my speech, if he wants to corroborate my facts, if he will turn up the House of Commons Hansard for 14th December 1960, he will find laid down the conditions that were spelt out by a Conservative Under-Secretary of State for the Home Office. They were conditions which were laid down as a specific requirement, which the Jockey Club did not honour.
§ Lord KILMANY
My Lords, I am not much surprised at the intervention of the noble Lord, Lord Wigg. I had the privilege of being a Jockey Club representative on the Levy Board for eight years, five years of which were under the chairmanship of the noble Lord, Lord Wigg. He challenges me and says that the Levy Board are not represented at the Joint Liaison Association. My experience was that the three Jockey Club representatives of the Levy Board were entitled to, and did, attend meetings of the Joint Liaison Association, so that Jockey Club views could be put forward to the meeting of that Association and, equally important, the Levy Board chairman and his official members were informed by the three Jockey Club representatives on the Levy Board what complaints had been put forward at the Joint Liaison Association, so that the Levy Board, together with the stewards, might have every opportunity of meeting those complaints. I should like to listen to the noble Lord a little later, and I can assure him that I shall do so.
Pursuant to that, do not let us think that racing is in such a parlous state, because from many points of view the racing scene is rather good. Let us look at law and order. The fact is that no more policemen are required today on a racecourse than there were ten years ago. Compare that with the football crowds, where it is a fact that, in many cases, 1332 police manpower has had to be multiplied by eight times in number, and even so there are horrible rowdy scenes. Most of us with fairly long experience have seen a rough-house here and there, but I cannot remember one of importance recently on a racecourse. There was a trivial affair last year at a small North Country course where they were short of a camera finish—a photograph finish control. Some of the crowd became a little indignant with the judge and it occurred to them to burn the judge's box. That would not have mattered a bit because the judge's box was not really worth £50, but the trouble was that the judge was still inside it and for a moment he thought he was going to be burnt alive. That was a trivial occurrence.
I now want to turn to another subject, dope. I do not think I need to touch wood, but if you like, so be it. I think it is remarkable how few cases of doping have been revealed in the last year or two. Very seldom has a horse been "got at" to prevent him from winning a race; and so far as stimulants are concerned, I happened to be acting as a steward one day last week when we took no less than 12 routine dope tests and I do not mind having a bet that none of them will prove positive. At this moment dope is being kept well under control and the credit for that is due to the Levy Board for producing the money to finance the racecourse security service, which is a very competent body. We now turn to integrity. Certainly in any big race it is safe to back a horse, knowing that you will have a true run for your money. In smaller races there may be occasions when the connections of a horse are thinking of tomorrow rather than today, but whenever possible the administrators of the race do their best to stamp that out.
With regard to accommodation, of course there is a great squash at Epsom on Derby Day; and again there is a great crowd and it is rather uncomfortable at Cheltenham for the Gold Cup. By and large, however, there is plenty of space available for the normal racegoer on the normal day's racing. When I say this, I run the risk of finding myself in disagreement with the noble Lord, Lord Wigg, who I appreciated so much as chairman when I served under him on the Levy Board. because he takes the 1333 view that it was a mistake to spend about half a million pounds on improving racecourses instead of spending that money on reducing admission charges. Anyone likes to reduce an admission charge if they can; but when one is short of money one has to choose priorities, and it is my belief that admission charges are such a small percentage of the expense of going racing, for which there are travelling expenses, refreshment expenses and betting, that a reduction of 10 per cent. or 20 per cent. on an admission charge is really quite irrelevant. So I think that the £460,000 in a full year, which I believe is the correct figure, which has been spent on improving racecourses, has been money well spent.
I must not trespass too long on your Lordships' time. I have not touched on the problem facing racing today; namely, the economic position of the country and inflation. How can we stand up to it? If there is one person essential to racing it is the owner. How can we find owners enough who can buy yearlings to allow trainers to show their skill, for the sort of price that a decent yearling ought to cost today, and at the sort of cost that good training, with good stablemen's wages, ought to entail in training horses today? It is very difficult indeed. The Jockey Club have tried everything that could be done: syndicates, joint ownership, allowing a regiment to own a horse or two, and allowing business firms to own a horse and, by advertising the horse, to put some money back into racing.
It must be remembered that, so far as National Hunt racing is concerned, that is not much of a "go" because National Hunt horses are elderly horses and they nearly all have names, and if a business firm wants to alter its horse's name to something like Bovril, to advertise, it is not allowed to do so. There is an agreement with the French, with the Irish, and it may well be with the Italians, making it extremely difficult to alter a horse's name. We cannot look there for very much in the way of further owners. But can we do nothing at home about this? Is there not a potential as yet not fully tapped? I know I am more of a jumping man than a racing man; I am essentially a small man, but it does seem to me that we have not made enough effort to attract to racing the potentially large number of horse-loving people up and down the 1334 country, people who like not only to watch but to do things themselves.
Your Lordships may realise that I am referring to permit holders. I wonder whether we have made permit holders quite welcome enough. These are not people who would take the bread out of the mouths of the licensed trainers. They would not pay £2,000 to another man to train their horse for them; they would train the animal themselves. They can do it much more cheaply. Perhaps they cannot do it quite so well, but they can do it more cheaply. They do not have to pay a stable lad to ride out in the morning; they or their families can do that, and they or their family probably muck out the horse at night. They do not have to pay someone to drive their horse to the races; they do it themselves in a trailer. They do not have to pay someone to saddle up for them; they do it themselves, and there is no expense. Instead of having to pay a secretary to do all the paper work—and in a big stable there is a lot of paper work—the permit holder can do it himself, or get his wife to do it for him—and she will probably do it better than he can. Finally, when a horse goes wrong—and everybody who knows about racing knows how often horses do go wrong—one has the trouble of paying somebody, let us call it £25 a week, to keep the horse. But if you are a permit holder, you can turn your horse out at the bottom of the garden, or in the chicken run, and he costs you very little. He can survive, and he allows you to save your money.
May I conclude on a note which I tried to put across when giving evidence to the Benson Committee in 1968. My anxiety was that whatever we do we should see that racing is a national sport, not a local sport. I am sure it is the fact that if another trainer sets up in New market, it does not really make any difference at all to the whole picture. It does not generate any more interest in racing; it does not enlarge the number of the betting public. The interest that is capable of being generated in the New market area has already been fully harnessed. But supposing that a trainer —and he can be a trainer in a small way: he can be a permit holder—goes to an outlying part of the country, perhaps to Scotland, where I happen to come from, or maybe the West country. What 1335 happens? All the neighbours perk up and take an interest in racing. The postman will ask, "When is your horse going to win a race?", and the garage hand will ask the same question. I was going to say that the railway porter will ask the same question, but we have not got a railway porter any more. The station master will want to see the horse, and an interest is generated in the sport of horseracing. I do not suggest for a moment that these people will be so foolish as to back such a horse, because 19 out of 20 times they will lose their money. But they will read all about it in the newspaper because they have a local interest in horseracing. This is something we can do in the industry. We can allow folk who would like to train their own horses under permit, under National Hunt rules, to do so.
My Lords, the noble Baroness, Lady Stedman, is waiting to reply. I do not know if it is a fair question to ask her, but what about the 15th levy, administered through the Home Office? However, the noble Baroness is not speaking for the Home Office. The Levy Board, a Government-appointed body, saw fit last October to recommend a certain figure at which the 15th levy should stand. The bookmakers disagreed with this figure, and it was for the Government to take a decision between these rich bookmakers and racing, which needs the money so much in order to stay alive. That was last October, and now it is February. May I ask the noble Baroness whether she can give us an assurance that her right honourable friend in the Home Office will look at this matter without further delay? Finally, will the Home Office look at it from the point of view of the good of racing?
§ 5.15 p.m.
§ Lord WESTBURY
My Lords, I think I have the unique experience of not being able to say anything that has not already been said before by someone, but in my maiden speech I would explain, with all diffidence, some of the problems that I think beset the racing industry today. My racing knowledge is limited to the North of England, and virtually to Yorkshire, where I act as a local steward on five different racecourses, which entails racing about 60 days during the flat racing 1336 season. Therefore, one is bound to get the feel of the situation.
My Lords, there is no more popular sport, and no more enjoyable pastime, than racing for those who are interested from every walk of life, including millions of television viewers. Nor should one ever forget the recreational value of horseracing to all those who work in industry, often in very repetitive jobs. To them, an interest in racing, whether betting on the horses or following the jockeys and trainers, relieves the tedium and in my view must contribute to industrial productivity. It also provides employment for about 30,000 people in the racing industry itself, to say nothing of the 70,000 employed by the betting industry.
In these days, when the newspapers are full of reports of violence, the fact should not be forgotten or overlooked that one has a crowd of, maybe, 30,000 at the York Ebor Meeting, or only 5,000 on a day at Pontefract; yet there is seldom, if ever, any form of vandalism or hooliganism. What a joy it must be for the hard-worked police force to be told they are going on duty at a race meeting, not at a football match! How good it is to see a non-militant, peaceful crowd, with everyone enjoying themselves.
My Lords, I believe that the administration of racing is sound, from the Jockey Club and the Levy Board down to the actual day-to-day organisation on the racecourse. The problem isfinance. If racing is to survive, it must continue to hold the interest of the public with good horses, while at the same time providing adequate pay for those professionally engaged in it. A satisfactory living for those who depend on the industry depends in turn on owners being prepared to own racehorses. It is for this reason that a reasonable level of prize money is vital.
In other countries, the system whereby money taken from betting is ploughed back into racing seems to work more to the benefit of racing than in this country. That is why so often nowadays one hears of British-bred horses being sent abroad to be trained and raced. This is because the prize money is so much better. I believe that last year in Great Britain about £100 million was levied by the State through the betting tax, and 1337 only £9 million was put back into the industry.
My Lords, I urge Her Majesty's Government to consider reviving the industry by injecting a larger sum of money back into racing. This should be done through the levy, thereby giving the boost that will save the industry from disaster. Nobody could possibly wish to see this great and truly national sport collapse, which it inevitably will do if not supported more earnestly.
§ 5.19 p.m.
§ Baroness MACLEOD of BORVE
My Lords, I am sure that all Members of this House who are present today are deeply indebted to the noble Lord, Lord Crawshaw, for having initiated this debate. I listened with grateful thanks to all he had to say. I learned a great deal from his speech. We have had also the privilege of listening this afternoon to four maiden speakers, all of whom I think have devoted a considerable part of their lives to horses, to horseracing, and to the industry that is involved with it. If I may, I would congratulate all four male maiden speakers (if that is a permissible term these days) on their speeches. The noble Lord, Lord Grimthorpe, the noble Viscount, Lord Leverhulme, the noble Earl, Lord Halifax, and the noble Lord, Lord Westbury, all gave us different speeches, which must be a test of strength and also a great test of knowledge of the industry.
My Lords, I am sure that some of you will want to know why on earth I, a very old maiden filly, am standing up in your Lordships' House to talk about racing. I have ridden every kind of horse in every capacity that there is, except that I have never raced a horse, I think because I never had the courage. If I did wear a jockey's cap I would take it off to some of the ladies now pitting their wits and strength against male jockeys. I am not sure really that it is fair on the male jockeys—I suppose one has to use that term these days—because when he is jumping a fence, or going round Tattenham Corner, perhaps the gentlemanly nature of the jockey will come out and he will give the lady the first go round Tattenham Corner. Somehow I do not think they will; I think they will soon 1338 become hardened to it, but the mind does rather boggle, does it not?
As your Lordships know, racing started a very long time ago. I have had an little research done. King Richard I had two brilliant horses that he thought, as the ballad says,… "were unequalled and were worth £1,000 in gold".Why in gold nobody quite knows. The first race, according to the Guinness Book of Records, was in AD 210 at Nether by in North Yorkshire, which is perhaps the reason why my noble friends who have made their maiden speeches here this afternoon come from Yorkshire.
Ever since then, right the way down through the centuries, this country has been known for its bloodstock, for producing bloodstock unequalled in the world. Racing has been known for some time, almost up to the present day, as the sport of kings. Now we are all so grateful it is also the sport of queens. From The Tetrarch right through to Arkle and many other horses it has been known as the sport of perhaps the richer people in our society. But now, I submit—I am speaking as one who has attended race meetings on all the courses which have been mentioned here this afternoon—it is becoming an industry and a sport for all the people in the country. It is attended by people from the Government Benches. I think it is so sad that there are not more people behind the noble Baroness, Lady Stedman, interested in our debate from the Government side. I can assure her that people who support the Government politically make up at least half of the ordinary race-going public.
By the "ordinary race-going public" I mean not the stewards, not the owners, not the jockeys, but those who love to go to watch horseracing, and I am one of them. As I have said, it has been built up over very many centuries. Now I read in the annual report of the Racehorse Owners' Association that there is a tendency towards multiple ownership and syndication of racehorses. Surely that can only be a good thing, so long as in the background we have people like the noble Lords who have addressed us this afternoon, whose intention, one hopes, is 1339 to continue with the racehorse industry and horseracing in particular.
My Lords, when I tell you that in 1974 just over 3 million people attended fiat racing, that in 1975 it dropped only to just over 2.¾ million, that in 1974 just under 1½ million attended chasing, and in 1975 the same figure, you will realise that over and above those a great number of people get on the course free. I remember the other side at the Epsom course, for instance, where I do not think many people paid to go on the course. There are also an enormous number of people who have a very great interest in racing through television. I do not know whether the Government would take any notice of a suggestion here. Perhaps both the BBC and the television companies might be persuaded to pay more for their televising of racing. It does, as the noble Lord. Lord Hoy, said, give an enormous benefit off the course, in that people who want to relax can just pick up the telephone (so I gather), ring up the bookmaker, and watch the racing on television.
What distresses me, what I was very worried about when I read some of the literature sent to me this afternoon, was the fact that in 1974 the top 25 horses at the Tattersall's sales all went abroad. This, I think, is a very serious omen for this country. I think that the British people still like to see a British horse win, owned by British people and bred in Britain. They still have a loyalty and a pride. I think it is terribly sad to hear of these figures.
The noble Baroness, Lady Stedman, has, I know, been doing her homework and has been to New market, as my spies tell me. Bearing in mind the point I made—that is, that the ordinary person is now a racegoer, very often a racehorse owner, and if racing is allowed to deteriorate, as we have been told this afternoon, then these people as well as everybody else will be the poorer—I hope she will be able, at the end of the debate, to give us some hope that the Government will help all owners and breeders financially in the future.
§ 5.29 p.m.
My Lords, it may seem strange that someone who is no racegoer and who knows little about racing should intervene in this debate this 1340 afternoon. It is not quite correct to say that I have not been on a racecourse since the way; I have been once. I was taken when I was in Russia. That was in Moscow. I am not a betting man either; perhaps I am too timid, perhaps too mean. But I like thoroughbred horses and as a weekend rider have tried to ride them as well as look at them. I realise that without racing the future of that breed would be at risk. I have had many kindnesses from trainers and their staffs. Most of all, I am interested in the pattern of country life in this country, and, not least, the variety of opportunities of employment. Today, all too much small-scale industry is attracted away from the country into the towns, and it always loses something in the process.
My Lords, like all sports, racing can be looked at as a form of pyramid, and I think it is natural in a debate like this that most attention should be focused on the top, because it is at the top you find the highest standards, the fashionable names and the most money. I would submit that standards would not be so high, or so stable, at any level, if the pyramid lacked a real, solid foundation. Today there is a real risk, as many noble Lords have mentioned, that this foundation may crumble simply because rewards do not meet costs. The noble Lord, Lord Kilmany, put that very clearly, and I was pleased to hear him say so.
No one disputes that the level of prize money at the top in this country is much less attractive than in France. To remedy this alone is no long-term answer. At the same time, I would submit that the level of prize money at smaller meetings must be raised at the same time. Any review of taxation or transfers from one organisation to another—I do not want to mention names because I would probably get them wrong—must again take into account the interests of the smaller courses, smaller units. I do not like to hear it said—I have not heard it said here this afternoon, but I have heard it said among racing people and read it in the newspapers—that we have too many small and badly-run racecourses. I am not competent to comment on the level of administration at any racecourse, but small trainers, equally with their owners (who are mostly smaller men) do not want to see these courses go and their transport costs rise in consequence, since they 1341 would have to travel further every time they entered a horse. Local meetings mean a great deal to these people, and, with respect to the noble Lord, Lord Oaksey, I do not believe they want to see them all owned or controlled by bookmakers, which seems to be a modern trend. Some may be so controlled, but not too many. It may be the most terrible heresy to say this next, but I have never understood why there is not a rule which says a bookmaker may not own a horse; but perhaps that is a rash thing to have said.
These small men are hanging on. They are hanging on and hoping that they will not be forced out of business before the price of hay falls. This afternoon we have heard the cost of keeping a horse in training. When figures were mentioned it struck me that it must be far above what it costs to keep a boy in borstal, or other distinguished boarding schools, and that does not seem logical. In this country, unlike France, owning, breeding and training horses is spread over the whole country and not just concentrated in a few main centres. My local town, Penrith—and may I say, Cumberland, if only to explain that all North countrymen here today do not come from Yorkshire—is not regarded as a big racing centre, but within a 10-mile radius of this country town there are 200 horses in training, and they are all based in villages. They include one training stable of larger size and others which are smaller. This area is not alone. There must be many others like it where there is hardly a village without someone who owns a mare, someone who is a permit-holder, someone who, in his younger days rode over fences and others, if not those who actually had taken part, have been closely associated with racing and are enthusiastic. These people, but mostly the smaller trainers, are having a hard time, and if they have to shut up shop some men will invariably lose their jobs and the whole village where they live will lose more than a little interest.
I would not have mentioned railway porters but for the fact that the noble Lord, Lord Kilmany, mentioned them and said that in his part of Scotland they were an extinct species. Yesterday as I went on to the platform at Carlisle station where there are still a limited number of porters, an elderly porter 1342 whom I had not seen for some time came up to me and said, "Have you still got that old horse?". I said, "Yes, indeed." The horse is a considerable age, and once had a national reputation. It really belongs to a trainer who has let me have it on permanent loan, and I take it out hunting from time to time. That is a small illustration of what the noble Lord, Lord Kilmany, was saying.
I would extend a plea to the Government, and to those who control racing, when they make their plans for the future, not just to think of the top of the pyramid and the main centres, important though they are, but to remember that the interest spreads over the whole country, and that if most of the best horses are understandably found in the bigger stables some who are their equal are bred, owned, and trained by enthusiasts in a much smaller way.
§ 5.36 p.m.
§ Lord WOLVERTON
My Lords, in rising to address your Lordships this afternoon for a very short time, I should like to thank my noble friend Lord Crawshaw for initiating this important debate on the future of the racing industry, and to congratulate the four excellent maiden speakers who have made such a valuable contribution to our debate, especially the senior steward of the Jockey Club. My only excuse for speaking today in this debate is that I live at New market, and I am very fond of racing, although I do not own any racehorses myself.
I wish to speak for a few moments on one aspect of the racing industry, and that is prize money, because without adequate prize money I take a gloomy view of the future prosperity of the racing industry in this country. At the present moment we are at the bottom of the major league as regards prize money. Prize money, as has been said, helps all the industry—owners, trainers, jockeys, stable-lads, box van drivers, et cetera. The industry is very grateful to the Levy Board for saying that they will add a further £1 million to the contribution already given to prize money, under certain conditions of minimum wage for stablemen and fees for trainers. This will bring prize money up from £3.35 million in 1975 to nearly £4.35 million, approximately, for 1976, out of an expected levy of approximately £8 million. But the levy is now, 1343 with inflation, in my opinion, quite inadequate. I think I am right in saying that now it is 0.89 per cent. on turnover, and I only hope that the Levy Board will be successful in their application for increased levy, which is in dispute with the Bookmakers' Association and has been in front of the Home Secretary, as the noble Lord, Lord Kilmany, said, since last October. I hope very shortly, as the new season starts in April, that the Home Secretary will announce his decision. I think I am right in saying—and it is quoted in another place—that the Levy Board have asked for 0.5 per cent. more; but we badly need extra money. I hope that the Government will do something about it. The Government take 7½ per cent. taxation on turnover of betting, which is far too high a proportion. It is about £100 million altogether, of which £80 million comes from horseracing and £20 million from dogracing.
Without boring your Lordships with a lot of figures, I should like to put in front of you a few facts about New market. Newmarket are grateful for the increased money they have been given to help the horses there, but we were told it costs about £3,000 a year in all to keep a horse in training, and the approximate overall prize money is about £1,000. Newmarket is a grade 1 racecourse, and the extra prize money for 1976 from the Levy Board will be £88,000, or 8 per cent., added to the grant for 1975 of £198,000, making a total of £286,000. The total prize money for 1976 will be about £500,000 for that course. In following further on what the noble Lord, Lord Inglewood, was saying, there are approximately 62 racecourses in this country. Of this number 17 are flat, 24 jumping, and 21 dual purpose. Out of that number there are 11 grade A courses. The approximate prize money from all these courses is about £8 million. It is really quite inadequate and if we are to keep the industry prosperous we must try to increase its prosperity. I am most grateful to the clerk of the course at Newmarket for supplying me with some of these figures.
One final word. The other day I had the good fortune to visit the Equine Research Establishment at Newmarket and was taken round by the director. They are very well equipped, thanks 1344 largely to private donations, and are doing a great job with thoroughbreds. They are greatly helped with running expenses by the Levy Board but like everybody else are suffering from inflation and greatly need further funds. I hope Her Majesty's Government will pass this information on to the Levy Board to see if they can be given extra funds to carryon their great work. I hope I have been able to contribute something towards this debate. I feel we must have more money somehow and, unless it can come from the levy, I do not think much more can come from the owners or racecourse executive.
§ 5.42 p.m.
§ Lord BOLTON
My Lords, I must declare an interest because I am a permit holder and I breed jumpers as well as flat racehorses and I have horses trained on the flat. One part of today's debate has worried me; that is that people seem to regard export as a dirty word. I am sorry to see some of our better blood lines go abroad in such quantity but there is no doubt that if we wish to help any industry in this country we must take trouble over export and not regret it. We must put our house in order in other ways. Export in particular very often means to the flat racing owner the only way in which he can keep going and improve his stud. One good sell abroad and you can replace your yearling and possibly your brood mares. One must also remember that foreigners coming into this country are not only benefiting the racing industry but indirectly benefiting the rest of Great Britain. They may go back with a Bentley or a fur coat or saddlery or whatever. The present incidence of VAT is extremely unfair to those employed in English racing. If a foreigner imports a horse to race here he is liable to VAT. If he buys a horse here he has to pay VAT even though paying from an external source. If, on the other hand, as many are doing, he buys a horse here and has it trained in Ireland or France (both members of the Common Market) he pays no VAT and can send his horses here to win our prize money. I would like to see something done about that.
This is what I would suggest. If a foreign owner was allowed two years, the racing life of a racehorse, in which to prove his horse and was then called upon 1345 to pay up or export then we should have the benefit of having the horse trained in this country, and our trainers would be extremely grateful for that privilege. The export trade will be maintained only if the standard of our racing is high enough to attract foreigners. That is one reason why we want their money to improve the quality of our racing. Even the Irish Government, hard pressed as they are, have realised that to impose VAT on racehorses would be to the disadvantage of their own Treasury. English breeders cannot keep up the standard of their products unless they are able to replenish their stock of brood mares and stallions from any profits they may make. Unless some sort of investment allowances for breeders are instituted all the good stock will go for export, not just three-quarters. A car factory receives allowances to replace outdated machinery; why cannot the bloodstock industry benefit in the same way? That is all I have to say on VAT and export.
I should also like to make a plea on behalf of those who go National Hunt racing. We are on the poor end of the deal. One and a half million people annually watch National Hunt racing, watch good horses running for very small prizes, often under very wintry conditions. They enjoy it and it is a great entertainment for the British public either on television or on the course. We are getting a very small amount of prize money, and if contributions to prize money are to be raised as a result of this debate—which I sincerely hope—I would make a plea for not all the increase to go to the prestige or the pattern races. I should like to see some going to what is and should be for the future a very healthy industry, National Hunt racing. I am not going to say any more. Many of the facts and figures about prize money which have been at the fingertips of previous speakers were also at my own fingertips, but there is no point in repetition. We all know that prize money is in an extremely sad state and that unless it is increased British racing as we know it will not go on for very long. I do not think things will improve until the Treasury realises that the golden eggs are getting fewer and less golden, and if we wait for them to get much fewer and much less golden it will be too late.
§ 5.47 p.m.
§ Lord TERRINGTON
My Lords, it is with some hesitation that I join the list of speakers who have such expert knowledge of the racing industry and I would add my congratulations to all those noble Lords who have made their maiden speeches today. I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Crawshaw, for introducing this subject for debate and I wish to speak very briefly in order to mention one aspect of racing which I do not think has so far been covered this afternoon. I refer to the benefits which charitable organisations can and do derive each year from sponsored race days held on various courses throughout the country, and I would confine my brief remarks entirely to this aspect.
I am sure that noble Lords are familiar with this side of the racing scene and are aware that the sums of money being raised each year are not insignificant and the opportunity for drawing public attention to the work of certain charities is quite considerable. I believe that something like 18 organisations have benefited from sponsored days in the last few years—some of them several times. They include such well known names as Cancer Relief, The British Heart Foundation and the National Playing Fields. Having said that, this might be the appropriate moment to declare my own personal interest as appeal chairman for a race day at Ascot in September on behalf of the Riding for the Disabled Association. This is the first occasion that the Association has organised such a day.
As noble Lords will realise, the success of a charity day depends largely on attendance figures not merely because of the revenue from the entrance money and race cards but also because of the ancillary activities connected with the day itself which, if properly organised, can prove considerable money spinners. For example, on our own particular day next September we are hopeful that the new 1975 Lotteries Act will be in full operation, thus enabling us to sell lottery tickets on the racecourse, and I have no doubt that there are other activities which can take full advantage of a good attendance. I am aware of one well-known charity which cleared a profit on their day of no less than £64,000 and I am informed that their various ancillary activities played a 1347 very useful part in arriving at this very good figure. But, my Lords, the point I really want to emphasise is that however generous our sponsors may be, good attendance is dependent on the quality of the horses entered and high quality can surely be achieved only through a healthy and thriving racing industry.
This may seem a rather minor argument to advance during a major debate on a major industry, but the noble Lord, Lord Crawshaw, in his opening remarks, referred to the social importance of this industry and I submit that financial support for charities falls into this category. Clearly, I cannot claim that inability to mount a worthwhile day's racing would represent a disaster for charitable organisations, for they raise their money in many different ways, but I suggest that racing is a medium which can increasingly make its contribution to this important aspect of national life. Furthermore, I believe that I should have the support of many noble Lords who have taken part in this debate if I said that those connected with racing, in whatever capacity, are extremely generous and welcome the opportunity to make their contribution to worthy causes.
I should like to conclude my brief remarks by reiterating what I said at the outset. This is certainly only one aspect of the racing scene, but I none the less feel that it is a not unimportant one in a social context. I therefore very much hope that the Government will take account of this development when they consider their position regarding the future of racing. Perhaps the Minister may even be able to offer some encouragement when she comes to reply to the debate later this evening.
§ 5.53 p.m.
§ Viscount MASSEREENE and FERRARD
My Lords, I have been overcome by the bevy of maidenly talent I have heard behind me. It is very seldom that we have four maiden speakers in a single debate in this House, but I am quite sure on this occasion that the four maidens at starting will end in a quadruple dead heat. The excellence of their speeches impressed me greatly and I should like to congratulate them. In addition, I must apologise to your Lordships for my voice. I have got out of a 'flu 1348 bed, but my doctor tells me that there is no danger of anybody catching my germs.
I should also like to thank my noble friend Lord Crawshaw very much for having initiated the debate. I have had a very long connection with racing, but it has been at a grass roots level, for I have had nothing to do with the administrative side. In my late teens, I used to go down to ride work for a very great trainer called Peter Thrale who trained at West Horsley and who then moved to Epsom. My interest in racing stems from that, and eventually I had one or two horses with him before the war. When the war was over, I continued my interest in racing and I have ridden in a few steeplechases and hurdle races and in quite a few point-to-points.
It is very difficult to speak so late in a debate such as this, but I should like to explain that the reason why I have given up breeding and having horses in training is the escalation of costs. It has become far too expensive for me. I gave up about three years ago. I have heard people ask why it should matter if racing and, therefore, the bloodstock industry decline. If people had said that before the invention of the internal combustion engine they would have been lynched because most public and private transport and the army depended on the horse, and it was racing, through the test of selection on the racecourse and through producing premium stallions, which really kept up the standard of the breed. However, that cannot apply today. On the other hand, I should point out, as have other noble Lords the great joy and entertainment which members of the public obtain from this important industry. The question of employment has also been mentioned many times. A hundred thousand people are employed, directly or indirectly, by the industry and we have heard how many millions of pounds worth of foreign currency are earned by the bloodstock industry by exports.
I should also like to reiterate what my noble friend Lord Halifax said regarding the prestige of the English thoroughbred horse. It was in the second half of the 17th century that, due to the encouragement of Charles II, we gave the thoroughbred to the world. The noble Earl mentioned the three famous sires, the Go dolphin Arabian, the Byerley Turk and the 1349 Darley Arabian. It would be a tragedy if, due to lack of support by the Government, we lost our pre-eminent place in the world in the breeding of the thoroughbred horse.
Many people may deplore gambling, but, like sex, it is here to stay, and this is surely the most healthy form of gambling. Here is a great spectacle, whether one is outside on the course, or is watching it on television. It is the best form of gambling because it is the straightest, and that factor is entirely due to the Jockey Club. We have the straightest racing in the world.
It is incredible to me to remember that before the war when I had one or two horses in training with Peter Thrale, I believe, though I speak from memory, that he charged me only £3.50 per week. That can be compared, as we have heard, with training fees of £35 per week now; and to that must be added the cost of plating, veterinary fees, entries, jockeys and all the rest. That will add another £20 a week, so that, the expense of keeping a racehorse today is between £50 and £60 a week. A noble Lord suggested that training costs had risen by 100 per cent. over the past 10 years. I beg to differ, for I understand that they have risen by 388 per cent. Last year, owners' contributions, counting jockey's fees, entries and so on, came to £29 million, whereas we have heard that the prize money available to owners at that time was only £5.27 million. It was in fact £7.62 million, but, as owners provided £2.35 million of that prize money, the amount which owners received from outside sources was, if my arithmetic is correct, only £5.27 million.
Several noble Lords have said one or two things about this matter, but I wish to point out that even a small country like Norway has higher prize money per horse than this country, while, as we have heard, America, France, Germany, Italy and Japan—especially Japan—are well ahead. I calculate that in Japan the prize money provided to owners is nine and a half times as great as it is in the United Kingdom. We have heard that the betting duty poured into the Treasury is £100 million per annum, and the Treasury gives back to racing only £7 million. This does not take into account the Levy Board's contribution. If that is considered, the figure rises to £9 million. That is a quite paltry sum for the Gov- 1350 ernment to hand back, bearing in mind that the total turnover of betting on racing is £1,285 million. We have heard that France hands back to racing £94 millions, while in America and Japan they hand back more than is collected in the form of tax from racing. Vast sums are handed back out of their Treasuries. There is no doubt that if the racing industry, particularly the bloodstock section, is not to decline the Government must be far more open-handed.
Various figures have been mentioned, but I calculate that in the United Kingdom, allowing for inflation, prize money has decreased by 6.3 per cent. during the past 20 years, while in other European countries it has increased, in some cases by 100 per cent. This makes poor reading so far as the Government's position is concerned. The noble Lord, Lord Crawshaw, asked for, I think, a further £10 million—or perhaps it was £10 million in total; I cannot remember—but if the Government would top up their present £7 million with another £7 million, making a total of £14 million, it would not break them, bearing in mind that they are getting £100 million. It would be a far better bet than giving £160 million—or is it £130 million?—to Chrysler, which does not employ nearly so many people as does the racing industry. All the money going to Chrysler will be lost, and the Government will not get anything out of Chrysler, except a headache.
Some people have said to me that racing ought to be more efficient, that it ought to try to help itself. It is also said that there are too many courses. I think we now have 62. People have also said that there are too many horses. I believe that there are between 10,000 and 11,000 horses racing, over the sticks and on the flat, but it is far better to have too many than too few. We have lost quite a number of courses. I can recall a number that have been lost: Hurst Park, Alexandra Park, Gatwick, Manchester and Wye. I remember at Gatwick before the war a horse of mine called Carefree winning a very good chase. It was on the day that Edward VIII abdicated, and that day will always stick in my memory.
It would be a tragedy if we had centralised racing in this country as there is 1351 in America and, one might say, in Italy where at the course outside Milan there are, I understand, 80 days racing. The variety of our race courses is a great attraction in terms of public support for racing. If racing were centralised at, for instance, New market, that would be very hard on the public because not everybody would like to travel that far and the character of English racing would definitely be lost. If there is to be a cut in the number of courses this should be among the low-grade flat courses, because statistics show that the National Hunt courses keep up their attendances, while low-grade flat courses are losing their attendances.
We must remember that National Hunt racing has nothing to fear from foreign competition, because our National Hunt courses are unique. Now here in Europe or America is there National Hunt racing similar to ours, and therefore I believe that there is no need to fear too greatly for our National Hunt racing. But if our flat racing is to remain pre-eminent in the world, it must have great quality. Therefore I return to the point that perhaps there are one or two low-grade flat courses which ought to be closed down. I should like to see more prize money given to high quality flat horses, although I would not forget the National Hunt horses; they must have more, too. But it is essential for our breeding for high quality races to have as much support as possible. I personally always bet on higher grade races, and I think that the general public probably does, too. There is not much betting on low-grade races. This is surely a healthy sign from the point of view of the punter because it shows that he is not gambling merely on chips, but that he takes a great interest in these beautiful animals.
I shall soon stop speaking, my Lords, because I fear I have gone on far too long. But I wish to mention a matter which has somewhat puzzled me in the past few years. Some middle-grade horses appear to lose their form to a far greater extent than used to be the case in my day when I rode them at work and when I occasionally took part in steeple-chases. Why is this? I think the reason is the labour shortage in training stables. I believe that there are not enough lads now employed to "do" the horses. At 1352 many stables there is now only one lad "doing" four horses, whereas the situation ought to be one lad to two horses. When we get more prize money, as I hope we do, it should be possible, with trainers charging higher fees and owners having more money—or, at least, the hope of more money—to go back to the situation of one lad "doing" two horses. As your Lordships know, the thoroughbred horse is a highly sensitive animal, and if he does not get the best care he cannot give of his best. High quality horses are usually more consistent. There are exceptions to this rule. I remember one horse—Zucchero—a brilliant horse. He must have had a great sense of humour because his backers, I am sure, had many heart attacks.
My Lords, we come back again to the question of more cash; and, of course, it is up to the Government, the Jockey Club and the Levy Board to decide how this should be given, whether all in prize money or in other ways. The point is that the racing industry must get more money; and really, the Government can afford it. They get money out of the industry, so for heaven's sake put more back! Before finishing, may I, for just one minute, say something about a little hobby horse of mine? Quite a few people have spoken about it; it is the photo finish. Many people seem to think it is not right, in a big race, that a horse, just because he is holding his head high or is holding it down, should lose or win that race by an inch; and it is said that it would be far better to have two lines on a photograph, perhaps ten inches apart, and if any other horse had its nose within those two lines there would then be a dead heat. It seems wrong that if a horse is on its forward stride or on its backward stride then that should be the cause of its losing the race, or according to how it is holding its head. So I commend that suggestion to the Jockey Club. I am sure they have studied it. The present system does seem unfair.
My Lords, I must apologise for speaking too long, but this is a subject which is close to my heart. I also apologise for my very poor voice today; but I should like to say to the noble Baroness who is answering for the Government, without meaning to be at all flippant or rude, "Cough up!"
§ 6.11 p.m
§ Lord GISBOROUGH
My Lords, when I look at the list of speakers from both this side of the House and the other side, and when I look at the lovely maidens from Yorkshire who have come down and had such a lovely and successful canter out, I think I am almost unique in that I do not have, and never have had, a race-horse; I very seldom go racing, and I am not particularly interested in racing. I am certainly not a regular racecourse attender, but I come from Yorkshire where there are a lot of racecourses. A great many people go racing in Yorkshire, and it is a very important leisure sport there as it is all round the country.
My Lords, few people would argue about the necessity for a healthy racing industry, and I am sure that the Government would agree with that necessity. Four and a half million admissions a year indicates the public's support of racing as a leisure activity, along with the avidly followed results in the Press and on television. Then, 30,000 people in the stables and 70,000 in the betting industry indicates the demands of the punters and the employment in the industry. Furthermore,£97 million or £100 million, whatever it may be, received in betting tax by the Government is a scoop which must annually warm the heart of even the most puritan of Chancellors. But racing is suffering from inadequate prize money, as we have heard over and over again, to keep the sport going. Prize money in 1975 was £7.62 million. The total costs of keeping horses was £43.7 million, leaving on average a shortfall of some £3,000 per horse, and this constitutes the dangerous gap in racing.
As the keeping of racehorses becomes confined to fewer people, the demand at the sales will begin to drop and prices in general will begin to fall, and breeders will reduce the breeding of new horses. In four to five years' time—thatis the time lag from the serving by the stallion to the proved three-year-old, I am told—racing will begin to suffer, as the noble Earl, Lord Halifax, so ably explained earlier on. We shall have fewer horses to sell abroad for dollars, and owners will have to spend dollars in order to top-up with high quality brood mares from abroad. In 1975, I am informed, fewer 1354 mares were covered, and this will have an effect in 1978–79.
All other countries put back far greater sums into racing than the United Kingdom does. The percentage of betting tax taken by the Government, according to my figures (though there are many different figures that I have found), is less than in France, yet the total amount given to racing is far greater in France than in this country, and figures have already been given for that. The difference, of course, lies in the amount of the total taken by bookmakers' costs, the single Tote in France being far cheaper to run than the multitudinous network of bookmakers. This is explained, however, by the British public's demand for betting on all races up to the "Off" from all over England, while the public in France, with very limited exceptions, can bet only on the course. One wonders whether racing should not look, therefore, to the bookmaker for its necessary cash. If instead of the average of 0.66 per cent. of turnover, as I understand the figure to be on the calculation I have been given, the betting industry were to pay to racing 1.5 per cent., this would be adequate to meet the needs of the racing industry and would be marginal to the punter.
There has been, and often is, criticism of the value of the pattern race prizes, but these few races at the top of the pyramid of racing are the necessary incentives to encourage breeding of the best animals, the very capital of the industry. It would not help racing in the long run if the value of the pattern prizes were to be spread over the rest of racing. They provide the vital opportunity for the best horses of the world to be matched together, without which the best British horses would have to race more abroad to prove their value for breeding purposes. Much improvement to racecourses has already been done, and in 1975–76 the Racegoers' Fund allocated £466,000 to 44 courses in grants. This ranged from a handsome £44,000 to Stratford-on-Avon for a new course refreshment bar, new toilets, connection to the main sewer and a modernised Tatters all Bar, to £844 to Perth for tarmacking the paddock area. Most of these improvements have been completed only recently, but together they constitute a tremendous improvement in the facilities available in the cheaper 1355 enclosures. The Racecourse Association is delighted with the result and believes that the public are also delighted. As the Levy Board are to repeat the process on the same priorities in 1976–77, these improvements should be countrywide in a year's time.
The money to provide this was a reallocation of the admission subsidy, initiated in June 1972, of between 10p and 20p per ticket, which proved of slight value to someone spending, on average, £14 a day to go racing, with travel, entrance and expenses. Much has been done for the public. What use would it all be if there are not enough good runners? My Lords, we have heard of the many problems of racing. Somehow, more money must be found for it to survive effectively.
§ 6.18 p.m.
§ Lord NEWALL
My Lords, I know we are all extremely grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Crawshaw, for introducing the debate; and I shall make no apology for repeating certain statements which have already been made this afternoon. That is because I agree wholeheartedly with the noble Lord, Lord Oaksey, that there is obviously a lack of communication between the racing industry and the Government, and the more that these things can be repeated to the Government I think the more likely it is that they will go home. I must just mention the wonderful reception that the four maiden speakers have received. I think it probably is a record, although I stand to be corrected. I think it is marvellous that a debate of this sort should attract so many maiden speakers.
My Lords, I speak purely as a frequent racegoer—I must add, from the South, as there are so many Northerners here today not aligned to any body, particularly, in the racing industry. I have been a steward at New market for one day, but I do not think that one swallow makes a summer. There are obviously two basic problems in the racing industry. One is the lack of money going into racing, and the other is the lack of a single body to co-ordinate the financial and physical planning of horseracing from beginning to end. How are we going to solve the problems? There are a great many answers, and many of them 1356 have been put forward this afternoon. It is a very big industry; first, a sport; secondly, a business—and we have heard several times that there are over 100,000 people who are supported by this industry. It also provides daily entertainment for thousands, either on a day out or merely for the old English pastime of having a bet. As has already been stated, racing involves a great many people from all walks of life, without any political persuasions at all.
Racing benefits this country. The noble Viscount, Lord Leverhulme, mentioned this very strongly. It attracts foreign money. The foreigners buy the horses, and they keep their horses in training here. I think it is true that they come here because we started racing, which is one of our national heritages. We taught the world how to manage it, as well as the breeding, which, of course, keeps racing going. We have here probably ideal breeding conditions, we have the soil, the climate and we have the know-how which is so important to breed thoroughbred horses. We have highly efficient studs and a dedicated and knowledgeable workforce. Racing cannot survive at all unless good horses are bred. It takes three years to get a horse on to the racecourse from the time you choose the dam and sire. This is a lot of time.
Lack of money is obviously affecting breeding. It eliminates many of the incentives of breeders to invest money and it gives a reduced home market for the high-quality breeding stock which is necessary. Lack of cash affects the prize money, which is often pitifully small. This discourages owners either to own horses or to enter. They cannot hope to recoup many of the costs. In 1975, owners contributed almost the same as the Levy Board to prize money in the form of entrance fees; but the total training fees that the owners paid out, as the noble Lord, Lord Hoy, mentioned, was about £18½million—for a maximum of just £7 million in prize money. There were a lot of losers there. Because of this lack of money, a great many foreigners are buying our best horses. This depletes our valuable and much-needed breeding stock. Heavy taxes like VAT make England non-competitive with other countries who compete with us and 1357 turn people away while giving an enormous advantage to our competitors from abroad.
One specific example has been given by the noble Lord, Lord Gisborough; that of racing at pattern races. I agree wholeheartedly that these races which are specific races to test the best horses are necessary. All countries add money to pattern racing to attract the best horses. The French who have about the same size racing industry as we have give three times as much money to pattern racing. Moreover, they give about 25 per cent. prizes to the breeders and even more if the horse is bred in France. It has been said this afternoon that for every £10 that the Government get in, only £1 goes back into racing. Nearly all the other countries have ratios of 2:1, 1:1 or 1:2. Obviously, we are out of step. The Government must realise that they are biting the hand that feeds them.
My Lords, the Levy Board, which was set up in 1963, was set up with three purposes: to improve the breeding of horses; to encourage and advance the veterinary sciences and education in veterinary matters; and to improve horse racing. These were the three main objectives. It is interesting to note that while the health of horses is important to all horses throughout the country and not only racehorses, only £1 million so far has been given to veterinary matters. This is a true sign that there is insufficient money. I can only hope that the Levy Board's attitude has changed considerably from that of two years ago when the then chairman of the Board rebuked all the people in the racing industry who had been asking for a bigger levy—this from a man who was charged with raising and allocating the money for the industry! What a way to run a railroad !
In recent years the Levy Board has been able to make significant improvements to many race courses, certainly at greatly less cost than if they had to do it today with inflation. Possibly it is a pity that some of the buildings were not more closely supervised. I gather that some of the new buildings have omitted to provide a good box for sponsors who provided over £1 million in prize money this year. This is a very poor show. The taxpayer is continuously being diddled in my opinion by the confusion of different bodies, each with their own area 1358 of responsibility but rarely speaking with one voice. The Benson Report of 1968, which must have cost the taxpayer a pretty penny, recommended that there should be a British Racing Authority. That was nearly eight years ago and it has still not been implemented. With so many voices representing racing, it is not surprising that things are not organised properly yet. I feel that the Government could easily implement this whenever they wanted to. They seem rather too wet to take the initiative.
My Lords, what are we to do in the short term? Suggestions have ranged widely. Immediate cash could be produced by raising the betting levy by one half of 1 per cent. Some other amount has been suggested. I agree with one half of 1 per cent. Surely this is not enough of an increase to drive betting underground, which some people fear. Some people say we should reduce the number of courses. I agree that some pruning may be possible; but there are a great many problems if the small courses are to be withdrawn on a large scale. One must not forget that the small courses cost much less to run. Certainly, they should not be asked to stage meetings at a loss, which happens from time to time. If we want to revolutionise racing, perhaps we could use the American situation and have different circuits, horses stabled on course and racing on tan instead of grass. I think it is possible. It certainly would be more efficient but somehow I do not think that racing is ready for this radical change. Grass racing is what we are used to. Inevitably the grass wears out from time to time. That obviously means a limit to continuous days of racing at any one course. The grass must grow again. Meetings therefore cannot go on for more than a few days.
The income from betting is believed to reach the optimum level with two meetings every day with staggered starting times. After this, the same money apparently chases after more horses. There are provisos in the papers that I have read for extra racing at holiday times and possibly on Saturdays. If the betting levy is to be kept up through betting turnover, then I would suggest that two meetings every day should be the target. But why not evening racing? The noble Lord, Lord Grimthorpe, suggested this and I 1359 agree wholeheartedly. But it is no good having more evening racing without allowing the betting shops to remain open. After all, we have many off-licences open in the evenings and that is working extremely well.
By comparison with other countries it is obviously most efficient to have a Tote monopoly. Undoubtedly many people, including the noble Lord, Lord Wigg, would disagree with this, and I do not advocate it; but I would agree with the suggestion for fewer betting shops. We have far too many. The figure is somewhere between 14,000 and 15,000. Many people may not know that the Tote have over 100 betting shops and expect to have more as time goes on. This is obviously more productive to money going into racing. There are probably a thousand and one suggestions for making racing more efficient but this will not happen until we have one authoritative body controlling the whole industry.
Initially, my Lords, racing needs more money and less taxes. That there are problems cannot be denied. Why else the Benson Report of 1968? Why else the Joint Racing Board publication of 1974? Why else was the Bloodstock and Racehorse Industries Confederation (BRIC) formed? Why indeed was this debate necessary and so popular? The Government have a very strong duty to answer two specific questions—and to answer them correctly. First, why after the Benson Report has nothing been done towards the introduction of a British Racing Authority? Secondly, when will steps be taken to return to racing a sufficient sum of money to keep it viable?
§ 6.29 p.m.
Lord PAGET of NORTHAMPTON
My Lords, I wish to make only one very small point. On the general point, I feel that the difference between British racing and successful racing elsewhere is that British racing has to keep the bookmakers while racing where it is successful does not. I totally agree that the solution to all our troubles would be a Tote monopoly. It would mean much more money for racing and for the Government. But that is not the point I want to deal with. It has been discussed by many noble 1360 Lords who know much more about it than I do.
I should declare an interest as a permit holder. I am concerned with point-to-points, which have not yet been mentioned and which I believe are an important feature of our country life. Point-to-points are a country holiday. They are non-profit making; the whole of the service is provided on a voluntary basis by members of the local hunt. Stakes last year were confined to £40; they may rise a little as a result of inflation. I would hate to see them rise to any great amount. I would hate to see point-to-points competing with each other over the value of their races or indeed anybody believing that they could make money from point-to-pointing. Point-to-pointing is a sport, and it should be kept that way.
I believe strongly that point-to-pointing should have its own authority which should be responsible for its interests. I do not think either the Jockey Club or the National Hunt control does point-to-pointing any good; it does it a great deal of harm. A point-to-pointing authority (which I believe should come from the Master of Hounds Association Point to Point Committee), would co-operate with the Jockey Club and with the National Hunt. We do not want Fitzwilliam point-to-point on the same day as Huntingdon races. Dates and fixtures would have to be fixed by agreement. We do not want horses running under one name when point-to-pointing and another name when racing. Registration of horses would have to be gone into, although I am somewhat outraged by the proposal which is being put forward that only thoroughbreds should be allowed to run in point-to-points. I believe point-to-points are a sport for hunters. I believe it should stay that way.
When I was secretary of a point-to-point, about half a century ago, the first race we had was for horses that hunted with the Cambridge shire Harriers who were not thoroughbreds. They had never started in any form of race and were certified by the master to be slow. We had 12 starters and a lot of fun. I cannot see why one should not have races of that sort. I cannot see why our 1361 own authority could not decide on what kind of races we can have. Why should we be confined to six three-mile steeple chases? There are shorter races. Why should we not have them? Why should they all be over regulation fences? On cross-country courses such as Hickstead there are gates and other kinds of fences. They are much cheaper to build. There are some hurdle races on steeple chase courses, and the fences could be of that sort. It would make meetings more fun and improve them. Some people who go out hunting do not fancy jumping fences fast, but just like to gallop.
Why should we not have a committee and authority to run the best day's private entertainment and fun for the hunt? Apart from that, there is the absurdity that a point-to-point can charge admission for cars but not for people. Why? If one puts up a stand, why should not people be charged to sit in it? This is a great nonsense. I hope that the racing authorities—and this is an opportunity to talk to them rather than to the Government—will consider the point-to-point. It has become large now. A tremendous lot of horses are run in point-to-point which is great fun in the countryside. There should be an authority which looks to its interests and not to somebody else's interest.
§ 6.34 p.m.
§ Lord WIGG
My Lords, listening to the noble Lord, Lord Paget of Northampton, is a link with the past. As then, again now, I wholeheartedly endorsed some of the things he said, and I was in violent disagreement with other things. First of all regarding the Jockey Club and the National Hunt Committee, they amalgamated long ago, so there is only one villain in the piece so far as the noble Lord is concerned. He is right, there ought to be a separate authority for point-to-pointing. But when he makes the case against the bookmakers I want to join issue with him; but I will do it at a later stage because I want to correct one or two of the pieces of nonsense—and there have been plenty—which have been talked about in this debate today.
May I start by doing something which I regret but which I must do because if I do not, then when I have been speaking for a couple of minutes somebody will remind me that I have not told your 1362 Lordships of my past. That happened on the last occasion. The noble Duke, the Duke of Devonshire, was anxious to establish that I was associated with the bookmakers, so he interrupted me. Therefore I had better mention all my past. I became a member of the Racecourse Betting Control Board 20 years ago. I did not ask to goon it. My noble friend Lord Aylestone, then Labour Party Chief Whip, sent for me following the resignation of the then Mr. Paget, Member of Parliament for Northampton. My noble friend Lord Aylestone, as he then was, told me that he had been asked by the Leader of the Party to ask me to take the place of Mr. Paget. He said, "I ought to warn you that you, like me, have a Midlands constituency, non-conformist in character. My advice to you is to say, 'No' to this appointment". I told him that I would say, "Yes" to it, and he said, "It is on your own head. In our part of the world, non-conformist constituencies, they do not like anything to do with betting". This appointment made one great difference to my life: when I went to Dudley and the West Midlands for the week-ends the non-conformist parsons asked me which horse was going to win. After one experience they found my role as a prophet in that respect was not very good, and they ceased approaching me.
I will not trouble your Lordships with the number of occasions that I found myself brought face to face with authority in the form of the Jockey Club. There were many occasions, because I am a child of logic and refuse to say one thing and then do something else. Then the Betting Levy Bill was introduced. It contained a provision that no Member of the House of Commons could be a Member of the Board. One of the great compliments paid to me in politics was from Conservative Members who went to the then Mr. Butler and asked him to amend the Bill so that I could be nominated a member of the Horserace Totalisator Board. I was put on the Board by Mr. Butler and subsequently my membership was renewed by another Conservative Member of Paliament, the then Mr. Henry Brooke.
In due time the noble Viscount, Lord Head, was offered the chairmanship of the Levy Board—and this is going into 1363 the heart of the argument—on the resignation of the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Harding of Petherton. At the last moment he thought he could not take that on because the Levy Board was short of money. There were bills as long as your arm. The levy for 1967–68 had not been agreed. The amount anticipated was £2,300,000. There was a bill which had not been included in the estimates, for reconditioning Newmarket, of £614,000. There were plans for the reconstruction of Doncaster costing £1 million. Unless something had been done to raise the levy, not by one-half of 1 per cent. but in a dramatic fashion, racing would have been "in the red". There would have been a real crisis. I persuaded my colleagues—and there were those in the bookmaking profession who agreed and who had originally raised the point which I seized on—that something had to be done to change the basis of the levy to turnover. The levy was raised from £2,300,000 to a figure which is now between £8 million and £9 million.
My Lords, may I say something for the record, with no complaint. In the fight that took place, centred on an amending Bill in another place, I received no public assistance whatever from any single member of the Jockey Club. I was left to fight that tight entirely on my own, to the point of offering my resignation—"Either I get that amending Bill or I go. "I won; but today, what have we heard?—the rattling of tin cans for more money. What we ought to have heard is "Hosannah! Praise God from whom all blessings flow!" We should have been counting our blessings, because there is no other sport in Britain today which gets between £8 and £9 million.
We have heard about football hooliganism. I wonder whether hooliganism would be what it is if the amenities on many football grounds had been improved to the necessary standards. I have said on previous occasions that I believe hooliganism is a passing phase. If you treat people badly they behave badly; if you treat them decently believe they will respond to that treatment. That is one reason why I fought for the Levy. I got it raised, and the only reason I come to your Lordships' House tonight and trouble you once 1364 again with an old story is that that money should be spent honestly in the public interest—and that is not happening.
Let me be specific. I intervened earlier during the speech of a very old friend of mine and a colleague for five years on the Levy Board, a personal friend from whom I have often received support for which I am very grateful. He referred to representation. What are the facts? The Betting, Gaming and Lotteries Act was placed on the Statute Book, but there were those who thought that racing should have some share of the money that was around. So the Peppiatt Committee was set up and they recommended the setting up of the Levy. Their report advocated a bookmakers' levy board. The book makers were to be actively associated with the spending of the money which was raised through the functioning of the levy. That is in fact what happened; but when the Levy Board came to be debated in the House of Commons there was a great row. I got permission from the noble Lord, Lord Aylestone, who was then the Chief Whip and the Leader of the Labour Party, to vote against my own Party five times. I think, in one night on the simple issue we have been discussing now—the question of representation.
There are those here who know something about this; certainly the noble Lord, Lord Paget, does, because he was for many years a member of the old Racecourse Betting Control Board. That board contained a representative of almost every major Department of Whitehall. The chief magistrate was on it, as was almost every organisation you could think of—Uncle Tom Cobley and all. The Home Secretary, in his wisdom, I think correctly, decided to have a different form of board. I have here an extract from Hansard. My name is liberally quoted because I was a member of the Racecourse Betting Control Board and of the sub-committee which carried out the negotiations; so my memory is not defective, and I can reinforce what was said in Hansard. Mr. (now Sir) David Renton, who was then the Under-Secretary of State, said that the Home Secretary agreed to the amending of the Bill to give the Jockey Club two members, plus one member from the National Hunt Committee, making it three in all, on the condition—and he actually said this—that 1365 they should take into account and represent the views of a number of organisations which had been pressing for direct membership along the lines advocated tonight by the noble Lord, Lord Oaksey.
In fact, the Government of the day (a Conservative Administration) specifically rejected a large board, and had a small board on which the Jockey Club and the National Hunt Committee had three members, together with the vets and the thoroughbred breeders. The suggestion was that organisations of that kind should make their views known and the Jockey Club would be responsible for setting up an organisation so that those voices could be heard. What did the Jockey Club do about it?—nothing, nothing, nothing! I became chairman in 1967 and pointed out that the obligation which was imposed upon them, and which they had accepted, had been completely ignored.
My answer to this problem of effective consultation is today what it was in 1961. In September 1961 the new chairman of the Horserace Totalisator Board, Sir Alexander Sim, asked all the members of the new Board, of which I was one, to submit to him a paper setting out views as to the action he should take, as a member of the Levy Board—because he was a member ex officio. I have dug out the paper which I wrote: it reads like one of the Acts of the major apostles or prophets. This is what I wrote on 18th September 1961:The problem has to be faced as to how far the representatives of the Jockey Club and the National Hunt Committee are to be accepted as speaking for all constituent racing interests. They must either take the responsibility of speaking for the constituent interests, after regular and formal consultation, or the Levy Board must themselves establish consultative machinery. Such consultations are of vital importance and organised bodies who are sufficiently responsible and well-informed to express a view should be positively encouraged to enter into consultative arrangements, for in addition to the framing of policy, it will make for easy administration. For example, the Thoroughbred Breeders' Association have formulated a policy based on the acceptance of the recommendations of the Peppiatt Committee which in paragraph 29 of their Report, suggested that a central fund of £100,000 per annum should be used to establish a system of breeders' prizes. The Thoroughbred Breeders' Association is thoroughly representative of the interests engaged in that industry and arrangements have been made for two meetings a year to take place between their Council and the representatives of the Jockey Club. It follows, therefore, that if the Levy 1366 Board accepts the Peppiatt Committee's recommendations, then the system of breeders' prizes can be worked out in detail and put into effect without difficulty or delay.That point of view is one that I advocated then and one which I advocate now.
If I may trouble your Lordships for just a moment more on the same point, I ended my paper by saying this:I would conclude by saying that the suggestions I have made are related to the principle that the Levy Board is engaged in the redistribution of income from backer to bookmaker and thence back to the racing industry. It is accountable to Parliament and it is more than likely that its activities will be publicly questioned. It must, therefore, at all costs, be clearly seen to be acting in the public interest and to be mindful of minority interests. It must, in its deliberations, defer and take into account the views of the Jockey Club and the National Hunt Committee as the governing bodies in racing, but it must also be remembered that these bodies, because of their traditions, are more likely to be concerned with justifying the practices of today rather than hewing out the policies of tomorrow.That, I think, is a fair judgment.
That brings me to the nature of the dilemma which many of your Lordships appear not to understand. There are reasons why there is much more money available for racing in France than there is in this country, if I may take France as an example, although I am quite prepared to compare this country with Australia or America; but France, which is the nearest, is the best example. The first point to note is that the basis of the Butler legislation was to make it lawful, wherever a man or a woman happened to be in the United Kingdom, to have a cash bet up to the "Off" on any racing under rules on any day. This is a formidable business; indeed, it is an impossible conception to operate within a totalisator system, particularly a totalisator run like the present one.
Again, the nature of the way our fellow countrymen bet is often in this form. They have a shilling each way on Scrubbing Brush in the four o'clock, any to come two shillings each way on Nostril in the two o'clock. You do not know what to put in the pool at two o'clock, until after the four o'clock race is run. They bet not only win and place; they bet doubles, trebles, accumulators, Yankees, up-and-down, round the clock, patterns—they are all variations of the same thing.
May I say to the noble Lord, Lord Paget, that it is not the bookmaker who 1367 has got the money; it is the punter's money that comes in via the bookmaker. He is merely a very efficient collector. It comes in because the bookmakers have a system which is highly successful at handling countless millions of small bets, by which our fellow countrymen try to win large sums, and that, of course, is a very profitable source of revenue to those who receive the bets. But the idea that you can, by a stroke of the pen, have a totalisator monopoly is—I was going to use a word which is suitable only for the barrack room, so I shall refrain from using it.
Your Lordships will have noticed that since the last debate on 17th December there has been an announcement that the Select Committee on Nationalised Industries in another place is to inquire into the operation of the Tote. I await the outcome of their deliberations with some interest. I hope very much indeed that there will be an opportunity for those who believe in a Tote monopoly as a practicable system of betting in this country—something that can be introduced very quickly in order to produce the large sums of money that are obviously wanted—will go along and tell the Committee how to do it, because I do not believe it can be done, and those who advocate it will do only that which Lord Butler, with his courage and wisdom (and I paid tribute to him earlier) succeeded in doing. He stopped the corruption of the police. The Street Offences Act and the Betting, Gaming and Lotteries Act were introduced because the police were being suborned by bribes, and it was imperative to stop it. This afternoon I heard from noble Lords the surprising suggestion that there is unlimited money to be obtained by a stroke of the pen. I just do not believe it. I hope that I have explained—I will not say "effectively", because that is perhaps too much to hope for—why it is that the French have got so much money.
But let me go a little further in order to get it on the record. There are in this country 63 racecourses, counting Newmarket as two. If I took a symposium on how many racecourses there are in France, and I bet anyone even money that he could not get within 50 of the total, I would bet somebody else a considerable sum of money that I should be in pocket. I ask noble Lords to do the sum in their 1368 heads. It is somewhere around 340. But whereas in France you can bet off course only if you happen to be in the 50 principal towns and cities, in Britain you can bet off course in cash wherever you happen to be, and that universal system is possible only under a bookmaker system, for better or worse.
I go further, and I am not saying anything new, because I said this when I was chairman of the Levy Board. If you want a quick way of getting more money—and it has to be decided whether the tax man takes it, or whether it goes into the levy—I suggest that you hand the Totalisator over to the bookmakers, because they would run it efficiently. There is a possibility that if the Tote was handed over to private enterprise, and all off course betting was then regulated by Totalisator prices, there might be something in that operation. But to try to have a Tote monopoly with an organisation which, in my day, had a turnover of £40 million and is now down to £24 million, and hands over to racing a lesser sum than it gets from the bookmakers for exercising the Tote authority, is not the way to fortune.
I want to turn to another matter which seems to have escaped your Lordships' attention. The noble Baroness, Lady Stedman, is to reply tonight. I wish her the best of luck and I congratulate her in advance. I also take this opportunity of congratulating the four maiden speakers, whose speeches I completely enjoyed but with which I did not always agree. But the noble Baroness deserves something more than my good wishes. She is a mark of a revolation which nobody seems to have noticed. When the same Motion as the one which is now before your Lordships' House was discussed in another place on the evening of 27th October, when Mr. Clement Freud debated the racehorse industry, who replied? It was the Parliamentary Secretary to the Home Office. But tonight we do not have a Home Office spokesman. We have a Lady in Waiting who is talking from a Governmental brief, which I suspect is not a Home Office brief at all.
A revolution has occurred and a little battle has taken place within the Government. The brief of the noble Baroness, Lady Stedman, has doubtless been seen by the Home Office but, of course, it 1369 really comes from the Minister for Sport, because I believe it has now been decided that the Home Office can speak only on matters for which they have statutory responsibility, and they are confined to the provisions of the Betting, Gaming and Lotteries Act, as amended by the 1969 Act in relation to the levy. I do not believe that the noble Baroness can give any answer tonight about the levy (I wish she could) because it is perfectly true that the dispute between the Bookmakers'Committee—a statutory body, by the way—and the Levy Board was referred to the Home Secretary on 1st October for his decision under the 1969 Act, and he has not yet taken a decision. I understand his dilemma. Of course, there is no case whatever in this big wide world for adding one single millieme to the levy.
Let us just consider the situation, my Lords. The levy for next year—it is the fifteenth levy that is being decided—will be decided by the take in this year. It is done by taking one year with another, and the new levy comes into operation on 1st April. So there will be around £8.3 million. On top of that, there is a considerable balance going forward. How much will not be known until the end of the year, but between £13 million and £14 million is available for spending next year. That is the amount which will be available. No speaker today, starting with the senior steward, has told us what additional money is wanted. All that we hear, almost like a gramophone record that is played with a stuck needle, is "We want more prize money". This is very interesting. I am not against prize money because I doubled it in 1968. Again may I say that I was heavily attacked for doing so by the very people for whom I am now supposed to speak—BOLA. I am supposed to be the spokesman for the bookmaker, but I am spokesman for myself. I made it a condition when I became the President of BOLA that I wanted a joint consultative committee. If the bookmakers ran away from that I should resign tomorrow, because I do not believe that any solution can be imposed, least of all the solution of prize money.
I will repeat what I had to say on 17th December last. I said: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 1370 in 1968 I doubled it?—is that it must be related to an overall policy and not just frittered away".—(0fficial Report, 17/12/75, col. 1449.)This is what has happened now. My guess is that the demand for an increased levy which has come to the Secretary of State is because forces within the upper echelons of the racing administration have their eye on an ever increasing amount of money for pattern racing. The amount of money for flat racing that has already been approved is £602,000. I do not believe that the Levy Board has 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 only by very rich men. A large proportion of the increase in prize money goes to those who have, and the whole object of the exercise now in operation is that you shall give to those who have. That is what I believe, although events will prove who is right.
I said what I had to say in that debate not without, if I may use a racing expression, having my card marked, and I listened with some attention to the Jockey Club spokesman to find out whether they would make any demand for increased money for pattern racing. It was as significant as that famous clue in Sherlock Holmes in the case of Silver Blades, that the dog did not bark in the night. There was no bark. We have not been told at any time by anybody what the prize money is wanted for. If the Home Secretary now approves an increased levy over and beyond that which was in operation last year, he is false to his trust in taking into account the national need. There is no case whatever for increasing the levy by one single penny at the present time. If there is such a need, the case must be made for it.
I turn now to another aspect of the same policy. It was mentioned by one noble Lord, perhaps by the noble Viscount, Lord Leverhulme. I must tell him that the Royal Charter confers no power whatever on any subject of the Jockey Club. It is a statement of objectives. The powers of the Jockey Club, like the powers of any organisation, including those of Ministers, are given by Statute, not by charter. As regards prize money, if there is a case it ought to 1371 be made in the open. It was the noble Viscount, Lord Leverhulme, who tried it. BOLA was the only organisation that refused to become a member of the consultative committee. Of course. Does not the noble Lord remember—he was present and there are others in this building who were present—that after I became chairman of the Levy Board I was told that my job was to collect the money and that the Jockey Club's job was to spend it, and that I put my papers together and said, "I am not coming here any more, because under Statute we are required to seek the approval of the Home Secretary before we spend any money". I repeat that from September 1961 until I became chairman in 1967 no effort was made to seek the approval of the Home Secretary under Section 25. I had to spend two years of overtime labouring to get a document signed by the then Home Secretary, Mr. Callaghan, in order to make honest men of the then members of the Levy Board because their actions were ultra vires.
That was the situation then. I believe that now there is an improvement. I am prepared to believe that the Jockey Club want to put the past behind them. So do I. But has the consultative committee allowed all of the various interests to be represented upon it—the breeders, the trainers, the Transport and General Union workers, the Stable Lads' Association, the lot? If there is a case for prize money, make it in the open where it can be criticised. Do not, as is now, I believe, proposed, give large dollops of money to pattern races. Again I will make the point that I introduced the money for pattern races. This was a recommendation of the Duke of Norfolk's Committee in 1965, but nobody did anything about it until July, 1968, when I took my life in my hands and rather enjoyed doing it, I may say—and introduced pattern racing. Therefore, I am all for pattern racing.
But I am also in favour of something else, and this is what the argument is all about. I am the ally of the noble Lord, Lord Kilmany, as I understand his philosophy. Certainly I am the ally of the noble Lord, Lord Inglewood, and I am in part the ally of the noble Lord, Lord New all, because I believe that the 1372 foundation of the soundness of English racing is in the roots, in the small meeting. It is in the National Hunt meeting; it is in the point-to-point meeting where people race for fun. I want at all costs to keep those meetings going. I believe something else: that you must have a vehicle whereby you can get the prize money down to the lower paid. You cannot give it to pattern races, because they stop with rich men. If, however, as the noble Lord, Lord Inglewood, suggested you pump the money into grants for the smaller meetings it percolates down to the small trainer, to the jockey who does not get many rides and to the stable lad who is in a stable which does not get many winners. It gets down to the roots. That is why I doubled the prize money in 1968 and that is why I oppose—and I hope that the Home Secretary will take note that I oppose—the increase in the levy, if it is merely for the purpose of making more grants for pattern racing.
The roots of English racing lie at Fakenham, at Cartmel. The noble Lord, Lord Hoy, together with the noble Lord, Lord Kilmany, mentioned that our Association saved Mussel burgh, Lanark, and Hamilton. I wanted to save those small meetings because I realised that the crowd which congregates at Ascot, the crowd which goes to Good wood and the multitude at Epsom on Derby Day are the people whose appetite for racing is kept going by their local meetings.
I want to keep them going, because I believe something else. The glory of English racing, which nobody else can emulate, is its variety, its essential difference. The Americans to whom I have spoken have come here for that reason. They get tired of their left-handed tracks, out of the gate, whip up, break the horses down and then bring out another one. They are tired of racing on dirt. They like to come here: left-handed today, right-handed tomorrow; flat today, uphill tomorrow. That is what it is all about. But if the Jockey Club has its way and continues in the path it is following it will kill English racing because the inevitability will be centralised racing and dirt tracks; racing for rich men; glorified dog racing, I do not want it; I want the other kind of racing, which is based upon variety and the fact of ordinary people going along, not to win vast sums but hoping that they will.
1373 I have mentioned the Levy Board, the Racecourse Betting Control Board and I have mentioned the Betting Offices Licensees' Association (BOLA). I ought also to declare that I am an honorary director of Teesside. We have laboured to keep that small course in being. I believe we have succeeded. One thing more I have managed to do is to have owned a racehorse. My heart warmed tonight at the suggestion of the noble Lord, Lord Paget of Northampton, that we should have races for slow horses. At different times I have had plenty of entrants! I do not mind if I do not win. I may be masochistic, but of one thing I am absolutely certain, that what racing does to all who take part in it, be they owners, trainers, jockeys, punters, what you like, is to cause them to live on hope. Whatever the disappointments are today, you hope that things will be better tomorrow, and I hope that for English racing.
§ 7.12 p.m.
§ The Earl of MANSFIELD
My Lords, your Lordships' House is coming to the end of a debate of, I think all noble Lords will agree, the greatest interest, and it is perhaps the kind of debate in which your Lordships' House excels. There has been a veritable outpouring, if I may call it so, of informed opinion and expertise from noble Lords in all parts of the House. First, our thanks go to my noble friend Lord Crawshaw, who set the scene, as it were, and opened the debate in a witty and informed manner. I too congratulate the four maiden speakers who produced the greatest of authority and also a good deal of charm in their contributions, each of which was different and at the same time informative. The fact that we have had four maiden speakers, and indeed so many speakers in a debate such as this, ought to bring home to the Government, if nothing else does, the anxiety, if not indeed more than anxiety, which exists in the horseracing industry as to its future and how it can continue to carry out its functions.
At this stage of the evening I do not think it would be profitable, and it certainly would be tedious, if I were to attempt to sum up matters from this side of the House. But I should like to say one or two things. Some of the debate has revolved around questions of control of racing; whether, for instance, there should be more democratic control of 1374 some of the institutions. Certain changes have been put forward as being desirable in some areas. But as against that, we have to balance the fact that racing in this country is not controlled by what I might describe as "little men on the make". Still worse, it is not, and conceivably should not be in any circumstances, controlled by big men on the make. There perhaps I take issue with the noble Lord, Lord Wigg. It is composed—and we have seen it from the quality and identity of the speakers today—of men who are knowledgeable, dedicated, selfless men with the interests of the industry at heart, and also those who are within it and work within it. A number of them have spoken this afternoon and I hope the effect of the debate will be that the Government will realise, possibly belatedly but nevertheless totally, that there is here an industry which is of the greatest importance to the country as a whole. It provides employment for a great many people; it provides a source of interest and recreation for something approaching the majority of our citizenry, and it provides much needed foreign currency for us all. So it is plain that this is an industry of the greatest importance which I suggest deserves the most sympathetic consideration from the Government.
A great many figures and statistics have been bandied about and I do not want to join in with that, if for no better reason than that they sometimes differ and it is difficult to see at any particular moment which statistic is the right one. We have heard that the industry creates employment for 100,000 people; that it contributes £100 million to the Exchequer in one way or another. I suggest it is also plain beyond peradventure that the industry is in difficulties and, so far as the return to the community is concerned in monetary terms, the law of diminishing returns is beginning to apply.
So what is the present position? The correct analogy appears to be that the industry is in a position not so much of being what I might describe as a lame duck but as a sick goose, in the sense that the goose is one which at the moment is continuing to lay golden eggs. Presumably it is in all our interests, and particularly in that of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that it should continue to do just that. But if the industry is to 1375 prosper and if it is to continue to contribute to the monetary fiscal and recreational well being of the community, then inevitably the community must see to it that the conditions exist for it to flourish.
I do not think the needs of the situation are such that the Government have to provide help for the industry so much as a measure of understanding and possibly what I might describe as self-denial on the part of the Government. It is no use the community, in the form of the Government and the taxman, extracting the last penny in taxes and then wondering why standards of bloodstock, for instance, deteriorate. We have heard that up to 80 per cent. of yearlings are now exported abroad. I take very much the point made by my noble friend Lord Bolton that one must not decry the export industry—of course not; but I suggest there must come a time when if the best bloodstock continues to go abroad the level of bloodstock cannot continue at the same rate in this country.
It has perhaps been brought home in this debate through a number of factors that at present the industry is undergoing a period when it has to face grave problems which can only be resolved with the enlightened assistance of the Government. As I have said before, it would seem that too high a proportion of yearlings are going abroad and it has been said, and I do not think it would be contradicted, that the number of horses in training in this country is apparently decreasing. Thirdly, the number of trainers is decreasing and, fourthly, we can see from the figures that attendances at racecourses are static or even declining. Fifthly, the level of betting duty, although it increases, is not increasing to match inflation so that there is once more a diminishing return in that field.
I now come to a point where, as he so often and irritatingly does, the noble Lord, Lord Wigg, has pre-empted me. But I have this in my notes and I can show it to him afterwards. It is, I think, a matter of regret that the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, is not to reply on behalf of the Government this evening. In saying that, I mean no reflection whatsoever on the noble Baroness, Lady Stedman, whom we on this side of the House have come to 1376 admire since she has been occupying the Front Bench opposite. But it is unfortunate that a responsible Minister from the Home Office is not to reply. Your Lordships are well aware that Ministers have separate portfolios. I suppose that in a way, in this House, Ministers, and what I might call "Peer persons-in-Waiting", have a collective role, but the fact is that the Home Office is responsible for the Levy Board and the Totalisator Board. Those boards are what I might call creatures of Statute, and answerable to the Home Office. In each case the chairman is appointed by the Home Secretary, and the levy scheme, as the noble Lord, Lord Wigg, pointed out, is likewise run by the Home Office. One asks, and I hope the noble Baroness will be able to reply: Does this represent some form of takeover by the Ministry of Sport and Recreation, as it is now termed? Is it trying to get a foothold in a new field? This is important, because there is a very considerable amount of disquietude about this since the Written Answers from the Prime Minister last year. I hope that the noble Baroness will reassure us on this point.
My Lords, there are a number of other disquieting matters to which I would also like an answer. We all know that the chairman of the Royal Commission on Gambling has been appointed, and has been appointed for some months. But nobody else as yet has been appointed to the Royal Commission. Can the noble Baroness tell us how the matter is going along? Much better, can she assure us that the appointments will be completed before very long? The sooner that Royal Commission gets down to work, the sooner it can make some sort of interim report, and the sooner recommendations can be considered by the Government, and, if necessary, implemented.
Secondly, there is to be a Select Committee on the Tote, which is to commence to hear evidence on 5th May. It is a matter of regret, if not worse than that, that the 5th May happens to be five days after its chairman, the noble Lord, Lord Man croft, lays down whatever it is the chairmen of the Totalisator Board do lay down when they give up their post. I hope that the noble Baroness will be able to say that the appointment of the members of this Royal Commission will not be further delayed, and that it is not the 1377 intention of the Government to use either, or still worse both, of these bodies as a kind of collective smokescreen, and as an excuse for delay and procrastination, because that would cause a great deal of anxiety, I have no doubt, and not only in the racing industry.
It seems to me that there are difficulties in the way of the continuing prosperity of the racing industry—and do not mean financial prosperity in this sense. The difficulties are of two kinds; the first is fiscal, and the second might be termed non-fiscal or non-financial. Taking the tax position first, I echo what the noble Lord, Lord Bolton, said on the matter of VAT. As I understand the position, the Government have at the present moment set their face against the alleviation of VAT when it comes to racehorses. That is a decision which they may well live to regret, but one understands that, at present at any rate, they will not admit they are having second thoughts. Then there is the question of capital transfer tax, which is peculiarly oppressive—and I use those words deliberately—when it comes to bloodstock.
I want to come to a point made by the noble Lord, Lord Hoy, when, in his excellent speech, in effect he pointed to inflation as being the root cause of the troubles in the industry. But it is not only inflation; it is the general rate and policy of taxation. The position was illustrated very well indeed in the Business Section of the Sunday Times last week. There was a comparative table of the earnings of the various different types of citizen in the country, illustrated by amusing drawings at the top. On the left was a manual worker whose emoluments, if that is the right word, taking into account inflation, in the last twelve months have increased by 6 per cent. The picture was of the manual worker looking comparatively cheerful, and putting one thumb in the air. On the other side of the table in the other drawing was the company director earning more than £8,000, whose emoluments, taking into account inflation, had gone down by 25 per cent.
What it comes to, as someone has already pointed out, is that whatever form it takes, racing is an expensive pastime for those who race horses, and for those who own and breed them. If 1378 the State is to take the surplus money out of the pockets of the citizens, then they cannot afford to devote their spare cash to such otherwise pleasurable activities as keeping racehorses, yachts, and, I suppose, mistresses—it all goes together. Therefore, the Government, if they are to take the money out of the hands of the owners of racehorses, to an extent must take the place of the patron, as it were.
My Lords, so far as the non-fiscal difficulties are concerned, a number of matters have been postulated to your Lordships. First, it has been said that, of course, there are many thousands of off-course betting shops. The number I was given is 12,000, but many have exceeded that figure in their estimate. Obviously, there is a considerable overlap of overheads, and it may be said there are far too many. That brings me to the next point which has been suggested, or at any rate implied; that is, that there should be some kind of nationalisation of the betting offices, so that they are either taken over by the Tote and used for the benefit of the community and partly for racing, or in some other way the profit from them should be removed from the hands of the bookmakers. I gather that the Government have set their face against what I might call nationalisation, and I, for one, have no quarrel with that.
On the other hand, in some way some kind of money must be transferred into racing, and it may be that in some way off-course betting will have to contribute. The noble Lord, Lord Wigg, in what I might, if I dare, describe as an otherwise excellent speech, painted the dangers, but as I was writing down what he said, he did not point the way to salvation. There must be an injection of cash into racing from somewhere.
§ Lord WIGG
My Lords, it can come in the form of cash, but before you do that you must be absolutely sure that you have a sound policy and efficient administration, albeit cheap administration. You have not got that at present. There is no basic policy; there is no blueprint. Money is being frittered away in all sorts of directions, and that is why I want a consultative committee which would bring out these things.
§ The Earl of MANSFIELD
My Lords, fishing is another sport in which I have little skill, but the trout raised on this 1379 occasion …! It seems to me that whatever the state of racing and however badly the noble Lord says it is run—and I do not suppose there are many noble Lords who would agree with him—it certainly has to have more cash in order to devote that cash to better purposes.
If I might go on—and I do not want to weary your Lordships—the matter was ventilated that there are perhaps too many racecourses. I suppose I must here declare my reversionary interest in one of the smallest and, certainly, the most northerly, course in Britain. I should be sad if it went, although financially it stands on its own feet. It is a matter for comment that if one takes the four largest cities in Britain—that is, London, Glasgow, Birmingham and Manchester—there is not a single racecourse within what I might term the borough boundary of any of these four cities, which is presumably a matter of concern, or should be. Think of the attendance if there was a racecourse in the middle of Hyde Park. The Bishops' Bench is, luckily, empty. But it would be a matter of considerable interest, if nothing else, to the citizens of London. That is something which perhaps the Jockey Club must consider: how should the number of racecourses, and perhaps more importantly how should their spread, be controlled in the future.
It seems then that, as I said when I came to wind up, there are difficulties, first, which are matters of administration and matters of policy, which the industry itself will have to consider, possibly in consultation with the Government, and will have to plan and implement such plans in due course. The other matter comes back to the question of finance, as I have said before. I hope that the noble Baroness, when she comes to wind up in a few moments, will give a crumb of comfort to those who have for a great many years of their lives devoted a great deal of their time and energy, to the benefit of the community, in administering racing.
§ 7.32 p.m.
§ Baroness STEDMAN
My Lords, I should like first of all to thank the noble Lord, Lord Crawshaw, for providing us with such an interesting topic for discussion. He may not have had very 1380 much success with his horse on the flat, but he certainly seems to have scored a notable success this afternoon in the masterly way in which he introduced this debate in your Lordships' House. I would also add my congratulations to those of other noble Lords in an expression of appreciation of the four maiden speeches from Lord Leverhulme, Lord Halifax, Lord Westbury and Lord Grimthorpe. I heard a whisper in the corridors of the House yesterday, when we had the severe frost, that it was suggested that this meeting today might be postponed because it would be dangerous going for the four maidens. I am delighted that it was not postponed, that they have come, that they have joined us. Their intimate knowledge of the subject and the very lucid way in which they made their views known have made all Members of your Lordships' House hope that we shall have the pleasure of listening to them here frequently. Having heard the four noble Lords, as my noble friend Lord Hoy said, it is a matter of great regret that we have been denied the pleasure of hearing them for so many years, and I am sure that I speak for all Members of your Lordships' House when I hope that they will give us the opportunity of hearing their views and advice a little less rarely in the future than in the past.
For my part, amid such a wealth of expertise and knowledge, I feel very much akin to the lamb being led to the slaughter, since my knowledge of the industry cannot be described as either profound or intimate, though I hope it is better than the person who, when asked what she knew about horses, replied, "Only that the front end bites, the back end kicks, and the bit in between is damned uncomfortable". I have done my best in the last two weeks to improve my knowledge and understanding, and I am most grateful to all noble Lords who have tried to educate me in that time, not least of all to the noble Lord, Lord Wolverton, who arranged a long and interesting visit to New market where I met experts from different sections of the industry, including Grundy and Mill Reef who whispered things in my ear, and equally to my noble friend Lord Wigg for giving so much of his time and help to enlighten me on the intricacies of the bookmakers' problems.
1381 The present state of the British horseracing industry is a matter of very wide public interest and concern. Not only is horseracing a major spectator sport, but it is also, as has been said by many noble Lords this afternoon, an important industry which employs many thousands of people. The number of Peers who have spoken today, with such knowledge and eloquence, indicates that the sport of kings does not lack its support and its advocates among many noble Lords, or indeed, to judge from proceedings in another place, among Members of Parliament, either.
The timing of Lord Crawshaw's debate is particularly fortunate because the Government have recently announced the establishment of a Royal Commission on Gambling under the chairmanship of the noble Lord, Lord Rothschild. The noble Earl, Lord Mansfield, asked about the other members of the Commission. I inquired about this yesterday. I was told that a number of people have been approached. Many have already accepted, and we hope to be in a position to announce the names in the not too distant future. Under the chairmanship of Lord Rothschild the Royal Commission are going to be asking some very fundamental questions, and they are charged with tackling the basic issues of gambling and its interface with sport. They have been asked to provide an interim report on the possibility of a levy on the football pools or other means of giving financial assistance to sport. I am sure noble Lords will forgive me if I say that we must await the Royal Commission's view on some of the particular proposals that have been made this afternoon, and indeed I suspect that many Members of your Lordships' House will be submitting their own evidence to that Commission in due course.
The noble Lord, Lord Crawshaw, and other noble Lords have drawn attention to the serious financial difficulties confronting the racing industry today. There is much that must concern racing people. Yet I am sure that the noble Lord would not claim that racing's problems are unique. Many are, regrettably, a consequence of our general economic difficulties, and the amount that can be done, in the short term at least, is necessarily somewhat limited.
1382 First, I should like to deal with the levy raised by the Horserace Betting Levy Board. The Home Secretary has specific responsibilities in relation to the Levy Board, whose duty it is to assess and collect the contributions from the bookmakers and from the Horserace Totalisator Board and to apply those contributions for purposes conducive to the improvement of breeds of horses, the advancement or encouragement of veterinary science or education, and to the improvement of horseracing. It is the Levy Board which has to decide how best it can distribute its revenues to encourage horseracing. Noble Lords need have no doubts that the Levy Board is fully aware of the crucial importance of prize money for all sections of the industry, the stable staffs, the trainers, the jockeys as well as the owners. In 1975 the Levy Board increased its prize money allocation by £780,000 to £3.35 million, and took an initiative to increase prize money by a further £1 million for 1976 provided certain conditions relating to machinery for negotiating a minimum wage for stable staff were met.
The first of these conditions was met by the establishment of a National Joint Council for Stable Staff. Nevertheless, there is, in the Board's view, a need to increase prize money still further, and this is one reason for the dispute between the Levy Board and the Bookmakers' Committee which has been formally referred to the Home Secretary.
I appreciate the urgent need for the determination of the 15th levy scheme, and I understand that my right honourable friend the Home Secretary hopes to do this very shortly, though of course I have no knowledge of what that decision may be. But I have noted what has been said by noble Lords and I will make sure that the Home Office are aware of the concern of Members of your Lordships' House at the long delay.
I hope—and my right honourable friend the Minister for Sport shares my view—that the Royal Commission on Gambling might accept that the only way to get unity among all the legitimate racing interests is to get them all involved in examining the needs of the industry and working out the priority of provision. When that has been done, then and only then shall we have a proper base on which to fix the levy. Such a proposal 1383 might go some way towards meeting a point put to me in a letter by the noble Earl, Lord Lauderdale. My right honourable friend the Minister for Sport is not convinced that more prize money will necessarily percolate down through the industry, and it will certainly not help trainers, such as one I met at New market, going through a bad spell and not getting any winners or placings; but the Government are pleased that the extra £1 million this year is going to benefit stable lads as a whole.
The Levy Board has as one of its duties the improvement of horseracing, and it should perhaps be considering other proposals in addition to or instead of a flat-rate increase in prize money. Particular reference has been made to the easing of the financial burdens of the industry by a relaxation of VAT and the general betting duty. Unfortunately, we cannot treat horseracing as something quite apart from our general economic situation, and when so many very worthwhile projects in other sectors are being abandoned or postponed it is very difficult for the Chancellor to agree to special treatment for even the most deserving of causes; and it is not for me to anticipate what my right honourable friend the Chancellor will have in his Budget Statement.
My noble friend Lord Hoy questioned some of the many figures used in this debate. I can tell him that the 1974–75 duty on off-course horseracing produced about £90 million, and that the total revenue from betting duty would be somewhat larger, because some revenue also comes from on-course betting. I have not all the figures that are available to us, but I shall be pleased to check Hansard tomorrow and will write to my noble friend to give him the further details for which he has asked.
I know that many of those involved in the breeding of horses have been particularly concerned with what they see as unfair treatment in the assessment of VAT levied on breeding animals in Britain, as opposed to the practice in other leading racing countries such as France or Ireland. This is a complicated matter, and in any case, as the noble Lord, Lord Crawshaw, said in his introduction, an all-Party racing committee, together with the chairman of the Levy 1384 Board, a steward of the Jockey Club, the chairman of the Bookmakers' Committee, and representatives of BRIC, did this morning meet the Financial Secretary to the Treasury to press again for concessions. I know that he will have been made even more aware of the possible effects of VAT in terms of export of British bloodstock and the training of horses overseas.
I am reminded that when I was being shown round a racing stable last week the genial trainer pointed out four horses belonging to one owner, and supposedly named after the state of the economy when he bought them. Names used so far are Potation, Desperation, Damnation, and Tribulation. He alleged that if the state of the economy did not improve the next horse may well be named Liquidation, and that would be the end. I do not accept his pessimistic view of the future, though I do accept that the racing industry has financial problems. But I hope that that owner might acquire some more horses, and might even be tempted to name them Reflection, Acceleration, and, even, Approbation!
Noble Lords have also argued for a relaxation in the rate of off-course betting duty from 7½ per cent. Again, I can hold out very little hope of a general relaxation in our present economic circumstances. Many racing people—though objecting to the rates—might favour the continuance of the variation between the levels for off-course and on-course betting, for it is certainly in racing's interest for more people to come to the courses to watch their sport as well as bet on it. Additionally, this strengthens the on-course market.
There has been considerable criticism of what to the outsider might appear the somewhat Byzantine administrative structure of British racing. Noble Lords, particularly after this afternoon's debate, will be very well aware of the important roles played by the Levy Board and by the Jockey Club. Also, there are various organisations representing racecourse owners, racehorse owners, trainers, jockeys, stable staff, and thoroughbred breeders. Some of these important interests are not, at the moment, directly represented on the controlling bodies of racing, although there are arrangements for consultations and advice, such as the joint association liaison committee of the 1385 Jockey Club. So far as industrial relations are concerned, the recent formation of the National Joint Council for Stable Staff is encouraging. It should enable the parties concerned to get together and reach negotiated solutions rather than endure the kind of long drawn-out dispute—which does no good either to racing or its case for more money—which took place at New market last summer.
The noble Lord, Lord Wigg, as the President of BOLA, has made the interesting suggestion of a racing consultative council on which many of the major interests in the industry would be represented. Arrangements have already been made for this proposal to be fully examined by a working group of officials, including official representatives of the racing industry, and under the chairmanship of the Home Office.
There are three facets that we have to consider in horseracing. First, the horseracing industry; secondly, the gambling side of it; thirdly, horseracing as a sport. It is the last which concerns the Department of the Environment, and about which my right honourable friend the Minister for Sport is mostly concerned. The noble Lord, Lord Gisborough, asked why the British Racing Authority had not been set up. There have been conflicting views about it in the past, and my right honourable friend the Minister for Sport attaches great importance to the government of all our national sports.
There are some 59 different sports with over 200 governing bodies of one kind or another. Racing is the only sport which does not have a democratically elected governing body. The Minister is unhappy about this situation, and he feels it to be very unsatisfactory that all the constituent elements are not represented as a democratically elected governing body for racing. I understand that my right honourable friend the Minister for Sport discussed this with the Jockey Club on 29th April 1974 and put proposals to them. He maintained that racing is analogous to cricket, which was, for many years, controlled by the MCC. A cricket council has recently been created which consists of half the members of the traditional club (for so long responsible for the integrity and the development of the game) but, realising that times have changed, the other half of the members 1386 are elected, and they represent all the elements of the game—the clubs, schools, universities, the Services, and the professional cricketers. It has been an outstanding success, because everyone knows who represents them and who speaks for them.
On the 29th April 1974 my right honourable friend asked the Jockey Club to consider a similar arrangement, and this they undertook to do and to consider whether a racing council could be established. Such a council, if established, might well meet some of the points raised by the noble Lord, Lord Oaksey, and the noble Lord, Lord Kilmany. Meanwhile, BOLA suggested a racing consultative committee be established. The Minister for Sport has been extremely disappointed by the length of time taken by the Jockey Club to consider his proposal, since it was only on 28th January (last week) and 20 months later, that the noble Viscount, Lord Leverhulme, informed my right honourable friend that the Jockey Club saw no advantage or virtue for racing in such a proposal. No doubt this proposal, and the reaction to it, will be another matter which will have to be considered by the Royal Commission, as will the question of the relationship of the racing council to the Levy Board.
The longer-term organisation of racing will depend very much on the deliberations of the Royal Commission on Gambling. The objective must surely be to achieve the appropriate consultation and representation, so that all the major interests of the industry can make a direct contribution to furthering its development, while at the same time maintaining the reputation for honesty and integrity which has typified the British racing industry for so many years. I am sure that members of the Royal Commission and many other people interested in the future of the racing industry will study with the greatest care the many points made during this debate.
In conclusion, I would again thank the noble Lord, Lord Crawshaw, for raising this subject for debate. The Government are aware of the serious financial problems faced by the racing industry. The Government are not unmindful of the tremendous following enjoyed by racing. It provides pleasure to thousands of 1387 people, as the noble Baroness, Lady Macleod of Borve, has demonstrated, on and off course and on television. Racing makes an extremely important contribution to our national economy, and the health of the industry is important to the Government. We want to maintain the excellent standard of our breeding stock and the good name of British racing.
We have had no lack of expert advice tonight on how these can be overcome, and I am sure my friends in another place will consider all these points very carefully indeed. Financial and organisational problems are inter-related. I have taken copious notes, and I promise you, my Lords, that I will see that the points which have been raised will be drawn to the attention of the appropriate Ministers. The Government will consider carefully the suggestions for the development of consultative machinery, and they look forward to the deliberations and conclusions of the Royal Commission on Gambling which will help determine the future of what is now not only a great industry but a magnificent sport.
§ 7.50 p.m.
§ Lord CRAWSHAW
My Lords, I need say only a few words at this stage. Certainly I have been very glad that the debate has taken place. It has served to stress the importance of the industry in the public eye. I think it is the first time that we have had a full-scale debate on horseracing lasting a whole day in either House of Parliament, and we managed to get through it without any free fights. I should like to thank all noble Lords who have taken part, especially the four maiden speakers and the Minister. There have been a lot of problems to air. There has been a certain amount of advice to the Government and also to the Jockey Club and I think all the points are perfectly fair.
As regards the internal problems of the racing industry, it has been pointed out that there is a lack of communication somewhere, and I hope that this debate will improve that situation. I do not know whether it will make the noble Lord, Lord Wigg, happier in supporting an increase in the bookmakers' contribution. If that is, so to speak, lack of communication this debate today may have helped in its being forthcoming. It is the 1388 best hope of getting an injection of cash which the industry so clearly needs. That has been more than pointed out. This cash will help the small trainer and his staff and the other trades connected with racing.
I was glad to see so much support for the small meetings. The additional allocation of money for 1976 was spread widely from the pattern races down to the grade 5 jump courses. I understand that the allocation of any additional money that might be available for 1977 has not been decided, so I do not think the case for the small meetings has gone by the board. I am delighted with what has come to light today. It will help me in what I and others are trying to do within Parliament in the interests of racing. On that note, my Lords, I would beg leave to withdraw the Motion.
§ Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.