HL Deb 26 June 1981 vol 421 cc1263-74

12.55 p.m.

Lord Crawshaw

My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a third time. This is not the occasion for a long speech or, indeed, to repeat what I said on the Bill on Second Reading. But I thought that it would be appropriate to thank your Lordships for the general support which you have given the Bill which, although small, will do something to enhance the sport and industry of racing which certainly in certain quarters is hard pressed.

The Bill itself deals with only two aspects of the racing scene—that is, the assessment on the bookmakers being based in future on current turnover rather than on past turnover, and to put right or to fill a loophole which has been apparent for the last few years about the question of the legal avoidance which I explained at an earlier stage in the Bill. As I said three weeks ago on Second Reading, the Bill has been in the offing for at least 18 months and is patiently awaited by racing interests. It may not be as comprehensive as some noble Lords would like, but having been thwarted last year it was my belief, and it has been my belief during the passage of the Bill, that a bird in the hand is worth two or more in the bush. Having been stuck in the stalls once, when I saw an opening this time I have been keen to kick on for home as fast as possible. I hope that in so doing I have not been discourteous to your Lordships' House.

It is my hope that as we have not been tiresome or demanding to the Government on this occasion we have earned some good marks in the eyes of the Government both, at the Home Office and at the Treasury. So in a world in which in political circles we hear a good deal talked about the heritage of this country, I should like to point out that racing in this country is very much an important part of that heritage which is in constant need of attention and consideration. A great deal of manpower is involved in the training, particularly of racehorses, and there is no need to tell your Lordships that to keep a race horse in training takes possibly half of one man's time. It is obviously very labour-intensive.

The noble Lord, Lord Belstead, reminded us on Second Reading that the Exchequer received some £172 million in 1979–1980 from racing, whereas only about a tenth of that figure came back into racing itself. Many of us believe that that is a rather small proportion. I wish gently to probe my noble friend Lord Belstead. On Second Reading he said that the Government in due course expected to initiate legislation as a result of the proposal of the Rothschild Commission. I hope that possibly he might take the opportunity to develop that today because I know that it would be of tremendous interest—if he felt able to do so—to those concerned with racing in this country. I think that that is all I need say this morning, except again to thank all those who have helped with the Bill both here and in the other place. My Lords, I beg to move.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 3a—(Lord Crawshaw.)

12.59 p.m.

Lord Wigg

My Lords, I had hoped that I would be able to follow the Government's spokesman because, following the debate last week, I wrote to the Home Secretary pointing out that there were one or two matters which ought to be questions of common agreement. First, it was apparent that it was necessary some time in the future to look at the membership of the Levy Board, and that it would also be necessary to look at the composition of the Bookmakers' Committee. But the main reason why I am disappointed that the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, has not spoken is because I wanted to hear what the Government had to say about a statement made by the noble Lord, Lord Sandys, to whom I also wrote, who argued that it was a very important point—it may have influenced a number of noble Lords in the way in which they voted—that if the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Peart, had been carried, it would have put members of the Bookmakers' Committee, who would have become members of the Levy Board, in the position of hearing matters that would be regarded as confidential by bookmakers, who felt that they were aggrieved and who appealed. He went on to argue that had the Bill been amended in that way, it might well have dissuaded bookmakers who were aggrieved from appealing because they might think that confidential information could go to their competitors.

I want to be absolutely courteous to the noble Lord, Lord Sandys, and I mean no disrespect to him because he was in a difficult position; he was standing in on a Home Office brief. It was perfectly clear to me—and, after all, I have been around these parts for quite a while—that this particular piece of nonsense had its origin in the Levy Board. I must tell noble Lords why. The situation that would have existed had the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Peart, been carried, is precisely the same as existed in the original legislation. It was there in Section 28 until Section 28(1) and (3) was repealed by the 1969 Act. I speak with just a little authority on this because I had something to do with getting the 1969 Act on the statute book. Therefore, there was no change in the situation. Why the Government should go out of their way to accept—without question, it seemed to me— statements of this kind, can only be because they were short of arguments and something was better than nothing.

But there is an additional reason. The truth is that until I became chairman the practice in the Levy Board had been that when matters were referred to the Bookmakers' Committee for decision under Section 28, they were considered not by the Bookmakers' Committee but by the secretary of the Bookmakers' Committee. Therefore, when the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Peart, suggested that members of the Bookmakers' Committee should be brought into consultations, that of course was an innovation—it was something that had not happened before. Perhaps it should. But the practice which had existed, like so many other practices which had existed, was ultra vires. It was unlawful for matters to be referred to the secretary of the Bookmakers' Committee because the statute required a reference not to the secretary but to the committee itself. That may have been a good or a bad thing. I want to point out that in the original legislation it was the Bookmakers' Committee, and if the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Peart, had been carried, it would have been the Bookmakers' Committee again. Therefore, for the Government spokesman to come here and use the words, "Oh this is very important" was, to my mind quite wrong.

I have not received a reply to my letter from the Home Secretary; that does not surprise me. But be it noted that the only provision of the 1963 Act which involves, as it were, a breach of the law, is the disclosure of information, and in all the years that I have been associated with this business, I have known only one example. That was not so very long ago, in connection with the matter which this Bill seeks to put right. It was a disclosure to the Daily Mail of the name of the firm that was seeking to avoid which the noble Lord, Lord Crawshaw, described as unscrupulous.

Although it seemed to me perfectly lawful to avoid, there is a difference between "avoidance" and "evasion". This information could have come from only one of two sources. It could have come from the firm itself or it could have come from the Levy Board, because they were the only people who knew. I had thought that today the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, would get up and say, "Yes, perhaps my noble friend Lord Sandys did overstate the case for, in fact, it was the practice". I suspected that it existed, but when I became involved in the controversy over the 1969 Act, I established the facts that I am putting to noble Lords.

Of course, I should like to hear from the noble Lord, Lord Belstead—I presume that he speaks with the authority of the Secretary of State—whether he accepts the view that there ought to be legislation to deal with the question of the membership of the Levy Board: but this will be in the future. Of course, it may be a long way in the future because I am sufficiently a political animal to know why, when Lord Butler—Mr. Butler, as he was when he was Home Secretary—introduced this legislation in 1960, he did it at the beginning of a Parliament. That is the time when you deal with matters of this sort; not half-way through, when the Government in office have the death rattle, because this Government are clearly running up to a major electoral defeat at some time in the next two years; they have a mandate for nothing and will not touch anything that is controversial. If any noble Lords care to lay me a little odds as to whether there will be the legislation which was promised following the Rothschild Report, I will take them on.

En Passant, I noticed that in the debate last week the Jockey Club had done its whipping. There were either 15 members of the Jockey Club, or those who might be regarded as nearly members of the Jockey Club present and so they had quantity. But I was fortified by one fact: I had quality. I noticed that the noble Lord, Lord Allen of Abbeydale, the Chairman of the Gaming Board, who had been Permanent Secretary at the Home Office and who knows the background to this legislation, voted with me. So my numerical defeat was made up in the absolute certainty that in the long run I am on a winner.

In his discretion the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, decided to speak after me so he will have time to think what to say. I cannot speak again, but that is not quite the end of the story. I should like to detain the House for just a minute or two and ask noble Lords to bear in mind that this is the penultimate stage—we have yet to pass the Bill—in a legislative process that goes back over 21 years. It started, of course, with Lord Butler, the Home Secretary, faced with a major problem, not of racing but of the consequences of illegal betting. In the Betting and Gaming Bill Lord Butler was not concerned to help racing; he was concerned with the effect of illegal betting which was so widespread and so rampant, and with the mafia activities which flowed in its train. The Government concerned had given a pledge at the election to do something about it, so there was that Bill.

No sooner had it started on its way, in late 1959 and early 1960, than the Jockey Club lobby got to work. Lord Butler was threatened—the same as the Home Secretary has been threatened this week or in the last few weeks—with pressure from the Jockey Club. The backwoods were searched, the levies were all found and told to come and talk to the Home Secretary. The point was put, "If you are to legalise betting, we want our snout in the trough". It was as blunt as that. This embarrassed Lord Butler because when he took the proposals to the Treasury, in the form that they were made, they would have none of it because it was hypothecation.

So a way round was found through the energies of two people; the late Lord Crathorne was one, and my dear old friend Jim Chuter Ede, Lord Chuter-Ede, was the other. The Peppiatt Committee was set up. I played some part in it because I had been drafted on the Racecourse Betting Control Board because nobody else wanted to go, and I was a member of a small committee of about two with the late Sir Dingwall Bateson, and we carried out all the negotiations.

The formula that was arrived at was spelt out in the Betting Levy Act, particularly in Committee on 14th December 1960. I regret that the noble Lord, Lord Renton, is not here because he was the Government spokesman at the time, as indeed my noble friend Lord Peart was leading for the Opposition. At that time I was in opposition to Lord Peart, who supported the Government. Indeed, I had to be, because I had been a party to the negotiations, and Lord Peart was particularly interested to get the vets represented in a form which cut across the principles that were agreed.

What were they? It spelt out that the Government agreed—and they knew the words we used—on the assumption, indeed on the understanding, that the Jockey Club are going to play a dual role. They were going to represent, quite properly, the interests of the Jockey Club, but they are going to represent the wider interests as well. On that assumption, their membership of the Levy Board was increased so that, with the ultimate amalgamation with the National Hunt Committee, whereas the Bill provided one in the Act there were three Jockey Club Members.

There was something else. Lord Butler said—and he had to say this, because the Treasury would not have agreed otherwise—that the last word about the distribution of the levy would rest in the hands of the Secretary of State. That is given effect to in two sections of the 1963 Act: Section 24, which laid down the three conditions on which money could be spent, and Section 25 which requires that any schemes must be approved by the Secretary of State.

From the very word "go" the Jockey Club entered into an undertaking which they had no intention whatever of carrying out. There was no attempt by the Jockey Club to honour the agreement to represent any wider interests, until I became chairman of the Levy Board and reminded them of their responsibilities. Furthermore, from 1st September 1961, until I became chairman in November 1967, every single penny that had been spent was unlawfully spent because no applications for approval were made to the Secretary of State. This was the situation.

The reason for that was that the Jockey Club—and it is partly reflected in the speech of Lord Crawshaw this morning—believed that all the money generated as a result of taxation belonged to them. Indeed, when I became chairman I was told by the senior steward, "Your job is to collect the levy. It is for us to decide how it is spent". I told him shortly and briefly—I can sum it up; I was too polite to put it quite like this to him, because he is a nice man—"Go and get stuffed. I was appointed by the Secretary of State to carry out an Act of Parliament and that I shall do, or I shall resign". Of course, the Jockey Club were already trying to find a way round this. They set up the Benson Committee—that is a nice lot of old rubbish —because that was another way of handing over levy money to a private body. But that was not enough. They had another go. They instructed the Economist Intelligence Unit, who said they did not need any more money.

It has some practical effects. I am going to deal with one or two of them. The first is that the Jockey Club got £614,000 to rebuild the Rowley Course at Newmarket. Part of the deal was the grounds of the National Stud. This is where we come in with the pheasants. I regret that the noble Duke, the Duke of Devonshire, is not present. I mentioned the pheasants, for this is quite a significant matter. When the Levy Board acquired the land, it was clear in the lease that they had the lot. But not to the Jockey Club—oh, no.

When I became chairman, as a result of the fact that no lawful action had been taken to send the schemes to the Secretary of State, I gave instructions that no money was to be paid unless it was covered by a resolution of the board; and not only a resolution of the board, but whatever the money was being spent on had to have the Secretary of State's approval. So in 1971, a bill came in from the Jockey Club—because they had no modesty —asking for £190, or round about that sum, for the salary of a gamekeeper cum vermin killer.

The staff could find no record of any approval, so they refused to pay it. It was referred to the National Stud Committee, and to me as chairman. I gave instructions that an investigation should be made, and drew it to the attention of the chairman of the National Stud Committee, who was a member of the Jockey Club. He was a man for whom I had a great deal of respect, the late Lord Crathorne. I asked the Levy Board during the week to release to me the minutes relating to this matter.

On 12th July, 1971 the administrative officer of the Levy Board visited the National Stud and came back and this is the note: I went round the whole of the Stud with Colonel Gray, mainly with an eye to seeing the extent of under-utilisation occasioned by the existence of maintaining a shoot at the Stud. There is no doubt whatsoever that large areas of the Stud have been and are being rendered unusable for Stud purposes by the existence of the shoot. Cover belts of long grass and purposely planted kale were in evidence, although Colonel Gray had that morning given instructions for a 50-acre paddock to be cut and for the pheasant coops to be removed and the pheasants to be released. The effect of these long grass cover belts on the appearance of the Stud was one of shoddiness. That was sent to me. It was considered by the chairman, and here are the minutes of the National Stud Committee, the chairman being Lord Crathorne. In it he said: Although the arrangement to meet half the cost of maintaining a gamekeeper/vermin controller at Newmarket has been in existence since the Board acquired the lease at Newmarket, there is no record in the Board's files that the Board, as opposed to the staff of the Board, were aware of this. It then goes on to say that this fact had been revealed, and came about because of the new accounting procedure, which I introduced; and that was because no board authority existed. That was me carrying out the duties which Parliament had imposed on me when I became chairman.

Now Colonel Gray, who was the director, and the board's administrative officer, went into it, and they came forward with proposals: the discontinuation of the shoot; savings of the cost of a half-share of the gamekeeper running at £157 a quarter; the cost of running and maintaining and the eventual replacement of the gamekeeper's car. He was given a car at the public expense by the Jockey Club. Then: The maximum utilisation of Stud land in that:—Kale and Lucerne would no longer be grown for 'cover '. The absence of rearing-coops would make available an additional paddock … The tree plantations serving as shelter belts would be restored —considerable damage has been sustained by the current practice of allowing grass to grow rank, thereby disturbing hundreds of young trees. So it came to an end, and on 16th October 1971 the board received a report from the noble Lord, Lord Crathorne, which I supported, and the matter was put right.

I noticed in the Sporting Life yesterday a letter from Mr. Burrell, who said it was only a question of a few eggs and half an acre. In fact, on the first day they released a paddock of 50 acres, so the House can judge who is right and who is wrong. In terms of cost, it was many thousands of pounds, not taking into account the damage to the National Stud; and it all comes about, of course, because the Jockey Club wants its cake and eats it as well. I should mention that among the members of the board who approved what I did and supported the noble Lord, Lord Crathorne, was the noble Lord, Lord Manton, who was in the House last week—I do not know if he is here today—but who did not get to his feet and comment on the matter. Nevertheless, he was a member of the board which adopted a resolution designed really to put right that, as I say, basically corrupt practice.

Let us turn to the question of Cheltenham, which was owned by a company and there were Jockey Club members who were shareholders. They wanted to dispose of Cheltenham to Racecourse Holdings Trust and they put forward proposals. They were considered by the then Home Secretary, who on 22nd September 1964 told a meeting—I have a copy of the record with me—that he was bound to pay attention to Treasury advice; and the Treasury, after going into the matter carefully, had advised that £40 a share was generous but that £60 was grossly extravagant. As I say, that was September 1964. By 1st October 1964 the old Jockey Club influence had got to work and the Secretary of State approved the sale of Cheltehnam shares at £60 per share, which 10 days earlier had been described as extravagant.

That is not all. To pay for it, they borrowed money from the banks and insurance companies, and they did it without the authority of the Secretary of State; his authority under Section 25 was necessary, but it was never even obtained. By similar methods, the Jockey Club gained possession of five racecourses for £1,800. They did it because we agreed that the 18 nominal shareholders, all Jockey Club members with £100 each, should transfer the shares to Racecourse Holdings Trust, which would be a joint venture between the Levy Board on the one hand and the Jockey Club on the other. Having got the shares transferred to Jockey Club trustees, they refused to transfer them.

I advised the board that the only thing they could do, the Jockey Club having got five racecourses for £1,800, was to let them keep them, but that any further expenditure should be paid for by the Jockey Club. But the present Levy Board, completely dominated by the Jockey Club, has just agreed to lend £1,600,000 to Cheltenham interest-free. Last week, the noble Lord, Lord Manton, said that the biggest interest-free loan was made by me when we acquired Sandown. But what are the facts? United Racecourses owned Sandown and Epsom. There was a threat of legislation by Mr. Wootton about the way they behaved, and he said to me that if the Levy Board would take it over he would give Walton Downs to the nation. He entered into a lease for 1,000 years, and Epsom racecourse, 600 acres, is now owned by the nation. Of course, part of it is extremely valuable; there was planning permission for it.

At Sandown the stand was falling down and it therefore had to be acquired to be rebuilt. I persuaded the Secretary of State to let me borrow German Deutschemarks to get the money to buy it. There was no loan and I am wondering whether the noble Lord, Lord Manton, knows the difference between buying a place for the nation and some other activity. I say that because today the nation owns Epsom and Sandown and on top of that, through the generosity of Mr. Robinson, they also own Kempton.

There was a provision in the Finance Act to roll over the cost of the Sandown stand against a gravel development at Kempton. But the Levy Board did nothing about it, and that was lost because that section of the Finance Act was repealed. I thought that if we put in a chute at Kempton and cut off the old last two furlongs of the Jubilee Course, all we might lose would be a couple of six-furlong races. We entered into negotiations, which were promising, to sell the top part of the course for £3 million. That went too, because the Jockey Club exercised its control not to use the chute.

That is the story, and it is going on all the time. That is what happens when Parliament releases the control of money which has been raised by taxation, leaving it in the hands of private individuals. It all adds up to the fact that our 18th century forebears knew what it meant; it meant corruption. I have described what has happened, and what the noble Lord, Lord Peart, did was to utilise this Bill, which in any case is a piece of nonsense; it will not work anyway. However, if they want it, I would support it for the simple reason that if one-third of the bookmakers pay, I see no reason why the other two-thirds should not pay. Once the Bill was passed it was a useful opportunity to put matters right, not to alter the balance on the Levy Board but to make it possible for those who know something about it—those who have a financial stake in the industry—to have the right and opportunity to make their voices heard.

The Bookmakers' Committee was linked up with 19 BPA organisations, which are bookmaker protection organisations and are in no way concerned with the job of the Bookmakers' Committee, which now consists of one simple thing. The only thing they are required to do arises under Section 27(3); namely, that when asked by the Levy Board they make recommendations about the levy, and that is the sum total of it. That was a possibility and it would have cleared it up easily and restored the situation to that which existed under the noble Lord, Lord Butler. The principles that Lord Butler laid down would have been restored, and that was very evident. The noble Lord, Lord Renton, was aware of it—that was clear from his speech—but so was Mr. Timothy Raison who, on Third Reading in another place, laid down exactly the same principles that were spelt out on 14th December, 1960. If that is done, it will be possible for those of us who want the levy to work to let it work in a way that does not impinge upon or contradict the objections of the Treasury, which were very obvious in the evidence that it gave to the Royal Commission.

The Treasury is opposed to any extension of the levy; the levy should be under Treasury control; and if Parliament wants to give money to racing, it should say how much, how it is to be spent, the way in which it is spent, supervised by a Secretary of State who is answerable to Parliament. I have never wanted that. I do not want it now. That is why I was so pleased to read what Mr. Raison had said, and why I was pleased when the noble Lord, Lord Peart, put down his amendments. It seemed to me that here was a chance to have another deal and to get things back on the ground as Lord Butler had intended in his legislation in 1960.

Now Jockey Club pressures have decided otherwise. I have not heard one single speech on the other side—not one—that really made sense, or gave any indication whatever that the Jockey Club spokesmen know what they are talking about. I asked the noble Lord, Lord Crawshaw, a question last week. He did not answer it. I ask the Jockey Club representatives here the same question: tell us the answer to this? In paragraph 9.95 of the Royal Commission report it is stated that the Jockey Club were parties in a joint submission asking for a levy of £22 million at 1976 prices; that is £40 million today. Can the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, tell us whether the Home Office accepts that? Does the Jockey Club still stand by it? I ask that because they have not given up, and they will not give up, the recent report that they have put through, called the "blue report". At the back of their minds they want money to develop at Newmarket. They are never satisfied; they are insatiable. That is why they are wealthy men. They and their forebears have always had their snouts in ordinary people's pockets. That is how they get rich. That is why the Royal Commission's report has not been implemented, nor debated.

The whole prize money concept, and the concept of interest-free loans, is an absolute contradiction to common sense and—may I say something else?— to the long-terms needs of British racing. The glory of British racing is based on diversity. It is not Ascot, it is not Epsom; it is the small courses, which are more concerned with sport than with money, and which bring pleasure to the countryside. This is the glory of English racing. They are destroying that because they are going to knock out the small courses. To those who have, it shall be given, but when it comes to those who have not got, they will even take that away.

Therefore, so far as I am concerned, I have done what I have done. I know that in the long term I am right. I am sorry that the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, was not made aware of the fact that the Home Secretary has not replied to my letters. But in conclusion may I say this? If anyone tends to say, "Oh well, that has all passed", I would remind him that only last week I heard that the Levy Board was to be asked to sanction expenditure of £178,000 at Ascot, which included £55,000 for a house for the accountant. I phoned the Home Secretary. This was to be done under the capital grant scheme, which again when I came in I found was being exercised only for Ascot. I insisted that the whole scheme should be submitted to the Board of Inland Revenue and that what Ascot got, everyone else should get if they wanted it. It was the scheme whereby prize money could be converted into capital grants. So I wrote to the Home Secretary, having phoned him as well, and asked whether he had appoved this proposal under Section 25. There has been no answer. I do not know whether the Minister is to give me answer today. But I shall tell your Lordships what happened: the proposal was withdrawn.

So the rats are in the granary. They are still there. They still believe that every penny that is raised by taxation belongs to them. So far as I am concerned, they are not entitled to one penny. The Jockey Club for two centuries—and Weatherbys—have grown fat on British racing. They should not get another penny so far as I am concerned, and the sooner that this matter is looked at by a Select Committee, the better. I should be perfectly willing to make available both my knowledge and the evidence, including that relating to the pheasants, that I have spoken about today. But this must be put right, and I am sure that it is going to be put right. It is only a question of when and how.

1.36 p.m.

Lord Belstead

My Lords, I should like to congratulate my noble friend Lord Crawshaw on the way in which he has sponsored the Bill in your Lordships' House and taken it through the House. The Bill was originally introduced in another place by Mr. Charles Morrison and has been introduced into your Lordships' House by my noble friend, and I believe that it will be a very useful measure. My noble friend asked me one direct question; namely, when will more general legislation be on the way? It is true that on Second Reading I stated that the Government are aware of the need for more general legislation, but I am not today in a position to say when legislative time can be found.

I noted that in Committee there was an interesting discussion about the composition of the Levy Board, and I apologise to your Lordships for the fact that it was not possible for me to represent the Government interest on that occasion. In particular, there was discussion about the proposals advanced by the noble Lord, Lord Peart, to the effect that the chairman of the Horse Racing Advisory Council should have his own seat on the board, rather than continue to sit on the board as one of the nominees of the Jockey Club, and that the board should also include a second bookmaker.

I also noted that in his speech on the amendment my noble friend Lord Manton expressed the view that while he believed that the Levy Board had done a very good job under very difficult circumstances, it seemed to him perfectly reasonably that its constitution might well be reviewed at this stage. As I ventured to say on Second Reading, this is however a matter which needs to be approached with the greatest care, and I am sure that my right honourable friend the Home Secretary will take full account of what was said by my noble friend Lord Manton and others on this subject.

My noble friend Lord Manton also said in Committee that any review of the constitution of the Levy Board should include the Bookmakers' Committee, in order to see that it reflects the present requirements of the bookmaking industry. This is a matter about which the noble Lord, Lord Wigg, has recently written to my right honourable friend the Home Secretary. My right honourable friend is very conscious of the fact that some bookmakers feel that the present composition of the Bookmakers' Committee does not accord them the weight of representation that they believe they should have. However, my right honourable friend did not think it right to pursue this matter while this Bill was before Parliament. I have no doubt that my right honourable friend will give careful consideration to what has been said about this whole matter in the course of the debates both in this House and in another place.

Finally, the noble Lord, Lord Wigg, referred to a letter that he has written to my right honourable friend the Home Secretary, raising issues concerning the functions of the Bookmakers' Committee as originally conceived in the 1963 Act and under the subsequent amending legislation, and their relationship to the amendments which the noble Lord, Lord Peart, moved in Committee. My right honourable friend will be writing to the noble Lord, Lord Wigg, on that issue.

1.40 p.m.

Lord Trevethin and Oaksey

My Lords, in case it should be thought to be the sort of interest one ought to declare, I should like to start by saying that I have never shot a Jockey Club pheasant, and the only one I ate appeared to have been there since Lord Wigg's day. I think that, at any rate in the timescale, that puts the problem of the pheasants in perspective. I think everybody present will be delighted to see the noble Lord, Lord Wigg, back, so close to his peak form. If only racehorses had similar recovery powers, backing would be a lot easier.

Everybody who is interested in racing has a bee in his bonnet about how it ought to be run, and it is nice to hear Lord Wigg's bees buzzing so healthily. Not all of them, of course, can or should be brushed aside; and, as my noble friend Lord Belstead has said, there will be a day when subjects like the composition of the Levy Board will be debated, and I hope widely debated. But this is not the day, because the Bill before your Lordships is simply designed to close a couple of loopholes. It is very common in racing to hear that such and such a horse has been badly trained or badly ridden. That is often criticism through the pocket, but it may be justified; and sometimes a change of jockey or trainer does have an effect. But I have never heard such a critic also suggest that the horse's food should be reduced, and that is what we would be doing if we did anything to hamper this Bill.

My noble friend Lord Wigg is fully entitled to say that the good horse Betting Levy is being badly trained by the Levy Board and deplorably ridden by the Jockey Club. He is not, in my view, entitled to say, as he has seemed to suggest, that it is being corruptly ridden by the Jockey Club; and I much regret that he made that charge or, indeed, appeared to make it. He said, I think I am right in saying, that members of the Jockey Club have grown fat on racing. There are some fat members of the Jockey Club, but it is not my experience that they have made money from the hard work that they do in the service of racing.

I can also say, simply as somebody who loves Cheltenham, that I do not believe it has done Cheltenham any damage to be owned by the Racehorse Holdings Trust; nor do I believe for a moment that it and four other courses were bought for £1,400. I do not understand how these sums are done, because that is a nonsensical figure: and I believe Cheltenham to be well run.

This Bill, as I have said, was designed to close loopholes. We have heard of rats in the granary—I use the word "rats", of course, in the least pejorative sense, in the nicest possible sense, but they are hungry little so-and-sos, and through two holes, legal avoidance and then the interest payments which were necessary to avoid or frustrate that legal avoidance, they have been eating away at the corn which ought to have found its way into good old Betting Levy's manger. This Bill, if passed, will stop those holes. It is, therefore, welcomed by the racing world. I think it would be right to say that anybody who supports this is on the side of the horses; anybody who opposes it is on the side of the rats.

On Question, Bill read 3a, and passed.