HL Deb 28 April 1987 vol 486 cc1361-2

3.10 p.m.

Lord Dean of Beswick

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they have received any representations expressing concern over the future of the betting industry.

The Minister of State, Home Office (The Earl of Caithness)

Yes, my Lords, we have received a number of representations about satellite television in betting offices, a levy for greyhound racing, Sunday racing and the on-course betting duty.

Lord Dean of Beswick

My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for that Answer. However, the noble Earl must be aware of the grave concern which has been shown by a series of questions from all corners of another place which expressed deep concern at the formation of satellite information services which have been set up by the four largest bookmaking companies in the country. This has been almost to the exclusion of the independent and longstanding information services. Is the Minister aware that this can eventually develop into a monopoly situation with very grave detrimental effects on the independence of the betting industry and the punters, certainly in the greyhound sector?

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, not only are the Government aware of the fears expressed by the noble Lord, but indeed the Office of Fair Trading is considering that very matter at the moment. Therefore it would be wrong for me to comment further.

Lord Dean of Beswick

My Lords, as the problem has been with the Office of Fair Trading for some time, a decision should be reached rather hurriedly in order to deal with the situation. Can the Minister say how far the Office of Fair Trading have progressed in dealing with this situation?

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, we hope that the decision will be made soon.

Lord Wyatt of Weeford

My Lords, perhaps I may declare an interest. I am chairman of the Tote and a director of Satellite Information Services. Is the Minister aware that there is by no means a monopoly situation in that we do not have an exclusive contract with the racecourse association, and Extel or anyone else is at liberty to apply for the contract if they wish to do so. Secondly, the big four bookmakers do not dominate the SIS. First of all, the Tote has a 5 per cent. vote, and they have less than 50 per cent. of the total shareholding. The other shares are widely dispersed. Is the Minister aware that the whole of the horse racing industry is delighted with the arrangements that are being made because they are going to get a bonanza out of it? Is he also aware that as far as concerns the Office of Fair Trading it is a small technical matter, and the reason that we have not yet had an answer is that we are told that the officer dealing with it is ill.

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, I was aware, as was my right honourable friend the Home Secretary, of the points the noble Lord has made, and I look forward to debating with him at greater length when we come to the Unstarred Question which will be on the Order Paper shortly.

Lord Mishcon

My Lords, did the Minister hear his noble friend Lord Glenarthur refer to sea trout as "opportunistic feeders"? Would he care to adopt that definition as regards the betting industry?

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