HL Deb 25 May 1999 vol 601 cc79-80WA
Lord Bach

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What decision they have taken on the composition of the Bookmakers' Committee. [HL2684]

Lord Williams of Mostyn

On 3 December 1998 we sought the views of interested bodies on proposals for reconstituting the Bookmakers' Committee. Having taken careful account of the views expressed, we have decided to make those changes. We believe that this will improve the committee's ability to represent bookmakers' interests in a balanced way in carrying out its task of recommending to the Horserace Betting Levy Board the levy rates to be paid by bookmakers for the benefit of horseracing.

We have today made regulations to establish the following membership:

Betting Office Licensees Association Ltd 2
National Association of Bookmakers Ltd 2
British Betting Office Association Ltd 2
Ladbroke Racing Ltd 2
William Hill Organisation Ltd 2
Coral Racing Ltd 2
Total 12

In providing for the three companies which in 1998–99 contributed nearly 80 per cent. of the total levy yield to have half of the seats on the committee we are redressing their previous under-representation while at the same time recognising the extent to which there are many smaller firms whose ability to pay needs to be properly represented.

In reaching this decision we have sought to achieve a reasonable balance between the different bookmaking interests and organisations. The factors taken into account were the size of organisations' membership, the number of off-course shops, the leviable turnover and the levy paid. We do not believe that the new structure will give any companies double representation on the Committee. Nor do we believe that continuing representation of the Scottish Independent Bookmakers' Association is justified, given the small number of members, some of whom also belong to other trade associations. We believe that the new constitution will still take proper account of the interests of small independent bookmakers, whether in Scotland or south of the Border.

It will be for the new Committee itself to decide who will chair it and how it will manage its business. We very much hope that the Committee will make every effort to reach agreement on the next levy scheme with the Levy Board. Co-operation between bookmaking and racing interests is important in this as in other areas.

We will keep the new arrangements under review, with the help of the independent members of the Levy Board, whose brief it is to have regard to the interests of racing bookmakers in all categories and the punter.