Horserace Totalisator and Betting Levy Boards

Ways and Means – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 24th April 1972.

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11.43 p.m.

Photo of Mr Mark Carlisle Mr Mark Carlisle , Runcorn

I beg to move, That any Act of the present Session to extend the corporate powers of the Horserace Totalisator Board may include provision for bets made with the Board by way of coupon betting to be charged with the pool betting duty instead of the general betting duty. I have to apologise to my hon. Friend the Member for Maidstone (Mr. John Wells) and to say that I am here for the purpose of moving this Motion. I also have to apologise to the House that a Ways and Means Resolution should be brought forward in this way.

However, it is made necessary by the Government's intention to move an Amendment to Clause 1 of the Bill concerned relating to the rates of duty which would be payable by the Tote should it—this is the theoretical position—decide to go into what is known as coupon betting.

The purpose of the Amendment which I will move is that it would have to pay the pool betting rate of duty rather than the off-course general betting duty. For that it is necessary to have a Ways and Means Resolution.

11.45 p.m.

Photo of Mr Arthur Lewis Mr Arthur Lewis , West Ham North

I oppose this Motion very strongly. I want first to complain to the House and the Minister at the way in which this Motion has been surreptitiously slipped in at the last moment. I do not think there has been any discussion through the usual channels and I do not think that the Opposition have been officially acquainted with this. I do not think the matter has been discussed and not one Treasury Minister is here to move the Motion. I am unable to discover when this has been done in the past. I cannot agree that the Motion is necessary. The Minister of State says he needs this because he wants, in another Committee, to move an Amendment on a Bill. The Minister mentioned the Bill but he did not go on to say that the Government have given an assurance that there is no intention of the Horse- race Totalisator Board introducing any form of coupon betting.

I cannot go into details about what has happened in Committee because the Committee has not yet reported, but the Minister has mentioned this and I want to take him up on it. There are hon. Members present who heard the Minister make a definite statement to the effect that it was not the Government's intention to go in for coupon betting. I was particularly interested in football pool coupon betting. I suggested that as the Bill is drawn it may be that there would be an attempt by the Board to go into a system of coupon betting relating to things other than horse racing.

The Bill is so widely drawn that it can deal with any sort of sporting event. We can have a form of coupon betting on beauty queens. I suggested that such betting might be pool and coupon betting on figures. Beauty queens might be classified as figures; there might be coupon betting on 24–41–52 or whatever the figures might be.

No one has had the opportunity to look at this. On Second Reading we were told that the Bill was being introduced to give aid and succour to another lame-duck industry, which it is alleged the Government will not help. The Motion says: That any Act of the present Session to extend the corporate powers of the Horserace Totalisator Board The Minister talks of the present Bill but it does not say that in the Motion. If the Motion referred specifically to the present Bill it might be different. We may have another Bill which becomes an Act. Under this Motion, that Act could introduce a system of coupon betting which would be subject to the pool betting duty instead of the general betting duty.

Will the Minister of State, Home Office tell me—I cannot ask a Treasury Minister this question because there is no one from the Treasury here—what the difference is between the pool betting duty and the general betting duty? I understand that if there is to be a duty paid by the Totalisator Board it will be paid on the general betting basis. What is that basis? What is the amount? How much is paid? How is it allocated? Is it charged on all forms of betting or just on horse racing? Is it charged on greyhound racing? Is it charged on a different basis? If so, what is the basis? Will it be more or less?

I should like to know what the pool betting duty will be if this Motion is passed and it is charged. The Motion is loosely worded. It says …by way of coupon betting to be charged if the Board so decides. Does that mean that the Board will have the opportunity of deciding whether it should pay the pool betting duty instead of the general betting duty? I should like much more information from the Minister about the difference between the two duties and why the Motion has been brought forward in this manner.

During the debate on the agricultural order a few minutes ago we heard that the Minister had discussed the order with the agriculture industry which was happy with it. Has the Minister the full-hearted consent for this Motion of those who may be affected by it? Have they said that they want the matter to be dealt with in this way? The hon. and learned Gentleman has given no indication of the views of those affected by the Motion. Is it his intention to have discussions with them? Has he had discussions with them?

I shall declare myself against this Motion unless the Minister can give a reasonable, logical explanation for it. I do not expect him to have discussed it with me, but I should have liked to have heard that he had discussed it officially with the Opposition and, not necessarily obtained their approval for it, but did the right thing and explained to them the necessity for it, which he has not explained to the House.

Photo of Mr Alex Lyon Mr Alex Lyon , City of York

May I say in fairness to the Minister of State that he explained to me the reasons for this Motion. I understand that it is an enabling Motion in preparation for the Amendment which he hopes to move in the Committee considering the Bill. My hon. Friend the Member for West Ham, North (Mr. Arthur Lewis) and I will have ample opportunity in Committee to debate the merits of the proposal. For that reason, I do not propose to say anything tonight. I defer my comments for the Committee stage. However, before the Minister can move that Amendment he requires this Motion to be passed.

My hon. Friend the Member for West Ham, North is opposed to the Bill almost tooth and nail and therefore he seeks to use any means available of opposing it. I understand that, but I think it is appropriate that we discuss the merits of the proposal in Committee rather than on the Floor of the House, and I am content that this Motion should be carried.

Photo of Mr Arthur Lewis Mr Arthur Lewis , West Ham North

I do not know whether my hon. Friend was interrupting me. He was not? I accept his point that we can discuss the merits in Committee, but surely he will agree that the Committee is limited——

Photo of Mr Edward Mallalieu Mr Edward Mallalieu , Brigg

Order. The hon. Member may not speak again on this Question. If he is asking something of his hon. Friend before the latter sits down, that is different.

Photo of Mr Arthur Lewis Mr Arthur Lewis , West Ham North

But this is a Ways and Means matter, is it not?

Photo of Mr Edward Mallalieu Mr Edward Mallalieu , Brigg

Yes, but the hon. Member cannot speak twice to this Question.

11.56 p.m.

Photo of Mr Mark Carlisle Mr Mark Carlisle , Runcorn

With the permission of the House I will reply. I am grateful for what the hon. Member for York (Mr. Alexander W. Lyon) said. He is quite right. This is purely an enabling Motion to enable us to discuss in Committee an Amendment put down by the Government. If I may say so to the hon. Member for West Ham, North (Mr. Arthur Lewis), I am grateful to him for giving me a preview of the speech he proposes to make in Committee when we reach that Amendment.

The purpose of this Motion is, as I said, to enable us to discuss an Amendment which has been tabled by the Government on the basis that we accept that the Bill as drafted grants a theoretical possibility—I put it no higher than that—that the Tote could enter into coupon belting. It is, therefore, necessary, in the view of the Government, to put forward an Amendment which will ensure that, if the Tote should, it should do so at the same rate of tax as that which would be faced by the private bookmaker.

The hon. Member asked me, or asked the Treasury Ministers, what was the difference. The answer is 27⅓ per cent., because pool betting, and coupon betting counts as pool betting, as far as the private bookmaker is concerned, means that he faces tax at 33⅓ per cent. whereas the Tote, in its normal business, faces merely off-course general betting tax—or would on this type of business—of 6 per cent.

The purpose of the Amendment which, as the hon. Member for York has said, tomorrow morning we can discuss—provided that the hon. Member for West Ham, North allows the situation to be reached of discharging the Amendment tomorrow morning—will be to ensure that, should that theoretical possibility be taken up, the Tote would be subject to the rate of duty as paid by anybody else who goes in for coupon betting.

Photo of Mr Arthur Lewis Mr Arthur Lewis , West Ham North

Has the Minister discussed it with the industry?

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved,That any Act of the present Session to extend the corporate powers of the Horserace Totalisator Board may include provision for bets made with the Board by way of coupon betting to be charged with the pool betting duty instead of the general betting duty.