Sunday observance

Part of Petitions – in the House of Commons at 12:27 pm on 17th February 1989.

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Photo of Alan Meale Alan Meale , Mansfield 12:27 pm, 17th February 1989

I am pleased to hear it because that is what I understood from the short discussions that I have had with the hon. Gentleman in recent weeks. He has made it plain that there is anger in the bookmaking community about the size of the increase in the levy that has been demanded. There is no doubt about that. I understand the hon. Gentleman's concerns. He is a consultant for one of the bookmaking organisations. The on-course book-makers have been rightly concerned about the increase in percentage terms of the amount of levy demanded.

There is also concern about the facilities on racecourses from representative bodies such as the TGWU. Through a private Member's Bill, I have spoken about the problems on British racecourses, and in that debate I repeated a statement made by senior people in the industry that it is a miracle that there have not been any major accidents on our racecourses, as there have been in other sporting venues. Other parts of the industry are continually arguing and bickering among themselves. Those who are involved in breeding are very worried about the inability of management to get across the message that they are losing business to other EEC countries. That is not a new problem. A few years ago, the Royal Commission on gambling, chaired by Lord Rothschild, reported on the need for a restructuring of the industry. The levy board has called for a financial inquiry into the state of the industry. That was reported in Update on 15 February 1989. The Horseracing Advisory Council has said exactly the same. It would be nonsense to pretend that concern is not felt throughout the industry.

The industry must be reshaped before a measure such as this reaches the statute book. If hon. Members doubt that assertion, they should read the debates on racing. They would then realise that the majority of people in the industry have called for its reshaping. My British Racing Commission Bill seeks to reshape the industry. I did not just sit down and draft the Bill because I thought that that was the new shape that the industry ought to adopt. It was drafted after many consultations with every organisation in the racing industry. Their views have been taken into account. I hope that my Bill will reach the statute book.

A Bill such as this ought not to proceed while the management structure remains as it is. The industry as it is now managed, particularly by the Jockey Club, is incapable of accepting change. The Royal Commission on gambling, which reported in 1975, referred to the urgent need to restructure the industry, and particularly the Jockey Club. It referred to the need for a senior management board to cover all aspects of the industry, including betting, racegoers, punters and the media who provide daily reports about racing. The Commission said: It is a curious but perhaps appropriate feature of the Jockey Club that its secretariat should be bred rather than recruited. That says it all about the industry. It is in a heck of a mess. It would be absolute madness to allow Sunday racing.

Many eminent people in the industry believe that a major restructuring is needed before there is any extension of racing. Major parts of the industry are finding it difficult to cope.