Pools Payments to Support Games etc.

Clause 114 – in the House of Commons at 1:45 am on 15th July 1991.

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Photo of Mr Denis Howell Mr Denis Howell , Birmingham Small Heath 1:45 am, 15th July 1991

I beg to move amendment No. 52, in page 79, line 34, after 'to', insert 'independently appointed'.

I shall detain the House as briefly as possible at this hour, but there are one or two matters that should be raised. I am glad that the appropriate Minister is in his place, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury. The right hon. and learned Gentleman is well known to be much concerned about the health of the arts and of sport, as I am.

I welcome the new trust proposal. I do not seek to oppose it or denigrate it. Indeed, the Government are worthy of great credit for having introduced it. It is the third trust to be established by means of reducing betting duty. One of the earlier developments was the establishment of the Football Trust, which might be regarded as the Howell trust, though it never is. I had some responsibility for implementing the scheme, having established it with the good co-operation of the Pools Promoters Association.

The second trust might be described as the Major trust. The Prime Minister, when Chancellor of the Exchequer, properly reduced betting tax after the terrible disaster at Hillsborough to produce money to try to implement the recommendations of the Taylor report to improve safety at sports grounds.

We now have a third trust for sport and the arts, which I suppose should bear the name of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I welcome all the additional resources that are coming into sport. I think that everyone would agree that the Football Trust has done excellent work. It should be remembered that when it was established its objectives and its membership were properly agreed between the PPA and the appropriate Minister, which was me. That will not happen with the new trust which we shall establish under clause 114.

It is important to establish the purpose of a trust and the independence of the trustees. That was never better illustrated than by the remarks of the Minister for Sport last week on the proposed super league that is to be controlled by the Football Association. As the House may know, the Minister for Sport said that the second of the trusts to which I have referred, the Major trust, was created to provide money for football teams in the football league or the Scottish football league. As I understand it, the Minister said on "Question Time" last week—and I gather that he has repeated it in a statement—that if clubs left the football league the Major money would no longer be available to them. That is a statement of profound importance. I understand why the Minister made it, and it is right that he did so in order that no one should doubt that the trust was for a specific purpose and that if that purpose no longer existed because teams took themselves out of the football league they would lose that support from the Treasury.

The trust established under clause 114 will, I understand, provide £40 million for sport and £20 million for the arts—all of which I welcome—as a result of a 2·5 per cent. reduction in betting duty. Although there is a reduction in betting duty, it will be taxpayers' money, as I am sure the Minister will agree and would like me to emphasise. When the concession was made, that was made clear at the time in public statements but not in the House. I believe that this is our first opportunity to discuss the issue.

We are establishing a new trust with considerable sums of money from the public purse—£60 million in all—without, as far as I can see, any consultation or co-ordination with the Arts Council or the Sports Council. That is one of the main reasons why I have raised the issue. When I went to the Sports Council the other day before tabling the amendment, I discovered that not only did it not know what policy the new trust would implement, but that it had been told by Treasury officials—I hope that the Minister will deny this or put us right—that there would be no co-ordination between the new trust, with its £40 million to spend on sport, and the Sports Council and certainly no cross-membership between the Sport Council and the trust.

That cannot be right. It would be ludicrous if there were no co-ordination between two separate trusts that provided public money—one created by the Bill and one a statutory body, the Sports Council. An organisation could apply for a grant to the Sports Council and be turned down—probably on good policy grounds—but could then make the same application to the independent trust. That would be nonsense. There must be a co-ordination of policy and strategy between the Arts Council and the Sports Council on the one hand and the new trust on the other. I accept that the new trust must have some financial independence, but it must also have regard to the existence and policies of the other statutory bodies which, in large measure, will be carrying out Government policy.

My second concern is the appointment of trustees, which is covered by the amendment. I mentioned the Minister's intervention—a very proper intervention—in the affairs of the trust set up to deal with the Hillsborough disaster. I appears that the trustees will be chosen entirely by the Pools Promoters Association, which is currently inviting nominations—which suggests that the Government have no input. It cannot be right that the members of a so-called independent trust that will get all its money from the public purse should be nominated by the PPA. I would prefer the trustees to be appointed by organisations specified in the Bill or by the Secretary of State. Persons wanting to nominate trustees would know how to approach the matter and that their candidates would be objectively assessed.

I am sure that no right hon. or hon. Member would think it correct for bookmakers or the tote to apply for membership of the Horserace Betting Levy Board, yet that is a relevant comparison to draw to the attention of the Chief Secretary. There has been no public or parliamentary debate on that issue, but as taxpayers' money will be involved, perhaps there could be a requirement that the trust reports annually to Parliament. We could then review its policy in respect of both the arts and sport.

By and large, the Arts Council provides money for revenue purposes, not capital, whereas the reverse is true in the case of the Sports Council: it provides funds for capital requirements, not revenue. The two organisations' policies are diametrically opposed, but they must relate in future to the new trust.

I hope that the Treasury does not view the new trust as a substitute for a national lottery. This is not the hour to debate the merits of a lottery, but some of our friends in the Pools Promoters Association—which co-operates with the present Government as it did with me in providing money for sport and now for the arts—feel that the reason for the Government's enthusiasm is that they view the trust as a substitute for a national lottery. I believe that the two can run in parallel. The PPA's members, with their experience and technical ability, might be the best people to run a national lottery. In any event, I know that such a lottery has the approval of some Ministers, particularly the Minister for the Arts, who contributed an interesting article to the Birmingham Post last week.

In general, I support the trust, but I hope that the Chief Secretary will be able to provide further information, and set our minds at rest, in respect of some of the points that I have raised.

Photo of Mr David Mellor Mr David Mellor , Putney

I am grateful to the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Small Heath (Mr. Howell) for raising this subject, and for making a good many points very succinctly. I applaud all that he has done for sport over the years, and appreciate his interest and involvement.

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I am also grateful for the warm welcome that the right hon. Gentleman has given the foundation, which is indeed an exciting venture. For us to have £60 million a year to disburse on sport and the arts represents a major development, and I am sure that we all wish the foundation well.

It is important to recognise that some £20 million of that £60 million is revenue forgone from the reduction in pools betting duty; the rest reflects changes in the stake money, and is a contribution from the Pools Promoters Association. It was apparent to the Government that both sport and the arts needed more funds. Various fiscal changes were suggested in relation to sport, particularly youth sport, but it was extremely difficult to bring them about without distorting the tax system. The foundation seemed a good alternative.

The right hon. Gentleman mentioned relationships with the Sports Council and the Arts Council. I hope that there will be rapport between the various organisations. However, the fact that an arts organisation does not qualify for support from the Arts Council does not mean that it is not worthy of support. Although the Arts Council's funds have been increased, it always has to establish priorities. I recall my involvement with the National Youth Orchestra, which lost its grant because the Arts Council felt obliged to support professional rather than amateur youth activities. The fact that the foundation will provide an alternative source of revenue need not prevent sensible understandings from being reached between the various bodies.

The foundation is private. It is not intended to be a public body, for the reasons that I have already given—although there will be a link with the Department of Education and Science, and, in particular, the Minister for the Arts. A representative of the Department will sit in on trust meetings.

I shall not go into detail about the appointments. Let me tell the right hon. Member for Small Heath, however, that his efforts in regard to the Football Trust were not in vain. Many of the arrangements made for the trust are mirrored in the arrangements being made for the foundation, and the appointments broadly follow the model of the new Football Trust set up last year. There will be 11 trustees, four of them nominated by the individual pools companies and seven nominated by the Pools Promoters Association. The Minister for Sport will be consulted on the appointment of the chairman.

Because—as the right hon. Gentleman said—some of the foundation's resources come from duty forgone, we shall want to be satisfied that the trusteees are fit and proper persons before agreeing that the cut in betting duty should go ahead. When we know who the trustees are, we shall know whether the foundation can command support and confidence. I believe that it can and will, and that it will be none the worse for being independent of Government, in at least as crucial a way as the right hon. Gentleman advocated.

Quite plainly, the Pools Promoters Association understands that the trustees must be fit and proper persons in order to merit the reduction in betting duty. I hope that we shall be able to make a more substantive announcement about the foundation before the recess so that the foundation can get down to work at the beginning of the next football season. In the meantime, if the right hon. Gentleman has any further suggestions, I would be pleased to consider them.

Photo of Mr Denis Howell Mr Denis Howell , Birmingham Small Heath

I am grateful to the Minister, but I cannot understand why the further announcement, which I welcome, is to made before the new football season because I understand that the trust cannot spend any of its money on football. I understand that horse racing and football were excluded as proper objectives for the new trust.

Photo of Mr David Mellor Mr David Mellor , Putney

That is not so. I appreciate that many hon. Members feel that we could be discussing this at another time and in another place—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear"] I am glad that at least something that I have said has met with agreement. However, league football is excluded because it is already the beneficiary of the 2·5 per cent. reduction. That does not prevent amateur or non-league football being supported, and that is right.

Photo of Mr Denis Howell Mr Denis Howell , Birmingham Small Heath

That may be, but the Chief Secretary to the Treasury's comment about the beginning of the football season was odd because the proposal does not apply to professional football. The money comes from pools betting that operates for 12 months and not just for the football season.

I will get on with it as I do not want to play extra time. In welcoming the Chief Secretary's comments, one of the difficulties is that there have been no public statements about how the trust is to be constructed. The issue should be debated publicly if four of the trustees are to be appointed by the pools companies and seven from the Pools Promoters Association. They seem to be the same people wearing different hats.

I hope that there will be further statements so that we can discuss the details. Having expressed my satisfaction with this short debate, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.