Pool Betting Duty

Part of Orders of the Day — Finance Bill – in the House of Commons at 4:20 pm on 3rd April 1995.

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Photo of Lady Olga Maitland Lady Olga Maitland , Sutton and Cheam 4:20 pm, 3rd April 1995

I warmly welcome the new clause. It is good news to the pools industry, which has campaigned for such action for some time. Putting £34 million back into their coffers is rather like sending a lifebelt out to a drowning man at sea. The move has given the pools companies a chance to regroup, replan and—we hope—move into more fortunate times.

The reduction in duty has not come a moment too soon. I am grateful for the fact that the Paymaster General has decided to ensure that it takes effect on or after 6 May 1995—in other words, almost immediately. I appreciate that he now recognises the urgency of the situation.

As my hon. Friend the Paymaster General knows, I went to see him in private, made an urgent plea for action and moved my new clause in Committee. Indeed, I had been charting the fortune and misfortune of the pools industry ever since the launch of the national lottery. I was a member of the Committee that considered the National Lottery etc. Bill and I recall clearly how we were assured that the pools industry would not run into dire straits as a result of the national lottery. The national lottery has been a staggering success, but its success has plunged the pools industry into deep crisis. As the House has heard, there has been a serious loss of jobs and a crisis of confidence. The most important thing about the new clause is that it offers a chance to move forward.

It has been very encouraging to speak to all the pools promoters, who were delighted at the news, but they uttered a word of caution. They trusted that this move alone would not close the matter and they hoped that the Government would keep an open ear and, indeed, review the situation as time goes on. They hoped that, if they have to raise the matter again, they will be free to do so. Moreover, they said that they would not again use the issue about good causes and the Foundation for Sport and the Arts as a lever—the foundation has suffered so much during the latest downturn—and they recognised that future judgments would have to be made purely and solely for commercial reasons.

None the less, the new clause is excellent news. It shows that the Government are listening and that they will respond to companies in trouble. That in turn will be very much appreciated.