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Mr. Soames : If I confused the hon. Gentleman, I apologise. Nevertheless, he is speaking to a Transport and General Workers Union brief. If betting shops were prepared to allow TGWU membership, would that union withdraw its opposition to the Bill? Yes or no?
Mr. Meale : As an independent observer, I can only say that any trade union would have to consider seriously a proposal such as that which the hon. Gentleman makes, mainly because of the wages and conditions that obtain in the betting industry. I have always found trade unions to be extremely amiable. Of course, they always try to make the best arguments for the people they represent, but they are always open to negotiation and discussion, for that is their function. I suspect that unions would be interested in the hon. Gentleman's proposition, but it is not enough to offer such a deal. A trade union would have to say to the industry--mainly Ladbrokes, "It is all right giving us the option to recruit members, but what about the pay and conditions of your employees?" Such a deal would need to have a dual purpose.
With new technology, the betting industry can beam into its betting shops live coverage of racing from different countries of the world, and some of those services are in the charge of major betting organisations. If the Bill is passed, bookmakers will have an opportunity to approach the Government at some time in the future and say,"We need to extend or amend the law slightly, so that the public can go to betting shops more often, or on a greater number of Sundays".
Mr. Meale : I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Attercliffe for reminding me that in the last few days, the betting industry has told the Home Secretary that opening on six days of the week is not enough, and that it also wants Sunday opening. It does not want just Sunday opening--it is also seeking to extend the licensed hours for
Column 659the opening of betting shops into the evening. I am sorry if the hon. Member for Crawley disagrees, but this has been published in the national press.
One has to recall the proposals from the European Community about summer time. It looks as though, because of our failure in the negotiations on summer time, we shall have longer hours of light in the evening from 1993. That will give more opportunity for evening racing. When that happens, betting shops will be open not only seven days a week but seven nights a week.
Mr. Meale : No, I do not envisage racing in the dark. I am reminding the House that, because of the failure in negotiations with the European Parliament on summer time--something about which those who support the Tories are worried--there will be the opportunity for a major extension of evening racing. I am not against evening racing. It would be beneficial to the industry if racing were extended into the evening rather than into Sunday, because of the dangers inherent in the later proposal.
We also oppose the Bill because of the state of the industry. We have already heard that everybody in racing, from the bookmakers to the starting stall attendants, from the owners to the trainers, is well aware that the racing industry is in a mess.
Mr. Meale : Perhaps the hon. Gentleman does not read the daily papers. In recent months, there have been turmoil and arguments in the industry over the levy contribution, between all sections of the bookmaking community, the Jockey Club, the levy board and many others.
Mr. Holt : The hon. Gentleman is talking out of the back of his head, and he does not know the first thing about the levy board negotiations, to which I have been a party. There is a dispute between the two sides, but there always is a dispute. This is the 28th set of negotiations on this matter, and it will be resolved in the way that it always has been before. There is no turmoil in the industry and it is arrant nonsense to suggest that there is.
Mr. Meale : 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 bookmakers 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
Column 660venues. 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.
Mr. Meale : I could quote many individuals. The hon. Gentleman who continues to shout, "Name one" is typical of the attitude problem of people who manage the racing industry at present. Part of the rot is that many people in the industry fear the people who run it. Stable staff, jockeys, apprentice jockeys and people who work in betting shops--even people holding senior posts in the racing and betting industry--continually complain about various aspects of that industry.
I remind the hon. Gentleman about our conversations in the Corridors of the House and elsewhere. I remind him about my conversations with the organisations for whom he is a consultant.
Mr. Holt : I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for reminding me about our conversations in the Corridors. I recall his telling me that he became interested in and knowledgeable about the betting industry as a result of one local bookmaker in his constituency. Perhaps if he had spent a lifetime in the industry, as I have, he would know a bit more about it.
Mr. Meale : I am pleased that the hon. Gentleman recalls that, but I recall that particular conversation quite vividly and that was only one aspect of it. I shall remind the hon. Gentleman about the reason why I became involved in the industry. When I came to Parliament, I was asked by people in the east midlands to take up the cause of people employed in the racing industry. Occasionally people had raised some matters, but no one had been involved on a regular basis. Like other people, I thought that I would do something, but not become fully involved. However, after examining the feudal circumstances within the industry, and seeing how people were treated in that feudal environment, I agreed to take up their cause. I ask the hon. Gentleman to recall conversations in the House with senior persons in the industry about the anger within the industry. If the hon. Gentleman wishes I shall repeat those conversations across the Chamber. But I would rather not go into that and shall allow them to remain confidential.
It is symptomatic of what is wrong with the industry that every section is afraid of the section above. It is no good hon. Gentlemen shaking their heads and saying that it is not true. Racing journalists have come to me and said, "We cannot raise that matter because if we do we shall not get any information elsewhere." I have met people involved in training who say, "If you say publicly that I gave you this information, I shall probably lose my licence". Whether or not that is true, they are worried about losing their licences and that is why the industry needs reshaping.
The hon. Member for Crawley and my hon. Friend the Member for Attercliffe spoke about misbehaviour in the industry. Hon. Members will be surprised that I commend the Jockey Club on its approach to that problem. On 21 November 1988 it sent me details of the action it was taking to control crowd behaviour. That shows that it is taking seriously the problems that might occur on British racecourses if there were an extension of operations. Such problems have occurred for a considerable time at evening meetings and some weekend meetings. I pay tribute to the work it has done and to the proposals it has produced, which go a long way towards solving the problem. However, I must ask whether the House should accept that the Jockey Club is capable of carrying out the recommendations. It has done nothing fundamental yet and the problem still recurs occasionally. I have talked to the Jockey Club about various aspects of its work and I pay tribute to its work on security and fraud, which it has developed in recent years after the recruitment of a senior steward from Australia. It has tried to implement security systems to solve the problem of crowd control. However, I do not think that it has yet reached the stage at which we should allow racing to be extended. New management techniques and structures should be introduced. The Horseracing Advisory Council was set up as a sop to the industry. It was decided that the industry should be restructured, but the Government did not agree to set up the type of body required for an industry that accumulates
Column 662billions of pounds every year and which involves thousands of people. The key word in the title of that organisation is "advisory". The Government formed the council, but gave it no teeth. However, it is representative of all organisations within the industry and I value its judgment. It supports Sunday racing and I am not surprised about that because many senior people within the industry support Sunday racing and are campaigning for it.
Section 5 of the report published by the Horseracing Advisory Council says :
"HAC supports the view that the campaign for Sunday racing should be divorced from any Sunday trading legislation with concentration on parliamentary lobbying, rather than on a public campaign, and on betting legislation reform."
It goes on :
"We are, however, concerned that what is potentially the most effective way of covering the additional cost created by Sunday racing, namely the addition of licensed betting offices being open off-course, could prove the one serious stumbling block to the overall objective of Sunday racing in this country."
It also says :
"We therefore feel that, if the opening of betting shops in the High Street should prove the major impediment to the realisation of Sunday racing, any alternative paths towards Sunday racing with the provision of legal betting facilities must be kept in mind and then explored as to their feasibility."
The council is saying that it would prefer to have betting shops--that is what the Government are insisting on--but it is irrelevant to the racing industry. The industry simply wants Sunday racing and that is the point that the hon. Member for Crawley was trying to make. It is about people who want to watch racing. The Transport and General Workers Union and the SLA are in that organisation but they represent a minority of the feelings within the industry. The industry is saying that it is not really concerned about whether betting shops are open as long as there is Sunday racing.
The report also says :
"Those Member Associations involved have emphasised the disproportionately high costs compared to the extra physical hours worked, the need to employ supplementary staff who are skilled in the handling of thoroughbred horses and the socially disruptive consequences to the lives of the staff concerned. In the light of these effects HAC believes consideration should be given to the introduction of a dark' day in lieu of Sunday, especially if the experimental fixtures lead to a more widespread demand for Sunday meetings."
The key word is "experimental". We are talking only about 12 days, but it will probably mean three meetings on each of those days. That could mean between three and 36 communities being disrupted by racing throughout the year. An amendment could easily further extend the number of days. In its report on Sunday racing, the Horseracing Advisory Council said that it was an experiment. Paragraph 4 of the report states :
"We recognise that, if the experiment was a success, Sunday racing would become a feature for most of the year. Also the fact that betting shops would be open 52 Sundays a year from the outset would put pressure on the racing industry to produce Sunday fixtures to meet off-course betting market demand."
The advisory council says that the industry is not ready because it cannot meet the criteria in the Bill.
The chairman of the all-party group referred to polling. Before I was a Member of Parliament, I worked in this place as an assistant. Before that, I worked in an organisation in which I occasionally had to deal with polling. I attended a meeting at which senior people in the
Column 663Labour party expressed concern about the fact that we were nine points behind in the polling between elections. For some idiotic reason, the senior Labour party officials at the meeting decided to invest in polling. Eight weeks after we invested in polling, we were three points ahead.
As he read out one set of polling documents, the chairman of the all-party group recalled that the polling questionnaires were in racecourse cards at race courses. There was a captive audience, but there was only a 75 per cent. response.
Mr. Meale : That is a good point, and I hope to expand on it. I have one of the advertisements that were placed in the national racing press. People leaving racecourses were asked if they wanted another day out at the races. The same applies to Sunday trading. The MORI polling organisation hired people in Northampton and sent them to my constituency to stand outside DIY centres on a Sunday morning and ask people whether they believed in Sunday opening. Of course they did. They were in the DIY shops, buying stuff on a Sunday. They would not say that they did not believe in it. It is important to consider how polls are conducted. My hon. Friend the Member for Carlisle (Mr. Martlew) is right. If we put the same questionnaire in every hymn book in every church in the United Kingdom, we would have a different view. I am interested in the polling of betting office staff who work in the most deplorable conditions in the industry.
Mr. Meale He probably does not. That is all the more reason for those people to get more pay and better conditions.
My interest in polling is that it shows that 95 per cent. of betting office staff do not want the Bill. A majority of TGWU members on the stable side do not want Sunday racing. Those who do--they are in the minority, although it is a large minority--tend to be young people. They still believe that they will become top-class jockeys and come to the fore of their industry. Statistics show that to be nonsense because one new entrant in 4,000 reaches the professional rank of jockey. The SLA and TGWU, which represent both stable staff and betting office staff, are against the Bill.
Let us take an independent polling organisation. On 4 February The Racing Post reported on a survey carried out by an independent organisation, the London-based Survey
Column 664Research Associates. Interviews were carried out at 52 sampling points throughout Britain on 13 and 14 January. The survey shows that 51 per cent. are in favour of Sunday racing and that 45 per cent. said that betting shops should not be open. Obviously, the people who paid for the survey wanted Sunday racing. They did not expect that 45 per cent. would not want betting shops to open.
The TGWU, which is the major trade union in the industry, whether or not Tory Members like it, has made a good statement. It is good because it does not fit the image put out by the national media, the press and people in senior positions in racing, that racing is stuck in the 1800s. It states :
"The TGWU is a very broadly based Trade Union having membership in virtually every industry in the country. Because of which it already has many members who are obliged to work on Sunday. For example ; it is the overwhelmingly predominant Union in the Bus industry, and in many areas of manufacturing there are continuous processes which require a measure of Sunday working. In consequence there is no policy of total opposition to Sunday working within the TGWU in general, although in all sectors of the Union, the importance of Sunday as a leisure day with the requirement to minimise Sunday working is clearly recognised.
In so far as the Racing Industry is concerned, Stable staff already have Sunday working as part of their contract of employment because it is necessary to provide care for the horses. Within the national agreement, there is provision for the payment of overtime, in recognition of this fact.
Sunday working is kept to a minimum in order that maximum numbers of Stable staff can have a day with their families. If Sunday Racing was introduced this would change the Sunday from a minimum day of working to a full day of working and racing would be on a seven day week basis. There is a great concern for the well being and leisure time of the stable staff in this situation.
As far as betting shops are concerned they are currently covered by Law which restrict their opening time to Monday to Saturday and the only real leisure day which the staff are able to spend with their family is the Sunday. Because of the very full Saturday and Bank holiday Racing programme Rest days can only be taken between Monday and Thursday, when their families are possibly at work or school etc. If the shops were allowed to open on a Sunday then in all probability they would be offered an alternative rest day also in the earliest part of the week which would seriously weaken their domestic situation still further.
For this reason the TGWU has adopted a policy that it must oppose the introduction of Sunday Racing unless and until satisfactory terms and conditions to protect our members' interest are agreed with the various bodies. Because of the provisions of the national agreement for stable staff we are in a fairly strong negotiating position and are moving towards the framework of an agreement. However, in the past, efforts to secure negotiating rights with Mecca, Ladbrokes and William Hill have not been successful, therefore, the policy of the TGWU has been that we would reluctantly accept Sunday racing with on course betting but would oppose the opening of betting shops. Although some progress has now been made with Coral Racing on the Sunday racing provisions we have not as yet reached a satisfactory conclusion. Unless or until we do reach an understanding it would be difficult to move our policy".
That is very important. That is a shift from the image that some Conservative Members present of the union's approach towards the racing industry. I stand four square with my right hon. Friend the Member for Small Heath, who says that we should move towards the position where we can expand and, perhaps, give people the opportunity to enjoy racing on a Sunday. It is nonsense, however, to inflict it at present when we have the inadequate position in the racing industry, where the betting industry itself
Column 665cannot and will not agree on proper terms, conditions and times of working for the people whom this measure would most affect.
Mrs. Audrey Wise (Preston) : Workers in other trade unions may be affected, although more indirectly. I draw my hon. Friend's attention to a statement of a member of the planning inspectorate who said in relation to a planning appeal :
"It is now generally accepted that betting offices are an integral part of shopping activities."
That means, of course, that other shopworkers are deeply concerned about the issue. It might mean that, if betting shops opened, it would be said, "Oh how dreadful it is, you can place a bet, but you cannot buy butter in the high streets." Many workers are therefore at risk.
Mr. Meale : I thank my hon. Friend for those remarks. She is quite right. If one wishes to examine the attitude of senior betting organisations towards people employed in the industry and represented by the unions, all one needs to do is to read a letter sent to Brian Cox, the national official of the Transport and General Workers Union, by a Mr. Burroughs, who is group director of personnel at Ladbroke Group plc. It says :
"Dear Mr. Cox,
We refer to your two letters dated 9th and 14th November 1987 addressed to Sir Cyril Stein, and would point out that, as yet, he has not had a knighthood conferred uponhim."--
He wrote the letter to Sir Cyril Stein. It continues :
"You have stated nothing which is materially different to that mentioned in earlier correspondence, and our reason for rejecting your proposal for a meeting in the past remains the same as of now." That was a great opportunity lost to the betting industry to meet the representatives of those working in the industry to establish some common sense in the conditions of the people employed in that industry.
The hon. Member for Crawley said that he did not believe that such a Bill could proceed if proper arrangements were not made for the stabling industry. I appreciate his concern to try to extract guarantees for the people who work in the industry. It would be nonsense if the House approved the Bill to allow Sunday racing before the terms and conditions of the workers had been agreed. I have been informed in the past few hours that negotiations on those terms and conditions have failed to reach any agreement.
I share the concern of the hon. Member for Crawley and I draw his attention to a letter sent to me on 16 November 1987 by the Jockey Club. In paragraph 3 on page 2 it states :
"However, at our Sunday Racing Industry Conference at Sandown Park"--
my hon. Friend the Member for Attercliffe referred to this earlier--
"General Blacker, Chairman of the Jockey Club Sunday Racing Campaign made clear that before Sunday racing can be successfully introduced financial and working arrangements must be negotiated for all who work within the industry."
Agreement has not been reached and little leeway has been shown about such proposals.
Mr. Holt indicated dissent.
Mr. Meale : Again, I note that the hon. Member for Langbaurgh (Mr. Holt) is shaking his head, but I have in my hand the statement on Sunday racing sent to the National Trainers Federation, the Horseracing Advisory
Column 666Council and the Jockey Club. The unions are not asking for enormous amounts of money, but £20 a day for travelling fees and such things. Such demands do not even meet the criteria of people who work in shops and factories and who get double time for working on Sundays. Those proposals, however, have been rejected.
If one accepts that the Jockey Club is the senior management body in racing --obviously the hon. Member for Langbaurgh does--it is clear from its statements that the Bill should not proceed, because no agreement has been reached with the industry's unions.
Reference has been made to the state of some of the courses used by the racing industry. We all know about some of the harrowing details that have emerged and that appear to be the norm in the industry. My right hon. Friend the Member for Small Heath was correct in saying that nothing should be done about Sunday racing until people are aware of, and made to respond to, the needs of the workers. Some time ago during a discussion on my British Racing Commission Bill I spoke about the harrowing state of some of our racecourses. After that debate some people suggested that I had received information from organisations about some of the bad courses. The hon. Member for Berkshire, East, however, knows that I was complimentary about the work that is being done at Ascot, which, I believe, is in his constituency. Some people might argue that I visited two good courses followed by five bad courses and, as the bad ones backed up my argument, I presented my report in that light. That is nonsense. I got up in the early hours of the morning and, with my wife, visited courses around Britain to look at the facilities. I did not merely stand at the winning post to watch horses win or lose. I turned up at courses at 8 o'clock in the morning and saw horses being unloaded at some courses, and kept in disgraceful and disgusting conditions. I have seen horsebox drivers and stable staff--many of whom are young or very old--queueing for buckets of water to wash down animals after they have raced. They work under the most deplorable and disgraceful conditions. The hon. Member for Cleveland raised that valid point--
The hon. Member for Langbaurgh raised a valid point about the failure of the Horserace Betting Levy Board and other organisations to respond to the needs of those who work at racecourses. That is a central part of my argument and is the major reason why the Bill should not proceed. A new senior management and approach are needed within the industry.
Before Sunday racing is introduced we should provide the vital extra training and education which will be
Column 667necessary for those employed in the industry. There are already many inexperienced people in the industry and more will join because experienced racing and betting staff are leaving in droves. There is very little training in the industry and certainly not enough to meet its requirements. It would be absolute madness to introduce Sunday racing without first establishing sufficient training facilities. There is already extreme difficulty in recruiting to both sections of the industry. If Sunday trading is introduced, more people will be employed and it would be crazy not to provide extra training for them. Therefore, I urge hon. Members not to support the Bill. I have much more to say, but I keep being passed notes and given nods by my hon. Friends asking me to give way to other hon. Members who may wish to speak on a Bill which will, if enacted, affect so many people.
It is doubtful whether trainers will be able to cope if Sunday racing is introduced. The hon. Member for Crawley will recall that at the Sandown Park conference trainers were split on Sunday racing for two reasons. First, some trainers did not believe that owners could meet the increased costs that would be levied. Secondly, they did not know whether their staff could cope with more work.
I have not read out the relevant figures, but if Conservative Members wish me to do so, I certainly shall. Magazines such as Horse and Hound, The Sporting Life and The Racing Post --all top horseracing journals--contain harrowing articles. They are about people who work in stables having to deal individually with up to 10 horses during the working day. Already the agreement says that those people have to work seven days and it also says that they should go in only to feed the horses on Sundays. That is not true. They do not exercise horses on Sundays but in many of the poorer areas they work seven days a week. If hon. Members would like me to do so I shall give examples of that. If the Bill would allow trainers to force stable staff to work more hours than they now work during a six-day week that would be a disgrace.
We also need to discuss the breeding industry before we enact legislation such as this. Hon. Members spoke about the EEC. The breeding industry is in a terrible state because the Government have not acted on EEC directives on VAT.
Mrs. Currie indicated dissent.
Mr. Meale : The hon. Member of Derbyshire, South (Mrs. Currie) seems to disagree. Our breeders are paying 15 per cent. on thoroughbred stock whereas in Ireland there is a zero rate and the rate is 5.5 per cent. in France and 7.5 per cent. in Germany. Already our breeding industry is moving to Ireland because of zero rating.
Mr. Soames : On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Gentleman's flow, but I wonder whether you could help me. I understood that the debate was about Sunday sport. I am unclear about why we should have to listen to a diatribe about breeding.
Mr. Deputy Speaker : I take the hon. Gentleman's point. Although conventionally a Second Reading debate is allowed to go wide, it is my view that the hon. Member for Mansfield (Mr. Meale) is going a lot wider than is proper. I hope that he will return more closely to the subject of the Bill.
Mr. Meale : I raised the matter of breeding because it is connected to Sunday racing. People are having great difficulty in getting and selling horses. If any hon. Member has any doubts about whether breeding has anything to do with Sunday racing he should look to see what happens in France where various grades of horse racing takes place on Sundays. That is completely against a European convention and that view will be strengthened after 1992. The French are organising races for French-bred horses. If we introduce Sunday racing we will present an opportunity for French and Irish -bred horses to come here. Those countries have restrictions that prevent our horses from running there and that is in no way fair to our horse breeding industry.
I should like to discuss many other aspects of this matter, and one is the important Single European Act. Many areas need to be tackled, one of which is protection for our work force. We need to talk about Mr. Papandreou's view of workers in industry participating in sport. An hon. Member spoke about the effect that the Bill would have on the greyhound industry. That is important because that industry has seen a gigantic increase in betting and that increase has been promoted by the bookmakers. If the Bill becomes law people will not go into a betting shop on Sunday morning and wait until the first race at 2.30. People will bet on other things while they wait for the first race to begin and they will even bet on things in between those races. Hon. Members must be aware that there are many registered and unregistered courses in the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland at which races take place and people can bet on them. Bag services could operate at courses if betting shops are not open.
Betting shops are also concerned with greyhound racing. All betting shops deduct 10 per cent. of people's money ; 8 per cent. goes on tax and only 0.88 per cent. goes to the levy and the industry. Before we pass this Bill, we must consider its effects on horse racing and greyhound racing. We must consider why the bookmakers are allowed to pocket 2 per cent. of punters' money. Will we clear those matters up in the Bill?
We should reject the Bill. It is a bad Bill and a betting Bill. Let us rid ourselves of it and get down to some constructive things on behalf of sport in general.