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4.42 pm

Mr. Doug Henderson (Newcastle upon Tyne, North) (Lab): I will return to the contribution made by the hon. Member for North Tayside (Pete Wishart), but first, may I congratulate the Minister and the Department on securing legislative space to introduce these important proposals?

I want to address the Olympic games issue, but I should first mention the part of the Bill that relates to horse racing. Newcastle race course is in my constituency. I am not hugely knowledgeable about the horse racing industry, although I enjoy my visits to the course, especially for the Northumberland plate in late June. I am happy to know that my right hon. Friend the Member for Livingston (Mr. Cook) has been present there, but after his admission this afternoon that he is a net disinvestor, I shall be just a little bit more hesitant about accepting his tips.

I should declare some interests, although they are not registrable. I am a member of a number of sports clubs that are lottery recipients and possible lottery recipients. I am a member of Durham county cricket club, Falkland cricket club in Fife and Cambuslang Harriers in Glasgow. I am also a very active member of Elswick Harriers, in my constituency, in Newcastle. I am a strong advocate of sport, and I have strong views about sport. I do not believe that it is right to proselytise about sport, however. The approach needs to be gentle—if we start forcing our views down people's throats, they are less likely to listen to us. In that context, therefore, I am hesitant about over-emphasis.

Sport does many things for society, which we all recognise. It is hugely important in terms of health, which is a point that the hon. Member for North Tayside missed in his contribution. It is hugely important in bringing together communities, in terms of comradeship between individuals, and in terms of international links. The reason I am hesitant about mentioning the other aspect of enjoyment is that it might be difficult to try to explain to my constituents that it is enjoyable to stand in a huddle of Alf Tuppers on the top of some dale, in a reclaimed pit heap in County Durham, in wind and rain, half-covered in mud and half-covered in liniment. A number of iconoclastic enthusiasts such as me, however, do find that enjoyable. Much of sport is a little like that—it is all about the activism, which must generally be encouraged.

The hon. Member for North Tayside, who made a lamentable, pessimistic speech, displayed a lot of ignorance about sport—I say that as a Falkirk supporter who went to Brechin City about two years ago and got beaten, so I know a little about his territory, too. It is vital to try to enthuse people. I do not believe that the young girls in his constituency who might be 1500 m winners in the 2012 games do not find Paula Radcliffe an inspiration. That is absolutely key in sport. Sport is about a balance between the elite and the activists. That balance is crucial in allocating public expenditure, which we recognise. Not all Olympic sports, however, are associated with elitism. Many Olympic sports are very participative, and Members who are not interested in a particular sport would probably not know the name of one participant in them. Many Olympic sports, such as swimming, boxing, athletics, gymnastics, the horse events, the sailing events

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and others, develop elite talents, which is crucial in changing the attitudes of young people, making them more sports-conscious and more health-conscious.

As I said at the beginning of my remarks, I do not want to ram this message down people's throats, but we need an educational crusade in society to raise health standards and fitness standards. I am not asking everyone to stand up at the top of the reclaimed pit heap in County Durham. It would be nice, however, if people did a little activity and a little sport, in which the Olympic games are crucial in terms of providing inspiration.

The lottery has now become a crucial part of expenditure in my right hon. Friend's Department. Lottery funding is now a larger part of the funding in the Department than the funding that is raised by taxation, borrowing or other Government sources. Therefore anything that happens to lottery funding ultimately affects all funding. If lottery funding falls, that puts greater responsibilities on non-lottery funding, and if lottery funding improves there is less strain on the rest of the funding.

As was pointed out in one of the Opposition contributions, if we are to be successful in raising the lottery moneys, we must have a cause with which people associate themselves. If people around the country begin to think that this is a stitch-up to allow a few elite athletes and a few Londoners to have a good time, they are much less likely to support the lottery. That is why we must argue positively about the strong case for holding the Olympic games—I say that as a north-eastern Member of Parliament who did not support the Wembley development, as I thought that there were better solutions in the case of football.

I very much support the Olympic bid and the development of east London and the location of the facilities there. I also support part funding from the lottery, which is important. However, to carry public opinion with us, we have not only to make the case for sport and for the Olympics, but as hon. Members on both sides have said, we must make sure that we take care of the arguments about it all being for London. I do not believe that it all should be for London. I want some of the investment for the Olympic games to be spread around the country, and I know that we shall all make bids for the venues in our areas. It is important to make the argument for the national and regional distribution of resources.

It is also important, however, to counter the argument that the Olympics are all about giving money to the elite at the expense of those in the Elswick Harriers, the Falkland cricket club and so on. It is important that the funding for the hundreds and thousands of such organisations around the country continue in at least the proportions that they receive at the moment. If people begin to get the idea that the ordinary bowler on the bowling green in Lemington in my constituency is subsidising the bowlers who are trooping around the world for an Olympic games event, the wrong impression will be created. We must ensure that local investment continues.

This is not just a matter of public relations, although that is crucial. The people in every sport who, I hope, will take part in London in 2012 could now be 10, 11 or

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12 years old. If we are to develop their talents so that they become good competitive athletes in 10 years' time, we must make the investment now. In fact, we must make the investment in local sports permanent if we are to achieve our joint ambitions of developing elites and encouraging everyone in the community to be more active.

Those who support the London bid must be vigorous in ensuring that the bid comes together and in making sure that all the arguments in favour of it are put forward. We must also dispel the reservations—some have been expressed in the debate—of those who are hesitant about the bid. The Bill plays an important contribution towards doing that, and I know that the Department has been vigorous in supporting the Olympic bid. It can be assured of any support that I can offer in the months and years ahead.

4.52 pm

Mr. David Rendel (Newbury) (LD): I am delighted to have a chance to take part in the debate, not least because my constituency probably has the second greatest interest in the racing industry in the entire country. Because of our race course, gallops and many training stables, we are perhaps second only to Newmarket. I am also joint vice-chairman of the all-party committee on the issue. As a member of that committee, I took part in a delegation some time ago to ask the Minister to introduce legislation on the Tote. I am therefore delighted that it is being discussed on the Floor of the House today.

The all-party committee has always worked well and, indeed, I suspect that the whole industry has strong all-party support in the House. The only speech against the Bill was not from a member of the three main parties, and it had nothing to do with racing anyway. There is strong all-party support for what is happening and I am delighted that, on this issue at least, we can work together in the best interests of the people in the racing industry and those who enjoy the sport.

Given the strong support that there usually is in the Conservative party for the racing industry—I give it credit for that—it slightly surprised me that it came up recently with a set of principles that included one that stated that it did not believe that


Anyone who knows anything about the relationship between the punter and the bookmaker knows that that principle does not always hold.

I had thought that my first speech in the House this year would be against a Government Bill. As a spokesman on higher education, I suspected that I would not necessarily be able to support all the Government Bills this Session, but it is nice that we can at least support this Bill, not least because, as other Members have said, the industry is doing very well. There is no question but that the number of people going racing is increasing and has increased over the past few years, which is welcome to those of us with a strong racing interest.

It is also true that the racing industry feels vulnerable for several reasons, many of which have been explained this afternoon. It is vulnerable because the situation in which it finds itself is somewhat volatile, especially

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owing to the questions of the future of the Tote and the betting levy, and what the replacement for the betting levy will be. Additionally, the rule 14 notice from the Office of Fair Trading—I and other hon. Members have made our objections to that known to the Government for some time—has caused considerable unrest in the industry because the future of its financing could be under threat. As the bookmakers appear to be those who are most strongly in favour of the rule 14 notice and its possible effects—if anyone is—they are in danger of killing the goose that lays the golden egg. As many people have said, from the bookmakers' point of view the egg is indeed pure gold. The bookmakers would be sensible to think twice about supporting the notice because their livelihood depends on a strong and vigorous racing industry, but that industry is under threat at present.

To be fair to the bookmakers, they also face a slightly uncertain future because of the question of how betting exchanges will affect the betting industry. That matter could make them feel under greater threat and perhaps more likely to support the effects of the rule 14 notice. However, that should make us all wary of bookmakers' pronouncements on the matter and of allowing the OFT to get away with its current position.

As many hon. Members have said, although the Bill's basic principles are correct, it is unfortunate that it lacks detail on how to overcome several of the dangers that hon. Members and I have outlined. I share the worries of the hon. Member for South-East Cambridgeshire (Mr. Paice) and my hon. Friend the Member for Bath (Mr. Foster) about what will happen when the exclusive licence ends in seven years. However, I shall concentrate on one of the problems by picking up a theme on which the hon. Member for South-West Hertfordshire (Mr. Page) was beginning to elaborate: what we can do straight away to try to clarify the price for which the Tote will be sold, and how that should be decided.

The Government are being perhaps a little feeble—I hope that the Minister will think fit to respond to that in his winding-up speech—by failing to include a statement in the Bill on the principles by which the price of the Tote and the proportion of that price payable by the racing trust will be decided. The racing industry would be given a lot of help and satisfaction if the principles behind the calculations were in the Bill. I do not understand why the Minister cannot negotiate with the racing trust straight away to decide those principles so that they could be added to the Bill in Committee. I hope that he will guarantee in his winding-up speech that he will negotiate with the trust on how the Tote should be valued and the proportion of the value that should be paid when it is sold to the trust, because it could, and should, be done straight away.


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