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5.28 pm

Mr. Adrian Sanders (Torbay) (LD): I rise to support both parts of the Bill. I will talk a little about the Olympics in a moment, but first I want to deal with the Tote. I have one key question. Although I support the Bill, I am not entirely sure why. We know that the Tote is a non-departmental body. It is not owned by anybody. It has an exclusive right to offer pool betting on horse racing. We know that it was founded in 1928 and that the Government intend to sell it to a racing trust with an exclusive licence to run pool betting for seven years.

We also know from the briefing on the Bill that since the Tote's foundation, there have been numerous proposals to reform it. Many of those are laid out in the substantive document that deals with its history. Nowhere in the document, however, and nowhere in any Government statement issued so far, has anyone said

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why we are first nationalising and then privatising the Tote. The Government have not made their case. We need to know why we are making such a substantial change to a body whose history shows that it has been a success, in terms of the ethos that established it and in terms of the money it has generated, and continues to generate, for the racing industry.

In 1991 a Home Affairs Committee report on gambling concluded that horse race pool betting was an area in which monopoly might be in the consumer's interest. There were obvious reasons for its conclusion. As the hon. Member for Selby (Mr. Grogan) pointed out, several pools mean lower jackpots and hence a lower incentive; and that will have a knock-on impact on the overall amount that can be made from one pool. In November 2003, the Minister said:

What are the policy aims underlying the sale, other than the fact that the Government can make some money out of it? Is it just about raising revenue? No case has been made in terms of how it will improve the Tote and the service to the customer, certainly after the seven years of exclusivity.

As for the end of those seven years and the break-up of the pool, there will be a number of knock-on effects. There is no doubt that the bigger race courses will benefit, in terms of the volume of races and of turnover, but smaller courses—such as two in my area, Newton Abbot and Haldon Exeter—could lose revenue as a consequence of losing a single pooled Tote.

Mr. David Heath (Somerton and Frome) (LD): Does my hon. Friend agree that the lifeblood of racing, what makes the whole industry tick, is not the glamorous courses or the glamorous meetings, not Royal Ascot or glorious Goodwood, but the smaller courses that provide National Hunt racing day in, day out, and week in, week out? I am thinking of courses such as Wincanton—and, indeed, courses in my hon. Friend's constituency.

Mr. Sanders: I could not possibly disagree with that. Some of the smaller courses are part of the attraction of the whole sport. This is not like premiership football. Some of us live hundreds of miles from the nearest premiership club, but we can all participate in horse racing on August bank holidays or on Boxing Day, because there is bound to be a meeting somewhere near where we live. I am not convinced that after the seven-year period consumers' interests will still be served, and I want the Government to make a case.

I have three big fears about this element of the Bill. First, under European competition law, I cannot see how the Minister can guarantee a sale to a racing trust. I want to know how the Government can do that without any mention of the prospective purchaser in the Bill. Secondly, what is to prevent a purchaser from ending the exclusivity within seven years, if that is not specified in the Bill? Thirdly, if a seven-year licence is enforceable and desirable, why is that no longer desirable after seven years?

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As for the Olympics, the hon. Member for Cunninghame, North (Mr. Wilson) discussed his bid for yachting events to take place on the firth of Clyde, but unfortunately for him, they will be taking place in Weymouth. The Royal Yachting Association has a major investment in an international sailing school in Weymouth, and has decreed that it wants those events to take place there. That has upset some of my constituents, because in 1948, the Olympic yachting events took place in Torbay, and the yachts were based at Torquay. However, we support the Weymouth bid because it is possible that we could benefit from it.

All areas need to consider that there are ways of benefiting from the Olympic games, even if they are not the venues for a particular sport. One example is the training of the Olympic teams. The teams will come over here some months in advance of the games, in order to acclimatise themselves and to train. There needs to be a mechanism—I am not sure that the Government have yet established one—to help areas that are bidding to act as training camps for particular sports. Indeed, an entire national team may want to site itself in a particular area or at a particular venue. We need to ensure that there is a spin-off in that regard. Of course, resources will need to be made available in advance, to ensure that the facilities available for those teams and sportsmen and women are first-rate and up to an Olympic standard, even if they are not on the scale of, say, an Olympic-size swimming pool or stadium. We must at least ensure that top-rate facilities are available for them. I hope that the Government will consider that issue.

From my constituency's point of view, we would have loved to host the yachting. Given that our climate is one of the mildest in the country, perhaps we could bid for the beach volleyball. That could work very well when the tide is out, but not so well when it is in; having holidayed in my patch, the Minister will know what I mean. I hope that all parts of the country will be able to feel that they are part of the games—that they will be not just London games, but United Kingdom games—and that the benefits will be felt throughout the country. I hope that the Minister can respond to the specific questions that I have asked, and I look forward to returning to some of these issues if I am appointed to the Committee.

5.37 pm

Mr. Andrew Love (Edmonton) (Lab/Co-op): It was not originally my intention to speak in this debate, but given the Minister's suggestion that I should expand on what I said in an earlier intervention, I thought this an ideal opportunity to do so. [Interruption.] I have only a couple of minutes, so I ask Members to keep interventions to a minimum.

I am the Member for the Picketts Lock area, and having gone through this process, I feel that we face an uphill struggle to win the Olympic bid. We have to have a unique selling point for our bid, which should be that this should genuinely be a people's Olympic games. What do we mean by that? It is a challenging concept, because we have to make it a reality, rather than simply an illusion. A people's games would be a partnership with the people of this country. It would involve their active participation, and there should indeed be a democratic element to that.

I wrote to the Minister and Ken Livingstone about this issue, saying that there should have been open membership of the bid company to allow individuals to

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get involved. However, we have now passed that stage, and we need to adapt. But such involvement would allow not only individuals, but communities such as the lower Lea valley, regions such as Greater London and others, and nations such as Scotland and Wales to have a very direct influence on, and say in, what happens. That collective voice, in the context of a mutual structure for the bid company, would make the difference for this country. Elected representatives would be able to represent Scotland, Wales or Greater London directly. Indeed, I suggest that London would need more representation than other parts of the country, simply because there can be no taxation without representation. The bid company would have to recognise that.

Representation is important for a number of reasons. First, we must mobilise this country's energy and enthusiasm for sport that many hon. Members have noted. In addition, it is commonly assumed that the experts in the field will be the members of the bid company, but the real experts exist out there, in the country. Londoners are greater experts on London than anyone else, and in the same way Scottish people are greater experts on Scotland than anyone else. That is why ordinary people should be represented.

Most importantly, we need participation. When Sydney made its Olympic bid, it was able to call on 40,000 volunteers. Does any hon. Member have confidence that Britain could produce 40,000 volunteers? We need to produce 50,000 volunteers, and my idea of a people's Olympics with a mutual structure would help us to achieve that. I commend it to the House.

5.40 pm

Mr. Nick Hawkins (Surrey Heath) (Con): Like other hon. Members, I want to begin by declaring not so much my financial interests, but my various enthusiasms and links. They may not produce income, but they are of both a personal and a constituency nature.

I am a long-standing supporter of racing. I have enjoyed many good days at the course, and am an active member of the all-party racing and bloodstock committee. I do not have the detailed knowledge of racing exhibited by my hon. Friends the Members for South-East Cambridgeshire (Mr. Paice), for South-West Hertfordshire (Mr. Page), and for Tewkesbury (Mr. Robertson), but my family has been heavily involved in the sport. My late grandfather, my father's father, spent much of his spare time involved in racing, in various capacities. A number of my farming uncles and cousins on my mother's side of the family have also been involved in racing: one of my uncles was the owner of a horse that won The Daily Telegraph point-to-point championship in the late 1980s.

I am also a passionate supporter of the bid to hold the Olympic games in the UK. As the House knows, before I took on my present responsibilities, for a number of years I was deputy chairman of the all-party sports committee. I believe that the 2012 bid represents our best chance yet to hold the Olympic games in the UK. I strongly supported the previous Olympic bids, and I was a very strong supporter of the Manchester Commonwealth games.

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That brings me to a constituency link. Several hon. Members have spoken about the Olympic side of the Bill, and have said that their constituencies could provide training and practice facilities for competitors. However, the national shooting centre at Bisley is in my constituency. If, as we hope, the 2012 bid proves successful, the current state of legislation means that Bisley is the only place where the Olympic shooting competition could be held. For the same reason, there was no alternative venue for the Commonwealth Games shooting competition, even though those games were held in Manchester. That reinforces the point made by several hon. Members that the Olympics could benefit the whole country.

The National Rifle Association ranges at Bisley straddle the boundary between my constituency and that of my hon. Friend the Member for Woking (Mr. Malins), and I was privileged to be asked to present one of the medals in the Commonwealth games shooting competition. I look forward to the Olympic shooting competition coming to Bisley in 2012, as happened in 1948.

As my hon. Friend the Member for South-East Cambridgeshire said, we want to improve the Bill. It has received a broad welcome from all parts of the House, but certain gaps remain. We want to fill in those gaps when we consider the Bill in Standing Committee.

It is regrettable that the Bill's provisions in respect of the Olympic games make far too little reference to the involvement of the private sector. The stage was set for the revision of finances in the modern Olympic movement when Peter Ueberroth and his team made their successful bid for the 1984 Los Angeles games. That bid made extensive use of the private sector, but one of the snags with the Government's planning is that they see the Olympic bid as very much a public sector operation. Given that the potential Olympic sites in the lower Lea valley are so close to the City of London, there is a massive opportunity for increased use of the private sector. We will want to support what Barbara Cassani and her team are doing. I am sure that when the Minister winds up the debate, he will, on reflection, agree with us that there could be a greater role than has so far been revealed for the private sector.

Conservative Members strongly believe that the new lottery game has to start to coincide with this year's Athens Olympics, when interest in the Olympic games will be at its height. As my hon. Friend the Member for Romford (Mr. Rosindell) said, there must be a way round the difficulties over International Olympic Committee rules. As my hon. Friend the Member for South-East Cambridgeshire suggested, we have an opportunity to start an Olympic lottery game this year to coincide with the Athens games. The funding, however, should not be linked only to the bid itself: the beneficiaries could be Paralympic athletes or sporting competitors in general. That is surely acceptable, even within IOC rules.

The second major improvement that Conservative Members want to press for in Committee—and it seems to us an acid test of the Government's real commitment to the Olympic bid—is for the Government to forgo what would otherwise be the tax take from the Olympic lottery game. The moneys that would otherwise go to

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Her Majesty's Treasury should be hypothecated and go directly to help the success of our Olympic bid. If the Olympic lottery game were introduced on that basis, we would then know that the Government were committed in every way to the bid's success.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Beckenham (Mrs. Lait) and Labour Members such as the hon. Members for Cunninghame, North (Mr. Wilson) and for Newcastle upon Tyne, North (Mr. Henderson) said, the Olympic bid must be seen to represent the whole of the UK. It is not just about the regeneration of east London with the Olympics as an excuse, which is how the newly admitted Labour Mayor of London seems to view it.

As many hon. Members have said, we have a great opportunity to establish training camps in different towns and cities throughout the UK. As the hon. Member for Torbay (Mr. Sanders) said, there may be opportunities for sailing practice in Torbay or the firth of Clyde even if the final sailing events take place in Weymouth. For other Olympic sports such as rowing, training camps could be established all over the country. I have already mentioned my constituency interest in shooting.

The all-party group on the Olympics, of which I am proud to be a member, has visited some of the potential sites in the lower Lea valley. We want to ensure that the whole of London benefits from the opportunity to support the Olympics. Fully germane to that issue are the points about Crystal Palace made by my hon. Friend the Member for Beckenham. Not just east London, but the whole of south London, north London and west London must be seen to benefit from the whole process.

As to the Tote and the horse race betting levy, we believe that it is crucial for the Bill to make it clear that the Tote should be sold to a racing trust. The whole point of setting up a shadow trust to be run by Lord Lipsey is to bring about certainty on the part of the racing industry. It is not acceptable for the Minister to say that it is not needed on the face of the Bill. The gap must be filled.

We should recognise that the Minister has worked hard. I pay tribute to him, as have other hon. Members, for securing the seven-year exclusivity, but some hon. Members have expressed the concern that even seven years may not be long enough. Several hon. Members supported the view of my hon. Friend the Member for South-East Cambridgeshire that the bigger the pool, the more attractive is the Tote to the punter. My hon. Friends the Members for Ryedale (Mr. Greenway) and for South-West Hertfordshire might say that it would be better if the exclusivity carried on much longer than seven years. As many hon. Members have said, seven years is really the minimum.

My hon. Friend the Member for South-East Cambridgeshire drew attention to the fact that one of the big bookmakers has already stated that at the end of the seven years—if it is to be only seven years—it would bid for the Tote. That would clearly reduce competition. The right hon. Member for Livingston (Mr. Cook) referred to creative tension in the racing industry. I pay tribute to him and other hon. Members who have played an important part in promoting the cause of racing in the House.

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There is a need to support the smaller rural race courses especially, as was mentioned by several hon. Members. A huge threat also hangs over racing from the OFT. It is a great shame that that organisation seems to seek out high-profile sporting cases to try to boost its reputation, without appreciating the damage that could be done to such an important industry. The right hon. Member for Livingston made the point that racing is a huge employer. It employs 100,000 people and is in the top 10 of employers in the country.

We want the Bill to support racing further, protect the position of the Tote and genuinely assist Britain's success in the 2012 Olympic bid. We support the Bill and we will seek to achieve those aims in Committee.

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