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Motion made, and Question put forthwith, pursuant to Orders [28 June 2001 and 6 November 2003],

Question agreed to.
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Orders of the Day

Horserace Betting and Olympic Lottery Bill

Lords amendments considered.

Clause 10

Control when no exclusive licence

Lords amendment: No. 1.

3.15 pm

The Minister for the Arts (Estelle Morris): I beg to move, That this House agrees with the Lords in the said amendment.

I am sorry, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that I was almost not in my place just now. That will serve me right for believing the Whips when they told me that there would be three Divisions, not two. I would also like to apologise for the absence of the Minister for Sport and Tourism, who has guided the Bill through its many stages. He cannot be with us today as he has ministerial duties elsewhere, but he sends his apologies to the House and has left me to deal with this last stage of the Bill.

I propose that the House accept this amendment that was made to the Bill in the House of Lords. In the original draft of the Bill, provision was made for point-to-point racing to be made exempt from regulatory requirements. During the discussions on the Bill in another place, concern was expressed that those provisions were not generous enough, and that the original maximum of four days proposed by the Government risked bringing a number of point-to-point races within the regulatory structures.

The Lords amendment that we are now considering reflects the Government's positive response to representations. The Government wished to avoid such an unnecessary regulatory imposition, and accordingly tabled an amendment to raise the maximum exemption to seven days of racing. Representatives of point-to-point organisations have welcomed the amendment, as I do now. I hope that the House will accept it.

Hugh Robertson (Faversham and Mid-Kent) (Con): Before I comment on the amendment before us, I would like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to Members on both sides of both Houses who have worked so hard to scrutinise the Bill. Although we are considering only a few amendments today, the important debates that have taken place have played their part in ensuring that the Government are aware of the concerns of racing. In a Bill that frequently requires Parliament to trust the Government to keep their word, it is important to get commitments clearly on the record, if not always in the Bill.

I would like to pay particular tribute to the dedication and hard work of my colleagues, my hon. Friends the Members for South-East Cambridgeshire (Mr. Paice) and for Surrey Heath (Mr. Hawkins), who have brought their considerable experience, knowledge and passion for racing and sport to the Committee. I believe that the debates were the stronger for that. I should also like to pay tribute to Lord Moynihan in the other place, who was ably assisted by the noble Lord Luke. He clearly did
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a first-class job, and the Bill is the stronger for it. The British Paralympic Association has particular reason to be grateful, as we shall hear later.

I should highlight the fact that we are considering Lords amendment No. 1 entirely due to the foresight of my colleague Viscount Ullswater, who has ensured that the interests of point-to-point racing have not been forgotten. Currently, the Tote does not run pool betting at point-to-point races. However, it has been prepared to grant authority to the secretaries of the various point-to-point committees to run their own pool-betting operations for a nominal fee. In 2003, 82 point-to-point fixtures ran their own Tote.

Clause 10(1) amends the Betting, Gaming and Lotteries Act 1963 by substituting a new section 4. Under the Bill as drafted, the new section 4(4) allowed for a point-to-point exemption certificate to be applied for from the Gaming Board. However, that application had to specify a maximum number of days, not exceeding four, on which horse racing could be carried out. In the other place, Viscount Ullswater rightly pointed out that two point-to-point courses, Garthorpe and Larkhill, were to hold more than four meets in 2004.

I welcome the Government's decision to look again at this provision. On Report, the Government tabled the amendment that we see before us today, which changes the limit from four to seven. I acknowledge that the amendment represents a step forward by the Government in protecting point-to-point racing. I am interested, however, in understanding exactly how the Government reached the figure of seven meets. I accept that it is a compromise, but why that particular figure?

Viscount Ullswater called for the limit to be scrapped completely. Why have the Government ignored that option? So far, the Government have failed to provide a justification for maintaining a limit of any sort. Indeed, the Minister in the other place provided a curious answer:

That does not really let us know a lot about the Government's thinking.

We do not intend to overturn this amendment, which is certainly a considerable improvement on the original drafting of the Bill. It would be useful, however, if the Minister could give the Government's reason for choosing seven rather than any other number.

Estelle Morris: I readily acknowledge the work of Viscount Ullswater in the other place and accept that the amendment came about because of the work that he did and the representations he made. That is the spirit in which the legislation has gone through its stages in both Houses. That is not unique, but it is unusual, and I pay tribute to that. I read the same bit of Hansard as the hon. Member for Faversham and Mid-Kent (Hugh Robertson), which is why I was smiling a little as he quoted it.

Unfortunately, I cannot give the hon. Gentleman a scientific explanation as to why it is seven and not four. It is a compromise, as the Minister in the other place said. It has been accepted by those with a keen interest
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in the issue and it was accepted by Viscount Ullswater. I think that we should accept that and move forward. The amendment will not jeopardise any point-to-point races in coming years and if a change is thought necessary in future years, the Government will by then have evidence against which to set any further amendment. This is a case of test it and see. Given that no point-to-point race will be discriminated against, I hope that the House will agree the amendment so that we may make further progress.

The hon. Gentleman raises a legitimate question. All of us like to think that legislation is rooted in extensive evidence and careful logical thought, but sometimes we have to estimate what will work best in certain circumstances. When I read the report of the debate in the other place, I thought that that had happened in this case. I trust that the hon. Gentleman will accept that explanation. In any case, I welcome his general comments on the amendment.

Lords amendment agreed to.

Abolition of levy

Lords amendment: No. 2.

Estelle Morris: I hope that this second amendment will find favour with the House. It is an important, although not a major point. It acts on the recommendation of the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee of the other place. Clause 15(1) will enable the Government to commence, under order-making powers, the abolition of the horserace betting levy system. In the Bill as originally drafted, no parliamentary procedure was specified. The Committee was concerned that consequential amendment could be made to primary legislation without Parliament having the opportunity to consider it. The Government accepted that recommendation and moved an amendment to provide that the negative resolution procedure shall apply to all orders made under clause 15(1), and not the positive resolution procedure.

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