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Viscount Falkland: My Lords, I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, on so fully and comprehensively explaining his amendment. His arguments were persuasive, as I am sure the Minister will acknowledge in his response.
We are talking about an exceptional institution. Those of us who have had the privilege of visiting it know that it is a centre of excellence. It has scientists of the highest repute internationally, as indeed has the British Horseracing Board. The perceptions mentioned by the noble Lord are important in racing, for the reasons that he gave. Many of the rows and disagreementsI do not want to put it too stronglyinvolve the public perception of what, people hope, is a fair and honest sport. By and large, it is fair and honest, but we must maintain the utmost vigilance to sustain the reputation that racing rightly has worldwide.
Apart from that, it was clear to the All-Party Group on Racing and Bloodstock, when we visited, that the work of the laboratory was much wider than just racing.
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It deals with all kinds of scientific research with regard to animalsdogs and horses mainly, but others too. It is appropriate, as the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, has argued, for such a body to stand independently of any sport. I agree with the noble Lord that that is no criticism of the British Horseracing Board, which has been suggested as the successor. I am sure that it would not want its ownership to inhibit in any way the ability of the laboratory to maintain its high scientific reputation. I hope that the Minister will say that, ultimately, he and the Government hope that the laboratory will stand independently as a centre of excellence and that this is only a temporary measure.
Lord Lipsey: My Lords, I understand, as will the whole House, the logic behind the arguments made by the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, and by the noble Viscount, Lord Falkland, but I am not sure whether their practical impact is the same. The thing about the British Horseracing Board and racing as a whole is that it is vital to the continuation of racing that there should be a fair system of drug testing and that cheats should be discovered and dealt with. The BHB has such a strong vested interest in that that I find it hard to see how there would be a conflict of interest with the HFL, which is trying to do the same thing.
I have another point to make about the HFL. I must declare a third quadrupedal interest as chairman of the British Greyhound Racing Board. Greyhound racing is not an area, perhaps, into which the HFL will be moving, as human drug testing is. The HFL is already absolutely central to it, and a huge amount of greyhound drug testing goes on. The number of drug-positives has diminished tremendously, although, as noble Lords will know, we lost a Derby winner last year through a drug test. That work must continue, and it seems to me that the British greyhound racing industry has an important interest in the HFL. I trust that, when the ownership arrangements are sorted, that interest will be duly recognised.
Sometimes, our poor old dogs are the poor cousins of the horseracing industry, with all its grand and noble advocates, but attendances at the races are two-thirds the size of those at horseraces. I hope that, with regard to the ownership and control of the HFL, the Minister will not downgrade the importance of greyhound racing just because it is a sport of the working classes.
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I can go some way along the path outlined by the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, and others. I can confirm, as I did in Committee, that the Horserace Forensic Laboratory is a world-renowned centre for equine drug testing. It conducts nearly 9,000 tests a year for the Jockey Club and provides services for other clients, such as the National Greyhound Racing Club, as my noble friend Lord Lipsey reminded us. It is also true that the Horserace Forensic Laboratory has gained accreditation from the World Anti-Doping Agency for testing human sport samples, which significantly enhances its international status. It has also gained a
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major two-year contract to participate in UK Sport's anti-doping programme. So far, we are all entirely in agreement.
I yield to the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, in my understanding of drug testing in sport. I acknowledge his expertise, and I admire the passion with which he pursues his concerns. I fully support what he says about drug testing, but it does not lead me to the same conclusion about the amendment and the future of the Horserace Forensic Laboratory.
The first point is that the HFL was established via the Levy Board with racing's money. That means that it should be transferred to racing, along with other Levy Board assets. That is what Clause 16 does, and our intention is to transfer it to the British Horseracing Board. As the governing body of the sport, it is the most appropriate home for the HFL. It will be for the BHB to decide what terms of payment are most suitable for services provided to the Jockey Club and other clients of HFL.
This is the fundamental point: the amendment is based on the assumption that there is a conflict of interest if the same body decides which horses will be tested, how the testing should be done and who should adjudicate on the results. There is not. The testing done by the Horserace Forensic Laboratory is not done for the British Horseracing Board; it is done for the Jockey Club. The British Horseracing Board is the governing body, but the Jockey Club is the regulator. The testing is done for a different organisation. I am sorry to say that, therefore, the whole thrust of the noble Lord's argument is misconceived.
I shall move from dismissing the Minister's last argument to the fundamental point. It is and will remain the case that the principle here is one of having an independent anti-doping agency. It is wrong that UK Sport should meet, one day, to consider which elite athletes to fund and, the next day, meet under the same chairman to determine who will be tested in an anti-doping programme. Even if that works with all the professionalism evident in UK SportMichelle Verroken ran the anti-doping agency with integrity and professionalism that was second to none in the worldit remains possible that there will be a perception that there is a conflict of interest. That perception could be dealt with by separating the two functions. That is the thrust of the amendment.
It is clear that we have a difference of opinion on the matter, and I would like to test the opinion of the House on whether there is merit in setting up the anti-doping laboratory for horseracingthe HFLas an independent body. I fully recognise the Minister's second point that the Horserace Forensic Laboratory has received significant money from racing. That must be recognised in the terms of any transfer scheme. The scheme must take into account that investment.
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