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Lord Campbell of Croy: My Lords, as the noble Lord, Lord Bruce of Donington, inexplicably, has not yet raised the point, can my noble friend say whether any attempt has been made to produce counterfeit ecus?

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: My Lords, I think that the noble Lord, Lord Bruce of Donington, would probably think that an ecu was counterfeit in its entirety. I have no evidence that there have been any attempts to counterfeit the ecu, but I have no doubt that if we ever went down that road, attempts would then be made to counterfeit it.

Lord Bruce of Donington: My Lords, since my name has been drawn into this matter, may I ask the noble Lord whether he is aware that there is no question of the ecu being counterfeit because it is merely a myth and a dream?

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: My Lords, I think that the noble Lord has made the point that I made in my initial Answer.

National Lottery: Impact on Betting

2.48 p.m.

Lord Gisborough asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Blatch): My Lords, we are monitoring off-course betting turnover in order to assess the impact of the National Lottery on the horserace betting levy, and plan to report our findings to Parliament in the spring of 1996.

Lord Gisborough: My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that Answer. However, is she aware of, and does she agree with, the estimate of the Henley Centre that a decrease of only 2 per cent. in the betting tax would prevent the threatened closure of some 2,500 betting shops, involving some 7,500 employees who would otherwise become unemployed, and that the loss in revenue from that 2 per cent. would be broadly fiscally neutral?

Baroness Blatch: My Lords, I am aware of the report from the Henley Centre, which was commissioned by

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the Bookmakers Committee. Two points arise from it. First, it is too early to say what impact the lottery is having on off-course race betting and on the levy. The other point is a matter for the Treasury and I cannot possibly pre-empt what may come out in next week's Budget.

Lord Wyatt of Weeford: My Lords, as chairman of the Tote, perhaps I may declare an interest. Are the Government aware that if they do not cut betting duty pretty sharply there will be many fewer betting shops from which to collect any revenue? They will lose revenue by not cutting the tax.

Baroness Blatch: My Lords, the noble Lord overstates his case just a little. The Government have done quite a lot to relax betting shop rules and are still looking at further ways of deregulating. The particular point that the noble Lord makes is a taxation point and one for my friends in the Treasury.

Lord Donoughue: My Lords, perhaps I too may declare an interest, not only as one who often subsidises bookmakers in the life to which they used to be accustomed, but as the unpaid director of one of England's smallest racecourses.

Lord Strathclyde: Oh!

Lord Donoughue: My Lords, small but classy, I agree. I am pleased with the Minister's positive reply that the Government will be meeting the promise that they made during the Committee stage of the National Lottery Etc. Bill that they would monitor and report to Parliament. Will the Minister do her best to see that the present situation is remedied? Is she aware that, according to the latest figures, betting revenue is down by 7.9 per cent., and that that decline coincides entirely with the lottery, and especially with the scratchcards? Will she press as much as possible to see that when the Government report in March 1996 they produce a remedy, the best remedy being to reduce betting duty?

Baroness Blatch: My Lords, it would not be appropriate for me to pre-empt the outcome of the monitoring exercise, nor would it be right at this stage to lay all the reductions in revenue at the lottery's door. It will not be until we have seen the results of the survey that we shall be able to respond positively, but that report will be to Parliament in 1996.

Lord Ewing of Kirkford: My Lords, I wonder whether I may ask a simple question. Is it the Government's policy to encourage or discourage gambling? Which one is it?

Baroness Blatch: My Lords, it is government policy that people should be free to choose.

Lord Bruce of Donington: My Lords, will the Minister tell the House since when it has become politically correct to elevate the status of betting to an industry? Will we presently have the lottery business elevated to an industry? I always thought that "industry" meant something rather more serious than that.

Baroness Blatch: My Lords, it is not for me to be pedantic about the meaning of words, except to say that

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there are a great many people who gain a living from the lottery business, and I believe that the people who work in it are industrious.

Lord Gisborough: My Lords, will my noble friend take into account also that as a result of scratchcards 600 betting offices have notified the Horserace Betting Levy Board that they will have to close? Is she worried that if there are no licensed betting shops betting will go underground and probably be controlled by criminal gangs?

Baroness Blatch: My Lords, the precise point that my noble friend makes will be the subject of the monitoring exercise. It will only be when we report to Parliament as a result of that exercise that we will be able to take the matter further.

Small Fishing Boats: Safety Grants

2.53 p.m.

The Earl of Kinnoull asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How soon they intend to introduce safety grants for 12-metre fishing vessels in the light of the new marine safety agency code of safety practice likely to come into force by 1997.

Lord Lucas: My Lords, that is an issue we shall consider when the code is finalised.

The Earl of Kinnoull: My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that brief reply, and I accept that grants have to be linked to an approved code. Is he aware that the smaller fishing boats represent over 80 per cent. of the entire British fishing fleet, and--perhaps not surprisingly--are subject to a higher degree of accidents than the larger boats? Is he further aware that the larger boats are subject to a code of safety which was approved over 20 years ago? Does he agree that the progress of discussions which have so far taken over two years has been at a somewhat dilatory pace when one considers that this is about safety at sea and fishermen's lives?

Lord Lucas: My Lords, it may interest my noble friend to know that the process of producing the code was put in motion by a report of this House about four years ago. Since then we have been discussing the idea with a large number of organisations. I believe that there are 200 associations of small fishermen. There has been a great deal of discussion required. We have not been seeking to impose a code on a great many unwilling fishermen. We have been seeking to develop a code with them with which they will agree wholeheartedly. I believe that we are very close to succeeding in that. We have taken the time that it required.

Lord Carter: My Lords, in the discussions to which the noble Lord referred, will he tell the House whether the Government will resolve the situation regarding flotation suits? They are made in Scunthorpe and exported to Canada where they are compulsory items on Canadian fishing boats. They are not compulsory here, and have not been eligible for safety grant on any size

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of vessel. In the discussions is it the intention to make flotation suits, which are so important, eligible for safety grant?

Lord Lucas: My Lords, the present position on the present varieties of flotation suit available is that fishermen will not wear them because they are inconvenient to use while fishing. We do not believe that there is any point in making it compulsory to have a suit that no one will use, and so will not in practice save any lives. We are trying hard to find a suit which we can persuade fishermen to use. If that comes about, we shall certainly consider a grant.

The Countess of Mar: My Lords, how does that compare with the protective clothing that sheep farmers are expected to wear?

Lord Lucas: My Lords, dipping sheep at sea is a new one on me, I am afraid. Sheep farmers are proving willing to wear the clothing which is currently available. I believe that they appreciate the risks they would run if they did not do so.

Lord Pearson of Rannoch: My Lords, accepting that hairnets and other items of personal apparel may be something of a Euro-myth, will my noble friend confirm whether the safety code, and any grants that go with it, will be dependent upon a long list of other items imposed by Europe? If so, would he care to name them, or is it so long that he would prefer to write to me?

Lord Lucas: My Lords, there is nothing of Europe and very little of imposition in what we are discussing. We are discussing a code which has been agreed with the industry as a UK initiative.


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