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Lord Renton: My Lords, the noble and learned Lord has given us a fairly full explanation of the regulations and I am sure that we are all grateful for that fact. However, perhaps he will enlighten us on two matters. First, we need to know more about the nature of the membership of the panel. If it were to consist largely of lawyers that would not help. Those appointed need to be people who have clinical expertise--that is to say, medical, dental and nursing expertise. I say that because the decisions they will have to take will, I believe, require such expertise. Therefore, can the noble and learned Lord give us some idea of the sort of people who will be chosen to serve on the panel? Secondly--and I only infer this from what he said--but will the noble and learned Lord be more specific and say how long it will be before the panel is appointed?

Lord Kingsland: My Lords, the Opposition give a qualified welcome to these regulations. We entirely accept that it is important for the country that cases of the complexity of clinical negligence cases receive the best possible specialist advice available.

In drafting the regulations, I note that the Government have relied heavily on two statistics. The first is that in 1996-97 the average claim litigated by specialist solicitors, who belong to one or other of the two specialist associations, yielded £48,000; and the second is that two-fifths of the cases which were begun by solicitors operating under legal aid did not conclude either in settlement or in a successful outcome as a consequence of litigation.

I ask the noble and learned Lord to look at those statistics very carefully if he is to use them as a basis for developing the system set out under the regulations. As far as concerns the average figure of £48,000, one would expect specialist solicitors to deal with the more complicated and higher-yielding cases. Therefore, I am not at all surprised to learn that specialist solicitors litigating in clinical negligence cases obtain a much higher return for their clients than solicitors who litigate negligence cases, in general. One would expect ordinary personal injury solicitors to be instructed in clinical negligence cases of less importance.

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As regards the figure of two-fifths, one of the reasons why a large number of clinical negligence cases do not end either in settlement or in court actions is that, in many instances, there has to be a big initial investment of money before a legal adviser is in a position to assess risk. In my judgment, the figure of two-fifths is not at all out of the ordinary. I hope that the Government are not reading too much into it.

Having said that, your Lordships' House should support the intention behind the regulation. I express concern only about the fact that there seem to be so few specialist solicitors available at the moment to deal with clinical negligence cases. I also express concern that the geographical distribution of these solicitors is so uneven. I understand that there are only 20 properly qualified solicitors in Wales and hardly any in the East Anglian area. Either the experts will have to travel a long distance to meet the victims or the victims will have to travel a long distance to meet the experts. I am sure that the noble and learned Lord has given this due consideration. I hope that he will be able to reflect further upon this matter before the end of this debate.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: I am grateful for the support from the noble Lord, Lord Kingsland.

Let me first deal with the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Renton. In effect, these regulations limit the firms of solicitors who can obtain legal aid for the purpose of medical negligence cases. They do not set up any sort of adjudicatory panel; they simply identify that you can get legal aid for a clinical negligence case only if you are on the panel that the regulations set up. The suggestion by the noble Lord, Lord Renton, about having non-lawyers on the panel is not quite the point of the regulations. The date on which the panel comes into force is 1st February 1999.

The noble Lord, Lord Kingsland, made the point that we should not set too much store by the two statistics that were relied on--namely, the result or success rate as between those who will become the panel and those not on the panel--and we should not set too much store by the size of the damages because you would expect the more experienced lawyers to be doing the bigger cases.

One should not look at any statistic in isolation; one should look at the whole picture. Applying the existing panel as a guideline for the firms that will be on the panel, they achieve success in 28 per cent. of the cases they are involved in; those not on the panel achieve a rate of success in either 17 or 18 per cent. That is quite a significant statistic. I take the point of the noble Lord, Lord Kingsland, that one should not be too influenced by the amount of damages recovered, but again it is of significance.

The statistics support one's own instincts. Medical negligence cases are very difficult and involve great sensitivity both in the assessment of evidence and in dealings with clients. It would be much better if people of experience conducted these sort of cases. It is not surprising that the statistics tend to support the view that those who have experience tend to get better results.

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One's instincts and also statistics tend to support these regulations. In those circumstances, I commend the regulations to the House.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Business

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, before the Clerk calls the next business, may I remind the House that the police inquiries referred to in the Question could result in court proceedings some time in the future. Noble Lords taking part in the debate should be aware of the relationship that exists between Parliament and the courts and should be restrained in what they say.

Horse Racing

5.53 p.m.

Viscount Falkland rose to ask Her Majesty's Government whether they are satisfied with the way in which the current inquiry into possible criminal activities in horse racing is proceeding and, in particular, whether they consider that damage could be done to the reputation of jockeys who are arrested and subsequently released without charge in the course of the inquiry.

The noble Viscount said: My Lords, I fear that we have been caught somewhat on the hop--if that is the right expression in a debate dealing with horse racing--because the expected business in your Lordships' House is as unpredictable as the running of the horses which are so close to the subject of this debate.

Let me say straightaway that, although I am the spokesman for culture, media and sport on these Benches, sport is something that I usually leave to one of my younger colleagues. On this occasion I have, on my own initiative, decided to ask this Question. I am very grateful to those Peers who have put their names down to speak in this debate. I notice that the noble Lord, Lord Burnham, is not in his place, but we are almost up to strength. Those who miss listening to this debate will have the opportunity to read what was said in tomorrow's newspapers.

I have been a passionate racegoer since my early childhood--I might say even my pre-teen years--and this resulted in something of a misspent youth. I have become a reformed reprobate in that I hardly ever bet these days--I cannot afford to do so. I do not own horses--although I have owned bits of horses in the past--and I have even given up tipping horses. Last year I tipped the winner of the Derby at 33-1 to quite a large group of friends at Sunningdale Golf Club. I have retired because, like my right honourable friend in another place, I wish to leave at the top--and I cannot beat that.

I wish to question the Government, through the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, about the unprecedented situation that exists at the moment. Racing, like politics, has always abounded with rumours. There have always been rumours of scandals in racing. That happens wherever there are large sums of money--and gambling, after all, is one of the motives

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of racing. Some people might like to deny that, but nevertheless gambling is a strong and important part of the world of racing.

I cannot remember there ever being a situation where, out of the blue, a number of prominent racing personalities--most of them jockeys--have been arrested and taken for questioning in the full glare of publicity. The noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, when answering the debate, may like to deal with that point. It seems to me that in any judicial practice it is extremely unsatisfactory for arrests to be made in the early hours of the morning in the full glare of publicity. Who told the newspapers and television companies that those arrests would take place in the early hours of the morning?

I have been driven to ask this Question by my concern for the people--most of them jockeys--who were arrested and charged. They were then bailed. They assisted the police with their inquiries and were then discharged. I am fully aware of the warning that was given before the start of this debate, I do not wish to address any individual case.

To my certain knowledge, the result has been that the family life of a number of the jockeys--perhaps all of them--has suffered a good deal. They have been fully aware--as sportsmen with a short earning life are always aware--that anything which impinges on their integrity in the public arena in which they perform will inevitably affect their careers in one way or another--mud sticks. I would like to ask the noble Lord a fundamental question. Is it not at least unsatisfactory that these inquiries should have gone on for so long? It seems to me with my knowledge of racing--other noble Lords may know more about this than I do--that the sport has been governed admirably over centuries by the Jockey Club. In these modern times the Jockey Club employs experienced and expert security officers who are always alert and on the look out for irregular occurrences in the world of racing. Vigilance is the key. I would never say that racing is whiter than white, but nor would I say that it is irredeemably corrupt. My view is that it tends to be nearer white than corrupt. Nevertheless, in every field the unexpected happens.

It seems to me that something must have been going on because undoubtedly the Jockey Club's security services must have seen something which led them to report to the stewards of the Jockey Club events which needed to be investigated and which were likely to lead to criminal proceedings. So good so far. However, why should there be this spate of arrests of jockeys and these investigations which have now gone on for well over a year with full press coverage, some of which is extremely helpful and accurate but some of which is ludicrous? On the ludicrous side, I read suggestions that jockeys may knowingly have ridden horses that had been doped. Anyone who has any knowledge of horses, particularly thoroughbred horses, realises that knowingly to ride a horse which has been doped, particularly with a sedative as opposed to a stimulant, would be suicidal. It is the same as driving a Formula One motor car knowing that the wheel nuts are not

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tightened. Therefore I discount that theory and I dare say that during the inquiries that has already been discounted.

In the normal course of events, when allegations of this kind are put to the police by the Jockey Club--quite correctly as it has no statutory right to take an inquiry any further--would the police normally interview people who might be involved in activities of the kind we are discussing? Surely these people would not normally be arrested without being interviewed. Has there been a difficulty in interviewing people the police thought could be helpful in their inquiries?

Jockeys have suffered most from these events. As I understand the position, these jockeys have mostly been arrested in the full glare of publicity and they have helped the police with their inquiries. This is a way of trawling through the complicated world of racing in order to get a better picture of what is going on. One cannot expect police officers to be experts on racing. Racing is a part of our leisure activities and an important business. It is also part of our heritage. It is a complicated area of activity. One would not expect the police to have any profound knowledge of racing. It seems that the police have gathered their information by means of arrests.

I do not particularly sing the praises of the judicial systems of other European countries. However, it seems to me that under our adversarial system the police gather facts. In a country with an inquisitorial system such as France, it is likely that if the Societe d'Encouragement--which is the relevant body in France--felt that a case needed to be answered, presumably an examining judge or magistrate would conduct an inquiry and complete a dossier. Witnesses would be called--one could call 80 jockeys if one wished--and a stigma would not be attached to a jockey going through that procedure. I and many others believe that the prolonged procedure in this country, with no charges of race fixing or anything of that kind being laid, indicates that the police have experienced great difficulty in confirming the charges that were alleged.

I do not criticise the system or the police inquiries. The inquiries have been prolonged, but that is the way the police have seen fit to conduct them. However, the effect on the families and professional careers of those who have been arrested and released pending further action has been devastating. In my more than 50 years' experience of racing I have never encountered so much concern among the people involved in racing. My early childhood hero was the late Lord Mildmay. As a small boy I used to follow him round, watching him ride his own horses wearing a brace, as his neck had been broken. I am afraid that he was largely responsible for my misspent career! I mentioned that today to the noble Lord, Lord Oaksey, who probably represents the same kind of public figure. I hope that he will write about this matter. I note that he is not present tonight. I should have liked to hear him speak on this matter. I hope that the Minister will agree that I am right to be anxious about the way these proceedings have been carried out and the effect on those who have been arrested and who have had their lives disrupted.

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6.7 p.m.

Lord Sandberg: My Lords, there is an old adage which says that where there is money, there are crooks. I believe that is an adage which still holds true these days. Many years ago a well-known US conman-- I believe his name was Willie Sutton--when asked by his arresting officer why he always tried to work his scams on banks, famously replied that that was where the money was. As an ex-banker I am glad to say that he spent more time inside prison than outside. However, he might have added racecourses to his schemes, as increasingly that is where the money is.

As a former bank chairman and a previous chairman of the stewards of the Royal Hong Kong Jockey Club, I have seen all too many attempts to defraud. In the case of racing it is generally the poor old public who are the victims. There are, of course, many ways of fixing a race. Doping horses is, I suggest, the most heinous but probably the most crude. It is by no means the only way to fix a race. As we all know, a clever jockey can achieve victory by superlative riding, as we have seen in this country. All of us who are interested in horse racing become excited when we see a jockey almost carry his mount over the line when people thought there was no hope. Of course a clever jockey can also fix a race by contriving to be slow out of the stalls, by giving his horse too much to do at the finish or perhaps by apparently getting his horse unluckily boxed in and thereby unable to obtain a real run when it is needed. The possibilities are almost endless.

My noble friend Lord Falkland said that gambling is an integral part of racing, and of course it is. The punter, always thinking that he is right, will blame something for his own mistakes--the jockey has pulled the horse, the going is bad. It is always somebody else's fault, not the punter's. The time taken over this case only tends to reinforce those who feel that they have lost money not from their own fault but from that of the people who ride.

I do not condone any of the tricks, however clever, that may be perpetrated; but equally, like my noble friend, I cannot condone the tactics sometimes employed in apprehending persons suspected of foul play. It may be necessary to arrest suspects at dawn, but it is not for the press and TV cameras to be present. It can only be by inspired leaks from the authorities that they so fortuitously turn up when arrests are made.

As an occasional but not very successful follower of horse racing, I heartily applaud when culprits are brought to justice, whether by the police or stewards on the course. The duty stewards of the day initiate inquiries and although they are in my experience meticulously fair to the jockey, trainer or, even occasionally, owner, they are not subject to the constraints of a court of law and can generally come quickly to a decision. As an aside, when the noble Lord, Lord Oaksey, came to Hong Kong to help with an inquiry, he thought the methods there were about as thorough as he had ever come across in the world of horse racing and far better than court proceedings. In the noble Lord, Lord Oaksey, we have someone who knows a thing or three about racing.

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I fully realise that the police may be required to become involved from time to time and we can only welcome attempts to keep horse racing as clean as possible. I like to think that we will not in future have the unedifying sight of the media's lights flashing at supposedly surprise raids on the houses of jockeys and trainers. That is manifestly unfair on persons who are subsequently released without charge or who are exonerated after a trial. Sometimes, such behaviour smacks of the exact opposite of one of the fundamentals of English justice, which is that a person is deemed innocent until proven guilty.

I do not know what undertakings the Minister can give, but I hope that he will assure us that the privacy that all citizens in this country should unquestionably enjoy before full police investigations or a trial will be preserved in future dawn police raids.

6.13 p.m.

Lord Lloyd-Webber: My Lords, we are all grateful to the noble Viscount, Lord Falkland, for introducing this debate. I am fully aware that the matter is sub judice and that a number of issues cannot be discussed. When I put my name down to speak, I wanted to share with your Lordships a number of matters surrounding one investigation but I have been told that they too are sub judice.

I can do no more than endorse the remarks of the noble Viscount and noble Lord. We must remember that one is dealing with young people at the height of their careers--not only jockeys but others who have been implicated. The consequences of wrongful arrest and the possible damages that could be commanded should be looked at seriously. It is strange that so many people should have known of particular cases almost in advance. We should celebrate the good humour that many young people have shown in what have been extremely difficult times for them.

This debate has taken place at a quicker pace than we might have thought. I urge the Minister to move the inquiry along as soon as possible. If he wishes to have any of the information that I know, I shall be happy to share it with him.

6.14 p.m.

Lord Rowallan: My Lords, I thank the noble Viscount, Lord Falkland, for introducing this debate and I declare an interest as a race-horse owner, albeit that I am without a horse as we speak.

Many, including the noble Earl, Lord Carnarvon, have stated outside your Lordships' House that we should not be having this debate as the whole matter is sub judice. The noble Lord, Lord McIntosh of Haringey, wants us to be careful for the same reason. I find it hard to go along with that. First, no one has been charged. Secondly, the inquiry has been dragging on for two years and nothing has been proved. I am told, albeit it unofficially, that the Jockey Club is fed up because the situation is not doing the sport any good and it wants to give up the whole matter. I hope that happens soon.

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I hope that this debate will increase pressure on the Fraud Squad to put up or shut up. The whole racing fraternity is fed up to the back teeth with the whole saga. They ask how can there be dirty tricks with TV monitors in every bookies, trackside cameras all around the course and a mobile camera following the action.

Horses are not machines. They have their off days just like us. They have strains and bellyache just like us. They get toothache and backache just like us. The difference is that horses cannot speak and all too often their aches and pains go unnoticed on the day. My daughter showjumps for Great Britain, to my immense pride. Last year, she went to the European Young Rider Championships in Lisbon. The horse went extremely well but on coming back to Scotland, then down to London for the Horse of the Year Show it went dreadfully--knocking down fences everywhere. One does not get in a British team with horses that knock down fences. That performance was unusual, to say the least. It turned out that the horse had a blood cell imbalance. As I said, horses are not machines, but animals that need to be looked after carefully.

We all acknowledge that racing is a gambling sport. The money is huge at the top and dreadful at the bottom. Racing is in a mess and the industry needs a shot in the arm of adrenaline, not distrust and skull-duggery--especially where there is no evidence of any wrong-doing. The other day yet more jockeys were arrested.

If a horse has a wind problem and the jockey sees a mammoth fence coming up, the sensible thing is to stop; otherwise, the jockey is likely to hurt himself or his horse. All too often, the horse--which the jockey will not own but is worth a lot of money--is not insured. Equally, if the horse is not particularly brilliant and enters a race with a small field, one hopes that the others will make a mistake, so that the horse can come through and win a share of the prize money.

The main problem is that the racing game is all about money. The bookies are not putting enough into the sport. The whole industry, except for the bookmakers, agrees that is so. We need a stronger Tote and a more cohesive racing world in Britain. Sheikh Mohammed's withdrawal of 100 of his horses is just the tip of the iceberg. The question is being asked more and more around racehorses and stables today whether the bookies started the inquiry as a means of diverting attention from the lack of their contribution to racing. This at a time when there is a crisis in the labour market. We are not begetting, to use that marvellous biblical word, enough small people these days. Everybody is too tall to become a jockey.

The modern labour force does not want to work seven days a week and our Government do not want to let it do so. Another problem is that trainers are not rich enough to have sufficient tied cottages to house their staff. So there is a problem of where to put everyone.

I am forced to ask: do members of the Fraud Squad, based in London as they are, understand the world of racing? I gather that they are asking some weird questions of those whom they are so publicly arresting and in relation to whom they are subsequently dropping

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charges. Have they perhaps read too many Dick Francis novels--excellent works of fiction as they are--and believe that fiction is necessarily interfaced with fact? Too many people have now been arrested and let go. Their reputations suffer. There is a stain on the character, as anyone who has been falsely accused of an offence can testify. It is not a nice thing to have against your name. People's lives are being turned upside down in the full glare of the media for transparently no reason at all. It is giving the wrong impression about the sport to the general public.

People in horse racing are there for the love of the horse and the love of the sport, whether it is myself in the world of showjumping, my noble friend in the world of eventing, or those in racing. It does not matter. We are all there for one reason, and one reason only. Racing and the equestrian world as a whole provide a fantastic sport. It is one where the working man meets the aristocracy; where the rich and the poor meet on equal terms; where the horse becomes part of the human jockey on its back and suffers from all the foibles of such a marriage. We are followers of the sport of equestrianism because of the uncertainty of that marriage between horse and rider, whether jockey, trainer, owner, or humble stable-hand.

Where there is money, there are of course occasionally dodgy deals. But no more true in our industry than it is in the City, the big world of finance, or the local shop. We merely have to visit any stable around Britain to feel the palpable excitement that exists. As Jamie Osborne, the jockey, and one of those accused and later released without charge, has said:


    "Nobody is going to betray this sport in the way the police believe it has been betrayed".

I say to the police, the Fraud Squad and the Minister: before any more damage is done, let us put this matter to bed once and for all. The police must stop wasting public money looking for something that is simply not there. They must stop messing with people's lives. They must either bring a case to court now or go away and let us horse lovers try to resurrect our sport to its proper standing in this country. It is a great sport, offering so much to so many. We must not let this nonsense denigrate it any more.

6.22 p.m.

Viscount Astor: My Lords, I, too, thank the noble Viscount, Lord Falkland, for introducing this debate. As the speeches have indicated, such a debate is useful. It is neither ridiculous nor ludicrous, as it was described by one noble Lord in this morning's Racing Post. Indeed, I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Oaksey, is present.

I must declare an interest too. In my time I have been a punter and an owner. I have trained point-to-pointers; I have even ridden in point-to-points. I hesitate to use the word "jockey". A jockey is usually someone who helps the horse round the course. I was a burden on the horses that I rode, as a cursory look at my riding record would show. However, after a great many circuits of various point-to-points, I finally managed to win the local members' race.

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We must remind ourselves that the British racing industry is a major employer and generator of revenue for the Government and the betting industry. Racing and breeding support some 60,000 jobs in this country. A further 40,000 people are employed in the betting industry. Over 70 per cent. of that industry's business is concerned with horse racing. Racing and breeding exports are worth over £90 million a year. Income generated by racing and breeding exceeds £600 million annually. Racing and breeding raises around £150 million a year in tax, and in excess of a further £300 million a year in betting duty through betting on horse racing. And, most important, some 5 million people attend race meetings annually. That places in context the importance of the sport and to how many people the sport matters.

Turning to the Question asked by the noble Viscount, Lord Falkland, when the Jockey Club security department uncovers any prima facie evidence of criminal activity, as a non-statutory body it has a duty to present such evidence to the police. In this investigation evidence was first presented to the police in February 1997, and since then the responsibility for the matter has lain clearly and properly with the police. The Metropolitan Police has sole responsibility for the criminal investigation, including the arresting and charging of individuals.

There are concerns, and one should note the timetables. In February 1997, the Jockey Club security department passed evidence to the police. The first arrest took place on 27th January 1998. The last arrest took place on 13th January 1999. This investigation has been going on for nearly two years. That is a long time. Progress has been slow. Fifteen people have been arrested but, as has been pointed out, no one has yet been charged.

Rather than commenting on the matter, perhaps it is best to quote some of the comments in the racing press. First, perhaps I may quote from an article in the Racing Post for Thursday, 21st January, which stated:


    "the racing industry's frustration was further fuelled by news from Scotland Yard that the probe is to have its third change of leader within four months".
On 24th January an article in Sunday Business stated:


    "The direction of the police investigation has certainly looked confused at times and, according to one of those interviewed by the police, their knowledge of racing is limited".
It is not surprising that their knowledge of racing is limited. My point, however, is that there are concerns within the racing industry.

Perhaps the best quotation that I can offer to your Lordships is from an article by Brough Scott, a distinguished racing commentator. He wrote:


    "Pursuit is one thing, but how close are the hunters to actually bringing down their quarry? Dawn arrests of leading figures who are then released without charge--and in some cases ... without interview--does not give the impression that the hunt is on the scent. It looks more like a pack galloping around heedless of who it harms".

That is the impression in the racing industry. I am sure that the Minister will take note of it. There have been dawn raids, arrests, bail, re-bail; in some cases there have been arrests and it has taken 10 months for those arrested to be cleared.

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The British Horseracing Board is aware that the length of the police investigation has been a source of concern and that last week's arrests have fuelled anxiety in some quarters about the impact of the investigation on the image of racing. I understand that it is the board's view that,


    "the overwhelming priority is that such investigations should be both independent and thorough, thereby ensuring that everything possible is done to safeguard British racing as a sport with a reputation for integrity which is second to none".
I fully endorse that statement.

The British Horseracing Board goes on to state that,


    "while recognising that such cases are intrinsically complex and can, inevitably, be time-consuming, the Board shares the view that it is in the best interests of racing, and of those directly involved, that the investigation should be brought to a conclusion as speedily as possible".
On 12th January the board wrote to the Crown Prosecution Service to that effect. That is the view of those in racing. It is not our view on this side of the House; I merely point it out to the Minister. I am sure that he will take on board those concerns.

This is a difficult situation. No one has been charged, but the industry is affected. One commentator has said:


    "the mud is beginning to stick to the sport of racing as comprehensively as it would in a three-mile chase at Plumpton in heavy going".
Anyone who has been to Plumpton in heavy going will understand how the mud sticks there. Jockeys are being looked at. Rightly or wrongly, a jockey is often presumed by the public to be the most obvious accomplice because he has the best opportunity to affect the result in any coup. Anyone who knows about racing knows that most of the time that is not true.

None of us can pretend that racing is completely clean, but nor is it bent, as are some other sports which are racked by drugs and gambling scams. I believe that the majority of racing is a clean sport; there are distinguished people in it; and the punter is extremely well protected, by and large, by the Jockey Club, the British Horseracing Board and the others involved.

I cannot leave the matter without taking the opportunity to ask the Government whether they are still seriously considering the proposals of the British Horseracing Board with regard to transferring the Tote to the board and the replacement of the levy system with a single system. That should enable the Government to concentrate on gambling regulation and deregulation and leave racing and the betting industry to enter into commercial agreements which will be for the benefit of racing and betting as well as the Government. I realise that the Minister will probably not give me an answer on the future of racing tonight, but I am sure he understands that I must use the occasion to make the point.

I shall wind up by saying that most of us have to accept that when our horses do not win, whether we are owner, trainer, jockey or punter, it is not because the industry is bent. It is because we have picked the wrong horse and another horse has run a better race. Alternatively it may have been better trained or better ridden. But there can only be one winner in a horse

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race. In every race there are bound to be those who are disappointed. I look forward to the Minister's reply. I realise that while he is restricted in what he can say this evening, he will undoubtedly have listened carefully to all the points which have been made.

6.31 p.m.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, the noble Viscount was trying to lead me astray but I shall not get bogged down in the question of the Tote or the betting levy. As I have said on past occasions, I have had many years' experience of acting for and against all the major bookmakers, including the Tote; so I have a certain knowledge of the background.

There is little I can offer by way of specific detail. The police investigation of the allegations which were made by the Jockey Club is active and continuing. One should bear in mind what the Jockey Club has said:


    "This investigation has generated adverse publicity. The last thing the Jockey Club wants is for the sport it regulates to be damaged. However, if public confidence is to be maintained, it is vital that allegations of malpractice are thoroughly investigated and where such allegations are proved, appropriate action is taken against the perpetrators".
It seems to me that in that citation the Jockey Club has put its finger on the point. After all, it has the interests of the sport very much at heart since it regulates it in many important ways.

I take the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Sandberg: the right of individuals to a decent respect for their privacy. In the context of what a number of noble Lords said, if it is suggested--and these are allegations and counter-allegations in the nature of things--that there was wrong police behaviour in any context at any time, there is, of course, the avenue of complaint which any aggrieved citizen in this country has: namely, the Police Complaints Authority. Alternatively, if there has been unlawful behaviour by any police officer, the opportunity to sue for damages is available to a jockey, trainer or anyone involved in racing in exactly the same way as it is open to any other citizen of our country.

There is a balance between the public interest in demonstrating that such an enormously successful and important industry is cleanly run and the protection of the private individual: he is entitled to his privacy, even though he earns his living in the public arena.

A number of points were made by the noble Viscount, Lord Falkland. He asked whether it was normal to arrest before interview. That is a matter within the discretion of the investigating officers. It is not abnormal, in my experience. He mentioned some continental jurisdictions and the way they do things there. I would not be enormously happy in introducing continental methods of inquisition into our system. Often they take longer, notoriously, and people are kept in custody for a long time. Without being unduly chauvinistic, I think by and large we do things better here, having a proper balance between the public interest and private rights.

Some investigations take a long time. I speak from personal experience at the Bar; for example,

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investigations into the arcane problems of local government corruption. They take a long time because they are difficult to investigate. A number of noble Lords rightly said that investigating racing or allegations of malpractice in the racing context is not easy.

I reiterate what the noble Viscount, Lord Astor, said: racing is a very successful industry, it has a good tradition, it has proved itself to be adaptable and responsible to challenge. I hope its inherent strength and popularity will continue. But if one wants strength, it depends on public confidence. Any allegations of wrongdoing must be thoroughly investigated. That applies in the racing context, as it applies in local government and in business, in any kind of allegedly criminal activity. I stress the word "allegedly". It would be quite wrong of me to indicate anything about whether the police investigation is being properly carried out, whether the timescale has been right or what my private views might be about the guilt or innocence of those involved in the investigation. It would be utterly wrong.

The noble Lord, Lord Lloyd-Webber, was courteous, helpful and scrupulous in the way that he confined his remarks. I am grateful for that. With his domestic background he will be able to confirm that in the breeding of thoroughbreds anyway the hereditary principle has some demonstrable virtue!

I do not believe that anyone has been prejudging the outcome. I understand the force and vigour with which the noble Lord, Lord Rowallan, expressed himself. I must be more cautious because it is quite wrong either to prejudice a prospective defendant or to prejudice a prospective prosecution. I emphasise the single adjective "prospective".

It is not for the Government in a free society to interfere in operational policing or investigative matters. There are other continental jurisdictions where we have seen too often that state interference with police investigations has been extremely dangerous.

I am sorry that one or two noble Lords made adverse references--indeed sometimes rather harsh references--to the noble Earl, Lord Carnarvon. I do not think there is anyone who is a more honourable, dedicated and committed supporter of clean racing in this country. I am bound to say that I personally found any criticism of him disagreeable and it would have been better left unsaid. He was expressing a personal view, honourably held. I suggest that he was perfectly entitled to have his own views and to express them.

The history briefly is the following: a serious complaint was made to the Metropolitan Police by the Jockey Club in March 1997. The club's view is that if it has serious allegations, it has a duty, as any other citizen does, to bring it to the attention of the police. It discharged that duty. I suggest that had it not done so it would have been criticised as being in dereliction of its duty.

The organised crime group of the Metropolitan Police was given the inquiry and it has been carrying

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on its investigations since May 1997. The allegations focus on a conspiracy to defraud. They are being undertaken by a team of officers led by a detective superintendent. I can assure your Lordships that the case continues to be the subject of reporting between the Metropolitan Police Service and the Crown Prosecution Service and there has been close and extensive consultation between the Crown Prosecution Service and Crown Counsel. To date 16 arrests have been made, six have been eliminated from the inquiry, the remaining 10 are on police bail, nine are due to return on 10th March this year and the other one on 17th March.

That is the up-to-date material that I can put before your Lordships. It will not satisfy your Lordships because, in the nature of these debates, we are all

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treading on extremely thin ice and I have reminded myself of the advice given by my noble friend Lord McIntosh of Haringey to all of us:


    "It is quite wrong to prejudice either a possible prosecution or possible defendants".

I do recognise the concerns that have been expressed. They have been fully ventilated, not just in the racing press but in the press generally, and I can assure your Lordships that the Metropolitan Police want an appropriately prompt outcome, as does the CPS; but you cannot always prosecute every case on the basis that it is simply "shoplifting a banana from Tesco's". This is quite difficult territory; it is quite difficult to investigate. I take note of the concerns which have been expressed by your Lordships. I fully understand the spirit of them and I can assure the House that the CPS and the Metropolitan Police are alert to them.

        House adjourned at twenty minutes before seven o'clock.

25 Jan 1999 : Column 867


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