Lord Moyne: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply. Do Her Majesty's Government accept that the prima facie case against NATO for crimes against peace is as strong as that against Slobodan Milosevic for crimes against humanity? Do they accept that, unless both sides are equally prosecuted, any verdict against Milosevic will be totally discredited?
Lord Lester of Herne Hill: My Lords, is the Minister aware that many international lawyers, wholly independent of the Government, regard international law in this area as being clearly on the side of the action taken by NATO and supported by the leadership of the Government?
Viscount Falkland: My Lords, may I put it to the Minister that we should not be considering this interesting Question if the Tote were doing what it was initially set up to do; namely, to run pool betting? Does the Minister agree that on the principle, "If you can't beat them, join them", it has effectively become a bookmaker? Is that not why privatisation is being considered? Is there a possibility that the Tote could revert to being an operator of pool betting? Could it be provided with the circumstances in which it could flourish and get rid of the bookmaking part?
Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, I do not think that there is a realistic prospect of getting rid of bookmakers in this country. Earlier this week, in answer to the noble Baroness, Lady Trumpington, I pointed out that there was bookmaking activity in Alderney. In Hansard it is given as "Orkney", and I believe that to be incorrect!
The Tote still is the pool betting operator in this country. The noble Viscount is right. Over recent years, the Tote has extended its own estate of bookmaking offices--in other words, licensed betting shops. The statement made by the Home Secretary on 12th May is unambiguous. The necessary legislation will be the subject of consultation in due time.
Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, the net profits of the Tote essentially go back into the racing industry. It is an unusual position, but it is not unique. The water authorities are in a similar position, and they were subject to primary legislation; so was British Aerospace. The position is unusual, but not unique. I believe that I have correctly represented the legal position. I am shocked that my noble friend should ever be despairing of either lawyers or the law.
Viscount Astor: My Lords, does the Minister agree that the Government's proposal to dispose of the Tote is a change of policy, and a snub for the Foreign Secretary, who said clearly and often before the last election that a Labour government would never sell the Tote? Does he agree that the Tote should operate for the benefit of racing, and that that can best be achieved by the British Horseracing Board, which represents racing, taking over the Tote? On what basis can the Government demand payment for the Tote when they have never put a single penny into the Tote since it was created in 1928?
Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, it is not a case of demanding payment. It is a case of proposing to both Houses of Parliament primary legislation, which it is then for Parliament to decide upon. When that primary legislation is passed, if it is passed, then the interests of all parties concerned will have to be taken into account. Those were the recommendations in the steering group's report. The report said that the interests to be taken into account were those of the taxpayer as well as other stakeholders. I believe that the Government are acting prudently, as a proper steward of something that may well bring revenue to the taxpayer as well as benefit to racing.
Earl Ferrers: My Lords, as the Minister is so able, in so far as he can argue for and against the Tote according to the temperature of the day, does that mean that the views that he expresses on the House of Lords Bill should be taken with equal abandon?
Lord Evans of Parkside: My Lords, is my noble friend aware that some of us on this side of the House have difficulty in understanding why a Labour Government are proposing to privatise the Tote? Is he further aware that, unless the interests of the racing industry and the considerable contribution that the Tote
Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, I said in my earlier Answer that it would be necessary to introduce primary legislation to bring the Tote fully into public ownership, which I am sure my noble friend would welcome. Thereafter, as the report of the steering group makes absolutely plain, there are a number of legitimate interests to be taken into account. One is the interest of the taxpayer and the public; one is the interest of the racing industry, which is very important. I stress that we are looking to consultation with all those who are concerned and all the different legitimate interests.
Baroness Gardner of Parkes: My Lords, are the appointments to the board made in the normal way that appointments to public bodies are made? If so, how many women directors are, or have been, on the Tote board?
Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, I do not know how many women are on the board. However, I shall make it my business to discover that interesting fact this afternoon and immediately write to the noble Baroness and place a copy of the letter in the Library.
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