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Horse Racing

Volume 491: debated on Monday 20 April 2009

It is too early to make an assessment of the effect on horse racing, but we continue to monitor the situation in close consultation with industry representatives. I remain confident that the industry is taking the right action to sustain itself and prepare for recovery.

I thank my hon. Friend for that reply, but given the current economic situation, does he agree that now must be the time to modernise the future of horse racing by replacing the out-of-date levy system with a new system that is fit for the 21st century? That can be achieved only by all sections of the racing industry working together constructively to get that system off the ground.

I congratulate my hon. Friend on his work with the all-party group on racing and bloodstock industries. He has heard me say before that the important thing for racing is for the industry to work together to succeed. That means all parts of the industry: the owners, the trainers, the jockeys and the betting industry. They have to come together, and the mechanism for doing that is through the levy. We want to see a successful outcome to the levy discussions, but that does not remove the need to continue with the modernisation programme and ensure that a great industry goes from strength to strength.

We all agree that the levy needs modernising, but does the Minister agree that the three-year deal offered by the bookmakers will provide stability for racing through difficult economic times and give some breathing space to allow a new, modernised levy to emerge, which probably would not happen if we continued with a year-on-year roll-over of the levy?

I also congratulate the hon. Gentleman on his work with the all-party group. He is right to say that, in these difficult times, a three-year deal would give a stability that no other sector would have, but that would certainly not prevent any modernisation from taking place. The two can go together in tandem. I would be very happy if a three-year deal could be agreed, but I would also want to ensure that we continued with the modernisation agenda.