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Volume 660: debated on Thursday 23 May 2019

1. What assessment he has made of the contribution of horse-racing to (a) social, (b) cultural and (c) economic life. [R] (911063)

Our world leading horse-racing industry employs over 17,000 people and contributes around £3.5 billion to rural economies across Britain each year. The Government support British racing, and our reforms to the horse-race betting levy have established a firm financial basis to support the sport.

I am very proud to be the joint chairman of the all-party parliamentary racing and bloodstock industries group. Like many Members across the House, I strongly support our fantastic sport and our fantastic British horse-racing industry, but the sport does face challenges. Given that the yield from the levy is £17 million less than forecast, what measures will the Secretary of State and the Government take, working with British horse-racing to ensure its long-term financial sustainability?

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman, not just for what he says, but also for the valuable work he does with the APPG to support the industry. He is right that the levy receipts this year will be lower than expected, but he will recognise that there was a very substantial increase last year because the Government reformed the levy in order to bring offshore bookmakers into scope. That was an important change to give the industry a broader and more substantial financial base. We will look at future changes to the levy that may be appropriate to deal with any change in circumstances, but it is right to allow the substantial changes that we made last year to bed in. We will of course discuss with the hon. Gentleman and the APPG what further action may be appropriate.

As the other co-chairman of the APPG, may I refer the House to my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests? I am sure that the Secretary of State is aware of the recent Racing Together Community Day. Does he agree that, with 60 racecourses across the country, horse-racing has a wonderful opportunity to reach out to very many people, including schoolchildren, and can he help us to support that action?

In order to be even-handed, I should offer equal thanks and congratulations to my hon. Friend for the work that he does with the APPG. He is right that horse-racing can make a significant contribution —not just to our sporting life, but to our broader community life. It is important that young people understand the sport and understand horses, and we welcome any opportunity that the industry has to support that.