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Lords and Commons Committees criticise Government's ‘inappropriate' horseracing legislation

7 December 2018

The Government's approach to introducing wholesale changes to how horseracing is funded limits scrutiny from MPs and Peers and consultation with the racing industry, two Parliamentary committees warn.

In a pair of reports, the House of Lords Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee and the House of Commons Regulatory Reform Committee urge the Government to pursue plans to abolish the Horseracing Betting Levy Board by introducing a Bill in Parliament rather than through delegated legislation.

The Government is seeking to use a Legislative Reform Order to redistribute the Levy Board's powers to the Gambling Commission and an as yet undesignated body expected to be created by the horseracing industry. The board currently collects a levy from bookmakers involved in the racing industry which is then used to fund improvements to horseracing, veterinary education and horse welfare.

The Commons Regulatory Reform Committee, in particular, considered that Government's proposals failed to meet the statutory tests required for using such an order because it removes the new Racing Authority from the scope of Freedom of Information legislation, makes significant changes to the administering of a tax, and lacks a formal right of consultation for animal welfare and veterinary groups and the betting industry.

The Lords Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee took principally issue with using a Legislative Reform Order to abolish a statutory body, to be replaced by a non-statutory body, the appointment of which would not be subject to parliamentary scrutiny.

The Committees made no judgement on the policy being proposed but have concluded that the changes being proposed are not suitable for a Legislative Reform Order, which has limited Parliamentary scrutiny and no opportunities for MPs and Peers to amend the plans.

The Committees were also unconvinced by the Government's vague assessments of the financial and administrative benefits for which the Order was being proposed. 

Lord Blencathra, Chair of the Lords Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee, said: 

“Horseracing means a lot to many in this country. We were told by the Minister that it provided 17,000 jobs, and that over six million people enjoyed a day out at the races every year. It is therefore vitally important that changes to the way in which the horseracing levy is collected and applied are considered carefully and in detail.  In finding this Legislative Reform Order inappropriate, we are not saying that the underlying policy is wrong but that it requires the level of scrutiny and debate afforded to primary legislation.”

Stephen McPartland MP, Chair of the House of Commons Regulatory Reform Committee, said:

“The proposed changes to the way the horseracing levy is collected could have a wide-reaching impact on a sport which is the second largest in the country and hugely important to the economy. The Government must not try to avoid scrutiny by using delegated rather than primary legislation to pass these proposals. Ministers should now reflect on the views expressed by the Committees of both Houses and bring forward a Bill instead. Parliament and those involved in horseracing must be given the chance to properly consider the changes.”

The Government must now consider the Committee's reports and decide whether to amend their proposals and submit to further scrutiny or follow the recommendation of both Committees that this proposal should be brought forward as a Bill. Both Committees have indicated that, should the Government attempt to bring back the draft Order, they would use their formal veto to block any further progress. 

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