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Equine activities 'need minister' Horse world 'should have a single umbrella'.

Pressure is being stepped up on Tony Blair to bring racing under the umbrella of a single Whitehall department, rather than allowing responsibility to continue to be fragmented between several min- istries, writes Graham Green.

Six months into the campaign spearheaded by the British Horse Industry Confeder- ation (BHIC), its chairman Michael Clayton is now pressing the Prime Minister to respond to the call for the ap- pointment of a minister for the horse.

Frustrated by years of Government refusal to make a specific ministry answerable for racing matters, the BHB and Thoroughbred Breeders' Association joined forces with the British Equestrian Federation in March to create the BHIC.

The object of the team is to carry a more powerful voice in the corridors of power to speak on behalf of the entire equine world.

The move has already paid dividends for the four-man BHIC board, which includes BHB chief executive Tristram Ricketts and his TBA counterpart Gavin Pritchard-Gordon, having pressed their case with the policy unit at 10 Downing Street and Blair's Cabinet officer, Sir Richard Wilson.

There is already support within Parliament, with the All-Party Racing Committee having written to the Prime Minister urging him to act on the proposal.

Clayton said: "We think Tony Blair has had long enough to think about this, and we want him to come up with an answer."

The failure of BBC TV's Newsnight to find a Government spokesman to discuss jockeys' use of banned diuretic drugs again illustrated the issue.

The Home Office refuses to relinquish control of the gambling aspect, and the Treasury, Department of Trade, Ministry of Agriculture, and Department of Culture, Media and Sport are jostling over other areas of the industry.

With Minister of Sport Kate Hoey seemingly distancing herself from racing - which has never been regarded as a sport in Governmental terms - the current favoured destination of the BHIC would be the Ministry of Agriculture.

Clayton said he was "hopeful" of success.

"This is the first time there has been an effective body involving the full strength of the horse world, and we are encouraged with the discussions we've had so far with Whitehall," he said.

"The second-largest economic activity in the countryside is caring for and rearing horses, an industry with an estimated value of pounds 2.5 billion a year involving more than 150,000 jobs. That, combined with the fact that 2.4 million people in Britain ride, in our opinion makes it sufficiently important for it to have a minister designated to the horse.

"The Government keeps making statements that it wishes to help the countryside, as Tony Blair did at the Labour Party conference, so let's see him provide an example of this by agreeing to our request."
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Title Annotation:Sports
Author:Greene, Graham (English writer)
Publication:The Racing Post (London, England)
Date:Oct 4, 1999
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