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Government urged to allow more open debate on levy.

Byline: Graham Green

THE Conservative MP Laurence Robertson, whose Tewkesbury constituency includes Cheltenham racecourse, has called for the creation of a new forum to discuss the modernisation of the levy, writes Graham Green.

Speaking in the House of Commons, Robertson welcomed the recent agreement of the 2009-10 Levy Scheme, but said a deal had been reached "at the 1 1th hour and at the 59th minute at that".

Robertson said: "The constant wrangling over the levy has caused the racing industry to be distracted from the job of modernising and improving the levy system. As a result, very little progress has been made towards modernisation and we continue to go round in circles with 'the need to reach a settlement' being used year on year as an excuse for not having made progress.

"Can the minister sports minister Gerry Sutcliffe not force the pace of modernisation, so that the government is then taken out of racing sooner rather than later? Also, could the government not set up a mechanism or forum to enable all of us who feel we have something to contribute to the debate to do so?

"It is important we do not allow a few people to run away with, or even stifle, the whole process, as seems to have happened in the past."

Sutcliffe agreed with Robertson that progress needed to be made, and said he was looking forward to receiving a report on the levy in April. The minister also said he would consider the forum proposal and promised to discuss the matter with Robertson.

Following the debate, Robertson said: "Waiting until April for the report does somewhat kick the matter into the long grass. If we're not careful, we'll witness another last-minute unseemly squabble over next year's levy settlement.

"However, I was encouraged by the minister's response that he would consider my proposal for making the process more open and I look forward to discussing the idea of a forum with him and looking at ways in which we can ensure that all contributions are valued."
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:The Racing Post (London, England)
Date:Nov 12, 2008
Words:342
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