MPs clash with Brooke on threat to pools jobs

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Indy Politics
A 'LEVEL playing field' for the football pools and the national lottery, and the siting of its headquarters on Merseyside, were demanded by a cross-party committee of MPs yesterday, writes Nicholas Timmins.

But the recommendations from the Conservative-dominated National Heritage Committee were promptly rejected by Peter Brooke, the Secretary of State.

Mr Brooke clashed with the 11- strong committee after it rejected his argument that the two should be treated differently because there is skill involved in filling in a pools coupon, whereas the lottery is a game of pure chance.

When more than 90 per cent of pools punters use the same numbers each week, the committee said his argument was 'unconvincing'. The pools, they recommend, should be given the same rights as the lottery, including television advertising and the ability to carry over jackpots.

With 1,000 jobs likely to go in the pools industry, most of them on Merseyside, the lottery headquarters should go to the areas most likely to be affected, the MPs added.

Mr Brooke said he was 'disappointed' that the report focused 'so heavily on the interests of the pools industry'. Its recommendations were unreasonable as they would allow the pools to become 'a private lottery', run mainly for profit.

He rejected the figure of 1,000 job losses, saying that the pools would update their business and the lottery would create a large number of jobs.

Last night, Labour decided to table an amendment to the Bill's Second Reading because of the job consequences. But the Shadow Cabinet looks likely to allow a free vote if that is lost, despite fierce arguments backed by its Merseyside MPs that the party should oppose the Bill.