Tote post a non-runner for Opposition

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Indy Politics
John Major was embroiled in a fresh "jobs for the old boys" row last night after Lord Wyatt was reappointed to his £95,000-a-year post as chairman of the Horserace Totalisator Board.

The 76-year-old peer, who sits on the crossbenches in the House of Lords, is a staunch supporter of the Prime Minister. His reappointment for a further two years has infuriated Opposition MPs.

Jack Straw, the shadow Home Secretary, described the appointment as "a favour too far". He said it flew in the face of the pledges made last month by David Hunt, the Minister for Civil Service, to the Nolan committee on standards in public life, that such appointments would opened to scrutiny. It was "an unacceptable reward for services rendered to the Tory party; yet another case of jobs for the old boys."

The appointment was not advertised. Lord Wyatt yesterday had an article in the Times under the headline: "Why we must back Major".

Alan Beith, a spokesman for the Liberal Democrats, said there was no excuse for "giving a 76-year-old man two more years in a £95,000-a-year job without considering any other candidates".

Mr Howard, the Home Secretary, defended Lord Wyatt's reappointment on the ground that it was a caretaker role, pending a review of the Tote, and it would be his last term as chairman.

Mr Howard announced he was acting on the recommendations of the Commons Select Committee on Home Affairs which in 1991 advised that the role of the Tote - a statutory body which ploughs the profits from pool betting back into horse- racing - should be taken over as a horse-racing body representing all sides within the sport.

At that time, the committee accepted no body existed which could take over. But Mr Howard said since then, the British Horseracing Board had been established. The board is being given a seat on the Tote pending the outcome of consultation with the racing industry and bookmakers.

Mr Howard added: "I think it is very desirable that we continue to benefit from Lord Wyatt's experience and expertise."

Mark Coton, chairman of the National Association for the Protection of Punters, a watchdog body, joined the criticism, saying: "What is needed are new ideas and fresh blood, not more of the same."

Racing, page 37