Matt Hancock defends ‘national treasure’ horse racing

Horse racing is a “national treasure” that must be defended, Matt Hancock will tell fellow MPs this week.

The former Health Secretary will say the levy on betting that is used to support the sport must be “sorted out” to enable British racing to keep pace with international competitors.

The amateur jockey, who finished first in a charity race at Newmarket in 2012, secured a debate in the Commons on Wednesday amid warnings from industry sources that some of the best horses are being taken out of Britain.

The average £16,000 prize money for a race here lags far behind that in Ireland (£22,000) and France (£24,000). There are also concerns that bets on overseas races are not subject to the levy, so punters are unwittingly funding competitors.

Mr Hancock said: “Horse racing is the second largest sport in the UK behind football in respect of attendances, employment, and revenues generated annually.

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“I’ve been saying for a long time that the betting levy needs to be sorted out to ensure finances are strong. We’ve got to keep pace with our international competitors.

“It’s vital we safeguard and cherish this national treasure.”

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