Sports Clubs (Rates)

Part of Orders of the Day — Clause 19 – in the House of Commons at 12:17 am on 19th May 1986.

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Photo of Mr Hector Monro Mr Hector Monro , Dumfries 12:17 am, 19th May 1986

I am delighted to support the strong case that has been made by my hon. Friend the Member for Stirling (Mr. Forsyth), who has highlighted the major anomalies of clubs in Scotland, England and Wales. For over 20 years I have been pressing the case for mandatory derating of 50 per cent. in Scotland. There is derating in Northern Ireland and a voluntary system is frequently found to exist in England and Wales. I had great hopes that the Rating and Valuation (Amendment) (Scotland) Act 1984 would remove the anomalies, but they appear still to exist.

My hon. Friend the Member for Stirling has referred to the enormous differences in rating between similar clubs in Scotland and England. We must accept that the hopes for the 1984 Act have not yet been realised, and I hope that tonight my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State will try to explain why they have not. Rugby, cricket, bowls, tennis and other sports clubs are now in a desperate plight and facing a real financial crisis.

Where has the procedure failed? The assessors are entirely independent, but they must have guidance on the operation of the 1984 Act. Does the fault lie with the appeals procedure? Has anyone reached that procedure? Unless the Act is shown to work, our efforts in Committee —many Members on both sides of the Committee spoke in support of the intended change—will have been in vain and we shall all be very disappointed.

Even though there is an allowance of 10 per cent. while a case is being considered for appeal, 90 per cent. of the demand must be paid, and much of that percentage will be overdue by now. In the time that is left to him, I hope that my hon. Friend can explain in detail how the clubs should proceed if they are to obtain any benefit from the Act. I hope that he will tell us what advice the Government have been able to give to the assessors and local government generally, with local appeal courts being run by local authorities. Have the land courts been given advice on how the legislation should work? It has not worked yet and many of us are desperately concerned, as are those who represent sport and recreation. We know that sport and recreation do so much for Scotland and local authorities are absolved from providing the most excellent facilities that are presently provided by private enterprise.