Amateur Sports Clubs

Oral Answers to Questions — Culture, Media and Sport – in the House of Commons at 2:30 pm on 26 March 2001.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Derek Twigg Derek Twigg Labour, Halton 2:30, 26 March 2001

What assessment he has made of the effect on prospects for amateur sports clubs of the Chancellor's Budget.

Photo of David Heath David Heath Shadow Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

What recent discussions he has had with the Chancellor of the Exchequer on reform of tax on non-profit sports clubs.

Photo of Kate Hoey Kate Hoey Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department of National Heritage) (Sport)

In the course of this year and last year, I have held several meetings with ministerial colleagues and representatives across the sports sector to discuss the taxation burden on community amateur sports clubs. The announcement from my right hon. Friend the Chancellor in the Budget of plans to consult on a new tax relief for those clubs will be of great benefit to them.

Photo of Derek Twigg Derek Twigg Labour, Halton

I thank my hon. Friend for that answer, which will be warmly welcomed in my constituency where there are many community sports clubs. My constituency is a disadvantaged area, and my hon. Friend's reply is therefore especially important.

Discussions were taking place with the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions about rate relief for non-profit-making sports clubs. What stage have they reached?

Photo of Kate Hoey Kate Hoey Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department of National Heritage) (Sport)

My hon. Friend is right that the many small community amateur clubs, which are the bedrock of sport, will benefit from the tax exemption. It will give them a great morale boost. They should be treated in the same way as small community amateur dramatic societies. I hope that the discussions will lead to the small community sports clubs receiving the same treatment for rate relief as amateur arts clubs.

Photo of David Heath David Heath Shadow Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

There are 110,000 amateur sports clubs, which have more than 5 million members, who will greatly welcome the Minister's words. However, as Mr. Twigg said, consultation on mandatory rate relief has already been announced, yet we have not moved further. Does the Minister agree that we do not need more Green Papers, White Papers, consultation exercises, taskforces or focus groups, but some action to support our small amateur sports clubs and the many volunteers throughout the country who help to make them work? Will she impress on her colleagues the urgency of supporting those clubs?

Photo of Kate Hoey Kate Hoey Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department of National Heritage) (Sport)

The hon. Gentleman should have paid tribute to Mr. Russell, who speaks for the Liberal Democrats on sport, because we are considering an all-party effort, and one throughout sport, to gain the recognition that I described. I do not want more Green Papers and consultation, but the definition of a small community amateur sports club must be clarified specifically if the necessary provisions are to be included in the pre-Budget report in October. We do not want professional clubs, which earn huge amounts of money, to benefit. The provision is for the small club; that is why it is important to get it right. We have waited a long time for it.

I pay tribute to my hon. Friend Mr. Reed, who presented a ten-minute Bill on the subject, and to all hon. Members who have worked for the provision, as well as to the Central Council of Physical Recreation and all sorts of organisations in sport. Having waited so long, another six months to get the detail right is neither here nor there.

Photo of Andrew Miller Andrew Miller Labour, Ellesmere Port and Neston

I welcome my hon. Friend's words. Some clubs are considering development plans at the moment, so will she consider publishing advice and guidance for clubs on the tactics and the strategy that they should now adopt for those plans, which they will later present and for which they will want to raise money?

Photo of Kate Hoey Kate Hoey Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department of National Heritage) (Sport)

As I said earlier, the Central Council of Physical Recreation has led a terrific campaign for many years. It has clear guidelines, and it will be willing to give advice to any individual club. However, that advice will not apply to professional clubs and relief will be limited to clubs that have truly open membership, not those where access is restricted to a small section of the community. We want to open up our clubs and support the voluntary effort at grass roots. We will also adopt guidelines, and any club is welcome to get in touch with us.

Photo of John Greenway John Greenway Conservative, Ryedale

I am sure that the Minister intended to reassure voluntary sports clubs, and I agree with her sentiment that everyone has considered this matter. Is it not the case, however, that nothing has been decided, and that there is nothing new in what the Chancellor said? He only agreed to consider how to give help to sports clubs.

I confirm to the Minister that we have considered this matter in some depth, and I can announce today that the next Conservative Government will work with the Charity Commission--and change the law if necessary--to offer charitable status to voluntary, not-for-profit sports clubs. Is she aware that that would not only give them help with rates, but encourage new money through tax relief for corporate and personal donations; and most importantly, that it would help to secure facilities and playing fields for future generations? Grass-roots sports clubs feel let down by the Government, and we intend to put that right.

Photo of Kate Hoey Kate Hoey Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department of National Heritage) (Sport)

The hon. Gentleman and his party had 18 years in which to do that and they never got very far, despite having a Prime Minister who was committed to the idea at one stage. The Chancellor has now committed the Government to seeing this provision as a necessary one. We are looking at the details and their implications. If we were to go down the charitable status route, which is not a route that sport itself wants, we should still be discussing this issue in another 20 years' time.