Clause 2 — Meaning of "charitable purpose"

Part of Point of Order – in the House of Commons at 2:45 pm on 25th October 2006.

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Photo of Humfrey Malins Humfrey Malins Conservative, Woking 2:45 pm, 25th October 2006

I am grateful for the hon. Gentleman's intervention. I believe—he must correct me as I go along—that he has something of a distinguished background in and knowledge of these matters, on which I congratulate him. He does not correct me, so I assume he concurs with what I said. Indeed, he is right: there is reference to "shooting". I shall try in a moment to differentiate between shooting, which can be an emotive word, and the narrower interest on which I am focusing today—target rifle and pistol shooting, which we should try to separate in our minds from shooting in general.

My understanding is that the Charity Commission must issue guidance in pursuance of its public benefit objective. I understand therefore, and I shall be corrected if I am wrong, that the view taken by the Charity Commission concerning target rifle and target pistol shooting will be very important. However, I further understand that the Charity Commission stated in paragraph 11 of pamphlet RR11 that it did not consider that certain sports constitute "sport" within the purposes of the Bill. Among those sports the commission lists "Rifle and pistol shooting".

I stress two points immediately. We are talking about target rifle and target pistol shooting, which is a different concept. I understand that the Charity Commission may have been advised that shooting should not be or would not be charitable, but in the advice that it received there was no reference to the sport about which I am speaking—target rifle and pistol shooting. This sport is already accepted as a "sport in the community" for the purposes of the community amateur sports club legislation by virtue of being recognised as a sport by the Sports Councils.

For the sake of future success and viability, as I have mentioned, the federation is keen for the sport to be recognised as such under the Bill. Although it is registered as a charity under the long established public benefit precedent, as its activities are

"in the interests of defence", it believes that in the current environment it would be much more successful also to be recognised for charity purposes as a sport. As I said, this would help with recruitment of the young to the safe use of firearms for competitive marksmanship.

I stress that we must concentrate on the misunderstanding among some people of exactly what the activity of athletic, competitive target shooting is. The federation justifiably claims that its courses of sporting practice conform to requirements for fitness as they include elements of stamina, strength and suppleness—the qualifying criteria, in many cases. The federation represents a major category of international sport. If those sports are not regarded as a charity activity, they would be the only sports recognised by the Commonwealth Games Federation and the IOC not to be so.

In a letter to the federation, the Minister of Sport stated:

"My understanding is that recognition under the terms of the Charities Bill is a matter for the Charity Commission", so I hope the Charity Commission will take careful note of my remarks, and I hope it will be positive in its response to them. I hope also that the Minster will be positive when he responds. Clearly, the Charity Commission pays attention to the intentions of Parliament as expressed in the House, and I would very much welcome from the Minister a positive message about the sport of rifle and pistol target shooting. It is my judgment that he will feel able to give me a positive message. Even a clear recognition that those are nothing to do with hunting would help.

Another misunderstanding has occurred. The Central Council of Physical Recreation produced a document on sports which it suggested would have difficulty qualifying for charitable status, and among those was included shooting. Again, the word "shooting" is so wide as to include a great deal more than the narrow pistol and rifle target shooting on which I am focusing. So, in the hope that the Minister will have something positive and helpful to say to me, I shall finish by quoting from a letter sent on 17 October this year by Disability Target Shooting Great Britain to the federation. It says:

"We understand that at present the Charity Commission does not regard rifle and pistol shooting as charitable activity. We endorse the application for rifle and pistol target shooting sport to be defined as sport for purposes of the proposed Act as being in the ultimate interests of our own organisation. As the governing body for Disability Target Shooting, we are well aware of the importance of disabled people being given the chance to enjoy the sport of target shooting, very often on equal terms with able bodied people."

That letter says a great deal. I look forward to hearing from the Minister.