Clause 2 — Meaning of "charitable purpose"

Part of Point of Order – in the House of Commons at 3:00 pm on 25th October 2006.

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Photo of Andrew Turner Andrew Turner Conservative, Isle of Wight 3:00 pm, 25th October 2006

I am grateful for that observation.

Before getting to the meat of my remarks, I wanted to tell the hon. Member for Oxford, West and Abingdon that it was not only the Rationalist Association that had to spend two years obtaining charitable status from the Charity Commission. Many organisations spend two years or more doing that. They include an organisation that promotes the protection of Bembridge harbour in my constituency. I am concerned that it takes the Rationalist Association and many other organisations too long to achieve charitable status.

I warmly welcome Government amendments Nos. 2 and 4 and the inclusion of police charities in the Bill. We pressed for that in amendment No. 1 in Committee. I also welcome the further inclusion of charities that benefit ambulance and fire service personnel and their dependants. I am especially pleased about those amendments.

I want to spend most of my time on Government amendment No. 3 and amendment No. 122, which my hon. Friend Mr. Malins tabled.

Clause 2(2)(g) provides for

"the advancement of amateur sport" as a charitable purpose when it is defined in subsection (3)(d) as

"sport which involves physical skill and exertion".

There is already a circular element to the definition. I make no bones about welcoming Government amendment No. 3, which was tabled following remarks on Second Reading by Richard Burden, who listed sports that do not qualify as charities. They appear in the notorious RR11 as:

"Angling, ballooning, billiards, pool and snooker, crossbow, rifle and pistol shooting— rifle and pistol target shooting, I stress to my hon. Friend the Member for Woking—

"flying, gliding, motor sports, parachuting."

I see no reason why such sports should not benefit from charitable status subject to their fulfilling the public benefit test. Others, such as darts, are popular but do not appear to fall within the definition in clause 2.

There is a two-hurdle process in acquiring charitable status. The first question is whether an applicant is covered by the definition in clause 2. After establishing that, the second question is whether the activity fulfils the public benefit test in clause 3. There is no point in worrying about clause 3 unless one can be sure of clearing the hurdle in clause 2.

In Committee, we tabled an amendment that would have deleted the restrictive definition in clause 2(3)(d). The Parliamentary-Secretary kindly agreed to consider it. He has devised something that appears both to broaden and restrict the eligibility of different sports. Conservative Members welcome the extension of the clause to cover mental as well as physical skill and exertion, as do Charlotte Atkins and others, because chess will be included. We also welcome the inclusion of games as well as sport, although I should like to know whether a new definition of games is emerging in the bowels of the Charity Commission.