Clause 2 — Meaning of "charitable purpose"

Part of Point of Order – in the House of Commons at 3:15 pm on 25th October 2006.

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Photo of Ed Miliband Ed Miliband Parliamentary Secretary (Cabinet Office) 3:15 pm, 25th October 2006

I stand corrected, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

I shall speak to amendments Nos. 2, 3 and 4. Amendments Nos. 2 and 4 respond to the debate that we had in Committee about the exclusion of the efficiency of the police from being a charitable purpose. Mr. Turner moved an amendment that had been suggested to him by the Police Dependants Trust. We have talked to it further, and we propose to insert the promotion

"of the efficiency of the police" into the list of charitable purposes. We also thought that we should include at the same time

"fire and rescue services or ambulance services".

That is what amendments Nos. 2 and 4 do, and I hope that that satisfies the hon. Gentleman—I think that he has indicated that it does—and others.

Before I speak to the amendments tabled in the name of Dr. Harris, I shall talk about the sport issue. The hon. Member for Isle of Wight tabled an amendment in Committee to probe the Bill's definition of sport. As the hon. Gentleman has expressed concern, I wish to reassure him that the intention of amendment No. 3 is certainly not to narrow the definition of sport—indeed, it is to widen it, hence the reference to "mental...exertion". I want to make that clear at the outset.

Let me explain what the aim is of the new definition of sport. First, it makes it clear that what we are talking about, in the context of charitable sport, is sports or games that improve public health—I shall explain shortly why that is necessary. The Bill's existing definition, with its requirement of physical skill and exertion, implies that, but it does not say so. The new definition takes a direct approach by referring specifically to health. That puts into statute the essence of the current law, and it will allow sports that the commission has not so far accepted to make their case. I shall say more shortly about the processes that will be gone through in that respect.

The new definition also extends to sports or games that involve mental, as well as physical, aspects. There is no justification for continuing to prefer the physical to the mental, given that those two aspects appear to be of similar significance. That responds to a point made by the hon. Member for Oxford, West and Abingdon, and which was eloquently spoken to in this debate by my hon. Friend Charlotte Atkins. I should say that I was never a chess player as a child as it was too complicated for me. I was more of a backgammon player, but I am unsure whether backgammon will be able to make its case.

Some Members will ask why there has to be a link to health at all—why not just make all sport charitable? That is the approach that the community amateur sports club legislation takes. For charitable status to apply—regardless of whether it is in respect of schools or sports—there must be a public benefit. Health is the obvious link, and that is why it is flagged up in our amendment. However, I want to make it clear that it will be open to activities that do not qualify under the heading of sports that promote health to put forward their case that they deliver public benefit under one of the other headings that is available in respect of being a charitable purpose. For instance, some sports clubs already qualify because they promote citizenship or community development.

On amendment No. 122, in the name of Mr. Malins, we considered over the summer whether we should follow his approach of a list for sports. It is worth explaining to the House the two reasons why we did not go for that option, attractive though it might be in certain respects. The first of them is a matter of principle: community amateur sports club relief is designed for all recognised sports, and included in that are the National Rifle Association, the Clay Pigeon Shooting Association and others. The difference in respect of charitable relief is that there should be public benefit.