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Mr. Page: In opening the debate, I commended the commitment given and pledged again by the council and trustees of CISWO. I was born in Tredegar in south Wales, so I am not unaware of the role of the coal industry in that society and the role fulfilled by the various miners' welfares. The advisers and staff of CISWO, led by their chief executive, Mr. Vernon Jones, must also be commended. They have borne a heavy burden of additional work in recent months in preparing the transfer of activities from the company to the trust and for the future of the trust.

It may be helpful if I say to the hon. Member for Barnsley, Central (Mr. Illsley) that when CISWO Ltd. was formed in 1952, the intention was to register it as a charity, but there was a degree of apprehension and nervousness that its aims and objectives on the recreational side would not have been compatible with charity law at the time. That was why it would not become a charitable trust.

Mr. Illsley: I wonder whether the Minister heard what I said. The charity commissioners would not accept the charity with such narrow charitable objectives as those available only for mine workers and their families, hence the decision to stick with limited company status.

Mr. Page: I believe that the hon. Gentleman said that it was never the intention to form it as a charity. The original intention was to form it as a charity, but the trustees had to go down the limited liability route for the very reasons on which the hon. Gentleman and I now agree.

At the same time, CISWO has been able to maintain the complex and dynamic range of services for which it has become well respected over the years. It has been planning for the future.

There will be four representatives from the employees, four from the employers and four other independent trustees. The employees will appoint four representatives,

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those from the employers will be appointed by British Coal and the service is for five years. On the four that will be from the independent sector, the Government are in discussion with CISWO to choose suitable people that can provide the advice from the voluntary sector to which I referred in my opening speech. Therefore, 12 people will be working together to move the charity forward. After their term of five years, they will be in a position to replicate themselves and move on.

The hon. Member for Barnsley, West and Penistone (Mr. Clapham) asked about particular sites. It will come as no surprise to him that I do not have a clue about the individual cases that he mentioned. I shall certainly take him up on his offer that I write to him, although I repeat that the Government have given assurances that all lands in active recreational use will be maintained, and that any land leased from British Coal, for example, for recreational use will go either to the National Playing Fields Association or to CISWO. That is the position, but I shall write to him about the individual cases.

Mr. Illsley: Before the Minister moves on, may I bring him back to the point about charitable status? At the start of his reply to the debate, he mentioned that it was thought in 1952 that perhaps CISWO could not achieve charitable status. Why can the company achieve charitable status now, but it could not in 1952, when there were other worries? Why has it achieved charitable status quickly now under privatisation, when it could not do so under nationalisation?

Mr. Page: The hon. Gentleman seeks devious reasons at every available opportunity. I hate to disappoint him, but it may have crossed his mind that one or two laws have been passed which have changed the status of charities and enabled CISWO to become a charitable trust.

Mr. Illsley indicated dissent .

Mr. Page: It is no good the hon. Gentleman shaking his head, because that is the answer.

The hon. Member for Sherwood (Mr. Tipping) mentioned allotments. I know to my cost how dear that issue is to many people. British Coal's original intention was to put allotments into the parcels of land to be sold. I can give the hon. Gentleman some good news: Ministers were unhappy about that proposal and have asked British Coal to reconsider its position. The hon. Gentleman's words tonight will ring in my ears when the details come before me.

Mr. Mike O'Brien: I am grateful to the Minister for giving way. He has been generous in doing so today. He assured us, and we have, of course, taken him at his word, that legislation on charities has changed to enable CISWO to undertake what it previously could not. Will he assure us that, if difficulties arise, or if his advice is not as clear as he thought, legislation will be passed as quickly as possible to enable CISWO to do what I hope we both want it to do?

Mr. Page: I cannot assure the hon. Gentleman that the Government would come behind CISWO if everything went wrong because I believe that the funding is a generous settlement, which should guarantee CISWO's services well into the future. CISWO itself appreciates that it must be able to stand on its own two feet. It will have charitable status and, as I have some experience of

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charitable work, I know what can be achieved when an organisation moves into that area. As a national charity, more fund -raising opportunities will be open to it, such as company donations; sponsorships; grants from other charities, foundations and trusts; local and central Government grants to support specific services; and individual covenants and endowments. I know how much money can come in from endowments and the work that can be done to get those additions to the charity's income.

Mr. O'Neill: In the light of the Minister's experience, is he satisfied that the arrangement that has been entered into by the new licensed operators is the most tax efficient? Will he assure us that there will be guarantees against defaulting by any of those who are required to contribute to that new financial arrangement?

Mr. Page: Had the hon. Gentleman held on for a split second, he would have seen that I was about to come to that subject.

Mr. O'Neill: I grew tired of waiting.

Mr. Page: I know, but there we are. The covenant forms are a question for the companies, and it will be for the companies to work with CISWO to agree the best method. They are obliged to pass over the sums of money concerned, which is what they will do. On financial failure and guarantees, the Government will not be in a position to provide the guarantees that the hon. Gentleman seeks. But, in granting the licences in the first place, I do not believe that the situation that the hon. Gentleman is concerned about can even be contemplated.

The hon. Gentleman also asked about the pressure of time, given that the 31st is the deadline. I can look him straight in the eye and say that, if some agreement has been reached and CISWO is working it out, it has not yet crossed my desk. I have had no sight of it. [Interruption.] The hon. Gentleman must restrain himself slightly because, on the basis of what he said this evening, I shall make that the first question that I shall ask tomorrow morning.

In bringing this order to a conclusion, I pay special tribute also to the many supporters and voluntary helpers in the coalfield communities who have effectively helped to deliver the services by CISWO to those convalescent homes and day centres. Their work is vital and well appreciated. Long may it continue.

Question put :--

The House divided : Ayes 111, Noes 29.

Division No. 103] [11.29 pm


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Alexander, Richard

Allason, Rupert (Torbay)

Amess, David

Arbuthnot, James

Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham)

Arnold, Sir Thomas (Hazel Grv)

Ashby, David

Atkinson, Peter (Hexham)

Bates, Michael

Beresford, Sir Paul

Bonsor, Sir Nicholas

Booth, Hartley

Bowis, John

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Brandreth, Gyles

Brooke, Rt Hon Peter

Browning, Mrs Angela

Burns, Simon

Burt, Alistair

Butler, Peter

Carrington, Matthew

Carttiss, Michael

Cash, William

Chapman, Sydney

Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey

Conway, Derek

Coombs, Simon (Swindon)

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Cran, James

Currie, Mrs Edwina (S D'by'ire)

Day, Stephen

Devlin, Tim

Dover, Den

Duncan, Alan

Elletson, Harold

Evans, David (Welwyn Hatfield)

Fabricant, Michael

Field, Barry (Isle of Wight)

Forman, Nigel

Forsyth, Rt Hon Michael (Stirling)

Freeman, Rt Hon Roger

French, Douglas

Gallie, Phil

Gillan, Cheryl

Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles

Greenway, John (Ryedale)

Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth, N)

Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)

Hargreaves, Andrew

Hawksley, Warren

Hayes, Jerry

Heald, Oliver

Hendry, Charles

Hunt, Rt Hon David (Wirral W)

Jack, Michael

Jenkin, Bernard

Jones, Robert B (W Hertfdshr)

King, Rt Hon Tom

Kirkhope, Timothy

Knapman, Roger

Knight, Mrs Angela (Erewash)

Knight, Greg (Derby N)

Knox, Sir David

Kynoch, George (Kincardine)

Lait, Mrs Jacqui

Lawrence, Sir Ivan

Legg, Barry

Lester, Jim (Broxtowe)

Lidington, David

Lightbown, David

Lilley, Rt Hon Peter

Lyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas

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MacKay, Andrew

Maclean, David

Maitland, Lady Olga

Malone, Gerald

Merchant, Piers

Neubert, Sir Michael

Nicholls, Patrick

Nicholson, Emma (Devon West)

Norris, Steve

Pattie, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey

Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth

Pickles, Eric

Robinson, Mark (Somerton)

Rowe, Andrew (Mid Kent)

Ryder, Rt Hon Richard

Shaw, David (Dover)

Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)

Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)

Spencer, Sir Derek

Spink, Dr Robert

Sproat, Iain

Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John

Stephen, Michael

Stern, Michael

Sweeney, Walter

Taylor, Ian (Esher)

Thomason, Roy

Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)

Thurnham, Peter

Tredinnick, David

Twinn, Dr Ian

Viggers, Peter

Waller, Gary

Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)

Wells, Bowen

Whittingdale, John

Widdecombe, Ann

Willetts, David

Wolfson, Mark

Wood, Timothy

Yeo, Tim

Tellers for the Ayes: Mr. Andrew Mitchell and Dr. Liam Fox.

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