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Mr. Raynsford: It is a devolved matter.

Mr. Hammond: That should not stop hon. Members, when dealing with matters that will be devolved, expressing an interest in the existing arrangements in the Welsh Assembly. We could thus perhaps draw conclusions about the scrutiny available for corresponding English measures through our rather weak secondary legislation procedure.

Amendment No. 22 places a minor limitation on the Secretary of State's sweeping power to amend part VI of the Local Government and Housing Act 1989. I do not want to sound churlish because any limitation is welcome even if it is a minor reduction in a wide power. None the less, the Secretary of State retains a substantial power.

Amendments Nos. 23 to 25 are tidying provisions, although I should have preferred the Government to use amendment No. 24 to clarify matters by ruling out instead of confirming the ability to amend future legislation across the board consistently. As I understand it, the other amendments in the group are minor and consequential.

The group is wide ranging. I should be grateful if the Minister dealt with the specific issues that I raised. If he wants to display some generosity of spirit and confirm, as Lord Bassam refused to do, that my noble Friend Baroness Hanham should receive the credit for amendment No. 13, I should welcome that.

Mr. Edward Davey: I congratulate the hon. Member for Runnymede and Weybridge (Mr. Hammond) on speaking for 12 minutes on the group. I was at a loss to find much to say because the Government have moved in the right direction. Before the Minister gets too happy, I should say that I emphasised on Second Reading that the Government were taking many more regulatory powers while telling people that the measure would remove the burden from local government. The amendments would not remove the powers but ensure that they were subject to affirmative procedure, as the hon. Gentleman said. That shift is welcome and reflects the opinion of all parties in the other place and some comments made in Committee. Frankly, that is all that needs to be said.

Phil Hope: The hon. Member for Runnymede and Weybridge (Mr. Hammond) is right to describe the group as large, wide ranging and detailed. However, it is not necessary to divide the House on the amendments. He is right that making law is a learning process; we are a listening and learning Government, as today's proceedings demonstrate. I regret that the hon. Gentleman defended the role of the reformed House of Lords—a measure that the Conservative party vigorously opposed when it was discussed in the

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previous Parliament. However, I shall linger on neither that point nor the debate between different Lords about whose amendment it is. I do not want to enter such territory.

Let me deal with the hon. Gentleman's substantive points. We shall not remove clause 58(2) because the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee's 16th report did not recommend its deletion. It therefore remains.

The decisions of the Welsh Assembly are a matter for that body. That is the nature of devolution. Earlier, the right hon. Member for Wokingham (Mr. Redwood) bemoaned the Government's retention of reserved powers, yet now the hon. Member for Runnymede and Weybridge appears to want us to retain more. However, I welcome the hon. Gentleman's support and that of Liberal Democrat Members.

Lords amendment agreed to.

Lords amendments Nos. 14 to 17 agreed to.

After Clause 65

Lords amendment No. 18

Phil Hope: I beg to move, That this House agrees with the Lords in the said amendment.

The Government have always supported the important role that sports clubs play in promoting health and well-being and encouraging social cohesion. We believe that sports clubs would have benefited from the small business rate relief. With the additional assistance of local authority discretionary relief, it would have provided a generous package for sports clubs.

We have also promoted the opportunity that has existed for sports clubs to register as charities to obtain mandatory 80 per cent. relief. However, we accept the widely held belief that that route can be onerous for small, voluntary sports clubs. The amendment offers a simple route for registered community amateur sports clubs to qualify for the mandatory 80 per cent. relief.

Mr. David Heath (Somerton and Frome): I wholeheartedly welcome the Government's acceptance of the argument, which hon. Members of all parties, including my noble Friend, Lord Phillips of Sudbury, presented. However, does the Under-Secretary accept that amateur sports club officials became frustrated by the charity route, found that they were increasingly hitting a wall of bureaucracy and that now it is important that the message gets through to them that there is an easier route that will greatly benefit the relevant clubs?

Phil Hope: I thank the hon. Gentleman for those comments. The onerous nature of the transition to charitable status was one of the reasons for the amendment and the change.

Mr. Edward Davey: Following my hon. Friend's point, what steps will the Government take to ensure that sports clubs know that they are eligible for the relief? Will the Under-Secretary write to every sports

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club on the register and use various bodies and foundations to promote it? How can we ensure maximum benefit from the new relief?

Phil Hope: The hon. Gentleman makes a good point. Since the amendment became public, the widespread response from sporting associations suggests comprehensive take-up. However, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport will handle most of the marketing of the new relief.

Mr. Andy Reed (Loughborough): As my hon. Friend knows, people were slow to take up the tax exemptions under the Finance Act 2002. He will be pleased to know that Sport England, among other agencies, has been undertaking regional roadshows to ensure that sports clubs are aware of them. Since then, the take-up of additional benefits through the tax exemptions has increased. I hope that he will use his influence to ensure that the same happens with the relief that we are considering. However, as my hon. Friend said, sports clubs know that the relief is coming and have been waiting for it for years.

Phil Hope: My hon. Friend makes an excellent point about Sport England's work to promote a range of reliefs that we are establishing to help local sports clubs. I want to put on record my thanks to Members of Parliament such as my hon. Friend for not only their work in raising the issue and pressing hard during the Bill's passage but their work with their community amateur sports clubs. That applies especially to my hon. Friend, who does such work not only in his constituency but throughout the United Kingdom.

Mr. Malcolm Moss (North-East Cambridgeshire): Conservative Members obviously welcome the rate relief, which we have requested for many years. Does not the Under-Secretary believe that perhaps its advantages will be nullified by the decision of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport not to give any relief to sports clubs for the licensing fees that the Licensing Act 2003 will introduce, despite the assurance that the then Minister gave me in Committee that he would take a positive view of the amendments that we tabled?

7.30 pm

Phil Hope: Having stood beside the hon. Gentleman on a tennis court—regrettably not very successfully—in another kind of amateur sports club, I am very pleased to hear his enthusiasm for this measure today. It is a matter of regret, of course, that the previous Conservative Administration did not see fit to offer these rate reliefs to community amateur sports clubs.

In terms of the holistic picture of community amateur sports clubs having greater flexibility and more resources, and being able to grow as a result of this measure, I am confident that the complete package—which will include this rate relief and others—will provide a huge incentive for local clubs to develop, to recruit and to provide better sporting facilities for people of all ages in the community. I am not persuaded by the case briefly put by the hon. Gentleman today that

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other measures might hinder that. There is an across-the-board position in government to promote community amateur sports clubs effectively because of the wider benefits that they bring, not just in terms of sport and of raising performance and participation, but in terms of what that means for the community and for the health of the individuals who get involved.

Amendment No. 18 would amend the Local Government Finance Act 1988 and provide mandatory rate relief at both the occupied and unoccupied rates for registered community amateur sports clubs, under schedule 18 to the Finance Act 2002. Registered community amateur sports clubs can also have this relief increased at the discretion of local authorities. Sports clubs that do not meet the requirements for community amateur sports club registration—and, therefore, for mandatory rate relief—will still remain eligible for discretionary rate relief. Of course, the decisions on the award of discretionary rate relief are, and will remain, a matter for individual local authorities.

I hope that this provision demonstrates to hon. Members that we have listened carefully to the representations of the many people, both inside and outside the House, who support this important measure. I am very pleased to announce that we are introducing this relief. It represents a great opportunity for small community sports clubs, which I know that my colleagues in the Department for Culture, Media and Sport have strongly welcomed. It has also been widely welcomed by the sports bodies and, in particular, by the Central Council of Physical Recreation, which has, along with many other bodies, sought support for this measure for some time.

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