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Amateur Sport

4. Jane Griffiths (Reading, East): If she will make a statement on rate relief for amateur sports clubs. [137026]

The Minister for Sport and Tourism (Mr. Richard Caborn): The Government introduced an amendment to the Local Government Bill in September to provide for mandatory rate relief at 80 per cent. for registered community amateur sports clubs. In excess of 500 clubs

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had successfully applied for registration by 31 October, and a similar number of applications is in the pipeline. I strongly advise all clubs to apply for mandatory relief.

Jane Griffiths : That reply is very welcome. Does my right hon. Friend agree that cycling will benefit greatly from rate relief, as it is the many small amateur clubs that nurture the cycling stars of tomorrow?

Mr. Caborn: I very much agree. Last week, I attended a conference in Brighton organised by a good team of people—I pay tribute to Lord Phillips of Sudbury, the Inland Revenue, Deloitte Touche and Richard Baldwin, the Central Council of Physical Recreation, Sport England, and the National Playing Fields Association—who got together to make sure that the message is going out to amateur clubs. Cycling, which my hon. Friend mentioned, has a very good governing body, which is linking in on this matter and into new development in schools.

Mr. Nick Hawkins (Surrey Heath): The Minister will be aware that I recently led a delegation from the CCPR, representing a number of amateur sports clubs, to see Baroness Scotland about some of the extra costs that have been loaded on to amateur sport. While the Minister's recent announcement is welcome, does he recognise that the extra costs of such things as the Criminal Records Bureau have put a lot of pressure on sports, particularly those, such as swimming, that find it difficult to attract funding? Will he consider the costs imposed on sport as well as the potential benefits of his changes?

Mr. Caborn: That is true, and those representations were made. Through Sport England, we are in dialogue with all the governing bodies. The hon. Gentleman will accept that we must put in place regulations of the type he referred to in order to protect young people—particularly children—in various sports clubs. We have to make sure that parents believe in the integrity of coaching and the development of sports clubs. If we do not, there will be a distraction from, not an attraction to, sport.

Mr. John Grogan (Selby): Does my right hon. Friend accept that the news of rate relief will be particularly welcome to the 1,000 members of Selby bowls club, who were recently bowled over when Selby district council increased its rate bill from zero last year to £12,000 this year? Will he emphasise that rural district councils such as Selby can offer 100 per cent. rate relief where they think it appropriate? That may be particularly relevant to small village cricket clubs, which are such an important part of village life.

Mr. Caborn: That news is welcome. Investment is being made through community amateur sports clubs, 500 of which had applied for relief by 31 October. Of those claims, 105 involved gift aid, and the amount saved for those clubs is £147,000. The best of them got £32,000 back, and half a dozen or so have had about £8,000, which means a lot of money is going back to sports clubs. The cash is working, and we have added

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mandatory rate relief and hope to get local authorities to offer the further 20 per cent. All that is a major injection into amateur sport in this country.

5. Tony Cunningham (Workington): What steps she is taking to support amateur sport. [137027]

The Minister for Sport and Tourism (Mr. Richard Caborn): As well as mandatory rate relief for amateur sports clubs, the Government are providing about £60 million over the period 2003–04 to 2004–05 for club facilities in 16 sports. The amateur sector has benefited substantially from wider Sport England lottery funding, and will continue to do so. Links between schools and local clubs are also to be strengthened under the PE, school sport and club links programme.

Tony Cunningham : I thank my right hon. Friend for those remarks, but will he bear in mind the fact that when I used to coach my local rugby union side in the mid-1980s we ran five senior sides, whereas now we struggle to get two sides out—and even when we do so it is often difficult to find anyone to play against. There are real difficulties in respect of participation. We all recognise the importance of sport in dealing with crime and with health issues such as obesity and drugs, andin education and so on, so what more can my right hon. Friend do to ensure co-ordination between Departments to improve participation in sport?

Mr. Caborn: As we are talking about rugby union, I am sure the House will send both our congratulations and our hopes for next Saturday in the match against France, as well our hopes that we pick up that silverware in the final the Saturday after.

Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover): After a struggle.

Mr. Caborn: The best is yet to come.

Investment in our amateur clubs is important. In this country, 70 per cent. of our young people do not continue with active sport when they leave school—a bad record compared with many other countries. It is extremely important that we support our governing bodies to ensure that they start to invest in club structures so that we can arrest that trend. Unless we do so, the quality will not come through, as my hon. Friend the Member for Workington (Tony Cunningham) said, because we shall not have the critical mass.

We are also acting with the Department of Health through the newly set-up activity co-ordination team to link health, sport and physical activity. With the investment we are making in schools and in our club structures, I hope that we shall see a significant improvement not only in the clubs but also in the health of the nation.

Mr. Crispin Blunt (Reigate): Will the Minister explain the incentives for amateur sports? I play for a cricket club in my constituency which runs five senior sides and makes a significant contribution to promoting junior and youth cricket, yet I do not think it will qualify for rate relief because the top team is in the first league of the Surrey Championship and the club employs a professional. Should not all sports that are being run on

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a voluntary basis receive rate relief and consistent support? Whether such clubs are big or little, they all contribute to the community.

Mr. Caborn: As I have just explained, a number of tax breaks, including gift aid, are available as soon as a club registers as a community amateur sports club; on top of that we have now introduced the mandatory rate relief of 80 per cent. We are also investing in the club structure. The England and Wales Cricket Board is developing the game at the grass-roots level and any club that is registered with the board can apply. The relationship between clubs and the governing body has been strengthened and I hope that will ensure that more young people come into the sport. The big four sports are working together much more effectively to try to create a critical mass of young people who do not play only one individual sport but who cross over to other sports.

Andy Burnham (Leigh): A welcome if unexpected source of support for amateur football in recent years has been the premier league, which, as a consequence of the current television deal, has invested about £60 million in football's grass roots. However, there is currently some doubt about that as the competition directorate in Brussels is looking into the structure of the premier league television deal. Will the Minister do all he can to ensure that the competition authorities in Brussels are fully aware of the public interest benefits that the current television arrangements bring to English football?

Mr. Caborn: My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and I are making representations to the Department of Trade and Industry, which has responsibility for competition policy. However, I want to put it on record that we have one of the best redistributions, with moneys coming into football being passed both to the amateur game and to the professional sport. Our record is probably better than that in any European league; £60 million is being invested through the Football Foundation and the youth development trusts and they are doing a good job. That is not to say that they could not do better but, relatively speaking, they are doing better than their counterparts in Europe.

Mr. Don Foster (Bath): Although the £60 million and the rate relief for amateur sports clubs are clearly welcome, given that the Minister has acknowledged that obesity is increasing and that participation in amateur sports clubs is predicted to fall, what is he doing to take urgent action to try to get the regional sports boards, which have been delayed by up to a year, fully operational, so that they too can play a part by distributing the frozen lottery grants?

Mr. Caborn: It is untrue to say that the boards have been delayed by a year. On the contrary, I had dinner last Sunday night with all the chairmen of the new sports boards and the Sport England board in Manchester, and the following day—a week ago today—they were discussing how they would devolve to the regions the moneys that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State secured on the back of our bid for the Olympics. So £100 million of new money will go into the multi-sports clubs

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throughout the country. On top of that, we are investing £500 million through local education authorities and £130 million in sport and arts in the community. All that investment is going in, and the sports boards now have a major influence on how that money is spent in a much more strategic way than was probably previously the case.

Mr. Peter Pike (Burnley): Does my right hon. Friend accept that, although what he has said is very good news and the Government and the lottery are doing a lot to help amateur sport, we still have too many poor and waterlogged pitches for amateur sports, that those pitches need better drainage and that all our amateur clubs need acceptable training and changing facilities?

Mr. Caborn: That is what we are trying to do. We are trying to ensure that we start to bring all public assets—including schools, universities and further education colleges—into play for all communities. If we start to do that, we will find that there is access to many more facilities than has been the case, but I caution my hon. Friend that there is a changing mood out there: many young people want to play not on soggy pitches but on new synthetic pitches, where, if they want to, they can play 24 hours a day, seven days a week under floodlit conditions, and many of our young people rightly want to play indoors. If we compare our indoor tennis facilities with those in France, we find that the French beat us something like 10:1, and we need to rethink that. That is why I believe that some of those who have campaigned only for playing fields have probably misread the debate about such things in the recent past.

Mr. Malcolm Moss (North-East Cambridgeshire): How can the imposition of additional costs and regulation in any way be described as support for amateur sport? Why is the Minister reneging on commitments given by his predecessor that the new licence fees under the Licensing Act 2003 would not adversely affect amateur sport and sports clubs, when it is clear from the representations that he has received from amateur sports bodies that that is the case?

Mr. Caborn: We have not decided what the fees will be, so I do not know how people can make such assessments. We are bringing six regulatory regimes into one, and we will have to see how that plays out. A number of sports clubs could gain from the new regime that is coming in, and we will wait and see. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State gave a commitment that we will revisit the issue three years after the implementation, and we will do so. It is our intention to invest in sports clubs in the way that I have just indicated, not to make things more difficult for them. I believe that, when the new licensing provisions come into operation, we could find a very different picture from that portrayed by the hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Bob Blizzard (Waveney): Another relief that non-profit-making amateur sports clubs have been able to claim is exemption from VAT on building work when they want to build new changing rooms and improve their facilities. It has always been normal practice for them to get that relief, but it now appears that Customs and Excise may take a different view. Will my right hon.

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Friend discuss that matter with Customs and Excise? Will he look into the case of Kirkley and Pakefield community sports club in my constituency if I give him the details?

Mr. Caborn: It would be wrong and very treacherous for me to step into the domain of the Chancellor or anyone else, even if my hon. Friend would like me to do so.

Mr. Bercow : Go on.

Mr. Caborn: No, I cannot, although I would love to.

If my hon. Friend writes to me, I will ensure that the information goes to the right quarters.

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