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Amateur Sports Clubs

10. Mr. Clive Betts (Sheffield, Attercliffe) (Lab): what support her Department offers to amateur sports clubs. [208458]

The Minister for Sport and Tourism (Mr. Richard Caborn): The community amateur sports club scheme provides such clubs with a relief of 80 per cent. on their non-domestic rates—mandatory rate relief—and gift aid on donations from individuals, as part of a package of benefits intended to promote community and grass-roots sport. I welcome the fact that more than 2,000 clubs have so far registered with the scheme and received an estimated total of £5 million in tax relief as a result.

I want to put on record my thanks to my hon. Friend, who moved the amendment to the Local Government Bill which brought about that fundamental change.

Mr. Betts: I thank my right hon. Friend for his answer. I welcome the fact that 2,000 clubs have signed up to the scheme and are receiving the benefits. However, I am sure that my right hon. Friend would accept that there are probably many thousands of clubs who are eligible for the scheme but are not getting the money because they have not applied, perhaps because they do not know that the scheme exists. Will he consider increasing and improving the publicity for the scheme, perhaps by launching a campaign involving
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hon. Members on both sides of the house so that they can contact the clubs in their constituencies to make sure that they know about it and apply for it?

Mr. Caborn: That is absolutely right. I happen to have to hand one of the 10,000 leaflets, "Growing community sport", which we distributed to the national governing bodies only a few weeks ago.

Mr. Malcolm Moss (North-East Cambridgeshire) (Con): What a surprise.

Mr. Caborn: As my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Attercliffe (Mr. Betts) pointed out, there may be 40,000 or more sports clubs in this country, and 2,000 of them are now receiving, year in and year out, £5 million of investment in grass-roots sport. Disappointingly, although the press hammered us daily, screaming for mandatory rate relief and support for sports clubs, when we wrote to every national newspaper three or four weeks ago asking it to broadcast the good news about the relief, not one word about it was printed. The Treasury has been very supportive of the move. I call on the national press and everybody in the House to make sure that every sports club in this country knows that there is money for the taking, week in, week out, year in, year out.

Alistair Burt (North-East Bedfordshire) (Con): Bearing in mind the difficulty of finding adults to come forward to lead young people's organisations of all sorts, including those involved in sports, will the Minister commend the activities of McDonald's, which has supported grass-roots amateur football to the extent of 140 coaches in Bedfordshire in recent years? Will he do all that he can to encourage more adults to come forward to lead young people's sporting organisations, and do away with all the unnecessary regulation which makes that so much more difficult?

Mr. Caborn: The hon. Gentleman makes a good point about trying to encourage more volunteers into sport and into voluntary work per se. Undoubtedly, there are some obstacles to volunteering, including some to which the House has agreed. For example, record checks to guarantee the protection of children are right and must be adhered to. However, other serious problems relate to insurance but, as the hon. Gentleman knows, together with the insurance industry, we are trying to find solutions to that. My right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer has instigated a review of volunteering, through Ian Russell. I hope that his report will be out in the next few weeks, and that will give us a platform for debate. Most hon. Members want to encourage more people to volunteer. Of all volunteers, 27 per cent. are in sport, and without them grass-roots sport would not exist.

Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover) (Lab): Is my right hon. Friend aware that in Bolsover they are ready, willing and able to start an amateur swimming club, and they would probably get a grant? We would provide Olympic and Commonwealth swimmers before my right hon. Friend could can bat an eye. The trouble is we have not got the swimming bath yet, so will he meet
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representatives of Sport England to get the money from the lottery, to get the bath, and then the show will be on the road?

Mr. Caborn: With the guarantee of Olympic swimmers coming out of Bolsover, how can we refuse such a request? As my hon. Friend knows, we are working with the authorities to try to get investment for a 25 yd swimming pool, and we will continue to do so. I hope that the result will be positive.

Mr. John Whittingdale (Maldon and East Chelmsford) (Con): Is the Minister aware that amateur sports clubs up and down the country face enormous extra bills as a result of the new fees proposed under the Licensing Act 2003? Is he further aware that his predecessor, the hon. Member the Member for Pontypridd (Dr. Howells), explicitly said in Committee that the Government intended to accept our proposal that voluntary sports clubs should not have to pay more than a 10th of the amount paid by commercial organisations, and that the Government have now betrayed that commitment?

Mr. Caborn: I have just said to the House that amateur sports clubs that want money from the Revenue can qualify for mandatory rate relief; people tell me that they have been asking for that for 30 years. There is also gift aid and other tax breaks available to clubs under the CASC scheme. In fact, those options offer far more money to clubs than the hon. Gentleman's suggestion. He does not know what the licensing fees will be, because they have not been announced yet. I hope that that announcement will be made in the next few days. Any sports club running a bar for profit, which rightly brings money into the club, will find that those fees will be small, and so easily absorbed in the running costs and by the prices of the products sold. The gains for amateur sports clubs under the CASC scheme far outweigh any cost that we will introduce through licensing.

Mr. Whittingdale: The Secretary of State said on Second Reading that she was

that the Licensing Bill would be

The Central Council of Physical Recreation, which represents those clubs, has said that the new fees

It says that it has been inundated by correspondence from clubs that risk losing vital income that helps to keep their organisations alive. Will the Government withdraw the proposed fee levels and honour the commitments that they gave?

Mr. Caborn: We consider every word that is said by organisations that represent sports clubs, but only 2,000 clubs have applied for the CASC scheme, out of a possible 40,000. In one year, those 2,000 clubs have received £5 million. At least the CCPR has been one of the more active bodies in promoting the scheme. There is money waiting to be collected by the other 38,000 sports clubs from mandatory rate relief and other
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tax breaks, especially gift aid, but they have not applied for it. The governing bodies, the CCPR and others should be ensuring that those 38,000 clubs apply. The proposed liquor licensing fees can be absorbed easily into the bar prices or running costs of clubs.

Community Sports Initiatives

11. John Mann (Bassetlaw) (Lab): What recent representations she has received on funding for community sports initiatives. [208459]

The Minister for Sport and Tourism (Mr. Richard Caborn): The Department receives a range of representations on funding for community sports initiatives. By 2006, the Government will have committed more than £1 billion to the development of sports facilities through the New Opportunities Fund for PE and sport, the community club development programme, Space for Sport and Arts, Active England and the Football Foundation. I will place a full update on our sports facilities programmes in the House of Commons Library within the next few days.

John Mann: Does the Minister agree that there is no better way than sport to combine social inclusion, healthy living and increased aspirations? If he does, does he also agree that we need even more flagship community sports projects, particularly in coalfield communities?

Mr. Caborn: Very much so. I commend my hon. Friend for the initiatives that he has promoted in Bassetlaw and his efforts to develop such projects around coalfield communities. Let me put on record the fact that of the 4,000 initiatives that are getting the investment that I mentioned, 1,000 are now on site, 1,200 have been completed—contrary to what some Conservatives have been saying—and £203 million has been spent on the schemes. A further 2,000 are yet to be completed.

Mr. John Bercow (Buckingham) (Con): Separate from the funding available from the Government, would the Minister describe as generous, mean or middling the financial support available for young people to play tennis from the principal beneficiary of the profitability of the Wimbledon championships—namely, the All England club?

Mr. Caborn: I think that about 50 per cent. of the profits from Wimbledon go into the grass-roots sport. The new strategy presented by the Lawn Tennis Association is most welcome and I am hopeful that, combined with the new grass-roots developments that are taking place, we will see a renaissance in tennis in this country. It was disappointing that we did not get one woman tennis player through the first round at Wimbledon last year, but I believe that the LTA's work in grass-roots development and the investment by the All England club of between £17 million and £20 million a year from the proceeds of the Wimbledon championships will reap rewards.
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Mr. Peter Pike (Burnley) (Lab): On Saturday, I went to see Daneshouse football club at Daneshouse community centre be presented with some kit by Barclays bank. Does my right hon. Friend agree that, in many ways, that type of support for community grass-roots sports by commercial enterprises provides better value than some of their high-profile sponsorship?

Mr. Caborn: I agree. Barclays has now invested through the Football Foundation some £30 million over the next two to three years. In addition, the bank is now working with Groundwork—the regeneration organisation—which has several flagship projects that will be up and running within the next 12 to 18 months. Helped by Barclays' investment with the Football Foundation, which receives £60 million a year, and its work with Groundwork, the campaign is reaching into inner-city areas where sport is needed to encourage young people to become more active and to drive our social inclusion agenda.

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