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Lord Smith of Leigh moved, as an amendment to Amendment No. 138, Amendment No. 138ZA:

"(3) To qualify for the relief, community amateur sports clubs must demonstrate they will invest their relief into their sporting activities.""

The noble Lord said: I support very much the arguments presented by the noble Lord, Lord Phillips of Sudbury. However, when he says that there has been a decline in rugby, I presume that he refers to rugby union. There certainly has not been a decline in rugby league, which is expanding dramatically at present. It is now played in every county throughout England and is the most successful game in Wales.

The noble Lord's remarks on regeneration through sport are very important. If we contrast the levels of investment in community sport in this country with that in France, and the difference in each country's crime rate, there is an important lesson for us all. Although I support the principles of the amendment in seeking rate relief for sports clubs, in my experience, we must go one stage further. Sports clubs are complex organisations, with many different sections including one that looks after sports. There is, therefore, no guarantee that the money that clubs save will be used to improve the sporting element of the club. Many clubs have bars, and we would not wish to see the money used to reduce bar prices. In my experience, that has happened.

In my amendment, I wish to add to the proposed new clause a condition that investment in community sport must be seen to come out of the money that goes into clubs. My own local authority runs such a scheme with discretionary relief. It works very well and has increased the partnership between the local authority and sports clubs. It also ensures that money is used to

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improve sport at community level. I hope that Members of the Committee will accept this additional power, which would ensure that the intention of Amendment No. 138 is achieved. I beg to move.

6.30 p.m.

Lord Monro of Langholm: I support the amendment, which I think admirable. It is important because of its simplicity. With all due respect, the additional amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Smith, perhaps adds complication. At a time when the Government are rightly looking seriously at the fitness of the nation and, in particular, the fitness of our younger people, this seems one of the least expensive ways of making good progress. I shall own up to the fact that 38 years ago in 1965, I moved an amendment to the then Finance Bill to have mandatory 100 per cent de-rating of sports clubs—without success. I have chipped away and chipped away, but other people have been more successful. Certainly what the noble Lord, Lord Phillips, with the help of Lord Cowdrey and others, achieved two years ago was a tremendous advance.

I am glad that the Government brought in the change that they did, but I must say that I think it was the wrong change to make. I cannot imagine a more complicated system of charitable status or a more expensive system to attain a very simple aim, which probably, in terms of a sports club, achieves a relatively low sum. To go through all the legal proceedings of charitable status is a very forbidding occupation for most volunteer sports club secretaries. I think that is why so few have tried to attain that status.

If we moved forward with this amendment, all that would be beside the point. It would be much more simple and local authorities could press ahead and give mandatory 100 per cent relief of rates. Of course, many do that now. Certainly, many local authorities give 50 per cent discretionary relief and some give various percentages higher. They realise that the sports facilities in their local authority areas are very important for a whole host of reasons—many of which have been given by the noble Lord, Lord Phillips. We should do all that we can to encourage sport, particularly at the relatively low cost of 10 million estimated by the CCPR, from a budget of 51,000 million. Therefore, it is a very tiny percentage of the expenditure of the department.

As we know, the amendment is warmly supported by all the sports groups—the NPFA, the CCPR and others. They all believe that this would be one of the least expensive and most effective methods of encouraging sport in England at the present time. Obviously, this is an issue that the Scottish Executive and the Welsh Assembly would follow up if passed in this country. I warmly support what the noble Lord, Lord Phillips, said. I apologise for dashing in and out and looking at the monitor, but I am deeply involved in the debate in the Chamber. I hope that the Minister

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will see light here—that this is the best value for money—and I hope that he will agree to the amendment.

Lord Moynihan: I, too, support the amendment. The Bill is of immense importance to the future of voluntary sport. Business rates are the largest tax faced by voluntary sports clubs. As drafted, the Bill will penalise larger voluntary sports clubs in order to fund relief for small businesses. That aspect of the Bill needs to be amended to take account of the unique characteristics of the voluntary sports clubs and to stop treating them the same as businesses. The amendment is designed to provide community amateur sports clubs, as defined by the Finance Act 2002, with 80 per cent mandatory rate relief parity with charity.

The background is clear. The Finance Act 2002, to which praise has been given, created limited tax exemptions for community amateur sports clubs, as defined by the Act, that were unwilling or unable to become charities. As has been rightly pointed out, there is widespread support in both Houses for this amendment. In another place, Early-Day Motion 702 in the last Session, signed by 151 MPs, supported the provision of 80 per cent mandatory rate relief for community amateur sports clubs. The Select Committee report into the draft Local Government Bill similarly recommended that community amateur sports clubs receive 80 per cent mandatory rate relief. When a similar amendment was debated in Committee in the Commons, it received strong, all-party support.

To the Government, the critical issue is clearly cost, and reference has been made to the excellent work undertaken by the Central Council for Physical Recreation, which identified that the cost would be approximately 10 million. I believe that 10 million should be viewed against the benefits that it would bring to the ailing voluntary sports club sector as well as the reduction in red tape for both clubs and councils. Sport remains the most popular form of volunteering in communities and it is now widely recognised that community sport plays a key role in promoting health, social cohesion and reducing anti-social behaviour. The cost of obesity alone is in excess of 2.5 billion each year, against the 10 million which we are discussing today.

We should set this amendment in context. After a series of delays the Government have announced their support for a London Olympic bid. Yet, in the past 48 hours, we have seen funding for sport in this country continue to be cut as potential future Olympians are turned away from training centres closed by cuts. Consider the tragic case of table tennis, which many Members of the Committee will have read about this week. In addition, we have an Olympic bid without leadership.

If the United Kingdom is to see success at the London Olympic Games, it needs to focus on widening, not restricting, participation in sport; on identifying, not denying, talent the right to flourish; and on building a strong alliance—this is critical—between schools, governing bodies and clubs to ensure

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that through wider participation in sport we nurture the Olympic champions of the future. The amendment is an important first step in that direction. The provision of relief to community amateur sports clubs would assist not only future Olympians, but also government policy for health, education, social inclusion and crime reduction. I hope that we shall have a surprise from the Government today when—convinced by the rhetoric from all sides of the Committee and, indeed, from another place—they realise that it would be 10 million well invested in future talent, in community participation and in their absolutely correct priorities for social inclusion, health, crime prevention and wider participation in sport. All those objectives can be achieved by accepting the amendment as it stands.

Lord Addington: I apologise for missing the first few moments when my noble friend Lord Phillips introduced the amendment, but I should like to add to what has been said. Amateur sports clubs effectively take on the large proportion of the sports education in this country. They subsidise our failing school sports and physical education system to an almost unimaginable level. They are regularly called upon. The Government have recognised their role and, apparently, the school sports co-ordinator has a very important liaison function. Yet we are saying, "You are doing something on the cheap, for free, effectively, for us", but we are not prepared to give a basic level of relief. That is what this amendment calls for.

I am afraid that rugby league is in bad shape. It may be spreading where it is played, but the players are getting older. That is a great problem in all sports—most sports players are getting older and we are not producing kids who play sport any more. Rugby union and rugby league first-team players are aged 40—I have personal experience of that. That is good news for physiotherapists, but not good news for sport.

We are not producing the great flow of people that we did, but amateur sports clubs are doing that. The potential savings to the health service are massive. The Government have already conceded that the point of this amendment is important, but unless they are prepared to move to ensure that every sport benefits from its provisions, we shall come back to the matter again and again. Every time there is a delay in the process of giving that little bit more funding, the benefits of expansion will be denied.

Amendment No. 138ZA expresses a good sentiment but I cannot see how it would be possible to administer. The main point here is that, effectively, amateur sports clubs are subsidising the Government. Do not make them pay any more than they have to.

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