HC Deb 22 July 2002 vol 389 cc659-61
10. Mr. Gareth Thomas (Harrow, West)

If she will make a statement on her Department's plans to encourage sports clubs to seek charitable status. [68967]

The Minister for Sport (Mr. Richard Caborn)

I have written to 153 of sport's governing bodies, representing 90 sports, outlining the benefits of charitable status. The Government believe that the governing bodies should actively encourage their member clubs to apply. Through the governing bodies, we have distributed 140,000 leaflets advising clubs how they can access charitable status. The Charity Commission is working closely with my Department in trying to ensure that as many sports clubs as possible can get charitable status.

Mr. Thomas

Does my right hon. Friend accept that local authorities could have a role in encouraging sports clubs to consider the benefits of charitable status? Will he meet the Local Government Association, and in particular the Association of London Government, to encourage them to take an initiative in this sphere? What does he think of the new club set up by Conservative Members to promote the sport of David Davis baiting—charitable or uncharitable?

Mr. Speaker


Mr. Caborn

I have a dialogue with the Local Government Association, and we hope that, collectively, we can move the whole sports project forward. It is important also to note that, in the Finance Bill, which we hope will complete its passage through the House before the recess, the Chancellor announced a package of tax relief that will be available through the Inland Revenue. Charitable status and the new CASC—community amateur sports clubs—development in the Finance Bill, along with the performance and innovation unit report, form part of our agenda concerning whether an amateur sport should have charitable status as of right.

I think that we are making considerable strides towards ensuring that more money is invested in sport at club level, where it is most needed, helping the clubs and all the volunteers who work in them.

Bob Spink (Castle Point)

I welcome what the Minister said about charitable status for sports clubs, but can he assure the House that the Charity Commissioners will not make over-burdensome bureaucratic demands on the clubs or interfere with their running in any way?

Mr. Caborn

This is an important question. We are genuinely trying to take the load off sports clubs. The Charity Commission, my Department and Sport England are working together to set up a one-stop shop in every region, where small sports clubs without a lot of resources can get the answers to their questions. The Charity Commission, especially in the person of John Stoker, has played a fantastic role in helping my Department and Sport England to develop a far more comprehensive and user-friendly package for charitable status. We will continue to work to that end. We all know that many of the clubs could not operate without the volunteers who do a full-time job. We must help them as much as we possibly can, and that is what we are doing.

Mr. Andy Reed (Loughborough)

I am sure that my right hon. Friend is aware of my long-standing interest in this matter, following the introduction of my 10-minute Bill more than two years ago. There is still a slight discrepancy between the charitable route and the CASC route through the Inland Revenue. There is also a serious question about rate relief for clubs. I welcome the one-stop shops, and I would encourage people to go through either of those routes, but the biggest bill that many clubs face is their rates bill. Will he apply pressure, in the dying days of this parliamentary Session, to ensure that rate relief is at the top of the agenda during the consultation process?

Mr. Caborn

Yes, we will obviously raise that question with our colleagues in other Departments. We have come a long way in the past 12 to 18 months in instituting charitable status. Perhaps my hon. Friend should reflect on what the PIU report will say about charitable status for sports as of right. Perhaps when the report comes out it will be advantageous for him to resurrect the arguments that he has been deploying, skilfully and forcefully, for the past four months.