HC Deb 21 June 1926 vol 197 cc166-9

The profits of any amateur club or association promoted for the encouragement of amateur sport and other outdoor exercises shall not be chargeable under Case 1, Schedule D, Income Tax Act, 1918, in respect of any profits or gains of such club or association Dot exceeding fifty pounds which cannot be distributed and are, in the opinion of the General and Special Commissioners, wholly devoted to the development of amateur athletics in the interests of the health and well-being of the coramunity.—[Sir William Davison.]

Brought up, and read the First time.


I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a Second time."

The purpose of this Amendment is clearly set out, and I imagine that few words of mine will be required to commend it to the common sense of the Committee, and I hope induce the Government to accept it, especially as the amount involved is very small. The Clause is the result of a unanimous resolution passed at a meeting held some little time ago, and it embodies the views of the National Cyclists' Union, the Amateur Boxing Association, the Amateur Athletic Association, the Amateur Swimming Association, the National Amateur Wrestling Association and other bodies. They are all amateur associations engaged upon various kinds of sport, and I have put in the words "not exceeding fifty pounds." to show that it is intended mainly for the benefit of the poorer classes and to help to give facilities for athletic exercise and out-of-door sport to the younger people, and especially to those who are not largely blessed with this world's goods. The Financial Secretary to the Treasury referred incidentally to this new Clause when replying to the Clause with regard to agricultural shows, and he said that the Treasury had to close their ears to many things with which they would otherwise sympathise in the interests of the taxpayers. He largely nullified the appeal in classifying my proposed New Clause with that moved by the hon. Baronet the Member for Caithness (Sir A. Sinclair) by pointing out to him that agricultural and industrial shows were exempted from all taxation if they were not provided by a society carrying on for profit. I should be entirely satisfied if such an exemption was given to the athletic societies for which I am appealing. There is no suggestion of any profit being made. In fact, only recently where any small profit was made the Income Tax authorities did not pay any attention to it at all. It is only recently, due no doubt to the financial stringency of the nation, that the authorities have taken any notice of these shows throughout the country.

These societies, in order to raise funds, have gala entertainments, and if the day is a fine one and things go well, they make a profit which they desire to use, in the case of a rowing club, for buying sculls and other things, and in the case of a cricket club for getting bats and other 'things that might be needed. But now the Income Tax authorities say that any profit they make in a gala of that kind, after they have paid their expenses, must be subject to taxation. This damps down unquestionably those people who are, many of them, busy men engaged in work and give their time to organising these galas in the interest of sport. None of us can have read without a certain amount of emotion the leading article in last Saturday's "Times"—"Nowhere to play"—which was written because of a ease in the Police Court the previous week, in which two Paddington lads were brought to the Court for playing in the streets. The magistrate, very properly, only bound them over. I do not suggest that this Clause would meet that difficulty, but it would certainly go some way towards doing so. It was pointed out in that article that there was only one playing field for every 29,500 of the population. This Clause will help the people to help themselves in the matter of playing fields. Nothing is a better remedy for hooliganism than to provide fields for games as a fitting outlet for high spirits. This Clause will be taxably negligible, and I hope it will receive sympathetic consideration. In order to take away any doubt there might be in the mind of the Chancellor of the Exchequer I have Limited the profit to £50.


I am afraid, however desirous I might be of acceding to the hon. Member's appeal, the Government have had such lessons this year in respect of the proposed playing grounds for civil servants—a matter of some controversy, that now seems a long time ago—that I should never venture to trespass on the extremely dangerous ground of this Clause. Everyone would like to encourage sport, and there are a great many other things everyone would like to encourage; but when it takes the form of a favoured remission of taxation I am unable to follow further along the lines advanced. There is no doubt whatever that an enormous and almost innumerable variety of occupations in this country deserve support and encouragement, but I am afraid it cannot take the form of exemption from Income Tax. I am well aware of the efforts of these amateur clubs. They hold entertainments and functions by public advertisement, inviting subscriptions and entrance fees from the public, just in the same way as other institutions. I think it would be opening a line of march which I certainly would be ill-advised to follow if we were to give this special favour.

The hon. Member for South Kensington (Sir W. Davison) has spoken of the encouragement it would be to them if they were free from Income Tax. All I can say is that they are still in the enjoyment of four-fifths of that encouragement. Four-fifths of the money is still left to them. In the historic words of the right hon. Gentleman opposite, we have to regard not so much what is taken away but what is left. We can see all around us, by evidence of our eyes, that there is no discouragement imposed on these clubs and organisations which at all restricts and prevents their onward development. Therefore, I regret to say that my answer must be in the negative. I have had to return this answer a good many times today, and I cannot make an exception in this case. Learning has been denied, lunatic asylums have been denied, and even the dramatic and art classes of the right hon. Member for Hillhead (Sir It. Horne). The others must bear their common share.

Question, "That the Clause be read a Second time," put, and negatived.