HC Deb 23 June 1976 vol 913 cc1699-716

'In the case of land used or intended to be used wholly or mainly for the purpose of or in connection with physical recreation the carrying out of any building or other operations (other than the erection, enlargement, improvement of alteration of dwelling-houses) requisite for any of the following purposes shall not constitute material development for the purposes of this Act:—

  1. (a) The use of that land or any part thereof by persons when participating in that recreation;
  2. (b) erection or construction of a clubhouse, refreshment room, changing room or other premises to be used wholly or mainly by persons who participate in physical recreation on that land or of other buildings incidental to the use mentioned in subparagraph (a) above which may be required for the storage of apparatus and equipment used for the purposes of physical recreation or for the maintenance of the land for such purpose;
  3. (c) the construction on that land of anything necessary to secure the safety of such persons as are mentioned in sub-paragraphs (a) and (b) above, or of members of the public, or to prevent damage to property'.—[Mr. Fairbairn.]

Brought up, and read the First time

Mr. Fairbairn

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

The purpose of the clause is to exempt from the provisions of the Bill land that will be used for recreational purposes. I hope that the Minister will agree that he cannot object to this clause on principle, or on the ground that it would be difficult to implement. Yesterday we discussed a new clause that replaced Clause 19, and the Government had no difficulty in defining "industrial purposes."

I hope that the Minister does not think that I am being offensive if I refer to his defence of the amazing difficulties that the Government have in being fair when they do not want to be fair, yet find it easy to be fair when they want to be fair. The whole Bill is supposed to be about fairness.

This subject, more than any other, falls within the same curtilage—if I may use that English word, with which I had such difficulty in Committee—as the new clause dealing with industrial purposes.

8.30 p.m.

In previous debates, the Minister explained why it would be improper and contrary to principle to except charities and pension funds. Surely we can at least say that political parties are positve or equally neutral on recreation.

No one can argue that one part of the community rather than another will benefit. On the Minister's concept that the community is what matters, he may argue that only certain members of the community play ping-pong, soccer or darts, so they would benefit while others would not and the provision would consequently be grossly unfair. That argument would be even more absurd here than it has been in other parts of the Bill. Sport and recreation are, to a great extent, paid for and supported by public funds. It cannot be denied that this is partial, because not everybody indulges in sport. Some people benefit, others do not.

I think the Minister shares my belief that funds that are extracted from those who indulge in an activity, put through Government organisations or local authorities and then reapplied to that activity, obtain an infinitely poorer return than if they had been left with those indulging in the activity in the first place. That is a universal principle, from which we cannot escape. Given that sport is now a manifestation of activity within the community which is supported, sponsored and financed by the Government, it is wrong that it should have funds removed if they fall within the ambit of the Bill and reapplied by a central authority, local authority or direct funding.

I agree that there are other activities, such as the arts, to which this concept could apply. The fact that we do not have a new clause on the arts does not seem to me to be a good reason for denying that there is a good and unanswerable case on behalf of sport. I appreciate that the Minister may argue that if somebody is building a squash court, or tennis court, or a cricket ground, the £10,000 exemption will apply. After all, the Marylebone Cricket Club may own premises in which it wants to set up a pub, and it might make a tremendous profit from that concern. That would be unfair to members of a village cricket club.

Let me take Scotland as an example. In Edinburgh there has been a major development of sites containing facilities used for the Commonwealth Games. That effort involved the expenditure of many hundreds of thousands of pounds, and nowadays that figure would probably involve millions of pounds. The Commonwealth swimming pool, which was built on a prime site, was a major development, the cost of which ran into millions of pounds. Therefore, lest the Minister should use the argument that we are dealing with a minor matter with which the Bill is not likely to interfere, I wish to point out that if, for instance, Glasgow had attempted to obtain an increase in its enormous capital debt in respect of the Commonwealth Games, that would be covered by these provisions.

It is important that the Government should not indulge in all the bureaucracy involved in removing this theoretical tax from recreational organisations and then take the view "We shall give it back to them in another way." That is a waste of money, and is unnecessary. But it does not contradict any of the principles in the Bill if we exempt from its provisions an activity that we all believe should be supported by community funds.

Mr. John Farr (Harborough)

I wish to support the clause, especially because I believe that this Government should adopt a consistent approach to legislation as it emerges from one Socialist Government to another.

If the Minister of State has time to do so, I should like him to examine the provisions of the Land Commission Act 1967. He will find that much of the material contained in the new clause is to be found in the 1967 Regulations, relating to material development, made by the then Minister of Housing and Local Government under sections 98 and 99 of the 1967 Act. All that this new clause is seeking to do is to establish the position that was established in the Land Commission Act.

The new clause deals with three specific purposes, for which it is proposed that land may be developed for physical recreational purposes without the payment of development land tax. Paragraph (a) relates to the use of land for physical recreational purposes. A great deal of constructional work is involved in preparing a site for such purposes, namely, levelling, drainage, landscaping, re-seeding, the laying of artificial surfaces, underground heating, and other expensive developments.

Subsection (2) of the clause relates to the building of clubhouses, refreshment rooms and changing rooms and other premises necessary for the storage of equipment. The third subsection relates to the safety not only of those who participate in an event that takes place at a recreational ground or establishment but also those members of the public who may be spectators at such an event.

I warmly support the clause. There are at least two important points that the House should bear in mind. The first relates to an Act of Parliament which the Minister has surely heard of although he may not have actually had a part in its formation. I refer to the Safety of Sports Grounds Act 1975. The Minister may not even be aware that this Act is on the statute book. In fact is was prepared by, and inherited from, the outgoing Conservative Government. It had all-party support and became the law of the land in 1975. The Act lays upon the operators of establishments for physical recreation many serious obligations. Section 2 states that a local authority may require the operators of a stadium or stadia to make various alternations, such as constructing crush barriers, erecting safety barriers, tunnelling, and many other additions to the stadium.

Section 2(1) gives a local authority the power to lay down almost any conditions and, if they are not complied with, to say that the stadium, or site, will not be allowed to continue for recreational purposes. When one looks at the Safety of Sports Grounds Act, with the very onerous burdens that are placed upon those concerned with the operation of certain recreational grounds, one sees that it is not right and proper that they should be penalised by development land tax for carrying out their duties as specified in the Act.

The other point that I wish to make concerns the whole attitude of the Government in producing this Bill and placing it before the House. It concerns the whole attitude of the Government in relation to those who have engaged in sporting activities, or recreational activities of any sort whatsoever. I hope, for instance, that the Government are not making the same mistake as that which they made in 1975 over the Community Land Act.

The Minister may have heard of the Central Council for Physical Recreation and its responsibilities to sport in this country, in particular, in advising the sports councils. The council, in its annual report for 1974–75, had this to say about this Government and the Community Land Act: This major piece of legislation was prepared by the Government without any proper consideration to its possible repercussions on Sport and Recreation. The CCPR, as it is known, is an entirely impartial body. It is distressing to find that when one has had a major Act, like the Community Land Act, put on the Statute Book, no attempt has been made by the Government of the day to consult those who are responsible for sport and recreation in Britain. I hope that the Minister, in bulldozing the Bill through the House has had a little concern about the White Paper on Sport and Recreation published by his Government in August 1975. I do not suppose, that he has read it—

Mr. Denzil Davies

indicated assent.

8.45 p.m.

Mr. Farr

I am glad that he is honest enough to acknowledge it. I shall read a couple of significant paragraphs. It is not desirable that the Minister should completely ignore the contents of the White Paper, because they give a firm indication of Government policy towards sport and recreation.

Paragraph 5 says that The Government accept that recreation should be regarded as 'one of the community's everyday needs' and that provision for it is 'part of the general fabric of the social services'. In paragraph 56, dealing with priorities, the White Paper talks about areas of special need and says that The House of Lords Select Committee recommended that 'recreational priority areas' (inner urban areas which have suffered from environmental deprivation and have lagged behind particularly in recreational provision) should be defined and given special financial assistance for recreational projects. The Government are deeply concerned about the problems of urban deprivation and are in full sympathy with the aims of this recommendation. I think that the whole House is in sympathy with them.

It is a pity that the Government have not shown more sympathy, not only with legislation of a previous Socialist Government—the 1967 Land Commission Act—but with their own White Paper, of August last year. I hope that they will accept the new clause.

Mr. Hector Monro (Dumfries)

I support the new clause. The Government seem to be cutting the throat of sport and recreation, which all Governments have been trying to help for a long time. Their attempts have not borne substantial fruit, but at least national resources do reach sport and recreation through the Sports Council and local authorities. However, an enormous amount of that money is taken out in VAT, rates and corporation tax.

We are still awaiting a debate on the White Paper published last August, which gave encouragement but no resources to sport and recreation. This tax, in conjunction with the Community Land Act, will have a detrimental effect on sport and recreation generally.

What consultations has the Minister had with the Central Council of Physical Recreation and the Sports Council? My inquiries suggest that they have been minimal.

Two main propositions arise under the new clause. The first concerns major sports grounds. We want to see improvements for the sake of the game and the spectators, and to help the implementation of the Safety of Sports Grounds Act.

Second, an announcement of the designated day is long overdue. It will inevitably come before next Session, and certainly within the next 12 months. Implementing the code and the regulations set down by local authorities will cost a substantial sum.

One way in which this money might be raised to finance the provision of safe facilities—which we all accept and applaud—would be for the large grounds to sell off a corner site, or an acre here or there, for development. The proceeds would be taxed extremely severely, so that little cash would flow to the organisations owning the sports grounds. Therefore, little money would be available for the development of safe facilities at the sports grounds.

The Minister must have more sympathy with the application of the new clause to small clubs. I refer to those clubs that are run mainly by voluntary organisations. These days, in view of the high cost of running sports grounds and sporting facilities, it is not infrequent for two or three clubs in a town or city to combine, pool their resources, and have one play- ing field, one pavilion, one set of changing rooms and stands, plus squash and badminton courts. If two of the three clubs sold their premises for development so as to obtain an enhanced income—always accepting that planning permission was available—they would be clobbered by this legislation.

There is no point in saying that some of the clubs might be registered as charities, as I do not think that they would benefit under the provisions of the Bill.

I have had much correspondence with the Minister of State for Planning and Local Government—who has not often been present at the discussions on this legislation—especially about the Community Land Act, which triggered off this legislation. He wrote to me in April and said that there would be an exemption in respect of the type of case to which I referred. He referred to building extensions of up to 10 per cent. of the existing facilities, or 1,000 square metres. That will not take us very far in trying to obtain money for development or for improving the facilities of sports clubs.

The second exemption would apply to new buildings of less than 1,000 square metres. That may do for a modest pavilion and changing rooms, but it will not cover grounds or buildings sold to provide money for sport and recreation. That kind of sale would be hit comprehensively. We welcome the encouragement given for better sporting facilities. Clubs should have income-producing facilities, such as club bars, so that money may be generated for them to use for the improvement of existing facilities. However, all that the regional councils of sports and physical recreation are contemplating is being thwarted by this legislation.

Larger sports grounds, especially cricket grounds, may wish to sell off portions of their sites so that their facilities may be developed. Sports clubs may wish to amalgamate and sell off small portions of their ground so that the proceeds may be used to the advantage of their other facilities. I hope that the Minister understands that this Bill and the Community Land Act will destroy those efforts.

If the Minister does not accept the new clause, I hope that he will at least accept the principle of helping sport and recreation, and will be prepared to table his own amendment at a later date.

Mr. Clegg

I congratulate my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Mr. Fairbairn) on introducing the new clause and join those of my hon. Friends who have argued in support of it.

I pay tribute to the Minister for the great courtesy and stamina that he has shown. It is matched only by that of my right hon. Friend the Member for Crosby (Mr. Page). I thought at times today that the Minister looked like Horatio on the bridge. The troops are still coming up to support him, but they have not yet arrived. This particular rank of Tuscany can scarce forbear to cheer.

This is an important new clause. I speak to it now because recently the North-West Conservative Members' Group had a deputation from the industrial areas of Lancashire—particularly Merseyside—about the lack of facilities for recreation or, as they put it, "for play." When I first heard of the deputation coming to see us and went along to meet these people, I had some doubt about their claim, especially in these days of restrictions on Government expenditure. But as I heard about the part that they were playing in the battle against vandalism and juvenile crime, I was impressed by what they said. I should hate anything in the Bill to stand in the way of proper facilities being provided in city centre areas where most of these problems exist. I am talking not of lush, professional, splendid recreation centres, but of quite primitive places.

I am perhaps unnecessarily perturbed that, without the new clause, the development land tax, especially in city centres where land is very highly priced if it has development potential, will stand in the way of the good work that is being done by these people, who in fact work for very little. If the Bill in any way aggravated the problems of vandalism and delinquency, it would be doing an evil.

For those reasons, concentrating not on professional or spectator sport but on the recreational use of land, there is a great social purpose here which could be ill-served by the Bill unless it contained the new clause.

Mr. Patrick Mayhew (Royal Tunbridge Wells)

I apologise for having missed the speech made by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Mr. Fairbairn) when he introduced the new clause.

I excuse my short intervention in the debate on the ground that one has only to read the terms in which the clause is expressed to appreciate at once the merit of the proposal.

What good purpose can the Government have in mind in seeking to apply development land tax to land used for recreational purposes? I suppose that the revenue that it is hoped this application will yield will be the tiniest fraction of a drop in the ocean compared with what this or any Government are likely to need, but to the sports clubs and others who are trying to play some part in improving the lot of those in inner city areas who are very short of recreational facilities, referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for North Fylde (Mr. Clegg), the money that they will have to find to pay the tax is far more than a drop in the ocean; it is a substantial component of their life blood, and it seems to me that if they are to be mulcted by DLT it will have the effect of preventing their going ahead with improvements that otherwise they would start—improvements that are necessary and for which they may have painfully gathered the necessary funds over many years.

9.0 p.m.

I hope that the Minister will ask himself: "What good are we really seeking to achieve? What can we hope for as a result of this application of the tax? Is there really going to be any tangible advantage to the public interest?" He will be able to say, of course, that the principle of the Bill is being applied consistently, and I concede that sometimes there is advantage in consistency and in keeping to an absolute minimum the number of exceptions.

As one of my hon. Friends pointed out, it is Government policy to encourage those who are seeking to expand recreational and sporting facilities to mitigate the disadvantages of living in large urban concentrations. If that is the policy of this Government, can it be said that there is any sensible or tangible advantage to be sought from applying the principle of the Bill to those who wish land used for recreational purposes? One asks, how is the money to be found? It is a curious principle of the Bill that the tax has to be paid before one starts the development.

Mr. Farr

My hon. and learned Friend asks how the money is to be found. The House will know that last year we passed the Lotteries Act 1975, which empowers groups of people and others to engage in lotteries for the improvement of sporting facilities, among other community projects. I put it to my hon. and learned Friend that the House should be aware that, if the Lotteries Act is brought into use in a community for the provision of, say, a new sports or recreation hall costing £20,000, by the provisions of the Bill the sum that local people will have to raise will be no less than £100,000.

Mr. Mayhew

That is a highly relevant point and one that will never be appreciated in the country. People still have some faith in the sense of Government and Parliament. No layman could possibly assume that we would pass legislation that would have that consequence. Once it dawns upon people that that is the consequence of a Bill of this kind, one can readily imagine the effect it will have on those who hitherto have been generous in responding to charitable appeals and who have put their hands into their pockets for money to buy lottery tickets. Once they realise what my hon. Friend has just pointed out—that a proportion of that magnitude out of everything their lottery produces must go to the Revenue—they will say "That is the end of it. We are not going to subscribe to anything so stupid."

The point is not improved by being belaboured. I merely say in conclusion, having sat last night through the debate on the application of the Bill to charities, having heard the arguments adduced by speaker after speaker on this side of the House and having heard the deafening silence on the Government Benches, whose Members at least did not seek to defend the indefensible but left that unenviable task to the Minister, who tackled it with his usual ability but without the slightest manifestation of enthusiasm— and who could be surprised?—that I see at least consistency here.

Here the Government, as last night, out of considerations based solely on doctrinaire consistency, are seeking to apply to those who they realise are trying to help them, in ends that the Government themselves wish to attain, a tax the consequences of which can only be to hinder, obstruct and hamstring those voluntary organisations. In the same way as when my hon. Friends last night were able to list the categories of voluntary organisations that wish only to be able to help the Government to achieve what the Government are manifestly failing to achieve satisfactorily and sufficiently themselves, if the Government persist in objecting to this clause, they will be perpetuating their failure.

One thinks of the Duke of Edinburgh's playing-fields scheme and the numerous charitable organisations and others of a sporting nature that seek to provide improvements for their local communities on a recreation ground that is available. They will be hamstrung, obstructed and hindered in just the same way. I beg the Minister to take this to heart and tell us, when he replies to this wholly one-sided debate, how objection to the new clause can possibly be justified.

Mr. Denzil Davies

Hon. Members have asked me to extend an exemption, as set out in the new clause, to the recreational use of land, mainly in the case of physical recreation, which is what the new clause deals with. The main objection to the new clause—the hon. and learned Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Mr. Fairbairn) touched upon this—is that here we are being asked for an exemption for one particular activity. It is an extremely worthy and good activity, but other activities are equally deserving. No doubt they would also wish exemption from the legislation. In the development of theatres or opera houses—a cultural, not sporting, activity—the case would be the same as for the development of sports grounds. Therefore, if one were to allow exemption in this case, I should have thought that one would have to give exemption to other worthy causes to be consistent. That is one of the difficulties.

Mr. Fairbairn

Please let us not add this terrible Socialist principle that, if everyone does not get something, no one will be allowed to have it.

Mr. Davies

It is not a case of no one being allowed to have this if everyone cannot get it. We come back to the basic point of whether we should use taxation to further certain causes and ends, and whether we should assist sport by a relief from a special tax, a particular tax, which is what we are being asked to do. We are being asked to relieve one particular activity from taxation in order to assist that activity. A better way of assisting sporting organisations and cultural organisations is not to be found through the tax system, which should not be used for these purposes. By and large, although there always have to be some exceptions, the tax system should have as few exemptions as possible.

If the Government want to spend money on various activities and bodies, they must decide, by means of a debate on priorities, how they are to allocate resources. However, once one starts along the road of using reliefs from taxation to assist various causes that the Government think worthy, one finds that it is a dangerous road to travel. It has been a basic principle of public expenditure and public finance that we try not to do that. We try not to give specific relief for specific organisations. We try to deal with matters through public expenditure priorities.

I accept that the tax is slightly different because it may be imposed on one activity in one community. But we are being asked to exempt a body, a recreation or acitivity from that tax to assist that activity. If we did that, there would be other cases and we would then be using taxation for social purposes, which I do not believe to be desirable.

There may be some cases where the tax will have to be paid. The example was raised in Committee of the Worthing Rugby Football Club. In most cases, however, there will be no tax to pay because of the £10,000 exemption. I do not argue that a minority would not have to pay a considerable amount of tax, but because of the exemption and the base rate the small football or rugby club is unlikely to have to pay the tax. We are concerned with a minority of cases where there might be development value, but if we accepted the proposition it would be difficult to know where to draw the line. Other organisations would understandably ask for relief, and there would be no way to confine exemptions which would be fair to the totality.

I ask the House not to accept the new clause, but I am in considerable sympathy with those who wish to help sport. I am not sure that the taxation system is the best way to help. It would be better to do it through public expenditure and public finance.

Mr. Monro

The Minister is basing too much of his argument on the fact that the tax will not affect many clubs. I examine large numbers of sports clubs' balance sheets and I know what it costs to provide the minimum changing-room facilities. The sum of £10,000 is not much. One would obtain only very meagre facilities for £20,000. It would cost even more if a club wanted reasonabe social facilities in order to generate income.

Mr. Davies

I am not only arguing about the £10,000 exemption. One has to calculate the gain one gets against the base value. Certain base values have to be deducted from the price paid for the land. The sum of £10,000 is probably sufficient in most cases. The hon. Member for Dumfries (Mr. Monro) will know that there is already a charge for development gains on clubs at the corporation tax rate of 52 per cent. That measure was introduced in 1974. I understand that there were no amendments then and that it was not considered to be a problem. There have been no representations about the development gains charge which relates to betterment if clubs want to develop. We are not imposing a completely new tax because a tax already exists, although I accept that the rates will be higher.

Mr. Fairbairn

That must be the 114th load of sympathy that I have received from the Minister. I remind him that activities like sport are not run on sympathy; they are run on cash. It is offensive to hear the same argument again and again in which I do not believe the Minister believes. He tells us that we are absolutely right and that the Government have sympathy with the idea but unfortunately there may be other organisations in the same situation and it would be unfair. In order not to be unfair to them we have to be unfair in this case as well. That is the logic of the spurious argument that I have heard from the Minister in Committee and in this debate. It is a bad and wicked argument. The Minister's position is indefensible.

9.15 p.m.

The hon. Gentleman was saying, in effect "If we go down what I agree is a good road, there is no end to the number of good intentions that we may carry out. We may help the arts, which we help anyway. We may even help theatres, sports clubs and all sorts of other things which we never intended to help in this way but which it is our policy to help. We cannot start down such a golden road in case we do some good."

I am concerned about the arts. If the theatres want this exemption, perhaps the Government will grant it. If the Government think that the theatres should have it too, let them give it to them; it is the Government's Bill. But let them not say "Sport shall not have it, because other organisations should have it as well." The Government can amend the Bill in another place if they wish.

The second argument, which I have heard again and again and which I find equally offensive, is that in most cases there would be no tax. In other words, the fact that a grave injustice would be done in a significant number of cases does not matter provided a lot of people fall below the tax line. That is not a realistic concept. The ordinary football club is now in grave financial difficulties, certainly in Scotland. Incidentally, the great interest shown by SNP Members is worthy of note. They are once again absent. The football club often has to build a supporters' recreational facility in order to obtain funds from the sale of alcohol and from membership subscription that make it viable. Under the Bill, that facility is liable to tax at 80 per cent.

My hon. Friend the Member for Dumfries (Mr. Monro) said that one cannot build much for £10,000 nowadays. One cannot build a supporters' recreational club today for less than £400,000. That must be spread over the whole ground, but the increased development value may well land the club with a tax payment of more than £100,000. What football club now compelled to comply with all the safety regulations will be able to find that sort of money for tax?

Mr. Michael Spicer

Is this not a perfect example of the case where there are no genuine gains—nor are there likely to be any—but there is tax?

Mr. Fairbairn

I am obliged to my hon. Friend. The Government seem unable to get it into their heads that there is no such thing as a charity, pension fund or sporting organisation with more money than it needs. These organisations need all the money they can obtain to carry out their functions.

The Minister's third point was that if the Government wanted to fund such organisations it would be better done by tax. He said "We should use the taxation system to promote certain activities. It would be fair to the general totality"—

Mr. Denzil Davies

I said that we should not use the taxation system; that there is a danger in assisting organisations by giving them exceptions in fiscal legislation. It is better to assist them through the normal channels of public expenditure.

Mr. Fairbairn

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman. I do not want to get his concept wrong. I think that I understand what he says, which is that if one is to be unfair enough to give facilities to those who play games and not to those who do not, it should be done through the general tax system and not by exemption.

If I noted the Minister's words correctly, he said that it would be fair to the general totality, but it is not fair to the general totality, if fairness or equality is to be the criterion, that those who play cricket, football or ping-pong, ride horses and do all the other things recreationally, receive support, while those who play bowls, darts and other similar activities, or play nothing at all, do not get it. That is awfully unfair.

Clearly there is discrimination. Let us not be fussy about the concept of discrimination. We discriminate in sport in favour of those who play it and in favour of the sports that need the money. We discriminate against the sports that do not need the money and against those who do not indulge in sports. Let us not talk about the absurd equation of ultimate fairness to the general totality.

Mr. Michael Spicer

Does my hon. and learned Friend accept that this is a perfect example of how we can play the game the Minister's way? The Minister has mentioned discrimination, and we are discussing an activity that is doing badly for cash. As activities that are doing badly are subsidised by the Government—it was argued yesterday that we should discriminate in favour of the manufacturing sector, because it is doing badly—is it not possible to throw back the argument that a certain activity is doing badly and that we should therefore discriminate in its favour?

Mr. Fairbairn

I am obliged to my hon. Friend. That is the next stage in the argument. That demonstrates the fallacy of the Minister's argument. The hon. Gentleman says that it is wiser to fund the money for sport through the Government, and to put it back into sport because it is doing badly, but that is a complete waste of money. In that way we use 100 times as much money as the original organisation would have used if left to its own resources.

This is part of the meanness and the lack of imagination of the Government. They take the attitude that those who do not like food shall not be allowed to prevent those who do like it from eating, and that those who like it shall not be allowed to prevent those who do not like it from starving. That is the concept of the absurd generality into which the Government have placed themselves.

This is a small clause. It deals only with recreation and sport. Sport does no one any harm. Socialists indulge in it, as well as everyone else. It would be a sensible exception. Whatever other exceptions the Government may think of, let them grant it to them, too. The Government adopt the Scrooge-like attitude and say "Because you have not thought of all the others, none shall have anything to eat". They say "If everybody does not get a lollipop, no one shall have a lollipop". That is the fallacy of the hon. Gentleman's argument.

I believe that we are a sporting race. With great difficulty we are trying to send a team to the Olympics. For goodness sake, do not let the Government go away with the charge that their meanness, hardness and lack of imagination has ensured that sport has been deprived of the few sources of funds it had by this absurd, unfortunate and ruthless tax.

Question put and negatived.

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