HC Deb 13 May 1992 vol 207 cc607-8
6. Mr. Pendry

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will make it his policy to introduce mandatory rate relief for voluntary non-profit-making sports clubs.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Environment (Mr. Robin Squire)

No, Madam.

Mr. Pendry

Is the Minister aware that that was a most complacent reply? Is he further aware that, according to his Department's figures, more than 1,000 voluntary sports clubs were denied rate relief in England and Wales last year? Government rating policy is hitting the grassroots of sport, whereas in Northern Ireland mandatory rate relief is benefiting sport. Will the new Minister use his undoubted talents to urge the Government to extend the Northern Ireland system to the rest of the United Kingdom?

Mr. Squire

To the extent that I detected a compliment in that question, I thank the hon. Gentleman, but in reply to the substance of that question, I must say no. The Government believe—and I agree [Laughter.]—that local authorities are best placed to determine the contribution that clubs make to the local community. Local authorities can already give up to 100 per cent. relief. That is determined locally; it is not a matter in which the Government should intervene.

Mr. Devlin

Do not many sports clubs play on grounds belonging to charitable trusts, which are automatically eligible for the full 50 per cent. rate relief?

Mr. Squire

I believe that my hon. Friend is correct. To return to the point of the original question, we recently conducted a survey which showed that a growing number of non-profit-making clubs were receiving more relief. Indeed, such clubs received more relief in 1990–91 than in 1989–90. We believe that our policy is working.