HC Deb 15 September 2003 vol 410 cc582-3
10. Mr. Huw Edwards (Monmouth)

If she will make a statement on her policy on rate relief for amateur sports clubs. [129561]

The Minister for Sport and Tourism(Mr. Richard Caborn)

I am pleased that the Government were able to introduce an amendment to the Local Government Bill on 10 September. The amendment will provide mandatory rate relief for registered community amateur sports clubs. That further demonstrates the Government's commitment to supporting our 110,000 amateur clubs, and I believe that it is excellent news for sport.

Mr. Edwards

I thank my right hon. Friend for that excellent news and for the Government's commitment to supporting grass-roots sport. I can assure him that the secretary of Chepstow rugby club, whom I spoke to this morning, knows that 80 per cent. rate relief on the £4,000 that the club currently pays to Monmouthshire county council will be immensely beneficial. Will my right hon. Friend ensure that all the amateur sports clubs that stand to gain from this excellent policy will be informed and encouraged to apply?

Mr. Caborn

Very much so. I received a letter congratulating the Government—such letters are not very common these days—from the National Playing Fields Association. It reminded me of the association's annual report of 1930 and provided rather more detail than appeared in the Hansard when the matter was discussed at the time. That letter also referred to the annual report of 1931, which referred to efforts made to obtain rate relief from the additional rate burdens that now oppress sports clubs". That letter continued: 70+ years later you deserve the credit for introducing something very simple, obvious and helpful to community sports". From time to time the National Playing Fields Association has bashed the Government. but on this occasion I thank it for congratulating us.

Mr. James Paice (South-East Cambridgeshire)

The Minister's announcement and the amendment to which he referred are extremely welcome, as his hon. Friend the Member for Monmouth (Mr. Edwards) rightly said. However, will he ensure that his definition of registered community sports clubs leaves no room for political correctness and, in particular, allows target-shooting sports access to the rate relief?

Mr. Caborn

We provided a definition of community amateur sports clubs, or CASCs, about 12 months ago and we have sent out 110,000 leaflets to the nine regions, establishing a one-stop shop for any amateur sports club that wants information on the subject, so it is not the burden that some people have suggested. We agreed the definition with the Treasury and that definition has been sent out to the clubs. I do not know whether the shooting fraternity has applied for CASC relief, but I shall look further into it and write to the hon. Gentleman.

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