HC Deb 24 May 2004 vol 421 cc1293-4
5. Mr. Parmjit Dhanda (Gloucester) (Lab)

If she will make a statement on the take-up of rate relief support for amateur sports clubs. [174895]

The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Tessa Jowell)

As of the end of April this year more than 1,100 local amateur sports clubs had registered with the community amateur sports club scheme. That scheme provides such clubs with an 80 per cent. relief on their non-domestic rates as part of a whole package of benefits intended to promote community and grass-roots sport. My hon. Friend will be aware that two clubs—a rugby club and a bowling club—in his constituency have opted to take advantage of the scheme.

Mr. Dhanda

I thank my right hon. Friend for her answer and I am pleased to hear about the 1,100 clubs, including no less august bodies than the Gloucester Old Boys rugby football club and the Gloucestershire Spar bowls club, that have taken advantage of the scheme. I also congratulate my right hon. Friend on introducing a simple one-page form for rates relief, which has made a huge difference and encouraged more clubs to apply. I urge her to use that as an example of good practice, cutting bureaucracy across government.

Tessa Jowell

I thank my hon. Friend. We are beginning to make progress on take-up and I hope that Members throughout the House will urge their local sports clubs to register in this way because of the tangible benefits and money to be saved, which can then be reinvested and spent on grass-roots sport. That is the objective: to promote participation and to improve facilities for grass-roots sport. I am very glad that my hon. Friend has recognised the success of the scheme.

Miss Anne McIntosh (Vale of York) (Con)

I welcome the scheme and pay tribute to the contribution that it is making, but does the right hon. Lady not agree with the hon. Member for St. Helens, North (Mr. Watts) and me that after the reduction and raiding of the sports part of the lottery funding, there is not the same amount of money coming into sport, particularly for rugby clubs, such as the York club at Clifton Moor. What more can the Secretary of State do to encourage clubs to invest when they have lost that source of funding?

Tessa Jowell

I do not accept the hon. Lady's assertion. Over three years, £1 billion is going into new sports facilities. That is a proud record, which outstrips anything that any Government have done in the past. Yes, every lottery distributor has faced a reduction in the level of lottery income, but the hon. Lady will have noticed, as I have, that the last quarter's figures reported by Camelot, showed an increase in lottery sales for the first time. That is good for good causes, good for sport and good for the sports clubs in the hon. Lady's constituency.

Jane Griffiths (Reading, East) (Lab)

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the rate relief scheme is excellent news for amateur clubs such as the Palmer park velo cycling club in my constituency? Does she also agree that, if the London Olympic bid is successful, we should look not only east, as my hon. Friend the Member for Thurrock (Andrew Mackinlay) has suggested, but west to Reading where the Palmer park velodrome would be proud to host the world's finest cyclists?

Tessa Jowell

I thank my hon. Friend for that generous offer. She makes an important point—that the benefits stemming from the Olympic bid will not be for London alone, but will help sport across the country. The community amateur sports club scheme is one practical way of extending the benefit.

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