HL Deb 02 February 2005 vol 669 cc228-9

2.51 p.m.

Lord Clement-Jones

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What consideration they gave to the impact on voluntary sector sport and recreation when deciding to raise the level of fees under the Licensing Act 2003 for sports clubs by 50 per cent more than was originally proposed during the consultation period.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Culture, Media and Sport (Lord McIntosh of Haringey)

My Lords, the majority of sports clubs fall within the two lowest fee bands, as set out in the regulations laid before Parliament on Thursday. 20 January—that is, fee bands of rateable value up to £33,000. The increases across all fee bands were justified on the evidence produced during extensive consultation and research about the costs of the licensing regime. We do not believe that the fees will significantly affect the activities of the clubs involved.

Lord Clement-Jones

My Lords, the Minister is aware that sports clubs and organisations were opposed to the original scale of licensing fees set out in the consultation. However, the new charges have caused outrage among those same organisations.

The way in which the Government are implementing the Licensing Act is questionable in any event, but is it not utterly disproportionate to penalise sports clubs in this way with huge increases in licensing fees which will heavily damage their ability to contribute to sport in their communities?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

My Lords, I am aware of the orchestrated campaign on this issue. However, I am also aware that the Government are encouraging local sports substantially through £60 million in the community club development programme and through the 80 per cent mandatory rate relief which was announced in the Local Government Act. The Central Council for Physical Recreation would be well advised to devote more of its attention to ensuring take-up of that mandatory relief, and therefore benefiting local sports clubs, rather than campaigning against licensing charges on which there has been full consultation.

Baroness Gardner of Parkes

My Lords, will the Minister inform the House exactly what we are talking about? What was the original figure and what is the increased figure?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

My Lords, of the bands to which I am referring, which cover nearly all sports clubs, in band A, the lowest band, we are proposing an application fee of £100 and a £70 annual charge. In band B, the application fee will be £190 and the annual charge £180. In band A, that means a charge of £4 per member to cover the application fee and £2.80 per member to cover the annual charge.

Baroness Billingham

My Lords, will the Minister go further and give the per capita costs for clubs of the increased costs and the licensing? Will he also explain why the fees have to be raised? If they are seen to be punitive for sports clubs, is there an opportunity to look at them again in the future within the guidelines of the Licensing Act?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

My Lords, we have undertaken extensive negotiations with local authorities and anyone else who wished to express their views to us before reaching this conclusion. The conclusion is that virtually all local authorities will cover their costs but not make a profit out of the licence fees. That is what we undertook to do at the outset.

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