Skip to main content

Community Amateur Sports Club Scheme

Volume 463: debated on Monday 23 July 2007

6. What assessment he has made of the effectiveness of the community amateur sports club scheme; and if he will make a statement. (151100)

The community amateur sports club scheme has, since its introduction in 2002, seen 4,380 clubs register and Deloitte estimates that that has saved more than £19.7 million for community sport through mandatory rate relief and gift aid. However, I believe that this represents a small percentage of the clubs that are eligible for CASC status and I encourage hon. Members and local authorities to publicise the benefits of the scheme as widely as possible.

As my hon. Friend knows, I have taken a keen interest in the matter since I introduced my ten-minute Bill in 2000. The Government caved in two years later and included the provision in the Budget. It has been worth about £19 million, but is he aware—he hinted at this—that that probably involves only about 10 per cent. of the clubs that are eligible for the scheme? The form is probably one of the simplest that the Inland Revenue has ever produced. Will he work with local authorities, in particular—because they have the ability to push the message to sports clubs in their areas—to ensure that people know that there is a tax benefit, money is available and the process is easy to undertake? He should encourage everybody up and down the country to play their part. I encourage Members to try to write to every sports club in their area to achieve wider coverage.

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for supporting the initiative. He started the whole thing off with a ten-minute Bill. That has resulted in support for community sport. He is quite right: we think that there are about 40,000 clubs that could get involved and they could see savings of £60 million. There is a leaflet available in the Department and I hope that all right hon. and hon. Members will ask me for a copy. He is right that we need to speak to local authorities. My predecessor wrote to them, but we need to do that again. This is an opportunity for money to go back into sport very easily and quickly, and I hope that Members will support that.

May I add my congratulations to the Minister and his colleagues? If he really wants to achieve what he has indicated that he wants to achieve, should he not talk to his colleague in charge of schools? What would do more than anything else to improve community sport throughout the country would be a restoration of the days when all schools had teams—many teams—and most schools had playing fields as well.

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for welcoming me to my post. With your indulgence Mr. Speaker, I pay tribute to my predecessor, my right hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Central (Mr. Caborn), who was the longest-serving Minister for Sport and did a tremendous amount of work in that role. I am happy to do the job. There has never been a better time to be the Minister with responsibility for sports. May I put on record my congratulations to Mr. Padraig Harrington for winning the British Open yesterday? That was a tremendous feat.

The hon. Gentleman is quite right: we need to develop competition in school sports and we are doing that through the investment of the £100 million. He is quite right that, as the hon. Member for Macclesfield (Sir Nicholas Winterton) said, that brings advantages such as team work. We have put in place a much more rigorous way of dealing with the sale of school playing fields. I am pleased that last year there was a net gain of 35 playing fields, so we have arrested the decline in numbers.