HC Deb 03 February 1965 vol 705 cc1081-6
The Joint Under-Secretary of State for Education and Science (Mr. Denis Howell)

With permission, Mr. Speaker, I wish to make a statement.

The Government have decided to establish a Sports Council, to advise them on matters relating to the development of amateur sport and physical recreation services and to foster cooperation among the statutory authorities and voluntary organisations concerned.

It is the intention that, in my capacity as the Minister with a responsibility for sport, I should be the Chairman of the Council.

The Prime Minister has issued invitations to the following to become members of the Council and I have every reason to believe that they will indicate their willingness to serve: Lady Burton, Kathleen Holt, David Bacon, Dr. Roger Bannister, Ian Black, Sir Learie Constantine, John Disley, Bernard Donoughue, Michael Dower, George Edwards, Dr. Stewart Mackintosh, David Munrow, Lord Porchester, Clive Rowlands, Dan Smith, and Sir John Lang, Principal Adviser on Sport, who will be Deputy Chairman.

The Director of the Council will be Mr. Walter Winterbottom. I am grateful to the Central Council of Physical Recreation for releasing him for this important new post.

Particular subjects which it is intended that the Council should advise on are: Standards of provision of sports facilities for the community; collation of information about the position in other countries; surveys of resources and regional planning; co-ordination of the use of community resources; research; development of training and coaching; likely capital expenditure; participation in sporting events overseas by British amateur teams; and priorities in sports development.

The Government expect that all bodies who have responsibility for sport and physical recreation and receive grant aid from official sources will collaborate with the Council.

Mr. Hogg

We would like to wish all good fortune to the distinguished ladies and gentlemen who are expected to signify their consent to serve on this body. Will the hon. Gentleman confirm my understanding of his statement, which is, that this is an advisory body without direct responsibility for the allocation of funds? If so, does he not agree that, however labelled, this is not the fulfilment of the pledge in the Labour Party's election manifesto to provide an executive body?

Will the hon. Gentleman elucidate these points? What is to be the relationship between the composite bodies, so-called, the Central Council of Physical Recreation, the National Playing Fields Association, the British Olympics Association, and the Scottish equivalents of some of these bodies, and the new Council and the Government? Will he give an assurance that they will have the right of direct access to the Ministers concerned, and to him, in particular?

Could the hon. Gentleman elucidate the phrase which relates to the present General Secretary to the Central Council of Physical Recreation? Does it mean that his services are being taken from the Central Council altogether, or that he will double his existing post with that of directorship of the new body?

Lastly, does the new body supersede, or will it work in conjunction with, the committee headed by Sir John Lang for the allocation of funds for the participation by British amateurs in overseas functions in connection with sport? Can he tell us what the position is there?

Mr. Howell

I am grateful for the good wishes that the right hon. and learned Gentleman expressed at the beginning of his comments. I am glad that he did. He mentioned the question of the fulfilment of party promises. It is quite true that this is an advisory council. The Wolfenden Committee on Sport recommended many years ago an executive body. Of course, that is a considerable distance away now; much has happened since. In considering what has happened in the interim, and particularly the urgency of establishing the Sports Council, and the need, if we were to have an executive body, to promote legislation to bring it into effect, it was felt, on the balance of considerations, that it was right to do the job at once with an advisory committee. So that the Government should demonstrate that the advice of the Council will be taken very seriously it was thought right, in these circumstances, that I should be its Chairman.

I can only say, about party positions, since the right hon. and learned Gentle- man mentioned them, that all three political parties in recent years—for the last five years, to my knowledge—have been committed to establishing a Sports Council. I am glad that at long last we have implemented that promise.

As to Mr. Winterbottom, he is not doubling up; it would be quite wrong for him to do so. There are other organisations in the field as well as the Central Council. He has been seconded, at any rate in the first place, for a number of years, to take this new, important post.

As to Sir John Lang's advisory committee about overseas teams, obviously, the Sports Council, when considering overseas participation, will work with Sir John's committee, which is likely to continue in existence.

I think that the remaining point which the right hon. and learned Gentleman made, and a very important one, was the relationship with the several voluntary bodies. I am happy to say that as far as possible either people serving on those bodies are on the Sports Council, or have been kept informed, and that we have every intention of working in close connection with them.

Mr. Hogg

Will they have direct access?

Mr. Howell

All sporting people at all times have access to me—within reason.

Mr. Philip Noel-Baker

May I congratulate my hon. Friend very warmly on the statement which he has made this afternoon and on the general progress which he has made since he took his present office? May I say that I congratulate him also on the choice of members for his Council, and, in particular, on the choice of Mr. Walter Winterbottom as Director, which I regard as a guarantee of effective action?

May I express to him the hope, which, I think, is shared by many hon. Members, that the Wolfenden Report will in due course be implemented, in particular by the increase of the provision of money by the Government? Will he continue to urge on the Treasury, as I continue to urge on him, that investment by the Treasury in facilities for sport will bring them a very handsome dividend in the reduction of the cost of juvenile delinquency and crime which, year by year, they have to bear?

Mr. Howell

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend. I think that the announcement which I have now made, as well as my own appointment by the Prime Minister initially, are guarantees of what my right hon. Friend wants in this respect.

Mr. Fell

Would I be right in assuming that the statement which has been made by the Minister will not result in any cost to the taxpayer. If I am wrong in assuming that, how much will it cost?

Mr. Howell

The hon. Gentleman is certainly wrong in assuming it will not cost anything. The main job of the Council is to survey the resources throughout the country, to determine national and regional priorities. When we have that information we shall then be able to make an intelligent estimate of the cost, which we cannot do at the moment.

Mr. Dalyell

How will the policy of the Sports Council be carried out in the country in this regional planning, and what agency will be used to do its work?

Mr. Howell

We shall use the existing agencies. I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his question, which is an important one. In particular, the Central Council of Physical Recreation has regional officers and regional machinery, and has taken a lead in the North-East to get a North-East Advisory Council for Sport and Recreation, and will be the main agent for carrying out our work, and we shall also have the National Playing Fields Association and the Olympics Association.

The Earl of Dalkeith

Can the hon. Gentleman say whether the tourist industry, arid, in particular, the Scottish tourist industry, will be represented on this advisory body, in view of the enormous attraction which sporting facilities have for tourists, particularly in Scotland?

Mr. Howell

The membership of the Sports Council is composed of independent people not representing any other interest, although Scottish tourism, and tourism generally, is a matter which we have borne in mind in establishing membership of this body.