HC Deb 07 July 1971 vol 820 cc1327-30
25. Mr. Dalyell

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment what plans he has to give financial assistance to sports other than football and swimming.

Mr. Eldon Griffiths

In recent years sports other than association football and swimming have received over 95 per cent. of the total grants given for sport by my Department, and I have no reason to think there will be any significant difference in the proportion this year. How grants are distributed after this year will be a matter for the new Sports Council.

Mr. Dalyell

What consultations did the lion. Gentleman have with sports bodies, and, indeed, with the Sports Council, before slashing local grants?

Mr. Griffiths

I had all the necessary consultations with the Sports Council on matters on which it could properly advise me. I thought it right that the House of Commons should be the first to hear about the use of Government funds for sports purposes.

Mr. Scott-Hopkins

Is my hon. Friend aware that his announcement has caused considerable confusion among local authorities, particularly voluntary bodies, which have already raised considerable sums of money, for example, at Ashbourne in my constituency for swimming pools, and which are now left high and dry and do not know whether to proceed? Will he look at the matter again?

Mr. Griffiths

I assure my hon. Friend that all local sports bodies which have had applications in the pipeline will receive grant if they have already received notification from my Department that they have been given the necessary priority. If they have not received that priority, they will be caught by the new policy.

Mr. R. C. Mitchell

Will the hon. Gentleman seek powers to give financial assistance to chess as well as to the other sports and games to which reference has been made? Does he realise that chess is played in this country by more young people than any other game, apart from football?

Mr. Griffiths

The definition laid down in regard to which sports and recreations are to be supported refers to "physical recreation" and, with the best will in the world, I would not describe chess as a physical recreation.

Mr. Denis Howell

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that his decision to end these grants of £1 million a year to the ordinary sports clubs has caused widespread dismay throughout the whole of sport? The hon. Gentleman stated a moment ago that he consults the Sports Council on matters on which he thinks it can advise him. But since he never consulted that body or the governing bodies of sport about the effect of this catastrophic decision, and in view of the dismay it has caused, why does he act so arrogantly in not consulting the body set up to advise him on these matters?

Mr. Griffiths

The hon. Gentleman knows a great deal more about catastrophe in sport than I do. At a time when the present Government have enhanced the status of the Sports Council, have widened its responsibilities and have given it a great deal more money, I am not prepared to be lectured by the hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Howell

Is the Minister aware that the extra £1 million which the Department is to give to the independent Sports Council is being found from the money which has been slashed from grant? Is he not making a bogus point, and would he answer the simple question why in ending this scheme he did not consult the people appointed to advise him, the Sports Council?

Mr. Griffiths

On the second point—[HON. MEMBERS: "Answer!"] If hon. Members opposite will listen, I will seek to give an answer. The hon. Gentleman asked two questions. The second part dealt with consultation. I was dealing with the funds of national Government, and it seemed to me right that the House of Commons should be the first to know this information. As to the first part of the question, the hon. Gentleman is totally wrong. He suggests that the additional £1 million to be made available to the Sports Council—which the hon. Gentleman was never able to obtain during his term of office—has somehow been found by slashing local capital grants. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment was able to find this additional money for sport because of the advantages of setting up the Department of the Environment and thus being able to make these new funds available for sport.

Mr. Dalyell

In view of the unsatisfactory nature of the reply, I beg to give notice that I shall seek to raise the matter on the Adjournment at the earliest possible moment.

Mr. Speaker

Let us come to cooler waters—reservoirs. Mr. David Clark, Question No. 26.