HC Deb 31 March 1971 vol 814 cc1490-2
22. Mr. Hunt

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment what steps have been taken to make sports facilities at present in the exclusive use of particular sections of the community more widely available for public recreation.

The Under-Secretary of State for the Environment (Mr. Eldon Griffiths)

It is our policy to ensure that existing and future sports facilities, whether at schools and colleges, at industrial plants or at governmental, including Armed Services, establishments, should be available, wherever possible, to the general public.

Mr. Hunt

Will my hon. Friend ensure that his very welcome reply is brought to the attention particularly of local authorities? Is he aware that many ratepayers, having paid very large sums of money for the provision of recreational and sports facilities in schools and colleges, resent the fact that those facilities are denied them for long periods during the evenings and school holidays?

Mr. Griffiths

Yes, Sir. This policy is being brought to the attention of all local authorities, including local education authorities. However, there are more than 100 dual-use projects in co-operation with local education authorities in the pipeline.

Mr. Edwin Wainwright

Will the hon. Gentleman look at this problem more practically than he has done in the past? Will he take note of the joint schemes between local authorities and education authorities, which abound throughout the country, wanting financial help from his Department? Will he ensure that a greater contribution is made by his Department towards the provision of swimming pools and playing fields?

Mr. Griffiths

The question of the provision of local facilities is, in the first instance, for the local authorities. Where it is possible to help them, they will be helped. But I am glad that the present Government have been able to make available to the public Armed Services facilities as a result of improving the insurance arrangements, thereby helping many people at local level.

Mr. Denis Howell

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that both sides of the House agree with his policy and that it is monstrous that schools costing about £750,000 are open for only 35 weeks of the year and about five hours a day? Is he further aware that not a little progress has been made since we issued the circular, which I know the Minister supports? Will the hon. Gentleman ask his Regional Sports Council to carry out a detailed survey of school buildings and similar community buildings not yet fully available to the public for sports use?

Mr. Griffiths

I will look into that point. But considerable progress is being achieved, particularly when new schools are being constructed.