HC Deb 14 November 1973 vol 864 cc501-2
20. Mrs. Castle

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment whether he will appoint a disabled sportsman or woman to the National Sports Council.

Mr. Eldon Griffiths

Not as such; but I agree that the sports council must have knowledge and understanding of disabled people's needs.

Mrs. Castle

Who better than the disabled can give that knowledge and understanding? Why does the Minister continually refuse to allow the disabled to have representation, as of right, on the National Sports Council when other special interests have such representation—the Armed Forces, local authorities and other governing bodies of sport? Will he appoint a representative for the disabled to the governing body on sport?

Mr. Griffiths

I could not be more sympathetic to the general point that the National Sports Council needs to have regard for disabled sport. I have seen much of it. But essentially the council is not a representative body. It is a body of people appointed in their own right. I will give sympathetic consideration to the possibility of appointing such a person very soon.

Dame Irene Ward

Will my hon. Friend bear in mind that the request made by the right hon. Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle) would have the support of many people in the country who believe that the more we can do to give the disabled representation the more helpful it will be in every way? I thank him for saying that he is considering the matter, and I hope that it will not be too long before he conies to a decision.

Mr. Griffiths

I agree with my hon. Friend.

Mr. Ashley

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that when he uses the term, "not as such", he fails to appreciate the special significance of the case put by my right hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle), because, while no member of the National Sports Council is a representative of a specific organisation or walk of life, there is a powerful case for the disabled being recognised as such because their needs are not properly understood by the council or anyone else? Will he reconsider the matter in the light of that submission?

Mr. Griffiths

I cannot accept that the present Chairman and members of the National Sports Council have no knowledge of disabled sport. On the contrary, they have a keen interest in it. I repeat that I shall again consider whether it is possible to find a suitable disabled person for appointment. I remind the House that there are many forms of disablement, and it may not be possible to cater for them all.

Mr. Marten

Perhaps it is a matter of appointing not so much a disabled person but a representative of the Central Council for the Disabled to enable the disabled to have a place on the National Sports Council.