§ 6.4 p.m.
§ Mr. Hector Monro (Dumfries)
I am glad to start the debate on the Consolidated Fund (No. 3) Bill and to raise under Class VIII of the Supplementary Estimates the increased grant to the Sports Council and the reallocation or revised allocation of resources under Appendix I, page 217. I know that my hon. Friend the Member for Sutton and Cheam (Mr. Macfarlane) hopes to catch your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker, later in the debate.
It is rare that we have the opportunity to debate sport. That is surprising since sport is a great rational pastime, and includes playing or watching sport or even reading sports items in the newspapers. We have had an international weekend. We congratulate the Welsh rugby union team on winning the championship and the winner of the Formula One Grand Prix at Brands Hatch. England won the Calcutta Cup and Scotland won the world cross-country championship. As for Ireland, I can only say that at least today is St. Patrick's Day.
I accept that this debate must be restricted to a narrow front since it is confined to Sports Council activities. We cannot raise other major problems such as horse racing, professional football, or the safety of crowds at sports grounds. There continue to be problems of behaviour and hooliganism, and I should like to know when the Minister expects 1209 the Bill dealing with safety at sports grounds, which was passed by the other place before Christmas, to come before this House.
We should set the extra expenditure in the Estimates in the context of the grants in recent years and give our opinion whether it is sufficient in present circumstances. The Minister needs to disprove my contention that it is insufficient—indeed, that it is shockingly inadequate. I shall seek to show why that is so.
I am delighted that the Minister of State is present to answer this debate. I think that it will be his first speech on sport in the House since he set up his new office in July. It is surprising that this is the first debate on sport when there has always been such a wide interest in the subject. I know that the Minister was previously Chairman of the Central Council for Physical Recreation and in earlier days was a football referee.
The last Conservative Government appointed the Sports Council under a Royal Charter in 1972. The chairman of the Scottish council is Laurie Liddell, and the chairman in Wales is Colonel Harry Llewellyn, while Sir Roger Bannister has been Chairman of the Sports Council. I should like to pay a warm tribute to Sir Roger Bannister, who is a supreme athlete turned brilliant administrator, for giving a lead and setting a fine example. We warmly congratulate him of his knighthood. We regret his departure from the Sports Council and welcome Sir Robin Brooke as acting chairman. I hope that the Minister will be able to say something about the future of the chairmanship of the Sports Council. We anxiously wait to know its future, which will be dealt with in the White Paper.
Will the Minister also deal with the House of Lords Report on Sports and Recreation? He made an announcement on 16th July 1974 at the excellent CCPR conference.
§ The Minister of State, Department of the Environment (Mr. Denis Howell)
While I am grateful to the hon. Member for Dumfries (Mr. Monro) for having raised the subject, I am not sure whether it will be in order for me to deal with it. If it is in order. I shall happily do so. Perhaps I may seek the guidance of the 1210 Chair in view of the ruling given by Mr. Deputy Speaker.
I have been asked, Mr. Deputy Speaker, to say something about the chairmanship of the Sports Council and its future. In view of your ruling at the beginning of the debate, I wonder whether it will he in order for me to do that. I should, of course, be happy to do so.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
The House will not be able to go into questions of policy and, therefore, of personnel. The hon. Member for Dumfries (Mr. Monro) began reasonably by congratulating Wales. I hope he will return to that subject.
§ Mr. Denis Howell
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I am glad to say that that remark was not up to the hon. Gentleman's usual standard. I am not running for cover. I said that I should be happy to discuss the matter, although I understood from private information about how the debate should be conducted, as well as from what you said, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that that would not be in order. If, however, it is in order, I shall be happy to deal with it.
§ Mr. Monro
I should have thought that if the Minister wanted to say something about it, he would have kept quiet until an opportunity arose. If he does not do so, I should think that he was starting on the wrong lines.
The Minister announced on 16th July 1974 at the excellent CCPR conference that he would publish the White Paper in 1974. I am sad that so far we have not had it. On the same day the non Gentleman announced—this is relevent to the Estimates—the £200,000 grant to the north stand at the Crystal Palace which is one of the national centres mentioned in the Estimates. I shall be interested to hear from where the sum is to come. Is it from this year's increase or switching of allocations in Appendix 1, or is it to come out of next year's budget? This should be clarified. The grant for capital expenditure in the Estimate has decreased by £315,000, and I should like to know 1211 where in the Estimate the £200,000 increase for the Crystal Palace comes.
There is no doubt that the major bone of contention in this debate will be that we are short of money for sport. This has culminated in the strong criticism of the situation by the CCPR, the Sports Council and the Press and general public about the miserable increase in expenditure announced at the end of last month. This is why the CCPR has launched its campaign "Fair Play for Sport", willingly backed up by the Press, following on the theme of the Sports Council of "Sport for All".
When we look at this Estimate we must bear in mind that inflation is running at at least 20 per cent. in the current financial year. That fact has been announced on numerous occasions. It may be that it will get up above that, even towards 30 per cent., in the next financial year. The grant which the Minister has announced of an increase of £1.1 million will in no way cover inflation, and certainly it allows nothing for any growth or expansion in sport.
We all appreciate when we look at these Estimates the national and local government restraint on expenditure. But the Government must get their priorities right. The Estimates show an increase of no less than £628 million in the current year, yet the increase for sport is minuscule. Can the Minister think of anything which is of greater value to the nation as a whole than an interest and involvement in snort and recreation? Even today we have heard the Secretary of State announcing expenditure of thousands of millions of pounds on nationalising the aircraft and shipbuilding industries, yet here we are in terms of sport asking for an additional £1 million or £2 million and it is not forthcoming.
Were it possible I should have liked to go into the annual increase in grant for the Sports Council itself. However, I have no wish to upset you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, so I shall refrain from doing that. But we know that, from the low base on which we began, in the first year the increase was 38 per cent. and in the second it was 34 per cent. Now, however, we are down to less than 20 per cent., all in the context of very severe inflation. In recent years we have welcomed the 1212 very big increase in expenditure by local authorities on sport and recreation. Now we face a severe clamp-down on the expenditure by local authorities on this side of their activities. We are being squeezed on both fronts, and that is why this small increase in the current year's Estimate is so disappointing.
§ Mr. Tam Dalyell (West Lothian)
Is not there a moral obligation on the hon. Gentleman to say what the Conservative Government would be spending if he occupied my hon. Friend's position? Time after time this Government are told that their taxes are too high, and the rest of it. What would a Conservative Government be spending?
§ Mr. Monro
The hon. Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) is a master at intervening before the event. He knows that I can give no commitment about what a Conservative Government would have done. However, in the three years since we set up the Sports Council the trend has been to increase the amount involved. First it was up by 38 per cent. and then by 34 per cent. This year, under the hon. Gentleman's Government, we are back to 20 per cent. The trend was substantially upwards, and I hope that it would have continued that way. During the election campaign I wrote a pamphlet encouraging expenditure on sport. That is what I should like to have seen happen. I am aware that Government supporters may point a finger at me about other expenditures which are referred to frequently by those involved in sport. One of them concerns the rating situation. All sports would like mandatory derating of amateur sports facilities. I advocate sincerely that the Layfield Committee should look at this very carefully.
I hope that the Minister will tell us a little about his thoughts on finance. This Estimate is very disappointing, but it would be extremely sad if the hon. Gentleman thought that sport might be financed in the future by lotteries, gambling levies, sponsorship, advertising, bingo or the sweated labour of many dedicated volunteers. Sport has to have a firm base on which to stand, and that is why we are so critical of the Estimate. Sponsorship is a bonus. It cannot be regarded as the bread and butter of the finance of sport in future years.
1213 The disappointment which is felt about the money going into sport is the reason why the CCPR organised its excellent lobby at the House of Commons some 10 days ago. The representatives of more than 40 sports organisations came to the House to tell hon. Members how disappointed they were. They pressed upon me and others their feelings, and most of their complaints concerned the lack of money going into sport. They also criticised the red tape and the paper work which is building up for their secretaries and committees in relation to applications for grants and the financial complications caused by the Treasury. They feel that they are reaching the point where we may soon break their backs. Many were of the view that spending on sport was far below comparable amounts in other European countries.
This Supplementary Estimate covers, in part, pay awards at the national centres. If he can, I hope that the Minister will go into some detail about them. I wrote to him on 3rd March, and I realise that it may be too early for him to reply in detail. Obviously he will have to consult the Scottish and Welsh Sports Councils and look at the revision of the Pelham scale under the Houghton award.
Can the Minister tell us what has happened about the staff salary review of 1973, which has been with him for a considerable time? Is he yet in a position to say whether the award, which was a restructuring operation as opposed to a Houghton award type of increase, will be back-dated to April 1974? A word of reassurance from him would be very welcome to the staff, the coaches and those PE teachers affected by the award.
I turn next to the increased costs of capital work and the running expenses of the national centres. Can the Minister tell us what this money covers? There was a major improvement started at Bisham Abbey in October. What progress has been made, and what additional facilities will there be? Does the sum involved cover any additional facilities at Lilleshall? This centre, excellent as it is, needs updating. We look forward to hearing that, following recommendations from the Sports Council, the hon. Gentleman is considering additional funds for it. Are the facilities adequate? I believe and hope that they are. Are the facilities 1214 at Holme Pierrepont ready for the world rowing championships in August? Those facilities involve Nottinghamshire County Council.
The House would like to know whether any provision for development is included in the Supplementary Estimates. We shall also be grateful if the Minister can tell us anything about the other two national centres, Brenin and Cowes. I know that the hon. Gentleman, like everyone else, is looking forward to the Olympics. I should like to know whether in the near future, or even in some of the reallocations of the Estimates, provision will be made one day for an indoor athletics centre. We know that we are doing the very best that is possible with the facilities at RAF Cosford, but we should be considering something much more substantial than that. We should have in mind a full indoor running track. Further, if the Minister has something helpful to say about sport for the disabled we shall be pleased to hear it.
The expenditure that we are talking about is not particularly large in terms of the national cake, but certainly the grant for capital expenditure is a substantial part of the allocation of grant-in-aid to the Sports Council. Are we being quick enough to learn from recent lessons? Does the Minister feel that we have something to learn from recent developments such as the Sobell Centre and the geographical siting of such centres? Is it right to place the centres near to under-privileged areas? These are important matters that deserve consideration. It is important that there should be much greater co-ordination than exists at present between the local authorities, the Government, the Sports Council and all the other sports bodies concerning future provision.
It is obviously in the Minister's mind to encourage sports centres. I know that he has been doing a great deal in that direction. However, I must ask him whether it is right to encourage sports centres to be positioned close to major football stadiums so that they can be attached to the charisma of first division football clubs. The expenditure will be immense. How will it be met in terms of the figures that we are now discussing? I know that it is an attractive idea, but we must consider the practical possibilities.
1215 I turn to the great debt that we owe to sport. A tremendous amount of work has been carried out by voluntary effort throughout the country. It is very right that the Minister should make every effort to give encouragement to voluntary bodies by allocating as much finance to them as is possible bearing in mind what is available.
There is tremendous activity in sport. That is apparent by looking at the programme of the Sports Council entitled "Take Part in Sport 1975". That is significant and welcome. We want to see that sort of programme go on from strength to strength. We have a great chance to move forward. I am worried, as are many other hon. Members, that we may lose momentum and slip back because of an insufficient increase in the Estimates.
We have seen incredible inflation in the past few years. As the Minister and all of us are aware, there is an awakening interest in sport in the House. We now seem to run a football team, squash, cricket, sailing, tennis and golf.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
I intervene, for the sake of the remainder of the debate, to tell the hon. Gentleman before he sits down that he will never know how tolerant I have been.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. I hope hon. Members will realise that I am limited by the rules of the House. We are now concerned only with the reasons for the increase in the grant-aid—namely, pay awards, the increased cost of capital work and the running expenses of national centres.
§ Mr. Monro
I realise, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that your enjoyable weekend may have mellowed your view of my efforts today.
I conclude by saying that sport is in the best interests of the nation. We must stop taking money away from sport. We must begin to put money into sport and to see that there is fair play for all.
§ 6.26 p.m.
§ Mr. Ron Lewis (Carlisle)
I shall be extremely brief in the few comments that I wish to make. First. I thank the 1216 hon. Member for Dumfries (Mr. Monro) —he is a near neighbour of mine although the border separates us—for initiating a debate upon an important topic. In my humble opinion, we could do with wider debates and more frequent debates on sport. I offer my personal congratulations to the hon. Gentleman that his head did not roll in the recent reshuffle.
There is one thing that the hon. Gentleman and I have in common, given that we are near neighbours. We are both a little concerned with a football team that plays in my constituency. I hope you will allow me this latitude, Mr. Deputy Speaker. At one time that team was at the top of the table. That is the one consolation that we have. It is now struggling right at the bottom of the table. I know that the hon. Gentleman will share with me the hope that the team may manage to stay in its place in the first division.
§ Mr. Lewis
I congratulate my hon. Friend the Minister of State who has responsibility for sport and recreation. I do not think that there is anyone in the House who has done more for sport over the years than my hon. Friend. I am sure that we could all do a lot more if the money were available. The problem that my hon. Friend is up against and the problem that we all face is the problem of cash. I am grateful to my hon. Friend for making available the small amount that we are now discussing.
The hon. Member for Dumfries has been a little inconsistent. Among others he is always pleading for more money for sport. On the other hand, he is often saying that Government expenditure must be ruthlessly cut. He claims that a Conservative Government would cut Government expenditure. The hon. Gentleman cannot have it both ways. One of the inconsistencies that is shared by all parties is that they say one thing when in opposition and do another thing when in government. That appears to be the inconsistency of the hon. Gentleman and his party.
§ Mr. Lewis
I shall not go into that argument. I could argue for more money for Carlisle for the modernisation of its council housing. We must face these problems.
The House must eventually face the fact that leisure is becoming an important issue in the lives of people everywhere. It has a contribution to make. Like the hon. Gentleman, I am in favour of sport and I am in favour of more money being made available for sport. I realise that my hon. Friend is in the hands of the Exchequer and of Government policy as a whole.
I said that I should be brief, and I shall be. However, I should like, if it is in order, to make one suggestion. I believe that we are all concerned about hooliganism at football matches. Sport could be greatly helped if the money that football clubs and other sporting organisations pay for police protection could be provided by the Government or some other authority. That would be of tremendous help to sporting organisations throughout the country.
We have been reminded by the hon. Member for Dumfries about the Lotteries Bill. I understand that it is intended in the main to help sporting organisations. However, I believe that the whole question of lotteries is grossly distorted. I realise that many small organisations make their money from lotteries, but that is one aspect of gambling that is overestimated and overfished.
I suggest to my hon. Friend, for onward transmission to either the Home Secretary or the Chancellor of the Exchequer that there is another untapped reservoir which could bring in a vast amount of money for sporting organisations. I should like to see a 2 per cent. tax on betting, on pools in particular. I estimate that such a tax would bring in £2 million or £3 million, which could be placed in a sporting pool for the assistance of the various sporting organisations. I hope that this suggestion will be considered by the Government in the near future. I am sure that all hon. Members, whatever their political complexion, will agree on that matter.
This is not a political issue. I believe that we all want to do what we can to 1218 help sporting organisations to succeed. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Minister on the scale of his achievements with the limited resources at his disposal.
§ 6.33 p.m.
§ Mr. Neil Macfarlane (Sutton and Cheam)
I am grateful for the opportunity of supporting my hon. Friend the Member for Dumfries (Mr. Monro). In the 13 months that I have been a Member of this House, I think that this is the first occasion on which sport has been debated in any fashion. In view of the precedent which has been set by Mr. Deputy Speaker, I shall contrive, with your indulgence, Mr. Speaker, to stick to the specific wording of the Estimates:The reasons for the increase in the grant in aid for the Sports Council.It must be clear that the amount of additional grant aid for sport in the forthcoming year is inadequate. I question the wisdom of the Government in providing such a lowly figure. We know that the money is to be provided for sports centres and we realise that sport is a rapidly expanding part of our way of life. In view of the forecasts which have have been made over the years by Ministers of successive Governments, it is surely right to expect that, with the likelihood of increasing leisure time during the next 10 years, it is imperative that people are encouraged to participate more in sport. That is why it is imperative that sports centres must be developed at a faster rate than at present. It is also essential for the stability of society that the energies of the young are not only encouraged, but channelled into worthwhile activities.
Over the past 10 or 12 years there has been a marked and rapid expansion of interest in sport, for both participation and watching. Many sports have simply erupted with participators within the past five years. I refer to squash, badminton, golf, basket-ball, judo and sub-aqua sports. But none of those activities that I have named—I am sure that there are many more—has anything like the interest of football, rugby and cricket for spectators. However, those sports have had a rapid expansion in this country.
I do not believe that the Government have understood the situation. Indeed, they have not provided enough money to be channelled into these centres for 1219 expansion. At the same time, local authorities and the Government together must be mindful of their responsibilities in assisting the encouragement of these sports.
In the four years from 1970 to 1974 the Sports Council's grant was quadrupled to £6 .5 million and between 1969 and 1972 local councils increased their direct investment in new sports halls and swimming pools from £9 .5 million to over £37 million. I well understand the problems facing the Minister. I also understand that the ravages of inflation affect sport just as much as everything else. That is the tragedy of the situation affecting not only this country but other countries. However, I earnestly hope that the Minister will be able to put forward some positive proposals when he replies to the debate.
The Labour Government have not been nearly so active in sport in the past year as they were and as the Minister was in the year 1964–65. Yet the demand is now much greater for snort than it has ever been. Indeed, I venture to question the level of morale in the sporting bodies—for example, the Sports Council and the Central Council of Physical Recreation —through the Government granting only this miserly increase of £75,000 for the year ahead.
The CCPR conference on 16th July last year which the Minister attended as chairman must have given great hope to those present, because during his address the hon. Gentleman stated that there would be a sports youth programme. The Estimates that have been produced for this year indicate that the major proportion of the £75,000 will not be channelled into that fund. I should like to know what progress has been made; in particular, what financial aid has been made available to local clubs to implement this essential programme; and whether there is any hope that this Supplementary Estimate will be increased. There is no doubt that those involved in the work of sport for young people were heartened by the Minister's announcement and will be eager to hear how this programme is progressing and whether that is one of the reasons for the increase in the grant-in-aid for the Sports Council.
1220 Earlier I said that the importance of sport to this country was enormous and that, if it is to take its place and be successful in the international sector—the hon. Member for Carlisle (Mr. Lewis) referred to this matter briefly—the additional £75,000 this year is inadequate. It is essential that the Government take stock of the situation swiftly and seek to increase the figure.
We must consider the lack of training facilities for the more individual of sports. Our athletes, skaters and swimmers have never had facilities comparable with those of other countries in Europe. France, Germany, Holland, the Communist countries and the United States of America place enormous importance on the rôle of their sporting activities.
I have no doubt that one of my constituents, Miss Hilary Green, a silver and bronze medallist ice dance skater, and her partner Mr. Glyn Watts will not be greatly heartened that only £75,000 is to be added to this year's budget for sporting expenditure. They have to practise at three o'clock in the morning at their ice rink and frequently have to practise when large crowds of the public attend. Therefore, it is important that more money should be spent on improving our training facilities. This Supplementary Estimate is inadequate.
The problems of my constituent are shared by others. At present, five of our top swimmers are in America, our skaters are training in America and some of our leading athletes and gold medallists of yesteryear are now leading trainers in Canada. Indeed, only recently we sent a team of eight to an athletics meeting in Katowice. Most other European countries sent teams of between 20 and 40 athletes. At least our team of eight did very well. The point is that there is a shrinking situation. The money is not adequate. A number of our top individual sportsmen are severely hindered because we are not spending enough money.
Last year the Minister was given the additional title of Minister for Sport and Recreation, with the formation of a Ministry. It would be interesting to know how many people there are in the Ministry and whether he feels that sport and recreation should be on a 1221 par with the Arts Council, which I believe will enjoy a grant this year of £26 million.
I endorse what my hon. Friend said in asking whether a White Paper will be available shortly. This is something for which all sport has been waiting since last July but, alas, it is not available.
Finally, will the Minister announce any further grant-in-aid in 1975 as this is pre-Olympic year? There is just one year to go before the next Olympics in Canada in 1976, and I wonder whether the people of this country will enjoy greater international success if we are able to increase this Estimate during the next year, and certainly over two years.
It is crucial for the future organisation of sport in this country that the chairman of the Sports Council is named soon. I know, Mr. Speaker, that the Minister is looking at you beseechingly so that he might run for cover, but if he does not feel able to reply to that specific question tonight I hope that he will write to my hon. Friend and myself to let us know the answer.
If the Government are to provide only £75,000 additional benefit this year, will the Minister perhaps think of additional ways and means of recommending—
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. I do not think that it is quite fair to put to the Minister questions which it would not be in order for him to try to answer. The hon. Member must keep to the Estimate.
§ Mr. Macfarlane
I suggest that if the Minister does not feel like replying, or if he is not permitted to do so under the confines of the Estimate, he should write to us later.
§ Mr. Denis Howell
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I do not often seek the protection of the Chair, but I have been accused by the Opposition Front Bench and now by a Member on the back bench of seeking to run for cover merely because, although I should be happy to deal with the matter, I understand that I should be out of order if I did so. I think that that sort of innuendo is disgraceful.
§ Mr. Ron Lewis
Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. During your absence, when this matter was raised by the Opposition Front Bench, my hon. Friend the Minister of State said that he 1222 would be prepared to deal with it if it was in order to do so, but Mr. Deputy Speaker said that it was not. It is hitting below the belt to raise the matter for the second time after what my hon. Friend said earlier.
§ Mr. Macfarlane
There was no harshly implied punch below the belt. I am certain that there is no worthier and more resilient person that the Minister for Sport.
I hope that the Government will realise the all-important problem of sport in this country. It provides annually about £8 ½ million in VAT, £16 ½ million in rates and water rates and £1 million in corporation tax, and indirectly it provides more than £200 million via football and racing. I hope that the Minister understands the problems which surround the voluntary workers who provide such a backbone to sport in this country and who are facing the problem of inflation which is hitting them very hard. I trust that the Government will understand the problems which affect us all and that the extra money which is so needed will be forthcoming over the next year.
§ 6.43 p.m.
§ Mr. Leslie Spriggs (St. Helens)
I do do know whether I shall be in order in referring to the amateur Rugby League and what assistance my hon. Friend could give if he had the wherewithal to do it.
I think that the amateur Rugby League made history on 9th March when it travelled to a small French town to play what is known as the first British amateur Rugby League international. In view of the prejudice which has been shown by the Rugby Union, and especially by Air Commodore Bob Wells—
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. I think that the controversy between Rugby League and Rugby Union is getting a long way from the Estimate which the House is debating. The debate is about £75,000 in respect of pay awards, increased costs of capital work and running expenses of national sports centres. Hon. Members must not turn this into a general debate on sport.
§ Mr. Spriggs
I shall do my best, Mr. Speaker, to keep within the bounds of your ruling.
There are various sports centres. Some are in London and some in the provinces, 1223 and Members who represent constituencies in the provinces wish to draw the attention of the Minister to the need for assistance to encourage amateur sports. My hon. Friend knows that in football, for instance, those who watch the game with enthusiasm regret the fact that hands are now used as much as feet, and that even players' shirts are torn off their backs.
Has my hon. Friend received any representations from various amateur sports bodies for financial assistance towards the provision of sports centres in the regions? Will he use his good offices with various directors of education to try to obtain rugby football grounds for use by young amateur players who, while they have the enthusiasm to play the game and may turn out to be star players of the future, are refused permission to enter school sports grounds? Many of our schools, and especially the grammar schools, have first-class sports grounds for both soccer and rugby. I ask my hon. Friend whether he can, if necessary, provide the finance to obtain the use of grounds which during school holidays are not used by school football teams.
§ 6.47 p.m.
§ Mr. John Farr (Harborough)
I want to add my congratulations to those which have been offered to my hon. Friend the Member for Dumfries (Mr. Monro) on his good fortune in coming top in the ballot and his good sense, if I may say so, in initiating a debate on this welcome and important topic.
My hon. Friend referred to the increase in the Sports Council grant from £3 .6 million a year in April 1973 to the projected grant of £7 .8 million for 1975–76. This is a doubling of the amount of finance if one looks at it in monetary terms, but one has to take into account inflation in those three or four years which has led to a depreciation in the value of money and also—
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. I do not know whether the hon. Member heard me a few moments ago, but this cannot be turned into a general debate on sport. Comments ought to be limited to the grant of £75,000. This is a very narrow debate indeed.
§ Mr. Farr
With the greatest possible respect to you, Mr. Speaker, your pre- 1224 decessor in the Chair, Mr. Deputy Speaker, specifically said that the debate could be based on, in his own words, "the reason for the increase in the cost of the grant", and he added that we could discuss pay awards and the new sports centres. He said specifically that we could debate the reason for the increase in the grant, which is what I was about to do.
§ Mr. Farr
Mr. Deputy Speaker may well have been over-enthusiastic as a result of the Welsh rugby victory on Saturday. That may have impaired his judgment, but that was his judgment. I shall be very brief and keep within those bounds.
I was saying that this apparent doubling of the value of the grant to the Sports Council from £3 .6 million in 1973 to a projected £7 .8 million in 1976 has to take account of the cost of inflation and the 30 or 40 employees that the council had to take over this year from the Department of Education and Science and the Department of the Environment. With the present economic situation and with cuts in defence and education expenditure and on hospitals and health, who is to say that sport should not bear its fair share of any reduction in the rate of increase of Government grants?
One may think that there is no reason for sport to have special treatment, but there are at least two reasons. Sport is one of the few occupations which pay 8 per cent. VAT on their activities. Last year it amounted to £8 .5 million. Sport is also one of the few activities qualifying for Government grant which also have to pay a rate bill to local authorities, which last year totalled £16 ½ million. Directly and indirectly, therefore, sport has contributed £24 ½ million in taxation. A grant of £7.8 million for 1976 will leave the Exchequer very much on the right side of the transaction.
There is no doubt that rates are crippling many sporting activities—
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. I must refer the hon. Gentleman to the doctrine on this matter. If the sum demanded for a Supplementary Estimate is of the same order of magnitude as the original Estimate, the Chair allows a general debate. If, however, it is only a very small amount 1225 compared with that for which the original grant was demanded, only the reasons for the increase can be debated.
§ Mr. Farr
Exactly, Mr. Speaker, but if the reasons for the increase are to be debated, is it not also in order to indicate other ways of raising the money which would affect the amount of the increase necessary?
What I was going to do if I had been allowed to continue was to suggest that if rate relief were granted to sports organisations, if they were exempted from VAT or if they paid a reduced rate, that would affect the amount of the grant to the Sports Council. I hope that I shall be in order if I continue on those lines very briefly.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. The hon. Gentleman will not be in order. He has referred to it. This is such a trifling increase that the debate must be limited to the administration of the Vote and how it comes about that £75,000 more is wanted on a Vote which was originally over £6 million. This is a very small increase and a very narrow debate. I am sorry.
§ Mr. Farr
In conclusion, perhaps I may refer to something which has been referred to in the debate without any interruption from the Chair. This relates to the finances of sports clubs which depend to a greater or smaller extent on the grant available from local authorities and the Sports Council. I refer to the Lotteries Bill which is going through the House, which in its present form, it is said, will allow local authorities to run 6,800 individual lotteries every year. Many cricket and football clubs which depend on their clubs' lotteries for raising funds will find their financial future placed in great peril.
I hope that the Minister will refer to this matter and let the House know his view of the massive participation in this area by local authorities.
§ 6.56 p.m.
§ The Minister of State, Department of the Environment (Mr. Denis Howell)
I will do my best, within the bounds of order, to deal with the points which have been raised. If I trespass a little it will only be to answer the questions asked, which I assume must have been in order. But I appreciate your difficulties, Mr. Speaker. This is why I sought at an 1226 early stage clarification of what I could say in reply.
I should like to thank the hon. Member for Dumfries (Mr. Monro) for raising this matter and thus making a maiden appearance at the Dispatch Box. I hope that he makes many more such appearances, particularly from that Box, and that he will raise the subject of sport as often as he can.
The hon. Member is right to say that we get far too little opportunity to debate these matters. I regret that, because my purpose and that of the Government is served by debate and questions. Many of the difficulties that I face are due to the previous administration's action in making the Sports Council independent, so that Questions to Ministers are impossible or very difficult, and ministerial responsibility is more limited.
We are delighted to see the hon. Member for Dumfries in that post, not least because he is a distinguished sportsman himself. I know that sporting bodies like to have their affairs handled here by people with a direct interest in them.
I am not the Leader of the House, so all that I can say about the Safety of Sports Grounds Bill is that it is ready and waiting and we expect it to be dealt with this Session. The Home Secretary has that intention, and it will be introduced as soon as time allows.
Much the most important question raised today is that of finance for sport. As my hon. Friend the Member for Carlisle (Mr. Lewis) said, we do not know where we are with this Opposition. Important as sport, leisure and recreation are to the nation—no one believes in them and fights for them, whether in government or opposition, more passionately than I do—it does sport no service to suggest that services for it can be dealt with in isolation from the general economic situation.
The trouble that I am in is this. Of course we would like to be providing a bigger share of the budget for sport. However, the Opposition continually tell us that we should cut public expenditure. We are entitled to ask—as my hon. Friend the Member for Carlisle asked—what the Opposition would do in these circumstances. The hon. Member for Harborough (Mr. Farr) said "Wait for it; we shall tell you shortly". Not only 1227 did he get nowhere near telling us; neither did his hon. Friends.
During this Session we have been urged to cut public expenditure in speeches of the former Leader of the Opposition and of the right hon. Member for Carshalton (Mr. Carr)—who has also had the sack from the Opposition Front Bench. I am not quite sure, in view of the fact that they have been removed to the back benches, whether the policy speeches which they made from the Opposition Front Bench only a short time ago represent the policy of the Conservative Party, but I assume that it must be so.
On 13th November the Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer, as he then was. the right hon. Member for Carshalton, said:The blunt fact of life is that we can't afford any increase in public spending until we can see that we have turned the corner. And that won't be next year.In other words, he meant that that would not be during 1975. He was saying on behalf of the Conservative Opposition that there should be no increase in public expenditure in 1975.
The right hon. Member for Sidcup (Mr. Heath) said from the Opposition Front Bench on 18th December, when talking about the Chancellor's borrowing requirement,It must be cut. There can be no real increase in public expenditure."—[Official Report, 18th December 1974; Vol. 883, c. 1607.]
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. George Thomas)
I do not know what has happened since I was last in the Chair, although I have a good idea. However, the Minister may discuss only the reason for the increases, in the same way as we restricted hon. Members who spoke previously.
§ Mr. Howell
What has happened, Mr. Deputy Speaker, is that we are now playing the second half of this match and I am kicking uphill. Because the hon. Member for Harborough was kicking downhill, he seemed to be playing to a set of rules that was different from that which you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, are applying to me at present. But I assure you that if you are tolerant, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I shall deal only with the questions that have been asked, which I must assume were in order. I shall do my best.
1228 I agree that we have a difficult financial situation. However, what the Government have done in the present economic crisis is to maintain the present level of activity of the Sports Council, which is no mean achievement in this particular year. It has the present level of expenditure plus a 20 per cent. increase to cover the inflationary costs. I do not disguise from the House the fact that these figures will mean that one or two further developments which some of us would like to see cannot go ahead as planned, but there is nothing of great seriousness there —unless the Sports Council is able to readjust its financing, although I am bound to say—I think that the House would agree—that it has a figure in its budget for well over £500,000 for aid to local authority schemes. It will probably be in the experience of most hon. Members that in the present climate ratepayers will be very much concerned. Here again, hon. Members of the Opposition are urging local authorities to cut back and to stop certain schemes and have regard to the rates.
§ Mr. Howell
It may be peanuts to the hon. Gentleman, but it is of extreme importance to the local authorities as a whole. I know that these comparisons are always odious. Hon. Members quote figures which support their cases, and the hon. Member for Dumfries did that. However, the average growth of the Sports Council grant between 1970 and 1974 was £1 million a year. The average growth of the grant for this year and next year is £1.2 million a year. Therefore, on those figures it is not correct to suggest that the present Government are being meaner in their approach to the Sports Council. The figures do not bear that out.
As I say, I do not want to rely on these comparisons because so often they become a little meaningless.
§ Mr. Howell
I think it would not be in order because the hon. Member for Dumfries did not talk about it. Therefore, as he did not use the question of inflation in his comparisons it would be out of order for me to do so. I am merely giving the figures.
Turning to the financial point, of course we do not have enough money for this purpose, and we want much more. In that sense I find this debate helpful. The more often hon. Members let Ministers and Governments know what their priorities are, the more likely they are to find expression in Government policy. However, many representations have been received by the Government in recent weeks and all of them are being considered very carefully by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The Government are reviewing the sports situation, as they are reviewing other aspects of policy, particularly arts policy. Comparisons are made between the two there. Again, it is extremely difficult to do this properly because on the whole local authorities tend to spend more on sport and recreation than they spend on the arts. But, as I say, we are reviewing the present situation because we appreciate the importance and the need, in an age of increased leisure, of sport, and of providing for that purpose as far as possible.
That brings me right on to local authority expenditure. The hon. Member for Dumfries said that local authorities face a severe clamp-down. However, local authorities' expenditure on sport and recreation has increased very considerably in recent years. It has risen from £28 million in 1970–71 to about £60 million last year. I have had difficulty in finding the exact answers for the year 1973–74, mainly because of local government reorganisation and the inability to get the final detailed figures from the new reorganised local authorities. But, on any review of finance, the descriptions given by the hon. Gentleman—"shockingly inadequate; miserable; facing a severe clamp-down"—are totally unjustified having regard to the general economic policies of the Opposition, from which the hon. Gentleman has not departed today.
1230 We cannot leave the discussion of money for sport without talking about VAT. The hon. Member fror Dumfries, unlike myself, voted to impose VAT on sport.
§ Mr. Howell
Many of us stated categorically at the time what we felt the effect would be. I could repeat the speeches of the Financial Secretary at the time, in which he specifically said that VAT had to be included, but I shall content myself by saying that it is costing professional soccer £2 million a year and amateur sport £1 million a year. If we include VAT on equipment, including games too, the estimate of VAT from that is about £8 million a year. One cannot break down the £8 million figure. However, it is clear that all the effects that we said would flow from VAT have flowed from it. The responsibility for that does not lie on the Government side of the House.
§ Mr. Howell
The hon. Gentleman must know that the Conservatives totally revolutionised the tax system by getting rid of SET and purchase tax and imposing VAT, and that that is something that cannot be put back overnight, as unfortunate as many of us think VAT to be.
I turn now to some of the other points raised by the hon. Member. I am glad that I was able during the course of the year to find a supplementary sum of £200,000 of which £75,000 is to be used for the stand which is to enclose the whole track at Crystal Palace, and to which I attach a good deal of importance. The hon. Member said that sports bodies believed in mandatory derating. They may do so, but Parliament under both Governments has never taken that view. The view has always been taken that the derating of sports grounds must be a matter for local authorities, and the views of the Government will be made known on that subject when the White Paper is published.
I am sorry that the hon. Member for Dumfries thought that sports bodies were now complaining about red tape from the Treasury because of the forms they are having to fill. The allocation of grants from the Sports Council has nothing to do 1231 with the Government. The council is now an independent body, and if that is the point he was seeking to make—
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
If I am sure of one thing it is that that subject does not come under this Vote. We shall leave taxation out.
§ Mr. Howell
I am not saved by the whistle. I am very happy to deal with these points if they are in order. However, I have been brought up to play to the rules of the game, and that is all I am seeking to do.
It is difficult to say anything about the staff salary review. The hon. Member is quite wrong to say that this matter has been with me for a considerable time. It has been with me for a shortish time, and it is the subject of discussion with the Civil Service Department now that I have the views of the Sports Council on the matter.
The hon. Member asked me about Bisham Abbey, Lilleshall and Holme Pierrepont, all the national recreation centres. Of course we understand the difficulties. We are not providing any more money for Lilleshall because we have not been asked to provide any more. In a sense it would be improper for the Sports Council to ask for the money because it is now totally independent of the Government in how it deals with its money. This is one of the unfortunate repercussions which flowed from the Royal charter.
When the hon. Member for Sutton and Cheam (Mr. Macfarlane) said that I was nothing like as active this year as I had been in the previous administration he is in one sense right, and that is partly the fault of his right hon. and hon. Friends. When I was a Minister previously I was responsible for all the decisions of the Sports Council. I had a great deal of direct responsibility, but 1232 that is no longer the position. The Conservatives, in their wisdom or otherwise, decided that sport should be pushed outside the Government and that the council should become a chartered body. It was therefore no longer directly answerable to Parliament. The hon. Member is quite wrong otherwise in thinking that I have been less active. Never before have I spent so much of my time on sports and recreation, but the opportunities for expressing myself in the House are fewer, and that is why the hon. Member has a mistaken impression.
One of the things I have been doing since I came back to office has been to deal with morale. I found that the new arrangements had had a very severe effect upon morale in the Central Council for Physical Recreation and in its relations with the Sports Council, and much of my year has been spent bringing these bodies together, recreating harmony and raising morale. I am glad to say that the process is paying off, and I am sure that in the future we shall get the partnership that all of us want to see.
§ Mr. Macfarlane
I am aware of the problems. If the Minister is saying that his activity in the past year has not been so intense as it was 10 years ago, why were the functions of his Ministry and his own terms of reference extended so substantially?
§ Mr. Macfarlane
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I was wondering whether the additional £75,000 in the Supplementary Estimates might be attributed in some way to this extended Ministry.
§ Mr. Howell
The hon. Member may be in the penalty area, Mr. Deputy Speaker, but he has still muffed the shot.
§ Mr. Monro
On the point about the national recreation centres, and since the Minister has not the responsibility for initiating projects, surely he accepts that the Sports Council will expand its programme only if it has sufficient capital to spend. That is our criticism. The sys-does not allow the national recreation 1233 centres to have enough money because of the size of the Sports Council grant.
§ Mr. Howell
That is not so. At the present time not only is the Crystal Palace stand being built but a new swimming pool is being constructed there too. At Bisham Abbey there has been started this year, as a result of the grant to the Sports Council, a new sports complex. The hon. Member referred to Holm Pierrepont and the rowing championships, and I am glad to say that resources are adequate for that work to be undertaken too.
In addition, the Sports Council has made its commitments to governing bodies, administration and coaching grants. The grant for those subjects will exceed £1 million this year, and that is almost twice the grant level of two years ago. The hon. Member can therefore be satisfied that even with all our difficulties we are making progress in those respects. I entirely agree that we want multi-purpose sports centres. A record number of these have been built in the last few years, and that reflects credit on both administrations. Both have been very sensibly following the same policy of getting value for public money.
My hon. Friend the Member for Carlisle asked about the importance the Government attach to leisure. We attach tremendous importance to increased leisure, to the advent of earlier retirement, to longer holidays and to a shorter working week. All those aspects of developing social policy are bound to put more pressure on sports, recreation and leisure services and make a case for more resources to be allocated as and when the country can find them. He said that we are in the hands of the Chancellor. My right hon. Friend accepts that in the whole sphere of leisure, which includes the arts as well as sport, the Government must do what they can.
The vexed problem of hooliganism was raised by my hon. Friend in the only way that made it in order. He asked whether any of this money was produced for purposes of police protection. Police protection is provided free by the police forces outside football grounds, but it has to be paid for inside the grounds. Many clubs complain about this but it has always been the case: they cannot eat their cake and have it. A sports ground is a private place, and sports clubs like 1234 to have control over their grounds. Therefore, they have to pay for police protection.
This year I visited every First Division ground to have discussions with the football authorities on the spot. At every football ground the police had arranged with the club to provide the number of policemen they felt ought to be present. They charged for that number. However, the police forces realised that for reasons of public order many more policemen were, regrettably, necessary. I am sure that the clubs will agree that they are getting good value for money in these difficult days and that they will join with me when I say that we have nothing but praise for the way the police, week in and week out, face up to hooliganism with great tolerance and firmness.
§ Mr. Ron Lewis
I agree with everything my hon. Friend has said and I would add my tribute to his. We are living in days of competition and cut price. Would he consider cutting the price that football clubs pay for police protection?
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. We shall shortly be having a debate about hooliganism in football. For the sake of the House we must keep to the rules outlined first by me and later, I understand, by Mr. Speaker when he took the Chair.
§ Mr. Howell
I turn to the subject of small lotteries. That is not my responsibility. The House has passed a measure on this subject, whatever the hon. Member for Harborough and my hon. Friend think about it. My hon. Friend adopted the rôle of the Chancellor of the Exchequer and asked for a 2 per cent. tax on betting duty. I shall see that that view is conveyed to the Chancellor. This is one of the difficulties of having a debate on financial matters less than a month before the Budget.
The hon. Member for Sutton and Cheam asked about the youth sports programme and the White Paper. I have been trying to get the relationship right between the Sports Council and the CCPR. I have consulted them widely—much more widely than they were consulted four years ago when there was a major change in the rôle of the Sports Council. It would be discourteous to 1235 answer questions about the Sports Council or to produce a White Paper on a whole range of issues until I have had the benefit of its official advice. I received advice from the Sports Council two weeks ago. Although I know what the CCPR will say, because it kindly sent me an advance copy of its recommendations, it has yet formally to adopt them at an executive meeting. The delay is not all on my side. If we consult everyone we have to give them the opportunity to offer their advice.
The CCPR has carried out an excellent exercise in consulting its five divisions. The advice I shall receive represents the in-depth, considered opinion of British sport.
There is no question about British participation in the Olympics or of training being jeopardised for want of public funds. Indeed, the reverse is true. I have had talks with the British Olympics Association, and it is its view that its public appeal should be spread over four years and that the money should go towards sending the team to Canada and helping towards the training of the team to go to Moscow for the 1980 Olympics.
I am anxious to have centres of excellence for British sportsmen and to create sports bursaries. However, the House will have to wait for my White Paper, where it will find some more words of wisdom on that subject.
My hon. Friend the Member for St. Helens (Mr. Spriggs) asked me some vitally important questions about educational facilities. He mentioned rugby but this applies to Rugby Union, Rugby League, soccer, cricket and many other sports. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science agrees emphatically with me, as do other Ministers, that all educational facilities should be opened up as much as possible. These facilities are provided by public capital resources and should be used as much as possible during the year. There will be a strong, challenging paragraph in the White Paper on this subject. I am happy to report to the House that co-operation between by Ministry and the Department of Education and Science has never been more intense, active and constructice than it is at present.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. I am surprised at the hon. Gentleman. He might not have heard me the first time but he surely heard me the second time. That is beyond the scope of this debate.
§ Mr. Howell
It is indeed. However, I am in constant communication with all my ministerial colleagues. This is a limited debate because of the difficulties. I hope that this debate will encourage hon. Members to seek other opportunities to debate our Estimates or specific questions which arise in sport. The Opposition might use their Supply Days for this purpose, in which case we shall be able to cover a wider remit. The White Paper, which will be issued during the early summer, might provide the next suitable opportunity for a discussion, not only on the limited nuts and bolts issues of money but on important questions of philosophy and social policy.
I thank all hon. Members who have spoken for the constructive way in which they have approached the various issues.