HC Deb 05 May 1976 vol 910 cc1291-2
11. Mr. Gwilym Roberts

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment what plans he has for supporting the development of skiing among young people in Great Britain; and if he will make a grant towards the costs of the first English Junior Ski Championships.

Mr. John Silkin

I welcome the excellent work being done by the National Ski Federation of Great Britain to promote skiing among young people. The Sports Council is responsible for allocating grants to sport from the Government's annual grant in aid, but I understand that the federation has not applied for grant aid for the First English Junior Ski Championships as it has found a commercial sponsor for this event.

Mr. Roberts

The achievements of the National Ski Federation, the local authorities and the Government have been impressive in this respect, but is my right hon. Friend aware that although a great many working-class children are interested in skiing the great majority of those who participate, particularly in championship events, are upper-class children? Does he not accept that there is a great deal to be done if we are to move towards the old Socialist doctrine that we should all live at the Ritz?

Mr. Silkin

I am glad that my hon. Friend has paid full and fair tribute to the work of the Ski Federation of Great Britain. I am very impressed that it is starting children off very young, with competitions for the under-elevens. I believe that it has managed to train about 60,000 children and that on this May Day—or very near it—high in our ideals must be the provision of ski facilities for the whole community.

Mr. Budgen

Does my right hon. Friend not agree that the ridiculous suggestion that there should be a subsidy for skiing is indicative of the philosophy which gives us a public sector borrowing requirement of £12 billion and puts us on the slippery slopes not of skiing but of hyper-inflation?

Mr. Silkin

I doubt whether even my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer would put inflation down totally to the increase in skiing in Great Britain. I cannot help thinking that in the use of his mixed metaphor the hon. Gentleman was a bit ambivalent. Skiing is a splendid sport, which I like to watch on television.

Mr. Monro

Is the Minister confident that the resources available to the Sports Council to encourage skiing, particularly in international competitions abroad, are adequate, in view of our performance at the Olympic Games?

Mr. Silkin

I think that the hon. Gentleman is leading me into paths in which I have an invincible ignorance, but I know that the work that the federation has been putting in hand has greatly increased the interest in skiing in this country. Therefore, one hopes for better results in future. As regards subsidies, I said in my original answer that, rather fortunately, there was a commercial sponsor for this event, and hope that there will be many more.

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