HC Deb 27 May 1976 vol 912 cc617-8
9. Mr. McNamara

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, how much public finance has been provided for recreational provision in the area covered by Craigavon Council.

Mr. Concannon

In the five-year period from 1st April 1971 to 31st March 1976, Government grants totalling about £350,000 have been paid to the Craigavon Borough Council and its predecessors in respect of recreational facilities. This, with the council's contribution, represents an outlay of public funds of approximately £525,000.

During the same period the Northern Ireland Department of Agriculture and Enterprise Ulster have spent about £124,000 and £340,000, respectively, on recreational facilities in the area. In addition, about £280,000 has been paid to voluntary groups and the Southern Educational and Library Board youth centres.

Mr. McNamara

Will my hon. Friend confirm the rough calculation that that represents about £1.25 millions? Is he satisfied that full use is being made of all the facilities created by these public funds? If not, will he make sure that a message goes to Craigavon and other places telling it that if it does not use these facilities to the full it will not receive any more public money.

Mr. Concannon

I can confirm that my hon. Friend is about right in his figure. The provision and arrangement of recreational facilities are matters within the functions of each council. However, we should not forget that a great deal of Government finance goes towards these facilities and that the Government have a right to take an interest in their use. I therefore intend to pursue further with the council the provision of Government grants, and I have stressed to councils in Northern Ireland that they should maximise the revenue account in respect of these facilities.

Mr. McCusker

Does the Minister accept that the administration and management of these recreational facilities are among the very few responsibilities left to councils in Northern Ireland? Does he also accept that how they use them is their responsibility, and that of the citizens of their boroughs?

Mr. Concannon

I have stressed that, but Ministers cannot just sit back while £1.25 millions is put into local councils like these and have no say in what the money should be used for.