§ 7.42 p.m.
§ The Minister of State, Department of the Environment (Mr. Denis Howell)
I beg to move,That this House takes note of the White Paper on Sport and Recreation (Command Paper No. 6200).Since this White Paper was circulated, there have been a number of requests to have a debate upon it. I am glad that we have been able to find time for this debate, although the time has been somewhat eroded today. The Government were anxious to have as much discussion as possible about this document, as I think this is the first time in the history of this country—certainly in the history of sport—that any White Paper on the subject has been produced.
Since the Government came into office they have tried to raise the whole philosophy, purpose and social contribution of sport. This White Paper therefore set out to examine the changes that we found to be necessary in the structure of the Sports Council and in the arrangements for the development of sport to create a philosophy about leisure provision.
The White Paper, in its conclusion, states thatThe Government believe that sport and recreation provide enormous benefits for the individual in society, and recognise the part which they can play in the enhancement of personality. The social stresses on many young people today are enormous, especially in the big cities. If we delay too long in tackling the causes of these stresses constructively, the problems which arise from them will be magnified, and the cost of dealing with their results greatly increased. … Where the community neglects its responsibilities for providing the individual with opportunities and choice in the provision of sports and recreational facilities, it will rarely escape the long-term consequences of this neglect. When life becomes meaningful for the individual then the whole community is enriched.Since we wrote that passage in the White Paper, everything that has happened has borne out the truth of that philosophy and policy.
I regret that part of my speech this evening will deal with the continuing problems of the misuse of leisure, and boredom. I have no doubt that that will properly attract a great deal of attention in the media. However, it is important 1314 at the outset to explain that we wish to provide healthy opportunities for the majority of citizens to enjoy sport, to find fun in games, a delight in the countryside and happiness in their leisure time.
I should like to give a brief progress report to the House, which I shall attempt to condense because I note that a number of hon. Members wish to speak in the debate.
As we said in paragraph 33 of the White Paper, Ministers concerned with all the agencies in the countryside catering for recreation and sport now meet regularly under my chairmanship. This has proved to be an extremely helpful way of co-ordinating policy.
Likewise, and probably even more valuable, all the agencies meet under my chairmanship twice a year. It might be worth mentioning those agencies to demonstrate the breadth of interest in the whole question of leisure, sport and recreational provision. They are the Countryside Commission, the Nature Conservancy Council, the Sports Council, the National Water Council, the British Waterways Board, the Forestry Commission and the English Tourist Board.
Since we started those meetings, I thought it right to invite the local authority associations to attend as and when necessary. Their presence has added a new dimension and has helped to co-ordinate thinking between local and central Government. As a result, we have had an extensive series of discussions—I shall not give the House the details because of their length—covering almost every aspect of the problems about which I have been talking.
We have also changed the composition of the Sports Council. Including the chairman and vice-chairman, the membership was increased from 27 to 32 last year. Therefore, as many interests as possible are now represented upon it. In particular—I appreciate this, especially as a former chairman of the Central Council for Physical Recreation, albeit for a short period—it has now been possible to agree that the CCPR should have roughly 25 per cent. of the membership. At present, seven members represent the governing bodies of sport as of right. I do not distinguish between their nominations, but I feel it right to have on the 1315 Sports Council the nominations of the collective governing bodies of sport. That move has been much appreciated by the CCPR and by all the governing bodies in this country.
In addition, I have now arranged that two representatives of local authorities should be appointed to the Sports Council. This is of considerable importance, as the local authorities are major providers of sports facilities.
These changes in the Sports Council membership are working very well and improving the harmonious relationships that we want to see between the Sports Council, the governing bodies of sport and local and central Government.
§ Mr. Eldon Griffiths (Bury St. Edmunds)
Having set up the independent Sports Council, I welcome in general what the Minister has done. But is any amendment of the charter required to achieve the extension of membership?
§ Mr. Howell
A slight amendment of the charter was necessary. It has in fact been carried out. Otherwise, these arrangements would not be operational. I am not sure whether the amendment of the charter that we have made deals with the scope of the membership. I shall deal with that point when I have had an opportunity of checking it.
§ Mr. Roy Hughes (Newport)
In making these appointments, does my right hon. Friend take into consideration nominations from the trade unions? One feels that they have a useful part to play on these bodies.
§ Mr. Howell
My hon. Friend can rest assured that although no organisation can make nominations as of right, the need to involve both sides of industry in the work of the Sports Council is always uppermost in my mind and has some effect on the appointments that I make.
The greatest significant change in the machinery and structure is in the establishment of the new regional councils for sport and recreation. There was a great deal of apprehension when I announced that the old regional sports councils that had been so outstandingly successful for 10 or 12 years were to be reformed in this wider setting. It seemed that in the regional context it was nonsense to have 1316 sport, recreation, access to the countryside and all these matters in separate watertight compartments.
If we were planning for leisure as a whole, which is the philosophy of the White Paper, it was essential that we brought all those matters together in the regions. Additional staff have been found for the Countryside Commission, which had not previously had a regional organisation, so that they can play their full part in the new regional councils, and I am glad to say that these are working well. I have visited almost all of them. There is only one that I have not visited, but I shall do so soon. I can report to the House that these councils have been well established and are working well, and no doubt they will make a significant contribution to the development of sport and recreation and leisure facilities.
I have told the regional councils that their first priority is to get on with the development of a regional strategy, to look 20 years ahead if necessary. I am glad to say that my Department has taken the lead in the preparation of guidelines and that work on the development of a regional strategy is under way.
I turn now to the question of areas of special need and the inner cities. Since this was specifically highlighted in the White Paper when it was published, we accepted the fact of life that the greatest stresses and strains are to be found in the urban conurbations. The greatest social problems are to be found in the cities and towns. Therefore, it was self-evdently the right things to do to recognise the great contribution that sports provision can make in the inner cities and in areas of social deprivation. I am glad to report again that the Sports Council readily accepted that this ought to be the first priority call upon our resources at this time, even though the economic situation does not allow us to make the expansion in our programme that we all desire.
§ Mr. Leslie Spriggs (St. Helens)
What are the resources provided by way of grant to the Sports Council?
§ Mr. Howell
I should like to deal with that when I reply to the debate.
The White Paper recognised that the first priority for future recreation provision must be to concentrate attention 1317 upon the inner cities and other areas of social stress. I am glad to report that the Sports Council unhesitatingly agreed with that policy and in 1976–77 allocated more than £700,000 in grant to schemes in these areas. The number of projects involved is 126, and he Sports Council intends to make similar provision in future years.
I am glad to say, in the presence of my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland, that Scottish Ministers and the Scottish Sports Council are giving similar priority to this matter and have allocated £100,000 this year out of their budget, again for sponsoring schemes in situations of urban stress.
There can be no doubt that sport and recreation can play a greater part than almost any other programme in helping to tackle the problems of urban deprivation. The statement earlier today by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment offers new possibilities for the encouragement of programmes and facilities in the inner areas of our major cities.
When programmes to utilise the additional resources now being made available by the Government are drawn up, we must ensure that the vital social dimension represented by sport and recreation is fully taken into account. The Sports Council is, therefore, asking each of the appropriate regional councils for sport and recreation immediately to enter into discussions with the local authorities and to offer their services in order to ensure that sport and recreational provision is an integral part of the new partnership arrangements between central and local government.
The Government's new approach to the inner cities comes at a time when we are also engaged on some new thinking about our approach to recreation policy itself. This week I have received the results of two important studies on leisure provision, which I shall be circulating more widely and discussing with the Government agencies and local authority associations. The first, which was carried out by a research worker in my Department, was to find out more about the kinds of activities and policies which could help to increase the recreational opportunities of those living in the inner 1318 cities, especially those who are socially, economically or physically disadvantaged. The second, sponsored by this Department, the Department of Education and Science and the Scottish and Welsh Offices, is on action-research experiments in leisure activities in four selected areas—Stoke-on-Trent, Sunderland, Clwyd and Dunbarton. Although the experiments went wider than the inner city areas, they had a substantial inner city content.
My first impression is that these studies show strikingly similar results. The lessons to be learned from them seem to me to be these: first, the policy of providing facilities for the benefit of the "whole community" has tended to work to the disadvantage of the deprived. Sports centres, for example, were found to be catering mainly for the middle classes. I suspect that such a tendency is liable to be aggravated by price increases. Only yesterday I was told that in one authority in the North-West recent price increases had led to a fall of 12 per cent. in users of facilities in general. On some facilities the loss was as great as 37 per cent. We cannot afford to price out of these facilities the very people we need to attract to them.
Secondly, we should make a virtue out of necessity of the present economic constraints and made sure that we concentrate not only on less ambitious facilities but also on making better use of a whole range of under-user resources. Our parks, our schools, our church halls are all prime examples. For many years there has been no new thinking about the rôle of parks, yet they are one of our most precious assets and ought to be fully utilised and taken up. The old straitjacket of municipal thinking and municipal provision should be rethought and widened. Yesterday I discussed with the Association of Metropolitan Authorities the contribution that land owned by public utilities could make towards meeting recreational needs. They will have my full support in their efforts to persuade the utilities concerned to make more non-operational land available.
Thirdly, we must realise that mere provision of facilities is not enough. There is great potential for self-help in the community and we must have stronger community involvement. Local authorities should see themselves as assisters and 1319 enablers rather than as mere providers. They must adopt a more flexible and sensitive approach to local aspirations. The leisure experiments have shown how much can be achieved for very little money with a sympathetic partnership between authorities and the community.
I shall want to discuss with the Government agencies, the local authority associations and others what the next steps should be on these studies. Clearly, I must not pre-empt these discussions. But my own view is that we must first of all subject the studies to the widest possible degree of publicity and debate. For a start, I am asking every regional council for sport and recreation to convene conferences in its region to consider the findings of these studies.
But we need action even more than words. I believe that it is essential that the reappraisal of our attitudes towards leisure provision should lead to a reappraisal of leisure planning itself. I should like to see—and the AMA agrees with me—the recreation and leisure departments of each district authority—which I see as one of the encouraging things, if not the only encouraging thing, that emerged from local government reorganisation—preparing a master plan for leisure in their areas which would ensure that all the physical and human resources in the community were fully and effectively utilised and that the leisure service was seen as a vital part of the social provision of the community.
Much of the social stress, the deprivation, and the boredom that are prevalent in our society manifest themselves in the form of football hooliganism. On this subject I regret that I must make a rather extended statement, but I know that the House would wish me to do so in view of the unfortunate events of recent weeks.
It is very regrettable, but unfortunately true, that the number of disturbing incidents involving sizeable crowds of untrollable football supporters has increased in recent months. As a result, large-scale police operations have become necessary on certain occasions, which is totally unjustified, in order that sporting fixtures can take place. On occasions, whole neighbourhoods and towns have been threatened and damaged, innocent spectators assaulted, the police force extended beyond what is reasonable on a sporting 1320 occasion and, not least—as I am sure that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, whom I am glad to see is in the Chamber tonight listening to this important statement, will agree—policemen themselves injured in attempting to control such intolerable situations.
Earlier in the season the Glasgow Rangers visit to Aston Villa produced a major confrontation and as a result the Glasgow Rangers club itself has decided not to play further away matches in England for the time being. Within the last few weeks there have been three serious incidents involving so-called supporters of Manchester United. Supporters of other clubs have also been involved in similar types of unacceptable behaviour, though not quite on such a scale as these events.
As for Manchester United's away matches, it is clear that the principal offenders seem to have very little connection at all with Manchester. They travel from all over the country as if on a pilgrimage. We really cannot allow support for a football team to become a cult if it develops to the point of threatening the peace of towns and creates intolerable problems for both police and clubs.
Members of my working party, including representatives of the Football Association and Football League and the Sports Council, discussed this matter with me yesterday, and all of us agreed that in terms of visiting supporters of Manchester United this problem must be reduced immediately to one of manageable size, in the interests of the club itself, its opponents, and the towns in which games are being played.
We noted that the Manchester United Supporters' Club now lists over 150 branches throughout the country. I have here a copy of the club's official notepaper. If hon. Members care to look at it, they will see that branches have sprung up in almost every town in the country. It is something of a tribute to the supporters' club, although I do not for a moment pretend that it will find agreeable what I shall be saying in a few moments.
I pay tribute to the supporters, and particularly to their secretary, Mr. David Smith, who has always co-operated fully with us and who has resented and regretted as bitterly as any one of us in 1321 the House the difficulties any supporters have landed the club into.
We observed, too, from an analysis of the town of origin of offenders on these occasions that very few of them originate in Manchester. The vast majority come from addresses scattered around the country. Apart from the supporters club branches, it is also clear that many unofficial groups are also making similar arrangements for organised travel.
We have therefore decided that, as soon as is practicable, having regard to the fact that arrangements are already being made for the FA cup semi-final, the Football Association and the Football League will ensure that all future Manchester United away matches will be ticket-only occasions. In no circumstances will any tickets be available on the day of the match, and all terrace tickets will be sold exclusively to home club supporters. As for stand seat tickets, it will be for the home club to decide what allocation it can make available for distribution by the Manchester United Football Club.
I am glad to say that Bristol City Football Club has been in touch with me and advised me that it proposes to operate these arrangements at its game on 7th May.
One of the disturbing features in recent games has been the large number of supporters who have arrived for all-ticket matches without being in possession of a ticket. Over 2,000 people turned up at Southampton without a ticket and rampaged round the ground. I am told that last Saturday at Norwich several hundred people arrived without tickets.
The working party believes that this is due to the impression that these people have that they will easily be able to obtain a ticket from touts or other people selling them outside the ground. I have discussed this matter with the Home Secretary and he will consider what practical steps can be taken to end this situation. It will obviously defeat our purpose if people feel that they can get round these arrangements by purchasing tickets in this manner and gaining admision to parts of the terraces where they can create conflict with home supporters.
1322 The Football Association and the Football League have agreed that Manchester United must be told to discourage the recognition of a whole range of supporters' clubs around the country and will be instructed not to make tickets available to such clubs outside Manchester. Likewise, other clubs that are also developing such out of town supporters' clubs—I regret, in one way, that this practice seems to be on the increase—will be discouraged from giving official recognition to them. We are aware that certain matches involving the supporters of other clubs also need to be stringently controlled and during the summer months the working party will consider what other matches require equally stringent control and similar all-ticket arrangements.
I turn to the subject of travel. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport shares my view about the rôle that properly supervised travel arrangements can play. My working party and I hope soon to hold a meeting with the representatives of coach operators and British Rail in order further to discuss travel arrangements. We shall stress the view of the working party that it will be quite irresponsible to organise any special travel to all-ticket matches unless the travellers possess a ticket of admission to the match. We shall also make clear our firm view that there should be no alcohol on board coaches or trains carrying supporters. Police reports on recent incidents confirm that sizeable numbers of supporters have been arriving in the home town as early as midnight on the day before the match and thus creating additional problems. We shall therefore reinforce the earlier advice of the working party, which is designed to ensure that supporters at football matches do not arrive in the home town earlier than an hour or so before the kick-off and that arrangments are made for an immediate departure after the match.
The football authorities share my view that penalties for offenders should represent an adequate deterrent. As the House will know, my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has proposed a very considerable increase in such penalties in the Criminal Law Bill, which we are due to consider in this House immediately after 1323 Easter. I hope very much that we shall give it a swift passage so that its provisions can be available to the courts as deterrents to such offenders.
Members of the working party are convinced that, in preference to the imposition of large fines, courts should deal with football hooligans in the younger age range—under 17—by ordering them to report to an attendance centre on Saturday afternoons.
There are 60 junior attendance centres for this age group, and most urban areas are served by such a centre. A boy who has been found guilty of an offence for which an adult may be sent to prison may be ordered to attend a centre, normally for an aggregate of between 12 and 24 hours. The usual period of attendance is two hours at any one time, and the great majority of the centres open on a Saturday afternoon. The centres provide a simple punishment by deprivation of leisure time for which I should like to express our appreciation. They are run by police officers in their spare time and normally provide for the boys a combination of physical exercise and some form of lecture or craft instruction.
The centres, of course, take boys found guilty of a large variety of offences and have been used by the courts for this purpose for over 25 years. But if, at the discretion of the court, the attendance centre seems an appropriate disposal, it provides a most useful means of removing a trouble maker from the scene on a Saturday afternoon.
I understand that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary is at present considering whether any improvement can be made in the system.
I know that will be very welcome to the football authorities. I now turn to the question of the safety of sports grounds. The Safety of Sports Grounds Act becomes operative in all First Division grounds in England and Scotland, and in certain other important grounds, at the beginning of next season. Local authorities have the responsibility of issuing general safety certificates to these grounds and I take this opportunity of drawing their attention to the two most vital requirements of my working party that have been circulated to the football clubs and the local authorities concerned.
These are as follows: first, that there must be effective means of segregating 1324 rival supporters on the terraces of all grounds. In this respect the numbers of tickets which the home team can make available to the visitors in any match should be based on the ability to create separate sections with their own entrance and exits; secondly, that some form of protection is available to ensure that there is no encroachment on to the pitch, except for reasons of safety and at the discretion of the police.
Football clubs that have made application for certificates are very strongly advised to ensure that these requirements can be met. I expect local authorities to bear them in mind in considering applications by clubs, and to impose conditions—such as on ground capacity—where the requirements are not met.
As the House will know, I reported in an earlier debate that to meet the cost of dealing with the Safety of Sports Grounds Act, the Football Ground Improvement Trust was established, with the generous support of the pools promoters. It is funded by a levy on "Spot-the-Ball" competitions and will soon be providing financial assistance to clubs to improve their grounds. The trust fund's capital account now stands at £1.37 million and clubs have been asked to put in bids for assistance by 28th April. The bids will be based on estimates for the work local authorities will require to be done before a general safety certificate can be issued, and their bids will be considered during May.
Many of the remedial measures that I have described will inevitably impose restrictions upon many thousands of genuine football supporters, particularly in Manchester. This is especially regrettable, because of the fine reputation of the Manchester United club, for its positive football, which contributes greatly to the progress of British soccer, and, not least, for its well-deserved reputation as a club for good sportsmanship. However, I know that most of its supporters will understand how important it is in the long-term interest of their own club and for its supporters personally, that we eliminate these disorders and make the support of our national sport the pleasure that it ought to be.
Football clubs might also suffer some financial disadvantage, but again my working party believes that this is a price that must be paid in order to overcome 1325 the problem. On the other hand, we believe that, if the sporting public feel that they can once more attend these matches without fear for their own safety, this might well bring back to football many people who are undoubtedly staying away at the moment.
I am particularly grateful to the Football Association and the Football League for their ready co-operation and for their sense of realism, and their determination to overcome this menace. I shall be meeting members of the working party again shortly, and certainly during the summer, to review these arrangements in time for the new season. At the same time, we shall consider carefully whether these exceptional measures should be extended to other clubs.
Moving on to more constructive aspects, I should like to say, with regard to leisure in the countryside, that the Department and the agencies understand the strategic importance of developing access to the countryside and developing opportunities for camping and caravanning. With the increased leisure time now available to the people of this country and the increased mobility which motorways and ownership of motor cars now provide, the Department and the agencies appreciate that their rôle in the provision and development of a leisure policy is even more essential than it has been in the past.
The Countryside Commission is increasingly turning its attention to the need for recreation facilities, especially on the edge of the great towns. Its objective is to stop the decline in the quality of the land and to improve the landscape quality by proper management and investment, to develop it for recreation purposes or, if possible, to make better use of the land for agriculture.
During 1975–76, the commission was involved in 34 urban fringe projects, including help to public bodies in the purchase of land, improving access, providing car parks linked with bridle paths and footpath systems, and the provision of well-designed information boards. In that year, the commission spent 25 per cent. of all its grant aid on such schemes and will continue to give them the importance they deserve.
1326 There has recently been a great deal of controversy on the subject of the Exmoor National Park. I am greatly concerned about the disputes there over the use of moorland. Normally, I would expect the National Park Administration, with the assistance of the Countryside Commission, to handle this, but I recognise that this is a difficult problem, where there are deeply-held convictions by all interests, especially those who livehihood is concerned and who need to be able to work together in a spirit of good will. The success of national parks depends on the co-operation of all involved.
What is now needed is a cool and objective appraisal of both the present and potential situation and of the courses of action that are open to the relevant public authorities in order to ensure that a proper balance is struck between the various national and local interests involved. For this reason, my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment readily agreed to the request of the Exmoor National Park Committee for a study of the question of land use on Exmoor.
I can now inform the House that Lord Porchester has agreed to carry out this study. I am sure that he is a man to whom everyone can talk and who can weigh the various considerations with perception and balance. He has a remarkably wide practical experience covering all the various aspects of the problem. He is a working farmer and a retiring Chairman of the Hampshire County Council. He formerly served on the Nature Conservancy Council and was Chairman of the South-East Economic Planning Council, as well as being associated with the New Forest.
§ Mr. Howell
My hon. Friend may not, but the people in Exmoor do. It is very important, therefore, if my hon. Friend does not mind, that I should complete this very short announcement.
§ Mr. Howell
It is not. It is a one-man study. The hon. Gentleman, as usual, is very wide of the mark.
§ Mr. Spriggs
May I ask your advice on this matter, Mr. Deputy Speaker? Some of us have waited all day for the sports debate, only to find it starting at 7.42 pm, when my right hon. Friend rose at the Dispatch Box. He is still speaking. May we appeal to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for an extension of time? Without this, we shall have to appeal for an adjournment so that we can continue this debate on another day.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Oscar Murton)
I am afraid that I must disappoint the hon. Member for St. Helens (Mr. Spriggs). The Chair has no power in this respect.
§ Mr. Howell
I am sorry, and I apologise to my hon. Friend if he feels that he may be excluded. I hope that he will not. But he was the first hon. Member to try to interrupt me when my speech started.
I am indeed grateful to Lord Porchester. I think that when he produces his report the whole House will appreciate it. If the House has been keeping itself apprised of the dispute in Somerset it will know that these are very real and important issues to the people involved, and have to be settled in a manner satisfactory to both agriculturalists and environmentalists.
Having made my statements, which contain some news, I shall be very happy indeed to reply to other matters raised in the debate when my hon. Friends have had the opportunity to put their points, and particularly to record the success of the new centres of sporting excellence. They are of considerable importance, but because I wish to respond to the wishes of my hon. Friends I shall not deal with them in my comments now.
§ 8.21 p.m.
§ Mr. Hector Monro (Dumfries)
I share the view of the hon. Member for St. Helens (Mr. Spriggs) and hope that the Lord President, to whom we are grateful for giving time for this debate, will give further time after the Easter Recess. Obviously a debate which is truncated to two hours 20 minutes, after we have been waiting 18 months for it, is singularly disappointing.
I would straight away thank the Minister for what he said. I totally support his view on the grave problem of football 1328 hooliganism and wish him success in the immediate measures that he has taken. I know that we are only taking note of the White Paper. Perhaps the Government are out of touch with approving White Papers, but this subject is non-controversial and there is certainly no question of dividing the House on it.
On reflection the Minister might wish that he had not made the rather naughty statement at Bournemouth that this House had been showing no enthusiasm for a debate. The right hon. Gentleman knows very well that Supply Days are for controversial issues. I have been asking for a debate on sport for a long time. The Minister should not try to mislead sports conferences, which are perhaps not as well versed as we are with procedures in this House.
The whole of sport has been bedevilled and held back by inflation. Grants have eroded away. Costs have escalated whether in salaries, incidentals or capital costs. Last week's grants to the sports councils, with inflation running at 15 per cent. and over, did not measure up to anywhere near the figure they required. There is obviously no money for expansion and not enough to keep the present rate of expenditure in hand. In fact, there has been a decrease in real terms.
I join many people in sport in feeling a grave concern at this trend. I accept that there must be a restriction in the present economic climate but not disproportionate cuts. Many people will feel that the dice is at present weighted against sport. It would be an important help if the Minister could look forward rather further with regard to the capital expenditure of the Sports Council so that it can work on a rolling programme for perhaps three years ahead. This has been brought out clearly in one or two Press comments recently.
The Minister should not get too excited about the £11.5 million in grants for the Sports Council in the coming year. But when we bear in mind that the National Enterprise Board spends about £11 million every fortnight, and that the shipbuilding nationalisation will cost about £500 million, the Government must weigh their judgment and priorities better with regard to the expenditure of taxpayers' money.
1329 I remind the right hon. Gentleman that the last Sports Council report, in its review of sport in 1969 said:In times of economic stringency it would be very easy for central and local government to ignore or postpone the need for action. But failure to plan today will mean frustration tomorrow.I do not think that sport has had the opportunity over the last two or three years to plan ahead, in view of the restrictions that it has faced. In an endeavour to be brief, I shall not quote the comments on pages 6 and 7 of the Sports Council report, which clearly indicate that over the last two or three years there has been a lack of resources devoted to sport. Page 7 of the report states that the sports councils in the four countries, rather than being allocated £15 million, should have about £30 million if the Sports Council programme is to be carried out to its own satisfaction.
We shall have to return to previous levels to stimulate private investment in sport. In a more enlightened tax system we must look at the possibilities of revising the tax position so that corporations and companies are positively encouraged to give support to sport and recreation. The State should not be the only patron of sporting endeavour.
Because of his lengthy statement of hooliganism, the Minister probably has had to cut out a significant portion of his speech. I am sure that he would have wanted to pay tribute to the sponsors who have such an important influence on sport today. I do not think that industry is getting sufficient thanks for what it is doing.
I am glad that the right hon. Gentleman is putting up a fight on behalf of tobacco sponsorship. I have had letters from him. I cannot see why the Secretary of State for Social Services takes such a dogmatic line. Out of the £16 million of sports sponsorship, £5 million comes from tobacco companies. Were we to lose that, where would the money then come from? Let us stop this persecution of the tobacco companies and let the people of this country make their own judgment whether to smoke cigarettes. In this context, I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will use his influence to see that the guidelines used by the BBC are redrafted because there are so many ano- 1330 malies in relation to sponsorship that it perhaps reduces the effectiveness of the help that we are getting from industry.
Part of the right hon. Gentleman's strategy was based on the hope that there would be financial benefits from the interim report of the Royal Commission. Unforunately, the Royal Commission recommended nothing and there has been an equal blank in relation to the Government's unfortunate attitude to lotteries. I do not think that sport will get back from lotteries the money which would be available had the Government taken a different line when the Lotteries Act was going through this House.
The CCPR has been most active with regard to taxation. All praise to Mrs. Glen Haig for her booklet on tax. The right hon. Gentleman and I, representing the all-party sports group, have been to the Treasury and discussed the problem of taxation on sport. I was most disappointed that the Budget had no impact at all except possibly on the gifted sportsman, although we are entering into the arena of an accountant's nightmare if there is to be any benefit from that. The the VAT limit of £5,000 should have been raised to £10,000 in order to give the small sports club more breathing space and to cut out all the red tape and work which it has to go through when filling in forms. But nothing happened.
We felt that there should have been a flat rate which would cut out the 12½ per cent. VAT rate altogether. I wonder how on earth the right hon. Gentleman ever got involved in accepting the 25 per cent. VAT rate two years ago which has had such a catastrophic effect on boats, gliding and light aviation.
There has been a marginal improvement with regard to corporation tax. I had hoped that the Government would consider a small VAT concession, through the Customs and Excise, for the raising of bloodstock.
I now turn to the main theme of the debate, which would have been the White Paper itself had we not had an important diversion. As the Minister said, it is the first White Paper on the subject that we have had. But, without an improvement in resources, much of it will become a non-event. It is unusual for a Labour Government to embrace a House of Lords report with such enthusiasm and speed. There is no doubt that the 1331 three volumes make interesting reading and contain excellent evidence.
The conclusions of the report are weighted too heavily towards the environment. Of course we must co-ordinate and co-operate, and the environment must play an important part in the future of Britain. But in the context of the White Paper, the environment has too great an influence. That will dilute the importance of sport and physical recreation as defined in the Royal Charter of the Sports Council. The theme of leisure is too strong and has preference in the Minister's thinking. It is noticeable that neither the Scottish nor Welsh sports councils are mentioned often in the White Paper.
I pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Griffiths). The White Paper reaffirms the Conservative Party's policy to set an Executive Sports Council, chaired by Sir Robin Brook. I pay tribute to former chairman, Sir Roger Bannister, and Mr. Laurence Liddell of the Scottish Sports council.
I believe in the concept of the existing sports councils. The Minister should stand back, set the climate for sport and fight battles within Government. But he should not try to run the councils. The chairmen are capable of doing that for themselves, with the welcome and wise guidance that they receive from the CCPR.
While we are talking of sports councils, I should like to discuss Northern Ireland. That is a part of the United Kingdom that deserves all the help that we can give. We have excellent administrators in Belfast in Don Sanders, the chairman, and George Glasgow. Sports in Northern Ireland has suffered, but the clubs are resilient and are achieving success. I have visited the sports council there. I have seen sports centres, including the Mary Peters track. However, there are special problems in Northern Ireland. People have long evenings to fill.
We should continue to encourage large indoor centres in Northern Ireland because they are more suitable than a multiplicity of small community centres and parish halls. I was sorry to hear of the abandonment of sports centres in Belfast, Ballymena, Bangor and Larne. I hope that the Government will look again at that.
1332 Northern Ireland is the only country in which there is a limit of £30,000 to voluntary sports clubs over a five-year period. That encourages small centres when large ones are needed. Why are golf courses not eligible for grants in Northern Ireland. What has happened to the youth programme? Why has it not moved forward with enthusiasm? I say "Weil done" to the Northern Ireland Sports Council. We are all behind it in its efforts to provide sports facilities.
I turn to the White Paper. I agree with the Minister about the good work of the Water Space Amenity Commission and the other bodies that he mentioned. In paragraph 32 of the White Paper, rating, which is discretionary at present is mentioned. The Minister leaves it that way, and local authorities are able to make up their own minds.
We must put a bit more enthusiasm into the local authorities. Rate relief should be mandatory where a club makes its facilities genuinely available to the public—I underline the word genuinely—because this is reducing a capital charge that the local authority might have to pay if it provided the services itself.
I accept only too well, as does the Minister, the problems facing local authorities in relation to cost, particularly on things like swimming pools, where the escalation of costs has been dramatic and inflation has hit sport very hard.
The major decision in the White Paper relates to the regional councils of sport and recreation, which are advisory, not executive councils. I believe that the Government came to this decision too quickly. The Sports Council had been in operation for less than three years, and we should have allowed it longer to settle down before having another upheaval. But now that the Minister has made this decision we must accept it. I do not want to see another upheaval when we have another change of Government.
However, I keep before me the possibility of making some changes in personnel because I think that the Minister takes too much credit for the fact that they are settling down well. That is happening because sports people are always willing to try to be helpful. It is not natural for them to grumble and create difficulties. They have made a tremendous effort to make the new scheme work, although I think that the scheme is 1333 weighted too much toward the environment and has a reduced emphasis on sport. Some harmonisation could be developed with the Countryside Commission.
I am very worried about the composition proposed under Circular 47/76. The Minister read out the authorities involved in the new regional councils, including the British Waterways Board, the British Tourist Board, the National Farmers' Union, the Forestry Commission, National Parks and conservation societies, and local authorities which will play a major part. Out of an average council of 125, which is fairly large, half are local authority representatives, one-quarter come from statutory bodies and only about one-eighth are from sport. That plays down the importance of sport far too much when compared with the original charter of the Sports Council. The worry is that when money is available, they are to be serviced by the Countryside Commission. I hope that the Minister will comment on how this is settling down.
We hear about the conflict between the staff of the Countryside Commission, who are civil servants, and the Sports Council, whose officials are not civil servants. Obviously there would be a certain increase in the staff of the Countryside Commission, and therefore in the number of civil servants, if they are to do their job properly. I am worried to hear that they intend to have separate offices in the regions for sport and the Countryside Commission. This surely cannot help co-operation.
I apologise to hon. Members for going fairly fast because of the lack of time. I come now to the subject of joint use, which is very important and a very significant part of the debate. I have been an advocate for joint use for a long time and I am glad that The Sunday Times has taken this up and shown how important it can be. I saw the very best example of this at Torfan in South Wales, which is the greatest credit to all concerned. In these times of shortage of resources it makes economic sense to encourage joint use at an economic price.
I was concerned to hear the Minister tell us about the increases in costs. We have to accept that as a fact. When there 1334 is fall-off because of the high cost we must learn to face that factor in the future. I should like to see the Government and district councils putting much greater pressure on education authorities to ensure more joint use of facilities. I know that there is reluctance on the part of some headmasters and janitors towards joint use, but this must be changed. I was most disappointed at the attitude taken by the Under-Secretary of State for Education and Science. She manifestly requires more enthusiasm and some realism towards sport. It seems that complacency is rife in the Department of Education and Science.
We have certainly seen how joint use can be operated in the Services. Sir James Wilson, when he took me around Aldershot, was able to show me successful joint provision in the Services, and all credit to them for that, and to Bob Campbell's campaign in The Sunday Times to get this moving. So we must have no more lip service, but action, particularly in our present difficult economic climate.
I am glad that the Minister mentioned progress in the deprived urban areas. I was pleased to hear of the money that is available, but I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will not forget that the rural areas are equally deprived in terms of sport, particularly now that transport is becoming so expensive.
I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will encourage local authorities in deprived areas to rent to developers land which is presently not being used—that is, to developers who are prepared to put up sports centres but have been unable to purchase land in a locality.
We would all want to put on record our appreciation of the work done by those who help the disabled in sport, at Stoke Mandeville and elsewhere. I must mention also the great success we had in the Olympics at Montreal where the disabled were competing.
I was glad that the Minister mentioned safety at sports grounds and the progress that is being made on that. As the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland knows, I am concerned that the proposed fee of £500 is rather higher than we expected when the Bill was going through Parliament. I urge the Minister to bear in mind the need for flexibility. I hope that 1335 the officials will spend their time thinking of how to improve crowd control rather than of nit-picking technicalities about the green code.
Towards the end of his speech the right hon. Gentleman referred to the provision of separate areas for the different supporters. I hope the intention here is for football only, because I believe that such segregation could be both unnecessary and difficult at international rugby grounds.
The Minister made a major statement on hooliganism, and I agree with him in it. Ticket-only admission certainly is an improvement, and I am glad that he is considering strict control of travel arrangements. That is one factor which must be enforced. I am glad that he is following up what has been happening in Scotland for some time in providing that alcohol may not be taken aboard buses. I believe that that is one of the roots to the problem. Like his Scottish counterparts, the Minister has had various committees considering these matters, and I hope that by the time next season begins they will have reported and that action will have been taken.
We must not tolerate the battles which at present go on inside and outside football grounds. I want to see a clear definition of the rôle of parents. Here, as my hon. Friend the Member for Bury St. Edmunds reminds me, we come up against the problem of the shortage of money for paying police overtime for some of this work. If necessary to help the police we must change the law as the Home Secretary is already doing in the Criminal Law Bill. I hope that the Government may even consider strengthening the passages relating to hooliganism, because we must shock these hooligans into their senses. I am glad that the provisions will include swingeing detention for those who do not behave responsibly.
What is happening at Hampden Park is a most important topic in Scotland. The Government must give a commitment here, even if it is for two or three years ahead, because it will take that long to plan. Surely the Government do not envisage that we shall be in conditions of economic stringency for ever more. If the work of the Hampden Park working party was given a shot in the arm by the Minister, and if he was able to get 1336 the local authorities, the Football Association and Football League at Queen's Park to join together, we should make much faster progress. Hampden Park will have an awful struggle with its safety standards. I believe that it would be a tremendous boost to the game in Scotland if we knew that in two or three years the first sod would be turned for improving Hampden Park.
I come briefly now to racing, because it is important in the national context. In this connection, I would use the old Irish saying—"A man who is not confused is not well informed". There are so many able bodies giving so much advice that it is difficult to sift out a conclusion as to where we ought to move in the future. Nevertheless, this sport—indeed, an industry employing 100,000 people—requires assistance.
I am glad that the Levy Board has made extra contributions this season. I hope that the levy for next season is settled very soon. The Royal Commission is working on this for both racing and football pools, and we look forward to the report. But in the meantime I certainly welcome RILC, the Racing Industry Liaison Committee. This could be the basis of the best structure for racing, with control by the Jockey Club and the Levy Board, both of which have proved their effectiveness over the years. If RILC can build up its power and authority, this may be the solution for representation within the industry. I believe that the senior steward and his colleagues are working hard towards this end.
The question we pose tonight is this: Is society doing enough to raise its own quality of life? I think that all of us would say "No". We want to help the volunteers and the governing bodies, and we want to promote the base of the pyramid from which all sporting excellence must come, from the point of view of both competition and pure enjoyment. But the Government must set the climate, and the Sports Council, with dynamic leadership, must use its resources with skill and guide the local authorities forward. The local authorities are the biggest spenders, and we have to take them in the right direction.
There is too much muddled thinking in sport. We must clear the decks of red tape and inflation, and give Britain 1337 the opportunity which it not only wants but deserves.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Myer Galpern)
As hon. Members know, the debate must finish at 10 o'clock. I understand that the winding-up speeches are due to begin at 9.30 p.m. Ten hon. Members still wish to take part in the debate, and they are all present in the Chamber. May I appeal for a sporting attitude among hon. Members? If each takes roughly four or five minutes all may be accommodated.
§ 8.48 p.m.
§ Mr. Tom Pendry (Stalybridge and Hyde)
I hope to respond to your appeal, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I have already discarded three-quarters of my speech, hon. Members will be pleased to know, and if I am even more disjointed than usual, I hope that I shall be forgiven.
This debate is important. I believe that the White Paper goes some way towards rationalising the sport and recreation bodies in this country, which cannot be a bad thing. But I regret that it is not 18 but 20 months since the White Paper was published. All of us are somewhat to blame here. It tends to show the importance that we in this House attach to sport and recreation. I exonerate my right hon. Friend the Minister from that, because I think that no hon. Member in two decades has done more than he has to raise the level of debate on sport both in the House and the country. At the same time, the point is there for us to grasp.
It is inevitable, and regrettable, that the debate will centre on football hooliganism. I suppose that, as a greater Manchester Member of Parliament, I should say something on the subject, but I shall be brief. It is a pity, because we shall miss some of the more exciting prospects that the White Paper holds out for sport. Perhaps we can get the Leader of the House to give us another debate some other time. I certainly hope so.
I go along with everything my right hon. Friend has said about football supporters. I am sure that the officials of Manchester United also would agree with what he said. I am pleased that he paid tribute to the club officials, because they are more anxious than anyone to get over 1338 the problem. It is so embarrassing to them that a minority of so-called supporters are causing so much distress to that great club.
I believe—and this is my central theme—that there is a decided correlation between vandalism and hooliganism, on the one hand, and lack of sporting and recreational facilities, on the other. I agree with the comments about the kind of pressure that is described on page 19 of the White Paper. Surely there must be a relationship between the fact that in Liverpool about £140,000 a year is spent on repairing damage done by vandals, and the fact that that city has no all-purpose sporting facility. There is a distinct correlation. This is not the kind of evidence that we have in any great depth, although a number of indicators point in that direction.
On the housing estate surrounding the Pontypool leisure centre the incidence of vandalism has taken a nose dive. As a result of the new opportunities that the leisure centre has given to youths, there is less vandalism in the streets. When one considers the cost of keeping a youth in a detention centre and of the police and court time—it is estimated that it costs £5,000 a year to keep a youth in detention—surely the relationship between vandalism and the lack of sporting facilities is worthy of closer scrutiny than it has received up to now.
From January of this year, as a result of a Home Office directive, we shall have more accurate statistical pictures from the police authorities and therefore we shall have more to go on. I believe that my right hon. Friend, together with the Home Secretary, should take a closer look in this direction. In some areas the police have gone on record as saying that as a result of organised sport, hooliganism and vandalism have been contained.
Hon. Members who have visited Madrid, Barcelona, Lisbon, and some Iron Curtain countries will testify that many of the great football clubs in those places do more than promote football, they encompass within their cities sporting organisations of a kind which engender a great deal of loyalty to that particular club. This should be looked at in this country. If my right hon. Friend joins the queue with the Secretary 1339 of State for the Environment and tries to get some of the £1,000 million for inner cities he should consider using some of it to find out the reasons why there are obstacles to the creation of this kind of system in Britain. I believe that many technical problems have been thrown up by the Football League. Some of the best football clubs resent very much that their stadia should be used for more than a few hours on Saturday afternoon. These stadia must be some of the most under-used capital assets in the whole country.
This matter should be looked at, even at the risk of offending some hon. Members who do not like committees of inquiry. I hope that the Government will consider setting up, under the Sports Council—[HON. MEMBERS: "Under Lord Porchester?"]—no not under Lord Porchester—a committee of inquiry including representatives from the Home Office, the Football League, football clubs, local authorities and even one or two hon. Members. This committee could then see what problems exist and whether they can be overcome. This could be a pilot scheme initially indicating the direction in which we should move.
I welcome very much the moneys that are now going to areas of special need. I am happy to say that in the North-West this has already started. We can see there some great movements forward in this regard. However, I believe that we must look very closely at the good local authorities and at the recalcitrant, lazy authorities. I looked through the list today and I found that Liverpool, which I have already accepted has a special need, has about 64 per cent. of the money that has gone to the North-West, and that Greater Manchester, which has equal need, has rather less, about 28 per cent.
I believe that the sports councils in those areas must get to those less alert authorities to see that they get their fair share of the money that is available. It is largely their fault, but it is nevertheless something that regional councils ought to be getting on top of.
With those very few words—hurriedly gone through but nevertheless setting the pace—I hope that in welcoming the White Paper we shall give our blessing to the sports councils and the regional 1340 councils and all the others concerned, because they have a very difficult task ahead of them. When the upturn comes, I hope that they will be given much more money to get on with the job.
§ 8.56 p.m.
§ Mr. Eldon Griffiths (Bury St. Edmunds)
Having occupied for nearly four years the rôle of Minister for Sport. I had hoped this evening to reflect a little on the White Paper as a whole and to make some comments on the philosophical approach that we should make to sport and recreation. But this is not the time, even though it may be the place, to do that. Therefore, I shall try to deal with four points very quickly.
I start with the Minister. He began the whole system of Minister for Sport in this country. He has brought to it enthusiasm and dedication. I am sorry to say that his second innings is less impressive than his first, and I tell him very briefly why that is so.
First, he has been wrong to tinker about with the executive Sports Council. He ought never to have lost Sir Roger Bannister, and he ought to have replaced Sir Roger Bannister, when he unfortunately felt compelled to resign, with another sporting figure of like eminence, with whom the great majority of sporting people in this country could identify. I had agreed with Sir Roger Bannister that as and when the time came that he might feel it right to step down, I would seek to replace him with Colin Cowdrey. That would have been a good appointment.
I have nothing against Robin Brook, who has done an excellent job, but it is important that the head of the Sports Council should be seen by the young people of this country to be a figure of sporting eminence, of standing in sport itself.
Secondly, the Minister has been let down by inflation and the economic failure of his colleagues. I am proud of the fact that when we left office in the year 1974 about £100 million was going to sport, much of it from local authorities, some from private sponsorship and some from our own Government's grants. I am very sorry that because of the mishandling of the economy the amount of real resources available to sport has now been reduced very severely.
1341 My second point—disjointedly—is water. We do not have enough land in this country and we must therefore make better use of our water resources. These can and should be made more easily available for sport. We have one of the longest coastlines, and ample inlets, bays, lakes and rivers. I was fortunate to have been able to put into the Water Act 1973 a statutory duty that water space should be used for sport and leisure. Some progress has been made, but by no means enough. Many of our coastal local authorities ought to do a very much better job in the provision of marinas and small hards, where our people, who have now taken to boats in large numbers, can get on to the water more easily.
My third point concerns racing. I very much agree with what was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Dumfries (Mr. Monro). Racing is a great sport. It is also a great industry. However, it is in danger of dying through excess taxation.
For every pound that is paid in taxation to the Government, only one-fifteenth is returned to racing. In France, one quarter of every pound taken in taxation is returned to racing and in the United States, for every pound taken by the Government from racing about 75 pence is returned. When one takes that into account, the lack of prize money and the impact of VAT—which in this country is disgracefully high on the racing industry—the conclusion is inescapable—taxation, particularly capital taxation, could easily kill this wonderful industry. The Minister ought—I am sure he is trying—to press the Treasury much more strongly to give racing some exemption from VAT, at least to equalise the odds between this country and France.
My last point is about football hooliganism. That is a problem with which I, too, had to struggle. I did not succeed, any more than the present Minister has succeeded. It is an intractable problem. I disagree with the hon. Member who suggested that if there were plenty of facilities there would not be any hooliganism. I lived in California for many years. The facilities there are wonderful, but they have far more violence and hooliganism than we do. The deprived child is not always the depraved child. The matter is much more complicated.
1342 The House should agree with the Minister tonight that what has been happening on our football grounds is an affront to the sporting ideal, a disgrace to the game of football and a blot on the reputation of this country in the world. The message ought to go out from the House that we will not put up with this. It must be stopped. There is not time to deal with all the reasons why there is football hooliganism, but bad examples on the field by players can and do cause bad behaviour on the terraces. There is a connection.
Alcohol drunk by the young who are not used to it is another factor. It has a material effect. Then there is the factor of deliberate exhibitionist gang violence, often involving people who have nothing to do with the team or any connection with the town in question. Exhibitionist gang violence involves one young man daring another to "mix it" with the police or to thump his opponent, and this, too, is a psychological factor in the violence in the stands.
The first responsibility for this must rest with the clubs themselves. I am glad that the Minister has taken the steps that he has and that the Football League and the Football Association have supported him over tickets. But I go one stage further. If there is persistent animal-like behaviour and the terrorising of ordinary people in their homes in the neighbourhood, it may be necessary for the police to close grounds completely for a time. Then there will be no doubt in anyone's mind that the community will not put up with such behaviour.
The clubs are not the whole of the matter. Parents have responsibility, too. It must be right for magistrates, when young people are convicted of really violent offences, increasingly to impose on the parents the obligation to pay severe fines and to accept responsibility for the conduct of their children when they are away from home.
The Minister mentioned the police. The House knows that I have a particular connection with the police. I have seen—as no doubt the Minister has also seen—the bruising and breaking of policemen's limbs and faces when they are thrown into drunken crowds of hooligans. I have been appalled that we should ask disciplined and trained men to go into those melées and come out bleeding and 1343 bruised. I am also sorry to say that because of the public expenditure cuts there is less overtime available, and therefore many policemen on duty at sportsgrounds will have to be taken away from other more important duties that they ought to be carrying out. That is the sad reality in the present budgetary circumstances of many of our police forces.
It is all very well to say that there must be more attendance centres. I am sure that there should be. But we must recognise that some of the young men sent to these centres become heroes to the other members of their gangs. This is true in far too many cases.
More important is punishment. Those that are meted out to football hooligans should be stiff and should last. Above all, they need to be supported by public opinion, by parents and neighbourhoods.
§ 9.6 p.m.
§ Mr. Bruce George (Walsall, South)
I greatly deplore, like the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Griffiths), the fact that policemen have their limbs broken on sporting occasions. However, I have played against policemen many times and they can dish out a great deal of punishment against their opponents in sporting activities. They are obviously venting some of their pent-up anxieties on their opponents.
I am painfully aware of the financial constraints under which the Government are operating in dealing with sporting matters, but even in the years that were not so lean, our expenditure on sport was derisory and we have treated it, nationally and internationally, far less seriously than our competitors.
I pay tribute to the innate abilities of our sportsmen that enable them to compete as successfully as they do in international events, despite the environment within which they have to train. I also pay tribute to my right hon. Friend the Minister responsible for Sport and to the Sports Council for their great work.
I should ideally like to see a vast network of modern stadia and arenas and huge indoor sports halls, international sized swimming pools and first-rate facilities for both major and minor sports. Maybe we ought to start thinking about the future and planning these complexes now. We are taking modest steps in the right direction. Anyone who has played 1344 at the National Sports Centre at Crystal Palace will know what we can do in the provision of sports facilities when we put our minds and our money to it.
As a West Midlands Member, I regret that Sandwell was not able to take up the offer to provide a similar complex in the West Midlands. However, it is not just Sandwell's responsibility; the provision of such facilities is the responsibility of every authority in the West Midlands, and I hope that there will be some reconsideration of this matter so that facilities such as are available in some other fortunate areas can be made available in our area.
I commend the Sport Council's publication dealing with converted buildings. Many such buildings are available, including railway stations, drill halls, factries, warehouses and hangars. They could be converted to provide new sports facilities that would not cost a great deal. If we are looking around for facilities that could be extended and modernised, perhaps local authorities could vastly improve their facilities in this way at a fairly low cost. Another excellent Sports Council publication deals with low cost sports halls. One does not need vast and and expensive complexes. Modern technology can produce competent centres that are not extravagances.
My area is not in the forefront of many policies, but we have a great contribution to make in showing other people how to use facilities for recreational and educational purposes simultaneously. We have in Walsall some centres that are the envy of the rest of the country.
I was at an international badminton match last week at the Allumwell centre. This magnificent educational and recreational complex was built in 1968 at a cost of only £60,000 more than the cost of the original school. It includes superb facilities, and I have been told by the director of education that, with inflation, to build a similar complex today would cost about £180,000 more than the cost of providing the school, which is still, in my view, an economic proposition. In our area of Walsall we have five purpose-built community facilities, with more projected. We should not look simply at the economic advantages of dual use but also at the many social advantages that accrue from the provision of such facilities.
1345 More attention should be given to the provision of kickabout areas. I think that one of the best kickabout areas is the Islington Astroturf, but there are less exalted ones to be constructed. Such areas comprise plots of land near but not too near, housing estates, where goal posts are put up and adequate facilities are provided at very limited cost.
I think that we in this House ought to welcome the "Sport for All" campaign. I am, as secretary and goalkeeper, involved with the House of Commons Football Club. Many of its members are unfortunately of middle age or approaching middle age. However, we have shown that we can play competitive sport at not too incompetent a level. Others outside seem to think that once they have passed the age of 30 they should forget about sport. That is not so. Indeed, we have some fine players over 30, though one or two are under that age. Viscount Craigavon is an excellent player who is under that age. Indeed, he is the only reason, in my view, for keeping the House of Lords in its present form—he can play for us. We can show people outside that approaching 40 years of age need not mean that they are finished with sporting activities.
A sport not given much attention in this House is pigeon racing. I applaud British Railways for deciding not to ban the transport of live animals. No final decision, I understand, has yet been made. However, I hope that British Railways will recognise that this is a sport in which hooliganism does not figure, costs the country nothing, and is a vital activity affecting over 250,000 people.
I welcome the White Paper. It provides a framework for expansion. I hope that in time we shall have sporting facilities befitting this nation and its citizens so that we can compete more successfully at international level and derive more pleasure at lower levels of sport. However, it is important to get the base of the sporting pyramid properly constructed. That can be done by a vast extension of dual use facilities that we in Walsall have shown the way. I hope that we shall see those desirable facilities provided in the lifetime of this Government.
§ 9.12 p.m.
§ Mr. Geoffrey Johnson Smith (East Grinstead)
I begin by declaring two interests. I am consultant to a well-known sporting company—Dunlop—and to Grovewood Securities, which owns Brands Hatch and other motor racing circuits. I have not discussed this matter with them; there are my own views.
In absolute terms, first-class sporting facilities in this country are totally inadequate. That is one reason why we perform so abysmally at the highest levels in many areas of sport. That is not to gainsay the valiant efforts of people to overcome the odds. I do not wish to undermine the efforts of those who have first-class facilities and make the best possible use of them. However, in absolute terms our sporting facilities are totally inadequate.
The reason is that we do not have the cash. I looked at two Press cuttings commenting on the White Paper which was published 20 months ago. The Guardian refers toSport for all—but no more cash.The Times has an article headedCash curb warning in sport White Paper.It contains a comment by Sir Robin Brook, the Chairman of the Sports Council:Even in the present economic climate we feel that local authorities should be given the duty of providing adequate recreational facilities sooner rather than later. Sport and recreation should be considered alongside housing and health and not rated as an optional extra—something that is promised when the time is right. The time is now.The time is right, but it never seems to come. I do not believe that any council will ever rate sport equally alongside housing or health. I cannot see the time being right in the next few years, however much the oil may gush from the North Sea.
It is not that the Government in due course will not spend more. I believe that the Government will find it possible in the next decade to release more money. It is that if we look to the Government, we shall not find them providing the financial support that we all might feel is adequate. In any case, I am not sure that we should look to the Government. The logical extension in the end is to expect of the Government to do what the GDR 1347 does in East Germany and other countries of that ilk. I do not want mass, organised sport to be made into a political weapon. That is not my way of seeing sport develop and flourish. It is contrary to the principles of sport in this country.
There is no time, as my hon. Friend the Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Griffiths) said, to develop the philosophical side of sport. I believe that we must look with increasing imagination to private sponsorship. Many people have divided attitudes on the money that comes into sport. They often feel that bringing money into sport encourages shamateurism.
It is not just a question of pouring money into the game, but the effect that the money can have both on individuals and on the way in which the game is played. We know that money can put too much emphasis on monetary reward rather than on encouraging the spirit of the game but we have to face the fact that these difficulties are not insoluble. On the country, if sponsorship is confined not so much to sponsoring the individual but to sponsoring the sport itself, and if the governing bodies insist on these rules being observed, it seems to me that both the sport and the individual can gain.
There is no doubt that as costs rise private sponsors are bound to look for a commercial return on their investments. For example, in motor racing the Grand Prix circuits would cost about £5 million for a whole year's racing. To develop and run one car can cost between £150,000 and £450,000. It is true that this is a capital-intensive sport which provides a return not only to those who take part in it, but to the nation as a whole. We play a dominant part in this sport, because we make 90 per cent. of the cars involved, and it generates about £20 million of exports, but between this industry of sport and others there is a wide range of options.
There is one thing that we have to get right, and that is the degree of publicity to which we feel private sponsors are entitled. Here I think we come up against the muddled thinking that exists in the broadcasting world, in the BBC and in the way in which we set up the independent television service.
The Annan Report suggests that sponsored programmes—which could include 1348 sporting programmes—should be allowed in the fourth television channel. I do not want to get involved in the question whether we shall have a fourth channel. I suspect that we shall not have one for some time, and that if we do it will not be organised on these lines.
What I hope the Minister will do, without setting up another working party, is to look at certain paragraphs in the Annan Report. The ones that I particularly recommend are on pages 347 and 348. There the right hon. Gentleman will see how difficult it is for anyone who sinks money into sport to get the return on his investment to which some of us think he is entitled.
I see no reason why we should think purely in terms of conventional sponsored sporting activities presented on the fourth television channel. I do not believe that, as at present constructed, and with their present attitudes, either the BBC or the independent television companies will feel able to allow within their programmes many sponsored programmes of the kind that I have in mind.
I believe that unless we take this step we shall find it increasingly difficult to persuade people to put their money into sports, because they will feel that they are not getting the return on their investment to which they are entitled. The return depends on adequate publicity, and adequate publicity in sport means publicity on television and radio.
I hope that when the right hon. Gentleman considers the points that have been made in this debate he will look especially at those paragraphs in the Annan Report that attempt to come to grips with this problem.
§ 9.19 p.m.
§ Mr. John Forrester (Stoke-on-Trent, North)
I agree with my right hon. Friend that the main object is to provide better facilities in the urban areas that are within the financial reach of those who wish to use them—widening the base, as has been said.
Many problems are concerned with the dual use of facilities, but we all acknowledge that the nation can no longer afford separate grossly under-used facilities in sport. I ask my right hon. Friend to consider whether at the design stage he can get an understanding of the problem of 1349 dual use, and whether at the permission stage he can get a better cost yardstick, so that facilities can be got right from the outset.
I declare an interest. I own two shares in Stoke City Football Club.
§ Mr. Forrester
I have been told so on many occasions. The financial affairs of most football clubs, including Stoke City, are not in a good state. We are in the process of imposing extra burdens on them which they are having difficulty in meeting. I welcome the financial arrangements my right hon. Friend is making to enable clubs to meet the new safety regulation.
It is just possible that if the facilities of football clubs were widened to take in a variety of sports and social activities there would be a different attitude on the terraces on Saturday afternoons. We may well have to think about subsidising some clubs to enable them to meet the financial problems of meeting the safety obligations.
I believe that the impact of the gifted sportsman is immeasurable. We should make provision not only for the ordinary sportsman but also for the gifted sport-man. It is my experience that throughout the career of a sportsman, from the junior stage to the stage of international competition the effort and skill of the individual improves considerably when he competes against those with extra skill. We all know that national morale sinks badly when national teams do not win their matches. Success in international events results in a great influx of those who are keen to emulate the masters in the sport. It is important that we succeed in international sport, but it is necessary that we plan to do so.
I know that my right hon. Friend is wedded to the concept of multisports complexes. I have much sympathy with him in this regard, but in the present financial climate there will be difficulty about providing these in inner city areas. In large urban areas there should be community recreation centres on sites capable of further development when the money is available. Alongside these there should be a network of major sports complexes controlled by a body directly 1350 responsible to the Government. The major sports complexes could share their facilities with the local community, but their primary object should be to provide facilities to enable gifted athletes fully to develop their potential.
It is a sad commentary on our time I appreciate the efforts that my right hon. violence in sport. The supporters of Manchester United Football Club may be the worst offenders, but Derby County and Stoke City supporters did not fill themselves with glory last Saturday. I appreciate the efforts that my right hon. Friend has made and the measures he has persuaded clubs and the football authorities to adopt in an effort to combat the problem. However, I wonder how much money we are justified in spending on the erection of barriers, fences and pounds.
Alcohol is obviously a problem. I have never been able to understand why alcohol should be sold on football grounds, because it is an invitation to trouble. Regular attenders at football matches know that the hooligans are hellbent on searching out the supporters of the other club ouside the ground and having a confrontation. Controlling fans inside the ground is therefore not the only problem.
The police have a difficult task both inside and outside the ground. I wonder whether the softly-softly approach which has been adopted in the past will pay dividends or whether we should not, perhaps, be thinking about the imposition of much tougher penalties. Should we not be thinking in terms of the imposition of a strong term of detention? I do not know that three months detention in the "glass house" would be appropriate, though that was suggested earlier today, but three months detention in an ordinary detention centre is a penalty which is worthy of consideration.
This is a disease of society which will overtake us if we do not beat it soon. The sooner these people realise that we will not stand for it, and the sooner they realise that it is not just a question of their fines being paid by their chums, the sooner they will either stay away from a football ground or at least watch the soccer.
Finally, if Manchester United supporters are indeed thugs who come from 1351 all over the country just for the want of a punch-up, then if we deny them access to Manchester United matches is it not possible that they will latch themselves on to some other team and we shall start the whole circle all over again?
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
I should like to call two other hon. Members before we begin the wind-up speeches.
§ 9.26 p.m.
§ Mr. Philip Goodhart (Beckenham)
The idea that if one actively participates in sport, hooliganism will be reduced, is nice. But I have known rugger players and oarsmen who have spent an active afternoon on the playing fields and the river who in the evening have behaved with at least as much violence and vandalism as any supporter of Manchester United in the course of the last month.
But it is spectator hooliganism that has dominated the debate this evening. I do not think that the Minister has got the right answer. We argued about detention centres in 1969 during the debate on the Children and Young Persons Act. It has not really worked. The ban on casual spectators by the imposition of all-ticket games has also been tried before and has not really worked. I suspect that they do rather better on the Continent. When Leeds United lost their European Cup final match in Paris, and there were those shocking scenes of vandalism, not only were individuals heavily penalised by the courts but Leeds United were also heavily penalised. The club was banned from European competition for two seasons. The best way of directly hitting football hooliganism is by imposing substantial fines on the clubs themselves if their supporters behave badly.
If, after the recent uproar in Norwich and Southampton, Manchester United had been fined £50,000 or £100,000 by, say, a sub-committee of the Sports Council, and the money devoted to community sport, Manchester United would either have to get a better grip on their supporters or would go bankrupt. That would have a powerful deterrent effect.
The Minister is responsible for the weather as well as for sport. Since he has taken over that responsibility we have had the most extraordinary weather which has done extraordinary things to our 1352 pitches. One has only to look at "Match of the Day" regularly to see the terrible state of so many football pitches around the country. Almost every major football or baseball match in the United States is now played on artificial turf. It is exceedingly expensive. Experiments are now going on in this country and sponsored by the Minister. In my constituency, at Crystal Palace, experiments are taking place to try to get a cheaper artificial turf. I hope that no cuts in Government expenditure will reduce the experiments that are going on. I am sure that is the way to get better use of our major football stadia.
I support my hon. Friend the Member for Dumfries (Mr. Monro) in urging that the VAT limit on sporting clubs should be lifted to £10,000. I have a mass of sporting clubs in my constituency which are badly hit by the low limit. If anything can be done in the Finance Bill to alleviate the situation, it will be of enormous benefit to many sporting clubs.
§ 9.31 p.m.
§ Mr. Walter Johnson (Derby, South)
Derby County, the football club in my constituency, should be playing a match this evening. I am not sure whether they are playing, because the people who live near the ground have taken out an injunction against the club. They have done that because the hooliganism throughout the season has been detrimental to their interests. I do not know whether their action has succeeded. I understand their point of view. Every other week, when the club is playing at home, they have to barricade their doors and windows and keep the old and young off the streets because of the danger caused by the supporters of visiting clubs and by some of the so-called supporters of Derby County.
I am concerned about the general attitude that has been taken by successive Home Secretaries over the years. For five or six years I have tried to get them interested in the problem, but it is only in the last few months that any interest has been taken in it.
I understand the reason for the lack of time, but it is difficult for all hon. Members to have a chance to speak in such a short debate. More could be said about the problem. A tougher attitude must be taken with hooligans who cause trouble 1353 on football grounds. I hope that magistrates will take a more realistic view in future. Fines are no good. Many club members put £1 a week in a kitty and, if anyone is convicted of an offence, they pay his fine out of the kitty. That is no good.
I was interested in the suggestion that thugs should be dealt with by a type of military service. My right hon. Friend might look at that to see whether the Secretary of State for Defence could set up a special unit of the Army where such people could spend three or four months. Some would call that conscription, but I do not mind what it is called. Let such people be subjected to a discipline that they do not get in school or at home.
Years ago, I suggested that, when a club was playing away from home, any supporters who committed an offence should be put in gaol and kept there until their parents bailed them out. One can imagine the situation when Manchester United is playing Plymouth. A father will arrive home on a Saturday night after having had a few drinks. A policeman will tell him that his son is in gaol in Plymouth and that he will stay there until the father goes there to bail him out. We lack that type of discipline.
The problem must be treated seriously. As I said last week in a supplementary Question to the Home Secretary, it is no good pussyfooting around. We must deal with the people involved as young thugs who are destroying the game, upsetting decent people and preventing ordinary people from enjoying an afternoon to which they have looked forward all week. Action must be taken now, and I am pleased that my right hon. Friend is doing something about the problem.
I am sorry that a debate of this sort has to be cut short. It is an important subject, but we can speak for only two or three minutes. That is disgraceful. I hope that my hon. Friend will take my suggestions seriously.
§ 9.35 p.m.
§ Mr. John Hannam (Exeter)
I welcome this debate but I deplore the lack of time made available to Back-Bench Members to put forward their views on this important subject.
§ Mr. Hannam
I accept that it is not your fault, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I hope that you will consider introducing a system of yellow cards against Ministers who take up 40 minutes at the beginning of the debate.
When we talk about football hooliganism we must remember that it is not confined to large clubs and large cities. Small cities like Exeter and other local clubs are just as much affected by this problem. It is a social problem, a problem of law and order, and it will not be dealt with by forming little detention camps and putting people into them. This is a wholesale problem across the country.
We have had serious problems in Exeter. In one disturbance my wife and daughter were involved. They were abused by a group of drunken teenagers. Drunkenness before the match is one of the prime causes of the problem. I should like to see the Minister involve himself in this problem.
Another question that we should look at is the use of facilities. I have had ample evidence brought to me about schools and headmasters who are deliberately frustrating the attempts of amateur sports organisations to use their facilities. When the schools are asked whether organisations can use their facilities on Monday or Tuesday, they reply, "No. They are not available". When clubs ask whether they can use facilities on Wednesday or Thursday, they are again told, "No. They are not available". Schools make sure that no nights are available for the use of their facilities. That is something with which the Minister should concern himself as a matter of priority.
There is no time to deal with many of the points that I wish to mention. I believe that the Minister should concentrate on the base of the pyramid of sport and concern himself with what is happening out in the provinces and in the community rather than with the top sporting organisations.
§ 9.37 p.m.
§ Mr. Neil Macfarlane (Sutton and Cheam)
I echo the sentiments of hon. Members on both sides of the House that it is a great tragedy, when we have waited 1355 18 months for it, to have only the better part of two hours to debate this very important subject. I sympathise with the hon. Members for St. Helens (Mr. Spriggs) and Newport (Mr. Hughes) who wanted to speak, and also to those of my hon. Friends who had to curtail their speeches. It is a great pity that the Minister or the Home Secretary could not have made a separate statement on the subject of football hooliganism, because it is very much a matter for the Home Office as well as the Department of the Environment.
Members of the sporting fraternity must have felt very neglected because of the fact that this debate did not take place earlier. They had every right to feel that their own sporting arenas were worthy of far more frequent debate in the House. My hon. Friend the Member for Dumfries (Mr. Monro) and I initiated a debate on sport under the Consolidated Fund Bill 18 months ago, and about 12 months ago I had a rather acrimonious Adjournment debate with the Minister on sport and recreation.
The point that I wish to take up first is that made by my hon. Friend the Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Griffiths) when he referred to the Sports Council. Many people are concerned at the rôle, the direction and the general trend in which the Sports Council is leading sport at the moment. This is a very important subject, which we should have more opportunity of considering. It is a problem on which the Minister may wish to say something when he replies.
I shall confine the rest of my remarks to the White Paper and say no more about the problem of football hooliganism. There is little doubt that inflation and taxation is the United Kingdom is affecting sport. Clubs and their volunteer workers have been hit hard in recent months. In post-war years these volunteers have given much to sport.
For the clubs there is the ever-growing burden of rates and the fact that there is never any exemption from the various taxes, as occures in other Western European countries. For the volunteer who travels miles at weekends to help in organising, time-keeping and stewarding, the costs of rail travel, petrol and overnight accommodation are all having their effect. Alas, there is a growing tendency 1356 for this band of people to withdraw their support.
Surely one of the most absurd aspects of our tax system is that the Government gave no concession to the Olympic appeal and levied the full 42½ per cent. corporation tax rate, which is a great tragedy. Our taxation system imposes a series of very harsh penalties by the standards of other nations, and knowing how strongly the Minister felt about the tax changes by the Conservative Government it is surprising that he has not won the war with his Treasury colleagues for making a change and achieving concessions.
Other European countries have a much more realistic attitude to VAT exemption. The right hon. Gentleman may well know that in France sporting events are subject to an entertainments duty ranging from 8 per cent. to 20 per cent. but that certain sports are exempt from this duty altogether. These include basketball, canoeing, handball, hockey, wrestling and a number of other sports. Germany exempts youth and welfare organisations from VAT. Swimming pool entrance fees are charged at the rate of 5.5 per cent., and 11 per cent. is charged on all other entrances. In Italy, entrance to public entertainments and games is charged at 6 per cent., Belgium exempts some non-profit making physical education organisations, and taxes the rest at 6 per cent. In Denmark only sporting events in which professionals take part are charged VAT. There is something here, therefore, that we should consider very urgently, because we are imposing a series of very harsh penalties.
The White Paper mentions a great deal about the youth sports programme. In spite of the honeyed words and aspirations of the White Paper I am still not convinced that the Department of the Environment and the Department of Education and Science are well-co-ordinated on the use of school facilities in out-of-hours activities for sport. Many new comprehensive schools built in recent years have superb sports halls, and these are hardly ever used out of school hours. I hope that there will be an urgent review of the use of these facilities in each school under each local authority. When I asked the Under-Secretary of State for Education and Science about this subject I was not impressed with her reply. I asked 1357 her for a statement about her Department's policy towards sport and young people. She said:The opportunity for sport and recreation is an essential part of all educational provision. Leisure-time facilities for sport and recreation for young people over school age are also widely provided by the Youth Service."—[Official Report, 24th February 1977; Vol. 926, c. 666.]I do not think that these words generated much interest—nor did the other reply that she gave on 1st March, when I wanted to know how much had been spent on youth and sport for young people. Her Department was unable to break down the costs, but we need to know these facts, and this matter should be urgently looked at.
§ Mr. Spriggs
Is the hon. Member aware that in many of our towns in the North-West the local authorities are unable to provide amateur teams of any sort with playing fields?
§ Mr. Macfarlane
The hon. Gentleman makes a very important point, of which I am sure the Minister will take note.
What, therefore, is the youth sports programme? What are its achievements so far? Paragraph 58 of the White Paper rightly places great emphasis on the importance of attracting and retaining the interest of young people in sport and physical recreation. But I do not know who is running it and what its intentions are now that it is 20 months old? Is it the DOE, the DES or the Home Office that is running it? If it is an amalgam of all three, who is co-ordinating it? Most people concerned with it believe that it is a non-starter.
Hand in hand with the youth sports programme are the centres of excellence. Rightly, the Minister has placed a lot of importance on generating interest in centres of excellence. He plays a large part in trying to get a very good scheme off the ground, but I cannot help feeling that a degree of confusion lies behind the Minister's actions over the past two years or so. There seems to be an attitude that says "We have never had this rare breed of person before—the gifted sportsman—so we had better do something about it", but I believe that we have had many successful sports people over the years, and I am amazed at a letter that the Minister sent out last year 1358 on 1st March. In that letter, which he sent to some adult training colleges and places of advanced education, the right hon. Gentleman said that he was seekinginformation on the problems encountered by any of your students who were potential Olympic team members in carrying out the exacting training required to prepare for the 1976 Olympic Games.and he asked what facilities existed or were needed.
It was a worthy letter, except that it went to, among others, Sutton College of Liberal Arts, in my constiuency, which somewhat surprised the principal. The Sutton College of Liberal Arts is fulfilling a vital rôle in the community, thanks to a Government grant, but it confines its activities very much to the liberal arts—in other words, to a wide range of adult academic pursuits—but on the creative side it teaches metalwork, jewellery making and pottery, and alas, it has no facilities for assisting gifted sportsmen. As I say, that letter from the right hon. Gentleman came as a surprise to the principal of the college.
There is confusion in the plan for creating centres of excellence. In February last year I asked the Minister about his progress on centres of excellence, and he replied:Over 20 universities and colleges have intimated their willingness to take part in the scheme".—[Official Report, 19th February 1976; Vol. 905, c. 1459.]On 4th March, however, I sought further information, and I asked the right hon. Gentleman if he would list the 20 or so universities that had intimated that they were willing to participate. Alas, only 11 appeared in his list.
I wish, therefore, to know precisely what is happening. Why is there the confusion and, above all, why is there the necessity to go to these lengths when our past successes have all been generated by clubs that understand the needs of the gifted sportsman? It is the clubs that need the money. It is the clubs that need some tax concession. It is the clubs that need special grants in order to extend their facilities. If an energetic programme were commenced in this direction, much would be achieved.
What is to happen next year, when the Sports Council grant to the centres of excellence expires? Who will continue to provide the money for the centres of 1359 excellence to continue or expand? Moreover, why is the money paid to the centre and not used to help the individual, who may well face huge daily or weekly travelling expenses? Is it not right that financial assistance should go to the gifted individual and not merely to the centre?
I repeat that there is confusion. It exists in that area, and it is further confounded by the way in which the Sports Aid Foundation is, in the eyes of many, competing with the Committee on the Centres of Excellence. The Minister who has created it must lay down some guidelines. Again, on the subject of committees and other bodies, I should add that the National Playing Fields Association and the British Olympic Committee are two further bodies adversely affected by the presence of the Committee on the Centres of Excellence and the Sports Aid Foundation. It is no use the Minister saying that these four bodies all have separate terms of reference. So they may have, but the fact is that they keep burrowing into and around one another, and the result, I am told, is a warren of confusion.
I turn now to that part of the White Paper which deals with the provision of sports centres, and I express a concern that is felt by many people. In recent years, millions of pounds have been spent in developing sport and leisure centres. The House knows what is included in these units, but there is growing evidence that many of the vast sports halls are losing large sums of money for the local authorities, and certain parts of buildings are very much under-utilised. That is why I welcomed the right hon. Gentleman's comments when he said that not nearly enough use has been made of our resources. I have in mind here, for example, the kick-about areas.
I hope that the right hon. Gentleman can urge the Sports Council to develop the parks and try to extend the use of athletic tracks, kick-about areas, pitches or cross-country routes in existing parks. There is much that can be done. The cost of running and developing leisure centres must be fast becoming prohibitive.
There are many good ideas in the White Paper, and many problems are highlighted. This debate has not been able to cover them all. I hope that hon. Members on both sides will impress upon the Minister and his right hon. Friend 1360 the Leader of the House that many hon. Members wanted to speak in the debate, but, alas, it has been curtailed for a variety of reasons. Perhaps hon. Members on the Government Benches will feel able to sign an Early-Day Motion to bring to the attention of the Leader of the House the importance of having a further debate on sport and recreation in which we may continue our consideration.
I leave the Minister with this thought: the growth of Government involvement in running sport and recreation has not brought us great success. On the contrary, it has generated a degree of cynicism and despair, especially as we see smaller nations overtaking us.
Something is not right with the organisation and direction, because in recent years there has been no development in sport generated by sports governing bodies. Hitherto they have always been abreast of techniques and trends, but nowadays they seem mesmerised by top-heavy bureaucratic interference and the shortage of money. We have never known such confusion as that which has existed over the past three years. Much has changed in that period, but sport is not better for it.
The organisation needs thorough reappraisal by the Minister, because something is very wrong. The Minister knows his sport; he has been around in sport for a long time and he knows what the people of sport tell him. He cannot be satisfied with the present structure of the Sports Council. I urge him to let the people of sport have a greater say in their affairs. They are, after all, the experts.
§ 9.52 p.m.
§ Mr. Denis Howell rose—
§ Mr. Roy Hughes
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I understand that the Minister has to ask permission from the whole House to speak twice in a debate. If this is the case I for one shall make the strongest possible objection to that.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
That is not the case. An hon. Member who moves a substantive motion does not require the permission of the House to reply to that motion. This is set out in "Erskine May", page 418.
§ Mr. Howell
I begin by expressing agreement with everyone—and I understand the concern that is felt by my hon. Friend the Member for Newport (Mr. Hughes) about my long speech in opening this debate, but I had to deal with extremely important matters in detail. I said very little about the provisions of the White Paper. I thought that these would speak for themselves. I wanted to concentrate on new information. I understand the concern of hon. Members who wanted to speak in the debate, and I cannot reply to everything that has been said in the debate in such a short time.
I will convey the fact that we need more time to debate the matter, but I think that if Conservative Members intend to criticise us on this issue they should take more positive action. They have a great deal of time available to them. [HON. MEMBERS: "It is the Minister's White Paper."] I know that it is my White Paper, but if it is to be debated thoroughly there are obligations on the Opposition equally to help provide time.
§ Mr. Macfarlane rose—
§ Mr. Howell
It would be ridiculous to give way to the hon. Member. His speech caused such confusion, and I have to clear it up in a short time. I will convey the need for more time to debate this subject. In fact, I am delighted that we need more time.
Some of the financial matters can be raised in the Finance Bill. That is the appropriate time to put down amendments. The Conservatives have committed their party to a reduction of VAT on sports goods, yet last week their spokesmen were calling for an increase in VAT and a decrease in indirect taxation. I want more time to explore these inconsistencies.
I am grateful for the support that I have received on the problem of hooligans. The one thing that has come out of this debate is the united determination of both sides to get on top of this problem and deal with this canker in our society, and I appreciate that.
Reference has been made to amendments to the charter. I am confused here because the hon. Member for Dumfries (Mr. Monro), who opened for the Conservatives, said that we should not 1362 tinker with the machinery any more. The hon. Member who closed the debate for them said that we should reduce the size of the Sports Council. I am not sure who is speaking for the Opposition. The fact is that if we reduce the size of the council it will be at the expense of the official spokesmen for the governing bodies and that would be very regrettable.
I sympathise with my hon. Friend the Member for Derby, South (Mr. Johnson) and the continuing difficulties faced by Derby County. I visited the ground and I told the Football Association on several occasions that the recommendations that we made in the summer have not been carried out fully. I entirely agree with my hon. Friend, and I have again told the Football Association this week that this is a matter that should receive its urgent attention. I hope that my hon. Friend will be satisfied with that very short reply. It indicates at least my support for his general proposition.
I am very sorry that the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Griffiths) did not approve of my appointment of Sir Robin Brook as Chairman of the Sports Council. When I returned to office I found not a tremendous state of confusion but a degree of concern about the deteriorating relationships between the Sports Council and the CCPR, the central governing body. I hope that the hon. Gentleman was not in any way attempting to suggest that Sir Robin Brook did not merit this appointment or had not the ability for it. He was appointed precisely because he was a swordsman of great quality and had represented our country in the past, and he was, and still is, the treasurer of the CCPR. He was the one man who could repair the difficulties that had arisen between the organisations and restore the degree of harmony necessary. I much regret that the hon. Gentleman thought it right to single out that matter.
I entirely agree with those who believe that we must have full use of our facilities. Much of my opening statement was designed to bring that about, as are the regional conferences in the autumn. The youth sports programme is going ahead. It is being conducted by the Sports Council. The Sports Council is coming up with some exciting ideas for development policy with such organisations as the Rugby Union and the Midlands Club 1363 Cricket Conference. I shall be happy to supply hon. Members with further details if they so desire.
The final point on which I wish to comment concerns the centres of excellence and the Sports Aid Foundation. I think that the hon. Member for Sutton and Cheam (Mr. Macfarlane) did a great disservice to the Sports Aid Foundation in particular. It is no good saying that our gifted sportsmen can be left to get help from clubs in the old way. The fact of the matter is that competing in international sport these days and trying to earn a living and to develop a career is a major difficulty.
The centres of excellence are being established in a most exciting way. The reason why the hon. Gentleman's college got a letter from me was that I wrote to every college and university in the country. I am glad to say that I had a magnificently encouraging response. The first six centres of excellence started in Leeds on 1st January. The regional councils are getting on with establishing them. We shall have a network of 30 or 40 by the end of the year, covering most sports. This is a most exciting development.
No longer should we expect our top sportsmen and sportswomen to subsidise the rest of the country because they are competing for us abroad in international events. The Sports Aid Foundation is doing exactly what the hon. Gentleman wants. It is raising the money to pay the individual bursaries for these top-class international sportsmen to buy their equipment, to send them abroad and to help them with their education, apprenticeships and so on. That is the whole purpose of the scheme. It has been very well received. I do not believe that there is any hostility towards it in the organisations, which the hon. Gentleman suggested, for the simple reason that they all sit on the controlling body of both the centres of excellence and the Sports Aid Foundation. I am sure that if they had any degree of doubt or perturbation
|Division No. 104]||AYES||[10.0 p.m.|
|Armstrong, Ernest||Duffy, A. E. P.||Howell, Rt Hon Denis (B'ham, Sm H.)|
|Ashton, Joe||Dunn, James A.||Hunter, Adam|
|Bates, Alf||Eadie, Alex||Jackson, Miss Margaret (Lincoln)|
|Beith, A. J.||English, Michael||Lyons, Edward (Bradford W.)|
|Booth, Rt. Hon. Albert||Ewing, Harry (Stirling)||McElhone, Frank|
|Brown, Hugh D. (Provan)||Forrester, John||Madden, Max|
|Cook, Robin F. (Edin C.)||George, Bruce||Marks, Kenneth|
|Davies, Denzil (Llanelli)||Grimond, Rt Hon J.||Mendelson, John|
§ about these matters, they would raise it on those occasions.
§ Mr. Macfarlane
I do not think that I ever used the word "hostility". What I said was that there was a degree of confusion between the three or four rival committees that are burrowing around each other, but I never used the word "hostility". The Minister must not put words into my mouth.
§ Mr. Howell
If the hon. Gentleman wants to use the word "confusion", I accept that. His whole speech was beset by confusion. He clearly did not understand the purposes of the centres of excellence or of the Sports Aid Foundation.
We need to mobilise every resource to support our sportsmen and sportswomen. That is not least the purpose of the Government. As my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, North (Mr. Forrester) said, success in international sport is vital because of its effect, all the way down, in getting youngsters to have a go themselves. International sport is the place where we establish our standards.
I am sorry that we have not had more time. I shall do my best to encourage more time for debate on this subject. I shall talk with my right hon. and hon. Friends in order to seek their support for more time to be made available.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. We do not have a set of rules simply to suit the hon. Member of St. Helens (Mr. Spriggs).
§ Question put:—
§ The House divided: Ayes 34, Noes 7.
|Millan, Rt. Hon. Bruce||Tinn, James|
|Pendry, Tom||Urwin, T. W.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Penhaligon, David||Walker, Harold (Doncaster)||Mr. Ted Graham and|
|Price, William (Rugby)||William, Rt. Hon. Alan (Swansea W)||Mr. Walter Harrison.|
|Rees, Rt Hon Merlyn (Leeds S)||Woof, Robert|
|Emery, Peter||Hannam, John||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Goodhart, Philip||Johnson Smith, G. (E Grinstead)||Mr. Walter Johnson and|
|Giffiths, Eldon||Wells, John||Mr. Leslie Spriggs|
|Hampson, Dr. Keith|
§ Question accordingly agreed to.
That this House takes note of the White Paper on Sport and Recreation (Command Paper No. 6200).