HC Deb 23 November 1983 vol 49 cc312-4
13. Mr. Moynihan

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment what matters he intends to raise at his next meeting with the Sports Council.

Mr. Macfarlane

My hon. Friend, as a member of the Sports Council, will be aware of the number and variety of issues with which the Sports Council is involved and which I discuss at my regular meetings with the council's chairman. The agenda for my next meeting has yet to be fixed, but it may include such issues as sports sponsorship, regional boundaries, sports medicine, grant-aid for 1984–85, inner-city facilities, regional arenas, the Olympic games, appointments, and recreation management training.

Mr. Moynihan

Will my hon. Friend also bring to the attention of the Sports Council the excellent European initiative that he recently pioneered to handle the appalling problem of football hooliganism? Will he draw a distinction between football supporters and hooligans, who have no interest in the sport and who should be subjected to tougher sentencing by the courts?

Mr. Macfarlane

I am grateful for my hon. Friend's approval of what took place at the Rotterdam conference last week. I normally discuss such matters not with the chairman of the Sports Council, but with the Football Association and the Football League.

Mr. Ioan Evans

Will the Minister ensure that an additional item on the agenda is the preservation of the Gleneagles agreement on sporting contacts with South Africa, and will he dissuade sporting organisations from making contact with that apartheid regime?

Mr. Macfarlane

I discuss such matters from time to time with the chairman of the Sports Council. The Government's commitment to the Commonwealth declaration was reaffirmed by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and by myself in recent weeks.

Mr. Stokes

Is my hon. Friend aware that some Conservative Members doubt whether there is a need for a Sports Council at all, or even the need for a Minister responsible for sport? Having said that, if I were to occupy that position, I should insist that the Sports Council ensured that it protected the British spirit of fair play when we send spectators abroad.

Mr. Macfarlane

I am aware of the contribution that the regional council on sport and recreation makes to the many people of the west midlands, not least to the good people in my hon. Friend's constituency, who had the sense to return him here in June. I must tell him that I have duties other than being Minister with responsibility for sport.

Mr. McGuire

In view of the problem with football hooligans, will the Minister encourage the Sports Council to do everything in its power to persuade people to play rugby union football instead of soccer, if only because the players of that noble game are known to get their retaliation in first, and they go for each other instead of the spectators going for each other? If we can have more people playing rugby union, perhaps eventually they will move to the even more noble game of rugby league.

Mr. Macfarlane

There may be merit in what the hon. Gentleman says, but that route is fraught with risks and is a matter for the governing bodies.

Mr. Hayward

While my hon. Friend remains as Minister with responsibility for sport, and before the Sports Council is abolished, will he discuss with the council the medical support provided for the preparation of the Olympics team, so that we do not send a team to the Olympics next year that is ill-prepared or severely injured prior to the games?

Mr. Macfarlane

The House must understand that there is no intention to abolish that most important and august body, the Sports Council, which does much important work. I have discussed those matters in close detail with the chairman of the Sports Council and with the chairman of the British Olympics Association, but the role of the governing bodies in this is critical.

Dr. Cunningham

Will the Minister assure the Sports Council that the money raised by the British Olympics appeal will not be taxed? Will he also reconsider his response to the question of my hon. Friend the Member for Cynon Valley (Mr. Evans) about the importance of the Gleneagles agreement, which is being breached in spirit and in reality by teams coming to Britain and by proposals that British teams should visit South Africa?

Mr. Nicholas Winterton

The more that come and go the better.

Mr. Macfarlane

The hon. Gentleman's first question is important. The chairman of the Sports Council and I discuss South Africa and a range of other important issues, which will be on the agenda of the next meeting.

Mr. Hickmet

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I give notice that I intend to raise a point of order at 3.30 pm arising from implications in the question of the hon. Member for Battersea (Mr. Dubs).

Mr. Speaker

Order. It is a bad habit to raise points of order in the middle of Question Time.