HC Deb 19 November 1986 vol 105 cc561-2
12. Mr. Moynihan

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will indicate the status of his forthcoming discussions over the future of competitive sport in schools.

Mr. Tracey

I announced on 25 July, and I have agreed with my hon. Friend, the Minister of State, Department of Education and Science, that our two Departments will jointly host a seminar, on 26 November, to take forward discussions on sport in schools. Over 60 representatives from sport and education have been invited to discuss matters of common concern and to identify means of achieving improvements where weaknesses exist.

Mr. Moynihan

In view of the fact that some 25 per cent. of our sixth formers do not participate in any form of sport or recreation in our schools and that some Inner London education authority employees in my constituency believe that primary school football leagues should be discouraged, on the grounds that they are sexist and competitive, will my hon. Friend ensure that, immediately following the seminar, a full and urgent inquiry is set up to look into the state of sport in our schools?

Mr. Tracey

It would be wrong for me to pre-empt what is said at the seminar or the results of it. Certainly my hon. Friend the Minister of State, Department of Education and Science and I will be listening carefully to what is said. I am aware of the extraordinary attitude towards competitive sport within the Inner London education authority, where people seem to face both ways at once. We shall be looking into all those matters, and we shall then decide how to go forward.

Mr. Denis Howell

Is the Minister aware that we shall have no sport, competitive or otherwise—and we very much support competitive sport— [Interruption.] It is very necessary in the society being created by the Government. We shall have no sport, competitive or otherwise, if we continue to run down the colleges of physical education, if the Government continue to sell educational sports grounds and if we continue to price out of sports facilities the very people whom we should attract to them. Therefore, will the inquiry that is now to be opened consider those matters and reverse Government policies, in the interest of the community and sport?

Mr. Tracey

I was very interested to hear the right hon. Gentleman say that he is in favour of competitive sport. I do not know to what extent he is alone in his party. He is well aware that there are colleagues of his on the Inner London education authority who do not take that view. Perhaps he will also talk to the National Union of Teachers about that. It may be sensible for him to address most of his question to the Department of Education and Science, where I know it will receive full-scale attention.

Mr. Madden

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I understand that the Under-Secretary of State, the hon. Member for Southampton, Itchen (Mr. Chope) was appearing at the Dispatch Box for the first time today. Therefore, it would be understandable and excusable if he were in a rather excitable frame of mind, but it is not understandable or excusable that he should make disgraceful remarks about an elected member of Ealing borough council — remarks which, if they were made against an elected Member of the House, you would ask him to withdraw. As the remarks were written, will you invite the Under-Secretary of State, on reflection, to withdraw his remarks?

Mr. Speaker

Order. This is a perennial question and I take the opportunity to tell the House that, because we have freedom of speech here, we should take great care with the way in which we make statements — [Interruption.] it has happened before today — about people outside the House who have no recourse.