HC Deb 10 December 1991 vol 200 cc721-2
6. Mr. Menzies Campbell

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Science if he will discuss with the chairman of the Sports Council when next they meet the long-term funding of sport in the United Kingdom.

9. Ms. Hoey

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Science when he next plans to meet the chairman of the Sports Council to discuss funding for sport.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education and Science (Mr. Robert Atkins)

The funding of sport in the United Kingdom is one of many issues that I discuss regularly with the chairman of the Sports Council.

Mr. Menzies Campbell

The Minister will know that the Sports Council is funded on a year-by-year basis whereas, by contrast, the Arts Council receives its funding on a three-year rolling programme. Does the Minister agree that three-year funding for the Sports Council would allow it to plan better for development and expansion? Will he undertake to achieve a three-year funding programme for the Sports Council?

Mr. Atkins

That is an interesting point. There are differing views about whether three years or a single year period would be better or worse. Three years provide some degree of continuity, but they also build in a degree of inflexibility, making it difficult to react to change. I have no hard and fast views on the matter and I undertake to consider it, but there are no immediate plans to do as the hon. and learned Gentleman suggests.

Ms. Hoey

Has the Minister seen the Sports Council report on projected capital investment by local authorities? Does he realise that it shows huge decreases for the next five years, especially in London, with up to 95 per cent. cuts in inner London and 85 per cent. cuts in outer London? Does he share my view and that of the Sports Council that, with local authorities providing nearly 90 per cent. of all participatory sports facilities, unless we get more capital for our local authorities they will he able to spend money only on basic repairs?

Mr. Atkins

The most up-to-date figures that we have on these matters show a continuing increase in capital provision, but I recognise that there has been some indication of a downturn in the most recent, as yet uncompleted, year. Our view is that we should let local authorities make their own decisions about their priorities. We shall have to watch and see whether that will mean a cut in sports provision. I have my eye on the subject; the hon. Lady's point is well taken and, in so far as I have control over these matters, I shall make certain that local authorities concentrate as much of their resources on local sport and recreation provision as they should.

Mr. Cormack

On the point made by the hon. and learned Member for Fife, North-East (Mr. Campbell), does my hon. Friend agree that funding both for sport and the arts could be far higher and much more in line with demand if we had a national lottery? Will he undertake to support the Bill to be introduced by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Burton (Mr. Lawrence)?

Mr. Atkins

My hon. Friend knows full well that there are differing views on that subject. My own are well known. If my hon. Friend wants to hear them, I shall be more than happy to tell him afterwards.

Mr. Gregory

Will my hon. Friend agree, when considering the long-term funding for the Sports Council, to look sympathetically on its application for relocation expenses for its planned move from London to the city of York?

Mr. Atkins

My hon. Friend represents his city with as much assiduity as my hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham, South (Mr. Brandon-Bravo) represents his, and both are keen on a move by the Sports Council to one of those two great cities. There are no plans at present for such a move. Any request for costs would have to go to my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

Mr. Denis Howell

When the Minister met the nine regional chairmen last week they regarded his statement that he sought to achieve no more funding for sport in this country—Wales received 8.5 per cent., Scotland 15 per cent. and the Arts Council 14 per cent., but the Minister went for only 4 per cent.—as a craven surrender to the Treasury. Is it not time the hon. Gentleman did the job he is paid for and stood up for British sport?

Mr. Atkins

The right hon. Gentleman is as wrong about that as he was in his assertion during the recent debate that I had refused to meet the regional Sports Council chairmen, which he knows to be untrue. In my discussions with the regional councils for sport and recreation—[Interruption.] There is a football hooligan shouting from the Opposition Benches—

Mr. Speaker

Do not stir it up.

Mr. Atkins

Wot me, guv?

The right hon. Gentleman's contention is quite wrong. We went for the rate of inflation, and that is what the Sports Council got. Adding to that all the other money that the Government have provided for sport, sport can reckon that it has had a pretty fair deal from the Government.

Mr. Dickens

Would my hon. Friend, the excellent Minister for Sport, agree that those who play and train for sport are the least likely to get involved in offences? Does he agree that sport is one of the most character-building of activities? Will he pursue sports within our schools?

Mr. Atkins

My hon. Friend is living proof of his own contention.

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