HC Deb 30 October 1992 vol 212 cc1245-314

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—[Mr. Lightbown.]

9.36 am
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for National Heritage (Mr. Robert Key)

I warmly welcome this opportunity to open what I hope will be a constructive and wide-ranging debate on sport. The Government take their commitment to promoting sport in the United Kingdom very seriously. Much of what I have to say in principle cuts across home country boundaries. Hon. Members will appreciate that, while my Department addresses sports issues on behalf of the United Kingdom internationally, domestically we have specific responsibility for sports policy in England.

The Government's belief in sport as important in its own right and as part of our national culture was exemplified by the creation of the new Department of National Heritage. Sport can only gain from being seen in a wider and more integrated cultural and leisure context. Our objective is simple: it is to enrich the quality of life of the whole population. In this, sport can play a key role in improving the quality of our daily life and of our health, as well as being a central feature of our national heritage and the modern leisure industry. As such, it is high on the list of priorities of the new Department.

The sports world has welcomed the new Department and the voice in Cabinet which it now has. Local authorities have welcomed the better dialogue which their leisure service and related departments now have with Government. We are keen to foster those links, as local authorities are the primary providers or enablers of many of the services for which the Department is responsible.

I will stress during the debate the importance of new partnerships, such as the one I saw taking shape in the south-west of England when I was recently in Exeter. The Sports Council in the south-west and the regional tourist board for the west country introduced their initiative on tourism and sport. It is clear that tourists wish to take more active holidays, so here is an natural new partnership.

Similarly, in the east midlands I recently met representatives of the regional tourist board, the Sports Council and the regional arts board, all of which were working together to produce new partnerships to their mutual benefit.

The Government's main objectives for sport were set in last December's statement on "Sport and Active Recreation." In summary these were to secure physical education in the national curriculum and make sure pupils regularly took exercise and played sport; to promote adult participation in sport and active recreation, where appropriate supporting provision of facilities; to help everyone better his own performance, at whatever level of participation, and to enable the truly gifted to excel. Other objectives were to promote better use of local authority and school sports facilities, and private sector partnerships in providing and managing them; to promote sport for disabled persons and the integration of able-bodied and disabled sports activities wherever possible; to promote fair play, and a tough anti-doping regime; and to make sure that the excellence of United Kingdom sport is promoted internationally.

To these might be added the transfer of a Home Office responsibility to the new Department. This is to ensure the safety of our sports grounds and in particular the achievement of all-seating at our Premier League and first division football grounds by August 1994, and all-seating or safe terracing at our third and fourth division grounds by August 1999.

Let me reassure hon. Members that I do not intend to spend the rest of this speech ploughing through what we are doing to implement each of these objectives in turn. Nor do I want to repeat what was said last year about the very substantial increase in sports provision during the 1980s. Rather, I should like to highlight a number of measures that the Government are taking forward and to which I attach particular importance.

The Government believe in creating the right framework and opportunities within which sports organisations have the freedom to provide what they consider is appropriate and individuals have the chance to participate and excel in sport. We do not believe in centrally imposed blueprints or day-to-day political interference in sport. In line with this approach, last December's sports policy statement confirmed that the principle of channelling Government assistance for sport through the sports councils as independent but accountable bodies remained sound, but made it clear that the structure was in need of reform.

Following that statement, we are establishing a United Kingdom sports commission capable of addressing strategically United Kingdom-wide issues. These will include promoting performance and excellence, fostering the rationalisation of sports governing bodies, and representing the United Kingdom internationally. A sports council for England is also to be created. For the first time, we shall have a body with express responsibility for English sporting matters.

Within this new structure, the regional councils for sport and recreation will continue to play an important role. The regional chairman will sit ex officio on the sports council for England together with a representative from the Central Council for Physical Recreation and a number of independent members. This involvement of the RCSRs on the new council should greatly improve co-ordination of regional efforts. These councils bring together such local interests as local authorities, voluntary organisations and regional branches of governing bodies. Their membership includes ministerial nominees, and I am delighted at the constructive and independent contribution that they have made to the work of these councils.

We had our first conference of ministerial nominees only last month. They really are independent—there is no party politics in their appointment. Their names are suggested as those of people who will be of independent mind and expertise in their regions and sports. The ministerial element lies in the fact that they have a hot line to me from all the regions of the country. That is to be welcomed.

Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover)

One of the bodies that the Minister failed to mention is the Coal Industry Social Welfare Organisation, known as CISWO. When I played football and cricket and took part in various sports as a miner, we were able to play on the colliery grounds. Now another 31 pits are to be shut. We have had one hell of a job trying to look after these grounds when mines have been closed in the past. Local authorities have been given the opportunity to purchase those areas, but now they are prevented from doing so because they are strapped for cash.

I want the sports Minister to tell the President of the Board of Trade and other Ministers that they should not go along with shutting 31 pits, because if they do so they will help to close 31 sporting organisations in pit villages. The Minister can do a better job today; he can save a lot of sporting facilities by having a word with the people who are threatening to close these pits.

Mr. Key

The hon. Gentleman is right to raise this important issue. He and I have had discussions across the Floor of the House on a number of occasions, and knowing me as he does, he will appreciate that I have already thought of the very point that he has raised.

The Government do recognise the importance of social welfare arrangements, including sports facilities for the people who live and work in the coalfield communities. I recognise their important contribution ever since the Mining Industry Act 1920, followed by the Miners' Welfare Act 1952, which made the Coal Industry Social Welfare Organisation responsible for the provision of social welfare, including sports facilities. under the Act the National Coal Board, now British Coal, was required to fund the CISWO, and it does so by means of a levy on coal production.

In view of what has happened, I undertake to give consideration to the future arrangements for coal industry social welfare, including its funding. I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for raising the issue—

Mr. Skinner

What are you doing about it?

Mr. Key

If the hon. Gentleman had listened to me instead of talking to the hon. and learned Member for Fife, North-East (Mr. Campbell)— [Interruption.]

Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Janet Fookes)

Order. Seated interventions are to be deplored, particularly when the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) has already made a lengthy intervention on his feet.

Mr. Skinner

He has not answered my question.

Mr. Key

The hon. Gentleman is determined not to listen to me, which is a pity, because his constituents might gain from it.

Mr. Nick Hawkins (Blackpool)

While my hon. Friend is dealing with regional assistance, will he accept that those in my constituency and throughout the north-west greatly appreciate the strong support that the Government are giving to the Manchester Olympic bid? When the bid succeeds, a great many visitors will stay in hotels in my constituency. This will strengthen sport in the north-west and help Blackpool's historic reputation as a sporting town.

Mr. Key

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. The Manchester—the British—Olympic bid for the games in the year 2000 will have an enormously significant effect on the whole north-west, including Blackpool. My hon. Friend is right to point out the importance of Blackpool as an accommodation centre for the Olympic games, when, not if, they take place in 2000 in the north-west.

The Manchester Olympic bid committee has been consulting accommodation interests throughout the north-west. I shall draw to the attention of Bob Scott, the chairman of the bid, the points that my hon. Friend has made, for which I am grateful.

The Government have also welcomed the formation of the British Sports Forum by the voluntary sports associations in all four home countries, together with the British Olympic Association. I am aware of the reservations which the CCPR has expressed about the new body. However, it is clearly in the interests of sport as a whole that there is a united voice of the voluntary sector both domestically and internationally to complement the work of the United Kingdom Sports Commission.

However sound the new structure, it can only be as effective as the individuals in it. I am concerned that there are so few young faces among the ranks of our senior sports administrators. This wealth of experience needs to be complemented by the dynamism of youth to provide the leadership which sport deserves in both the public and voluntary sectors. I intend to explore with the Great Britain Sports Council and others ways of encouraging more of our sporting stars to become involved in sports administration. We need to develop a systematic career path in sports administration.

Quality of management and leadership is vital. That is not an ageist remark. I often hear people who have been leading British sport at all levels say that they think that they have done the job long enough and asking who will take over from them if they give up—a question that we will seek to answer.

Mr. Menzies Campbell (Fife, North-East)

Does the Minister recognise that ethnic minorities are poorly represented among the administrators of sport, the more so given the extent to which they contribute to our sporting teams, particularly the Olympic team? Is it not high time people of an ethnic background were represented at the highest level in the administration of sport?

Mr. Key

I warmly welcome that intervention. I could not agree with the hon. and learned Gentleman more, particularly in respect of his point about our Olympic excellence. It is not true to say that those from the ethnic minorities who excel at sport are not taking part in the administration and future policy-making in sport. They are taking part in a most energetic way in several areas. However, I take the hon. and learned Gentleman's point, and we will seek to address it in a sensible and appropriate manner.

When I was a schoolboy, I took it for granted that I could participate in cricket, rugger, hockey, swimming and sailing, all of which I did at school, as did my fellow pupils, as a matter of course. When I was a teacher for 16 happy years, I took it for granted that I would be expected to umpire and referee, judge athletics, organise sports and visiting teams and take pupils away to other schools.

Sadly, those days have gone, and I regret that very much. That means that we must try harder to ensure the highest standards of sport in schools and the availability of sport inside and outside schools. I will be discussing issues with my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Schools about the interface between his responsibilities and mine in respect of sport in schools.

Having put in place the right structure, we also need to lay the foundations of participation in sport and future success. That is why the Government believe so strongly that all young children should have the opportunity to learn basic sports skills.

In England and Wales, we have made physical education a compulsory part of the school curriculum for pupils aged five to 16. Similarly, we believe in the importance of pupils being taught to swim by the age of 11, because that is a vital life-saving skill. That is to be made a requirement in England and Wales from autumn 1994.

Mr. John Carlisle (Luton, North)

While my hon. Friend is referring to school sports, will he comment on the new Education Bill which will come before this House on Monday week, and the apparent new initiative that grant-maintained schools will possibly put aside 10 per cent. of their places for pupils who show excellence in the arts and sport? Many of us interested in sport would welcome that. Youngsters with sporting ability, but perhaps without academic ability, will be able to obtain an excellent education and perhaps have some advantage that they would not have enjoyed under the old system.

Mr. Key

I recognise that my hon. Friend has a long record of interest in sporting matters. I cannot comment on a Bill that is to come before the House, but I welcome the thrust of his comments. All our schools, including grant-maintained schools, will make it a priority that sport is a chief aim in the rounded education of our young people.

I am sure that all hon. Members will agree that the role of PE teachers cannot be overestimated in developing the sporting skills of their pupils within the curriculum and in after-school sporting opportunities. Without their commitment and enthusiasm, we can achieve very little. In addition to the professionals, we must bear in mind the vast army of teachers, parents and volunteers who assist with sports for young people in schools and beyond every afternoon and at the weekends. Without them, Britain would not have its worldwide reputation for excellence in sport and access to sport that is so admired around the world.

We are keen to encourage more after-school sporting opportunities. The champion coaching scheme has been a great success in improving the sporting skills of the youngsters who participated, in encouraging new local partnerships and in providing models of good practice for other organisations to emulate. Preparations for phase 2 are now well under way. Partly arising from that experience, we will be publishing a booklet.

Mr. Harry Greenway (Ealing, North)

Will my hon. Friend address the champion coaching scheme at greater length, bearing in mind the fact that it reaches 4,000 pupils out of a pupil population of 8 million? We are not getting to the main body of pupils, and that will not do.

Mr. Key

My hon. Friend is right to draw attention to our modest start, but we have to start somewhere. We have started with champion coaching which has been a huge success. As I have said, phase 2 is under way. The scheme has proved by its popularity that there is greater scope for it to grow, and I am sure that my hon. Friend will agree that that must be our objective.

Dr. Robert Spink (Castle Point)

Does my hon. Friend welcome the additional £1.3 million made available to the champion coaching scheme by the Foundation for Sport and the Arts?

Mr. Key

The Foundation for Sport and the Arts has made a huge contribution to the sporting life of this country and I will refer to it specifically later. My hon. Friend is right to draw attention to the fact that the foundation has contributed substantially to the scheme. I warmly welcome that and my hon. Friend's intervention.

As I was saying, we shall publish a booklet early next year designed to encourage more local youth sport partnerships between schools and colleges and a range of other local organisations including sports clubs, local businesses, local authorities and the youth service.

Building on those foundations, we are very lucky in this country to have such an excellent and extensive voluntary sector that can carry through participation in sport into adult life. The dedication and drive of thousands of largely unpaid club officials, coaches and ground staff is the bedrock of the voluntary sector. That is essential to the quality of sports participation in this country and to improving the performance of our sportsmen and women, thereby providing the basis for sporting excellence and success.

My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has begun a new era of openness in government, which allows me to point out that I am a member of the Cabinet committee on health strategy. The Government will also be promoting participation in sport and improving the quality of that participation by implementing the commitment contained in the "Health of the Nation" White Paper to look at ways of increasing levels of physical fitness.

Despite the significant increases in participation in sport and active recreation in recent years, as recorded by the general household survey, overall levels of cardiorespiratory fitness in the population are unacceptably low. That is why the Government, with the help of such organisations as the Great Britain Sports Council and the Health Education Authority, are looking at the feasibility of setting physical activity targets and ways in which policies might need to be formulated to meet them.

Local authorities have an important role in encouraging and providing for that growth in participation in sport. It is essential that we make better use of our sport and leisure facilities, of which there has been a very substantial growth during the past 20 years. Central to making effective use of that investment are the managers who control programming, presentation and pricing of activities. Two initiatives that the Government have been pursuing which should help assist in the promotion of more efficient, effective and accountable management in our local authority sports facilities are compulsory competitive tendering and the citizens charter.

Before March, I had the advantage of being a local government finance Minister. I made the acquaintance of many local authorities, and saw at first hand the contribution that they were making and the way in which they carried out their commitments and their voluntary policy objectives. I also learnt a good deal more about CCT.

I became convinced that the great virtue of CCT was not just that it provided better value for money for the taxpayer, but that, for the first time—too often, for the first time—it ensured that those who were providing sporting facilities and management knew what they were trying to achieve and how they were going to achieve it. Of course, the best had already been doing that, but too often the others had not.

The great virtue of the CCT system, whatever one may think about it in party political terms, is that it encouraged a new discipline in the provision of sporting facilities. Local authorities were required to submit the first 35 per cent. by value of their sport and leisure facilities by 1 January 1992, a further 35 per cent. by August 1992 and the remaining figure by 1 January 1993. Any assessment at this stage can therefore only be preliminary, and we would expect savings to come through later. However, there is already little doubt on the evidence available to us so far that CCT has succeeded in stimulating a positive review of local authority practices and improved efficiency in leisure management.

I hope that all local authorities are by now well aware of the six key principles of the charter standard under the citizens charter. They are published standards of service; customer views to be taken into account in setting those standards; clear information about the range of services to be provided; courteous and efficient customer service; well signposted avenues for complaint with independent review wherever possible; independent validation of performance against standards and a clear commitment to improving value for money. Swale borough council leisure department, Wandsworth borough council leisure and amenities service and Omagh leisure centre in Northern Ireland are to be congratulated on their recent charter mark awards.

There are a number of other ways in which better quality management is being encouraged and in which I am pleased to say the Sports Council is playing an important part.

Through the British Quality Association, the Sports Council is co-ordinating work to identify and agree high standards of service delivery across all sectors of the sport and recreation management industry. BS5750 is an internationally recognised British standard describing a system of management to ensure the consistent delivery of a quality service. Managers in sport and recreation have been quick to grasp that opportunity, and the first facilities have been assessed and accredited by the British Standards Institute in Omagh, Newcastle, the London borough of Bexley and the City Centre Leisure, in Westminster, a new private contractor in the field.

The Sports Council has continued to support the development of the Institute of Leisure and Amenity Management to provide for the professional training and development of the whole range of leisure managers.

The most important and fundamental development, however, will be the introduction of national vocational qualifications due to be launched on 11 November in the sport and recreation field. The new qualification and occupational standards should provide a framework for the development and training of staff and volunteers in the sport and recreation industry on a par with opportunities in all other sectors of the United Kingdom economy.

That initiative has encouraged a new unity. A new education and training consortium has emerged involving the sports councils, the professional bodies, National Coaching Foundation, British Sports Forum, the Central Council for Physical Recreation, the Welsh and Scottish sports associations and others to work towards the implementation of NVQs and to provide a co-ordinated approach to training and to support their take-up.

I know that concerns have been expressed over the decline in expenditure by local authorities on sport and recreation over the past two years. Although levels of capital expenditure on those services have declined since 1989–90, that was an exceptional year caused by authorities' spending from accumulated capital receipts before the introduction of the new capital finance system in April 1990. In real terms, the estimated outturn for 1991–92 was more than 10 per cent. higher than capital expenditure on those services in 1986–87 both in gross and net—that is, less capital receipts—terms.

I said earlier that there is scope for local authorities to work imaginatively in partnerships with the private sector in enabling sports and leisure facilities to be built, rather than looking to the taxpayer to fund those developments.

Some local authorities may have assumed that the private sector merely wants to take over their sports and leisure centres through CCT. Major companies in the private sector have been telling me that they are keen to participate in partnerships with the public sector to provide new sports and leisure facilities, particularly of course, if, as part of the arrangement, they can secure the development of a commercially attractive leisure element. It is not always appropriate, but it may be helpful if I give two examples of the type of partnership that can be achieved.

Milton Keynes development corporation with the help of commercial leisure operators, has secured the development of a major facility, including an ice rink. The commercial operator provided a 30-lane ten-pin bowling centre, a Quasar space laser game, a night club and a cafe and bar. It also built an Olympic standard ice arena for the local community. The whole complex is managed by the commercial leisure operator.

The value of the ice arena to the local community has been enormous. It is used by more than 500,000 people per year and is home to the MK Kings ice hockey team. The MK Kings are in the Heineken division 1 and they attract between 1,500 to 2,000 spectators at their 32 home games each season. Players from MK Kings visit schools and encourage children to take up skating. Schools also use the ice rink for PE sessions.

Colchester borough council wished to refurbish a traditional 1960s sports centre. As part of the funding for the new schemes, two sites were let on long leases to a commercial leisure operator, a ten-pin bowling centre and a fast-food restaurant. The premium of f £1.2 million raised from that partnership with the private sector was used to fund the community facilities in what was called 'Leisure World'. That comprises a 25 m competition pool, with spectator seating, a leisure pool, a sports hall, sauna world, a multi-purpose hall for use by the performing arts, and an outdoor all-weather pitch.

I know that hon. Members are bound to raise the 50 per cent. capital receipts rule. That rule does not, of course, apply to the replacement of like for like under the "in and out" arrangements allowed, subject to certain conditions —that is, regulation 18 of the capital finance regulations. Those arrangements are outlined in the Department of the Environment circular 11/90 on local authority capital finance and have been used to pay for new major sports facilities such as the new Guildford Spectrum sports and leisure facility. Another source of funding for sports facilities is the Foundation for Sport and the Arts, which provides £40 million a year for sport. That is extra money.

Mr. Tom Cox (Tooting)

I have great respect for the Minister. No doubt what he is saying is a reflection of what is happening, but it is not the true picture. Over the past week, two letters have come to me from the Methodist Church and from the Greater London Central Scout Council. They complain bitterly that they cannot get the funds to do the work that they have long been doing. I hope that the Minister will address those real problems which affect many hon. Members.

Mr. Key

I shall indeed. In fact, I have just started to address them in my remarks about the Foundation for Sport and the Arts, and I shall return to them when I discuss the national lottery, which may be another source of help.

The grants awarded by the foundation range from large amounts of more than £1 million, to help to redevelop stadiums of national importance, to £500 to enable small clubs to replace equipment. The FSA has also provided substantial sums of money for coaching, sport in schools, sport for the disabled, the British Olympic team and paralympic team, and the Manchester Olympic bid, as well as making numerous grants to sports clubs and sporting bodies.

Let me tell the hon. Member for Tooting (Mr. Cox) how a community that I know well—the village of Winterslow in Wiltshire—approached those problems. It needed a new village hall with some sporting facilities. In a most remarkable achievement, it raised nearly £250,000 among the 3,000 people who live in the village of Winterslow. That money was raised by help from the Foundation for Sports and the Arts, through the sports councils, local authorities, local fund raising and indeed a village referendum which raised £60,000 to be paid off over 20 years under the community charge regulations. There are ways in which small communities can raise large sums of money.

In the world of football, our facilities have been transformed, partly with the benefit of moneys made available by the reduction in pool betting duty in the 1990 Budget. That can be seen most clearly in the replacement of former terraced areas with seated accommodation and in the construction of new all-seated stands. In that, in addition to the invaluable role of the Football Trust, the Football Licensing Authority and the Football Stadia Advisory Design Council have also played an important part.

There are many other important but less obvious ways in which the safety of spectators has been increased since publication of the Taylor report. For example, great strides have been taken to improve the standard of stewarding provided at many grounds. In addition, the provision of ground plans on the rear of tickets and the painting of emergency exit gates in a distinctive colour are now taken for granted at many grounds.

There is much work still to be done. In the Taylor report there were recommendations for design to assist disabled people's access to our sporting grounds, and that has been a great success, too.

Mr. Nigel Spearing (Newham, South)

The Minister will appreciate the hard work that has been done by my hon. Friend the Member for Stalybridge and Hyde (Mr. Pendry), who, until recently, was the chairman of the all-party football committee, in his report on all-seated stadiums. Does the Minister agree that, paradoxically, all-seated stadiums cause great problems for some of the larger and more successful clubs? I instance, obviously, West Ham in Newham, which has a high proportion of standing spectators to seated spectators. The changeover is a financial problem, which is not susceptible to some of the solutions that the Conservative party might advocate.

Do we not need more consideration of ways in which we can retain standing accommodation that is equally as safe as seated accommodation? Of course, standing with one's friends has its own attraction. Will the Minister accept our thanks for his flexibility, but keep up the work and maintain the flexibility that he has already shown?

Mr. Key

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for those remarks. I am also grateful for the work of the all-party committee. We listened carefully to its advice. The hon. Member for Stalybridge and Hyde and my hon. Friends who are members of that committee have more than once discussed the issue with us. I take the hon. Gentleman's point about the need for flexibility, but we must not be deflected from our aims of providing not only safer football grounds but an improved quality of ground. People are beginning to expect a higher quality. That usually means seating, and more comfortable seating at that.

Of course I have listened carefully to what the hon. Gentleman said. I am aware that there is still strong feeling on the issue, and I shall continue to listen to those representations, notwithstanding our determination to ensure that safety is a prime objective.

Mr. John Denham (Southampton, Itchen)

I hope to deal with safety in my speech. Will the Minister say something about the problems facing football clubs, including Southampton? The problem is not so much financial; the length of planning delays and the difficulties in planning procedures make it impossible for clubs to meet the demands of the Taylor report, even though they and the local city council have made every effort to do so. Will he talk to the Football Licensing Authority about exercising its discretion more widely where it is convinced that everyone is acting with good will but there are inevitable delays?

Mr. Key

Southampton has made its views clear on the issue. Only last month, I visited Fratton park to discuss with Portsmouth its problems, which are similar but slightly different in detail. It is true that, with the best will in the world, football clubs find it difficult to meet the deadline of 1994. Therefore, it is important that the Football Licensing Authority should be prepared to be flexible where there is a clear intention to complete the work but practical difficulties arise which are not of the making of the clubs, such as planning delays, to which the hon. Gentleman referred.

On 21 September, the chief executive of the Football Licensing Authority wrote to Brian Hunt, the director of Southampton football club. If the hon. Member for Southampton, Itchen (Mr. Denham) has not seen the letter, I am sure that he will be able to do so. The Football Licensing Authority said that it would be sensible and reasonable about the matter. It would try to ensure that the club met the deadline, but it would be flexible if it received answers to questions such as: has the club received detailed planning permission? Has the site been acquired? Has the design of the stadium and related facilities been finalised and approved by all relevant authorities? Has the necessary financial package been secured? Has the contract to complete the stadium been let? Has work started on the site or has a start date been settled? Has a firm date for completion been fixed? Are there safeguards against delays? Has the disposal of the existing site been agreed?

That is a reasonably flexible approach. I gave a copy of the letter to the hon. Member for Stalybridge and Hyde about a week ago. We agree that this is a reasonable approach to an undoubtedly difficult problem.

Mr. Anthony Coombs (Wyre Forest)

We all appreciate the work that the Football Trust does both in implementing the Taylor report and in improving safety in sports grounds. One of the clubs in my constituency is Kidderminster Harriers, which is a Vauxhall conference league club of great distinction. One of the league's great desires is that it should have access to Football Trust funds to bring the stadiums up to the standards required for the frequently substantial crowd numbers at the league's matches. The average for Kidderminster Harriers is about 1,200 people a week. That is significantly in excess of the crowds at some of the third division football club matches.

Will the Minister tell us something about the progress of negotiations between the Football Trust and the GM Vauxhall conference league on that matter?

Mr. Key

First, I wish the Kidderminster Harriers a successful season. I am sure that they will have it, with the support of my hon. Friend. Will he let me have more detail of this problem, which I will pursue? If he writes to me, I shall be better acquainted with the facts and better able to support him in that difficulty.

Looking to the future, the national lottery will be an important source of funds for sport. Its establishment is a high priority for the new Department. We hope to be in a position to introduce legislation very soon to enable the lottery to be operational by the end of 1994. The detailed policy on allocation between the various good causes is still under discussion but undoubtedly sport will benefit from it. A range of facilities from state-of-the-art stadiums, to support for local projects and clubs will benefit. It is important that sport gears itself to take advantage of the funds that will be available.

It is important that we realise what wonderful facilities we already have in Britain. Of course there are facilities that need repair all over the country, from village cricket huts to stadiums. Nevertheless, we need to remind ourselves that, compared with many nations, we are well provided for. More than 1,100 indoor swimming pools, more than 1,600 sports halls, 490 athletic tracks, 78 ice rinks, 99 dry-ski slopes and 1,900 golf courses are available to the public in Britain.

Mr. Tom Pendry (Stalybridge and Hyde)

Before he leaves the subject of the national lottery, will the Minister comment on a report in this morning's Times headed "Treasury concedes lower tax on lottery"? The report says: Tax levied on the national lottery should be less than 20 per cent., the Treasury has conceded. National heritage ministers have won their case. Will the Minister comment on whether that is an accurate report?

Mr. Key

I was always brought up to believe that one should never believe everything that one reads in the newspapers. If the hon. Gentleman is right, I shall be absolutely thrilled. However, I have not had time to read The Times this morning. In any event, I cannot comment on that speculation. We shall have to contain ourselves for only a few days longer to find out what tax will be levied on the lottery.

I turn now to the various measures that the Government are taking to promote sporting ethics and tackle abuse in sport. Our worries are not only domestic. There is often an international dimension to be considered. Indeed. on issues such as the fight against drug abuse, the international arena provides the real battleground, if we are to progress towards our goal of drug-free sport.

We are working through the Council of Europe, which has a proven track record in addressing doping and spectator violence and in promoting sports ethics. The recent changes in eastern Europe have posed a new set of challenges, and we shall continue to play our part in ensuring that these are also met.

We have taken the lead in developing the Council of Europe's code of sports ethics. It was launched in Rhodes in May 1992 at the conference of European Ministers with responsibility for sport. The basic principle of the code is that ethical considerations and fair play are integral, not optional, elements of all sports activities. The code focuses on the role that adults and institutions play in promoting the concept of fair play among children. Children have a right to participate in and enjoy sport—but adults have a responsibility to promote fair play and thereby ensure that those rights are respected.

It was significant that I was invited by the Council of Europe at that meeting of Ministers to introduce the debate on the code of sport ethics. People turned to Britain when it came to fair play in sport. The United Kingdom has also played a leading role in the preparation and implementation of the Council of Europe's anti-doping convention, which came into force in 1990, and we continue to encourage countries to ratify it. The convention provides the framework within which Governments, working closely with sports bodies, implement effective anti-doping policies.

The Government signed in 1990 an anti-doping agreement with the Canadian and Australian Governments, which provides for the mutual testing of athletes, both in and out of competition. I am glad to say that Norway has recently signed the agreement. We shall host a major international conference on doping in sport in September 1993, which is likely to involve more than 200 experts from doping authorities, sports bodies, the International Olympic Committee and Governments. That underlines our commitment to promoting international action.

We also finance the Sports Council's independent drug-testing programme. Budgeted expenditure in 1992–93 is £734,000. The programme has received worldwide commendation. It provides for testing to be carried out by trained and independent sampling officers; the random testing of competitors, both in and out of competition; and publication of adverse findings and action taken by governing bodies of sport. The programme is supplemented by an educational campaign aimed at schools, colleges and sports facilities.

I do not want to underestimate the scientific and medical difficulties and the niceties of defining drugs in sport, but one thing must be absolutely clear: the use of drugs to gain advantage is simply cheating.

The United Kingdom was instrumental in establishing the Council of Europe's convention on spectator violence and misbehaviour at sports events, and under United Kingdom chairmanship its standing committee took the lead internationally to identify a wide range of measures to bring about improvements in crowd control and safety. The Home Department is in the lead in representing the United Kingdom on that committee, but my Department continues to play an active part in its proceedings.

At the European level, we cannot afford to ignore the growing influence of the European Community in sport. Although the Community has no formal competence in sport, there are a number of areas in which sport is affected by Community activity—notably through legislation concerned with the completion of the single market. It is essential that sporting interests are protected within the Community, and we shall play our part to ensure that a constructive dialogue takes place on sports issues.

The Government's commitment to promoting the interests of United Kingdom sports internationally was demonstrated by the support that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, other ministerial colleagues and I gave to the British Olympic team in Barcelona. That underlined our backing for the bid to bring the games to Manchester.

I am sure that the House would like to join me in congratulating our medal winners and all members of the British Olympic team. The country was impressed, indeed thrilled, by the range of the team's achievements in athletics, swimming, and sports as diverse as archery, boxing, canoeing, cycling, hockey, judo and yachting—

Mr. Denham

What about rowing?

Mr. Key

Yes, the hon. Gentleman is right to mention rowing, which was one of the most spectacular of all the Olympic events.

The magnificent performances of Chris Boardman, Linford Christie, Sally Gunnell—that was a race that I shall never forget, as I was sitting by the track—the Searle brothers, with Gary Herbert, the coxless rowing pair of Steve Redgrave and Matthew Pinsent, will live with us all for a long time to come. It was a most dramatic and heart-warming spectacle for us all.

I take this opportunity to pay tribute to Sir Arthur Gold, who stood down as the British Olympic Association chairman on Wednesday. He has provided a lifetime service to athletics, the Olympic movement and to sport generally. Of all his many achievements, I single out his personal crusade against doping as having one of the most significant long-term effects on sport. When the doping menace is eventually beaten, much of the credit will rest with Sir Arthur.

I cannot let this occasion pass without mentioning Sir Arthur's personal charm and his powers of quiet persuasion. He was a great ambassador for British sport.

Craig Reedie now has the job of preparing the BOA for the challenges of the 21st century, including the staging of the Olympic games in this country in the year 2000. All sports organisations must be flexible enough to adapt to changing circumstances and the BOA is no exception. I am sure that Mr. Reedie will ensure that it plays its full role in promoting excellence and ensuring continued British success in the Olympics.

I was delighted to attend the Barcelona games for the physical disabled and blind athletes, and the Madrid games—the first ever paralympics for mentally handicapped athletes. There was a high standard of competition in those games. In the Barcelona games Britain came third in the medal table with 40 gold medals.

I do not hide the fact that I was particularly enthusiastic about the paralympics. I was overwhelmed by the standards achieved by our athletes and by the great sense of joy and fulfilment which was evident. If there was a difference between the able-bodied Olympics and the paralympics, it was that every hour of every day was tense, difficult and fraught at the former, while every hour of every day was a show of excellence by the athletes and darn good fun at the paralympics.

Finally, a word about the greatest prize in sport that a country can hope to have, and a prize that the Government are determined that we should win—the Olympic games, in Manchester. We have given substantial backing to the bid by committing £55 million of Government money. Much of that is being used to begin the process of creating new venues to stage the games in Manchester. Anyone who visits the fine communities around Manchester—not merely the city, but all the communities that will participate in the Olympic effort —cannot fail to be impressed by the way in which the Olympics have caught the imaginations of the people in the north-west.

When members of the International Olympic Committee visit Manchester next year, they will see construction of a velodrome and an indoor arena under way, and considerable progress on the preparation of the site for the main stadium complex. There could be no clearer evidence of the Government's commitment, and the commitment of the British people, to staging the Olympics. We are conscious that, when the bid is successful, it will require investment in human resources as well as physical facilities to ensure that we can maximise the long-term sporting benefits of hosting the games.

Nothing that I saw in Barcelona could not be done better by Manchester, including the weather. Events were rained off in Barcelona, but most of the time we lived in a sort of sweaty bath, which was most unpleasant for many of our athletes. I suspect that it will not be much better in Atlanta. There will either be hotter and more humid conditions out of doors, or events will take place indoors in air-conditioned facilities, and athletes will all get flu within a day or two. In Barcelona, a remarkable number of athletes, from all over the world, told me, "Roll on Manchester."

I said "when" and not "if" we win. We can win with the help of all those involved, including Bob Scott and his team and all the people of Manchester and the north-west. It is important that the country lines up behind Manchester in its bid. It is a bid for Britain, and the legacy will be invaluable. The people of Manchester and the north-west, including Blackpool and all the other communities that make up the north-west, will benefit in terms of sport and of economic regeneration. It will be a boost to the economy, putting the north-west of England firmly on the map and at the head of our nation's proud role of great cities. There will be a range of major new facilities, of the highest international standards. We shall all gain from it.

I have surveyed the sporting scene at some length, not least due to some helpful interventions from hon. Members on both sides of the House. I shall end on a subject about which I feel passionately. I have touched on the pinnacles of excellence in sport in this country. It is right that the Government and the House should nurture and promote the interests of excellence in British sport. The great British tradition of sport, which makes Britain envied throughout the world, is that it is amateur and local. That access to sport makes the sporting tradition of this country so unique.

I have had limited time to touch on some of the strategically important elements of our sporting life. I am sure that other hon. Members will wish to mention many issues. I should have liked to expand on the subject of children's play, countryside issues, horses in sport, inner cities, playing fields, sport for the disabled, water sports and many more issues. They may have to wait for another day.

10.27 am
Mr. Tom Pendry (Stalybridge and Hyde)

When I was coming into the Chamber one of my colleagues told me, "Don't forget to thank the Minister who's bound to congratulate you on coming to the Dispatch Box." However, the Minister did not do so. Nevertheless, I congratulate him on making his debut in a sports debate.

Mr. Key

Of course the hon. Gentleman has my congratulations. I thought that I recalled distinctly that he had spoken on sport at the Dispatch Box before the summer recess, but we all congratulate him on appearing at the Dispatch Box today and look forward to constructive and detailed discussions because he has great knowledge of sport.

Mr. Pendry

I was not fishing for compliments, but I look forward to working with the Under-Secretary during the short time that he will be in that job. Judging by the problems facing his party these days it could be days rather than months or years. I look forward to sparring with the hon. Gentleman in the interests of sport. Speaking as a former boxer, I can tell him that any punch-ups we have will be healthy and will be conducted under the Queensberry rules.

Mr. Harry Greenway

The hon. Gentleman and the Minister are about the same weight.

Mr. Pendry

I shall come to that.

Having welcomed the Minister and his boss, I should like to speak about the Secretary of State's predecessor who, in his short tenure in his new Department, won much deserved praise, especially from the football world, for his willingness to listen to reasoned arguments and to exercise a laudable degree of flexibility in the light of changing circumstances. In my capacity as chairman of the all-party football committee, I and my fellow officers were recently able to convince him to relax the imposition of all-seater accommodation at our smaller football grounds. We met the Secretary of State and the Minister just a few days ago on a delegation and they also showed a flexible approach to clubs that wish to develop new modern stadiums and find themselves frustrated by an inflexible planning straitjacket. My hon. Friend the Member for Southampton, Itchen (Mr. Denham) referred to that. A letter that I was supposed to receive one or two weeks ago did not arrive. I understand that it was in draft form. No doubt the letter to be sent to clubs is helpful.

As the Minister is aware, my views on soccer are well known and documented, and many of my hon. Friends wish to speak about football. I am sure that the Minister will respond positively to them and to the many arguments advanced from time to time by the sports world. We should not blame him for the mess that he has inherited in some areas. I assure him that the Opposition will continue to advance the interests of all our sports men and women in future debates.

I am sure that the Minister is not aware that the debate has historical significance. It is not just that it is his debut in a sports debate but that he is the first Conservative Minister to initiate a debate on sport and recreation in Government time. He can take a bow. There have been sports Bills, but there has never been a debate of this kind. It is a pity that it is taking place on a Friday, because many hon. Members who would have liked to take part have constituency engagements. I hope that those who are watching and listening will not think that the attendance reflects the view of the House on sporting matters. Perhaps I should not carp at the fact that the debate is being held on a Friday, because we are grateful for such a debate.

In the past no sports debate was complete without the towering presence of my noble Friend Lord Howell of Aston Manor as we must now refer to him. He will be sadly missed by all sports-loving Members, but at least he is just along the Corridor and I am sure that he will be ready and willing to assist any hon. Member who needs encouragement.

The Minister knows that the Opposition will do all that they can to promote sport and to elevate it in the political pecking order, because the potential opportunities for sport are boundless. For the sake of the people who look to him for a lead on sporting matters the Minister has a duty to grasp those opportunities. We want the Minister and the Secretary of State to fight sport's corner in Government. Despite what the Minister said, they do not have a good sports record on which to build. At the general election the Conservative party hardly mentioned sport, and time after time Conservative Ministers responsible for sport have spoken about how they want a better deal for sport, but time after time their words evaporated into thin air when it came to the crunch.

Many people rightly feel angry about the way in which the Government have recently treated sport. Too often it appears that the Government see sport as a convenient vehicle for planted photo opportunities or public relations, rather than as an important and vital area for investment, support and commitment. That must stop, and I hope that the Minister's optimistic views will not prove to be merely the start of another painful cycle of raising the hopes of our sports men and women and then dashing them. I warn the Minister that if that happens he will find us not as accommodating as we are on this occasion.

The Minister will be aware of the welcome given to the publication prior to the last election of my party's charter for sport. Sport recognised the commitment to securing a better deal for sport that our charter demonstrated and many looked forward with relish to helping to implement our positive proposals.

To the Minister has fallen the task of implementing the findings of the review of sports policy undertaken by two of his predecessors. I hope that he will do not only that but much more, because the review is more memorable for the issues that it fails to address than what it proposes. However, I reassure the Minister that we agree on the review's broad thrust.

The proposal to reform the national structures of sport, including, as the Minister said, the creation of a United Kingdom sports commission and a separate English sports council is welcome. The Minister said that work towards establishing those bodies is progressing. In that context, I plead with him not to overlook the expertise of those who have fought for many years for voluntary sport. He implied that he did not overlook it. In his nominations for membership of the United Kingdom sports commission he should sympathetically consider the case for appointing a representative from the Central Council of Physical Recreation whose campaigning work on behalf of sport over many years is known and respected by many.

The Minister will understand our desire to press for further information about how he intends to press ahead with that work. What resources will be allocated to the United Kingdom sports commission and to the English sports council? This morning's issue of The Daily Telegraph quoted a figure which was thought to be inappropriate by many of the regional sports directors. There has been much criticism—not least by the Opposition—of the cuts in Sports Council grant. The Minister must assure the House that the total grant aid to the United Kingdom sports commission and the English sports council will be more than the current grant aid to the Sports Council.

We want to see some evidence that the reforms that the Minister has outlined will be given enough support to enable them to achieve more than a mere game of musical chairs with the national responsibilities for sport. We want clear evidence of how the reforms will bring benefits to sport. Before he finalises the precise arrangements, membership and responsibilities of the sports commission and the English sports council we expect him to return to the House so that we can examine the proposals and debate them in detail to ensure that they are the best way forward. Thereafter, the Minister must ensure that the House has a regular opportunity for a full debate on the state of sport and recreation. He has taken the first step by initiating this debate, and he and his boss should seek to secure an annual debate on sport—a state of the sporting nation debate as it were—to follow the publication of the annual report of the Sports Council and the United Kingdom sports commission, when it is established. If he fights for such a debate he will get the full backing of the Opposition. In the winding-up speech I hope to hear that the Minister is prepared to join us in arguing for such an annual debate. The Minister nods. I hope that that means he has given that commitment. One reason why such a debate is crucial is the increasing importance of the sports and leisure industry to our economy. A few days ago in a newspaper interview the Secretary of State described his Department's job as dealing with the ways people spend their time when they are not working". We understand what he meant by that, but it is worth remembering that the task of looking after the interests of sport also includes a responsibility to one of Britain's major employers and thousands of workers. For many people sport is precisely what they do when they are working. The Sports Council estimates that some 476,000 people are employed in the sport and leisure industry. That is about the same as those employed in the paper, printing and publishing industry, and the postal service and telecommunications. Compared with other industries it is, luckily, healthy, but the Minister must be aware that the rapid decline in other industries presents implications for sport.

My hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) spelt that out clearly. The topical example that he recognised is the fact that 75 football pitches, 60 bowling greens, just under 50 cricket pitches and about 40 tennis courts serving local communities are managed by the Coal Industry Social Welfare Organisation. It currently receives funding from British Coal, but not, it is feared for much longer. The operation may be able to continue as a charitable trust, but not without support. It will not be seen as a weakening of the unanswerable case for coal, which the Government clearly have not grasped, to argue that the Minister must pledge to do all in his power to provide support for that association.

Mr. Skinner

My hon. Friend is absolutely right to raise that matter again and say how many grounds are involved. On previous occasions when some of those grounds were lost to the coal industry, local authorities could use moneys obtained from the Government and their own purse to enable them to take over the grounds. We need an assurance that the pits do not close, but, if they do, that local authorities will be allowed money from central Government revenues to save those magnificent sporting facilities.

Mr. Pendry

My hon. Friend underlines the point and if the Minister wishes to intervene again, my hon. Friend and I would be grateful.

Mr. Key

The East Midlands Council for Sport and Recreation has had discussions with the regional arm of the CISWO, which has expressed concern about the future funding from the Coal Board and whether it will be able to continue to provide sports facilities. I am prepared to give an undertaking that I shall watch carefully to see how those discussions go.

Mr. Pendry

The Minister has a responsibility not just to observe those discussions but to get involved and ensure that those sporting facilities are funded. That is his job and we expect it of him.

I was glad to hear the Minister's commitment to introducing a system for the introduction of a national qualification for those employed in the sports industry. That is good news, but he must give a commitment to ensuring that a proper level of long-term funding and support from his Department will be forthcoming so that those qualifications have a secure base and a healthy future.

The hon. Member for Falmouth and Camborne (Mr. Coe), who made his maiden speech only eight days ago, told me that he would have liked to have been here. His comments regarding the importance of sport for promoting health interested me and, no doubt, many other hon. Members. He rightly called attention to the need for an integrated approach to health promotion and the promotion of sport and leisure. The hon. Gentlemen will he a great asset to those of us who care for sport, but unfortunately he did not conclude by saying that that deterioration was due to the policies of the Government whom he supports. For example, the recent findings, to which the Minister has already referred, of the Allied Dunbar national fitness survey showed that one third of men and two thirds of women were unable to continue walking at a reasonable pace up a 1 in 20 slope without becoming breathless and having to stop. The survey also showed that more than 48 per cent. of men and 40 per cent. of women are overweight and the numbers have increased from 39 and 32 per cent. respectively since 1980. I shall not say that it has anything to do with the political change of Government, but may I gently suggest that the Minister and I could both do with shedding a few pounds. To show an example, I have only this week embarked on a major fitness drive in the Westminster gym. I hope that he will show equal determination to get a healthy shape and accept my challenge to meet me in the gym.

Mr. Key

It is true that the hon. Gentleman and. I are no longer as young, fit or lithe as we once were. Nevertheless, may I warn him and the many hundreds of thousands of rather tubby middle-aged men out there that the most foolish thing they could do is to suddenly take some form of strenuous exercise that will do them nothing but harm. He is right to point out that we need to take gentle exercise appropriate to our age and condition and I entirely endorse that. However, I shall never forget that the fittest man I ever knew died on the squash court when he was 28.

Mr. Pendry

I am not sure whether the Minister will come to the gym with me or not. If he does, I promise that we shall go gently. We can at least see who mounts the most effective self-promotion of good health.

The Minister repeated the Government's commitment to bringing before the House legislation to introduce a national lottery. He must recognise that if the lottery is to succeed, it must be framed in such a way as to maximise the benefits that can undoubtedly accrue to sport. He must also recognise that there remain serious questions to address in arriving at the best possible structure for the lottery. I wonder whether the Minister has had a chance to look at a copy of the excellent report, "A Chance to Prosper", written by Jo MaCrea and published by Charles Barker, Public Affairs. I am sure that he would benefit from reading its contents, as would anyone interested in the lottery debate. Any debate surrounding the lottery must deal with the funding and taxation of sport in its entirety.

The Minister will know from reading our charter for sport that we promise to set up an inquiry into all aspects of sports funding and taxation, betting and sponsorship to ensure that a fairer proportion of the money taken out of sport by the Government goes back into sport. We do so both because we are determined to rectify the fact that, for every £1 that the Government invest in sport, they receive £9 in return and because we want to see a more rational and coherent system for the funding of sport. That is the context within which we shall consider the specific proposals that the Minister brings before the House. We shall want to consider his plans clause by clause, line by line, to ensure that the lottery really brings the greatest benefit to all areas of sport, including those currently receiving support from other forms of gambling.

Mr. Peter Kilfoyle (Liverpool, Walton)

My hon. Friend will be aware that the GAH group employed by the Department of National Heritage as consultants on the national lottery reported on 7 October—it is a private departmental report. I hope that, among the aspects studied in that report are the detrimental effects of the proposals for a national lottery on bodies such as the Foundation for Sport and the Arts and the Football Trust, notwithstanding the effects on employment and sport generally.

Mr. Pendry

My hon. Friend has illustrated my point —that we must consider carefully many aspects of any proposal that the Government bring before the House.

The Minister will be aware that the Sports Council would greatly appreciate clarification of the Government's thinking, as set out in the White Paper. In its response to the White Paper, the Sports Council says: Accepting for the moment that the Government's argument that a lottery tax will be necessary if its revenues are not to fall, it is unclear how the Government would propose to act in the event of the tax serving to increase its revenues. It could be argued that any extra tax-take accruing from the lottery should be distributed among the good causes, for whose benefit the national lottery will have been set up in the first place". So the Minister should clarify exactly what the Government's thinking was in that regard when they drafted the White Paper.

One of the country's most popular spectators sports is greyhound racing. The greyhound world was delighted when the Chancellor agreed to cut betting duty in the last Budget and said that greyhound racing should receive its share of that cut. Seven months later the bookmakers are still enjoying the fruits of that windfall, but, as I understand it, have yet to pass on any fraction of the revenue to the greyhound racing industry. I have written to the Home Secretary about the matter. Will the Minister use his authority to reinforce my request and ask the Home Secretary to bang heads together to ensure that all sections of the greyhound racing industry, which desperately needs funds, enjoy the fruits of the Treasury's generous gesture?

On a wider front, the Minister must realise that a coherent strategy for sport is required, not the piecemeal measures that have been the hallmark of Government policy to date. We achieved a first in our charter for sport when we detailed such a strategy at every level of sport and recreation, from a comprehensive review of national sporting organisations to addressing the importance of sport in the communities and schools serving the needs of everyone—schoolchildren, their parents and even their grandparents.

I should like the Sports Council to resurrect its all-to-play-for scheme for the 50-plus age group. There are literally hundreds of thousands of people in that category who need encouragement. They include the unemployed and those who have been forced to take early retirement, as well as those of normal retirement age. Government policies have resulted in the numbers piling up. The Sports Council and the Central Council of Physical Recreation —in whatever form they take in future—should particularly target such people. Sport and recreation will enrich as well as lengthen their lives.

I am sure that the Minister will join me in encouraging the Sports Council on its annual report produced this week. It has gone a long way to achieving many of the important objectives that it set itself. I know that there are many other objectives that it would like to have achieved.

I know that other hon. Members wish to raise matters of specific concern, but I have a number of issues on which to press the Minister before I conclude. The Minister must explain what has happened to the consultative letter issued in December 1991 by his predecessor to chief education officers on the selling-off of school playing fields. Many people would argue that, far from being a determined effort to save those vital sporting assets, the letter was little more than a meaningless pre-election public relations exercise to cover up the fact that the Government had still not acted to halt the losses. The Minister must know that that is not good enough. He must tell the House when he intends to publish the responses to that letter and issue the circular calling a halt to the decimation of school fields, which continues to this day.

The CCPR has used Government figures to calculate that every day for the past two years, £100,000 worth of sports fields have been sold for development due to the financial desperation of local councils—a desperation which results from Government policies.

Mr. John Carlisle

While castigating the Government on the basis of their lack of direct intervention in the matter of playing fields—I have some sympathy with that argument—will the hon. Gentleman also castigate local authorities of both political colours, including Labour. that are not helping to save the playing fields? Those authorities' policies are not conducive to the promotion of sport. Such local authorities hide behind the funding arguments rather than considering the needs of the local community. Labour councils are as guilty of that as Conservative.

Mr. Pendry

It is rich for the hon. Gentleman to make such a comment. I do not know of one local authority, Labour or Conservative, that is taking such action willingly. They are forced to do so due to Government policies, and I discount the hon. Gentleman's argument. What sort of sporting future do Government policies guarantee thousands of schoolchildren who turn up for term without those priceless assets?

The Government made a commitment to undertake a survey of facilities for teaching swimming in schools. The Minister said that it was a Government aim. Is it possible to achieve that aim before we receive the results of the survey that I asked the Minister's predecessor to undertake 19 months ago? We are still awaiting the published results of the survey. I am sure that the Minister must now have some idea of whether he can honour his earlier commitment to match Labour's pledge to teach children to swim 25 m by the age of 11. We cannot allow the situation to continue and I look forward to hearing from the Minister about when the results will be published and the commitment met.

The Minister is in a predicament because he has to clear up the messes caused by his predecessors. We cannot blame him for those messes at this early stage in his sporting ministerial career, but I hope that he will address those problems when he replies to the debate.

Foremost among those problems is the shambles surrounding the wholesale destruction of the arrangements for community use of school sports facilities. As the Minister knows, the arrangements were destroyed by Government legislation. Despite the best efforts of myself, my colleagues and even some Conservative Members in the previous Session, the legislation still stands in need of urgent amendment.

That urgency was highlighted in the recent case involving the Great Barr school in Birmingham. As the Minister knows, more than £ 1 million was invested in the school sports hall by Birmingham city council for community use before the school decided to opt out. As a result of that decision, those vital sporting resources are to be denied the local community. That denial cannot be allowed to continue. I urge the Minister to do all that he can to halt that scandal.

I offer my co-operation in overcoming the farce if the Minister will sit down with me after the debate and arrange discussions between us so that we can draw up the necessary legislation to save the facilities and thousands like them. If he is not prepared to do that, at the very least he can say today that he is prepared to arrange for the appropriate Minister to receive a deputation from the hon. Member for Birmingham, Hall Green (Mr. Hargreaves and an all-party delegation from the city of Birmingham to discuss the issue. I hope that the Minister will show a willingness to do that at the very least.

In case the Minister is tempted to make a vain effort to extol the supposed virtues of opting out, may I warn schools that if they opt out they will be unable to look to the Government for help to provide sports facilities. I have a copy of a letter dated 28 August this year sent from the Department for Education to the chairmen of the governors of all grant-maintained schools. It tells them frankly to forget any idea of the Government's giving them help to develop sport in their schools. It states: schools … may feel disadvantaged by not being able to propose projects which they need. But … schools should not incur expenditure in preparing bids which have no chance of success. Projects in the following areas should not be submitted: swimming pools, sports halls, hard play areas, drama/ performing arts facilities". That is the reality for sport for children in opt-out schools. The Government have betrayed them.

Mr. Anthony Coombs

It is a bit rich for the hon. Gentleman to lecture us on that subject when part of the problem for grant-maintained schools, particularly those in Labour-controlled local education authorities, is that whereas previously they were able to co-operate with local education authorities and use some of their facilities such as swimming pools, now, on purely vindictive and ideological grounds, they are unable to do so. Baverstock school in Birmingham has been deprived of the use of sports pitches, swimming pools and even libraries due to the vindictiveness of Birmingham local education authority.

Mr. Pendry

It is not because the authorities are vindictive, but because they have been deprived of hard cash.

Mr. Anthony Coombs

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Pendry

No, I am sure that the hon. Gentleman would like to expand his argument and I should like to intervene. He is talking nonsense, and I think that he knows it.

Mr. John Carlisle

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Pendry

No, I shall not as other hon. Members wish to speak.

On top of the problems that I have already mentioned, local authorities will face difficult times in the months ahead in sectors of sport and recreation. The leisure departments of council after council have contacted my office to complain about the current capping of the council's budget. As a result, councils that are striving to provide sports facilities are finding their development programmes hampered and cut back through no fault of their own—that answers the argument proposed by the hon. Member for Wyre Forest (Mr. Coombs). Many schools that would normally provide swimming and other sporting activities have found that, without free bus services and the like, they can no longer continue to do so. That is just one example among many, and I hope that, now that the Minister has his feet under the table, he will address the other areas of neglect.

I am proud to have been the Minister who introduced mandatory rate relief, at 65 per cent., for sports clubs in Northern Ireland. That policy has done much to benefit and promote grassroots sport in the Province, and I am positive that it would have a similar effect in this country if the Government would grasp it.

Is the Minister aware that, according to figures that I have managed to extract from the Government by way of parliamentary questions, more than 1,000 voluntary sports clubs in England and Wales were denied rate relief last year? Moreover, the situation is worsening, as my hon. Friend the Member for Tooting (Mr. Cox) said. Government rating policy is hitting the very grassroots of sport and thousands of volunteers. The Minister has a duty to stand up for those people and give them a better deal.

Mr. Key

On charitable rate relief, if sports clubs decide to go for charitable status, they are subject to 100 per cent. rate relief. If they decide not to, it is up to the local authority to offer them 75 per cent. rate relief, with only 25 per cent. falling on the local charge payer.

Mr. Pendry

I often wonder whether Ministers live in the real world. At a time when local authorities are trying to get their budgets together, it is just not on to expect them to give such relief. The Minister should not skirt round the fact that we need mandatory rate relief.

If we do not provide that support for sport for our children, local sportsmen and women throughout the country will not be able to shine as brightly as the stars at Barcelona, in whose success the Minister rejoiced. Those of us who were privileged to go to Barcelona and see our athletes perform well—Sally Gunnell, Linford Christie and all those mentioned by the Minister—also recognise the achievements of the host nation, however. Until their games, the Spanish had won only four gold medals in the history of the games. In Barcelona, they won a grand total of 13. That is what can be achieved when a country is fired up to show the world its commitment to sport.

I hope that that lesson was not lost on the Ministers parading there. Five Ministers in all, including the Prime Minister, went to Barcelona, and a good deal of flag waving went on—especially in respect of Simon Terry, one of the medal winners to whom the Minister referred. Simon Terry won two bronze medals for Britain in the archery contest—the first medals won in that event in 84 years. Ministers' cheers rang hollow when that young man returned home to discover that, because he was not physically able to sign on for income support, he was denied payment. To this day, despite my numerous attempts to get the Government to compensate him, all that I have received by way of ministerial replies is what I can only describe as a kick in the teeth for an Olympic star. The then Minister for National Heritage, the right hon. and learned Member for Putney (Mr. Mellor) wrote to the Secretary of State for Social Security at my request, but, when I met Simon a couple of days ago, he told me that, to date he had not had a penny.

I hope that the Government's stated commitment to the Manchester Olympic bid will not turn out to be so hollow. Episodes such as that which I have described do not assist those in international sporting circles in believing in our commitment to the Olympic ideal. I believe that the Prime Minister is personally committed to the Manchester Olympic bid—even if he was also once committed to a stable exchange rate, zero inflation and higher interest rates and if 31 of our coal pits were safe a month ago. Government wobbling is something about which I worry, so, 11 days ago, I wrote to the Prime Minister requesting a firm undertaking that, whatever nasties he has planned for the November public expenditure round, the £55 million promised to Manchester for the bid will be honoured in full. So far, I have received only an acknowledgement, but I certainly hope that the reply will be positive, because it is vital not just for sport in Britain but for the hard-hit north-west of England that the hon. Gentleman honours the commitment. Mr. Scott and his hard-working team must not be let down by the Government.

Before leaving the subject of the Olympic games, let me join the Minister in congratulating all those athletes who took part in the paralympic games, who won 40 gold medals out of a possible 128 and gained us third place overall among the nations competing. If we are to maintain those standards of sporting excellence, however, we must be prepared to give more support to the voluntary work of the British Paralympic Association and to all the coaches, administrators and managers who gave up their time to make such a valuable contribution. As a trustee of that association, I have a special reason for asking that.

In wider terms, the British Olympic movement does not do well under this Government. In particular, the British Olympic Association needs the kind of financial assistance given by other countries to their Olympic bodies. The BOA receives nothing, and desperately needs help to alleviate its tax burden. Surely, the Minister must be sympathetic to that.

The Minister has referred to those in sport who betray the Olympic ideal—those who cheat by taking drugs to enhance their performance. The drug problem in sport is a serious one and we ignore it at our, and at sport's, peril. I hope that the Minister will ensure that we have time to debate that growing problem in the not-too-distant future.

Philip Noel-Baker, who graced the House with his presence for 30 years, was one of our greatest Olympians. I was pleased to be present this week at the unveiling by Sir Arthur Gold of a plaque to commemorate his life. I endorse everything that the Minister said about Sir Arthur. Philip was a great man of peace and a great Olympian who, as my Member of Parliament for Derby, South certainly inspired me to take a more active part in sport politics. The unveiling of the plaque, arranged by English Heritage, was not, alas, attended by a Minister from the Department of National Heritage. I am sure that there was a good reason for that, but it was nevertheless unfortunate, and was noted.

I know that Philip, a passionate opponent of apartheid in South African sport, would be joining those of us who welcome a return of South African sportsmen and women on the world stage following the changes in that country in the direction of multiracial sport. More than any other action, the sports boycott has begun to bring about the desired changes in that country. There is still a long way to go, however, as was shown by the South African Rugby Football Union's reluctance to move as fast as those in other sports to develop their sport in the black townships and, indeed, to break with their use of the springbok emblem and other symbols of apartheid. I hope that those who do protest will do so peacefully but effectively and that they will be heard both in South Africa and in Britain.

I again thank the Minister for arranging the debate. I hope that he will listen with care to those who take part and will act on some of the positive and constructive points that are made. Those of us who care for sport in Britain must not abandon those who play and those who spectate in their millions. As Philip Noel-Baker once wrote: Sport is too precious to be expendable by politicians. I can assure the Minister that the Opposition have no intention of allowing that to happen.

Several Hon. Members


Madam Deputy Speaker

Order. Before I call the next hon. Member, let me draw the attention of the House to the fact that a number of hon. Members have expressed a willingness to participate in the debate. Perhaps those who are called early will bear that in mind.

11.7 am

Mr. John Carlisle (Luton, North)

I shall certainly bear in mind your appropriate strictures regarding the length of speeches, Madam Deputy Speaker. I am afraid that it appears to be something of a tradition—not, regrettably, disproved by the hon. Member for Stalybridge and Hyde (Mr. Pendry)—for opening speeches in debates such as this to be rather long.

I congratulate the hon. Member for Stalybridge and Hyde. I thought at the start that he was making an excellent speech, and I am delighted to see him elevated to the Front Bench after so many years languishing on the Back Benches. Inevitably, the hon. Gentleman lapsed into his usual carping criticism as his speech progressed and as he got further into his brief. By the end, some of us were left with a sense of sadness that he had tainted his speech with an attack on my hon. Friend the Minister, who comprehensively argued the Government's case for sport with pride in the fact that, after 13 years of Conservative government, sport is very much in the forefront of politics.

We particularly welcome the appointment of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, who is a keen sportsman, and, in particular, a cricket buff, which is of enormous advantage. We welcome above all my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister's commitment to sport, which is clear both from his attendance of functions and from his close interest in what goes on and from his deep love of football and, especially, cricket. As a fellow member of the MCC, I hope that my right hon. Friend will note that he may shortly be asked to attend an extraordinary general meeting of that organisation called because of the sad—and, I think, wrong—mission from the touring team this winter of David Gower. Perhaps my right hon. Friend will use his new membership of the MCC to register a protest at the silly and foolish omission of one of England's greatest cricketers. But this debate, however wide, should not go into the basis for selecting the England cricket team.

I was privileged to be present for the annual report of the Sports Council this week and to hear its excellent chairman, Sir Peter Yarranton, and the director general, David Pickup, analyse what has been happening in the past few months and, more important, what will happen in the future.

I am glad that the hon. Member for Stalybridge and Hyde mentioned fitness. He gave some sorry figures, which one suspects might be getting worse. It occurred to me that perhaps the Department of Health should make more of a contribution to the funding of sport because physical fitness is so important to all of us. The Sports Council's figures are pretty horrifying, but it now seems to be taking on board its role in promoting the health and fitness of the nation.

At the Sports Council's meeting, the chairman rightly highlighted the basis of funding. Inevitably, this is a matter of some controversy, particularly at a time when the Government are trying to find savings. It was inevitable that the Opposition spokesman should plead for increased funds for sport, as does the Sports Council. I must tell them, however, that, at a time when Government expenditure is under severe restraint and every form of it is being considered closely—obviously, we do not know the result of the Chancellor's prognostications yet—sport will, regrettably, have to take its share of the burden.

What bothers me about the Sports Council's attitude is the continual cry for more money without addressing the real problem of how it is spent. Only recently, the Central Council for Physical Recreation expressed some reservations about the new format, which most of us welcome, and about the amount of money that is spent on forms of administration. We must carefully consider where expenditure is made, but what a welcome breath of fresh air it would be if a sports organisation said that it had saved money or had increased facilities with what money it had.

I ask my hon. Friend the Minister to pass a message to the Chancellor of the Exchequer that, if he feels it necessary slightly to reduce the amount that is being made available to sport, he will receive the support of Conservative Members, and the sports organisations concerned will have to trim their needs accordingly.

Much of the Sports Council's work, inevitably, is with local authorities. I acknowledge the close afffinity between the two and the reliance of the Sports Council on how local authorities spend taxpayer's money. No one underestimates the severe restraints on local authorities, for many and varied reasons, but there are additional means of attracting money into sport, such as through the private sector. Sadly, one of the savings that have already been made is the withdrawal of the Sports Match pound for pound basis, whereby businesses were invited to fund sporting activities and the Government put up £10 million.

Mr. Key

Let me reassure my hon. Friend that there is no question of the Government's withdrawing the scheme. We simply said that it would have been irresponsible to go ahead with such an expensive scheme if we could not be sure that funds would be available in years two and three; the funds for year one were available. We said that we would delay the scheme until we could be sure that funds would be available. I hope to be able to make a further announcement, perhaps as soon as next week.

Mr. Carlisle

I am grateful for my hon. Friend's clarification of the position, because it was worrying many people. The thrust of my argument is that we are happy to expect trimmed Government expenditure, but schemes such as this, which offer the private sector incentives to participate, should be the last to be trimmed. The partnership between the private sector, the public sector, local authorities and the Government acting on behalf of the taxpayer has ensured that much-needed funds are attracted to sport.

The other source of cash that inevitably is contentious and has been the subject of some discussion among Conservative Members, but which the hon. Member Stalybridge and Hyde omitted to mention, is tobacco advertising and tobacco sponsorship of sport. I was pleased to learn only this week that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health has rejected calls to extend the ban on tobacco advertising. This is not the place to go into the morals of tobacco money and sport, but the money that is allocated is well used. Some of the tobacco companies have been castigated for their activities when in fact they have put much-needed funds into areas where they are required.

The other part of the Sports Council's annual report was on the conduct of sport. Most hon. Members would say that the previous Minister's near-passion for fairness in sport and opposition to the use of drugs are to be supported.

It is pleasing that all hon. Members seem to agree on the future of the Sports Council and the sports commission. We look forward to more activity, and perhaps a closer account of how money is spent, and wish the new chairman, Sir Peter Yarranton, well.

The basis of a national lottery has been mentioned. I was delighted to hear from my hon. Friend the Minister —I hope that it was not a slip of the tongue—that we should hear within days about the Bill for a national lottery. The White Paper has received much attention and comment from various quarters. Inevitably, sport will support the provision of a sum, which admittedly will have to be shared with other organisations, of between £500 million and £1.3 billion—a very considerable sum of money. I hope that that will replace the taxpayers' contribution and will attract more money into sport rather than its having to rely on handouts.

One can understand the concern that has been expressed, particularly by the pools companies and others, about the effect of the national lottery on employment and on encouraging "soft" gambling. I suggest to the Minister that some compromise should be reached between the organisers of the national lottery and members of the Pools Promoters Association, perhaps by using them as agents. The pools system is part of our national heritage and is quite unique. It contributes considerable sums to sport through the Football Trust and the Sports and Arts Foundation. We must be careful to ensure that, if expertise is available, it is used. I hope that account is taken of that in the legislation.

The big question for sport is how that money will be allocated and how much of a slice of the cake it can expect. My hon. Friend the Minister and the Secretary of State will find themselves in a very difficult position. We are all aware of my hon. Friend's deep love of the arts, representing as he does the city of Salisbury, and his feelings will be torn about the basis of allocation.

The question that we are all asking—it may be answered in the next few days—is whether that allocation will be set out in black and white in the Bill, or will be left to be decided by the body that will run the national lottery. Much of what has been said so far today has proved that sport has a good case for having a large slice of that cake. The arts are important to us, but they have always received a favoured response from Governments of both political colours. If this money is available, sport must have more than its fair share.

Furthermore, that allocation should be set out in black and white in legislation, while perhaps allowing a certain flexibility as time goes on, so that sport knows where it is and can plan accordingly. If the sums come out in the way forecast, and if we can get the pools people with us, that will be of enormous benefit to sport and to sportsmen and sportswomen.

As has been said, one of the sports that have benefited enormously from the pools is football. I pay tribute to the time that the hon. Member for Stalybridge and Hyde spent as chairman of the all-party football group. He was diligent and active and, although we crossed swords on one or two occasions, his chairmanship was a happy period and one which was good for football. Undoubtedly, the Taylor report will loom large above us for many years to come, given the stringent requirements—somewhat muted now by my hon. Friend the Minister—that it imposed on football clubs. Substantial sums will be required, so the football authorities must get their house in order.

The formation of the premier league has been somewhat of a disappointment. I represent in my constituency a club that, regrettably, has now fallen on hard times—it has fallen out of the premier league and now looks like falling out of the first division as well. I make a plea for the small clubs that are not benefiting from what must be described as the money-grubbing members of the premier league.

I am not at all surprised to see that attendance at premier league games has been disappointing. The level at which admission charges has been set makes it easy to understand why people have been staying away. Despite the slice of the television cake that the league has seized and the enormous amount of sponsorship money offered to it—so much that it turned down a considerable sum from other companies—the clubs in it have not acquitted themselves as we would expect.

I hope that, when things settle down and Sir John Quinton takes a closer interest in the running of the league, there will be benefits from it for all football, and not just for the clubs at the top. The House frowns on elitism in sport. We like it when it brings us national recognition and achievement, but if it is to the disadvantage of those at the grass roots and those who are in desperate need of assistance further down the line, something has gone seriously wrong. The imbalance between the Arsenals, the Liverpools and the Manchester Uniteds of this world and the Stalybridge and Hydes—

Mr. Nigel Evans (Ribble Valley)

What about Blackburn?

Mr. Carlisle

Well, Blackburn is lucky enough to have a fairy godmother, which not many clubs have.

Clubs further down the line will suffer as a result of the premier league. The football authorities should look at rugby, in which we have had considerable success while it remains an amateur game. There has been success in financial terms, with the marvellous world cup, which raised an enormous amount of money.

The money filters down to junior clubs, which can take loans from the rugby union organisation and others at competitive rates. Furthermore, clubs are self-financing, because players pay match fees and expect to buy their own kit rather than having it provided. The spirit of rugby is self-help, and it would benefit football if it looked on the sport in that way.

One of the greatest sporting events that the country has seen for many years—the return of the springbok rugby side—will take place in the next couple of weeks. I take some pleasure in what the hon. Member for Stalybridge and Hyde said about this event. It is a delight that our sporting relations with South Africa have resumed after the many years during which the politicans kept us out, rather than the sportsmen and sportswomen.

There is no doubt that the frustration and anger that were felt by people on both sides were rightly directed at the politicians, who unashamedly used sport for their own ends. That is why, on a busy day, what gave me the greatest pleasure was to see from today's Order Paper that the hon. Member for Neath (Mr. Hain) has withdrawn his motion calling for demonstrations against the tour and objecting to the visit of the Springbok rugby team.

Mr. Bryan Davies (Oldham, Central and Royton)

Before the hon. Gentleman continues to propagate the myth that it was politicians interfering with sport, will he recall that the origin of the ban on sporting links with South Africa was the incident when the South Africans set out to pick the English cricket test team by trying to bar a coloured player?

Mr. Carlisle

I agree with the hon. Gentleman, and I have some sympathy with the view of the hon. Member for Stalybridge and Hyde, that it was the sports boycott which moved South Africa down the anti-apartheid line—a move which most Conservative Members, and certainly I, have followed. The tragedy was that the sports organisations in South Africa made changes, but they were not recognised. Labour Members may remember the famous five Howell requirements that South Africa had to meet if sporting links were to be resumed. In fairness to Lord Howell, I think that he set them out as a sportsman rather than a politician. They were all achieved, but that was not recognised because, by that time, the politicians had taken over.

I must say, so as to refute the criticisms of the hon. Member for Stalybridge and Hyde and others about the South African rugby football union, that they fail to recognise that, for many years, pre-President de Klerk and during the worst years of apartheid in South Africa, it was promoting, through its development programme, clinics in townships. I was privileged to attend several of them. The board was putting an enormous amount of work into fostering the talent of youngsters. Of course, there will always be those within that organisation who are unhappy with changed circumstances, but the broad thrust of South African sport is now based on equal opportunities for all, and that is to be welcomed.

What is sad about the criticisms of the past few days is that the Rugby Football Union has done all it can to accede to the requests by the African National Congress and others—for example, not playing the national anthem and not flying the national flag. Despite that, a hard core will be demonstrating against the springboks' visit. That is to be regretted, but I am pleased that reason seems to have prevailed and that the games will go ahead and will be played on the fairest and most equitable of plains.

I agree with both Front-Bench speakers that it is good to have a debate on sport in Government time on the Floor of the House. I wish my hon. Friend the Minister the best of fortune in his new task. He will have some difficulties, and he is a brave man to take it on alone. If I were looking for a little more Government expenditure, it would be to promote one among our ranks to assist him in what will be a difficult job. We have great confidence that the Government are addressing the many and varied problems that face us, and that that will he to the benefit of sportsmen and sportswomen.

11.28 am
Mr. Bryan Davies (Oldham, Central and Royton)

I congratulate the Government—an experience which I will not repeat too often—on the fact that they have created a Department that gives sport a place at the Cabinet table. All who are in the Chamber recognise the importance of that initiative—an initiative which, had we been in the position of forming a Government, we would also have taken. It gives encouragement to us all. It gives an opportunity for the country to get a real grip on sports representation. We have been bedevilled by the multiplicity of sporting associations. When dealing with international bodies, that has often led to great difficulties.

We should recognise the importance of sport in a society that will increase its leisure opportunities. Regrettably, too much of that leisure for many is enforced at present by the Government's policies of encouraging and developing high unemployment. However, clearly leisure plays an increasingly important part in people's lives as the working week is reduced.

I represent a constituency whose first Member of Parliament was John Fielden. He battled in the 1840s for the reduction of working hours to 10 hours a day for a six-day week. One recognises the difference from our society today. Increasingly, people will seek to exploit their leisure opportunities more fully.

Sport has a crucial part to play in that respect and it is important that we recognise the role that sport plays in the development of the individual personality and in the development of self-confidence. In team sports, there is the development of relationships with other people towards a common endeavour. Unity of purpose and a sense of teamwork are some of the most valued aspects of any social relationships. I know that I sound like Thomas Arnold and the 19th century public school image of sport. However, the value is more lasting than that. Translating it into the late 20th century is straightforward enough. Sport offers an essential democracy and equality of opportunity in terms of sporting achievement, if we get the preconditions right.

It is clear from our present sporting prowess that sport offers a significant opportunity for children from deprived backgrounds, from working-class backgrounds and from ethnic minority backgrounds to make their mark dramatically in our society. I cannot think of a single premier league football team that does not have a black player starring in it. Several rely greatly on the contribution of youngsters from such backgrounds. We have already heard tributes to the achievements of women in athletics in the Olympic games and elsewhere. Many have come from ethnic minorities.

I will deal next with the relationship between education and sport. I hope that the Minister will bear it in mind that I shall address my remarks to him because I recognise that there is an inevitable overlap between his Department and the Department for Education. It is important that we take the opportunity to sharpen the bargaining position of the Minister and his Department in relation to education.

Opposition Members emphasise our great anxieties about some aspects of the decline in sporting opportunities. This morning, we have had too rosy a picture and it has been said that all is well in sport. Many of us contend that there is much that leaves great cause for anxiety. We should tackle the problem at grass roots in terms of educational and sporting opportunity among the young.

My more general point is that there is no cause for complacency in society about the level of participation in sport. It may be high, but it is still far too low. Some 50 per cent. of adults engage in no sporting recreational activity. As the Minister freely confessed, some aspects of the nation's health would benefit greatly from increased participation in sport.

Dr. Spink

The hon. Gentleman talked about education and sport. Does he welcome the fact that the national curriculum now makes physical training a compulsory subject from the ages of five to 16? Is he not ashamed of the fact that his party was against the national curriculum only a couple of years ago?

Mr. Davies

The hon. Gentleman has attempted to pre-empt what I was going to say about aspects of the national curriculum, so I will cover his points in a moment. I welcome the fact that physical education is a compulsory part of the national curriculum for children from the ages of five to 16.

There is no cause for complacency in terms of the nation's achievements in sport. I have referred to the question of the nation's health. The nation's achievements in sport leave a great deal to be desired. It will not do for our country to pretend that there is a trickle-down effect in national sporting associations which guarantees the development of talent and achievement for the future.

The most obvious example is the fact that this country has staged for more than 100 years the most prestigious tennis tournament in the world. Wimbledon produces vast revenues, yet we are no nearer today than we were 30 years ago to any achievement of tennis excellence. The facilities available here are restricted overwhelmingly to private clubs. Public provision is still at a pathetically low level. In France, even the most modest village has several tennis courts of a high standard. We should recognise that the French drive 20 years ago to develop interest in tennis leaves our efforts pale by comparison.

There are no major team games in which we can be satisfied with our overall performance. There are widespread anxieties about the technical level of excellence of the England football team which is an important flag-bearer for England. There are similar anxieties about the Scottish side. It is not the case that teams representing Britain sweep all before them—far from it. When did we last win the soccer world cup? It was 26 years ago in 1966. We just struggled into the last four in more recent times. Our test cricket performances have fallen considerably below standard. Although England has reigned supreme for a short time in the rugby home championship, the moment we clash with teams from the southern hemisphere we are obliged to give way.

We should recognise that there are anxieties about our major team games. The Minister and my hon. Friend the Member for Stalybridge and Hyde (Mr. Pendry) mentioned those who were successful in the Olympic games—and I congratulate them—but we cannot pretend that the nation regards the overall achievements of the British Olympic team as being outstanding. That has been the case for a number of recent Olympic games.

We need to think seriously about the roots of achievement and the Government must answer our case. There is a pronounced decline in school sport. There is provision within the national curriculum for physical education, but certain aspects of team games in sport have suffered enormously in recent years. They have suffered from the forced sell-off, because of constraints on expenditure and resources, of school playing fields which has greatly reduced the facilities of many of our local authority schools. Such a reduction in facilities would never be countenanced in the more elite parts of the private education sector. I have not heard of sales of the playing fields of Eton, for instance.

The Government also stand charged with having done a great deal of damage to sport in schools during the long wrangles of the 1980s over teachers' contracts and pay. That was a typical example of the Government's, knowing the price of everything and the value of nothing. They ended up with a narrow definition of teachers' responsibilities, thereby throwing away vast amounts of good will and voluntary effort which had sustained school sport for many years. The reduction in school sports can be directly attributed to the reduction in that contribution.

We cannot expect private institutions or clubs to take up the slack. They often find themselves having to enforce subscriptions which in turn deter less well-off youngsters. So what is lost at school is not made up for by private clubs.

I apologise if the Minister thinks that I am talking too much about education, but I must add that it is time that the nation thought seriously about the role of sport in higher education. I know that it has always been part of our elitist tradition—we did not mind Oxford and Cambridge showing a little indulgence from time to time when it came to entry qualifications so that their rugger sides and rowing crews would be of the requisite standard. But pressure from the meritocratic growth of society has lowered performance standards in these areas. Oxbridge no longer competes adequately with rugby clubs or county cricket sides. In any case, it was always a hopelessly restrictive and elitist model, based on a misconception of higher education.

What we ought to be thinking about is whether sporting achievement and performance can be truly realised in higher education. Why cannot there be many more courses that include sporting excellence and an understanding of sport? We of course should not go overboard like the American college system which includes quasi-professional sides playing football, but we certainly should ensure that youngsters with great potential for achieving sporting excellence can enter universities and higher education institutions to pursue courses that include opportunities for sport, while sustaining an educational component in their work. The tragedy for so many of our youngsters is that they face a brutal choice between pursuing sporting excellence, and following an academic career which will end their chance of developing sporting skills. We owe it to talented youngsters and to ourselves to nurture sporting excellence by ensuring that higher education institutions take responsibility for it.

My final response, therefore, to the hon. Member for Castle Point (Dr. Spink) is that it is not enough to provide physical education for children between the ages of five and 16. Beyond that age, schools and other academic institutions should develop sporting excellence. The old 19th century myth persists: there are those who achieve through the intellect and there are those who achieve through physical prowess as if the two did not complement each other. The person who is to be commended is the one who can demonstrate a capacity in both areas.

I see our sporting culture being weakened because of changes in television. I address these remarks directly to the Minister. There are great dangers in leaving televised sport to the market. Already this year, BSkyB and the BBC in collaboration have taken off our television screens —apart from "Match of the Day" highlights—most of our football matches. The televising of major premier league games has thus been restricted to a narrower audience. We should not accept the idea that crucial parts of the nation's sporting culture should be restricted to broadcasting on BSkyB which, by definition, will transmit only to a minority for the foreseeable future.

I know that the Minister will say that crucial events have been guaranteed for more universal appreciation, but I am worried about the list of those events. I should like the Government to show that they share my anxieties in the wake of recent developments in the broadcasting of football.

First, the list of sporting events protected from pay television is too short. We need to develop a wider appreciation of a range of sports. Appreciation of the open golf championships is growing apace, but they can be sold off to restrictive television. The sport is likely to go for the highest bidder, even though the Minister has said that golf is one of the fastest growing participatory sports.

I am even more worried about the fact that the cricket world cup last winter was shown only on BSkyB. Even the Prime Minister winced at that. Cricket lovers across the nation were shocked that neither the BBC nor independent television had access to those broadcasts.

Among the sporting world and the public at large who enjoy watching televised sport there is a widespread misconception: the restrictions control not satellite broadcasting but pay television only. It is, however, open to BSkyB, with the vast resources of the multinational media network that Rupert Murdoch controls, to operate a massive loss-leading exercise of grabbing major sporting events for restricted television. When the agreements covering some of these events run out for the BBC and ITV, and BSkyB successfully outbids our national television networks to show the cup final, the world cup final or the test matches, I warn the Minister that the nation will rise up in arms against such a misconceived development in television. The Government's ideological preconceptions are related to the law of the market. However, I warn them that they must not allow the law of market television to restrict access to our major sporting events.

I welcome the development of the national lottery in terms of the increased resources that will be made available. However, I share the anxieties that have been expressed about the impact on the football pools and the resources made available from the pools to the Football Trust and to the Foundation for Sport and the Arts. Unless there is some concession to the football pools in terms of a continuation of the betting duty exemption, and unless the pools can promote their services on the same basis as the national lottery, resources for football and the enormous costs of the implementation of the Taylor report will run into difficulties.

We are all united in our determination to secure the Olympic games for Manchester. I make no bones about the fact that I have an immediate constituency interest because Oldham will benefit as a listed site when the bid is successful. In that drive to success, I assure the Minister that the north-west will speak with one voice with the rest of the nation to ensure that the Olympic games come to Manchester. I did not today expect to hear praise from the Government for the quality of Manchester's weather. If the Government can take such a favourable view of the weather in the north-west, they can surely guarantee full support for the Olympic games bid.

11.51 am
Dr. Robert Spink (Castle Point)

It is a great privilege for me to take part in this debate, in which I want to refer to education and health. I congratulate the hon. Member for Stalybridge and Hyde (Mr. Pendry). I was delighted to hear that he was a boxer. Hon. Members can see that I was a boxer. Judging from the shape of the nose of the hon. Member for Stalybridge and Hyde, clearly he was a better boxer than I was.

The link between education and sport is fundamental to a successful policy for sport, to the success of individuals in sport and to the success of our nation in all sporting activities. Children who are encouraged to take part in sport early in their lives generally tend to take part in sport later on in their lives, and that can only be a good thing. I therefore welcome the fact that the Department of National Heritage is working closely with the Department for Education in promoting sport in schools of all kinds.

As a member of the Education Select Committee, I am delighted that the national curriculum includes physical education, which will be compulsory for every schoolgirl and schoolboy from four to 16. That is as it should be, because PE develops a healthy body and a healthy mind. It also promotes a healthy awareness and understanding of the place of competition in sport and in life. Many sports help to develop a keen understanding of teamwork.

My constituency is on the Thames, and it includes Canvey island. I therefore welcome the fact that the Government have recommended that all pupils should be taught to swim by the age of 11. That will be a formal requirement from the autumn of 1994. My only criticism is to ask why that was not done years ago. The ability to swim will save the lives of children every week.

I also pay tribute to the Sports Council, which will spend £2.2 million in 1992–93 on developing sport for young people. That is a great initiative. However, I have another slight criticism. That level of spending is a little low in comparison with the massive sum spent on tobacco advertising. I welcome the work of the Sports Council and I congratulate it. I want to find ways to enable the council to do much more.

Hon. Members will forgive me if I refer a little to my constituency and mention the excellent sporting achievements of many disabled people in Castle Point. I have been deeply impressed by their efforts and achievements in sport. I congratulate the often unsung heroes of the Castle Point sports club for the disabled. What I enjoy most is the happiness, joy and fulfilment that sporting activity can bring to people of all levels of ability.

I also pay tribute to the champion coaching scheme, which promotes sporting opportunities after school hours. The scheme has enabled about 6,000 children and youths to enjoy the highest quality coaching. Its success will be consolidated by the allocation of an extra £1.3 million over the next two years. That is being made available by the excellent Foundation for Sport and the Arts to which the Minister referred.

Although recent developments in sport and education have been generally encouraging, there are some areas of concern, one of which was alluded to by the hon. Member for Oldham, Central and Royton (Mr. Davies). He referred to extra-curricular sport, but his analysis was wrong. I welcome the great efforts of many teachers who, in after-school hours and on a purely voluntary basis, run extra-curricular sporting activities. However, I call for a return to the regimes that endured before the teachers' dispute in the mid-1980s, when even greater extracurricular efforts were made by the teaching profession.

The present shortfall is the result of the actions of the teaching unions. It has nothing to do with the Government. However, let me unreservedly congratulate teachers on their dedication, caring attitude and professionalism which they show to our children. They often work well beyond the call of duty. Many teachers work longer hours than some hon. Members.

Sadly, the public perception is as misguided about the work load of teachers as it is about the work load of Members of Parliament. Will the Minister encourage the use of school facilities, including the facilities of grant-maintained schools, for the benefit of the whole community? I will press the Minister to take note of that point when the Education Bill is presented to the House.

I want now to refer to sport and health and the position of tobacco advertising and sponsorship—which, in reality, are the same thing. I take issue with my hon. Friend the Member for Luton, North (Mr. Carlisle). The Department of Health produced a brief in June on the European Community directive on tobacco advertising, which concluded that if the directive were implemented, it would result in the prohibition of sponsorship of sport of all kinds. That would be no bad thing—indeed, it should have been done years ago. No cigarette advertisements have been allowed on television in this country since 1965, yet Sir Donald Maitland, chairman of the Health Education Authority, tells us that 64 per cent. of children between the ages of nine and 14 honestly believe that they see tobacco advertising on television. How can that be? Sir Donald Maitland said: What they are seeing are sporting events sponsored by tobacco companies: cricket, snooker, tennis, rugby, motor racing, etc. There is currently an average of one hour's television coverage every day of sporting activity associated with the major tobacco brands. All of this coverage is on BBC Television. Hon. Members will know that the ITV companies decided formally not to televise tobacco-sponsored sporting events. It is a totally accepted fact that tobacco advertising increases consumption.

Mr. Nigel Evans

Hon. Members will have read the Smee report this week. It states that, whereas people may be aware through sport that Marlboro, for instance, might be associated with motor racing, that will not encourage people to smoke. More to the contrary is the fact that, with advertising for tobacco products at sporting events, we see warnings that smoking kills. That is far more persuasive than any other advertisement.

Dr. Spink

I am indebted to my hon. Friend for that intervention, but he is a little naive. If he believes that all that money is spent by those companies in a philanthropic way rather than in order to promote the consumption of their products, he is not the man I think he is.

We must act now to remove the farcical link between sport, which is good and healthy, and cigarettes, which are unhealthy and filthy. If hon. Members would like to take issue with me on that matter, I suggest that they nip down to their local hospital, pop into the lung and heart wards, and talk to the families of the people on the machines there.

Of course, the Government's attitude is that voluntary agreements are the best way to control tobacco advertising and that the EC directive need not be ratified in order to complete the single internal market. I do not agree with that at all. It is irrational and irresponsible. I urge action to remove cigarette advertising in sport, including sport sponsorship.

I realise that there are massive vested interests, and that my move will be strongly resisted. I realise also that the Exchequer receives massive sums from cigarette taxation. However, the money saved from reduced absenteeism and the consequential increase in production across the nation, and the money saved from reduced health care costs would more than compensate the Exchequer for that loss. That is to say nothing of the human costs that tobacco inflicts on smokers, their families and their friends.

The link between smoking and sport is deeply paradoxical. Sport offers the wonderful gift of health. Smoking takes that gift away. I now call on Her Majesty's Government to remove the link between sport and smoking.

I recognise also the excellent work of Mr. and Mrs. Blissett and others from Canvey island, who are doing so much to help health and sport on Canvey island in my constituency. They are doing so by resisting the proposed foreign coal transhipment terminal for Canvey island, a matter on which I shall soon present a petition to the House. That terminal would do to people's lungs what smoking does: coal dust would put their lungs at risk and inhibit their sporting opportunities.

I question the moribund Labour policy on sport, which is to meddle and put shackles on all forms of sport. Labour Members would throttle sport by the dead hand of bureaucratic control—that is, if it is possible to throttle something with a dead hand. Of all the daft Labour policies, few are dafter than that of discouraging competition in sport in schools. That did for sport in some schools what Labour education authorities did for reading standards and religious education in those schools.

I want to end on a positive and optimistic note. I welcome the Government's sporting policy which, in contrast to Labour's, is to promote wider participation and higher standards in sport across all sports, across the whole nation, across the whole of people's ability ranges and across all age groups. That is to be welcomed. I want to celebrate the excellence at all levels which is achieved by all those involved in sport—none more so than the players of Leeds United.

12.5 pm

Mr. Menzies Campbell (Fife, North-East)

I begin by apologising to the House if I leave soon after the conclusion of my speech. I have a long-standing engagement in Inverness later today and, if the weather forecast is to be believed, I may have to resort to skiing to reach it. I have advised the Minister and the hon. Member for Stalybridge and Hyde (Mr. Pendry), and they have been characteristically understanding of my position.

As the spokesman for my party, I welcome the Minister and the hon. Member for Stalybridge and Hyde. Their exchanges this morning were rather quieter than those that we have become used to in sports debates in recent years, but I doubt whether they will be anything other than constructive.

Mr. Pendry

I do not want to lull the hon. and learned Gentleman into a false stance, because I have said that the Minister is very much on trial. He is in his honeymoon period, so he deserves a little quiet at this stage in his parliamentary career as the Minister with responsibility for sport.

Mr. Campbell

The hon. Member for Stalybridge and Hyde brings to his new responsibility a great depth of knowledge of sport, but I do not think that he brings the unshakable conviction in his own infallibility which his predecessor exhibited from time to time.

I hope that the formation of the new Department will cause us to have more regular debates on sport. Today's debate has already eloquently demonstrated that, in future, we may need to be rather more specific about the topics that we discuss. If legislation is introduced to promote a national lottery, in respect of which my agnosticism remains unshaken, clearly that will be a focused debate.

For example, the sport and industry of horse racing is in crisis. It must surely be necessary at some very early stage for the House to have the opportunity to discuss the state of horse racing and to take account of the implications for the economy if it were to go further into decline.

I hope also that the Minister will be rather more prominent than his predecessor, who has been transferred to the Northern Ireland Office. I began to believe that, with the exception of test matches, the Minister's predecessor had taken an advanced course in potholing, so discreet was he in his appearances as Minister with responsibility for sport.

As the Minister said, this debate is timely after yet another Olympic games. I should like to say a word or two about the structure of sport, about international events and then a little more about drugs, which is a topic in which I have very considerable interest. Before I do so, I join hon. Members who have paid tribute to the quite extraordinary contribution of Sir Arthur Gold to sport in Britain over, I suspect, about 50 years.

I first met him when I was an international athlete in the United Kingdom athletics team and he was the team manager. I have known him as a distinguished sports administrator since then. His contribution extends to not only domestic but international sport. His reward with the accolade of knighthood brought a great deal of pleasure to his many friends and acquaintances. Sport in Britain will certainly be the poorer for his decision to retire from the important position he held.

It is perhaps a demonstration of how small and intimate is the sporting community in the United Kingdom, that Mr. Craig Reedie—who will replace Sir Arthur Gold—and I entered Glasgow university together in 1959. We read arts and then law together. Indeed, he still gives me certain financial advice. If his financial advice to the British Olympic Association was as good as his advice to me, the BOA was in good hands.

I am sorry that the hon. Member for Luton, North (Mr. Carlisle) has left, because I wanted to take up with him the South African rugby tour. He displayed what I might describe not unfairly as a certain degree of insensitivity when he referred to the tour as the springbok tour. Precisely that description caused so much offence to people in the African National Congress. It conceives, not least as a result of the playing of national anthems, and the appearance that no visible change has taken place since the constitutional discussions commenced in South Africa, that the rugby authorities and the rugby community in South Africa are unwilling to recognise that substantial constitutional change is afoot.

The House should recognise the maturity and sound common sense of the ANC. It created the circumstances in which the hon. Member for Neath (Mr. Hain) was compelled to withdraw his early-day motion. The ANC has behaved with great responsibility in the matter. All it had to do was to endorse what was being said. We might well have seen scenes such as those that some of us remember from the previous South African rugby tour. I stand fairly and squarely behind the Gleneagles agreement, and have always done so. Whatever one feels about the argument, those scenes were an unfortunate feature of an international sporting event in this country.

I think that I heard the hon. Member for Luton, North —I shall examine the Official Report, with great care—acknowledge that the sport boycott had been effective in provoking constitutional change in South Africa.

Mr. Pendry

That is right.

Mr. Campbell

The hon. Member for Stalybridge and Hyde corroborates what I say. If we are right, Opposition Members appear to have made a convert. Conversion is always welcome, however late it comes. However, in the case of the hon. Member for Luton, North, it occasions some surprise among those of us who have heard him speak on the topic in debates of this nature over the years.

We have long argued— I think that I speak for other Opposition parties in that—that sport needs to be an accepted priority for the Government. Clearly, we must enthusiastically welcome the creation of the new Department, and I should like to set it a task. I suggest that the Minister's first task should be a comprehensive audit of sports facilities in conjunction with local authorities throughout Britain, so that we can discover what facilities —whether private or public—exist and satisfy ourselves that they are being used to maximum advantage.

Reference has already been made to school facilities. In 1965, I attended my first meeting of the United Kingdom Sports Council. I was appointed by Denis Howell, as he then was. I remember an extended debate about dual community use of existing school facilities. We spent a long time discussing the deeply significant principle of who would pay the janitor if the facilities were made available to the public. The tragedy is, I suspect, that people still argue about who will pay the janitor. Often, that argument is the last obstruction to proper use of school facilities. After all, such facilities are paid for with public funds and are designed for public use.

Mr. Nigel Evans

Does the hon. and learned Gentleman agree that it is criminal that, during the long summer breaks, tennis courts and sports facilities in schools, colleges and universities are locked up and young people—indeed, people of all ages—are denied access to them? It is hardly surprising that we do so badly in sporting championships such as Wimbledon when people are denied access to such facilities.

Mr. Campbell

The hon. Gentleman makes a penetrating point. How many times do we drive or walk past colleges, universities or other institutions of higher education and see remarkable facilities unused, when, out in the street, children try to play with a ball while they dodge the passing cars? The hon. Gentleman makes a profound point, and I hope that the Minister will do his best to ensure that action is taken on a view strongly held on both sides of the House.

The hon. Member for Bolsovet (Mr. Skinner) raised an issue on behalf of the Coal Industry Social Welfare Organisation. He makes a strong point, not least because the communities served by the facilities are often geographically remote. The villages were built close to the coal. Sometimes, the facilities are the only recreational facilities in the community. If one started from scratch, it might be difficult, for many different financial reasons, to build equivalent facilities in those locations—indeed, one probably would not embark on building such facilities in those communities now.

If the facilities already exist, surely everthing should be done to preserve them. If local authorities cannot purchase them, is it not possible to consider some form of leasing or some imaginative use of public resources to ensure that the facilities continue to be available to the communities they serve?

I unequivocally welcome the creation of the United Kingdom sports commission. I hope that the Minister will not think me mischievous if I say that it makes more than a passing nod to federalism, a concept which does not always find favour among Conservative Members. Its success will depend on the extent to which its policies accurately reflect the needs of the United Kingdom as a whole.

I further argue that we should establish a United Kingdom institute of sport to complement the commission and create a coherent structure for the development of coaching, sports science and sports medicine. It could bring together the work of the Institute of Sports Medicine, the British Olympic Association, the National Coaching Foundation, the British Institute of Sport Coaches and the British Association of Sport Scientists.

As the hon. Member for Stalybridge and Hyde said, we should never forget the importance of sport in the economy. It accounts for almost 400,000 jobs in the United Kingdom. It generates a £9 billion turnover annually. It also generates healthy revenue for the Government. Before I move on from a brief consideration of the financial significance of sport, I remind the Minister yet again that the case for charitable status for amateur sport remains wholly convincing. Those of us who believe that the Government should proceed in that way will continue to press the Minister and Treasury Ministers to bring about that modest relaxation. It would have an extraordinary galvanising effect on amateur sport throughout Britain.

I turn to international events. The hon. Member for Stalybridge and Hyde gave an example of the young man who won bronze medals in the archery competition but was denied public funds. That is monstrous. I do not know whether the Minister was embarrassed, but I felt embarrassed on behalf of the United Kingdom and the House of Commons. We are all quick to praise sportsmen, and by association to derive some of the glory which attaches to their achievements. The young man is a record breaker not only because he has won medals which Britain has not won for 84 years but because he is aged only 17 and therefore something of a prodigy. It is monstrous that he was denied access to public funds for the period during which he represented his country. I hope that the Minister will do something about it.

Mr. Key

Whatever the rights and wrongs of the issue, one can be legalistic and say that, by statute, one is bound to take a certain course of action, and such actions were duly taken. No errors or exceptions were made in that case. Nevertheless, I share the hon. and learned Gentleman's sense of embarassment about it. He will be interested to know that I am in correspondence with my colleague at the Department of Social Security, and I shall meet him soon to discuss ways in which such issues may be handled more sensitively.

Mr. Campbell

I am grateful to the Minister for that intervention. If that is to be his attitude when such issues arise, he will receive a warm welcome and considerable support from Opposition Members interested in such matters.

On the question of financial support for individuals, it is assumed that all international sportsmen are at least able to support themselves by practising their sports, if they are not rich. The truth is that the position varies from sport to sport, and there are great variations within some sports at international level. How can a man or woman give of his or her best at international level, if they are worried about their financial circumstances? How can a man or woman hope to compete at his or her best at international level, unless they can afford the time or the commitment which international sport now requires? There is an interesting illustration. A member of the rowing eight needs the same commitment as someone who competes in an individual event, such as the Olympic 100 metres. I know that the accessibility of financial support is very different for those two people, who give the same time, effort and commitment.

I do not suggest that there should be public financial support for sportsmen, but we must try to create an environment in which such support can be made available for promising sportsmen, who will be the medallists of the future, as well as for the best sportsmen.

On support for international events in the United Kingdom, the last time that we debated sport, the then Minister treated as risible my suggestion that the Government should give massive financial support to Manchester. If the Under-Secretary looks at the Official Report, he will be able to read the response. Yet, within weeks, and no doubt partly due to the influence of an imminent general election, the Prime Minister announced support to the tune of £55 million. I welcome that support —one could not do otherwise—not least because I know Mr. Bob Scott. The bid that he has mounted, and the care and skill which he has demonstrated in carrying it through, has been remarkable, and he deserves the congratulations of the House. However, we need unequivocal support from the Government.

I witnessed the unhappy events of the last Commonwealth games in Edinburgh at close quarters, and I was also aware of the difficulties caused as a result of Sheffield hosting the world student games. There is no doubt that our international reputation was not assisted by either of those events, and we have much resistance to overcome.

I draw the Under-Secretary's attention to the fact that one merely has to consider the resources being put into the Atlanta bid to realise what we are up against. We have no Coca-Cola company to stand four square behind the bid and to offer to meet every deficit however it may arise. Perforce, we shall have to look to the Government to lead support for the Manchester bid, which is clearly worthy of support, not merely for the geographical area in which it is located, but for the United Kingdom, as hon. Members have said.

Drug abuse in sport concerns me greatly. As some hon. Members may be aware, I have several times tried to persuade the Government to legislate to make anabolic steriods controlled drugs, under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971, and to make it a criminal offence to possess them or to have the intent to supply them. I have succeeded in persuading Ministers to some extent, because Home Office Ministers have made at least two public announcements that such legislation was to be promoted. Along with Colin Moynihan, I received a favourable reference in a leader in The Times about the success of the campaign in which we had both been involved.

I am sad to say that there has been no legislation. There has been a promise to introduce legislation to protect those under 18, but that would be insufficient. I believe—I say this advisedly—that the abuse of anabolic steroids is widespread in United Kingdom sport, both in organised sport and in informal recreation based on gymasiums.

The Sports Council and governing bodies, with Government assistance and encouragement, have a programme of random testing, within and outside competitions, which I welcome. I also welcome the idea that the education of young sportsmen and women is an essential component. However, I understand that sportsmen and women are willing to take the risk which the use, or abuse, of anabolic steroids necessarily involves.

Mr. Key

That is certainly a live issue, and the Home Secretary has lead responsibility for the legal control of drugs and has said that he is reviewing the position. My view is that anabolic steroids should become controlled substances. The evidence of the extent of their misuse and their harmful medical effects is sufficient to warrant their control under the Misuse of Drugs Act.

Mr. Campbell

Yet again, the Minister earns our support and thanks for his sensible and speedy acknowledgement of a matter which has occupied the minds of some Opposition Members for some time. I hope that he will not demur if I develop the reasons why our views are correct.

It is said that anabolic steriods are being supplied in virtually every gymnasium in the country, and because such recreation is informal there is no question of those people who have access to and take such drugs being tested. The hon. Member for Birmingham, Hall Green (Mr. Hargreaves), who is unhappily unable to be here because of a constituency engagement, spoke to me in the Lobby last night. He has made a study of the subject and has acquired considerable information, which I am sure he will be happy to make available to the Under-Secretary if he has not already done so.

How can one tell that someone is abusing anabolic steroids? There are a number of tell-tale signs: first, a sudden and unexplained improvement in performance; secondly, a dramatic increase in muscle bulk; and thirdly, sudden unexplained bouts of aggression. Why do I believe that those drugs should be controlled under the 1971 Act? First, they are known to have the potential to damage health; they are known to carry with them the risk of cancer, especially of the liver. They are known to affect the sexual characteristics of both men and women and to give rise to blood clotting.

So far, we have no experience of the long-term effects of the abuse of anabolic steroids, but there is evidence of at least one death caused by steroid abuse, that of Tom Hawk, a body-builder, who, upon post-mortem examination, having died suddenly and without explanation, was found to have a grossly enlarged heart which the cardiologist responsible for the examination considered could be attributed to abuse of anabolic steroids.

There is also increasing evidence of psychological effects, of sudden bouts of aggression, and there is evidence that the drugs may be the cause of personality change. Dr. Priscilla Choy and her colleagues at the department of psychology in the university of London have carried out some of the most interesting and innovative work in that field.

These drugs are dangerous, but there is a risk that naive or ambitious sports men or women will believe that taking them is the only way to win. When the Olympic gold medal in the 100 metres is won by a cheat, drug abuse goes right to the heart of sport. I am afraid that there is hardly a sport in the United Kingdom in which power is the predominant factor that does not supply some evidence or in which there is not at least some suspicion of steroid abuse. I have believed for some time that legislation is necessary, and I welcome the Minister's intervention, making clear his personal position. Subordinate legislation should be enough and it is high time that such legislation was introduced. I look forward to the Government doing so.

12.30 pm
Mr. Anthony Coombs (Wyre Forest)

I take pleasure in participating in the debate and welcome the Government's action, and especially that of the Prime Minister, in setting up the Department of National Heritage which, for the first time, gives sport a place at the Cabinet table. I pay tribute to the former Secretary of State for National Heritage, my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Putney (Mr. Mellor). I was proud to be his Parliamentary Private Secretary for three years. He showed great dynamism in setting up the Department and, despite the qualities of the present Secretary of State, he is greatly missed by sporting organisations.

The inclusion of sport in the Department of National Heritage recognises its importance, because it is not a pigeon hole of our national life but integral to our economy and culture. We have heard that sport provides 476,000 jobs and about £10 billion worth of gross national product. It has an important role to play in the nation's health, as set out in the Department of Health document. A recent Mori poll found that 83 per cent. of people felt that sport was important for health. As hon. Members have said, sport is important in promoting a sense of social stability, cohesion and character development. The Mori poll also found that eight out of 10 people thought that sport was increasingly important in that regard.

It is also right that the Department of National Heritage should be responsible for tourism, because it has been calculated that 15 per cent. of tourists come here specifically to pursue sporting opportunities. Over the past 20 years the improvement in sports facilities and in participation has been impressive. The general household survey shows that in the past five years alone 29 million people—some 2 million more than before—take part in some form of sport once a month. That is about two thirds of the population, and the increase applies across the social scale and to the ethnic minorities.

Sporting facilities are probably at their best ever level. The west midlands has 158 sports halls, and in the past two years two sports halls have been built in my constituency, one in Kidderminster and the other in Bewdley. We have 412 athletic tracks and 116 swimming pools, which is a record. More significantly, over the past 10 years the number of artificial grass surfaces, which have led to a massive increase in the interest in sports such as hockey, has risen from 30 to 282. It is no coincidence that one third of the current capital budget for the West Midlands council for sport and recreation is committed to the provision of articial grass surfaces. That improvement is a good example of genuine co-operation between county and district councils, the Government, the Sports Council, voluntary bodies and the private sector. It is interesting to see that over the past 10 years the amount of private sponsorship money has risen from £129 million to £230 million a year.

In all, in terms of participation and facilities, the sporting sector is burgeoning, vibrant and improving. Equally, given the fact that the sporting sector has been characterised by a multiplicity of initiatives, one of its weaknesses is that it has no strategic body overviewing sports strategy throughout the United Kingdom. No fewer than 400 governing bodies are associated with the Central Council of Physical Recreation. The Sports Council, the UK sports commission to be set up shortly, the British Olympic Association, the Foundation for Sport and the Arts and a myriad county and district councils are all involved in the provision of sport.

It is interesting to see that the Sports Council shows that, although there are 150,000 sports clubs in the United Kingdom—about the same number as in France—the average number of members of those sports clubs is only 43 against double that in France and about seven times as many in Germany. That multiplicity of small clubs may lead to a weakness in co-ordinating sport strategy in the future.

I hope that the United Kingdom sports commission will confine itself to strategy, to facilitating development, rather than trying to produce it itself. I was slightly concerned to hear the Minister say that the split of funding between the United Kingdom sports commission and the English sports council was likely to be about £18 million for the United Kingdom sports commission and £22 million for the English sports council. I was under the impression that the sports commission would be a co-ordinating body rather than one that provided facilities. The £18 million must be looked at and more funds given to the English sports council.

A diversity of provision can be a strength and I was delighted to see recently, for example, that the Birmingham city council, the Sports Council, the National Coaching Foundation and governing bodies of sport are all involved in producing the West Midlands regional performance centre. In my constituency, the county and district councils, together with the Foundation for Sport and the Arts and the West Midlands council for sport and recreation, hope to build a sporting centre of regional significance. In Birmingham, we have recently seen initiatives, such as "Fit for the Job", which encompass initiatives by the Confederation of British Industry, Birmingham city council and the Sports Council.

Most important in terms of co-ordinating sports activities is dual use. Certain authorities are good at ensuring that leisure facilities are put in schools, as my hon. Friend the Member for Ribble Valley (Mr. Evans) mentioned earlier. In other authorities, dual use has not got off the ground and, as a result, there is an enormous waste of facilities. I urge the Government, through the Department of National Heritage and the Department for Education, to ensure that every local education authority follows the example of Birmingham city council, which I have criticised in many other respects. It has been in the forefront of providing dual use facilities. Recently, I visited the Cocksmoor Woods centre in Birmingham, which is probably a paradigm of its kind.

If grant-maintained status is to take hold—I am sure that it will—education access boards must take a more constructive view of the ownership of assets that would otherwise be transferred from local authorities to individual grant-maintained schools. The Opposition have a point when they say that we cannot expect a local education authority to invest large amounts of capital in dual use facilities in a school, only to see them shuffled off into a grant-maintained school without opportunities for access by the community.

There are three sectors in which co-operation between the myriad sporting organisations can be improved: finances and resources, marketing, and general attitudes towards sport.

My hon. Friend the Member for Luton, North (Mr. Carlisle) was correct to say that, whether we like it or not, the finances of both central Government and local government will be tighter than ever over the next few years. That is already evident in local authority expenditure on revenue account, which has dropped from £1.5 billion in 1985 to £1.3 billion in 1990 at constant prices. The same applies to capital expenditure which has dropped, albeit from a high level.

Although large numbers of new facilities were established in the 1970s and 1980s, many of them are now coming up for major repairs, maintenance and refurbishment. The Sports Council estimated that in 1988 the ratio of expenditure on new projects to that on repairs was likely to be 15:1; by this year the likely ratio will be 1.8:1, and no less than £1.3 billion will be needed over the next five years for spending on the refurbishment of swimming pools.

The only way to tackle such problems, given the stringencies on public sector financing, is by greater involvement by the private sector, not only in the provision of new facilities, but in refurbishing existing ones. I was pleased to hear my hon. Friend the Minister announce encouraging news about "Sports Match". It is important for local authorities to be allowed to use—albeit on a controlled basis—a greater proportion of their capital receipts for refurbishment, particularly in relation to investment by the private sector.

We must reconsider the tax treatment of sporting organisations such as the Rugby Football Union, Wimbledon and the British Olympic Association—which are effectively non-profit making organisations—given that the Government receive £3.3 billion a year from sport. There is also a case for a sports enterprise allowance in some parts of the country to be given to private companies that were prepared totally to refurbish sports facilities that would otherwise not attract private capital. That policy could apply in the same way as it does in our industrial strategy.

The national lottery will be important in future, and I have some sympathy with the argument of the Foundation for Sport and the Arts and other organisations that the lottery and existing pools organisations should compete on a level playing field. However, we cannot have a successful and vibrant national lottery if it is continually shackled by taxation and artificially close competition from existing organisations. If the lottery is to be successful, we must give it 100 per cent. support as it is a new concept in this country. It will be of tremendous benefit to the country and we should bear that uppermost in our minds when discussing its future.

The second sector in which there needs to be close co-operation is marketing. One of the items that the Sports Council identified as needing improvement in the marketing of sport was ensuring that policy documents issued from the Sports Council at national level reached local level. The message of "What's your sport" and "Ever thought of sport?" has not trickled down to the myriad sports clubs and individuals as it should. There is a case for greater co-ordination of marketing at local level between tourism information centres, centres run by the Arts Council and those run by sporting organisations. It is important that the Foundation for Sport and the Arts should become involved in promoting international events with local sporting organisations. It is even more vital that, through sports scholarships, by emphasising the importance of the sports links scheme and as a result of improvements in the national curriculum, we encourage greater investment in sport in schools.

My final point relates to attitude. One of the most important speeches that I have heard recently was that delivered by Judy Simpson, who used to be an Olympic athlete, and who conveyed to people the message that sport was not only good for health but fun and an opportunity to meet people. Athletes can ram that message home. Judy Simpson emphasised the importance of health —indeed, she made the speech on a health day that I had organised.

I regard as appalling the findings of the Allied Dunbar national fitness survey, which was alluded to by the hon. Member for Stalybridge and Hyde (Mr. Pendry) in a very good speech. That survey showed that 80 per cent. of the population believe themselves to be fit, yet a third of men and two thirds of women cannot continue to walk at a reasonable pace on a one-in-20 slope. That suggests that the nation is suffering from delusion on a massive scale. When we add to that the fact that 50 per cent. of women aged over 55 regard sustaining a reasonable walking pace —three miles per hour—for several minutes on level ground as severe exertion, it is hardly surprising that we have the worst cardiac problems in Europe.

The Health Education Authority and district and local authorities, including my own, are trying to get the health message across. It is crucial that the Department of Health should set specific targets for exercise among different age groups in the community to reduce significantly the incidence of cardiovascular problems. That activity must not be confined to older people but must encompass younger people, not least because an horrific survey by Exeter university showed that 50 per cent. of girls and a third of boys of school age did not do enough exercise to avoid cardiovascular problems later in life. The health message is crucial, and the Government as a whole—not just the Department of National Heritage but the Department for Education and the Department of Health —must take that on board.

Sport encourages the team spirit and, if properly supervised, encourages the spirit of fair play. Given my attitude to so many of the activities of Birmingham city council, it may seem incongruous that I should commend its department of recreation and community services on its community sports club project whose purpose is to try to encourage the development of team sport and team spirit over that of the casual sport encouraged by many of the policies to which we have referred this morning.

In sum, the problems of sport are problems of growth, success and co-ordination. If we involve the private sector more in funding in the ways that I have described, if we make the lottery a success, if we co-ordinate sports, arts and tourism marketing activities, and if we push the health message, we shall have a more sportsmanlike, healthy and active population, which can only be to our advantage.

I recognise the crucial role that the Department of National Heritage has to play in all this. That is why I was so delighted to be asked by the previous Secretary of State to serve as his PPS. I will remain closely interested in the Department's activities and I wish its Ministers the very best of success.

12.48 pm
Mr. Jim Callaghan (Heywood and Middleton)

Having served on several Committees with the Minister, and being aware of his dedication and hard work on those Committees, I congratulate him on his promotion. I am sure that, with the same dedication and hard work, he will be an excellent Minister for Sport.

I took particular interest in the beginning of the Minister's speech, when he said that, as a teacher, he had done much sterling work on behalf of children. He nudged my memory banks, because I, too, was a teacher many years ago. It was my privilege to run three schoolboy football teams voluntarily for many years. It was hard work, but it was extremely rewarding for a variety of reasons, one of which was when a youngster achieved international recognition.

My deep concern each year was the lack of good facilities. My boys played on a local authority park situated some miles away from the school. The changing facilities comprised little more than a cubicle in a converted whitewashed cowshed. There was no electricity —I used candles for light during the dark months—and no hot or cold water, but the cubicle did have a bin toilet and a wooden trough urinal. Hon. Members will recognise that facilities were excellent!

I felt ashamed, particularly in wintry weather, that I had to send the boys home caked in freezing mud. My frequent protestations to the local authority about the state of the facilities resulted in their being closed down. We were punished for protesting.

Years later, it was my privilege to visit South Korea with the Select Committee on Transport. I asked whether it was possible for members of the Committee to see the facilities provided by the South Korean Government for the Seoul Olympic games. The authorities quickly agreed to the request. On one of our days off, they took us to the Olympic campus. I was staggered and amazed at the superb facilities provided. I realised that I had been overtaken in my ambition to obtain light and water in my whitewashed cowshed for my schoolboy footballers. Obviously I had not aimed high enough. I asked what use was now being made of the magnificient stadiums. I was informed that the facilities had been used for a variety of subsequent asiatic games, but it was also pointed out that in the middle of the campus was a large college of education, similar to Loughborough, in which hundreds of students were studying to be sports instructors. As a result, the facilities for sport were in constant daily use. With that in mind, and as a Mancunian born and bred, I am delighted to support Manchester's Olympic bid for the year 2000 and to bring to the Minister's notice the consequent bid of Hopward Hall college in my constituency for Olympic 2000 satellite venue status.

For the third time in succession, Britain is bidding to host the Olympic games. Manchester, the British candidate, has the backing of the Government, national and international business and local authorities. For the first time, a bidding city, Manchester, has the active support of the Government, who have committed £55 million to develop the venue. I thank them for that. As a result, Manchester will have two major facilities under construction by September 1993—a £50 million complex comprising a major indoor arena seating 18,000 people and a £9 million covered velodrome. The 121-acre east Manchester site for a £12 million complex will have been acquired and reclaimed by the time the bid is ready. It will comprise the Olympic stadium, which will seat 60,000 people and will be capable of an increased capacity of 80,000 seats.

Decisions on other venues that are strategically distributed across the north of England will be made later, and that is the point of my speech. As the International Olympic Committee decides in September 1993 on the nomination to host the 2000 games, Manchester must submit a fully documented bid to the IOC by then. The Manchester bid is based on the development of an Olympic ring, with as many venues as possible within a motorway ring around Manchester. Therefore, the bid will be considerably enhanced by the evidence that facilities to host the Olympic games exist or that future development is committed in the area.

Hopwood Hall college, which is located in my constituency and set in the most beautiful and magnificent grounds, has accordingly produced a feasibility study on the college becoming a nominated satellite venue before the scheduled visit by the international Olympic representatives. If the Minister wants a copy of that feasibility study, which is supported by three Members of Parliament—one Labour, one Conservative and one Liberal Democrat, who attended meetings during the summer recess—I shall gladly let him have one.

Hopwood Hall college is a local authority tertiary college, formed in September 1990 and funded by the Rochdale metropolitan borough council. The campus is situated south of Middleton in my constituency, close to the M62 at junction 19 and has a frontage to the A664, leading to the M66 motorway ring around Manchester. The campus is three miles from Rochdale and six miles from Greater Manchester city centre. A new station on the Manchester railway line is proposed at Slattocks, which is within walking distance of the college.

The college's draft business plan sets out a number of strategic objectives for the campus. It must develop a new sports centre to satisfy Olympic standards specifications and achieve selection as a small area satellite venue. There will be a training complex for the 1996 European football championships which will provide the facilities necessary to secure the continued involvement of Bobby Charlton Enterprises in delivering residential and one-day courses in soccer skills.

Hopwood Hall college is designated within the Manchester venue strategy to host the Olympic judo competition and some of the preliminary rounds of the Olympic handball competition. The college can satisfy the Manchester Olympic bid committee on the after-use of the venue, and that the venue is practical and does not have grandiose, unrealisable plans. The venue is easily accessible to spectators, competitors and officials in terms of travelling times from the major venues, the athletes' village and the major hotels and airports. The college venue is of the highest quality, both in terms of the competition and the ancillary facilities such as training and warm-up areas, medical and first aid suites and meeting rooms.

I could go on and list all the superb facilities already in the campus, but that would take up too much time. However, I shall say that the overall technical requirements of the Olympic handball competition are that we need one handball playing hall, with a connected warm-up hall, seating for 7,000 people, changing rooms for teams and officials, medical and dope testing rooms. For the judo, we need a competition hall seating 8,000 spectators.

The predominant users of the complex after the games will be the college, with surplus capacity being used by the community, clubs and organisations that have their own operational requirements and resources. Effective programming of use will realise spare capacity which, in turn, will provide the opportunity for bodies such as Bobby Charlton Enterprises, sports clubs and the community at large to utilise the facilities to deliver the services that are demanded of them. The research done into the feasibility of the satellite venue has been carried out by York Consulting Ltd. of Leeds and its research has shown a significant demand from clubs and organisations in the north Manchester area. Some 400 football teams, for example, are registered in the area. The Oldham Owls disabled sports club seeks to establish a permanent home base for its sports and social activities. It believes that its requirements can be satisfied by the facilities to be provided at the college.

The college will be able to provide facilities for tennis, bowls, basketball, volleyball and martial arts. The proposal is for a feasible, flexible facility which will be used on a long-term basis for the college's core purposes of education and training, but which will also have the capacity for use by a wide range of users, such as the 9,000 students and members of the community, engaged in a wide range of sports.

The Minister said of the Manchester bid: A successful bid, well executed, would be a great boost to the regional economy and urban regeneration in Manchester and the north-west. I have, for example, seen estimates that suggest that the event could add £0.5 billion to the United Kingdom invisible exports … Partnership is a common theme of our whole approach to investment and regeneration … We expect local commitment, participation, value for money and well-constructed ideas that are capable of implementation."—[Official Report, 4 July 1991; Vol. 194, c.540.] The Hopwood Hall college bid for the satellite venue status meets all those requirements.

On 22 June 1992, the Secretary of State for Education agreed an additional capital resource of £2.5 million to enable the local education authority to discharge all outstanding liabilities relating to the purchase of the Hopwood Hall site and to the convenanted refurbishment of the college buildings. On Friday 17 July 1992, the Queen officially opened the college.

Accordingly, I can do no better than to invite the Minister to follow in the Queen's footsteps and to visit the college. I shall introduce him to the principal, Mr. Wailes, to Mr. Ronnie Todd, the resources manager, and to Mr. Peter Jackson, the sports development officer. All of them, together with York Consulting Ltd., have contributed so much to the college's bid for satellite venue status.

I am sure that the Minister will be impressed when he tours the college campus. To coin a phrase, the college intends to go for gold. There are no medals for coming second. I ask the Minister please to pay us a visit.

1.2 pm

Lady Olga Maitland (Sutton and Cheam)

I am delighted that sport has now been energised and given a top priority by the Government. It has had a lead from the Prime Minister and I was delighted to see that sport has now been raised to Cabinet level, as has been mentioned this morning. Much has been achieved and a long catalogue could be recited, but much still needs to be done.

There is bad news about national fitness as was pointed out by the hon. Member for Stalybridge and Hyde (Mr. Pendry) and by my hon. Friend the Member for Wyre Forest (Mr. Coombs) who referred to the Allied Dunbar report. They could have added a few more facts. One in three of all men and two thirds of all women were unable to continue walking at a reasonable pace—3 mph—up a one in 20 slope without becoming breathless and having to slow down or stop. They could also have said that 8 per cent. of men and 13 per cent. of women are obese. In a survey on 16 to 24-year-olds, 70 per cent. of the young men and 91 per cent. of the women were living lives below the activity level necessary for a fit and healthy life.

If we cast our eyes around the Chamber, could we in all honesty claim that we maintain a proper fitness record? I had better come clean. My own record is one of running up and down stairs in the House, a spot of gardening, mothers' tennis, and sailing boats and turning them upside down. Perhaps I have a long way to go.

In no other country can there be such a gap between the theory of a fit and healthy populace and the actual practice —we are crying out to get something done. Never has more brain power, never have more pens pushing paper, been devoted to telling us how we can become fitter, but we still need to do more and continue our efforts to encourage health and fitness. We must persuade our citizens that they need to exercise at least 20 minutes three times a week if they want to increase their fitness. At first sight that seems rather demanding, but we must bear in mind that our starting point is very low and that we still have a long way to go. Many people could quickly move up the activity ladder from the lowest rungs by taking more brisk walks, using stairs, not lifts, walking to the shops instead of going by car, and spending more time doing heavy work in the house and garden.

Active living begins in childhood—hence the importance of sport in schools. Interestingly, during the past four years successive reports have established that most 16-year-olds do not even have one exercise period a week. Most school leavers do not take part in organised exercise, certainly nothing the equivalent of a 20-minute walk.

I congratulate the Government on recognising the importance of sport in schools. I declare an interest as a member of the Education Select Committee. I am delighted to see that the Education Department is liaising closely with the Department of National Heritage. Physical education is now a foundation subject in the national curriculum. I was pleased to see that in 1990 the Select Committee moved this issue up the political agenda, notably stressing the importance of children learning to swim and taking part in team games, which have now become compulsory up to the age of 16.

We need to bear it in mind just how important these sports in schools are. They induce not only physical but mental health. A child who does well on the sports field but is a low academic achiever will feel his morale lifted. He will feel better and that will reflect in his school work. It will raise self-confidence all round. We all know that if people believe that they can do something, they can. By lacking faith in themselves, many people fail to achieve, but sport enables non-academics to flourish. That is most important for children who think that they are failures and who may become problematic later in life. Sport can identify and develop special talent. It can divert potential hooligans by channelling their energies constructively in the sports hall.

Above all, let us remember the moral aspect of sport. Team sports teach leadership, responsibility, respect for rules and fair play, and good behaviour. The expression, "Be a good sport," has great value. We should not underestimate the importance of teaching manners in schools.

Although games and physical education lessons are now part of the core curriculum in school hours, it is a pity that we have such a struggle to provide enough back-up sport, with teachers helping with competitive matches between school teams outside school hours—when children play soccer, rugby and cricket after the school day or at weekends. As has already been said, those problems are compounded by the selling of school playing fields for development. There has been a decline in the number of state school teachers who are willing and able to maintain a commitment to teach sport outside school hours. I must take issue with the hon. Member for Oldham, Central and Royton (Mr. Davies). He complained that teachers.' pay and contracts had become overdefined and that they were unable to devote their energies and resources to extra-curricular activities. I must stress that it was the teachers' unions who boxed them in, not the Government.

I must also pay a tribute to the magnificently dedicated teachers who uncomplainingly and without seeking reward devote an enormous amount of time to help sport outside schools. There is also a minor cultural problem in that we must get children away from television sets and from their sedentary lives. We must make them accept that sport is a natural way of life.

Physical education is a subject in its own right. It is important that we recognise that physical education is now part of the core curriculum, but we must ensure that it is properly timetabled so that we know how often it is happening and what the pupils are doing. I hope that the independent inspectorate for schools will consider that matter very carefully and not accept sweeping statements like, "Oh, yes. The children are doing sport." Commitment and action are sometimes far apart.

I want to stress an education issue which stretches into sport. The Education Department supports the idea of specialised schools and vocational studies. However, no mention has yet been made of the fact that schools could add sport to the list of studies including languages and technology. I hope that the National Heritage Department will press for a greater recognition of the importance of sport as a special subject.

We should also bear it in mind how we balance physical education in schools. There is a tendency in the teaching establishment to believe that time spent on sport is wasted because pupils are not concentrating on academic subjects. Academic work is as important as sport and pupils should be able to devote equal time to both.

Dr. Spink

Does my hon. Friend agree that a healthy body can produce a healthy mind? The link between good achievement in sport and good academic achievement is not lost.

Lady Olga Maitland

I agree with my hon. Friend. The Swedes have devoted an enormous amount of effort to ensure that children with academic inclinations spend as much time on sport as they do on their studies. Sport is given a higher priority.

If we want more sport in schools, it must be paid for. That is a difficulty because every nation has its priorities. We must consider how to encourage teachers to play a role in out-of-school hours. I believe that it would make a lot of sense to give teachers a special payment in that regard.

Local authorities play an important part in sports provision. However, there is a danger that some local authorities may go overboard on sport at the expense of essential social services partly because people who need such services—the elderly, sick, vulnerable and handicapped—do not have the voice or numbers to state their own case. It is very important that local authorities have a balanced view of their priorities and how they should be funded.

I endorse the comments by the hon. and learned Member for Fife, North-East (Mr. Campbell), who called for a national audit of local authority sports facilities. That is the nub of the matter. Are local authority sports facilities properly monitored? Are we getting value for money? Is there access for all to school facilities whether they be grant-maintained or under the local management of schools system? Are we making sure that the waste of resources is being monitored? Are new schemes properly costed? Do local authorities want to spend first and worry later? Will a scheme or facility be properly used and is it what the local community wants or needs?

I certainly would encourage the joint venture commercial schemes that my hon. Friend the Minister mentioned and also the need to monitor compulsory competitive tendering. Above all, I support the call for an national sports authority to co-ordinate all sport. Things have become far too haphazard because there are many rival authorities.

We have talked about business sponsorship of sport. Sponsorship is important—sport cannot live on thin air —but it is haphazard, although I welcome the Government's Sports Match initiative and the Institute of Sports Sponsorship.

In my constituency of Sutton and Cheam, we have the excellent Sutton United football club. It has rightly achieved recognition. I shall soon attend one of its games —I might even have the opportunity to do a kick-off. What has been exciting and encouraging about the football club is that it is well-managed, there is no hooliganism and it has organised its own sponsorship. It approached Securicor, a locally based company, when it did particularly well in 1989 and won a famous victory over Coventry City in the FA cup series. As a result of that, a deal has been struck. That is a one-to-one relationship. I should like more pro-active Government involvement to help companies and sports in local communities.

Sport has many roles, but one role that has not been mentioned is the role in the political world of healing sectarian passions. I have just returned from a visit to Northern Ireland. In Ulster, sport is the one sane activity which has been going on steadily over the past 20 years. International sportsmen have attended the Ulster games. The one piece of good news in Northern Ireland is sport. There is always a winner, and it is always Northern Ireland.

Mr. Pendry

I am sure that it was not lost on the hon. Lady when I mentioned that one of the reasons for that is that there is mandatory rate relief, which I have been asking the Government to consider for many years. That is one of the reasons—as a former Northern Ireland Minister, I agree with the hon. Lady—why there is so much sporting activity there, which is very good for the Province.

Lady Olga Maitland

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his comment. I am stressing not just the important financial input in sport in Northern Ireland but the spirit of the people. Although society might be divided, each culture has its sports, of which it is proud. In the same way as Yorkshire is famous for cricket, the Catholic community in Northern Ireland has sports at which it is successful such as Gaelic football, hurling and a sport which is new to me called Camoge—a women's stick-and-hall game halfway between hockey and lacrosse. Those sports are taught in Catholic schools. Protestant schools have their own sports at which they excel. They tend to be the English-oriented sports such as rugby and cricket.

It is encouraging that when the name and voice of Northern Ireland are at stake, everyone, whether Catholic or Protestant, routs for Northern Ireland. That is an exciting factor. When the football team headed by Billy Bingham plays against Denmark at Windsor Park stadium in Belfast the Protestants, and indeed the whole Province —even though the team is mainly Catholic—will root for the team. That is good news.

When other events such as county sports between the northern counties and those in the republic take place it is exciting to see that both the Protestants and the Catholics in Northern Ireland crowd around their television sets and watch, for example, the Down team triumph and beat in Gaelic games its rivals in the south. Sport in Ireland is important. It is important to recognise that sport can bring people together. We can explore that factor further in the future.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Geoffrey Lofthouse)

Order. May I remind hon. Members that five hon. Members hope to catch my eye in the time available. I hope that they will bear that in mind and keep their speeches short.

1.21 pm
Mr. John Denham (Southampton, Itchen)

I hope that hon. Members will forgive me for referring to a constituency matter that I mentioned earlier. I know that the Minister will take a personal, as well as a minsterial, interest in it. Many of his constituents sensibly choose to watch premier league football in Southampton. I should like to explore some of the problems that surround the conflict between the planning process and the efforts of clubs and local authorities which genuinely seek to meet the demands of the Taylor report. The Southampton football club, the Saints, has been located for many years at the Dell. The Dell is a city-centre ground with no car parking facilities. It is now very difficult to improve that site to provide modern spectator facilities.

When the Taylor report was produced, the football club and the city council responded enthusiastically to the challenge in that report. They worked together to draw up plans for a new community stadium on the northern fringe of Southampton at Stoneham. The aim of the exercise was to provide not simply modern facilities for the Southampton football club but a wide range of other sporting facilities such as running tracks and other leisure facilities for the people of Southampton and the surrounding area.

The plans were drawn up after a careful exercise by the city council to select a site, and discussions were initiated to raise city council funding, private funding and funding from the Football Trust as well as funding from the club itself. The difficulty is that those ambitious and good plans have not progressed anything like as fast as either the club or the city council would have liked. The reason for that is the basic failure of the strategic planning authority in Hampshire, the Hampshire county council. It displayed an obstructive attitude to the proposals from the beginning. When the proposals were launched the first response of the county council was to condemn them, then refuse to discuss them.

There was at last an agreement between Hampshire county council, Southampton city council and Eastleigh borough council, which covers part of the site, to have a joint expert study by officers to look at all the possible locations for a new football stadium. That Official Report, which was supported by professional planners from each of the three authorities, endorsed the Stoneham site as by far the best available. Since that date, the county council has ignored the report and, equally, failed to identify and back any alternative site for a replacement stadium. The Dell was identified as the worst possible site that one could find in Southampton. Because of the lack of strategic planning guidance, Eastleigh borough council—perhaps egged on by lurid and fantastic notions about the behaviour of football fans—also objected to the proposals.

The club and the city face the difficulty that they will not be able to get planning permission before the public inquiry. I am convinced that the planning arguments are so strong that they will win permission, but that is too far down the line to enable the club to meet the 1994 Taylor requirements.

The club has therefore been forced to introduce proposals, costing up to £2 million, to redevelop its existing site, which is an unsatisfactory solution. Although the club is putting a brave face on it, there must be some doubt whether it will be financially viable with reduced capacity at its existing stadium.

Southampton football club is not exactly a family-run club, but it has retained many of the merits of such a club, and has that feel. It is not one of the premier league clubs dominated by egocentric business men with millions of pounds to pour in. It is an achievement to be a premier league club, but the financial position that the club is likely to be put in must place a question mark over Southampton's retaining its position in the league.

I appreciate the problem facing the Government. Most constituents who write to me do not like the Taylor report, but the Government would be on a political and moral hiding to nothing if they did not back the report and another stadium disaster occurred. I understand why the Government do not want an open door on prevarication and backsliding by clubs which do not have any intention of meeting the report's challenges, but that is not the position in Southampton—as I am sure the Minister recognises—as the club has done everything reasonably possible.

The Minister referred to a letter from the Football Licensing Authority, which was attempting to be helpful. Without detailed planning permission it is impossible to press ahead, to acquire the sites and put together financial packages. Discussions can take place, but contracts cannot be signed if one does not have planning permission—some compulsory purchase may be involved in acquiring the Stoneham site.

Although it would like to meet the targets in the Football Licensing Authority's letter, the club feels that it must depend on a short-term project at the Dell, in the hope of reviving the Stoneham project later.

Will the Minister and his colleagues consider the matter afresh to find out whether there is some route—through the structures of the Football Licensing Authority, or through direct intervention by Ministers—to give the club a helping hand? No one is asking for the dangerous exercise of allowing all clubs to escape the Taylor requirements, but if the efforts made by Southampton could be recognised, if support could be given to the planning process, and if the Football Licensing Authority could be encouraged to give the club a dispensation—provided that it presses ahead with the planning application and a timetable on other elements in the authority's letter—it would be enormously helpful.

I am grateful to other Ministers, and especially to the Minister for Local Government and Inner Cities, who visited Southampton recently and has been helpful on a secondary planning matter concerning the capacity of the local road network. I do not regard the issue as party political. Because of the importance of the football club and its role in the premier league, will the Minister look at the Southampton file afresh and try to find a way through the situation, which is not the responsibility of the club or of the local city council?

1.28 pm
Mr. Nirj Joseph Deva (Brentford and Isleworth)

The Government gave sportsmen a clear message of support and commitment when they appointed the first Minister with direct responsibility for sport. I take this opportunity to congratulate the hon. Member for Stalybridge and Hyde (Mr. Pendry) on his recent promotion to the Opposition Front Bench. I am sure that he will have an enjoyable and useful role to play.

I speak as the Member in whose constituency is the home of the Bees, otherwise known as Brentford football club, and as an armchair athlete who, no doubt like many other hon. Members, participated in this year's Olympics by yelling at the television to encourage our British Olympic team. I am sure that all hon. Members will join me in congratulating the British team who participated in the Barcelona Olympics. I also congratulate the Government on their positive stand and support for Manchester 2000. That will be a magnificent opportunity for Britain to shine on the world stage as hosts for the premier sports event of the millennium.

Manchester and the north-west will benefit from the major investment. I understand that about £55 million has been committed to the construction of an Olympic arena and many other sports venues and facilities. That massive investment will enable a new generation of budding athletes to have access to world-class facilities and will provide them with every opportunity to participate and win. I encourage everyone to support in every way the Manchester 2000 bid.

I commend the Minister's initiatives for improving the existing structure and funding for sport, and I welcome the setting up of a sports council for England which is long overdue. It will concentrate the minds of English sportsmen and women and foster and promote the provision of sports facilities in England.

Unlike the Labour party, I do not believe in the formation of bureaucratic and non-workable bodies to control sport. When Labour launched its document on sport the then shadow sports Minister, who is now in another place, made it clear that he would like to see Labour encourage a greater ministerial role on sports councils. That is in spite of the Opposition's call to keep sports representative bodies free from political bias. Labour's proposals threaten the voluntary and apolitical nature of sport as we know it.

Government grant in aid to the Sports Council has risen by about 30 per cent. in real terms to about £50 million in the past 12 years while local authority spending has grown by 5 per cent. in real terms from £362 million in 1987 to £456 million in 1990. We have also been told that sport will be one of the major recipients from the national lottery.

The private sector is invaluable to a wide range of sports, with sponsorship running at about £200 million per year. Another £40 million is generated every year for sport following the 2.5 per cent. cut in pool betting duty. There is also the business sponsorship scheme for sport. It was launched in September and sponsors money pound for pound up to a maximum of £75,000. Labour has announced that it would set up a major review of sports finance and sponsorship, levy, betting and taxation to ensure that a fairer proportion of the money taken out of sport is put back in. That is a laudable aim, but I share the concern of many of my hon. Friends who feel that that could well be seen as a threat to commercial sponsors, even if it is not, especially if sponsorship were subject to a special tax.

As I have said, Brentford football club, a first division team, is in my constituency. Therefore, football ground safety is of special concern to my constituents and myself. It is imperative that the recommendations in the Taylor report be implemented. We must at all costs avoid another Hillsborough.

I understand that second and third division clubs are bring allowed to retain some standing accommodation, but I should like to see safety as the paramount factor at all football league stadiums. For that reason I was quite concerned at the opposition to, and the condemnation of, the compulsory change to all-seater football grounds. I urge all who oppose that to join the call for safety first at all stadiums and support Lord Justice Taylor's recommendations.

It is encouraging to see that the Department of National Heritage is working in close conjunction with the Education Department on sport in schools. It is also encouraging to know that physical education is now compulsory under the national curriculum until the age of 14 years, and until the age of 16 years in 1995. I also support the Government's recommendation that all children be taught to swim—as I was when I was young —up to the age of 11 years. The champion coaching scheme should be consolidated and enhanced and I welcome the injection of £1.3 million into the scheme. I should like to see children given every opportunity to participate and excel. They should have an opportunity to choose from a wide range of sporting activities. They should be given an opportunity to take sport beyond school hours and have coaches and facilities to give them the training and choice, if they so wish, to become athletes and represent their country, possibly at the Olympics in Manchester in the year 2000.

1.35 pm
Mr. Tom Cox (Tooting)

The debate has been wide ranging, but, as an earlier speaker said, if we are to have such debates they should concentrate on specific sports; some sports have not been mentioned.

We have heard much about the amount of money that the general public puts into sport and the hundreds of thousands of people who are employed in sport. Without doubt, vast sums of money are now available, but, taking football as an example, I wonder whether that money is really for the benefit of all football clubs in the country and not solely for that of those in the premier league. The top clubs will always be the attraction, but the real lifeblood of football is the clubs now in the first, second and third divisions—teams such as Doncaster, Fulham and Chester. They may never be champions or get to Wembley, but local people relate to such teams.

It has not been mentioned much in this debate, but we often hear it said in the House that there is an enormous amount of violence in this country. Much of that violence and vandalism is done by young people. With much closer co-operation between local authorities and local football teams within communities, much of it could be stopped. However, the great problem is that many clubs do not have the necessary money because they are not an Arsenal, Tottenham or Liverpool. I hope that the Minister will look into that problem.

A sport that has not been mentioned this morning is boxing, which is followed by many people. How boxing is organised I frankly do not know, and I do not know whether the Minister knows. Whatever one may think of the sport, one often reads that boxers who have a great deal of ability and who, based on their record, should be given an opportunity to fight for British, European or world titles rarely get that chance because, sadly, they do not belong to the right syndicate that controls boxing.

I do not expect the Minister to reply to my points in detail now, although I should like him to find out and let me know exactly who controls boxing in this country.

Mr. Pendry

Will my hon. Friend give way?

Mr. Cox

No, with respect, I shall not give way.

Why are the managers, promoters and advisers often the people who organise boxing here? If boxers do not belong to their syndicate, they do not get a look in. That happens time and again. Will the Minister find out who controls British boxing and who appoints those who control it?

We all go into pubs and chat to people about sporting events. People say to me, "Tom, how do such things happen?" Why do boxers with the most appalling records come from other parts of the world to fight British boxers? The resulting fights are fiascos, as we have seen with fights arranged for Frank Bruno. We have a right to know who arranges and controls boxing in this country.

Mr. Key

I should very much welcome a quiet chat with the hon. Gentleman. I have explored that difficult problem with the British Boxing Board of Control. Like the hon. Gentleman, I am still a little confused about who runs British boxing.

Mr. Cox

I should willingly take up the Minister's offer, and I am sure that he would be only too willing for my hon. Friend the Member for Stalybridge and Hyde (Mr. Pendry) to attend the meeting, as he could help us.

Seeing you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, in the Chair gives me pleasure. The subject of boxing has not been touched on in the debate, but I know that the sport of which you have a great love and in which you are involved, not only now that you are Deputy Speaker of the House but when you were a Back-Bench Member, is rugby league. From having served with you on Committees dealing with local government issues I know that you are deeply involved with Wakefield, as well as your constituency of Pontefract and Castleford—which both have rugby league clubs. I am sure that had you been on the Back Benches today you would rightly speak of the sport of rugby, which you support and of which you have such a wide knowledge. Sadly, that has not been discussed.

Many of us will have watched last week's match at Wembley on television; and there is to be a great match in the north of England this week. I am sure that you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, will be there; I only wish that I could be there with you. We do not have the opportunity to mention boxing and rugby league in debates such as today's, but I hope that we shall in future.

I do not criticise the Minister for painting the best picture of what is happening in sporting activities in this country, but there is another side. We shall have to wait and see whether the national lottery helps the position. Sadly, organisations that are now committed to working with young people are not receiving help. We know that young people love sport.

I sent a letter from the Methodist church dated 12 October which states: For three years we have sustained correspondence, completed grant aid application forms and, in some cases made visits to the new Authorities"— local government ones. After all this work, in common with many similar bodies, we have only minimal offers of grant amounting to around £300 from any of these sources. Nearly all are unable or unwilling to take on, in whole or in part, this level of financial support. The financial support mentioned amounts to about £7,000 a year. which is not a large sum.

I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Stalybridge and Hyde that many local authorities that would like to help young people's sporting associations cannot do so, due to the legislation imposed on them by the Government. If we are talking of sport and trying to stop vandalism and crime, we must listen to such organisations. To his credit, the Minister paid tribute to the hours and hours of work that those associated with voluntary organisations give to this country, but if there is no willingness by our Government to make money available to such organisations, the youngsters and those who run the groups lose interest. The resources necessary cannot be raised by jumble sales and the sale of raffle tickets, although such methods can help.

I welcome both the Minister and my hon. Friend the Member for Stalybridge and Hyde to their Front-Bench posts. I hope that we shall have further such debates, but I beg the Minister to consider seriously having debates in future on specific sporting subjects.

1.44 pm
Mr. John Bowis (Battersea)

It is a pleasure to follow my close neighbour the hon. Member for Tooting (Mr. Cox). At one point, I thought that he was about to invite you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, to engage in some sparring on the Floor of the House. I take the hon. Gentleman's point about boxing. Amateur boxing, in the best sense—as undertaken by boys' clubs and the like—is a tradition of the part of south London that we jointly represent. I am sure that my hon. Friend the Minister will have noted the hon. Gentleman's point.

As I have explained to Madam Speaker, I could not be here for the beginning of the debate, although, thanks to the wonders of modern technology, I was able to see and hear the two Front-Bench speeches and thus to enjoy the challenge to my hon. Friend the Minister to meet the hon. Member for Stalybridge and Hyde (Mr. Pendry) in the gym. I am not sure that I would wish to encourage such delights. My challenge to hon. Members is that they should first take part with me in Oxfam's forthcoming fast. That might make us fitter and more able to participate in gymnastics or in sporting activities more energetic than rising to our feet from these Benches.

My old sports—rugby and squash—are, alas, sports with which it is unwise to continue for too long, and these days my sporting activities tend to consist of walking in the Lake district or, more locally, wherever my border terrier chooses to take me.

Sport is important to the health and education of our society, and the role model provided by our fine sportsmen and women is important in encouraging good citizenship. One has only to think of my hon. Friend the Member for Falmouth and C'amborne (Mr. Coe), Gary Lineker and Daley Thompson and the success stories of the recent Olympics. No one will forget our oarsmen's moment of triumph as they stood on the rostrum, the face of the cox—not the hon. Member for Tooting—creased with emotion, while the British national anthem was played. I am sure that that great moment will have inspired many young people to take up rowing.

My hon. Friend the Minister referred to sportsmen and women with disabilities and to the paralympics and paraplegic games. We should do whatever we can to encourage people with disabilities to take part in sport. That objective was for long neglected, but, in recent years, the opportunities have been much more evident and with the opportunities come the achievements that we salute. Disabled people should have the opportunity not just to participate but to spectate. I hope that my hon. Friend the Minister will continually remind sports bodies that they should provide access for people in wheelchairs. We need to be able to bring people to grounds and stadiums where there have traditionally been a lot of steps, narrow turnstiles and so on. Access to our great sporting grounds is as important to people with disabilities as their ability to participate in sport.

Some 35 million of our citizens participate in one sport or another. That is a great record. As the hon. Member for Stalybridge and Hyde said, sport is also a great creator of jobs. I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman gave the figures, but 467,000 jobs are now provided by sport in this country—an increase from 376,000 in 1985. Sport has a good record in providing jobs as well as a great deal of pleasure.

Sport provides £3.5 billion for the Exchequer, half of it in income tax and national insurance. For every £1 that sport receives in grants, it repays £7 to the taxpayer. For that reason, we need constantly to keep an eye on the tax burden on sport. I am sure that my hon. Friend the Minister will be constantly aware of that in his talks with the Treasury. Where possible, the burden should be lifted or alleviated, and I am thinking particularly of the voluntary, non-profit making clubs and the amounts that they have to pay.

Funding for sport will be boosted enormously by a national lottery. I am an unashamed supporter of that concept. which I hope will soon enable us to contribute to sport, the arts and heritage. The existing foundation has not been as good as we should have liked, not least because the pools promoters sought to finance sport and arts through the foundation by imposing a levy on punters rather than by taking money from their profits. The lottery will be a better way of raising finance, which will be over and above what the pools companies provide through their contributions and taxation.

Hon. Members have referred to school sport, on which the debate has rightly focused. I think that the Opposition now recognise the mistakes that some Labour-controlled local authorities made, especially those in London, and the damage that was done by their hostility to competitive sport. I know that the hon. Member for Stalybridge and Hyde has a good record on fighting within his party to restore sport to schools. Nevertheless, there was a damaging period when it was excluded.

The Government included physical education in the national curriculum, which gave new opportunities to achieve health among the youth of our nation. I hope that my hon. Friend the Minister will talk to the Department for Education about the surveys that the Secondary Heads Association and the National Association of Head Teachers have conducted, which show a sad decrease in sport in our schools at weekends and after school hours. The last survey found that 71 per cent. of 14-year-olds had less than two hours' physical education a week. Two hours should be the minimum and I hope that it can be restored as the norm. Some 89 per cent. of primary school teachers are involved in teaching physical education, but only 8 per cent. have any qualifications or training. In-service training must be considered carefully.

I endorse what has been said about playing fields. Without the right facilities, particularly in schools, we cannot expect young people to have the opportunities that we wish for them. We must consider the question of selling playing fields, the circulars that have come from the Department in the past, and the grant-maintained schools. I believe that the Education Bill, which deals broadly with grant-maintained schools, has been given a First Reading today, so it may not be long before there is an opportunity to clarify this.

I endorse what the hon. and learned Member for Fife, North-East (Mr. Campbell) said about drugs. I ask my hon. Friend the Minister to look at the drug list, because there is some doubt about what drugs are on the list. Athletes take medicines for specific complaints—often in good faith—only to find that, unbeknown to them or their trainers, they are banned. We want to stop the cheats, but we must do so openly and fairly.

The hon. Member for Tooting and I share an interest in various football clubs, not least Wimbledon, which, thanks to difficulties in obtaining planning consent from Merton council, is experiencing ground problems. I hope that my hon. Friend the Minister will try to encourage people to get together to discuss the opportunities for the club; otherwise there will be a danger of its being homeless, stateless, rootless and supporterless.

Last week, Wimbledon appeared live on television for the first time ever. That is thanks to the new television agreement with the premier league clubs and shows how that agreement can help the less fashionable clubs in the way that previous agreements did not. That is worth reporting.

I also pay tribute to the police forces of the country. An often-forgotten contribution that the taxpayer makes to sport is the funding of police in the areas around football grounds. They sometimes have a difficult task and should be saluted on performing it well.

I remind my hon. Friend the Minister of a private Member's Bill that I promoted some years ago to do with public safety information. It arose out of the Bradford fire tragedy, when it appeared that information had been made available by the emergency services to the club and to the local authority, but the public were unaware of it. We must always bear in mind the public's right to know if they are going into a place of risk, particularly if it is a sporting venue. It may be that a family sending children would not have done so had it known of the risk, thereby saving their lives. We must always keep this issue under observation.

Lastly, I join other London Members of Parliament, London having been an unsuccessful bidder for the Olympic games, in wishing Manchester good luck.

1.56 pm
Mr. Clive Betts (Sheffield, Attercliffe)

I congratulate the Minister and my hon. Friend the Member for Stalybridge and Hyde (Mr. Pendry) on their Front-Bench appointments. I am sure that we all look forward to debates on how to advance the cause of sport in Britain. I should be only too pleased to join hon. Members in a few rounds at the gym, if that challenge is generally open. I should also be only too pleased to challenge any Conservative Member who wished to join me in a game of squash. Bearing in mind what the Minister said about the dangers of that game, that may be the only way that we are likely to get the Government's majority down, as these promised Back-Bench rebellions never happen.

I shall concentrate on two issues, the first of which is the excellent sporting facilities that we have in Sheffield, which were built for the world student games, the future for them and what we can do with them. The second is football grounds and their safety.

The Minister's view of the quality of sporting facilities in this country is somewhat rosy. The reality is that in most sports, our major facilities do not bear comparison either in quality or in numbers with those of most other countries in Europe. For example, in Belgrade there are more Olympic-standard swimming pools than there are in Britain. That is repeated in many other sports. The examples for tennis were given by my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, Central and Royton (Mr. Davies).

I take exception to the Minister's comments about what local authorities are able to do in the current financial climate. He mentioned that capital receipt rules had made the development of sporting facilities by local authorities more difficult. He did not say that, on top of that, since 1979 there have been succcessive and severe cuts in local authorities' borrowing abilities, particularly in the other services block, which is meant to provide resources for sporting development. He did not mention that leasing availability has been restricted by the most recent legislation.

The Minister did not mention another factor. Where local authorities have sought to enter into partnerships with the private sector, recent legislation has meant that when local authorities gave guarantees to enable the private sector to proceed on terms that it found acceptable, the guarantees effectively made all of that capital expenditure count as part of the local authorities' borrowing allocation and credit approval. That is another recent Government restriction. On top of that, capping is a major inhibiting factor in local authority spending on sport. Quite rightly, local authorities have to give priority to spending on education, social services and other key services when their resources are being steadily eroded.

The example given of the village in Wiltshire and what it did is a great credit to the people in the area. However, what they could do with their resources cannot be repeated in inner-city Sheffield constituencies, where 30 per cent. or more of the people face unemployment. Those who are in employment often earn low wages and simply do not have the extra resources to contribute to such projects. They have to rely on local and central Government to find the money.

I turn now to the facilities available in Sheffield which were built for the world student games. The games had some financial difficulties, mainly caused by the inability to raise sponsorship money in what was becoming a difficult financial climate. However, the games did not default on their responsibilities, unlike the Edinburgh Commonwealth games a few years before. In sporting and organisational terms, the games were a success, and both Sheffield and British sport gained a great deal of credit. We received a great deal of praise from competitors and sporting administrators from other countries for what was presented to them

The facilities were recognised not merely as the best in Britain, but as being as good as anything available throughout the world. Great credit was paid to the Ponds Forge swimming complex which is as good as anything in the world. The Don Valley stadium is certainly the best athletics stadium in Britain and the indoor arena is the best indoor arena. I was disappointed that when the Minister gave a resume of the sporting facilities available in Britain, he did not mention one of the Sheffield sporting facilities, although they are acknowledged as being of international quality.

I hope that we can enter a new period of more co-operation between Sheffield and the Government on these matters. We should consider how we can use the facilities for the future, because international events will come to them. The European swimming championships will come to Sheffield next year.

I greatly welcome the Government's support for the Manchester Olympic bid and I wish Manchester every success. It is important to Britain and to British sport. In the meantime, other things will happen in sport in Britain, many of them in Sheffield. I hope that the Government will consider how they can help by working together with local people in the city to maximise the benefit of the existing facilities for the benefit of Sheffield and of Britain.

Already the fact that the city sees sport as part of a package of economic regeneration has benefits in terms of employment. We have talked a lot about jobs directly involved in sport. The spin-off from sporting development can be significant in helping areas to regenerate when they have lost much of their basic industry.

In the mid-1980s, Sheffield had unemployment of more than 4 per cent. above the national average and rising. We obviously have problems today; everyone is suffering from the recession. At least unemployment in Sheffield is now only 2 per cent. above the national average, not 4 per cent. as it was a few years ago.

The facilities are not only available for international events; the community is now using them. More than 1 million people used the swimming facilities within a year of their opening. The Minister referred to the Milton Keynes ice arena and to the success of the ice hockey team there. By comparison, the Sheffield Steelers ice hockey team attracts 8,000 people a week to watch ice hockey games, which is far in excess of any other ice hockey team in the country. Again, the team uses one of the facilities built for the games. All the facilities have been designed so that disabled people can participate in support and can watch sport in comfort, which is extremely important.

Sheffield, together with the local sporting organisations, seeks development programmes so that young people can become more expert in sport. One classic example in which I am sure you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, are interested, is the development of rugby league in Sheffield and the success of Sheffield Eagles. Success has come not only at the professional club. There has been a real development programme in which the city council, the Sports Council and governing bodies have come together to try to work at sports development. The development programme for rugby league, encouraging young people through the schools to start playing a sport that has not been traditional in the city, has been a great success.

In Sheffield, we believe that we are the city of sport. We now want to see how we can further the development programmes and bring together some of the best athletes and sports people in the country. We want to see how we can give them the benefits of our great facilities. We are therefore trying to launch a project known as Sport Sheffield. We would like the Government to support it and get involved in it.

The idea of the project is to bring national sporting squads to the city to use the facilities and to work with the university, which is offering its help and expertise in sports and sports medicine, about which we have heard a great deal today. They will work with our tertiary colleges with the support of the Sheffield business community and the chamber of commerce. Already active discussions are taking place with the regional sports council. The Sports Council is on the project group, as are other governing bodies, especially those in charge of diving and volley-ball. We want to launch a pilot project in which those will be the two lead sports. Already 70 per cent. of the Olympic diving squad has been to Sheffield because of the facilities there. Now we want to put in a bid to the Sports Council for funding of the project which we believe is of great importance not only for the proper use of the facilities but because it will enable people, by benefiting from them, to make British sport competitive with sport in other countries.

We want to involve the British Olympic Association, the National Coaching Foundation, the British Association of Sports Sciences and the British Association of Sport and Medicine. We must not just sit back and admire the facilities that we have built in Sheffield. They are for the benefit of the local community and for British sport in general, providing national centres of sporting excellence. I hope that the Government will display their commitment to this important process.

My other main topic concerns football, football grounds and their safety. I agree with the hon. Member for Luton, North (Mr. Carlisle) about the development of the premier league. Its only success has been to put prices up. I cannot see what football fans have gained from that. The league was born of the greed and ambition of a handful of people and a small number of clubs. I regret the fact that football has fragmented. I should like football to unite under one governing body that would look after not only premier league and other professional clubs but the amateur game too, so that football could be seen as one game.

The premier league clubs may have made a wrong move by thinking to benefit from the money coming in from BSkyB. In the end Channel 4 stole a march on the whole proceedings. It saw a gap in the market and put on Italian soccer on Sunday afternoons. The vast majority of sports fans and of avid followers of football to whom I have spoken say that they would not buy a BSkyB dish when they can watch AC Milan play Fiorentina and see the difference between that style of play and what passes for football here in a game, say, between Wimbledon and Crystal Palace—a more direct way of playing. The premier league has done nothing to benefit football as a spectacle, and I hope that the Government will look into that.

I have been to every football ground in the country bar one, so I have seen a few of the problems and some of the deplorable facilities in our grounds. I welcome the Government's commitment to assisting football with improvements to those grounds, but the Government turned a deaf ear to the pleas of football for many years before they decided to help. That did nothing to help develop football or the quality of facilities for spectators.

Now we are thinking about safety. I was at Hillsborough that terrible day when the disaster occurred. I was the leader of the city council at the time and I took a particular interest in the licensing of football grounds. In response to the Government's proposals and the Taylor report, and in disagreement with some hon. Members who have spoken today, I must say that I do not regard the provision of seating and the provision of safe facilities as necessarily synonymous. I know that that view is not shared by all in the House, but I spoke to Lord Justice Taylor after he had made his report, when he came to meet politicians and football administrators in South Yorkshire. He said that if he had known that there was a move in football to remove the appalling so-called safety fences, which I believe were a major cause of the Hillsborough disaster as people could not get on to the pitch from the enclosure, he might not have been so firm in his recommendation for seats at football grounds.

I welcome the Government's commitment to flexibility in respect of second and third division clubs. I should also like to see flexibility for premier and first division clubs. The rules for safety in standing areas are now more strict and more appropriate. There is a requirement for proper barriers, safety checks and a counting-in procedure. The problem at Hillsborough arose because there was no counting in for separated parts of the ground. Clubs are now obliged to carry out that clear Taylor recommendation. I believe that we should go further and also insist that fences in front of grounds should be removed as a major safety improvement.

I have seen seating areas at football grounds that are potentially more unsafe than many standing areas. Because of a shortage of money, clubs place seats on existing terracing. When people sit on them, they cannot see. As soon as the ball approaches a corner flag or the goal, they stand up. I have seen spectators standing on their seats for the last 10 minutes of a game to see what was happening. That is dangerous and it is happening at many football grounds.

The tragedy at Hillsborough occurred in a standing area although, as I have said, I believe that the problem involved the fences and the lack of a counting-in procedure. The Ibrox tragedy had nothing to do with the viewing area. It occurred when people left the ground. The tragedy at Bradford occurred in a seated area. It is no good simply to say that getting rid of standing areas is essential for safety at football grounds. Most grounds on the continent are not all-seater. There are standing areas at most continental grounds and those grounds seem to be able to cope.

I believe that the money would be better spent on safety per se rather than on a simple requirement to abolish standing areas. With regard to the consumer interests, the Football Supporters Association has stated that it does not believe that standing areas should be removed automatically from all football grounds. We should start to listen to people who go to matches every Saturday afternoon and enjoy their football in a way that may be anathema to people who have never stood on a kop behind a goal and enjoyed that particular atmosphere. It should not be beyond our power to enable those people to enjoy football in absolute safety.

I should like the Minister to commit himself to exploring, with all the people involved in Sheffield, ways forward to use our superb sporting facilities as centres of national excellence. I also ask for a reconsideration of the requirement that football grounds in the premier and first division should be all-seater ones. I do not believe that that is necessarily the best way to make grounds safer and better places for people to watch football.

2.12 pm
Mr. Pendry

With the leave of the House, I want to intervene for a few minutes. I am sure that the Minister would agree that it is better for all hon. Members to take part in a debate than to have long winding-up speeches. It is important that the Minister should have the longer time to reply because he has been asked many questions.

I am sure that the Minister will have realised by now the wisdom of promoting this debate. A great deal of popular acclaim has been heaped on him. My gosh, I have never known a Tory Minister be praised as much as the Minister has been in this debate. In fact, I am beginning to suspect some of my colleagues.

We have heard some very constructive speeches and I would normally want to refer to some of them and to the points that were made. However, I will not do that because it is important that the Minister should reply to the debate. The hon. Member for Luton, North (Mr. Carlisle) was more constructive than ever. If ever there was an occasion when a sinner repenteth on the question of sports boycotts, it occurred today and long may that continue.

I want to refer to only one point. My hon. Friend the Member for Tooting (Mr. Cox) would not allow me to intervene when he wanted to know who should control boxing. As a steward of British Boxing Board of Control, I was about to answer his point. However, it will be sufficient for me to participate in the meeting with my hon. Friend the Minister and educate them both.

It has been an extremely good debate. Long may we have debates of this kind. I once more congratulate the Minister on initiating it.

2.14 pm
Mr. Key

With the leave of the House, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I should like to reply to the debate.

When my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Putney (Mr. Mellor) first addressed the House as Secretary of State for National Heritage, he made it absolutely clear that he intended that the purpose of the Department of National Heritage should be to improve the quality of life for everybody wherever they are, and to improve access to sport, and that he would always do his best to ensure that it did not become a matter of party political wrangling. He stood true to those objectives, as do my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and I.

This has been a remarkable debate. It has also been well informed. It proves again that the House of Commons is the best university in the country. There is always somebody who is a great expert on whatever happens to be under discussion at the time, and that has certainly been true of this debate.

Fourteen hon. Members, including myself, have contributed to the debate. The hon. Member for Stalybridge and Hyde (Mr. Pendry) made a very challenging speech and I shall attempt to answer the questions that he raised. My hon. Friend the Member for Luton, North (Mr. Carlisle), who spoke wisely about expenditure in sport, has spent all his time in the House as an expert on sport. The hon. Member for Oldham, Central and Royton (Mr. Davies) made a distinguished speech. I shall try to pick up some of his points, particularly those about television and sport. My hon. Friend the Member for Castle Point (Dr. Spink) spoke enthusiastically, energetically and passionately about smoking and health, as well as about other issues, including swimming, which are important to his constituency.

The hon. and learned Member for Fife, North-East (Mr. Campbell) also spoke. We perfectly understand his disappearance to Inverness. We sympathise with him in his long travel and hope that he arrives there. If it is on skis, what a wonderful entry it will make for him. The hon. and learned Gentleman made important points, some of which I responded to at the time. My hon. Friend the Member for Wyre Forest (Mr. Coombs) spoke with great enthusiasm about the lottery, and I was grateful for that.

The hon. Member for Heywood and Middleton (Mr. Callaghan), with whom I spent a happy time on the Select Committee on Education, Science and Arts from 1984, spoke with passion about Hopwood Hall college and the role that that institution hoped to achieve. He laid down a challenge which will he hard to resist when I am in the north-west, which I am glad to say I regularly am. I shall certainly bear in mind his kind invitation and weigh carefully the arguments that he laid before the House.

My hon. Friend the Member for Sutton and Cheam (Lady Olga Maitland) spoke with great sprightliness about physical fitness, and she is a fine example to all of us, if I may say so, on that subject. She also spoke with passion about education being about not only mental education but moral and physical education as well. The hon. Member for Southampton, Itchen (Mr. Denham) spoke about the Saints. I give him the assurance that he seeks. I will indeed have another look at whether there is anything that I can do, possibly in conjunction with my hon. Friend the Minister in the Department of the Environment with responsibility for planning. We will see how we might be able to help.

My hon. Friend the Member for Brentford and Isleworth (Mr. Deva) spoke warmly of the Bees and wider issues. I am grateful to him for having such a broad knowledge of the issues which confront the Government and indeed all those concerned with sport.

The hon. Member for Tooting (Mr. Cox) spoke passionately, too, about boxing. When I was 10 years old, I won the school boxing cup. If you look closely at my nose, Mr. Deputy Speaker, you will discover that it has a slight bend at one point. However, that was caused not in the boxing ring but in the swimming bath by hitting the bottom rather too fast.

My hon. Friend the Member for Battersea (Mr. Bowis) mentioned the importance of policing at all our sporting events. It does not matter whether one goes to football matches or to grand prix races, one finds that the police are always there with the other emergency services. If it were not for them, and often for the services of the St. John Ambulance Brigade and of other voluntary organisations, sporting events would be more dangerous and less easy to control. I join my hon. Friend in thanking all those dedicated men and women for their contribution to sport.

The hon. Member for Sheffield, Attercliffe (Mr. Betts) spoke with great knowledge about Sheffield and its sporting contribution. I must say in response to his challenge to join him, whether in the gymnasium or elsewhere, that from looking at him he clearly has absolutely no stamina and I would go many rounds further than him in almost any sport. But that is enough of that.

The hon. Gentleman made important comments which I shall deal with later. I am well aware of Sheffield's investment in sporting facilities. I have seen them and they are impressive. Sheffield is fortunate to have them. The Sports Council is working on initiatives to designate certain cities as cities of sport which would be equipped to host international sporting events. I urge the hon. Gentleman to encourage Sheffield city council to make its views known to the Sports Council if it has not already done so. We cannot ignore the issue. We have many fine international sporting venues and we need to take the initiative forward constructively.

We have had a constructive debate. It has been a breath of fresh air in ventilating an issue about which so many people feel passionately. I sometimes have to point out to my colleagues in the Government that, whereas they scan the column inches, we scan the number of pages which deal with all the issues that confront the Department of National Heritage every day. Therefore, I look forward to many more debates on sport.

I noted the comments of the hon. Member for Tooting about the need to have debates on specific sporting issues. Of course, it will be up to the business managers to decide whether we should have an annual debate on sport, but they will have noted the success of today's debate. I shall make it clear that I wish to have more debates on sport. It is significant that today's debate was the first debate on sport that the Conservative Government have initiated in Government time.

Funding has occupied a great deal of time. I paid tribute earlier to the role of local authorities. Several hon. Members called for additional resources. As my hon. Friend the Member for Luton, North said, it is too easy to call for extra money. We need to be sure that the money currently devoted to sport is well used. As I said, compulsory competitive tendering has helped local authorities. City challenge has also targeted money to inner-city areas. My predecessor published a document on sport in inner cities. I recognise that it is crucial, for social reasons and to the health of people who live in the inner cities, that we do what we can to encourage sport and the provision of sporting facilities.

Of course, I am aware that the best local authorities are good. I have met them; I have been there; I have seen it. However, there is some way to go before we have a general assurance of value for money. That is not a party-political comment. I have seen the good and the bad under all types of political control and none. We must be sure that clear objectives are set to which resources are applied economically and efficiently.

My hon. Friend the Member for Luton, North also referred to the need to control administrative costs in sport. We shall examine carefully the future control of administrative costs in the new United Kingdom sports commission and the sports council for England. That will occur as part of the current national structural reforms.

I welcome the broad support of the House for the current reforms. It may help if I make a few remarks about the role of the United Kingdom Sports Council. The council was not conceived as a supranational talking shop with a nebulous co-ordinating role. It has clear functions to lead on United Kingdom-wide strategic issues, especially performance and excellence, to encourage rationalisation of sport and the voluntary sector and to promote the United Kingdom's interests internationally.

The precise split of the resources of the present Sports Council between the successor bodies is a matter on which my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State awaits proposals from the Sports Council. We expect the United Kingdom sports commission to have the resources necessary to do the job properly, based on the functions which the Government have specified in the policy document "Sport and Active Recreation".

The Manchester bid for the Olympic games has been widely welcomed on both sides of the House. In view of the comments of several hon. Members, I give a further assurance, if any such assurance were necessary—I guess that it is as we approach the public spending round—that resources are available for the Olympic velodrome and arena and for the acquisition and preparation of the stadium site. Let us not be in any doubt about that.

On tax issues, although we welcome the valuable contribution made by sporting bodies, successive Governments have believed that it would not be right to single them out for special privileges which equally worthy organisations do not enjoy. Many sports organisations are unincorporated associations, which means that they pay no tax on income from subscriptions and many funding-raising activities, nor do they pay any tax on gratis donations. That tax treatment recognises that many of their activities are not undertaken for commercial reasons.

To extend tax exemption to activities carried out on a commercial basis, even though profits are intended to be used for the benefit of sport, would raise wider questions of fairness to taxpayers. Furthermore, it would put sports organisations in a more favourable position than charities, which are exempt on trading income only, in limited circumstances. Any change in capital allowances is a matter for Treasury Ministers to consider.

The Opposition spokesman, the hon. Member for Stalybridge and Hyde, mentioned Great Barr grant-maintained school in Birmingham. Sadly, it has become apparent that agreement is unlikely to be reached between the school and Birmingham city council about the dual use of facilities on that site. The matter has been referred to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education for determination. I am sure that the House will understand that in those circumstances I cannot comment on the merits of the case. The standard procedure for determination incorporates a period of consultation with the local authority and the Education Assets Board.

Mr. Pendry

Will the Under-Secretary assure the House that he will have an input into that determination with his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education'?

Mr. Key

Yes, I shall raise that issue with my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Schools when I see him in the near future. Each case must be considered on its merits. There is no standard timetable, but I shall inquire from my hon. Friend about the progress being made.

On playing fields, I appreciate the case for automatic eligibility and that playing fields should remain for the benefit of the community in perpetuity. The case-by-case approach means that each application can be considered on its merits. Nearly 3,000 playing fields or recreation grounds in England are registered as charities. We must continue the case-by-case approach.

I have been asked what the Government are doing to help the National Playing Fields Association and the Sports Council to prevent the loss of recreational land. The Sports Council's grant-in-aid settlement from the Government in 1991–92 included £500,000 to enable the establishment of a register of recreational land. Work is in hand on the register, with the Sports Council, the National Playing Fields Association and the Central Council of Physical Recreation as co-sponsors. The register should be up and running by May 1993.

In addition, planning policy guidance note No.17, issued by the Department of the Environment, emphasised the importance that the Government place on the need for recreational land and open spaces. It asks local authorities to take full account of the community's need for recreational space, to consider the long-term need for playing fields before allowing them to be developed, and to consult sporting bodies when planning for sport and recreation.

On the sale of television rights, I was asked why the Government have not intervened to prevent live premier league matches from being shown exclusively on BSkyB. Although live screening is restricted to BSkyB, more football is probably being shown on terrestrial channels —including live matches—than ever before. The BBC has the right to show extended highlights of premier league matches in "Match of the Day." Live FA cup and European cup matches and highlights of international matches are also shown on terrestrial television. For those who are interested in international football, Channel 4 regularly televises Italian series A matches on Sunday afternoons.

The Broadcasting Act 1990 sets out the framework for the coverage of listed sporting events, which may not be provided on pay-per-view terms. Some hon. Members suggested that that should be extended. The events that are covered are cricket test matches involving England, the Derby, the FIFA world cup finals, the FA cup final, the grand national, the Olympic games, the finals weekend of the Wimbledon tennis championships and any days that the championship overruns, and the Scottish FA cup final. The list does not include live coverage of football games apart from the FA cup final, the Scottish FA cup final and the world cup tournament; nor has there ever been any suggestion that it should.

The community use of sports facilities, the dual use issue, is being addressed in the Education Bill which has just been placed before the House. I hope that that anomaly can be cleared up without delay. There is no doubt—

It being half-past Two o'clock, the motion for the Adjournment of the House lapsed, without Question put.