HC Deb 22 February 1993 vol 219 cc668-9
8. Mr. Brandreth

To ask the Secretary of State for National Heritage if he will make a statement on his Department's policy for children's play.

Mr. Key

The Sports Council will take over the National Children's Play and Recreation Unit's responsibilities for information and playwork education and training from 1 April 1993. This represents a very positive way forward for children's play.

Mr. Brandreth

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that reply. Does he recognise that widespread concern has been expressed because, since the demise of the National Children's Play and Recreation Unit, £500,000, which was formerly dedicated to children's play, has now disappeared within the Sports Council? Does he further accept that there is a widespread feeling that there is a need for a national focus for children's play and that the Sports Council may not be the appropriate forum for that? Perhaps his Department would like to take that on board?

Mr. Key

First, let me reassure my hon. Friend that £500,000 certainly has not disappeared. It is up to the Sports Council to decide how to spend that money, which was, of course, considered within its budget. I know of my hon. Friend's highly regarded work on behalf of the National Playing Fields Association. I hope that he will join a number of hon. Members who are coming to see me shortly as part of a delegation to discuss the matter.

Mr. Barry Jones

What is the Government's policy on the sale of school playing fields? Is he aware that such sales are frequently the only way that schools can afford to get themselves modernised? Those sales cause a great deal of anguish in the communities. Is not it time that we were told what the Government's future policy on this important matter is? Will the Minister also bear in mind the difficulties faced by Connah's Quay primary school in my constituency?

Mr. Key

I am not familiar with the case in the hon. Gentleman's constituency, but if he takes up the matter with the Minister with responsibility in Wales, I shall seek to liaise with him. The general principle and the policy are clear. Successive Ministers with responsibility for sport have said that local authorities, when deciding whether to dispose of playing fields, should consider how much they benefit the local community. First, we must establish how many playing fields there are, where they are and how big they are. The establishment of those facts is now being undertaken by the Sports Council, which I hope will be able to report on the matter by mid-summer.