HC Deb 10 May 1993 vol 224 cc482-3
5. Mr. John Evans

To ask the Secretary of State for National Heritage what assistance has been given to the British Amateur Rugby League Association through the Sports Council in 1992–93.

Mr. Key

The Sports Council provided £160,000 in grant aid payments to the British Amateur Rugby League Association in 1992–93. In addition, it provided considerable advice and expertise to BARLA on sports science, coaching and international issues.

Mr. Evans

Will the Minister pass on my appreciation of, and gratitude for, the excellent grant that the Sports Council gave the sport of amateur rugby league last year? Does he accept, however, that it is not only a question of the allocation of funds and will he undertake that until the increasingly professional sport of rugby union ends its policy of discrimination against rugby league it will not receive a donation from the national lottery?

Mr. Key

We had an excellent debate on this, albeit in the middle of the night, on 28 April which was initiated by the hon. Member for Wakefield (Mr. Hinchliffe), who is in his place today. It is not in my gift to do what the hon. Gentleman asks. It is crucial that we maintain the arm's-length principle of funding and Ministers will not decide who benefits from the lottery. However, as I said on 28 April, it is important to have a wide debate on the issues and, as I suggested at the end of my speech, perhaps a few heads need knocking together.

Mr. Hawkins

Does my hon. Friend agree that the opportunities to support rugby league and amateur rugby union have increased dramatically in recent years, and will he join me in praising all those who encourage and educate children in those sports, especially those who are involved in amateur rugby league and rugby union in Blackpool, which is a home for both sports?

Mr. Key

Yes, of course, my hon. Friend is absolutely right and I welcome his comments. As a former teacher, it would be surprising if I did not recognise the importance of sport for young people.