§ 4.5 pm
§ Mr. Simon Coombs (Swindon)
I beg to moveThat this House congratulates Her Majesty's Government on its continuing recognition of sport's role in enhancing the nation's life and its prestige abroad.It seems appropriate that we should be given the opportunity to debate sport this week and on this day; this week, the first of the one-day internationals between England and Australia heralds the arrival of summer, of a kind, and we also wish good luck to the British Lions touring team in New Zealand. This day is also appropriate, as I am sure that all hon. Members here want to congratulate Miss Rebecca Stephens on becoming the first British woman ever to reach the summit of Mount Everest. I understand that she comes from Fulham, and I cannot imagine a more excellent example of upward mobility than she has demonstrated today.
Some hon. Members—no doubt among the few who are not present—might feel that sport is not as serious a subject as many that we have debated at length during past weeks. Some hon. Members might say that it is a trivial topic, but I must tell them, and any here who may be tempted to say the same, that sport is a topic which concerns a huge number of our constituents; a topic which is perhaps more aired and discussed in the pubs and clubs than many of those that exercise our minds in the Chamber. It is appropriate that, once in a while, we should have the opportunity to discuss some of the issues which concern us and our constituents. I can see that I have already got some minds working. I am happy to give way to my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Greenway).
§ Mr. Harry Greenway (Ealing, North)
I was slightly sad to hear my hon. Friend use the word "trivial" in relation to sport, even to dismiss it. Does he accept that sport is fundamental to physical education, and that physical education is as important a part of a child's education as any other, in that it contributes to the positive physical development of the child and that has a bearing on the child's mental development?
§ Mr. Coombs
I have no quarrel with what my hon. Friend has said. I almost think that he had an opportunity to look at the text of my speech as it lay on the Bench between us, because I shall talk about that aspect of sport later. There is nothing trivial about the subject—only perhaps in the minds of some people who fail to appreciate its importance.
Before I go any further I shall quote for the benefit of the House one or two figures that illustrate the significant part that sport plays in this country. I am indebted to the Henley Centre for Forecasting, which produced a report for the Sports Council about three years ago showing that the value of sport in its broadest sense was £8.27 billion at 1990 prices, which was equivalent to 1.7 per cent. of the United Kingdom's gross domestic product for that year. That figure had seen some growth in the previous five years. In 1985, it was £5.58 billion, which is equivalent to 1.4 per cent. of GDP.
Another way to measure those figures is by the number of people employed in the sport-related economy. The Henley centre estimated that sport-related economic activity generated just over 467,000 jobs in 1990, which 30 accounted for slightly more than 2 per cent. of employees in the United Kingdom. It does not include the large number of unpaid hours put in by the tens of thousands of voluntary workers who give their services—estimated at more than 70 million hours in 1990. Sport is a significant industry and significant part of the British economy.
Sport contributes to the health of the nation and is a constant source of national pride, whether it is for Stephen Hendry and Steve Davis in snooker, Nigel Mansell in motor racing, Linford Christie or Sally Gunnell in Olympic athletics. All of them are world or Olympic champions who bring glory to a country which, all too often, has a tendency to under value its achievements.
§ Mr. Barry Jones (Alyn and Deeside)
The hon. Gentleman began his speech with a reference to the one-day cricket game. I urge him to keep a keen eye on Glamorgan county cricket because Viv Richards—even at the age of 41—in partnership with Matthew Maynard, is going great guns and we should win something this year. I draw his attention also to the need, throughout Britain and certainly in Wales, for more all-weather pitches, with decent changing facilities, that are close to, or within, the large council estates. If we had more of those facilities throughout the nation, there might be less juvenile crime.
§ Mr. Coombs
I wish Messrs. Richards and Maynard success on all those occasions when they are not playing against my county of Hampshire, of which more anon. I entirely agree with the hon. Gentleman in his call for those facilities, which will enable cricket to flourish in Britain. Again, he has gone slightly ahead of my own comments on that matter, but if he stays with the debate long enough, he will hear what I have to say, and I hope that he will be pleased with it.
I hope that, in the debate, we can focus on some of the problems that sport faces today but not lose sight of our achievements. My hon. Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for National Heritage has it in his power to help British sport to fresh success in the future, but he cannot do everything. A complex network of organisations exists to ensure that sport is the prerogative of all of us, while those of real ability can be found, encouraged and trained to the level of international success. The pyramid of United Kingdom sport should have the broadest possible base and the highest possible apex, for all our sakes.
A number of the issues that I shall raise concern the funding and administration of sport, but I shall begin with the exciting prospect of the Olympic games coming to Britain. We are now firmly embarked on Manchester's bid for the Olympic games in the year 2000. Naturally, we all wish Bob Scott and his team every success in the campaign, which will culminate in Monte Carlo on 23 September. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has given tremendous support to Manchester's bid, and his presence in Monte Carlo on that date, when the decision is to be taken, would be a great boost to the Olympic movement. It would significantly increase the chances of Manchester's bid being successful. I hope that my hon. Friend the Minister will take that message to the Prime Minister and urge him to go to Monte Carlo in September.
I do not need to point out the importance of a successful bid by Manchester to the infrastructure of the north-west. As I see one or two Members from that region 31 in the Chamber, I shall leave such comments to them. I hope that they will take up that point, because it seems to me to be of crucial importance.
It is also worth pointing out that home advantage in the Olympic games is of inestimable value. We have only to consider the success of Spain in Barcelona and of South Korea in Seoul. Last year, Spain increased its gold medals from one in Seoul to 13 on its home territory. Four years earlier, South Korea won 12 gold medals in Seoul and was in fourth place in the medals table. Those countries wanted success and were prepared to invest in it—not only in new stadiums, but in support of their athletes.
We must decide how much success we want and how many medals we want to win. We must then be prepared to resource the effort needed to reach that target. The Sports Council recently announced its grant aid to Olympic sports leading up to the Atlanta games in 1996. The cash increases gradually from £5.1 million to £5.7 million, but, allowing for inflation, the value of the grant reduces. I hope that my hon. Friend the Minister will bear that in mind when he discusses such matters with the Sports Council.
§ Mr. Nick Hawkins (Blackpool, South)
Before my hon. Friend leaves the subject of the Manchester Olympics bid and its importance to Britain and the north-west, will he say whether he agrees that one of the most crucial advantages of Manchester winning the bid, as I am confident it will, will be the enormous boost to tourism in Britain in general, and in the north-west in particular? With the vast majority of hotel beds in the north-west being in my constituency of Blackpool, I have an obvious interest in the Manchester bid succeeding. I very much welcome the fact that my hon. Friend has spoken about that today.
§ Mr. Coombs
One of the nice things about a debate on sport is that we all agree with each other on almost everything. For the third time, I am happy to welcome an intervention that supports my view. My hon. Friend is well aware of my interest in tourism. I share his optimism that the north-west will benefit in that and in other respects from a successful bid by Manchester.
I want to discuss where resources from sport will come from in future. My hon. Friend the Minister recently told the House that the proceeds of the national lottery that go to sport should be used more for capital projects than for revenue support. I agree with that in principle, as we do not want the lottery to shore up the costs of a whole series of white elephants. However, a case can be made for the short-term investment of lottery proceeds in the training of Olympic competitors, especially through the Sports Aid Foundation, to enable our elite sports men and women to reach their full potential in Atlanta and, perhaps, in Manchester.
Sporting facilities needed for training are generally good, but athletes need time to train. That means resources for scholarships or a top up for part-time work. We could help with that if the lottery's proceeds could be suitably directed to the necessary support for success.
Mr. John Bowls (Battersea)
I agree with what my hon. Friend has said about the facilities for excellence. Does he agree that the base for sport depends on the very basic availability of land, especially playing fields? In the past, 32 that has been threatened by local authorities that have sold playing fields. That practice must be stopped—[Interruption.] I was not seeking to be controversial, but now I shall be. That base for sport was also threatened by the former Greater London council and Inner London education authority, which consistently opposed any team sport. As a consequence, sport in London suffered and had to be rescued by organisations such as the London Community Cricket Association.
§ Mr. Coombs
I am beginning to think that if I give way again, nothing in my speech will sound original as I deliver it. I agree with my hon. Friend and I intend to refer to those matters in a few moments. However, I shall try not to repeat what he said in his excellent and helpful intervention.
Before I leave the subject of Olympic sports, I want to raise two specific points with my hon. Friend the Minister. The Government promised legislation to safeguard the British Olympic Association's use of the Olympic rings symbol for sponsorship and other purposes. Can my hon. Friend say when that legislation will be ready and when the House will have a chance to consider it, because it is of great importance in the lead-up to the next Olympic games in 1996?
Will my hon. Friend also listen to a special plea from the sport of ice skating? Mention of John Curry, Robin Cousins, Jayne Torville and Christopher Dean reminds us that we can compete at the highest level—but our facilities in that sport are so limited that our elite competitors must train in the middle of the night, when ice rinks are not used by casual, amateur skaters. Is my hon. Friend prepared to unfreeze the sources from the lottery to correct that situation? I appreciate that it will not be his decision, but I have no doubt that he has influence in that sphere, as in many others. I hope that he will exert it.
Ice skating is one sport which attracts enthusiastic beginners of all ages, some of whom go on to be champions. Another is swimming. We have enjoyed great success with swimming over the years. One thinks of Duncan Goodhew, Sharon Davies, and many others. However, too many children in this country never learn to swim and, appallingly, on average two children drown every week.
The efforts of the Royal Life Saving Society, the Amateur Swimming Association and the English School Sport Association have for several years been directed at a campaign for swimming in schools. In September, the Royal Life Saving Society will place definitive water safety and swimming resource materials in every school in the land. Young people must learn water safety skills in primary schools. I urge my hon. Friend the Minister to endorse that campaign and to impress on the Department for Education the need to support swimming with national curriculum time and the necessary resources.
§ Mr. Stanley Orme (Salford, East)
I accept that swimming education is necessary and should be encouraged. Can the hon. Gentleman say why facilities are being reduced so dramatically in inner-city areas such as my own, where local authorities have no funds to provide them?
§ Mr. Coombs
I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman acknowledges that I am speaking up today for sport. I am not here to defend a reduction in swimming facilities; in fact, I want to see them expanded. If the right hon. 33 Gentleman is fortunate enough to catch your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I hope that he will take up that point, which is crucial for the safety of our young people.
On 13 April, the Government published their own water sports safety review. They are aware of the issues, but I want them to be aware also that they should channel resources to ensure that water safety can be a reality for all our children in future years.
Swimming is one of the best forms of exercise. I know that many right hon. and hon. Members participate in it, yet the national picture in this country is unhappy and unhealthy. The latest national fitness survey estimated that 70 per cent. of men and 91 per cent. of women do not take sufficient exercise for a healthy life style. A recent study by Exeter university concluded that 13 per cent. of boys and 10 per cent. of girls were overweight while at school—partly through lack of exercise. Physical education is, of course, part of the national curriculum, but we need a commitment from the Department for Education to a minimum of two hours physical education a week if sufficient physical exercise is to be available to young people.
Resources and facilities are vital to physical education in schools, and no sport has been more seriously affected —at the level of popular participation—by a lack of resources, than cricket. Both my hon. Friend the Member for Battersea (Mr. Bowis) and the hon. Member for Alyn and Deeside (Mr. Jones), who has now left the Chamber —mentioned cricket, and I wish to say a little about that fine sport.
The problem is not so much the selling off of playing fields as the fact that they were under-used and not properly maintained when they still existed. That, I fear, is part of the reason why they were sold off. According to a recent report by the National Cricket Association, 97 per cent. of those asked said that the lack of cricket in schools was the main reason why the game had lost much of its appeal and its following.
Gone are the days when tens of thousands flocked to county grounds on a Saturday to watch the first day of a championship match. Now, those who bother to go will see—if they are lucky—the third day of a four-day game, played on a flat, covered wicket, in which, all too often, the bat dominates the ball to an unacceptable degree. Cricket lovers are deeply concerned about England's lack of success in India and Sri Lanka; by the endless experiments with coloured clothing and white balls; and by the most curious selection policies that I can remember in my 40 years as a cricket lover.
Would it be asking too much for us to be allowed to watch David Gower coming out to bat for England against Australia at Lord's one month from today, preferably—if a Hampshire supporter may be permitted to say this—to join Robin Smith in a productive partnership of power and elegance?
§ Mr. John Carlisle (Luton, North)
May I help my hon. Friend to select the England side? This is relevant to both the debate and the Front Bench. Might it be an idea to adopt the Indian system whereby the selectors have two Government nominees with voting rights on the board? I would certain nominate my hon. Friend as one, and possibly the right hon. Member for Salford, East (Mr. Orme) as the other. We might then have a more balanced side.
§ Mr. Coombs
The all-party cricket group, under the chairmanship of the right hon. Member for Salford, East (Mr. Orme), is already beginning to influence the English selection process. It recently invited Mr. Ted Dexter to one of its meetings. I am not sure whether Mr. Dexter took away all our thoughts; we shall see when the team is chosen for the first test next month.
Let us be serious. Only if the game of cricket is enabled to flourish in our schools will we see its best aspects—the things that we all love—in future. I believe that time is running out for the recovery of the game we love.
I wish that time allowed me to do more than merely mention a range of other sports; I hope that other hon. Members will be able to say more about them. I should like to speak in more detail of our joy at Britain's having a world heavyweight boxing champion for the first time this century—I am sure that we all congratulate Lennox Lewis on his achievement. I wish that I could say more about the dominance of world golf by a British golfer, Nick Faldo; about the contribution of Widnes and Wigan to the game of rugby league in this country—following Saturday's game, perhaps we should mention St. Helens as well; and about the excellent family entertainment which speedway provides in my constituency and many others.
I should also like to refer to the Government's recent rescue of the British horseracing industry, in the nick of time. Perhaps at least one hon. Member will be tempted to speak of the problems of greyhound racing, and the question of evening off-track betting shop opening.
Let me address myself instead to the question of the administration of British sport and the resources available to it. In October this year, the new Sports Commission will begin its work, and the English Sports Council will come into existence to mirror those in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. To most people, that sounds a sensible arrangement, but I hope that my hon. Friend the Minister will agree that it should not, and must not, be allowed to be the reason for more bureaucracy and, hence, for the increased use of resources that would otherwise go directly into sport.
It worries me that, in a recent parliamentary answer, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for National Heritage told the House that, whereas the Arts Council spends 3.6 per cent. of its grant in aid on administration, the Sports Council spends 37 per cent. Perhaps the Minister will comment on that in his reply.
I should not want the House to be misled by my reference to those facts. I am well aware of the wide range of excellent services to sport provided by the Sports Council. Nevertheless, we should concentrate on those administration costs for a moment, and I hope that my hon. Friend will be able to reassure us. Clearly, we do not need more bureaucracy in sport. We need resources directed at our sportsmen and sportswomen out of the £50 million that the Government give to the Sports Council every year.
By contrast, the new Foundation for Sport and the Arts spends only 2 per cent. of its budget on administration. The foundation has already disbursed more than £100 million in donations and, with the Football Trust, is making excellent use of the money released by the reduction in the pools betting duty that the Chancellor has initiated. The pools companies deserve our congratulations, too, on the way in which they have supported the foundation.
35 It is clear that the private sector as a whole has a major role to play in the funding of sports projects. It is vital, therefore that the expertise of leisure industry companies such as First Leisure is used in the planning of commercially sound joint ventures. In that context, my hon. Friend the Minister may care to note the view of the leisure companies that compulsory competitive tendering, although it is a step in the right direction, is not delivering the level of investment for which we had all hoped.
Some 84 per cent. of contracts in local government are won in house. That may well mean sharper management in many cases, but it does not bring in the expertise of the private sector or the investment that is so badly needed to improve facilities owned by local authorities. The right hon. Member for Salford, East referred to swimming facilities, but there are many other instances in which more resources and investment are badly needed.
If the proceeds of the national lottery are to go to local authorities to any degree or if capital receipts are to be used for sports projects, I believe that private sector expertise will be needed to ensure that those funds are used for the benefit of council tax payers, and not at open-ended cost to them.
I mentioned the Football Trust, and I want to conclude with a look at the state of our premier spectator sport. There is much to celebrate—not least England's superb effort in the world cup, not only in reaching the semi-finals but in winning the fair play award. Thanks in large part to the legislation introduced by the Government to control the consumption of alcohol, crowd behaviour has improved so significantly that the pitch invasion at Manchester City on 7 March stands out as an unusual occurrence, and the tragedies of Hillsborough and Heysel seem a very long time ago.
The recommendation of the Taylor report that football stadiums should provide only seating accommodation has been modified in respect of the two lower divisions, some of whose clubs would probably have been bankrupted by that requirement. But that threat still hangs over some first division clubs whose average attendances are lower than the best of those in the second division. On 3 May, Burnley and Rotherham, in the second division, had larger gates than Brentford, Charlton and Oxford in the first. Is my hon. Friend prepared to think again about the possibility of keeping some standing accommodation for clubs with average attendances over the season below 10,000—provided, of course, that the Football Licensing Authority considers that a club can meet safety requirements in respect of that standing accommodation?
My own club, Swindon Town, would very much like to keep its Stratton bank stand as standing accommodation even though it is now competing for a place in the Premier League. Without it, the ground's capacity would be reduced in 1994 from 19,000 to 14,000, even though the Football Trust has put up 60 per cent. of the cost of a new south stand.
There are many fans who still prefer to stand and who, I believe, can be trusted today to behave themselves. Yesterday's play-off game at Swindon against Tranmere Rovers was watched, without incident, by a crowd of 14,000, of whom 4,000 were standing. I hope that my hon. Friend will also be my flexible friend in this matter and 36 give careful consideration to a further change in the regulations to ensure that those who wish to stand at football matches can, within reason, be allowed to do so.
In the meantime, the ability of many clubs to improve their grounds depends on the ability of the Football Trust to support them. Will my hon. Friend set minds at rest and reaffirm the extension of the reduction of 2.5 per cent. of pools betting duty on which the Football Trust is obviously entirely dependent?
The passage of the National Lottery etc. Bill led to some welcome amendments, designed to ensure that the pools companies were less adversely affected than they had feared. I thank my hon. Friend for the understanding that he has shown in such matters. Perhaps he will say whether he is now prepared to consider further the possibility of allowing the pools companies equal rights to advertise on television and radio as will be afforded to the national lottery? He will appreciate that there is a risk that the Football Trust and football clubs could be the losers if the playing field is not level.
The motion congratulates the Government on "its continuing recognition" of the role of sport. I should mention in particular the £3 million a year grant to Sportsmatch, the business sponsorship incentive scheme for sport, which is evidence of the Government's commitment to sport, as is the securing of international competitions such as the world gymnasium championships last month and the European football championships, which will come to England in 1996.
I believe, and I hope that the House believes, that we have very much to be proud of in British sport, but there is still very much to achieve in order to enhance the nation's life and its prestige abroad.
§ Mr. Tom Pendry (Stalybridge and Hyde)
I begin by congratulating the hon. Member for Swindon (Mr. Coombs) on breaking new ground by tabling a motion on sport. It is generally Labour Members who initiate such debates, and it is good to see that tradition being broken. In addition to the congratulations—with which I concur —that the hon. Gentleman passed on to individual athletes, the British Lions and many more, I was surprised that he did not congratulate his own team, Swindon Town, on winning in the play-offs yesterday. I am sure that he would wish to rectify that omission.
It is thanks to the hon. Gentleman that I am once again at the Dispatch Box and able to lock horns with the Minister to discuss the general state of sport in Britain. I cannot, however, congratulate the hon. Gentleman on his wording of the motion. He clearly has a lot to learn about the state of sport in this country, and I suspect that the wording for the motion came from the Minister's own Department.
Before discussing that motion in detail, I am sure that the House will realise the importance that a successful national lottery could have for sport, and we all look to the Minister to ensure that sport gets a fair and honest deal. I must refer, however, to the pathetic charade that those of us concerned with the lottery have had to endure with the secrecy surrounding the GAH group report, which the Minister commissioned to assist the Government's thinking before the National Lottery etc. Bill was drafted. The Minister is aware of last week's scandalous revelation that the GAH group is now demanding £695 plus value 37 added tax for its own commercial report on the lottery —a report which any reasonable person would suspect is largely the product of work carried out at the taxpayer's expense. I received a letter from the Minister this morning informing me that in his view the GAH group commercial reportbears no direct relation to the work we commissioned.I am sure that the Minister was extremely careful in the choice of his words as he will have had the opportunity, as I have, to read a copy of the commercial report and to compare it with the terms of reference for the Government report given by his Department to the GAH group, which he set out in a parliamentary answer to me on 21.January.
I shall not dwell on the report today, but I shall be writing to the Minister in great detail to show him where I think that his assessment of the situation is wrong. However, he may wish to reflect on one aspect in advance of receiving my letter. Without using information gained as a result of its publicly funded work behind the scenes with his Department, how could the GAH group possibly produce a report providing information on the following: the criteria to be used to select the lottery contractor, the value of the contracts, the number of retailers and the work required in the preparation of the tender document?
There is one matter on which the Minister must put the House's mind at rest today. Has he made inquiries to ensure that the commercial report is the full extent to which the GAH group is seeking to profit from its access to privileged information and that the company is not working for any companies seeking to gain contracts for the lottery? I hope that the Minister will refer to that when he makes his contribution to the debate.
Before we leave the subject of the national lottery, the Minister will recall an interesting debate initiated by my hon. Friend the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Hinchliffe) about certain discriminatory practices exercised by the Rugby Football Union against the British Amateur Rugby League Association. I hope that my hon. Friend will be able to catch your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker, because I am sure that he and other hon. Members will wish to use this opportunity to pursue that vital issue. Perhaps the Minister will be able to give a more forthright reply than he was able to on Report.
We are discussing not only the national lottery, but the glut of issues and challenges facing the Minister and his as yet fledgling Department in relation to sport. He will know by now that sport has had enough of being treated as a political outcast by Tory Governments and is demanding the respect that it undoubtedly deserves. Perhaps I am being unkind to the Minister, because he is without doubt an improvement on his predecessor, the hon. Member for South Ribble (Mr. Atkins).
However, I must inform the Minister that, if he wishes to make his mark in sport, he must get to grips with the mandarins and with his own civil servants who seem incapable of tackling the needs of sport in this country. The Minister must by now be aware that, if sport is to prosper, he must do everything in his power to prevent his Department becoming a mere conduit through which vital aspects of policy are passed to other Departments. If he will allow me, I shall give an illustration of the damage that can ensue when he fails to give a lead to the Government on sport. He must bang some ministerial heads together to get results for our sportsmen and women and for spectators.
38 The Minister will be aware that one of the very few concrete actions to come from the review of sports policy undertaken by his predecessor was the publication for consultation of a draft letter—not an actual letter—about school playing fields, which was mentioned by the hon. Member for Swindon. The Minister's predecessor sent the draft letter for comment from local authority organisations on 19 December 1991–17 months ago.
In a parliamentary written answer to me only four days ago, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Schools, the hon. Member for Mid-Worcestershire (Mr. Forth), informed me that within 61 days responses had been received from all but one organisation—the Tory-dominated London Boroughs Association. Much to the Minister's embarrassment, I am sure, his hon. Friend went on to tell me that the LBA was sent a further copy of the letter and then had to be chased on the telephone before it informed the Government that it was not bothering to reply.
The Minister might like to comment on the commitment to sport in the capital of his political friends in the Tory-dominated LBA or, more to the point, their lack of commitment, which knocks the argument put forward by the hon. Member for Battersea (Mr. Bowis).
§ Mr. John Bowis (Battersea)
I thought that the proof of the pudding was in the eating. If the hon. Gentleman were to come to the London borough of Wandsworth, he would see the "Sport for Youth" campaign which was initiated last year and which has been run by Wandsworth council. Its aim is to put back into the curriculum the sporting opportunities for young people which were woefully absent when the Inner London education authority was responsible.
§ Mr. Pendry
I regret giving way to the hon. Gentleman, who is merely plugging a particular borough and not the London Boroughs Association, to which I was referring.
Since the responses to the draft letter were received by the Department for Education more than 14 months ago, the Government have done nothing but sit on their hands. If the Minister is to have any credibility in sport, he must take this opportunity to apologise for the shameful lack of effort by his predecessor and promise the House that firm and decisive action will be taken without delay to halt the scandalous sale of those precious sporting assets—our school playing fields—to which the hon. Member for Swindon referred. I, and the House, look forward to that promise.
I must assure the Minister that his honeymoon period is well and truly over. We gave him an extended honeymoon, but it is now time he tackled the lack of concerted action and the unfulfilled promises which remain the hallmark of the Government's attitude to sport. For instance, I am sure that he will agree that it is high time he took a more positive approach to the problems facing our national game of football—a matter also mentioned by the hon. Member for Swindon.
My views on soccer are pretty well documented and, to be fair, I must acknowledge the positive attitude to football displayed by the Minister's previous boss, the right hon. and learned Member for Putney (Mr. Mellor). Unfortunately, since the right hon. and learned Member left his post, football has seen precious little action from 39 the Minister's Department or any other Department. Indeed, there has been a distinct lack of leadership exercised by the Minister towards out national game.
My hon. Friend the Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Ashton), who is the chairman of the all-party football committee, has asked me to apologise for his not being here, as Sheffield Wednesday is reorganising the ticket allocation for the replay on Thursday. My right hon. Friend the Member for Salford, East (Mr. Orme) is not only chairman of the all-party cricket committee but happens also to be vice-chairman of the all-party football committee—a versatile man—and he will no doubt try to catch your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker.
If evidence of the lack of leadership is required, I mention the deafening silence from Ministers following the recent pitch invasions on grounds throughout the country —most recently at Exeter City, where the referee was assaulted. The pitch invasion at Manchester City last March was especially significant because nearly two thirds of the fans came from the £7 million new stand which was built in response to Lord Justice Taylor's recommendation for all-seater stadiums.
I do not for one minute wish to imply that such incidents reflect badly on the recommendations of the Taylor report or that we should discourage the construction of new modern stands fit for the 21st century —far from it: I want to see more of them—but the Minister will be aware that an integral part of the strategy for football which Taylor envisaged was to balance the greater freedom afforded by the removal of fences from in front of the stands with the creation of new offences to deter those who might wish to abuse that freedom and invade the pitch.
The Minister will be further aware that, following the publication of the Taylor report, I repeatedly urged the Home Secretary to heed Lord Justice Taylor's advice and get the new offences on to the statute book. That was done, albeit belatedly, with the introduction of the Football (Offences) Act 1991. What is the use of getting those offences on to the statute book if the powers thereby given to the clubs, to the police and to magistrates are not used to the full to discourage pitch invasions? Had a mere handful of the original offenders been charged under the Act, fined up to £1,000, excluded from the team's ground and had their names published in every team's programme in the early part of the season, we would not have found too many so-called fans running on to the pitch.
The Minister must see that as lack of action on his part and tell the House today that he will speak to his colleagues in the Home Office to get them to agree to issue a circular to magistrates and the police drawing attention to the provisions of the Act and pressing them to enforce it so as to prevent any recurrence of such disturbing events next season.
As the Minister is no doubt aware, the Football (Offences) Act 1991 arose out of a recommendation of the Home Affairs Select Committee report, "Policing Football Hooliganism", which was published in February 1991. He must also recall that the throwing of missiles and the chanting of obscene and racist language was also outlawed in the Act. Can he tell the House how well he has monitored progress in that area?
40 The Select Committee report also recommended, in line with the Taylor report, that it should be made a specific offence to sell tickets on the day of a football match without the authority of the home club. Yet the Government saw fit to leave such a provision out of the Football (Offences) Act. Since then, I have written repeatedly to Ministers urging them to introduce legislation against ticket touts and I have had two undertakings from the Prime Minister that legislation to prohibit ticket touting will be introduced as soon as parliamentary time allows.
I know that the Football Association shares my concerns and it is a disgrace that, more than three years later, nothing has been done by the Government. It is vital that legislation he introduced as soon as possible because of the mounting evidence of the problems caused by touting, both throughout the domestic calendar and at prestigious events such as the FA cup final. If the Minister saw The Mail on Sunday yesterday, he will have read Simon Greenberg's article highlighting some of the touting problems at Wembley over the weekend.
I hope that the Minister has had a chance to read the fine report by the chief trading standards officer of Liverpool city council which shows that touting has undermined segregation arrangements between supporters at every cup final between 1988 and 1992. It was estimated that, in the 1992 cup final between Liverpool and Sunderland, a minimum of 1,200 tickets were touted, resulting in fans paying up to £138,000 in excess prices. According to the report, the level of touting was in reality much higher. Many fans were understandably reluctant to reveal how much they had paid and where they purchased their tickets.
It is not just football that has fallen victim to the universally condemned action of ticket touts. In September 1990, the authorities at Wimbledon, tired of Government inactivity, took action and introduced measures designed to safeguard the position of tennis-loving fans and to minimise the black market in Wimbledon tickets.
The problem was of sufficient concern for my hon. Friend the Member for Motherwell, North (Dr. Reid) to raise the matter last week and to ask whether the Government would consider the possibility of touting spreading to Buckingham palace, now that the decision had been taken to issue tickets in advance for the newly announced tours of the palace. The spectacle of ticket-touting spivs at the royal palace may make the Government sit up. I hope that the Minister will raise the issue with Home Office Ministers, and that they will introduce an appropriate clause, perhaps in the Criminal Justice Bill which is about to begin its Committee stage, or that he will at least support others who may wish to introduce such a clause.
The Minister's previous boss, the right hon. and learned Member for Putney, received a delegation that I took to him on the question of standing areas at football grounds —a matter touched on by his hon. Friends. I put to the then Minister the desire of football supporters organisations for safe standing areas within their grounds and, having listened to the arguments, he conceded the case for the lower divisions, but he would not go all the way with us. Some premier and first division clubs will not meet the deadline laid down for conversion of their grounds to all-seater stadiums by 1994–95 for a host of reasons—some 41 have planning problems with their local authorities or with the Department of the Environment—so the present Minister will need to show some flexibility.
What has also happened since the Taylor report is that the world has moved on, especially in terms of science, and even since we met the Minister's right hon. and learned Friend there have been some significant advances in safety technology as it relates to the question of standing areas at grounds. The crowd pressure monitoring system introduced by the NNC at Risley is one such example of a proven system which can be adapted to crush barriers on terracing to prevent any threat to the safety of supporters who choose to stand.
The system contains a series of sensors in a barrier which are linked to a computer which monitors the amount of pressure being exerted on the barrier at the front of the crowd. The system has been so successful that it has attracted considerable interest from Italian stadium designers and from crowd safety consultants in the United States of America. It is another example of a British invention being taken up by others but not by the British themselves.
It is clear that that system, in conjunction with the Football Stadia Advisory Design Council's guidelines on safer terracing published in March, can clearly meet the highest safety standards that the Government rightly demand. In the interests of football, will the Minister give an undertaking to look at those proposals and to reconsider the whole question of safe terracing for those clubs which are expected to meet the deadline; of the Taylor report? Better still, will he also undertake to visit Risley to see for himself—as I have done—a system which, if adopted, will please millions of football supporters?
I hope that the Minister has had the chance to read a new report produced this week by the Sports Council, "New Horizons, Sport in the 90s", which sets out an agenda for its remaining period of office. The report says clearly on page 59 that Britain is lagging behind its European partners in terms of investment in new sporting development. The Sports Council in its comparison of final Government expenditure on sport, based on the 1985 prices, with the various member states of the Council of Europe, found that with the exception of Portugal, the United Kingdom Government spent one third less on sport than other member states did.
That led the Sports Council to conclude:Other nations have been swifter to recognise the economic benefits of sporting success, as well as its value to national prestige. They have invested heavily in new sporting developments. Overseas competitors are often surprised how relatively little financial support their sport receives in the land of its birth and how well Britain's sporting men and women perform despite this disadvantage. Other nations in Europe recognise the economic benefits of sporting success as well as its value to national prestige—indeed our overseas competitors are often surprised at how little financial support sport receives in this country".That is why I disagree with the wording of the motion. If the hon. Member for Swindon had read that report, he might have framed the motion rather differently. I hope that the Minister will address himself to the Sports Council's comments.
The Minister's Department stands condemned as it has failed to put into practice one of the few important recommendations to come out of the review by the hon. Member for South Ribble—the proposal to reform the national structures of sport, including the creation of the United Kingdom Sports Commission and a separate 42 English Sports Council. The Minister will understand our desire to press for further information about the exact date at which these bodies will be established as there is widespread concern that the Government's current plans will not come to fruition by October, as previously announced.
The Minister must recognise the concerns of those who are worried about the way in which the proposals for the United Kingdom Sports Commission are turning out. The Minister must be aware that a royal charter is not the property of Government, although once it is born, it can be revoked only by Parliament. It is not a political charter and, according to my right hon. and noble Friend Lord Howell, who knows about these things, it should not be imposed on Parliament or the sporting world in controversial circumstances, as it involves Her Majesty the Queen.
Opposition parties should already have been consulted, and as Opposition spokesman for sport I have yet to receive my official copy. Not only will the Minister offend Opposition parties, but he will offend his right hon. Friends the Secretaries of State for Scotland, for Wales and for Northern Ireland unless fuller consultation is carried out.
The bureaucratic nature of the proposals is exactly as predicted by Lord Howell when he spoke from the Opposition Front Bench at the time of the initial announcement. Because the draft charters contradict much of what the review recommended, notably the breakdown of roles between the proposed United Kingdom Sports Commission and the Sports Council for England—
§ The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for National Heritage (Mr. Robert Key)
How does the hon. Gentleman know that?
§ Mr. Pendry
Because a charter has been leaked to me. However, it is a disgrace that I have not received a copy from the Minister.
The Minister will be aware that the hon. Member for South Ribble said in his review that the United Kingdom Sports Commission should be responsible forpromoting higher standards of performance and excellence in sport at a UK level.However, the wording in the draft charter is not "at a UK level", but for the "UK as a whole." That could lead to the interpretation that the UKSC has a responsibility for all aspects of sport in the United Kingdom causing no end of duplication and confusion between the proposed two organisations.
In short, the UKSC should be concerned with our international dimensions and the Sports Council with our national sports. The situation as it stands cannot be allowed to continue and I look forward to playing my part in the review process when the Minister has the courtesy to send me a copy of the charter.
An integral part of ensuring the success of the United Kingdom Sports Commission and the English Sports Council, whatever arrangements are arrived at for their eventual memberships and modus operandi, is securing a decent level of resources to back their efforts. In that respect, the hon. Member for Swindon has got it all wrong. We would expect the total amount given as grant aid to be more than the level of grant aid presently given to the Sports Council for Great Britain which, expressed in 1993–94 prices, has declined from £51 million in 1991 to 43 £49.9 million in 1991–92. Judging from the Chancellor's autumn statement, the Government do not intend to honour their pre-election promise to maintain their funding for sports and the arts.
I have received a number of complaints from leisure departments of councils throughout the country about the current capping of their budgets, which has resulted in severe restraints on their capital programmes for sport. Figures from 1992 Sports Council survey of actual budgets and past expenditure clearly show that capital expenditure by district and borough in 1992–93 has fallen to 44 per cent. of the 1989–90 level. Those figures represent a disgraceful picture, and they should be dramatically improved.
We also want the Minister to clarify his commitment given during the Committee stage of the National Lottery etc. Bill and guarantee not just the funding of capital projects for sport, to which reference has been made, but also the revenue expenditure necessary for those projects to operate effectively. The Minister must be more positive about revenue spend as it goes hand in hand with capital projects.
Already up and down the country, as a result of Government policy, we see sport being denied to thousands of people because of the lack of funding. Indeed, the situation would be much worse if local authorities had not exercised considerable ingenuity in finding ways of keeping facilities open. However, some of the means employed to do that have the effect of restricting access through reductions in opening hours, reducing quality of service or increasing prices.
I will give the Minister some graphic illustrations of that. Manchester city council, the Olympic city, has closed Victoria baths in Hathersage road. The London borough of Greenwich is in the process of transferring its leisure facilities to workers' co-operatives or trusts. Langbaurghon-Tees has reduced opening hours and transferred full-time jobs to casual staff. The London borough of Haringey has reduced opening hours and there have been reductions in access to its dual use centres. Dudley metropolitan borough council has had to close a demonstration project called "The Fitness Factor" which it was running in co-operation with the Sports Council.
There are many more examples, in Peterborough, Basildon, Brentwood, Braintree and Castle Point. This has nothing to do with Government action in relation to local authorities which is forcing those sports facilities to become if not white elephants, then at least part-time working facilities.
§ Mr. Andrew Robathan (Blaby)
The hon. Gentleman may not be aware that only two years ago I was a councillor in Hammersmith and Fulham. We had exactly the same problem of a shortage of funds and an inability to keep the swimming pools open. I went to see the pools and I spoke to the staff, who were very pleasant. They explained that the pools could not be opened, purely because of the inefficiency of the local administration, and that it had nothing to do with the amount of funding provided.
§ Mr. Pendry
The hon. Gentleman could not have listened to his hon. Friend the Member for Swindon, who 44 referred to local authorities which had won the in-house tendering for those facilities. The hon. Member for Blaby (Mr. Robathan) has clearly got it all wrong.
Not only does the lack of funding prevent the necessary refurbishment of aging, worn-out buildings and facilities; it also means that preventive maintenance is skimped. As a result, we are storing up grave problems for the future. Perhaps the Minister can give local authorities and others the assurances that they seek in that important area.
I referred a little while ago to Manchester as the Olympic city, and we all hope that that will be the case in the year 2000. Perhaps the Minister will comment on reports—a point to which the hon. Member for Swindon referred—that in a recent speech to Manchester business men the Prime Minister withdrew a vital paragraph from his proposed text in which he was going to give his clear commitment to attending this autumn's Olympic committee meeting in Monte Carlo to lead Britain's efforts.
The Minister must give some reassurance today about that because there are those—including, perhaps, the hon. Member for Swindon—who believe that the Prime Minister withdrew that commitment because he has realised too late that he cannot honour the spending promises that he made towards the Olympic bid and is desperately trying to get away from those commitments.
§ Mr. Pendry
If that is not the case, the Minister can tell us today, but that is the view widely held in the sporting world.
§ Mr. Pendry
No, I will not.
If the Minister moved in the circles of the sporting world, he might be aware of that view. He can end that worry once and for all by telling the House that the Government's financial commitment to the games will be honoured in full from existing spending programmes and without recourse to a raid on the millennium fund, which would fall foul of the additionality pledges made by the Secretary of State on Second Reading of the National Lottery etc. Bill.
I have given the Minister a shopping list of tasks on which I believe he should be taking action, and I do not wish to overburden him, but there is one area in which I believe he is duty bound to notch up a victory. I refer to one of the country's most popular participatory sports —angling.
The Minister may not be aware that the Foundation for Sports and the Arts, established in the 1991 Budget by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, has refused to give a single penny to angling and has constantly chopped and changed its reason for that. On 13 January, the secretary of the foundation, Mr. Grattan Endicott, wrote to Ken Ball, the president of the National Federation of Anglers, telling him that the foundation would not give money to angling because the trustees' policy isnot to grant-aid activities that directly inflict pain or harm on members of the animal world.Once the NFA had written to the foundation conclusively demonstrating that angling does no such thing, the foundation accepted those arguments. However, in a further letter on 24 February, the foundation came up 45 with the astonishing comment that, even though the impending revision of the trust deed might indeed render angling eligible for funding,the president of the Board of Trustees would not contemplate giving support to angling even if it were allowable.The Minister must agree that the antipathy that that comment shows towards Britain's millions of anglers is staggering. Perhaps that is why, in a third letter on 5 April, the foundation attempted to back-track and came up with yet another excuse for denying angling any aid. It said:angling is not athletic and funds would not stretch to such grants.Surely the Minister will agree that it is deeply regrettable that out of an annual budget of £60 million the foundation feels that it cannot find a single penny for one of the country's most popular sports. As the Minister is the custodian of sport—and of that sport—in this House, he must do something about that. He must show today that he has the stomach to fight on behalf of the millions of anglers who look to him for a lead.
§ Mr. Pendry
No, I am about to finish and many hon. Members wish to participate in this debate.
I hope that the Minister will write to the foundation and ask it to reconsider its decision to deny angling access to the funds made available for all sport by the Chancellor. Furthermore, will he agree to accept a delegation from me and the National Federation of Anglers?
§ Mr. Pendry
It is true that I keep the Minister working. It is time that he recognised that he will receive a lot more requests for meetings. Obviously, there are many other issues that must wait for another occasion. I have no doubt that other Labour Members will raise issues to which I would dearly love to refer, but time does not permit me to do so.
I conclude by congratulating the hon. Member for Swindon. The terms of his motion did not reflect the content of his speech, which was far more relevant to this debate on sport than the words of the motion. What are words, after all? The main thing is that he gave a good speech. The Minister should reply not only to the points that I have made and to those of the hon. Member for Swindon, but to the other points that will be made as the debate proceeds.
§ Mr. John Carlisle (Luton, North)
I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Swindon (Mr. Coombs) on bringing this important subject to the attention of the House. I express some regret that inevitably the hon. Member for Stalybridge and Hyde (Mr. Pendry), as is his custom in such debates, gave us his usual whinge and whine that the only thing that would put sport right in the United Kingdom was funding and money. I wonder when the hon. Gentleman will understand that the sports men and women in the United Kingdom are capable of enjoying their sports to a certain extent to their own ability. Indeed, the last thing that they want is recourse to national or, indeed, local government funds.
There are many excellent organisations throughout the United Kingdom which the hon. Gentleman inevitably forgot to mention as he went down his cascading road of 46 worrying about the Government and the extent of their involvement. It is ironic that the Government should be blamed for pitch invasions during the coming season, when I recall that some years ago pitch invasions were a scourge of football in the United Kingdom. Every opportunity that was given to the hon. Gentleman to jump up and oppose various legislation introduced by the Government in the ensuing argument was remarkable. He spent many a long hour castigating the Government on the various measures, both in the Committee Rooms and on the Floor of the House.
However, we have got used to the hon. Gentleman's attitude. All I can say is that, obviously, his tenure on the Front Bench will not be as long as that of his noble predecessor.
§ Mr. Carlisle
Of course. The hon. Gentleman did not agree with some aspects of the Football Spectators Bill—he kept us in Committee for many a long hour. I think that the right hon. Member for Salford, East (Mr. Orme) was also on that Committee. Time and again, when the Government were wrestling with an enormous problem at that time, we had little co-operation from Labour Members, especially the hon. Member for Stalybridge and Hyde.
It is nice to see my hon. Friend the Minister back here after his weekend sortie to Cannes for the film festival. We were disappointed that he did not—this is no aspersion on those in the Public Gallery—bring back any of the bimbos who were apparently trying to avoid him. Perhaps his speech will enlighten us as to what sport he found at the film festival. He has been a sterling champion of sport in the short time that he has been in that office, together with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for National Heritage. We look forward to the Minister's contribution this afternoon.
I was perhaps a teeny bit disappointed that my hon. Friend the Member for Swindon did not mention that sporting organisation which held its annual general meeting last week—the Central Council of Physical Recreation. The president of that council is his Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh, who perhaps should be mentioned more often in the House. My hon. Friend the Secretary of State made a speech at the end of the annual general meeting. I was pleased to hear him say that lines of communication with that excellent organisation were being not simply reopened but endorsed by Her Majesty's Government and the Department of National Heritage.
That must be welcomed, because there is a history of spats, including legal spats, between the Sports Council, which has been very much a Government-funded organisation, and the CCPR. It is good to see the olive branch being extended by my right hon. Friend, and I hope that that will continue.
Most hon. Members, especially Labour Members—I must give a bouquet to the hon. Member for Stalybridge and Hyde, who has been a great champion of the CCPR —must understand the breadth of that organisation. My hon. Friend the Member for Swindon talked about the broadest base of sport and the number of many and varied organisations which are either within the membership of the CCPR or which take an active part in its affairs—for example, the Organisation for British Blind Sport, the 47 Church Lads and Church Girls Brigade and the Spastics Society, as well as the British Darts Organisation, the Clay Pigeon Shooting Organisation and the National Rounders Association.
The voices of a broad band of organisations are often not heard, because they are not attractive for sponsorship, television coverage, or perhaps political activity. That is why I should like to pay tribute to those organisations for the work they do in representing all those minor sports.
§ Mr. Brandreth
I simply endorse the tribute that my hon. Friend is paying to the Central Council of Physical Recreation, which encompasses the whole breadth of sport and recreation. I also underline his point about the new sense of co-operation between the CCPR and the Sports Council. That co-operation was recently exemplified by their playing pitch strategy. In the past, they produced documents which may have been in conflict: they are now producing strategies in partnership for the good of sport throughout the United Kingdom.
§ Mr. Carlisle
The House should listen to the authority that my hon. Friend brings to this subject. I pay tribute to him for the work that he has done for the Playing Fields Association. Indeed, that aspect of the CCPR's work must be applauded—reference has already been made to it. The campaign for saving our playing fields, which received support from hon. Members on both sides of the House —contrary to what the hon. Member for Stalybridge and Hyde said—attracted enormous concern and some sympathy. The loss of playing fields is one of the various cudgels on which the CCPR has advised hon. Members in the past few years. My hon. Friend the Member for City of Chester (Mr. Brandreth) is right to say that, if we are moving down the road of more co-operation, it must be good.
Another subject in which the CCPR is involved—my hon. Friend the Member for Swindon referred to this—is the basis of rating. I know that there will always be an argument as to whether local authorities should have the opportunity to grant some 75 per cent. relief. Credit must be given to the Government for giving local authorities that opportunity. It is partly due to the CCPR that the rating system has been examined.
There was some disappointment with the review of my hon. Friend the Minister's predecessor—it is known as the Atkins review—because the CCPR got only a passing mention at the end of the report. As we look with perhaps some uncertainty, which is expressed by hon. Members on both sides of the House, to the formation of the United Kingdom Sports Commission, one hopes that the CCPR will play a fuller part, in co-operation with the commission.
Inevitably, debates of this nature tend to focus on the funding of sport. It would be somewhat churlish if that were avoided, having expressed the sentiments that I did at the beginning of my speech. The question will always be whether money is available and, indeed, where that money will come from. I have always believed, as do many Conservative Members, that much of the funding for sport must come from within the sport itself. It must be said that some of the major sports, especially rugby union and tennis, are high earners in their own right.
48 It is true to say that rugby union is a net contributor to the Treasury, rather than a net taker. One must take one's hat off to the Rugby Union and, indeed, to the Scottish Rugby Union and the Welsh Rugby Union, because they have stood on their own feet—they have had recourse to public funds only in a minor way. They have got their house in order, and their sport is popular. Contrary to popular opinion, it is still an amateur sport—[Laughter.] I thought that I would get that reaction from Labour Members. The hon. Member for Wakefield (Mr. Hinchliffe) should contain himself for a moment.
I would be the first to express some concern, even after the excellent speech by Mr. Dudley Wood to the all-party rugby league committee the other day, that rugby union must watch for the professionalism that is creeping in. It is not for me to get into an argument with the rugby union. Certainly, the matter may be raised later.
However, I must say to the Rugby Union that many of us who represent some of the junior clubs and, indeed, some of the junior so-called first-class clubs, are becoming increasingly worried that those in the top division are beginning to attract players by means which might be considered to be professional. It is true that such players are a tiny minority and that the practice does not filter down all the way to the junior clubs, as it does in association football. In football, even village sides pay professionals to play for them. However, some warning must be given to rugby union, not from the House but from fellow rugby union players. It must be told that many people are concerned about the way things are going. One hopes that rugby union will address those difficulties.
One regrets the passing of the true amateur. This year, the All England tennis club will provide £303,000 as the first prize for the men's singles winner. That is an enormous amount of money in anyone's book for the winner of the prestigious Wimbledon championship. It is certainly the championship of the world. The reasons given are that other countries offer similar prizes and that the exchange rate has fallen. It is not for me to criticise the Chancellor of the Exchequer in this debate. Lower exchange rates inevitably mean that the prize money must increase.
One must ask whether it is right that £303,000 should go to one player when tennis, especially for junior and school players, is crying out for funds. I should like to see some of the highly paid professional sportsmen who give us such enormous entertainment give something back. They obviously give something back in the form of taxation, but I should like to see them participate actively in training and coaching youngsters as they approach the end of their careers.
I welcome the formation of the Foundation for Sport and the Arts and the excellent work of Tim Rice and his team. Cash is now coming back to worthy causes. The other day, some money was made available for a girls' rugby union centre in my constituency. I cannot say that I find it a pleasing sight to see women playing rugby.
§ Mr. Carlisle
It is just a male prejudice.
The girls are enthusiastic, and they have been encouraged. Money has been made available to them by the Foundation for Sports and the Arts, which is another initiative taken by the Government in consultation with the CCPR and others. Again, that is to be welcomed.
49 I also welcome the formation of the Football Trust, which puts money back into the game from the pools. Like Opposition Members, I welcome the Government's change of heart on the pools and the national lottery. I am delighted that there will now be a much more level playing field for the pools and the lottery. For example, the pools will now be able to enjoy roll-over prizes and so on.
The national lottery will obviously dominate the sports debate in the next few years. It is perhaps regrettable that, although funds were originally to be allocated in thirds, we have added another two categories—charities and the millennium fund. That will inevitably reduce the amount of money that goes to sport.
I hope that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State's estimate of some £150 million in the first year of the national lottery will be a serious underestimate. I believe that the national lottery will catch the imagination of the public. In that soft form of gambling, people will feel in their hearts that they are supporting sport. I hope that, as the take increases, funds from the national lottery will replace the money given by the taxpayer. I am aware that the Government do not necessarily agree with that.
The hon. Member for Stalybridge and Hyde spoke about continental stadiums and so on. It would be nice if we could enjoy such facilities, but they should not necessarily all be provided at the taxpayer's expense. I hope that the national lottery will begin to yield enough money to enable us to take sport out of the political argument for local authorities and national Government.
Other funding has inevitably come from sponsorship. I give credit to the CCPR for forming the Institute of Sports Sponsorship under the Presidency of His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh. I also give credit to the Government for going ahead with the Sportsmatch scheme, which arose directly out of the institute. The pound-for-pound basis must be the way forward. We hope that the £3 million earmarked at this stage will be increased as the scheme becomes more popular. I give credit to my hon. Friend the Minister for setting up that institution.
I also give credit to the Institute of Professional Sport, which helps professional sportsmen who have fallen on hard times for various reasons—often as a result of injury. Mr. Garth Crooks and others are doing excellent work to help those who can very easily become the forgotten men of sport. Most of us who are involved in sport know how quickly a sportsman or woman can be forgotten by the public and by those who used to support them.
My concluding remark on funding and sponsorship is on the touchy subject of tobacco sponsorship. It probably has greater cross-party support than many hon. Members are willing to accept. I am glad that the Opposition have not included total opposition to the funding of sport by the tobacco companies as part of their policies.
Most of us understand the medical dangers of smoking, and also that the Government have discouraged tobacco sponsorship in the past few years with the two voluntary agreements of 1977 and 1986. In the past decade, smoking has been reduced by some 20 per cent. I believe that such sponsorship must continue to be available to sports, should they want it. We live in a free country where smoking is a legitimate pastime, and long may it remain so. I do not smoke—it is a filthy habit—but I hope that others will continue to smoke and, by paying their taxes, keep my tax bill down.
On a more serious note, the tobacco companies have a substantial part to play in sport, not only in glamour 50 sports such as cricket, motor racing and golf, but where money has, if I may use the phrase, filtered down to junior and other sports. If the Government banned the sponsorship and advertising of sport by the tobacco companies—I know that that has been mooted, not just in this place but in some higher echelons and even Downing street—it would be a sad day for sport. The substantial funding that comes from genuine people who want to help sport—and, admittedly, to sell their product—would be lost and the great institutions and events that have marked our sporting prowess over the past few years would also lose.
I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Swindon on his excellent motion. If he had not moved it, it would certainly have been in my mind to do so, and I would have been more congratulatory of this excellent Government. At least we are doing something right, and that is the Government's policy for sport and recreation.
§ Mr. Stanley Orme (Salford, East)
I congratulate the hon. Member for Swindon (Mr. Coombs) on introducing the debate. As my hon. Friend the Member for Stalybridge and Hyde (Mr. Pendry) said, his speech was much sharper than the motion on the Order Paper. That often happens, as hon. Members are aware, and we have covered a wide area this afternoon.
I went to my constituency of Salford yesterday to see the beginning of Manchester United's victory parade. It started in Salford and went round the city in pouring rain. Thousands of people, many of them young, were out on the streets. Those young people were there to praise and congratulate the team. Many were participants in sport, but not enough.
The facilities in inner city areas have been dramatically reduced. As a consequence, we have to face the fact that sport has a part to play in the problems that exist in constituencies such as mine—youth unemployment and crime. If young unemployed people had something to do —such as sport—they would not become involved in such undersirable activities. Swimming has been mentioned in the debate. Councils in inner-city areas find it virtually impossible to maintain swimming pools because they are uneconomic and cannot be run at a profit. The councils need funds to do so. Those are examples of the problems faced.
In inner-city areas such as mine where land, particularly building land, is scarce, local authorities are forced to sell playing fields. When they do so, it means that those facilities have gone for ever—school playing fields no longer exist because they have been built on. We have recently heard much about the problems with the curriculum and teachers, who are giving up less and less of their spare time at the evenings and weekends to train and coach young people in sport. It is essential to have sports facilities and training if we want our society to be healthy.
The hon. Member for Swindon talked about excellence in sport, and named many of the sports people in the United Kingdom with good records. We applaud them, but the top footballers, cricketers and runners are in the minority in our society. The base must be strengthened. Unfortunately, the base has been weakened.
I was vice-chairman of the all-party football committee and am also chairman of the cricket committee. I asked a 51 question of the Secretary of State for National Heritage about the Sports Council's provisions for cricket and young people. The right hon. Gentleman said:The Sports Council is providing £130,000 per year for 1992–93 and 1993–94 to enable the National Cricket Association to employ 10 part-time regional cricket development officers, one of whose tasks is to promote links between schools and local cricket clubs. The council also gives £16,000 a year to the English Schools Cricket Association. In addition, three awards totalling £117,000 have already been made by our new Sportsmatch scheme to projects which will benefit youth cricket." — [Official Report, 10 May 1993; Vol. 224, c. 330.]Such a policy is worthy, but it represents peanuts. Our national sport needs much more funding than it is receiving at present.
Reference has been made to the Sports Council and the national lottery. The problem is that the Sports Council spreads its net widely. Therefore, if we are not careful, sports such as the national game of soccer, as well as cricket, could lose out against other activities. They will particularly do so if sport is to be linked—as it apparently will be—to the national lottery. Funds must be provided through the state for the provision of sports facilities. Sport is one of the major activities in our society, and leads to a healthier and happier nation. We have a responsibility not merely to say that it is somebody else's job, but to tell the electorate that we shall allocate funds to provide sports facilities.
§ Mr. Alan Haselhurst (Saffron Walden)
Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that an effective way of making a little money go a long way would be to help many of the voluntary clubs, which exist in a great network up and down the country, to extend their facilities for coaching young people? The facilities exist, but are under-utilised, and topping up the finances a little might help to bring many people into a system that already exists.
§ Mr. Orme
I accept the hon. Gentleman's argument. The facilities exist, and people must be encouraged to use them. I was present at a Cricket Council meeting only last week where coaching and involving young people in cricket was the paramount subject in the discussion. It is possible that pupils at public schools and grammar schools are being taught cricket, but such skills are not being developed at secondary schools in inner-city areas such as those that I and many of my hon. Friends represent.
My hon. Friend the Member for Stalybridge and Hyde spoke of facilities and the implementation of some of the proposals in Lord Taylor's report. I listened to what my hon. Friend said about standing room at some grounds, and the difficulties that many clubs face in providing the necessary facilities. The Minister must consider that issue seriously.
My hon. Friend the Member for Stalybridge and Hyde also mentioned ticket touts; that problem exists not just in soccer but in all sports, the theatre and wherever there are shortages of tickets. I know that the hon. Member for Billericay (Mrs. Gorman) once described ticket touting as market forces at their best. However, one would not say that if one was outside some of the football grounds. The Taylor report means that football grounds are to be reduced in size. A ground such as Manchester United's originally held 60,000 or 70,000. When the all-seater provisions are completed next year, it will hold only just 52 over 40,000. Many other clubs will face a similar reduction in size, and the pressure for tickets will become greater and greater. If action is not taken, we shall have a recipe for trouble and danger.
Lord Taylor says something should be done about the problem, and he asked for legislation—I think that the Minister has ducked the issue and I do not know why. If we were to take action, I think that he would have the support of the sport and people. Ticket touts who exploit the position, whether at Wembley, Wimbledon or theatres, benefit only the minority. Only two years ago at Wembley, I saw tickets being snatched from people's hands. The police should have the power to detain those guilty of this offence before the game until it is over. I know that the practice cannot be abolished altogether. Tickets will always be exchanged elsewhere, but it should not be allowed outside grounds.
§ Mr. John Carlisle
The right hon. Gentleman must be aware that the Rugby Football Union issues tickets only through clubs, with the names of those clubs on them. If tickets are found to have been sold at increased prices later, the club in question loses its allocation. Would it not be better if association football did the same?
§ Mr. Orme
The sport has tried to tighten up, and we now know which clubs tickets have been allocated to, but some will always slip through the net. Much the same problem occurred this weekend at Wembley. I am all in favour of tightening up, but that is not always possible. Some form of legislation is needed.
As for pitch invasions, at Wembley stadium the other week I saw an experiment which, when implemented, will prevent people from climbing the barriers and invading the pitch. It involves a sort of moat, and a construction of metal on a firm base. Wembley hopes to introduce the system in time for the charity shield match in August.
Sometimes we are told not to worry about crowd invasions--after all, the fans of the winning team will usually be happy—but there can be difficulties when people try to stop games. We do not want a return to what happened at Hillsborough. I believe that action is needed, and the Taylor proposals should be implemented.
Support for Manchester's bid to host the Olympic games in the year 2000 is crucial. There is already widespread support for it, and the difficulties that remain can be overcome. Hosting the games will be beneficial not just for Manchester and the north-west, but for the whole of the United Kingdom. We will all thrive on, and benefit from, holding the games here.
§ The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for National Heritage (Mr. Robert Key)
What an excellent debate this is turning out to be. I never doubted that it would be. It proves that when we are given the opportunity to debate sport in the House, we rise to the occasion. The subject is clearly important to many hon. Members.
I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Swindon (Mr. Coombs) on introducing the debate. I share his enthusiasm for sport and I know that his constituents at the northern end of Wiltshire are as enthusiastic about it as mine are at the southern end of the county. Of course, it is true that large numbers of our constituents believe that sport is extremely important to the quality of their lives, and they are right. It starts in schools; it is part of having 53 a healthy mind and a healthy body; and it continues throughout life. It is a matter of pride that we have sports that can be pursued by anyone of any age, able bodied and disabled alike.
Ever since I witnessed the remarkable achievements of our paralympic team in Barcelona last year, I have redoubled my enthusiastic support for sport for disabled people. It can enrich the quality of their lives enormously. We can all help in one way or another.
We should also pay tribute to the vast army of volunteers who make up the backbone of British sport. We should not forget the vast army of teachers on whom so much of our school sport depends, or the volunteers who spend their days taking young sportsmen and sportswomen around the country, keeping their kit clean, keeping the teams fed and watered and organising transport and teams. They are the unsung heroes of sport.
My hon. Friend the Member for Blackpool, South (Mr. Hawkins) rightly pointed out the overspill advantages of Manchester's Olympic bid, which the right hon. Member for Salford, East (Mr. Orme) also welcomed. We are determined that the bid will succeed. I think that we have done all that we conceivably could so far, and we shall maintain the pressure right through until the end of September. Winning the bid will mean a great boost for the tourist industry in the north-west and throughout the country.
The hon. Member for Stalybridge and Hyde (Mr. Pendry), my habitual opponent across the Dispatch Box, took me to task for quite a lot. It is always a pleasure to see him at any time of day—sometimes we debate these matters quite late at night, too. It is always a pleasure to receive the delegations that he likes to bring to see me. We have done some good business together as a result of them.
On a note of criticism, however, I do not think that the hon. Gentleman had a single new idea to offer the House today or a single suggestion of how he would have done anything differently. He certainly asked a great string of questions, which I shall try to answer, but perhaps this just goes to show that, in the year since the Department set out on its course, we have managed to keep on a fairly even keel alongside each other in our quest to improve the quality of people's lives through sport.
§ Mr. Pendry
May I remind the Minister of just two of my suggestions? One was that he should go to Risley and see the development of the new standing areas in football grounds. The second was that he should get the Foundation for Sport and the Arts to give some money to anglers. There were many more suggestions, too.
§ Mr. Key
That is good news. We can have a chat about it over a cup of tea later. I look forward to going. As for angling, I am, as they say, coming to that.
The hon. Gentleman said that I should not be merely a conduit for information to other Departments. It is actually rather important that I do convey information to other Departments with responsibilities for sport, but the 54 hon. Gentleman was right to say that I should not be just a lightning conductor for this or any other subject. I shall come to his points about ticket touts later in my speech.
My hon. Friend the Member for Luton, North (Mr. Carlisle) made some important points—about the CCPR and about playing fields in particular.
It is of course important to play to win: that is the whole point of excellence in sport. I have discovered during the past year that it is politically correct to talk about elitism in sport—the only area of national life where that is permissible. Nevertheless, winning is not everything. There is much more to sport than just winning.
Let us get our facts straight about money going to sport from taxpayers and other sources. A lot of sport always has been and always will be entirely in the private sector, and does not depend on taxpayers' support. That is good. However, we have not been neglecting the taxpayers' interest in maintaining sport. Since 1979, the Sports Council's grant in aid has increased by 225 per cent. in cash terms and by 31 per cent. in real terms to its current level of some £50 million a year.
We must also include local authority spending, to which I shall return, and look at the new sources of finance, such as the Foundation for Sport and the Arts. We can even consider the way in which we have designed rate relief and, of course, we have discussed the national lottery. We are for ever questing after new sources of finance. On individual projects and facilities, we should remember that although people are concerned about the closure of swimming pools, sometimes pools are closed on purpose because it is better to have one big pool than five little pools, as Sheffield has discovered. It closed 11 to pay for its big one.
In 1981, there were just 964 indoor swimming pools in England. The number has grown rapidly and now that figure has increased by about 200. In 1981, England had 771 sports halls, but in 1992 the number had grown to 1,507—almost double. Artificial pitches were specifically mentioned in the debate. In 1981, England had just 30 such pitches, but now there are almost 300, a tenfold increase. Those who call for more such facilities should remember that the numbers have increased. I am delighted to say that that is true even for ice rinks. In 1981, there were 23, but now there are 40—almost double.
I was asked about the Department for Education's letter about playing fields. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and I are pressing for a response on the outcome of the consultation exercise. We attach importance to long-term school and community need being taken into account before playing fields are disposed of. We discussed that in the last sports debate, and I hope that we are nearer a conclusion.
I was asked about the Foundation for Sport and the Arts in connection with angling. We have agreed to a subsidiary third purpose being inserted in the trust deed to enable non-athletic. activities that are likely to promote or enhance physical health or excellence to be the subject of grants. That is a step forward. I am pleased at the funding of angling by the Sports Council, because I am an angler. If I ever have the time after receiving delegations organised by the hon. Member for Stalybridge and Hyde, I will no doubt be able to do more fishing. I have always been a fisherman and I am disappointed by the reported view of the Foundation for Sport and the Arts. Of course, it is a matter for the trustees, who are entirely independent of 55 ministerial or other imposition, and we must respect that. In the context of the new third purpose, I intend to try to establish the reasons for the foundation's attitude.
The hon. Member for Stalybridge and Hyde spoke about the GAH report. As he kindly said, I wrote to him about that on 13 May following questions last Monday. As I said in that letter, the report does not represent the Government's views on the operational issues that it addresses. It will be for potential bidders to assess the extent to which the report will be of any use to them. GAH gave us an undertaking that it would not work for potential bidders. That is as far as I wish to go on that. As the hon. Gentleman said, it is clear that we have already been assured by the consultants that the report was an entirely separate document from the one that they produced for us.
§ Mr. Peter Kilfoyle (Liverpool, Walton)
As the Minister knows, there was what might be termed a song and dance in debate on the Bill, and certainly in Committee, about the GAH report. That report is now readily available to those who are prepared to pay for it, but it was never made available to members of the Committee. What has changed so dramatically in the interim to make it now available in the public domain when it was not available before?
§ Mr. Key
It is because it is not the same report. There is no doubt about that. It is up to that commercial company whether it wishes to sell the information. However, I hope that it will abide by the commitments that it gave us.
I mentioned the letter about playing fields. The National Playing Fields Association and the Sports Council want to prevent the loss of recreational land and the Sports Council's grant in aid settlement from the Government for 1991–92 included some £500,000 specifically to enable the establishment of a register of recreational land. Work is currently in hand and is progressing well with the Sports Council, the NPFA and the Central Council of Physical Recreation as co-sponsor. The register should be up and running by next month, which is good news.
In addition, planning policy guidance note No. 17 emphasises 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 and to consider the long-term need for playing fields before allowing them to be developed. It also asks them to consult sporting bodies when planning for sport and recreation.
I was asked about pitch invasions. Lord Justice Taylor said that there is no panacea that will achieve total safety and cure all problems of behaviour and crowd control. However, he was satisfied that seating does more to achieve those objectives than any other measure. Apart from being more comfortable than someone who has to stand, a seated spectator is not jostled or swayed and is not involved in crowd surges. Those who monitor numbers know exactly how many people are in a given area in an all-seater stadium because they do not have to assess crowd density by visual impression. Seating also has distinct advantages in assisting crowd control, in conjunction with stewarding and closed circuit television.
§ Mr. Pendry
I think that the Minister has missed the point. The statute book contains the Football (Offences) Act 1990 which specifically relates to pitch invasion. I asked the Minister to ensure that magistrates and the police were made aware of that so that the Act can be enforced. I also said that at Manchester City's ground people invaded the pitch from the new all-seater facilities.
§ Mr. Key
I do not think that there will ever be a way to keep everybody off the pitch all the time. We need to understand the reasons more clearly. The hon. Gentleman and the right hon. Member for Salford, East spoke about the Football (Offences) Act 1990. I propose to quote the figures, which show that the Act is working quite well. The latest figures for 1991–92 show that there were 276 arrests for running on to the pitch, 42 arrests for throwing missiles and 77 arrests for chanting racial abuse. The legislation is beginning to bite and it will continue to bite.
The issue of ticket touts is important. The right hon. Member for Salford, East was right to say that the practice is disagreeable, to put it at its mildest. There have been wide consultations in government and with those who are affected. However, as the hon. Member for Stalybridge and Hyde said, the problem extends beyond football. He mentioned Buckingham palace, about which there was some concern.
The palace operation will take care of that problem. It is being designed by the Royal Household, which is in charge of it and has sought and been given a great deal of sound advice. The Palace Household is confident that there will not be a ticket touting problem, which would be most unpleasant and disagreeable. I confirm that the Government intend to legislate on the matter at the earliest opportunity, because we cannot side-step the problem for ever.
Safe terracing is an important topic, so I shall return to it briefly. We are consulting the Football Licensing Authority about the extent to which clubs will be required to upgrade their terracing in line with the recommendations of the Football Stadia Advisory Design Council report on safe terracing. That document was published at the end of March and it augments the advice already available to clubs in our guide to safety at sports grounds.
As to relocation and redevelopment, the all-seater requirement was not suddenly imposed out of nowhere. Clubs have been aware of it since the Government's response to the Taylor report was published in January 1990. It was accepted by the football authorities when it was first imposed. Most of the clubs that began to plan for all-seating stadiums at that time will have little difficulty in meeting the deadline. However, I recognise that some clubs face problems.
§ Mr. Michael Brown (Brigg and Cleethorpes)
My hon. Friend will recall that, only a few weeks ago, he kindly received a delegation from Grimsby Town football club. He was helpful in giving us advice as to what we should do there. However, I have to advise him that we have not yet heard from the Football Licensing Authority, which I know he was contacting on our behalf. Will he put further pressure on it to get in touch with the hon. Member for Great Grimsby (Mr. Mitchell) and me, as we are expecting to meet it following the representations that he was going to make on our behalf?
§ Mr. Key
Yes, of course I will. We had an extremely constructive discussion with Grimsby Town football club 57 and the Members of Parliament concerned. My hon. Friend was at his most reasonable, but was nevertheless forceful, in pressing the case of his constituents, but I have already pointed out to him that it is a matter for the FLA. If there is to be any departure from the policy, it must be on the recommendation of the FLA to Ministers. I hope that we can ensure that my hon. Friend's problem is solved. The FLA has given clear guidelines of the circumstances in which it would be prepared to consider a relaxation of the time scale and clubs are aware of that.
A number of hon. Members have mentioned to me the problem of clubs bogged down by planning problems. The Department of the Environment issued PPG 17 in September 1991 to encourage local planning authorities to give sympathetic consideration to proposals from clubs in the light of the 1994 deadline. It is for clubs to ensure that their development proposals are realistic and sensitive to planning concerns.
The hon. Member for Stalybridge and Hyde asked about new horizons. I do not accept the Sports Council's analysis of local authority expenditure. Both the current and the capital spend have been increasing: in 1986–87, the net current spend was £362 million and in 1992–93 it was £462 million. The capital spend in 1986–87 was £161 million and in 1992–93 it was £240 million. There are also, as I mentioned a little while ago, substantial new funds for sport from the Football Trust, the Foundation for Sport and the Arts and, in future, the lottery. The Sports Council will have a key role in lottery distribution. We do not want to channel all the funds available for sport exclusively through the Sports Council.
I shall now comment on an important point that was made by my hon. Friend the Member for Luton, North, who drew attention to the speech made by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State at the annual general meeting of the Central Council of Physical Recreation last week. I am grateful to my hon. Friend for giving me the opportunity to reiterate what was said then. My right hon. Friend said that the Department for National Heritagehas made substantial new proposals which assure the CCPR a stable and sound financial future and basis of representation.He assured the CCPR that it hadnothing to fear from the restructuring, nor the terms of involvement that the Government has proposed. The CCPR has expressed its goodwill and I hope that I have made plain the Government's.That is important and I hope that any misunderstandings can be cleared up.
As the House will know, the Government are putting in place more sensible structures for Government funding of sport. After 21 years of service to sport, the Sports Council of Great Britain is to be replaced by two new bodies. I hope that it will be helpful if I clear up a few of the misconceptions. The logic is quite simple, and has commanded support across the sporting spectrum. The current Great Britain Sports Council has never been able to fulfil, even to its own satisfaction, a wider Great Britain role on issues that cut across home country boundaries. Therefore, it has operated, and been seen, largely as a de facto Sports Council for England. The Government recognised a gap between the need and the reality.
The United Kingdom Sports Commission will meet the need. It will, be a body that argues for Britain in international sporting arenas, making sure that no one doubts our status, or fails to understand our ambitions, as a major sporting nation. It will also take the lead in 58 bringing together home country interests on those major strategic issues that can sensibly be addressed only at United Kingdom level. Among those I number the promotion of sport here and overseas, research, the exchange of information and expertise and the development of the facilities and specialist services—doping control, sports medicine and science—that support performance and excellence and that are most cost-effectively developed at United Kingdom level for the benefit of all.
It is not a body that will be in charge of the home country sports councils or that will have ambitions to take them over—that way lies political and administrative madness. However, the UKSC begs a big question. The Government have played their proper role, and enabled and facilitated. We have provided the framework for right-minded and forward-thinking sports people to create a launching pad for sport into the 21st century. We do not claim to have created a sporting utopia, but we have created a forum that will allow others to achieve substantial forward movement. The question is therefore whether the full range of sporting interests are ready to take advantage of the opportunity that we have provided.
The second body to be created is the Sports Council for England. That recognises the reality that the current Sports Council has inevitably been primarily an English body. England will now have its own dedicated sports council, with a role compatible with the other home country sports councils. The Sports Council for England will have a natural interest in the development of performance and excellence in England, working with the UKSC. Its principal role will be creating the conditions which allow performance and excellence to thrive: getting people of all ages into sport and active recreational pursuits and helping the young to gain basic sporting skills. In that, there is enormous continuing scope for partnership with local authorities.
Membership of both bodies will be drawn from governmental organisations and the voluntary sports sector. It will also include a good leavening of non-representative members: people from those areas of life whose skills, in planning, management, business and law are essential in shaping organisations, people who can articulate what they are about and how they are going to go about it. I am also looking to increase the number of women in membership, and for members still active in their sport. We are also still on target for 1 October for completion of that stage of the process.
I have mentioned briefly the role of local authorities in working with the new Sports Council structure. I should like to emphasise that we recognise the achievements of local authorities as enablers and providers of sports facilities, which are so important to the implementation of Sport for All. The reform of local government provides an opportunity to provide a structure that reduces bureaucracy and enables more cost-effective service delivery of sport and recreation.
I congratulate local authorities on the way in which many of them already ensure that in planning their leisure services they take account of the mutual benefits and opportunities created by looking not only at sports but at arts, enjoyment of the countryside and tourism as aspects of leisure provision rather than as discrete and competing services. This is what the Department of National Heritage is doing, and it is not over-egging it to say that some local authorities have been doing that for some time anyway.
59 More can be achieved and the move towards a more unitary structure will facilitate an integrated approach to leisure management and provision. Unitary authorities in what are now the English shires will bring together many aspects of sport and physical recreation with libraries and other services that are the domain of the county councils and provide a single focus for the development and funding of the performing arts.
I assure hon. Members that I well appreciate the need to ensure that in any new structure the opportunities are there, through voluntary agreement and co-operation, to provide those specialist sport and recreation services such as coaches and sports development officers that may be beyond the means of any one individual authority.
The key task of the Department of National Heritage is to provide, at the national level, a stimulus to that integrated approach by melting away some of the barriers that might previously have existed between agencies, each concerned with its own aspect of activity. To that end, we intend to host a seminar later this summer to which we will be inviting our main sponsored bodies, including the Sports Council, to examine where greater co-ordination would be of benefit at national and regional level. In turn, that will provide the springboard for a series of regional conferences to foster the necessary regional collaboration to inform resource allocation decisions across the broad area of leisure service provision, including sport.
Important as the UKSC, the sports councils and local authorities will be in shaping the future direction of British sport, they cannot succeed by themselves. The continuing health of British sport is largely dependent on their ability to manage effectively and to promote individual sports. The new structure can be made that much more effective if it works in harness with an efficient and rejuvenated voluntary sector. Indeed, the potential of the UKSC to promote performance and excellence at the United Kingdom level can be fully realised only if it is buttressed and supported by the governing bodies of sport, as well as such key independent and influential agencies as the British Olympic Association and the Sports Aid Foundation, of which my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Putney (Mr. Mellor) is now chairman.
It goes without saying that the best sportsmen and sportswomen deserve the best managers and administrators. Sporting success on the track depends to a significant extent on management success off it. Despite all its achievements, British sport has been justifiably criticised for neglecting the relationship between excellence in competition and excellence in administration. There are welcome signs that British sport has recognised that, to prepare itself for the 21st century, it must develop a meritocracy in which young and competent volunteers are trained, nurtured and rewarded on the basis of their talent and where the enthusiasm of volunteers can be complemented by the expertis of professionals.
Last October, I mentioned the proposed introduction of national and Scottish vocational qualifications in sport and recreation. They have now been introduced. The new qualification and occupational standards should provide a valuable framework that places people in the sport and recreation industry on a par with those in other sectors of the economy. There have been other efforts by the Sports Council, the British Olympic Association, the national 60 sports development centres and the British Association of National Sports Administrators to ensure that the quality of education is improved.
On the subject of local authority funding, I have referred only to the estimated outturn, but I can now inform hon. Members that provisional indications are that gross capital expenditure by local authorities in England for sport and active recreation rose from £166 million in 1986–87 to £240 million in 1992–93, although that latter figure is subject to revision. Therefore, there is increased funding for sport.
I am anxious to make progress because know that there are still many hon. Members who wish to speak. The Foundation for Sport and the Arts has been mentioned and I echo the congratulations of my hon. Friend the Member for Luton, North. Inner-city sport has also been mentioned. I take particular interest in that subject, not least as the city action team Minister responsible for Manchester and Salford.
I agree with the right hon. Member for Salford, East that inner-city sport is very important. I have visited the right hon. Gentleman's constituency many times, especially during the past two years. I was impressed by the quality of the teaching staff in the schools in his constituency—and, indeed, in other constitutencies throughout the country—and their determination to ensure that sport is an important part of the life of their schools, as well as part of the curriculum. Sportsmatch has also been a tremendous success since I launched it last November. I am sure that it will continue to be so.
Hon. Members referred to the national lottery, and much has been said on that matter in the House during the past couple of months. I hope that I have managed to answer the questions about football.
I want briefly to refer to Swindon Town football club because my hon. Friend the Member for Swindon initiated the debate. The club is renowned for playing attractive football—family football, not to put too fine a point on it. It finished fifth in the first division of the football league and therefore qualifies for the promotion play-offs for a place in the premier league next season. Swindon Town has been at the county ground since 1895. When the Taylor report was published, the ground had 5,030 seats; it now has 8,900 seats, partly due to the recent extension to the north stand. The total capacity for the ground is now 18,132. I understand that the average league attendance this season has been about 11,000—a figure which no doubt includes many of my constituents.
Swindon Town has abandoned its earlier plans to relocate to a new ground and is planning to replace, at the end of the season, the Shrivenham road stand with a new, 5,000, all-seated stand. That will cost about £1.4 million. There are also plans to seat and cover the Stratton bank stand at the end of next season, giving the ground an all-seated capacity of 20,100.
Swindon Town may face planning problems that could prevent it from meeting the 1994 deadline. As I told the House, it is for the Football Licensing Authority to decide whether there can be any moratorium. If my hon. Friend wishes to discuss any further details with me, as always I shall be delighted to accommodate him.
We have had a remarkably detailed debate. It is good when hon. Members can get down to the detail rather than just shout at each other across the Chamber. We shall wish to return to many, many issues, but I want to conclude my remarks with a few words about the Manchester Olympic 61 bid. There is no doubt that it is the most exciting prospect for sport in Britain for many years. The Government's commitment is absolutely certain and we do not envisage any problem with funding the bid from a variety of sources.
When we discussed national lottery funds in Committee, we explored ways in which it might be appropriate for the Manchester Olympic organisation to bid for some of those funds at some stage. That might be from the millennium fund or from some other part of the lottery funds; that is not for me to decide. However, surely there is no need to rule out that possibility at this stage. I find it astonishing that some hon. Members, including some from the Manchester area, seem determined to rule out that potential source of finance.
I would not like to predict the result when the International Olympic Committee votes in Monaco on 23 September on which country will host the Olympic games in the year 2000. The Manchester bid—which, after all, is also the British bid—offers a great opportunity for Olympic celebration. It is thoroughly realistic and I still think that it will win. It certainly deserves to succeed. I look forward to decision day with great optimism.
There may be points that I have not covered during my response and I should be happy to pursue them outside the Chamber. I hope that I have answered the debate generally and the points raised in particular. I look forward to doing so on the next occasion that we debate sport. We have already had two sports debates in the past year, which is a record. I hope that we continue to reflect the sporting aspirations of all our constituents, which are so important to the quality of life of our people.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Geoffrey Lofthouse)
Order. Only 42 minutes remain for this debate and there are still five hon. Members wishing to catch my eye. With a little co-operation, all may be successful.
§ Mr. David Hinchliffe (Wakefield)
I had not intended to speak in the debate; I came only to listen. It was my understanding that my hon. Friend the Member for Makerfield (Mr. McCartney) intended to speak about rugby league fooball. However, he was at Old Trafford yesterday and was last seen in a state of some emotional distress after Wigan was beaten—thank goodness—by St. Helens.
I must say how nice it was that Featherstone Rovers won the divisional championship. We, too, had a first yesterday, because my hon. Friend the Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours) attended his first rugby league football game. He also had his education completed at Old Trafford yesterday.
This debate has been interesting and wide-ranging, but it has tended to concentrate, understandably, on soccer. The second most popular spectator sport in Britain is rugby league football. Many do not understand the importance of that sport.
Those of us who have the good fortune to come from rugby league-playing areas are concerned that many soccer-related problems have come home to rugby league clubs—which have had to pick up the tab for meeting the statutory implications of sports ground safety legislation and of the Taylor report.
62 Spectator safety applies to every sport, but rugby league—which has an excellent reputation as a well organised family sport that attracts big, extremely well-behaved crowds—was faced with huge bills and big problems as a consequence of problems that first arose in another sport. I hope that the Minister will address that point more so than has been the case recently.
I made a lengthy speech during the Report stage of the National Lottery etc. Bill, and I will not repeat the points that I made then, but I emphasise the concern in rugby league at the clear and blatant discrimination against many involved in that particular sport—primarily by the rugby union authorities.
The question of professionalism within rugby union was mentioned by the hon. Member for Luton, North (Mr. Carlisle). I agree with him that the Rugby Union's view of amateurism is looking a little like the emperor's new clothes—extremely thin. Everyone knows that, to all intents and purposes, rugby union in many areas is totally professional—much more so in many respects than rugby league. One or two of us are growing tired of that, and I hope that the Minister will address with the rugby union authorities the manner in which they treat certain people, which is somewhat outdated, to put it mildly.
There is concern also in rugby league about discrimination in the armed forces. It seems strange in this day and age that those who want to play rugby league in the armed forces are refused permission to do so. I hope that more progress can be made with that, because such discrimination is unacceptable.
There is concern about the way in which the media treat rugby league. The media, based as they are in south-east England, largely disregard rugby league, although it is the second most popular spectator sport in the country. Very little effort is made to report the game. Some of us are getting fed up with the way that the media trivialise certain issues. We are sick to death, for example, of reading about the problem of Gazza's knee. Millions of people in this country could not care a damn about Gazza's knee. We want to read about sport, not that kind of nonsense.
That struck me when I was returning from a meeting on Friday evening, and listened to the news headlines on Radio 2. The lead item was the Venables affair at Tottenham Hotspur—not Bosnia or the schoolchild hostages in Paris. Do the people who run the media in this country really think that is the kind of thing that people want to hear or read about? The consequence of such an approach is that millions of people are largely ignorant of the important sport of rugby league.
I vividly remember having a conversation, just over a year ago, with the right hon. and learned Member for Putney (Mr. Mellor), who was then the Minister responsible for sport. He had just attended his first ever rugby league. He had never seen one before in his life, yet he is roughly the same age as me. He raved about what a spectacle it was, with its finesse and the skills of its players. He had never seen it before except on television, presented by the likes—sadly—of Eddie Wareing. Our game deserves better, and I hope that the Minister will mention in appropriate places that rugby league needs to be treated more seriously.
Many of my hon. Friends not present for this debate subscribe to the game of rugby league and want it to have a fairer deal than it does now. We want proper recognition of the important contribution that sport makes, and action on some well-known problems.
63 It strikes me that this has been an all-male debate—no female Members are present in the Chamber at the moment. Right hon. and hon. Members in all parts of the House should address the fact that sport and debates on sport tend to be all-male affairs. We lose as a nation by disregarding the interest and role of women in sport.
One of the most rapidly expanding sports in Britain is women's rugby league. For the third or fourth year running, my constituency boasts the champion women's rugby league side. I hope that we will address women's issues as well as the wider issues of rugby league and of sport in general.
§ Mr. Andrew Hargreaves (Birmingham, Hall Green)
Much has already been said, very ably, by my hon. Friend the Member for Swindon (Mr. Coombs) and by other hon. Friends and Opposition Members. I was pleased to hear the hon. Member for Wakefield (Mr. Hinchliffe) reiterate his arguments about rugby league, because, although I follow both rugby union and rugby league avidly on television, I had no idea of the complications that have entered into the relationship between rugby union and rugby league, or of the way that rugby league players have been treated by rugby union officials. It is good that such issues can be aired in a debate such as this, and I hope that my hon. Friend the Minister will use his good offices to resolve that matter quickly.
Sport has an important role to play in our country in social cohesion, particularly in urban areas. I do not underestimate the importance of country sports to the way in which people live in the country and appreciate the countryside—but in urban areas, sport offers cohesion, a sense of belonging, and a degree of humanity to vast numbers of people, who can occupy their time in a pleasurable way.
That is particularly true of inner-city or urban areas. I am pleased at the way that my own city has, on a bipartisan and apolitical basis, promoted the provision of facilities with our national indoor arena, which was recently the venue of world gymnastics competitions.
Having served on the Committee that considered the National Lottery, etc. Bill, I greatly look forward to its introduction. Money from the lottery will greatly aid the provision of capital funding for some of the purposes to which right hon. and hon. Members have alluded, such as all-weather playing fields for football or cricket and of indoor tennis courts—in which this country is sadly lacking.
There is a simple reason so few British players win at Wimbledon. For most of the year they cannot play, because there are not enough indoor tennis courts. Surely that is an ideal target for capital funding from the national lottery.
Hon. Members have also referred to skating rinks and swimming pools. Recently, a community centre was set up in Hall Green, in my constituency: I hope that swimming pools will be provided in other areas, especially urban areas. I also hope that my hon. Friend the Minister will use his influence to ensure that Olympic-sized pools are not forgotten.
A plethora of community centres are springing up around the country, with engagingly shaped pools— 64 kidney-shaped and heart-shaped—but such facilities are no good for sportsmen. I hope that my hon. Friend will encourage local authorities, planners and designers to provide straight runs. This is a practical proposal, and one that will not cost money: it is simply a question of directing influence appropriately.
I also hope that the Minister will consult more widely about the role of the organisations that look after British sport. I am thinking of the CCPR—which has already been mentioned—and the Sports Council, and about the effectiveness of the distribution of money.
My hon. Friend has mentioned the sizeable administration costs incurred by the Sports Council, and, in Committee stage on the National Lottery etc. Bill, my hon. Friend the Member for Falmouth (Mr. Coe) spoke of trying to get to grips with the problem when he was a member of the Sports Council. He found it somewhat intractable. I hope that the Minister will try to ensure that sport is rather better served by the institutions that are there to promote it.
I have a particular interest in two or three specific issues, one of which is greyhound racing. I know that the Minister has no responsibility for such matters as evening betting; let me remind him, however, that greyhound racing is very popular. Huge numbers of spectators turn up and enjoy it greatly.
I agree with many others interested in the sport that, if betting shops are allowed to open late to cover such meetings, it is only reasonable for them to pay a levy towards an activity from which they are gaining a living; that applies to horse racing, after all. I hope that my hon. Friend will make that point to my hon. Friend Minister of State, Home Office, who spoke on such matters in Committee stage on the National Lottery etc. Bill. Greyhound racing needs support, and that support should be given by those who make a living from bets on it.
I know that my hon. Friend would expect me to mention drugs. The right hon. Member for Salford, East (Mr. Orme) has told us that sport can contribute to the creation of a happier and healthier nation, but we want to ensure that sport itself is healthy. Nowadays, sadly, professionalism is creeping in—along with a number of parasites who insist on trying to promote the use of drugs. They persuade sportsmen—sometimes kidding them, sometimes cajoling—that they will perform better if they fill their bodies with unspeakable chemicals.
I was concerned to hear from various sources that the Sports Council had cut its subsidy to clubs, associations and sports that undertake voluntary drug testing. I hope that my hon. Friend will investigate that, and will put all the necessary pressure on the Sports Council to devote the necessary resources to this serious problem.
I know that many hon. Members on both sides of the House would feel very ashamed if—in the next Olympic games, or in those held in Manchester—more British athletes were sent home. having been disqualified on the basis of drugs charges. Such incidents are a disgrace to us, and a disgrace to British sport.
I hope that the Minister will take the problem seriously, and will continue to try to persuade his colleagues at the Home Office that a change in the law is required. I hope that he will help to ensure that—within the structure of sport itself—it is accepted by federations, promoters and sponsors alike that they should sponsor only sportsmen who are prepared to be tested for drugs.
65 Perhaps he will have a gentle word with the Institute of Sports Sponsorship, the Advertising Standards Authority and the companies that are major sponsors of sport. I am sure that he is in regular contact with them. I do not believe that any hon. Member wants sportsmen who abuse drugs to be promoted or sponsored by commercial companies.
§ Mr. Key
I was surprised to hear what my hon. Friend just told me; I shall, of course, check it. The Sports Council spends some £750,000 a year on drug testing.
My hon. Friend may wish to know that, in recognition of this country's contribution, we have been chosen to host the fourth permanent world conference on anti-doping in sport, which will take place in London in September.
§ Mr. Hargreaves
I am delighted to hear that, and I thank my hon. Friend for investigating the other matter that I raised.
We can tackle the drugs problem, without spending huge amounts, by ensuring that everyone is on the same side—the side of clean sport. That includes promoters, television companies, sponsors and federations. I understand that some of those—including the television companies—have said that, in future, they will contemplate drugs testing; I hope that the promoters will take into account, and that the Minister will give them the necessary encouragement.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Swindon (Mr. Coombs) for choosing such an excellent topic, and appreciate the comments made by hon. Members on both sides of the House.
§ Mr. Bryan Davies (Oldham, Central and Royton)
Given the phrasing of the motion, Conservative Members were bound to exhibit a certain complacency; however, I do not think that, at this juncture, our sporting nation has any cause for complacency. First, I do not think that enough of our people participate in sport, because they do not have the facilities or the opportunity to do so. It is no accident that Britain is the cardiac capital of Europe; that may have something to do with diet, but it is also due to a lack of exercise and participation in sport.
We have nothing to be complacent about in our country's sporting achievements. Our national football side has played only once in the world cup final—when it had the advantage of playing on home ground; our national cricket team had disastrous tours of India and Sri Lanka recently, it lost at home to Pakistan last year and in general has had a grim record in recent years.
I wish the British Lions rugby team well for their tour of New Zealand, but I think that it would be optimistic to expect them to do tremendously well against a New Zealand side playing in its own hemisphere.
As has already been pointed out, Britain last produced a tennis champion more than 60 years ago. Our achievements are nothing to write home about. The overall performance of British teams give no cause for complacency.
I have one plaudit to bestow on the Government: I realise that £55 million has been devoted to pump-priming the Olympic games bid. We are all—not least those of us who represent constituencies in the north-west—united in hoping that that bid proves successful.
§ Mr. John Austin-Walker (Woolwich)
Reference has been made to the fact that the debate is male-dominated. Will my hon. Friend therefore acknowledge that Britain has produced some women tennis champions more recently than in the past 60 years?
§ Mr. Davies
I accept that. I should have made it clear that I was referring to male tennis champions, and I am grateful to my hon. Friend for correcting me.
I congratulate the Government on their support for the Olympic games bid, whose success would, of course, bring particular advantages to my constituency, not least because we hope to stage the hockey tournament at Boundary Park in Oldham.
There are three respects in which the Government ought to take a much more proactive part in the development of sport. First, we need a full audit of our sporting facilities, including the extent to which local authorities have been obliged to cut their capital expenditure in recent years and the consequent withdrawal of sporting facilities. The reduction in shared, joint-use facilities in schools is partly attributable to the development of local management of schools. I feel that opting out will increase the extent to which schools protect their own resources and will make them less willing to make those resources available to the wider community; I regret that.
Secondly, I see no reason why we do not accept that the Americans have it right. Why on earth should not excellence in sport extend to higher education? Why should not we have sporting scholarships? Why does not the Minister speak to his colleagues in the Department for Education and say that he expects our universities—many of which are at last laying greater emphasis on skill rather then merely on the cultivation of the intellect—to use sporting scholarships to encourage excellence in sport? What of the income that we derive from staging the most prestigious tennis tournament of them all—the Wimbledon millions? Not enough of those resources are ploughed back into the sport.
At the very least, our universities could give more support to tennis. Someone with slightly sub-standard A-levels can get in to Oxford or Cambridge if he shows promise in rowing or rugby, and I have always failed to understand why it is all right for those two sports to be encouraged at those institutions of higher education, when our major sports are not encouraged by the development of sporting scholarships in higher education.
Finally, let me refer to the spectre at the feast, to which little reference has been made today. The Minister and his Department have some direct responsibility for the role of television in the development of sport. In this age of fragmented culture, individualism and loss of identity, we should recognise the extent to which major sporting events provide some social cohesion. Sport is something to which people can relate, and television is bound to play its part in the process. I do.not think that the list of great sporting events available on national television is long enough.
I regret the BSkyB deal, which has fragmented the presentation of British football. In particular, the Minister will come in for severe criticism later this year when crucial matches—in which England will take on Holland and Norway and which will help to secure our participation in the world cup—will be on restricted television because of that ridiculous deal. The Broadcasting Act 1990 is defective, and it is time that something was done about it.
67 The strength of British sport depends on the extent to which we can nourish the grass roots of the next generation. That means that we must do three things: we must monitor local authorities' performance and give them more resources; we must badger the Department of Education to increase sporting scholarships; and we must protect our sporting culture by ensuring that nationwide television has the right to broadcast all our key sporting events for a national audience.
§ Mr. Nick Hawkins (Blackpool, South)
I am delighted to have the opportunity to address the House—albeit briefly, as I know that at least one other hon. Member wishes to speak—and I join those who have congratulated my hon. Friend the Member for Swindon (Mr. Coombs) on having initiated the debate.
I have the great privilege to be the secretary of the Conservative Back-Bench sports committee, under the distinguished chairmanship of my hon. Friend the Member for Luton, North (Mr. Carlisle). As a new hon. Member, I have done my best to become involved in the promotion of sport.
Given that I represent half of one of Britain's great sporting towns, it gives me particular pleasure to be able to address the House in the week of the 40th anniversary of one of our greatest sporting triumphs—the Matthews FA cup final. I have been pleased to note the tributes that have properly been paid this week to the great team that won that final, many of whom still live in my constituency and one of whom I know well; I refer to Bill Perry who, at the very end of that historic final, scored a goal from Sir Stanley Matthews's pass to beat Bolton Wanderers 4–3.
What a pleasure it has been to be able to celebrate the 40th anniversary of that historic triumph while also celebrating the fact that Blackpool has managed to escape relegation by a single point a season after rightfully winning promotion. I look forward to great triumphs for Blackpool next season, when it is hoped that we will be promoted yet again, and I pay tribute to all those who have been involved with the club this year.
I also pay tribute to those involved in other sports, including rugby under both codes. Despite what has been said today, there are many towns, including Blackpool, where rugby league and rugby union are well supported. Swimming is also doing well in Blackpool, as are many other sports.
I wish to address some of the wider sporting issues that have been raised in the debate. I was fortunate enough to be heavily involved in the campaign to raise funds to enable two distinguished disabled athletes in my constituency to go to the paralympics, in which they participated with great success. Both were members of the British paralympic fencing team, which was highly successful, and both came back with medals. I pay tribute —on a cross-party and a non-party basis—to all those who worked hard to raise funds to enable those athletes and others to attend. It has been a privilege for me to champion in the House the cause of sport for the disabled, and I hope to continue to do so.
I also join my hon. Friend the Member for Swindon in paying tribute to the National Coaching Foundation. Early in 1991, the Government gave £700,000 to promote 68 quality after-school sport opportunities for young people. A scheme known as Champion Coaching was the product of that funding. The project was designed to provide coaches to help young people to develop their sporting abilities and adopt active life styles. It got off to a strong start and, by the beginning of 1992, it had agreed to sponsor no fewer than 24 training schemes throughout the country as well as setting up no fewer than 136 schools of sport, each with a professional coach, 24 physical education roadshows and 24 parent workshops.
Those of us who have participated in the, Lords and Commons rugby XV were fortunate enough to meet last autumn some of those involved in the National Coaching Foundation. I pay tribute to everyone associated with the foundation, and to the chief executive, Sue Campbell, for all her work. I pay tribute, too, to the Foundation for Sport and the Arts, which has been mentioned in the debate and whose tie I have the privilege to wear today. The FSA was able to increase the NCF's funding, with an initial grant of £300,000 in recognition of the fact that it was of enormous benefit to children throughout the country and deserved to grow.
A few months later; the Foundation for Sport and the Arts gave a further £1.3 million, set aside by the trustees of that foundation to fund future expansion and new projects for the National Coaching Foundation. My hon. Friend the Member for Swindon was right to pay tribute to the work of my hon. Friend the Minister and his colleagues in providing funding for the National Coaching Foundation, and I look forward to its work continuing.
The hon. Members for Stalybridge and Hyde (Mr. Pendry) and for Oldham, Central and Royton (Mr. Davies) were, uncharacteristically, somewhat negative and grudging in their remarks about what the Government have rightly done for sport. I know that both of them believe, as I do, in the future of sport, and particularly in the development of sport for young people. I know that their speeches were uncharacteristically negative and that they would wish to join me in paying tribute to the work done for sport in this country.
I hope that we can look forward to a successful cricket season. I should mention, in the light of the comments made about the absence of lady Members, that we should pay tribute to the hon. Member for Wallasey (Ms Eagle) and my hon. Friend the Member for Chesham and Amersham (Mrs. Gillan) who became the first two lady Members to play for the Lords and Commons cricket side. I have played cricket with them in successive fixtures already this season. I look forward to the continued participation of lady Members in sport in the future.
Once again, I pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Swindon for giving us the opportunity to debate this important subject. I look forward to speaking at greater length on this important issue in a future debate.
§ Mr. Peter Kilfoyle (Liverpool, Walton)
I am probably a unique participant in this debate because in the halcyon days of my youth, before I, like the Minister, was horizontally challenged and before the colour of my hair matured, I was a physical education teacher. I take issue with the hon. Member for Swindon (Mr. Coombs) because his motion ignores the symbiosis between sport and 69 physical education. The one cannot be separated from the other. The motion could have been corrected by that addition.
My speech, in common with those of my hon. Friends, will be somewhat negative because I do not see a great deal to congratulate the Government on over the past 14 years. I will explain why. Very simply, there has been a tremendous failure to foster school sport. It is not a failure of the past 14 years, but a cultural one, because this country has not recognised the importance of sport and physical education.
One of the things that I learned when rounding myself as a person, metaphorically speaking, during my physical education course was a lot about the history of sport and physical education. I learned a lot about the philosophy of the ancients towards sport and education. It was something that was adapted over the centuries and integrated into the public school ethos, and later the university one towards sport and physical education. But it is not something which fits with our time.
I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, Central and Royton (Mr. Davies) that our universities are much ignored at the present time. They face a particular problem. The university athletics unions are very concerned about the effect on sport of the Government's measures involving the student unions. I urge the Ministers to assuage their doubts about the future of sport in the universities.
I think that we should take the Olympics with a pinch of salt. The ancients treated participants in the Olympics as great heroes. In this day and age they are heroes of a different sort; for many of them the Olympics are a means of making an awful lot of money rather than anything else. I accept, however, that the Olympics are the apex of the sporting pyramid.
If I had to give any advice to the Minister—far be it from me, a humble Back Bencher, to give him advice—I believe that he should encourage participation in sport as opposed to the spectator element. We have all witnessed the unseemly row between certain elements controlling Tottenham Hotspur football club. I do not believe that that has done that club any good. Hon. Members have commented on the way in which the media have reported it. That row has not done the media or the sport any favours, and it certainly has not done any favours to our young people.
I echo what other hon. Friends have said about women's sport. I hate to say it, but the hon. Member for Luton, North (Mr. Carlisle) gave a great deal away about the reactionary attitude towards that sector of sport. I appreciate that the hon. Gentleman was expressing his own prejudices and was honest enough to admit that, but we must recognise that half the population is made up of women. They have had a tough time and they deserve a far better deal, whether they are playing rugby union, rugby league, touch football, hockey or amateur soccer. It ill behoves us not to provide that better deal and I sincerely hope that the Minister will do so.
One of the other things that I learned from my student days studying physical education was that sport and physical education have been neglected by all Governments. There is an indissoluble link between the physical condition and the mental one. I am sure that the Minister will remember that immortal Latin phrase "mens sana in corpore sano". That certainly applies to the health 70 of the nation. The only time that any Government ever appear to take any note of the worth and value of sport and physical education is, sadly, in time of war, when the people who have been recruited are found to be totally unfit. Governments then provide the impetus for improved standards of sport and physical education for the great mass of the population, not the elite.
It would certainly be in the Minister's interest and that of the nation if he remembered that there is a huge, growing problem with general fitness. That problem is not evident only among people of my own age or that of the Minister, but applies to the younger generation. We must catch them young and we must encourage them.
We must be careful, however, to avoid extremes. We do not want the Government to act with complete dereliction of interest towards sport, nor do we want to follow the former East German example, where sport was used purely for propaganda purposes. The American example represents the limbo between those extremes. Extremely high sporting standards are achieved by that country whether in Olympic, collegiate or professional sports, but the vast mass of American young people do not participate actively in sport. I hope that the Minister will take note of that.
I also echo the concern expressed by a number of my hon. Friends about the damage done to school sport by a number of factors, including the burden imposed on teachers by the implementation of the national curriculum and testing. Of even greater importance, however, is the fact that morale in the teaching profession has been so undermined that teachers often have neither the time nor, sadly, the inclination to give up the many hours that they used to devote to sport. That is a sad feature of the new system.
I need not repeat what my hon. Friends have said about the number of school playing fields that have fallen into disuse or have been sold off and will never be bought back. It is tragic that local authority after local authority, regardless of political complexion, has had to sell off that land to balance the books. That is no way to encourage sport.
I should like to end on an optimistic note. I have always opposed the national lottery in principle, but I accept that one will be introduced. I urge the Minister and the Secretary of State to do all that they can within their power to correct the imbalance whereby a projected 4 per cent. of the proceeds will be spent on sport while, in marked distinction, 12 per cent. will go to the Exchequer.
If we are to have a national lottery, the money raised should be divided between sport and other good causes in the proportions that most people expect. It would be a tragedy if—despite the hopes and aspirations not only of the Minister, Conservative Members and my colleagues who have supported the idea of a lottery, but of those who buy tickets—three times as much money from the lottery were to go to the Exchequer than to good causes such as sport. If the Government are serious, let them put their money where their proverbial mouth is.
§ It being Seven o'clock, and there being private business set down by direction of THE CHAIRMAN OF WAYS AND MEANS under Standing Order No. 16 (Time for taking private business), proceedings on the motion lapsed, pursuant to Standing Order No. 13 (Arrangement of public business).