HC Deb 18 April 1994 vol 241 cc625-6
7. Mr. John Marshall

To ask the Secretary of State for National Heritage what representations he has received about the importance of team sports.

Mr. Sproat

On 16 February, I hosted a seminar on team sports which was attended by about 25 people from the worlds of sport and education. Since the beginning of this year, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and I have received about 70 letters on this issue.

Mr. Marshall

Does my hon. Friend agree that team sports should be encouraged because they improve the health of participants, can be character-building and, in school holidays, may discourage young people from a life of crime? Does he further agree with the old adage: Mens sana in corpore sano"?

Mr. Sproat

My response to my hon. Friend's Latin quotation is, "Rem acu tetigisti." I agree strongly with what he said in English.

Ms Hoey

Will the Minister confirm that, in talking about team sports he is not—as has commonly been represented in the newspapers—talking about male-only sports? Is not he also referring to the value of other sports that are played by many women in this country—especially women's cricket? Does he agree that it is not a matter of team sports versus individual sports? We should be talking about and encouraging sport for all and ensuring that schools can give young people those opportunities.

Mr. Sproat

I agree entirely with what the hon. Lady has said about sport for girls and women. I shall do everything that I can to see that that approach is put into practice. I hope that, with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education, the we can devise a means whereby more team games are played, although not to the exclusion of individual games.

Mr. Robert Banks

Does my hon. Friend agree that British sport is highly regarded in all parts of the world? It is—[Interruption.] I accept that there are one or two exceptions. Sport provides an opportunity for us to encourage visitors from other countries to come here to watch football matches, tennis tournaments or whatever. When my hon. Friend next talks to the relevant authorities, will he see what can be done to encourage a greater marketing effort on behalf of sport in Britain? Will he also encourage international events to be held in this country?

Mr. Sproat

I shall draw my hon. Friend's important remarks to the attention of the British Tourist Authority and the governing bodies, but I have no power to make those bodies spend any money on their own marketing.

Mr. Pendry

Is the Minister aware that in most sporting circles his recent emphasis on core team sport is considered to be too narrow and restrictive? Instead, he should be fighting his corner to ensure that sport receives at least two hours a week as an integral part of the national curriculum, so that a variety of sports, both team and individual, can be played. The hon. Gentleman's pious hope that the 5,000 playing fields sold off by the Government should be bought back is an impossible dream as most of them are buried in concrete. Instead, the hon. Gentleman should be pursuing a policy with the Department for Education to scrap circular 909, which allowed the playing fields to be sold off in the first place. There should be a moratorium on the selling-off of playing fields so that schools and the community can benefit from playing fields in future.

Mr. Sproat

The hon. Gentleman makes an important point about the availability of playing fields. My views, in so far as they were correctly reported, do not include buying back the same land; obviously, as the hon. Gentleman said, much of it has been built upon. Instead, we should seek to increase the number of playing fields in urban areas. That should be encouraged. I hope that we shall encourage both team and individual sport in our schools.

Mr. Simon Coombs

Does my hon. Friend agree that, if the English cricket team is to win in Barbados more often than once every 59 years, and if the English women's cricket team is to win the world cup again, it will be necessary to preserve existing playing fields and provide more, and also to provide the necessary funding to ensure that playing fields are in good enough condition for school pupils to play cricket on them?

Mr. Sproat

Yes, my hon. Friend makes an extremely good point. I agree with him.