HC Deb 11 July 1994 vol 246 cc650-1
4. Mr. Dowd

To ask the Secretary of State for National Heritage what consultations he has had with other Departments about the restructuring of the Sports Council.

Mr. Sproat

I have consulted those Departments on whose interests the review of the Sports Council touches. As the hon. Member will know, the Government announced their proposals for the future of the Sports Council on 8 July.

Mr. Dowd

Further to the statement on 8 July, what did the Minister mean by the intention for the new Sports Council to withdraw from mass and formal participation and leisure activities? Will he explain the flagrant contradiction in the role of sport as outlined by the Secretary of State for Health in the White Paper, "The Health of the Nation"?

Mr. Sproat

There is no contradistinction between what the two Departments say. I want to ensure that the Sports Council concentrates on sport. It has only some £49 million a year to spend on this, as opposed to the £1.25 billion that local authorities have. I want local authorities to concentrate on recreation and leisure and the Sports Council to concentrate on performance and excellence.

Mr. Anthony Coombs

I warmly welcome the Minister's proposals on the Sports Council, particularly giving the United Kingdom Sports Council a strategic role for a lead sport, but does he agree that local authorities and regional sports councils have a particularly important role to play in providing sports facilities for younger people?

Mr. Sproat

I agree with my hon. Friend. He will have noticed that I am asking the ministerial nominees in future to attach themselves more closely to the Sports Council in the regions, and I look forward to receiving much more direct advice from the ministerial nominees in future.

Mr. Menzies Campbell

May I welcome in general the announcement made by the Minister last Friday, when I was unavoidably absent? I particularly welcome the fact that professional sport is to be properly represented on the Sports Council, recognising that the distinction between amateur and professional is increasingly regarded as outdated. But where will responsibility for fighting the battle against drugs in sport rest? What importance does the Minister's Department attach to the continuation of the remarkably good work that has been done in the past in that respect by the existing Sports Council?

Mr. Sproat

I thank the hon. and learned Gentleman for his kind welcome in general and for his comment on professional sport in particular. It is extremely important that members of regional sports councils and of the Great Britain Sports Council, such as Mr. Trevor Brooking, will be there not just as outstanding individuals but as representatives of professional sport.

As far as drugs are concerned, that is one of the first things that the new United Kingdom Sports Council will be looking at. We attach great importance to it. Our attitude to drugs must be seen to be the same throughout the United Kingdom as a whole.

Mr. Pendry

Further to the original question, is the Minister aware that the Secretary of State said only last year that it was his aim to put the extension of individual access to heritage, culture and sport firmly at the top of his agenda? How can the Minister square that objective with a withdrawal from the promotion of mass participation in sport? To achieve his boss's objective, will he agree to a longer period of consultation than the 70-odd that days he is allowing, after which he might see what the right hon. Gentleman is getting at and agree with him?

Mr. Sproat

No. The initial consultation that I proposed on Friday will be until 30 September; thereafter, we shall consider all the points made within that period. As for mass participation, of course we want to see as many people who wish to play sport and games playing them, but some aspects of that are better done by local authorities and some are better promoted by the Sports Council. We seek to achieve a sensible balance.