HC Deb 23 May 1994 vol 244 cc7-8
8. Mr. Wareing

To ask the Secretary of State for National Heritage what part the Government played in the Women in Sport conference on 7 May.

10. Mrs. Golding

To ask the Secretary of State for National Heritage what part his Department played in the Women in Sport conference on 7 May.

Mr. Sproat

The Sports Council, which is funded by my Department, organised the international conference on Women, Sport and the Challenge of Change, which took place from 5 to 8 May. I was delighted to note the leading parts played in the conference by two of our recent appointees to the Council, Dr. Sarah Springman and Julia Bracewell.

Mr. Wareing

But can the Minister explain why no Minister from his Department was present at that conference, as it was attended by all the relevant sporting organisations and by my hon. Friend the Member for Stalybridge and Hyde (Mr. Pendry), who is the shadow Minister for sport? Does not the lack of a ministerial presence at that conference illustrate the complete lack of commitment to the role played by women in sport in this country?

Mr. Sproat

No, it certainly does not. I have expressed my support for such a role on previous occasions, and I take this opportunity to congratulate the England women's rugger and cricket teams on recent triumphs on the world stage. [Interruption.] Fifteen-a-side.

The key answer to the hon. Gentleman's question is that my noble Friend Baroness Trumpington was booked to appear on the Thursday but had to speak on Sunday trading in the House of Lords. Julia Bracewell—whom I have already mentioned—made a powerful speech as a member of the Sports Council, with which we agree.

Mrs. Golding

To make up for his failure to attend the conference, would the Minister be prepared to convene a meeting of representatives of television, radio and the press to find a way of promoting women in the media, and to help to encourage them to participate in sport?

Mr. Sproat

I will certainly undertake to speak to Dr. Sarah Springman and Julia Bracewell to see whether they, as two women members of the Sports Council, have any further ideas following the Brighton declaration—which I have read; I should be surprised if other many hon. Members had done so. I will do what I can.

Mr. Bill Walker

Is my hon. Friend aware that, in Scotland, we certainly do not notice women failing to compete in sport effectively and well? In fact, we are rather proud of the way in which they compete. Women are very good at gliding, the sport in which I indulge; indeed, we have had women champions in United Kingdom gliding teams.

Mr. Sproat

I was not aware of the gliding component among women in Scotland, but I know that my hon. Friend is playing an honourable part in the D-day commemorations by gliding over the south of England. Moreover, Julia Bracewell, whom I mentioned earlier, actually comes from Scotland.

Mr. Pendry

Is the Minister aware that he missed a very important conference? It was the first ever international conference on women in sport, and it happened in this country. There were 280 delegates from 82 countries, including Sports Ministers from many of those countries.

Many of those present were bemused—and some of us were ashamed—that no British Minister was present. Will not the Minister at least support the Opposition by endorsing the declaration made at the conference that there should be an increase in women's involvement in sport at all levels?

Mr. Sproat

If more women wish to involve themselves in sport I shall be very glad for them to do so, but it is up to them. I read the declaration: it was political correctness in excelsis, but it nevertheless said some useful things.

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