HC Deb 26 June 1995 vol 262 cc556-7
10. Mr. Hain

To ask the Secretary of State for National Heritage what is his estimate of the number of people who participate in coarse, game and sea angling. [28751]

Mr. Sproat

According to a 1994 survey by the National Rivers Authority, some 2.3 million people participate in coarse angling in England and Wales, 1.1 million in sea angling and 850,000 in game angling.

Mr. Hain

Is the Minister aware that representatives of millions of those anglers have greatly welcomed Labour's charter for anglers? Will he do the same and consider implementing its proposals? Is he aware that, in south Wales and elsewhere, there is concern about minewater pollution poisoning rivers and affecting angling, and that in Wales that concern will be intensified now that the Welsh Office is rudderless and leaderless?

Mr. Sproat

Problems in Wales are a matter for my right hon. Friend the Member for Wirral, West (Mr. Hunt), who is currently taking over the Secretary of State's duties in Wales.

As for Labour's paper, I read it with great interest. I thought it pretty fudgy and, in places, misleading. Anyone interested in field sports should think carefully about a party which says that it is cruel to hunt foxes but not to shoot pheasants and which I think is fishing for votes among anglers. Such a party should be regarded with extreme suspicion.

Mr. McLoughlin

Will my hon. Friend confirm that the Government are committed to allowing people to follow all country sports and will take the necessary action to block any moves to stop people pursuing legal sports?

Mr. Sproat

What my hon. Friend says is absolutely and completely true. Our party remains a true friend to field sports.

Mr. Pendry

Although the figures given by the Minister to my hon. Friend the Member for Neath (Mr. Hain) are probably an underestimate, they still prove that angling is Britain's most popular participatory sport, yet the Sports Council's current level of grant to the three angling bodies is a mere £45,000. Recognising that the Government's stated aim during the passage of the National Lottery Act etc. 1993 was that they would not determine what the distributing bodies allocated for lottery grants, will the Minister urge the Sports Council to reassess its grants to sports such as angling, which are more in need of revenue money than the current capital money that is available? Angling needs are mainly in the form of education courses, especially for the young, women and the disabled and for the necessary support for our national angling teams.

Mr. Sproat

The Government remain a strong friend of angling, but it is for the Sports Council to decide how to spend its own money. I should be interested to know whether the Labour party proposes to recede from that long-established position.