HC Deb 26 June 1995 vol 262 cc550-2
3. Mr. Miller

To ask the Secretary of State for National Heritage what is his Department's policy on compulsory competitive games at schools. [28744]

Mr. Sproat

I believe that children must take part in competitive sport in schools within and beyond curriculum time. This will be a key element in the Government's sports policy statement, which will be published shortly.

Mr. Miller

Is the Minister saying that we are to get that long-awaited White Paper? Does he agree that an important element of that statement should be opportunity, not restriction? Will the Government make a genuine commitment to the opportunity to take part in sport in all schools? Does the Minister agree that the facilities available in many schools are less than adequate, especially given what is happening today down the road at Wimbledon and up the road at Lords?

Mr. Sproat

Yes, I can certainly say that it is our prime intention to increase the opportunity for more children to take part in sport at school. I agree that some schools are short of facilities and I am glad to say that the national lottery will help to provide more facilities where those are for both the school and the wider community.

Dame Elaine Kellett-Bowman

I was delighted to hear my hon. Friend refer to the national lottery. Is he aware that, although games facilities in schools are good, they will be even better if they are used in conjunction with the wider community? Is he aware that Central Lancaster high school in my constituency has applied for funding for a multi-purpose sports facility on its premises in a deprived area of Lancaster, but that it must raise no less than £350,000, which is 35 per cent? Could that figure be more flexible, or could assistance be given to deprived areas?

Mr. Mackinlay

Yes or no?

Mr. Sproat

The answer to the hon. Member for Thurrock (Mr. Mackinlay) is yes. I did not know of the application that the school in my hon. Friend's constituency is making, but I shall draw her remarks to the chairman of the Sports Council. I assure her that the 35 per cent. is only an indicative percentage and that at this very moment the Sports Council is considering whether it could be smaller in certain cases.

Mr. Chris Smith

We know from the Prime Minister on Saturday that he is about to launch a new policy initiative on sport in schools. Given this morning's news, he may need every new initiative that he can find. Does the Minister recognise that any such announcement will be worthless unless three guarantees can be given: first, that DES circular 909 will be withdrawn, as it has led directly to the sale of 5,000 school playing fields over the past 15 years; secondly, that there will be two hours of sport each week as part of the national curriculum; and, thirdly, that the whole range of physical recreation will be available, not just a small list of competitive team games? Will he now give those basic guarantees to the House?

Mr. Sproat

The hon. Gentleman must wait until the sports policy is published. He will then see what he will see.

Mr. Simon Coombs

Does my hon. Friend agree that it would be pleasant to hear Labour councillors make a commitment to competitive sport in schools, given that their policies have damaged competitive sport over the years? Will my hon. Friend assure the House that he remains fully committed to the restoration and improvement of those sports pitches that remain, notwithstanding the loss of some of them over the years, and that the national lottery will enable their improvement so that competitive sport can be played in good conditions?

Mr. Sproat

Yes, I can certainly give my hon. Friend the important assurance that he seeks. Like him, I look forward to receiving support from the Opposition as well as, I am sure, Conservative Members when we publish that important statement shortly.