HC Deb 27 March 1995 vol 257 cc677-8
4. Mr. Booth

To ask the Secretary of State for National Heritage if he will make a statement about the progress which he has made with the Secretary of State for Education about the greater use of school sports facilities by the wider public. [14180]

Mr. Sproat

The community use of school sports facilities will be a key element in the sports White Paper, which my right hon. Friend announced on 23 March 1995.

Mr. Booth

I am sure that my hon. Friend is aware of the cross-Government importance of sport and of the importance of using school sports facilities, not least in inner-city regeneration, in health and in law and order policy. Will he assure the House that cross-party or cross-Government talks are going on between those relevant Departments, including the Department for Education, which he has just mentioned, and will he come to the House with a policy that assures us that there will be a presumption—indeed, that there will always be permission for schools to use their facilities for the benefit of the local community?

Mr. Sproat

Yes. My hon. Friend makes an extremely important argument. We do want more school facilities to be used by the local community. I hope that, if plans are submitted seeking national lottery funding that include a large community as well as schools element, they will have a good chance of being accepted.

As far as other Departments are concerned, I am currently having talks with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education on that very subject, to discover whether we cannot reach a happier solution than has sometimes obtained in recent years.

Mr. Barnes

Ten per cent. of the people referred to in the original question are disabled and many disabled people wish to make considerable use of sports facilities. Is anything being done in connection with the Department for Education to ensure that they are able to do that? Is it not unfortunate that the Disability Discrimination Bill excludes most educational institutions from its provisions?

Mr. Sproat

The provision of sports facilities for persons with disabilities is extremely important. When the Sports Council awards grants to governing bodies for sporting provision, it takes directly into account the question of provision for persons with disabilities.

Dr. Spink

I know that my hon. Friend is aware of the great sporting tradition of Canvey island, and particularly that of Furtherwick Park school. Will he consider very carefully with his colleagues in Education any developments regarding the CTC sporting initiative?

Mr. Sproat

Yes, I certainly will. My hon. Friend has, with his usual persistence, brought that important matter to my attention privately and I will certainly do everything that I can to help him.