§ Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—[Mr. McLoughlin.]9.35 am
§ The Minister of State, Department of National Heritage (Mr. Iain Sproat)
The House will remember that on 14 July, the Government published their consultation paper "Raising the Game". As the hon. Member for Stalybridge and Hyde (Mr. Pendry) will recall, we had hoped to debate that document before the House rose for the summer recess, but the tragedy of Bosnia intervened and the House, understandably, had an emergency debate on Bosnia instead. Perhaps that was a good thing, because the intervening months have given everybody the chance to study our proposals from a greater perspective than would have been available had we debated the consultation paper in the immediate aftermath of its publication.
This morning, I shall lay out two matters as clearly as I can. First, I shall go into some detail on the contents of the consultation paper. Secondly, I shall put the policies that the paper contains in the context of sports administration.
All of us who are involved in sport in the community experience seminal moments when something strikes home, which itself may not be of tremendous importance but which sets alight one's determination to take action on something that is wrong. My mind was set alight at a seemingly casual occasion—a coffee morning in the village of Great Holland in my constituency, of the kind that we all attend on Saturdays. One couple said to me, "We've just had our grandson staying with us. He is mad keen on sport, but his school does not play it. He is particularly keen on cricket, but does not play any cricket at all." Another couple, on overhearing those remarks, said, "It is exactly the same for our grandson. He is mad about football, but at his school he does not play it for more than 40 minutes every fortnight."
We have all heard such anecdotal evidence, but it struck me that I should question whether those accounts were true. If they were, something was badly wrong that needed putting right.
§ Mr. Nick Hawkins (Blackpool, South)
Does my hon. Friend agree that the sort of conversation that he has just described is the result of a great deal of unwise and, misguided political correctness of the sort that crept into education over many years? There are, to be sure, some honourable exceptions on the Opposition Benches, but the real problem has been the doctrinaire socialist view, beloved of so many left-wing teachers, that there is 1212 something politically incorrect about competitive sport. I pay tribute to the Minister for laying that bad old socialist idea to rest.
§ Mr. Sproat
I thank my hon. Friend and pay tribute to him for leading the field in that respect. I believe that he wrote a paper about competitive sport in schools a couple of years ago; it was extremely valuable to me for the research that I was doing at the time. I also know how hard he has worked for schools such as Roseacres in his constituency—no one has done more from the Conservative Back Benches to help put sport back in schools.
There was another problem that set me thinking that something was deeply wrong. When I was beginning to research how much sport was played in schools, I had a meeting with officials at the Department for Education and Employment to try to find out what was going on. I asked an official to give me some idea of how much sport is undertaken in a week by the average 14-year-old. I know that average figures can be misleading—it all depends on the school—but the answer was: one hour a week of PE. It should be remembered that children watch television 25 hours a week. This morning I heard an interesting interview with the hon. Member for Sheffield, Brightside (Mr. Blunkett), who paid a generous tribute to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Employment. He also said that children watch two and a half hours a day of television. What a generation we are helping to bring up! They watch more television in one day than they do PE in a week.
The House will know, furthermore, that PE is not necessarily sport, since it includes dancing, aerobics and lessons in the history of diet. Those are all very important, of course, and I would not downgrade them—but they are not sport. I remember on one occasion—mine is a wonderful job—going to see Great Britain play rugby league against the Kiwis at Wembley, and then coming back for a performance at Covent Garden. I can assure anyone who entertains any doubts that rugby league is not the same as ballet. They are both important, but they should not be lumped together. That is why I want to get sport back to the heart of school life.
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for National Heritage, who has been kind enough to come in and sit beside me this morning, will know that the single most important thing that I can do in this Department is to ensure that young people play proper games at school and get proper exercise—particularly but not exclusively in competitive team games.
The reason I am so keen on sport in schools is that I do not regard sport as a mere add-on to education—as an optional extra. The real importance of sport lies in the fact that it is an essential part of education. Certainly, it is valuable because it is so healthy too. Perhaps some of my hon. Friends will have seen the report from the British Heart Foundation stating that this generation of young people is the most unfit ever—they are a generation of couch potatoes. I know that the armed forces are encountering difficulties with new recruits, who cannot march more than a couple of miles in heavy boots because they have not had enough exercise at school. The same goes for the fire service. At a fire station in my constituency I was told that new recruits do not have enough upper body strength when they arrive, so a great deal of their induction period has to be spent building it up.
1213 Sport also provides great pleasure and enjoyment for young people. There is not so much pleasure and enjoyment around that we should deny it to young people. I shall never forget visiting Consett county junior school and watching the children being let out and rushing into the playground. That day a special demonstration of rugby for young people had been laid on by the chap who runs the Consett rugby team. I also remember visiting a school in Melton Mowbray that was involved in "top play", and hearing the screams of delight of the young people as they ran around.
So sport is not just healthy; it is a pleasure. Above all, however, it develops social values and character, including an understanding of team spirit, of good sportsmanship and of playing and living within the rules. A primary school teacher can go on until she is blue in the face about how we should stick to the rules in life, but that may not seem very important to a 10-year-old—until he is playing his first game for the school and is about to score a goal when some little thug trips him up from behind, which of course is against the rules. Then he will begin to understand the value of playing within the rules. All sorts of lessons can be learnt about courage, commitment, discipline and self-discipline.
Besides discovering the inadequacies of sport in schools, I looked at the other side of the spectrum. At the time, the soccer World cup was about to be played in the United States, and not a single British team had reached the finals. Yet we gave the world the game, and most other games as well. And those we did not invent, we popularised. That is why I want sport back in the heart of schools, for every child. Obviously, a small number of children are physically unable to participate, but most can. At the other end, I want this country back where it belongs—on the international stage.
The measures that we have introduced have been designed to help to develop opportunities for people of all standards in sport. They are contained, mainly but not entirely, in the consultation paper "Raising the Game", published on 14 July. It contained three main sections: sport in schools, including further and higher education; the role of local sports clubs; and centres of excellence for our top athletes, would-be gold medallists and would-be international players.
The wonderful thing about a Friday morning is that there is enough time for most hon. Members to speak in rather more detail than would be possible usually in the House, and I want to take this opportunity to ensure that everyone, inside and outside the House, understands the strategy that we are seeking to adopt. No doubt some criticisms will be levelled at me, but I want first to pay tribute to the hon. Member for Stalybridge and Hyde, although not in an attempt to embarrass him. I know that he does not like everything that I have done, but in general the House has supported our initiative, and that is most welcome. It has greatly assisted its momentum throughout the country.
The consultation paper makes about 40 points, and I do not propose to go through every one, but I shall pick out some of the crucial ones. I shall deal first with the amount of time that we want devoted to sport in schools. I have already referred to the average of one hour a week for 14-year-olds. By definition, some schools do more than the average, and there are certainly. some wonderful state 1214 schools. One of my greatest pleasures while helping to put together the strategy has been visiting some of those schools. My constituency is blessed with exceptionally good schools. I pay tribute to Colbayns school and Cann Hall primary school in Clacton, and to their head teachers, Messrs Holt and Williamson, who were terrifically helpful when showing me their curricula. I am not making a constituency point, however. Schools such as Windsor boys school, a comprehensive with just under 1,000 pupils, have shown just what can be done.
Many people would say, "Minister, you are asking for the moon. Schools cannot possibly do what you ask of them." The best and truthful response is, "Don't say that, because it is being done by Windsor boys school, Barclay school, Stevenage and Gilberd school, Colchester." That is the proof. In a sense I am saying, "Here is the best practice, copy it." Different schools will wish to place different emphases, but it should be understood that everything to which we draw attention in our consultation paper is being done somewhere. Well, not everything, because the paper contains new proposals as opposed to proposed changes in curricula. It is more accurate to say that everything that comes within the sporting curriculum is already being done somewhere.
We want schools to aim for two hours a week of sport within curriculum time and another four hours a week outside it. At some schools, teachers and pupils will appear long before breakfast. I do not advocate the example that I am about to give to everybody and to all schools, but I know that at Windsor boys school the pupils arrive at 7 o'clock in the morning to practise their rowing. There is a dedicated teacher and extremely keen pupils. Many other schools have pre-breakfast work. In addition, lunchtime is available and the period from 3.30 pm onwards. There are also weekends and holidays. I have discovered that everything is possible if a head teacher and the teaching staff really want to achieve something.
§ Mr. Greenway
Even now, I regularly undertake training and sporting activity in the early morning. I always did that with my school pupils. Does my hon. Friend agree that what he says about children getting up early and arriving at school early for training or for practising their sports gets them into the right culture? Does he further agree that that is the only way to overcome the body flab and flabby bodies of the present generation, of which he has spoken so dismissively and so rightly?
§ Mr. Sproat
My hon. Friend is extremely fit. He is just solidly made.
My hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Greenway) made an extremely good point. To risk a cliché, truisms are truisms because they are true. Mens sana in corpore sano was true 1,000 years ago and it is still true. We are trying to ensure that we do not forget the old wisdoms while we seek new ones.
1215 We want parents to know exactly what schools are offering. We are aware, of course, that some parents are not as keen as others on sport for their children. Some parents will want schools where a greater emphasis is placed on the academic side. Other parents will want a balance between the academic and sporting sides. I understand also that some parents will want a greater emphasis on the arts.
I am proposing that from now on every school in its annual report or prospectus should set out clearly—not in education jargon but in terms that every mother and father can understand—its sporting aims and the games that are played by it, especially team games. Every school should state how much time a week is given to individual games and the sporting facilities that it has. The statement should make clear the physical education and sporting qualifications that teachers have, with which other schools the particular school plays, the games played and the results of those games.
Winning is not, of course, all-important. I believe that most Members would accept that playing the game in a proper spirit is far more important than winning. None the less, we want schools to make it clear what games are played with other schools, how they have got on, what local business sponsorship they have and whether they have a governor who is responsible for sport, for example. We are consulting to determine exactly what questions should be answered in annual reports and prospectuses. We believe that it is an extremely important point of principle that parents should know exactly what a school does about sport before they decide whether they want to send their child to it.
We shall set up two new schemes to judge the sporting merits of schools. There will be a sports mark scheme. Schools will be able to say that they have met that mark with so many hours of sport each week and decent facilities, or that they are trying to improve their facilities. Of course, there are many schools with poor facilities that still do tremendously well because they are working hard to improve their facilities. To meet the requirements of the sports mark scheme will be a pretty good achievement. There will be a gold star scheme—if any hon. Member can think of a better name, I shall be obliged to him or her. The gold star scheme is, however, a working title.
§ Mr. Sproat
I shall demonstrate my generosity. I should be happy with that suggestion, given the support that the hon. Member for Stalybridge and Hyde has given me on so many occasions.
I have been surprised and disappointed by the lack of information about what sport is played in our schools. It is extremely difficult to ascertain which schools do what. In future, the Office of Standards in Education will inspect the quality and range of games offered as part of the PE curriculum, which is the absolute "must be", as it were. It will also inspect what goes on outside that curriculum—for example, before school starts, at lunchtime, after 3.30 pm or whatever. Ofsted will inspect and report. It will also conduct a survey of good practice.
As I said, many wonderful schools throughout the country have had and implemented good ideas. We want to see those ideas spread even more widely. We shall place a requirement upon the chief inspector of schools to report annually on the state of PE in schools, so that we are not faced with a decline in sport about which no one 1216 knows until it becomes obvious. We have anecdotal evidence, but it is difficult to ascertain exactly what is happening. I am not the Secretary of State for Education and Employment, but I should like the inspector's report to be laid before the House every year.
A genuine problem that many schools face is that many teachers do not have training and coaching qualifications. About 85 per cent. of teachers in primary schools are women. I know that the hon. Member for Vauxhall (Miss Hoey) is terrific at football.
§ Mr. Sproat
Well, the hon. Lady is very interested and has a great knowledge of the game. There is a problem, because many women primary school teachers do not have that interest and knowledge. Every primary and secondary school teacher will be encouraged to take a subsidiary qualification in a sporting or PE subject. That will apply also to the arts. We are talking about sport, but my imagination is not bounded by playing fields.
We want teacher training colleges strongly to encourage would-be teachers to gain subsidiary qualifications. The Sports Council will put approximately another £1 million into the schemes for which the National Coaching Foundation is responsible, and there will be additional schemes. There will be modules. Would-be teachers at training colleges will be able to obtain coaching qualifications in the sport of their choice.
Sport is not solely about enjoyment, health and getting rid of youthful high spirits, although it is a marvellous way of doing so. We all want to see those high spirits, but they should be channelled into socially helpful behaviour and not into the dreadful anti-social behaviour that we too often see exhibited by young people. We want to build on the work to encourage young people to understand the ethical lessons that can be learnt from sport. A tremendous amount is already being done on that. Mr. Michael Parker, who was himself an Olympic athlete, started the idea within the Sports Council. In the new year, we shall set up a group to look at the Football Association, rugby, tennis, cricket and so on, to see how good ethics are taught in those sports, to get the best practices there and to spread them throughout the school world.
§ Mr. Michael Lord (Suffolk, Central)
My hon. Friend mentioned ethics. Does he not think that one of the best ways to teach our young sportsmen and women how to behave is to ensure that their role models are of the right kind?
§ Mr. Sproat
Yes, I certainly do. I was interested to see how the great England fast bowler, Devon Malcolm, is already being taken as a role model in South Africa. I listened to Mike Atherton on the radio this morning, saying that of course they wanted to win all the test matches, but that they were strongly aware of their responsibilities in helping to encourage the healing benefits that sport is bringing to South Africa. I agree entirely with my hon. Friend that sportsmen should be role models, but there are too many examples of sportsmen who are not.
§ Mr. Menzies Campbell
It appears that the Minister is about to turn to other matters than education. I should like to raise an issue that seems to me to be of possible significance. Apart from school facilities, many colleges 1217 and universities have extensive sports facilities that are provided in the first instance for the use of students, although for a substantial period of the year, they lie empty and unused, when they could be put to the advantage of the community as a whole. Is that an issue that the Government think is worth pursuing?
§ Mr. Sproat
Yes, the Government certainly do. I thank the hon. and learned Gentleman, who will remember that he came to see me with the hon. Member for Stalybridge and Hyde and my hon. Friend the Member for Falmouth and Camborne (Mr. Coe) to discuss what universities and further education colleges should do. I shall come back to that later, as it is an important matter. We have set up a committee under Sir Roger Bannister, and part of his remit will be just what the hon. and learned Gentleman was saying. I had not quite left education; it was just the break in my voice that gave that false impression.
The Sports Council will establish a working group to analyse existing coaching schemes and ensure effective use of resources. We have a shortage of information. What are the good coaching schemes? Indeed, what coaching schemes are there to start with? How good are they? How relevant are they to teachers? I pay tribute to the work of the Sports Council and the wonderful work that it has done and is doing. I pay particular tribute to the chairman of the Sports Council, Mr. Rodney Walker, and his chief executive, Mr. Derek Casey. I cannot speak too highly of the work that they have been doing.
Had the hon. Member for Wakefield (Mr. Hinchliffe) been here today, I would have told him how much I owe him for a remarkable speech that he made in the early part of 1993, about rugby league. It opened my eyes to the injustices that had been suffered by rugby league. I shall not go into them now, as the House has heard me on that subject before. As a result of his speech, I became very interested in rugby league, went along and met Mr. Rodney Walker, the chairman of rugby league, was extremely impressed with him and then got him appointed as chairman of the Sports Council. Among the many other things that I owe the hon. Gentleman is certainly an introduction to Mr. Rodney Walker.
On schools, Ofsted will also be asked to report on teacher training colleges, because there is thought to be—I do not put it any stronger than that—a lack of dynamic enthusiasm for sport in teacher training colleges. Given the problems that we have identified of whether teachers are capable of imparting to their pupils how to play sport, of training and enthusing them, it is very important that teacher training colleges play their part. I am sure that the lack of enthusiasm is not typical of all of them, but some evidence has been put before me that they could be keener, so Ofsted will look at them and see what they can do to improve the training of teachers in that area.
I am talking about sport because it is a sporting debate, but, as my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for National Heritage has said, we are extremely keen to use what we have learnt in trying to do something for sport, to do something for the arts. We should like to transfer this template of sport—in schools, local sporting clubs and centres of excellence—to the arts and look at how the arts can be better in schools; how we can link local art galleries, local musical groups, local drama groups and local orchestras and integrate them more with schools; and how we can then smooth the way up to the centres of 1218 excellence: the great dance and drama academies, the Royal Opera House, the great regional orchestras and so on. I shall not go into that in great detail, but I just lay it before the House as perhaps a way of raising the game.
§ Miss Kate Hoey (Vauxhall)
I welcome the fact that Ofsted will be looking at schools in my borough, but is the Minister confident that he will be able to get the resources for Ofsted to be able to do all those things, which are very welcome?
§ Mr. Sproat
I thank the hon. Lady for her general support, for which I am sincerely grateful. I want to keep this, as much as possible, an all-party matter, but no doubt the hon. Member for Stalybridge and Hyde will have a biff-bang at me in a few minutes' time.
As far as the money is concerned, I think that we have cracked it. There is the extra £1 million for training. The Sports Council is putting up another £2 million to be bid for to improve the links between sporting clubs and schools, and we have the lottery. The lottery can certainly help schools in so far as school facilities are being used by the wider community, which comes back to the point raised by the hon. and learned Member for Fife, North-East (Mr. Campbell).
That can be done—not just because of the reasons that I have just given. The biggest single reason why I am confident that it can be done is that the greatest single power to do good lies with the head teacher, the staff and governors of the school. Barclay school, in Stevenage, has a terrific head teacher, Mr. Russell Ball. I remember walking round the school with him recently and talking to the PE staff. The question of money came up. I do not want to put words into their mouths and so will not attempt to quote them directly, although I think I remember the words pretty vividly. They said, "We are not thinking of money. We are here as professionals. We love our job. We want to impart our enthusiasm to our pupils." Every Saturday, they are out with their teams. They are not asking for extra money. Money obviously is an important part, but it is certainly not the whole part. I think that we have the money bit right, but time will tell. If we have got it wrong, we shall come back. I am not saying that it is a perfect document in every way.
§ Mr. Geoffrey Clifton-Brown (Cirencester and Tewkesbury)
Does my hon. Friend agree that one of the great successes of our education policy—local management of schools and grant-maintained schools—is the greater dissemination of information to parents, in the form of the annual report and the prospectus to parents? Does he further agree that one of the great sea changes arising from this policy paper, when parents are considering the choice of school, will be the choice not only of academic excellence but, from now on, of sporting excellence and sporting facilities that are available in the school?
§ Mr. Sproat
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. The principle of parents being as well informed as possible should be extended into sport. As he knows, that is why we shall put it in the annual reports and prospectuses. No doubt that can be extended to the arts, so that parents can have a real choice and will not be directed by county council bureaucrats, of whatever political persuasion, who tell them, "You must do this." Give them the choice.
The second part of the consultation paper involves local sports clubs, which are very important. Too often in the past, young people who have been terrific at sport at 1219 school have left at 16 and fallen into a black hole; they have not continued with sport and so miss the pleasure, healthiness and good discipline that they had before. It is important to try to get schools and local sports clubs to work more closely together.
When the governing bodies of sport apply for grants from the Sports Council, the council will want to see included in the business plan the governing bodies' ideas to link local clubs with schools. I do not want to put too much weight on that aspect—it is a good thing: it has connotations of apple pie and motherhood. I understand that many governing bodies do not have tremendous power over their local clubs, such as the Melchester tennis club. We shall give extra encouragement to the Sports Council's branches in the regions so that they do their best to encourage the links between clubs and schools. I shall return to the increasingly important role of the Sports Council's branches in the regions later. I want them to focus on sport for young people and to ensure that the clubs and schools work together.
No one will know better than the hon. Member for Stalybridge and Hyde that many clubs have terrific schemes. Arsenal contracts its players to spend so many hours a week in schools and communities. I believe that West Ham has a scheme called the Young Hammers, whereby everyone contracted to West Ham has to attend the birthday party of a member of the Young Hammers. That is a great practical way of knitting together the community and schools, which we want to encourage.
Clubs are also thinking of other schemes. One such proposal is that, every Wednesday from 6 to 8 pm during July, clubs will allow anybody from schools to come and play freely and be given coaching, tennis rackets and balls. Enthusiasts from the clubs will also visit schools to help with training and coaching. That shows how, at a low, but important and practical level, we can extend the sporting links in the community.
The national lottery plays an important part in providing money for the sports schemes, as the hon. Member for Vauxhall said. A vital use of the lottery fund, as distributed by the Sports Council, is to ensure that clubs and schools get together to devise schemes with their local authority and local businesses to provide facilities for joint use.
I remember reading the Labour party's White Paper that was published some time in the mid-1970s—I think that it was 1976—
§ Mr. Sproat
It was 1975—I stand corrected.
I was struck by much of the valuable content of the White Paper, but nothing has happened. Both major parties have been in power since, so I am not making a party political point. One aspect emphasised time and again in the 1975 White Paper was the dual use of schools for local communities. Talking off the top of my head, I believe that only 12 per cent. of outdoor school pitches are used by the community and less than 50 per cent.—I think that it is 49 per cent.—of indoor school facilities are used by the community.
The hon. and learned Member for Fife, North-East raised the issue with reference to further education colleges and universities, where it is just as relevant. I want the FE colleges, schools, local sports clubs, local authorities and businesses to get together to make 1220 applications to the Sports Council so that we can positively improve our sporting facilities through the lottery.
There are other ways of injecting money into youth sport, including the sportsmatch scheme, of which the House will be well aware. The Government provide about £3.7 million a year, which is roughly matched by the private sector for sport at grass roots level. From now on, the sportsmatch scheme will earmark £1 million of its funds specifically for schemes for young people. In a way, that re -answers the question asked by the hon. Member for Vauxhall about money. I am considering every legitimate way to channel money into sport, whether it be through Sports Council grants, Sports Council lottery funds, the sportsmatch scheme, the Foundation for Sport and the Arts or the Sports Aid Foundation. Having mentioned the sportsmatch scheme, I should like to say how much I admire the work of Stuart Errington and Mike Scott who run it and who concentrate on grass roots sports; they keep a lean machine and do a terrific job.
One of the great things about sport is that so many organisations contain volunteers who want to get stuck in. The Foundation for Sport and the Arts, run by Grattan Endicott, does a terrific job. It complements the Sports Council and the Sports Aid Foundation. I have seen a lot of Paul Zetter recently—what a great man he is. He gives his time and money generously, and is a good friend and wise counsellor.
Mr. Peter Lawson of the Central Council of Physical Recreation has done valuable work over the years and shown great dedication. Keith Smith is a member of the CCPR and a former head teacher who has done much work on how to get schools more involved. Much wonderful voluntary work has been done.
§ Mr. Tim Devlin (Stockton, South)
One of the central problems that I should like my hon. Friend to consider is the strategic provision of resources throughout the country. I am sure that he will agree that the provision of facilities throughout the different parts of the country is uneven—that is particularly true of the provision of swimming pools. Many communities of 10,000 or even 20,000 people do not have adequate access to a swimming pool. Are there any plans to make a study across the country to see where swimming facilities are in short supply and to see what can be done to rectify that?
§ Mr. Sproat
Yes, there are. Mr. Rodney Walker and Mr. Derek Casey of the Sports Council are conscious of the need for an even spread of facilities. One point that I did not raise in my reply to the lottery debate the day before yesterday was that the former Secretary of State for National Heritage, my right hon. Friend the Member for City of London and Westminster, South (Mr. Brooke), sent a letter on—from memory—20 June 1994 to the Sports Council. In it he said that the council should take into account the geographic spread of all the grants that it gives. Obviously, that is difficult because it has to respond to the projects from the grass roots. My right hon. Friend specifically told the Sports Council that it should take the geographic spread into account, whether in relation to swimming pools or any other sporting facility. My hon. Friend the Member for Stockton, South (Mr. Devlin) raises an extremely important point.
I did not mean to thank a catalogue of people, but we have received terrific support from Craig Reedie and Dick Palmer of the British Olympic Association. I do not know 1221 whether it is right for me to thank my officials in the House—you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, will pull me up if I am out of order. I should thank my officials for all the work that they have done: it has been a terrible battle to get the proposals through the treacle of Whitehall. I should like to make special mention, for their extraordinary work, of Mr. Niall Mackenzie in my private office, of the sport and active recreation department under Miss Alex Stewart and of the permanent secretary.
One of the reasons for having a Department of National Heritage is that we have the clout within Whitehall to drive through a paper that—dare I say it—trespasses on other Departments. It was not always in line with what those Departments had originally thought, but they eventually saw the wisdom of our ways. I should like to pay great tribute to the Department of National Heritage.
My last point on the issue of what the consultation paper naffly describes as extending sporting culture is an important aim, on which my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister was keen. My right hon. Friend's policy aid, Mr. Nicholas True, gave us tremendous help and was of unique importance; he is a great man. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said:By the year 2000 our aim is that all young people will have access to quality facilities, including playing fields.That is a very important proposal in a rather bland sentence, but in the context of the intervention by my hon. Friend the Member for Stockton, South, it means using lottery funds to encourage local communities to suggest projects for sporting and recreational facilities involving young people, schools and local businesses. We want to encourage that and in the new year I hope that we shall be able to announce or encourage more publicity about what we want to see done and how to do it.
I mentioned local business, and business sponsorship is important. Coca-Cola already sponsors a football competition between schools. The hon. Member for Neath (Mr. Hain) will know that the Daily Mail sponsors rugby for young people, the Midland bank sponsors tennis and The Cricketer sponsors cricket. Business spends hundreds of thousands of pounds on sport and I want to encourage that.
The hon. and learned Member for Fife, North-East spoke about further and higher education, and I shall add one or two details to what I said about the importance that we attach to that. The Further Education Funding Council intends to carry out an audit of existing sports provisions, to report on trends and causes and to make recommendations to the Government. Amazingly, we found that we knew hardly anything about what happens in FE colleges. I do not claim that an audit is a world-shaking announcement, but one cannot make policy until one knows the current situation, so at least we shall put that right.
The Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals and the Standing Conference of Principals will carry out an audit for higher education. We intend to invite and encourage—we cannot command—further education colleges and universities to state what sporting facilities they provide and their sporting aims so that teachers and students will know exactly what to expect from the FE colleges.
I spoke about the committee that we have set up under Sir Roger Bannister. Sir Roger is terrifically keen and calls the Department three or four times a day. He is not 1222 just a figurehead, but is keen to find out what we can do to make sure that sport is entrenched in universities because, just as there has been a trend in recent years for sport in schools to go down, there has been a similar trend in universities. Obviously, some universities are much better than others.
I thank the hon. Member for Stalybridge and Hyde, the hon. and learned Member for Fife, North-East and my hon. Friend the Member for Falmouth and Camborne for coming to see me shortly after I became a Minister. I remember them saying, "We must do something about Wednesday afternoons. They used to be sacrosanct for sport, but that is no longer the case." We put together the committee under Sir Roger and it contains not only the dons and professors who are involved in running sporting departments but students, so that the matter is looked at not just de haut en bas. The committee also contains Eric Peters, and I am sure that the hon. and learned Member for Fife, North-East will remember Mr. Peters scoring a great try against Wales in the Five Nations championship last year. I am sorry to note the melancholy look on the face of the hon. Member for Neath at the recollection of that marvellous moment. If people have any further thoughts on such matters, we shall be happy to hear them, because we want the right people to come up with the right answers about sport in universities.
I have taken rather longer on that subject than I intended, so I shall move swiftly to the third part of the consultation paper, which is about centres of excellence. We have moved in a continuum—a word beloved by the Sports Council—from sport in schools through local sports clubs to centres of excellence. At the end of last year or the beginning of this year, the hon. Member for Neath asked about my visit to Australia. Its purpose was to see exactly what that country had done. The Australians were rather melancholy about the fact that they returned from the 1976 Olympics in Montreal with hardly any medals. There may have been the odd bronze but, basically, they had won no medals and they were horrified.
Australians believed that sport was a tremendous binding and intrinsic part of their national identity, yet they could not win medals on the international stage. They looked at the idea of an Australian institute of sport centred in Canberra, with each state having its own institute for sport. There was the New South Wales institute, the South Australia institute and so on. I looked at the Australian institute of sport, at different state institutes and at various academies of individual sports. My hon. Friend the Member for Suffolk, Central (Mr. Lord) will be horrified to know that I looked at the rugby league one, but only because there was not a rugby union one on show.
While I was in Australia, I also looked at the cricket academy, which is run by that tremendous Australian test player Rodney Marsh. I came back with ideas, because I think it was Samuel Butler who said that appropriate ideas were there to be appropriated. I thought that the Australians had done rather well and I intended to take the best of what they had to offer, to see whether it could be transplanted here. Of course, much of what the Australians do is based on what our Sports Council has been doing for many years. I emphasise that we are not copying in every detail what the Australians have done, but we are copying their central principle of a place of excellence.
1223 Within the next few days, the Sports Council will publish its ideas on a British academy of sport. My ideas are roughly the same and I shall shortly outline them. Those Sports Council ideas will be looked at by anyone who wants to do so and people will submit bids to run a British academy of sport. They will be assessed by the Sports Council, which will announce its decision next summer. I cannot promise, but I hope that before the House rises we shall have a fair idea of the plan for the academy, and there is no reason why the foundation stone should not be placed next year.
I shall give the House a quick idea of how I see such an academy. It will be on a campus of about 200 or 300 acres, and it could be on a green-field site or on one that is already used. It will have residential accommodation for about 500 people on some kind of sports scholarships—a matter that is dear to the heart of the hon. and learned Member for Fife, North-East. We need to make sure that, in an increasingly competitive world, our athletes are properly supported financially, and we are determined to do that.
The academy could be anywhere in the United Kingdom, but I imagine that it will be reasonably central. It will have the world's highest standards of coaching, training facilities, sports science and sports medicine. That is what I should like to see and if any person, group or charitable trust would like to run it, I should like them to come forward. The Sports Council will make money available from the national lottery funds to cover the capital cost of building. I think that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister mentioned an amount of up to £100 million but, obviously, different groups will come forward with different ideas. The money is there for the capital building and there will almost certainly be endowment funding and revenue funding for the academy. As I said, the Sports Council will put its ideas in writing and people can respond to them.
§ Mr. Peter Hain (Neath)
Does the Minister envisage one of those centres of excellence in Wales and one in Scotland, apart from regional arrangements in England?
§ Mr. Sproat
Yes, I certainly do. I am conscious of the time and do not want to go into that in too much detail. What I envisage is not necessarily what will happen, but I see the British academy of sport at the top and it will be a centre of excellence, the best in the world, for our athletes. Underneath that, Scotland and Wales and the regions of England will have their own institutes of sport, which will be attended by people who do not want to go full time to the academy although, of course, not everyone at the academy will need to go full time but, basically, there will be full-time residence there.
The Cardiff institute of sport is terrific. I went round it with Nigel Walker; I know that we are all extremely disappointed that injury has kept him out of rugby. The institute is the sort of thing that I envisage for institutes of sport underneath the British academy.
After the British academy of sport at the top, and then the regional institutes and the national institutes of Wales and Scotland, if they want it, the third tier will be the academies of individual sports such as cricket, rugby and rowing, run not by the Government, but by the individual sports, and of course they will be eligible for lottery funds and responsible for putting forward their plans. Lottery funds will be available for all those things.
1224 On the structure of the sports councils, within weeks of arriving in the Department, I came to the conclusion that the idea for a new sports commission was rubbish. Apart from anything else, it was going to have about 200 bureaucrats, so I scrapped that. I then considered the Great Britain Sports Council. I found that there was little logical consistency about it. Its individuals were terrific, but it had members from Wales and Scotland, even though Scotland and Wales had their own Sports Council. Northern Ireland had its own Sports Council, but was not represented on the GB Sports Council. Its chairman, Mr. Don Allen, used to sit on it, but could not vote. The whole thing was a grotesque and illogical inconsistency, so I scrapped it.
From 1 January next, for the first time, we shall have a United Kingdom Sports Council, whose main job will be to consider sports policy, to find out where it has a British application and whether there is too much overlapping, duplicating and waste of resources in our bodies—perhaps not, and there is no presumption that we do. As one of its major duties, the council will have to attract to this country international sporting events of first-class quality. An Olympic games has not been held here since 1948. That will therefore be among its prime duties.
The chairman of the UK Sports Council will be Sir Ian MacLaurin, chairman of Tesco. He was a first-class cricketer, a man of dynamism, imagination and business experience. It will have the four chairmen of the national sports councils of Scotland, England, Ireland and Wales, so that nothing that the UK Sports Council thinks about, says or does shall be apart from the national councils.
For the first time, I. was keen that someone from a professional sporting background should be a member of a body—we have Trevor Brooking on the GB Sports Council, but he is there because he is Trevor Brooking—so I have appointed Gary Lineker to the new UK Sports Council. I also appointed Rob Andrew, who was supposed to be a representative of the amateur game when he was appointed. However, the aim was to have not just professional and amateur people on the council, but young people. The aim was to have not just people whose sporting days were long past, but people who knew what sport was like today.
The UK Sports Council also has Craig Reedie, chairman of the British Olympic Association, not so much as chairman of the BOA and as a corporate member, but on his own merits, and Sarah Springman, a don at Cambridge and an international triathlete. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for National Heritage is rightly keen on ensuring that women's sport has its proper place in all this, which is important. It also has Clive Lloyd, the great ex-West Indian captain who has made his home in this country. I hope therefore that we have a balanced UK Sports Council of 10.
We have a new English Sports Council of 15, of which Mr. Rodney Walker will become chairman. It includes some names that the world will know, such as Ian Botham, a cricket legend, but a man of strong and independent mind and strong character, just the sort of chap who, I hope, will go in there and say, "We are here as board members to make policies; they will not be made by the bureaucrats." Members of the old GB Sports Council have not perhaps taken enough of a lead in making policy, which has been a problem.
1225 I want to get five members from the regional sports councils, the ministerial nominees, on the English Sports Council. Too often, the Sports Council at the centre did not know too much of what was going on in the regions and the regions did not know too much of what was going on at the centre. Now, on a changing rota, five out of the 10 chairmen of the sports councils in the regions—chairmen and ministerial nominees—will be members of the English Sports Council.
That is my intention. We have new vision, new structures and new money in sport. It is a great opportunity for sport in this country. I commend our paper to the House and to the country.
§ Mr. Tom Pendry (Stalybridge and Hyde)
I think that the whole House will be grateful to that Tory coffee morning meeting that the Minister attended because he certainly had a flash of inspiration on that occasion. Of course, he is not listening, but I am trying to say that it is good that he went to that coffee morning.
I begin by congratulating the Minister on his elevation to the status of Minister of State. This is the first opportunity that I have had to do so on the Floor of the House as this is the first debate on sport that we have had since then. Equally, it is good to see that the Secretary of State for National Heritage is sitting in on probably her first sports debate in the House.
Anything that elevates the position of sport in the House and therefore in the country gets my nod of approval. In any case, the Minister is deserving of his new status and I genuinely wish him well, up until the general election. Nothing I say from now on, I can tell the House, is a criticism of him personally, but enough of praise.
The main reason for the debate is the document "Raising the Game", which is laughingly called the Prime Minister's sporting initiative. I will return to the reason for my mirth at that description later. Before I do so, I must chide the Minister for the fact that we are having this debate on the Government's so-called sports policy only today, almost four months after the publication of the document. In the first instance, the Government promised us a Green Paper. Despite what the Minister has said today about this being a consultation document, it says here clearly that it is a policy document. Of course, the Government have abandoned any pretence of consultation.
Nevertheless we waited with bated breath for the White Paper, promised as it was in early summer—that promise appears at column 316 of the Official Report of 23 March. In truth, the Minister's Department was still referring to it as a White Paper just days before the announcement itself, right up to the publication date. In the event, it came to be called a "press conference document", and it was released not in the hurly-burly of the House, but in the tranquil setting of New Den, home of Millwall football club. How unlike Labour. In 1975, when it was in office, it produced its White Paper, which was already been referred to, entitled "Sport and Recreation" and it was properly debated in the House. By way of compensation, we were promised a debate before the recess, as the Minister has said, but, naturally, because of the emergency in Bosnia, that debate was delayed until today.
1226 Now, however, yet again we have the debate on a Friday. I know that the Minister has some sympathy with this line of argument as we both know hon. Members who have committed themselves to constituency engagements who would dearly like to engage in this debate. My right hon. Friend the Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham) would certainly have liked to have been here, as would the hon. Member for Luton, North (Mr. Carlisle). I absolve the Minister from blame here because I know that he is just as keen as I am to raise sport's profile. It may be a good idea if we both got together to make representations to the Leader of the House to press him for a better spot in future.
But enough of that. I genuinely welcome many of the proposals in the document. I know many hon. Members here today are sceptical about the Government's ability to match their fine rhetoric with action. After all, until today, their track record in this area is hardly impressive. I am not trying to be a killjoy, but it is apparent that most of the Government's proposals—and no doubt those ladies at the coffee morning knew about them before the Minister—were stolen from either the Opposition or the Sports Council.
I am certainly prepared to give the Government a last chance, but whether my hon. Friends are I am not sure. I am not optimistic, as the Government have a long record of broken promises and the Prime Minister must realise that being photographed at the Oval, Lords or Stamford Bridge is no substitute for a real sports policy.
The Prime Minister said:the Government and the Sports Councils will, as the paper makes clear, commit extra resources … to improve facilities and support for those teachers and others who lead sport.My hon. Friend the Member for Vauxhall (Miss Hoey) is also very keen on that, as her intervention demonstrated.
What does that mean in effect to the Government? I shall ask the Minister some specific questions and I hope that he will be able to answer them in his reply. They were certainly not addressed by the Prime Minister in his press conference document. Will the Government give extra resources through the Department for Education and Employment? Those cannot come from lottery money through the Sports Council as it is revenue funding. At whom will the resources be targeted? Is this something that we should anticipate in the Budget? As I said, the Prime Minister is full of fine words, but the House has a right to know the answer to those detailed questions.
Back in January of this year I asked the Minister how many officials were involved in the preparation of the press conference document. I was told six. It seems that they spent the following six months copying down other people's views—the Sports Council's, previous recommendations to the Government, which they predictably did not enact, and ideas generated by the Opposition. I am only too happy to take this opportunity to notify the Minister of the mass cribbing that is going on in his Department. Perhaps he will look further into that.
Let me illustrate my point. I referred to the only time that sport has been taken seriously in the past 20 years. If we look again at the 1975 White Paper, we will see that it contains some very familiar ideas. Had Labour not lost the 1979 election there would have been no need for "Raising the Game" as the policies would have been in place—my noble Friend Lord Howell of Aston would 1227 have seen to that. To answer the Minister's argument that such policies had not been put in place, we had four years, but the Government have had 16 years.
Under the heading, "Youth Sports Programme", for instance, the White Paper said:there is a need for closer contact between school sports bodies and governing bodies of sport, aimed at ensuring that school-leavers are in touch with the junior sections of adult clubs.That rings a bell, does it not? "Raising the Game" states:Too many young people are lost for ever to sport because there is not a straightforward and attractive way, through local clubs, to continue playing sport after the age of 16.Similarly, Labour's White Paper, under the heading, "Gifted Sportsmen and Sportswomen", talks of the need fordiverting resources to those who are gifted in sport",anddeveloping centres of sporting excellence.But lo and behold, what is the Government's big idea in "Raising the Game"? Hon. Members have guessed it. Under the heading, "The Development of Excellence", it states:we want to ensure that talented competitors at every level have the support necessary to allow them to exploit their talents to the full.The words may be slightly different, but we all know that the meaning is the same. I could go on, but I will not.
Instead, it is worth pointing out that the 1975 White Paper was not merely radical for its own day, but more than 20 years ahead of its time. It talks of the need to redress the balance in sporting facilities in the areas of urban deprivation, to work with local authorities in partnership with Government, to allow retired people to enjoy sporting facilities, to provide for mothers with very young children and to understand the importance of non-competitive sports, such as dance and movement and to take into account the particular needs of disabled sportspeople. Disgracefully, "Raising the Game" is silent on all those issues.
Let me press on, for I intend to return to some of those themes later. I also mentioned that the Government are stealing ideas from the Sports Council. I have here a letter from the council, dated 7 July—just a few days before the Prime Minister's press launch—which runs through its existing policies and, surprise surprise, we find a number of elements that have been copied down as part of the Government's new policies, such as the links between school and club in and out of curriculum time, the provision of international standard facilities for promoting excellence and allowing the council to become a consultee on planning applications. I have no problem with the Prime Minister borrowing—
§ Mr. Pendry
It is a letter from the Sports Council and I will hand it to the hon. Gentleman.
I have no objection to the Prime Minister stealing either our clothes, the Sports Council's or anyone else's. I just wish that they would acknowledge ownership. Instead, the day following the launch, the Prime Minister was allowed to masquerade in the glory of 1,000 press column inches, claiming sole copyright. It is a shame that the Sports Council did not distance itself further from the Government over that but, to be charitable, I suppose that it is after all a Government quango.
1228 If the House feels that the 1975 White Paper is the only policy statement on sport that we have produced, I must remind hon. Members of Labour's 1992 "Charter for Sport"—the only sports policy produced by any party during the 1992 election. It called for closer working partnerships with the private sector to widen opportunities at all levels, the prevention of further sales of playing fields, raising the status of physical education in the curriculum—on which the hon. Member for Stockton, South (Mr. Devlin) is keen—and opening up school facilities to the community. Those are all themes that were repeated in "Raising the Game".
The Government's document also refers to the need for fair play. Unfortunately, their record on stamping out cheating is not a good one. One part of Labour's "Charter for sport" said:The present Government has failed to take effective action against drug use in sport. A Labour Government will not shirk from its responsibility.The Government's press conference document makes just a passing reference to doping. All that it is offering is more education for youngsters on the dangers of steroid abuse. I welcome that, of course, as do other Opposition Members. Many hon. Members joined me just over a year ago in signing an early-day motion calling for just such measures. But when will the Government finally adopt our commitment to outlaw the drugs themselves?
In January 1994, the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs—the Home Office's own group of experts—recommended a legal move to ban the use as well as the supply of such drugs. Finally, in November last year, the Home Secretary reacted to the pressure put on him by hon. Members on both sides of the House, including the hon. and learned Member for Fife, North-East (Mr. Campbell) and the hon. Member for Falmouth and Camborne (Mr. Coe). We do work together on a cross-party basis on many issues, as the Minister said.
In his written reply, the Home Secretary promised to impose further controls on anabolic steroids, but we are still waiting for action. Although the new Secretary of State has left her place, perhaps she could make a bright start at the Cabinet table by pressing the Home Secretary to introduce such legislation.
In their document, the Government are keen to point to the deficiencies apparent in our sporting life and keener still to attribute blame for the failures to anyone bar themselves. They talk aboutmisguided attitudes and mistaken policies over the last generation".But who has been in power these past 16 years? I wish that we had had more coffee mornings earlier on in the period of Conservative Government so that Ministers could have been converted to these views.
The Prime Minister claims tohave been concerned about the growing evidence of a decline of sport in many of our schools. The Secondary Heads Association themselves have produced alarming evidence of this.Let us consider that evidence. When did this decline occur and who was responsible? The SHA reported that between 1987—I do not think that Labour was in power then—and 1994, there was a huge decline of more than three quarters in extra-curricular sporting fixtures, largely due to the increased work loads of teachers.
Further evidence produced by the Sports Council and the Health Education Authority revealed that between 1977 and 1992 the number of PE teachers fell from 1229 41,800 to 24,000. Clearly, the sharp decline in school sport to which the Minister referred has occurred in the past 16 years of Tory Government and mainly during the premiership of the current incumbent, not a generation ago as he likes to pretend.
Let us look more closely at the Government's proposed solution. They rightly acknowledge the existence of a sporting continuum, stretching from our primary schools, moving through the educational establishment to our universities and colleges, linking it with clubs and societies and finally ending at the pinnacle of sporting excellence. They propose to support each part of the pyramid with new initiatives to bolster our sporting achievements. They are fine sentiments that we certainly endorse, but such policies simply cannot be put in place without the necessary resources—or are we to have another pledge broken, one made during the passage of the National Lottery etc. Act 1993 by the Prime Minister himself and successive Ministers?
Where are the funds for the sport development officers to come from? Where are the funds to ensure that schools can provide adequate sporting facilities by the year 2000? Where are the funds to implement sports mark and gold star and to ensure that an increasing number of schools reach their demanding targets? Where are the funds to overhaul teacher training and coaching programmes? Clearly, the lottery will provide some of the resources, and that is good, but they will be for capital programmes. It must be at the discretion of the Sports Council, which should not slavishly follow the diktats of the Prime Minister or the Minister.
What about the rest? As revenue projects, they are not eligible for lottery funding. The Prime Minister committed himself to giving extra resources. However, he is the man who has presided over huge real terms cuts in education spending, resulting in the loss of at least 3,500 teaching posts this year alone. In fact, the only major spending commitment contained in "Raising the Game" is to build the new British academy of sport with lottery funds, which is estimated to cost some £100 million. I do not complain about such a development. Indeed, as I said earlier, my party developed the idea in our 1975 White Paper. It was yet another of our ideas that was hijacked by the Government, but it is another case of the Prime Minister interfering in the distributive role of the Sports Council.
We can create excellence at the top only if we put the necessary resources into the grass roots of sport. The proposals are clearly based on the Australian institute of sport. The Minister will recall that by agreeing to pair with him to allow him to go to Australia—kicking and screaming, I must say—I was keen to help him to go to that institution. Nevertheless, he must remember that the Australian Sports Commission has the dual role of promoting participation as well as excellence. He rightly said that there is a difference between what he proposes and what the Australians have. It is a very important difference—one is a sport-for-all policy rather than a sport-for-a-few policy.
The Minister should also remember that Australia is rich with first-class sporting facilities. That compares with London's single 50 m swimming pool shared by 9 million inhabitants. The academy has a role to play but only as part of a balanced picture for British sport.
1230 In issue 5, volume 3 of Public Policy Review, the Minister said:As Minister of Sport I don't intend to tell sports bodies how to run their affairs.How does he square that with the statement from his own document which reads:The Government has asked the GB Sports Council to … invite bids, by 31 March 1996, from the sports world to establish the British Academy of Sport.In 1994, the Secretary of State's predecessor, with whom she swapped jobs, wrote to me saying:It has always been an important principle of the National Lottery that proceeds from the Lottery will be additional to current expenditure programmes and not a substitute for them.Again, that was repeated by the Secretary of State and the Minister in last Wednesday's debate. They were repeating a promise made to the House during the Second Reading of the National Lottery etc. Act 1993: that the Government would not direct the spending of lottery money—as if it were the Government's own. It was clearly repeated by the Secretary of State on Wednesday at column 1039 of the Official Report.
The pledge was even written into the directions for distribution written by the Minister's Department. They state quite categorically:All distributing bodies shall take into account … the need to ensure that they do not solicit particular applications.Clearly, that promise has been broken and a new precedent set.
As I have said, I welcome in principle the establishment of the British academy of sport, but a few questions need to be answered first. For instance, who will control its operations? Who will direct its resources? Where will it be based? Some of them have already been answered by the Minister and I welcome the fact that, although we hear in this era of leaked documents that there is a healthy punch-up going on between the Minister and the Sports Council, the Sports Council will very soon be issuing its consultative document.
It would appear that the Minister favours a private operator developing a green-field site rather than extending existing complexes such as Lilleshall, but what if the commercial interests start to conflict with the interests of sport in the medium to long term? What guarantees will we have if the Minister has his way over the long-term future of the academy? In "Raising the Game", we were promised that the Sports Council would bring forward proposals on the academy, and it is good that they are to come very soon. They were promised earlier—I think that they were given to the Department in the first week of October although we were promised them in September—but, as long as we get them before Christmas I do not think that we shall be quibbling too much.
Let us return to the other end of the spectrum: the plans that the Minister has outlined for in-school sport. In recent years, the amount of sport played in schools has fallen dramatically, as the Minister said. The Government continue not to guarantee two hours for school sport a week. In 1987, 72 per cent. of the 14 to 16 age group had at least two hours of physical education a week. That had declined to just 25 per cent. by 1994—that is some progress, and all under Conservative Governments.
1231 I remind the Minister that at present an average of 91 minutes a week is allocated to sport for children aged 14 to 16, leaving just over an hour after changing and travelling time. That is clearly not enough, and I am glad that the Minister agrees with us on that point.
In addition, the Government still favour compelling schoolchildren of all ages to play competitive games. Naturally, many youngsters derive great enjoyment—I certainly did—from competitive team games and find them a rewarding experience, but others do not. They are more likely to engage in other activities such as dance, jogging and aerobics which will be sustained throughout their adult life. Surely, by the age of 14, after nine years of competitive games, children are old and wise enough to make up their own minds.
In the introduction to "Raising the Game", the Prime Minister refers to the document being the result of widespread consultation with interested parties. According to the Prime Minister:Their advice has been hugely valuable in putting these ideas together".Clearly, that was not the case with the issue of compulsory competitive games because more than three quarters of the responses that the Minister received from that consultation document were opposed to the idea.
The Minister ignores those voices at his peril because they have been joined by Gary Lineker, Bryan Robson, Kevin Keegan, Trevor Brooking, Paul Gascoigne and Terry Venables, all great sporting competitors who questioned whether youngsters are being taught properly in Britain. They all recognise the wider dimension to developing skills in sports and endorse the system used by Ajax Amsterdam, which focuses on balance and movement skills for youngsters before they go on to the competitive field.
The Daily Telegraph wrote last Wednesday:With their determination to promote competitive team games at the expense of all other activities, the Government have clearly got it wrong.As the House can imagine, I do not always endorse what The Daily Telegraph says, but, in this instance, I support its sentiments wholeheartedly.
Quite the most controversial aspect of "Raising the Game" is the section that deals with school playing fields. We should like to know exactly what the Sports Council will do in its role as consultee to planning applications affecting playing fields. We have seen plenty of evidence of the Sports Council doing the Government's bidding in the past. We really need to know what its attitude to DES circular 909 is and whether it will be repealed.
In any case, should it be the Sports Council that is made the consultee in this instance? What about the Association of Metropolitan Authorities or the Association of County Councils? After all, the amount of money provided by the Sports Council—£49.8 million—pales in comparison with the £2 billion provided by local authorities.
§ Mr. Harry Greenway
I am keen to retain and expand school playing fields. May I ask for the hon. Gentleman's support in opposing Ealing's Labour council which is attempting to sell the playing fields at Dormers Wells high school for housing development?
§ Mr. Pendry
I regret any playing fields being sold, but I do not blame any council—Conservative or Labour—for making that choice when it is strapped for cash and 1232 receives a circular allowing it to make that difficult choice. I regret it. As a Government, we shall remove that temptation.
§ Mr. Pendry
I will support anyone in putting a case for sporting provision in specific places, but I will not make a decision about the priorities of any one council. It is for the elected councils to do so. My argument is that the circular allows local authorities to do that, and that we should take the temptation away.
In a letter to me, the Prime Minister accepts the argument, but he does not go on to allow local authority associations to act as consultees.
It was the Government who introduced DES circular 909, as long ago as 1981, which reduced minimum areas for playing fields and encouraged schools to sell playing fields in the first place. Since then, more than 5,000 playing fields have been sold off so that cash-strapped councils can generate capital receipts. The Minister has never disputed that.
What makes it worse is the fact that school attendances have steadily increased recently—up by more than 10 per cent. in primary schools in the past 10 years. Initially, the sale of playing fields was said to be related to falling attendance rolls; those rolls are lengthening again. At the same time, the fields have gone, largely never to return, as they have been concreted over and turned into car parks and housing estates. Yet the Minister now wants schools to buy them back, as he said on 16 October at column 5.
How will that be done, and at what cost? Perhaps the Minister will tell us that. Obviously, we shall buy back the fields that remain for a larger sum than we sold them for.
At the end of last year, I wrote to the Prime Minister about that subject. I was surprised by his response. Rather than acknowledging that the regulations encourage schools to sell off surplus land, the Prime Minister claimed that they actually protected playing fields. I was staggered by the sheer hypocrisy of the Government. First they urge local authorities to flog off playing fields; then they claim that they have been protecting them all along.
We should also note that the specifications laid out in the regulations are minimum requirements—only 1 hectare for primary schools with 300 pupils, which is not enough by anyone's standards. The Government have done nothing to strengthen the minimum provisions, but have encouraged further sell-offs.
I have before me an extract from a speech made by the Prime Minister only two months after his supposed conversion. Speaking to the Grant Maintained Schools Foundation, he said:At present, you can only sell surplus assets with the expectation of keeping half the proceeds. That is fine as far as it goes … I can say today that, as from next April, you will be able to retain the full proceeds of such disposals.If that is not an encouragement to sell off more land, I do not know what is.
The National Playing Fields Association has said:Such policies may have an inadvertent negative impact on school playing fields. The simple position is that the only assets which schools have available for disposal are buildings and land and for the major part most buildings will continue to be required.What the document omits is as worrying as what it includes. There appears to be little or no recognition of the importance of parental support in producing first-class sportspeople.
1233 I am told that somewhere in the paper—which I ask the Minister to pick up—there is a reference to sport for disabled people. I have read the paper several times, but I am unable to find it. I contacted the British Sports Association for the Disabled to discover whether it could. A helpful spokeswoman there said that she had heard about a reference, too, but that she could not find it.
Perhaps the Minister can advise me where to look now and on what page that reference appears. I shall willingly give way to him if he is able to direct me to the relevant page, but I do not think that he can.
Why are there no references to the achievements of disabled sportspeople in that document? Does the Minister not recognise them as important?
The Minister should be aware that, in recent years, Britain's disabled athletes have distinguished themselves in many world sporting competitions. Last year, the Great Britain swimming team topped the medal table at the world championships. Last summer, the Great Britain athletic team came third in the world championships, winning 66 medals, including 22 gold. As a patron of the British Paralympic Association, I am aware that there are high hopes that the team will top the medal table in Atlanta next summer. It is an appalling omission that those athletes receive no recognition in "Raising the Game".
Another major omission is the role of local authorities and especially their leisure and education departments. They are the major providers of sport and leisure in the country, investing almost £2 billion annually, yet they are referred to only twice in passing in the document.
One major surprise to me was the mention—I am sure that it must have been a mistake by the Minister and the Department—in the paper of a school in my constituency, which seconded a teacher to take special responsibility to promote sport for its pupils among local clubs. However, there is no mention of the role of the Tameside leisure department, assisted, one might say, by the local Member of Parliament, who closely supported the school in all that.
For example, the Labour council directly grant-aided the school netball and fencing clubs, school coaches attended council training programmes and, as a result of council support, the school secured additional sponsorship for new changing rooms and for five-a-side football and netball areas. Those are only a few examples of that Labour council's support for Hyde high school. It supports many other schools in the district, as do other Labour-controlled authorities throughout the land, which are not mentioned, of course.
We believe that "Raising the Game" has done something at last to raise the profile of sport; we welcome anything that does. It is certainly better than nothing. However, it is a patchwork quilt policy of other people's ideals and ideas, hurriedly put together. It is unlikely to be the panacea for British sport that the Prime Minister portrayed it as. I fear that the sporting world will have to wait for the next Labour Government before there is a coherent sports policy. When that day comes, I hope that the Minister will be as supportive of me as I have been of him in many of his endeavours.
§ 11.6 am
§ Mr. Michael Lord (Suffolk, Central)
I am delighted to take part in the debate. I am sorry that Opposition Front-Bench Members could not find it in their hearts to be more supportive of what the Minister is doing. I found his speech invigorating and exhilarating. He understands what he is talking about and really cares for the game. He is giving it the shake-up that it has long needed. The document that we are considering today emphasises that. I wish him all the best in his endeavours, especially regarding schools, where it is most important that we get sport going again. One's school days—and sometimes university and college—are the happiest days in one's sporting life.
In this important debate which touches the lives of so many people, I wish to discuss two topics: the effect of money on sport in general and its effect on rugby union specifically.
At the risk of being accused of being a purist or an idealist or of wanting to turn the clock back, I believe that we need to take a new hard look at the position. Sport at its best has so much to offer, especially to the young: the thrill of competition, being part of a team, fairness, respect for decision makers, self-discipline, honour and, not least, the ability to lose with good grace. But what do we see in so much of our sport today? Here I speak not so much about sport at school or university or at the lower levels, but about sport at the higher levels, which is what most people watch.
In cricket, the practice of sledging—fielders close to the bat making rude remarks to the batsman, constantly to try to talk him out of his wicket—is now commonplace. At test level, people appeal for catches when they know full well that the ball touched the ground.
The hon. Member for Vauxhall (Miss Hoey) is or was a well-known athlete. Athletes of the highest level now do not break a record on a Saturday if they can make more money by breaking it on a Sunday. Athletics has become a travelling circus world wide, with appearance money and people making a fortune out of it.
Even tennis, a relatively gentle game, is becoming almost brutal at the men's finals level—bigger rackets, grunting all round, serve and volley, over in five minutes. I understand that softer balls for Wimbledon are being discussed. How long before it will be smaller rackets and higher nets?
The Ryder cup is a stark example from recent weeks of what happens when money is not important. Although professional players took part, they played not for money but for country, honour and pride. The atmosphere of that Ryder cup was entirely different from that of any other golf match the whole year round because not money but something else was the key issue.
I intervened in the Minister's speech to talk about role models. Let us take our national sport of soccer as an example. If we watch it regularly on television, we see referees—who in my opinion are saints—being bombarded face to face with four-letter words by half the players on the field. One top-class player leaps into the stand and aims a kick at a spectator's face. And recently, for the first time, a footballer has been sent to gaol for head-butting somebody.
It is difficult to apportion blame specifically, but I believe that most of it is due to the increasing sums of money and the greater importance of money in all games, 1235 and to falling standards on all sides. How much sport can give to our country, yet how little it is giving at present—and, indeed, how much damage it does in some respects. Last week a commission on youth said that young people were trying to be too macho. How much of that derives from the role models that young people see in sport-wanting to win at all costs and the methods employed to do so?
As a young man, my main sport was rugby union and I developed a deep love for the game which I have never lost. Until now, it has been the one major national sport to have stood out against professionalism and said that it would not pay players to play. It was a wonderful example of sport played for fun, with no expectations of financial reward, and that is what gave the game its special ethos and special following.
I do not pretend that everything has been perfect and entirely above board. There were always stories of money being tucked into boots after games, extra travelling expenses and a certain amount of fiddling behind the scenes in some clubs. Many of us deplored that, but it did happen. In recent years, the pressure has increased. We had paid coaches, the formation of leagues, sponsorship encouraged by firms and corporate hospitality at grounds. The World cup has greatly increased the commercial attractions and the television coverage. In many ways, that was commercialisation of the sport but until recently, at least from the players' point of view, rugby union remained an amateur game. Now, however, it has been announced that the game is going professional.
What finally pushed England—I am talking about England in particular today—into making that decision? There were two reasons. The first was pressure from Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, which wanted to pay their players—and had, indeed, been paying their players for years. The second was the greed of some of the present crop of internationals, whose shameful part in those events will be remembered long after their rugby achievements are forgotten. It is disgraceful that international players lucky enough to be honoured by selection for their country to play an amateur game should use the amateur image to build up their own reputations and then destroy it in their desire for money. In doing so, they have denied future generations the opportunities and pleasures that they themselves have enjoyed. I recently heard one such player described as a business man in shorts, and that sums it up rather well. Those players, some of whom delude themselves that they individually have the spectator-pulling power of Pavarotti, have been behind the scenes bludgeoning the Rugby Football Union with the negotiating skills and techniques of Arthur Scargill.
I understand that the proposal for the England squad is to pay the whole squad for the whole season: what a cosy arrangement. Surely the fairest way is to select game by game. What about injuries and loss of form, and emerging new talent? Whatever happened to annual trials, at which current internationals had to prove regularly that they were worthy of their places, and better than those who aspired to replace them? Under the present arrangements it is not surprising that some of our current internationals have 50 or 60 caps.
Rugby union is not naturally a spectator sport. It is only at international level or at the varsity match that the combination of the amateur spirit and fierce competition has traditionally attracted large crowds. Even then, the 1236 fierceness of the competition, the degree of fitness and the closeness of the marking can make for exciting but not very spectacular matches. Rugby union is essentially a game for playing, not for watching. The kind of people who go to watch rugby do so for all sorts of reasons. Of course they support their side and hope that it will win. They may also hope to see some exciting running—although in that respect they are frequently disappointed. But people also go to watch because of family and friends, or perhaps because their children are playing. They go to meet old friends, and to drink beer. There is a sense of occasion. In rugby union winning is certainly not the be-all and end-all.
It has been argued that the Rugby Football Union in England had no choice, that professionalism was inevitable and only a matter of time. Some of the players say that professionalism has removed the hypocrisy. What nonsense that is. The most important hypocrisy was displayed by players posing as amateurs while working hard behind the scenes to get paid for what they were doing and to turn the whole game professional.
Players complain about the pressure of training and keeping up to present standards. Apparently it interfered with their careers, so that they could not train and have a career. Why do they not do what earlier generations did and have an international career when they have time to train, and when they no longer have that time, get on with their career and make room for younger people, whose careers are not yet so important, who have time to train and who desperately need the opportunity?
I have already mentioned the great pressure from Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. I understand that those countries already pay their players. At the risk of sounding nationalistic, the game is called rugby and it was created at Rugby school in England. Our national organisation is called not the England Rugby Football Union but the Rugby Football Union, and Twickenham is affectionately known all over the world as HQ. What we needed from the Rugby Football Union was leadership and foresight, and the determination to preserve the game loved by so many people. If the game needs cleaning up, let us clean it up, not simply give way and see it ruined.
What will happen now? What does the future hold? That has not been thought through. I am sure that there are many Members in the Chamber who understand the game, so they will know what I mean when I ask how prop forwards who are paid can pack down against prop forwards who are not paid. How can players ruck and maul—extremely fierce activities—for money? How can amateur rugby clubs be bought and sold, as is now being discussed, and how can players be bought and sold? Cardiff is looking forward to the return of Jonathan Davies from rugby league. I understand that, and I understand his desire to go back into the Welsh fold. But has Cardiff thought about the fact that while Jonathan Davies is coming one way, some of the club's other best players may be going the other, to be bought by Newcastle, Bath or Harlequins? That has not been thought through. There are a thousand and one problems that have not been addressed.
We must realise that we are in danger of reinventing the wheel. The same debate took place 100 years ago, when rugby league was created. Despite what the Minister said earlier, I have no objection to rugby league. It is a fine game and I enjoy watching it. It was created 100 years ago not 1237 simply so that players could be paid, although that was important, but to make the game an enjoyable spectacle to watch.
Although I love rugby union dearly, many aspects of it are boring. The scrummages can last too long, and line-outs are boring to people who do not understand what is going on. If one really wants open rugby all the time, as one sees in rugby league, there are too many people on the field in rugby union. What will happen eventually when the whole game goes professional? Rucking and mauling will be too fierce and too boring, while line-outs will be too complicated and will slow the game down. There will not be 15 players on each side, as that would be far too many for an open game. How many players could we have on each side? Let us say that we would have 13 on each side. We would simply have recreated rugby league all over again. That game already exists and those who want to play it and get paid for doing so should go and do so, rather than staying in rugby union and trying to change the game that so many of us care so much about.
An interesting point is the question of who owns Twickenham, which is steeped in the amateur tradition. Twickenham belongs to all clubs, not to the Rugby Football Union. I do not believe that it can be right to turn such a famous stadium into a professional stadium.
I am a great believer in democracy and, occasionally, referendums, and I believe that all clubs and members of the RFU should have been consulted before the decision was taken. The Minister said today that some things happen in our lives which set us alight, and this is something that has set me alight. I had a letter published in The Daily Telegraph on the subject a little while ago and I received a lot of correspondence as a result, urging me to do something and perhaps to take a lead.
In response, I have organised my own referendum. I am writing to every club in England, asking the following five questions: "Do you think the RFU was right to make rugby union a professional game? Do you think that all clubs in the RFU should have been consulted before the decision was taken? Would you support the re-establishment of an amateur rugby union for all clubs that do not wish to pay players? Do you think that rugby players who want to be paid should play rugby league? You may not be aware that Twickenham belongs not to the RFU but to all clubs—including yours. Should professional players be allowed to play at Twickenham?" I will await the responses with interest, and I shall publish the results. I sincerely hope that most clubs, including the senior ones, will want to remain amateur. If they do, we must see what can be done about setting up an appropriate framework.
I hope that we are not too late. A huge onus has been placed on my generation, who have enjoyed rugby union and who know what it means to us, and it is important that we show responsibility in passing the game on to future generations. Rugby union is the last great sport in this country that is played for fun and nothing else. If it goes professional, the game will become sleazier and sleazier. A great tradition will be lost for ever, and money and television will have won. If we could save the game, what a feat that would be, and how future generations of amateur rugby players would thank us.
§ Mr. Joseph Ashton (Bassetlaw)
I intend to confine my remarks to one sport—professional football. It is probably known that I am a director of Sheffield Wednesday from the premiership, and that I am the chairman of the all-party football group. I am also a member of the Select Committee on National Heritage.
I do not agree with what the hon. Member for Suffolk, Central (Mr. Lord) has just said about football. There is no doubt that football commands a tremendous amount of coverage in the tabloid newspapers—probably more than Parliament or politicians—because of massive public interest. Anything which is scrutinised in such a way every day will obviously have any sort of misdemeanour splashed all over television, and intensely concentrated criticism is something that football has to bear.
The way that the game has responded to incidents shows that it takes a hard line on self-regulation. When Eric Cantona attacked a member of the public, the Football Association increased the penalty that his own club had given him. The FA punished Tottenham Hotspur by deducting 12 points from it and preventing it from entering the FA cup. The manager of Arsenal was banned for one year, while a Millwall fan who foolishly went on to the pitch the other night has been banned for life.
One of the problems that the FA has is when people in the game persist in going to court. Many politicians know that a rule book is simply a guide for friends, and a rule book being challenged in court prolongs divisions and makes it difficult to punish people. I hope that those in football, and all other games, will refrain from going to lawyers when they dispute the rules.
There has been a phenomenal difference in football in the past five or six years. It is said that it is an ill wind which blows no one any good, and the ill wind of the Hillsborough disaster, which occurred at my club and in which 95 people were accidentally killed, was one of the traumatic events of this century. But the disaster resulted in the decision of Lord Chief Justice Taylor that all top clubs had to have all-seater grounds.
Fortunately, that decision coincided with Sky doing a television deal with the clubs, and that deal has made a fantastic difference. Football in this country is now rich enough to allow foreign players such as Ginola and Bergkamp to come and play here for very high wages. In the past, our best players went abroad to Italy and Spain. The fans are paying more to come to games, but the standard of football has increased massively, and that is why the game is in such demand by television companies.
The sponsorship that has resulted from that demand has meant that our stadiums are now without exception the best league stadiums in the world, although we do not have the best international stadiums. Gate money taken at the turnstiles—while high—nevertheless just pays for the wages of the players, some of whom at the very top are earning £10,000 a week. The average wage in the premiership is about £2,000 a week. Those wages are paid for by money at the gate, while sponsorship and television cash pay for ground improvements and transfer fees.
The system is working very well, and the Government should thank God for the all-seater stadiums, which are the most massive and impressive pieces of construction in this country for some time. The unemployment figures 1239 would have been a great deal higher were it not for the £400 million that football clubs have spent on their all-seater stadiums.
There is no doubt that our thanks should go to the Football Trust, which—with money from the pools—has put £136 million into ground improvements. That money has come from the pools, not the national lottery, and it is appalling that while the lottery pays only 12 per cent. in tax, the football pools companies are still paying 32 per cent. with VAT at 17 per cent. The football pools industry has been penalised in this country following the introduction of the national lottery, and many hundreds of jobs have been lost. The pools industry was handicapped right at the beginning, as the lottery was permitted roll-overs and television advertising. The industry was also unable to allow people aged 16 to play the pools. Yet despite all of the burdens placed on it by the Government, the pools industry has still managed to hand over £136 million via the Football Trust to assist in the building of the all-seater stadiums insisted upon by Parliament. The industry has an unfair burden placed on it, and something should be done about that in the Budget.
Football is criticised for other things, including club shirts. We all sell shirts, kits, tee-shirts and even after-shave in our club shops. We do not apologise for that, as the average premiership club shop can take £1 million in a season. An average club can sell 15,000 to 20,000 shirts to its supporters. People say that clubs charge too much for shirts, but it should be realised that a football shirt—manufactured in a batch of 15,000 to 20,000—will be more expensive than a shirt from C and A, which will be making 250,000 at a time.
The club shirt must also have a complicated design. If it did not, somebody down the street would copy it and within three months would be selling it from a barrow outside the ground. The first time the buyer put such a shirt on, he would stain his neck blue or red. He would have been ripped off.
§ Mr. Ashton
I was just coming to that. Most clubs do not change their shirt designs every five minutes—although Manchester United, which has a lot of supporters abroad, does change its shirts too frequently in my opinion. The average club changes its shirt design every two years, for reasons of fashion. Buyers of football shirts are predominantly young people. They want the club to change its shirt and to have a different away strip—my club has used yellow, green and hoops.
It is no coincidence that the shirts are marketed in June and July, because supporters will be taking their holidays and want to show off their club shirts on the Costa Brava. They have become a big fashion item. Football shirt manufacture provides 700 or 800 jobs and is keeping three factories open. The likes of Puma and Umbro and the textile industry would go down on their knees to thank football fashion. In the same way that jeans or anoraks go in and out of fashion, football shirts change their style and colour.
§ Ms Diane Abbott (Hackney, North and Stoke Newington)
In fact, the majority of people who purchase 1240 football shirts are the mothers of young supporters, and it is mothers who complain about the inordinate cost of those shirts.
§ Mr. Ashton
My hon. Friend makes a justifiable complaint, but the lad who used to deliver my newspapers—he is at college now—wore the same Sheffield Wednesday shirt every day for two years. His mother probably washed it on Sunday, but she could not have received better value in her life than that £30 shirt that her lad wore every day for two years. Compared with how much is spent on Christmas toys such as Nintendo—which are chucked aside after two or three years because the youngsters get fed up with them—football shirts, which are probably worn every day of the year, represent good value for money.
There are wide variations between local authority licensing committees. The hon. Member for Suffolk, Central talked about going to a rugby match and having a pint. I wish that one could do the same at football matches. All too often, the local justices seem to be living in the days of the riots and hooliganism of 10 years ago, which do not occur now that there is better segregation in all-seater stadiums. The justices are adamant in refusing to allow the average fan to have a pint with his pie. It is okay if the fan can afford to use the hospitality lounge and pay for a £25 meal, but all too often the average fan is unfairly denied the chance to have a pint.
There are also massively wide variations in the cost of policing. Hourly costs differ from town to town and from one police force to another. Some forces charge for just the two hours of the game; others charge for four or five hours. A club such as Lincoln might be allowed just one policeman in case of arrests; other forces think football matches are a milch cow and that they can make a lot of money out of their local clubs. I have seen the Home Secretary about that. Why can the Home Office not direct that the charge should be a percentage of the gate? No club would mind paying 2.5 per cent. or 5 per cent. of its gate, because the amount would be decided on the size of the crowd, which would result in a much fairer and more realistic charge, but for some reason the police and the Home Office will not agree to clubs being charged in that way.
An important development in sport is the construction of a new national stadium. Indeed, I understand that the owners of Wembley are meeting the Sports Council today. We all have fond and nostalgic memories of Wembley. It cost just £750,000 to build in 1926 and a crowd of 120,000 used to turn up in those days. We all remember the 1966 World cup. Wembley is a magical place, and probably every one of us has been to it, but it is a poor stadium by 1995 standards. It is nowhere near as good as Old Trafford, Arsenal or any other Premier league grounds. The sight lines are bad because it was designed for standing crowds. Now that there are seats, the crowd are constantly up and down because they cannot see above the heads of the people in front. The catering facilities are poor and the general atmosphere is one of drabness and decay. There is a feeling throughout sport that the country needs a new national stadium.
There are arguments as to where the new national stadium should be located and what sort of stadium it should be. The Sports Council and the Premier league clubs have banded together to bring about a new stadium, and they have a national lottery grant of £130 million. As to the design, the athletics authorities want a stadium like 1241 Wembley, incorporating a running track. The football authorities do not. They argue that a running track destroys the atmosphere because the crowd is too far from the game, which players do not like. Many other countries have track stadiums, which is why foreign players often do well at Wembley—far better than they would at Old Trafford, Villa Park or Hillsborough. Grounds without a running track are more compact and have a much better atmosphere. A running track also adds considerably to the cost of a football ground. Wembley has talked about shifting seats and moving grass, but a track would put at least £20 million or £30 million on the cost and would satisfy no one.
§ Mr. Anthony Coombs
The hon. Gentleman presents a false dichotomy. Most modern stadium designs—including that suggested for Birmingham, which I commend—incorporate retractable seating, which allows the capacity to be extended for football matches, but for the running track to be reinstated for athletics meetings.
§ Mr. Ashton
It is possible to do as the hon. Gentleman says, but it is much more costly. I understand that Birmingham cannot get planning permission for its bid because it would use a green-field site. Of the five locations that are bidding, Birmingham is probably at the bottom of the list.
Wembley has since its inception been run by a private company. One argument made by the football authorities is that they pay too much to that company. My information—Wembley may challenge this, but I do not think that it is too far out—is that for every £1 paid for a cup final, each team gets 19p but Wembley takes 38p—a total of 76p. The rest goes on value added tax, the Football Association's share, policing and other running costs. Wembley gets as much as both teams. Wembley also gets the revenue from television rights and programme sales. If Wembley sells 100,000 cup final programmes—a large number are sold by mail—at £6 each, that generates £600,000, which is more than the winning team receives. Teams playing in a cup final probably each get £450,000 and Wembley gets about £1.25 million.
I am not blaming Wembley or accusing it of making excessive profits. There are probably 40 or 50 events a year at Wembley, but the stadium has to be maintained 365 days a year. It was better a few years ago, when occasions such as the pop concert for Nelson Mandela increased the number to around 80 events. It is obviously extremely costly for a private company to maintain a huge stadium, even though events are profitable on the days when they are held.
The Sports Council, athletics interests and football authorities understandably say, "Why don't we build a stadium instead of Wembley?" The hon. Member for Wyre Forest (Mr. Coombs) mentioned Birmingham. There are also bids from Manchester, Bradford and Sheffield. Wembley's bid involves pulling down the existing stadium and building a new one on the same site. That would be about £50 million more expensive than using a derelict site in the north. Wembley would offer parking for perhaps 7,500 cars, whereas sites in the north could provide parking for 25,000 cars—a phenomenal difference. Sheffield has also made a bid. Geographically, Sheffield is at the centre of the country and can offer a 1242 site right next to the M1 with three accesses to that motorway. The M18 is about four miles away, and there are good links with the A1 and the M62. The vast majority of the football clubs that pull in big crowds are in the north of England. There are about 9 million people within an hour's drive of this site. To put that in context, I should point out that it can take an hour to get from Trafalgar square to Wembley.
Hon. Members may know that there used to be seven miles of steelworks between Sheffield and Rotherham. As happened with the London docklands, when the steel industry collapsed all the works were pulled down flat—that is why such a huge site is available. Wembley has about 40 acres, and the site offered by Manchester is 140 acres, but the site in Sheffield is nearer 300 acres. Sheffield came in for a lot of criticism about the student games, but I will not go into that now.
Most of the new development is being managed by the Sheffield development corporation, not the city council. By the side of the M1 the corporation has built the biggest shopping mall in Europe—Meadowhall hypermarket. Department stores' rents are 50 per cent. higher in Meadowhall than in Oxford street. It has 100,000 visitors on a Saturday, and 35 million people went there last year. People drive long distances to visit this shopping area. A huge entertainment centre is being built, including night clubs, along what was once going to be called Bourbon street. In any event, it will be a massive attraction.
Within a few hundred yards of the Meadowhall development is the planned site for the new stadium, which will be an enormous complex. I have referred to the row about whether an athletics track should be included. I should perhaps mention that Sheffield already has the best athletics arena in Britain. It is so good that the Rolling Stones played to 55,000 fans there this summer. They also played at Wembley, a concert which got massive coverage while the one at Sheffield got none. The new football stadium could be built alongside the athletics stadium at considerably lower cost and on an enormous site with first-class parking and access.
Last week the Select Committee on National Heritage went to see those sites in Sheffield and was impressed by what it saw. A supertram runs along the Don valley, straight from Meadowhall. The next stop up the line is the indoor arena, which Pavarotti regularly fills with 12,000 spectators. Incidentally, the Jehovah's Witnesses also manage to fill it with that many people. All sorts of international stars such as Whitney Houston play there. London never knows or understands what is happening in the north of England: it has become complacent, imagining that it has the best of everything, simply because Londoners never bother to go and see what is happening in the rest of the country.
The indoor arena, linked to the athletics stadium and the international Olympic swimming pool, with its amazing diving facilities, are all run under the auspices of the Sheffield development corporation. The Minister talked about an academy of sport. Hallam university has already produced plans for one at which 2,000 pupils would be accommodated. What the Minister did not mention, however, was the need for a sports injuries expertise centre in this country. Every club these days has a physiotherapist, and certain consultants specialise in cartilage injuries or hernias, but we need to bring together all the best know-how in one place. After all, these sports stars are valuable.
1243 The UEFA championships are coming to Sheffield in 1996, to be held at our ground where we are building a £6.8 million stand. The new site is reachable from the City airport in about 85 minutes. Wembley cannot possibly compete with such facilities. The reason why the English football team gets poor attendances for Wednesday night games at Wembley is that people have given up trying to get there. It is possible by tube from Baker street, but for anyone coming down the M1 or around the M25 it is quite hopeless. So people go and watch the game on Sky television in a pub, or at home. London football attendances are pathetic, with the exception of a few big clubs such as Arsenal. Sheffield's two big clubs, Wednesday and United, pulled in 55,000 spectators when they were both in the Premier league—more than 10 per cent. of the population, or the equivalent of 1 million people in London.
I hope that the decision on where to build the new stadium will be taken without prejudice, and that the Government and the national media will not say that it must be built at Wembley for reasons of nostalgia. When that stadium was built, it was at the end of a metro line. Since then other cities have overtaken London, which has not undergone massive site clearance in the way that some northern cities have because their industries have collapsed. Even the Manchester site is far too near the centre of Manchester. What is needed for a new stadium is good motorway access so that people can get away quickly. Leaving Wembley the minute the whistle blows, it can still take an hour to get to the tube. With a good car park and motorway access, people can be away in much less time.
If all the national lottery money and football league money paid by the fans is to be spent, the stadium should be put where the fans and the public want it and not necessarily where the London establishment wants it.
§ Mr. Tim Devlin (Stockton, South)
I was interested to hear what the hon. Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Ashton) had to say about Sheffield. It would certainly suit me down to the ground if the new national stadium was built there. It is not far from my constituency, and it would be an easy drive down the motorway. The facilities there might lend themselves well to such a venture.
I was recently in the United States to see the Seattle Seahawks play at their home ground, the Kingdome, and it brought home to me the fact that we are woefully under-provided with really big facilities compared with what the Americans have. It is an all-weather pitch where 60,000 people can pack in easily under cover. The entire pitch and arena can be covered with a retractable roof, so that a variety of games can be played in all weathers—even when there is deep snow outside. We do not often get deep snow in our part of Yorkshire—perhaps even less than the north York moors—but the weather in the north can be inclement at times and, to give those soft southerners a chance if they ever reach a final in the national stadium, perhaps we ought to be able to keep the rain off them.
I want to talk about the historical sporting perspective today. I read with some disappointment lately that the Army is having trouble recruiting people of sufficient physical capacity to serve. The last time that happened was in 1903, when a report was submitted to the Minister 1244 of War, as he then was, about the state of young recruits. It said that seven out of 10 were being rejected. We have not quite got to that point yet, but it does show that times have changed considerably—not always very attractively, either.
The problem in 1903 was malnourishment and poor housing. There was real poverty in the inner cities, and it was not uncommon for officers in the British Army to be more than a foot taller than the men whom they commanded. We have got past those problems of poverty now; our young people's problems these days are to do with affluence. Nearly every home has a television and a video recorder, and young people watch about 25 hours of television a week. They take less than one hour's physical exercise at school, and many of them take part in no physical activities outside school. At the same time we have an alarming rise in juvenile crime. Members receive complaints about it all the time.
In that respect, I took an initiative during the summer. A large group of young people from a school in my constituency visited me in the House. I gave them an hour's talk in one of the Committee Rooms. I was concerned to stress that young people should not feel that politics is a remote activity that has nothing to do with them. I explained to them that politics is about the apportionment of scarce resources among competing demands. We started to talk about real needs that were not being met in the area where they lived. They all agreed that leisure facilities in their town were virtually non-existent and that something had to be done.
The young people returned to their homes and thereafter undertook a survey of all the young people in Yarm in my constituency. They then reported on what those young people would like to see provided in their town. Two items that came way ahead of everything else were the provision of a leisure centre of some description and a cinema.
There is a problem because groups of policemen are so often moving in on young people who are sitting on benches, for example, and loitering in a way that causes distress to other residents who have homes nearby. Those other residents want to know why young people are hanging around outside their houses and looking quite menacing. The problem is that the young people have little to do. That is why I asked a question about swimming pools earlier in the debate.
When I was a young person—I suppose that I still am; in any event, when I was a very young person at school I used to take a job during school holidays teaching swimming and life saving at the local swimming pool. The pool was frequently jammed with young people during the holidays because they had little else to do. At least there was a pool. I am talking of Thornaby, which is also in my constituency.
At Yarm, which is a much more prosperous area than Thornaby, there is no swimming pool. If anyone wants to take part in leisure activity, it is necessary to travel to Stockton or Thornaby. There is a fundamental problem. We do not have a proper set of leisure facilities in larger communities throughout the country. Local authorities, which have had to carve up the cake in different ways, have been left to make provision. Many Labour-controlled authorities, such as the one in the area that I represent, have taken the view that the more prosperous suburban 1245 areas have the financial resources to make provision for their own children. Those areas are low priorities when it comes to providing swimming pools and other facilities.
One of my friends on the Opposition Benches has once again become a shadow Front-Bench spokesman. He told me that during the summer recess he learnt to swim. As secretary of the all-party hockey club—my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Greenway) is the chairman and a great captain—I know that it is necessary to explain the rules of the game to Members who wish to join the club. Sometimes they do not understand the rules because they have not played the game for so long. Some have not played it at all. That demonstrates that there is a twofold problem: people are not playing enough sport in schools and they do not participate in a sufficiently wide range of sports. Many are not aware of the rules. In many instances, they have not followed up the introduction to sporting activities that they had when they were very young because there have not been the necessary facilities or opportunities to do so.
It is crucial that in schools we encourage team games. That is because they help to build social skills and because work itself these days is team based. We see, for example, how members of the Opposition assemble themselves. They call themselves the environment team, the Treasury team or the national heritage team, for example. Conservative Members do the same. None of us works alone. We, too, work in environment teams and education teams, for example. I work in the Department of Trade and Industry team. Outside, whether we work in the law, from which I come, or in industry, perhaps especially in industry, in manufacturing or in marketing—this applies in any aspect of life that anyone cares to mention—everything is moving to much less structured hierarchical arrangements. Indeed, we are adopting team-playing arrangements.
It is crucial that people learn to play in team sports. It was on our sporting team ability that we built our military team ability. We are involved now not in military but in economic warfare, and that involves teams playing together.
§ Mr. Pendry
We are saying that certainly we should have competitive team games. We have always been in favour of them. The element of compulsory competitive team games is another matter. I take a little further the hon. Gentleman's analogy of team play in the House. It is not necessary to be a member of a team. A Member can be a Back Bencher. Those who wish, similarly, to play solo sports can do so in a school environment. We are talking about a healthy mix. It seems that the Government are proceeding down the pretty narrow road of compulsory competitive games.
§ Mr. Devlin
Individuals should have a healthy mix. I had to play rugby twice a week when I was at school. I played cricket in the summer. I swam every day, or twice a day, with the school swimming team. At the same time I indulged in other sports such as squash, tennis and fencing, which are individualist sports. We must encourage the well-rounded man or woman coming through a sporting environment. As the individual becomes a well-rounded man or woman in terms of participating in a wide range of sporting activities, in other areas of life we all have to co-operate with others while 1246 playing in teams. At the same time, there are other activities that we pursue on our own. There must be that mix for every individual.
I would encourage an element of competitive and compulsory team sports throughout school. Life is about compulsory team sports these days. I hear what the hon. Member for Stalybridge and Hyde (Mr. Pendry) says, but we must seek to provide a full range of opportunity. We should ensure that people do not give up team games too early. As I have said, they will have to play team games later in life.
I wish to draw attention to the much larger and wider sports clubs that are to be found on the continent. Those clubs engage in football and a complete range of other sports. A family may go to a large sports club, perhaps privately run, to play hockey, football, squash or tennis, for example. If they take granny along, the family can even play bowls. In that way, attendance at the sports club becomes a family activity.
If anyone is interested in that approach, I point them to two examples. Two years ago we took the House hockey club to play at an excellent hockey and sports club in Brussels. That club, I am sure that my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, North will recall, provided everything. It had all-weather pitches as well as grass pitches. It had tennis courts, bowling greens and a swimming pool. It had a complete range of facilities. There were fixtures throughout a Saturday. If a family went there, one member could play basketball, another tennis and another hockey, or whatever. There was something for everybody. It often turned out to be the Belgian mum who was not involved in a sport. She could watch the children playing or go to an aerobics class. We do not have such facilities in this country, and we should and are looking at that. My colleague and friend, Sir John Hall, who built the Metro centre and is now the chairman of Newcastle football club, is looking at that at the moment. He is looking at using the football club as a vehicle for widening out into the whole range of sports and having a whole family, whole sport experience.
§ Mr. Anthony Coombs
My hon. Friend makes a good point. Statistics have shown that the average size of sports clubs in Britain is half the size of those in France, and one seventh the size of those in Germany. Significantly, the size is about one seventh less, possibly, than Spanish clubs. Does not that bring into play the fact that the division between professional and amateur sports in this country has persisted for too long, and that what one needs if one is to produce the critical mass that my hon. Friend has been talking about is professional and amateur sports coming together, as they are in Sir John Hall's Newcastle concept, to the benefit of both?
§ Mr. Devlin
That is right. There are opportunities for people to consider, at 16 or 18, whether they want to go into professional or amateur sport. If they decide not to go into professional sport, but perhaps decide to stay in amateur sport, or, indeed, just intend to put sport on the back burner and go off into their careers and do whatever else they are going to do, there are opportunities for them to come back and play for leisure in their spare time and to support their local team. The concept of the critical mass superclub that Sir John Hall is talking about in Newcastle is an important development and one that I hope the Minister will go and see. I hope that he will consider it carefully and encourage the country at large, 1247 because what I saw in the "Raising the Game" White Paper, which, in fact, turns out to be green, is a marvellous proposal for links from schools into clubs. That is a very important feature of sports provision.
I well recall, having played rugby and hockey to a reasonable level at school, going on to university, to find that the one that I had chosen, mainly because of its political dimension—the London School of Economics—had virtually no facilities whatever. Word had it that there was a pitch at somewhere called New Malden, but I have never been there to find out whether that was true. Sports clubs can play a vital role in developing people after their school sporting activities. I am glad to see that 585 sports projects have already received £104.7 million from the national lottery. I understand that, eventually, there will be some £300 million for British sport from the lottery. That will be very valuable.
I also take on board what the hon. Member for Stalybridge and Hyde said about sport for disabled people, because on Saturday I had the opportunity, indeed, the honour, to present a cheque for —3,000 to the disabled tennis association in Cleveland. I watched those people, some of whom were deaf or in wheelchairs, indeed some of whom had no hands, playing tennis and thoroughly enjoying themselves and really getting a great deal out of it. Almost as important, the tennis players who came down from the local tennis club to teach them, help them, play with them, collect the balls and so on were enjoying themselves as well. There was a wonderful crossover and linkage. It was a wonderful social occasion for the able-bodied and the disabled to play together. For hon. Members who do not know how to play disabled tennis, it is exactly the same as ordinary tennis except one is allowed two bounces. Some of the guys in wheelchairs are as good as some able-bodied people I know who can play tennis. In fact, one of them is probably better than me, but I was not going to play him and let on. It was a wonderful day, and it shows how disabled people can be integrated into the community so well. That should be very much part of what we do in the future.
We have to get back into medals. It is really important to this country's feeling of national self-esteem that we go to the Olympic games, the European games, to all the different contests, and come home with a decent collection of gold, silver and bronze medals. It is good for national morale. It is good for our own sporting community and it encourages sport all the way through the system. I remember when Chris Boardman won his gold medal. The whole street was full of people on bicycles, because they suddenly realised that cycling was a sport that was going to be taken seriously. That was great. As the Prime Minister says, we need more national heroes. We need more of our own brothers and sisters to excel in the various fields of life. We need more people we can look up to, not just footballers, but athletes, cyclists and swimmers—the whole range.
I am pleased to see that people such as Duncan Goodhew and others—prominent sportsmen and women—have welcomed the document. It is important. The House will do well to take it seriously. The only comment that I would make to my hon. Friend the Minister is that it will not always be possible, certainly not in my constituency, to match the resources that come from the national lottery. We desperately need two more swimming pools. We desperately need a lot of all-weather 1248 pitches and other sporting facilities, but we shall not always be able to raise the 50 per cent. that is needed for those projects.
I warmly welcome the White Paper and look forward to seeing it as it translates into new facilities and encouragement on the ground in my constituency.
§ 12.5 pm
§ Mr. Menzies Campbell (Fife, North-East)
I am sorry that the hon. Member for Suffolk, Central (Mr. Lord) is not with us for the moment, because I wish to suggest to him an additional question for his referendum: do the rugby clubs and the membership of the Rugby Football Union agree with Mr. Will Carling's description of the committee of the RFU? I suspect that the hon. Gentleman might have a better chance of predicting the response to that question than some of the others that he asked.
With justification, one could say that the hon. Member for Suffolk, Central sought to bring to our attention what are now called traditional values. I think that he is wrong when he describes track and field athletics as having become a travelling circus. He fails to recognise that the nature of the sport has changed in such a fundamental way that although people still run and jump just as they did before, they are competing in an atmosphere and to a level beyond the comprehension of those of us who practised that particular sport some 30 years ago. If that is true of track and field athletics, it is certainly true of rugby football, because the standards of fitness and the nature of competition are much different from what they were when the hon. Gentleman won the rugby blue at Cambridge, which is signified by the fact that today he is wearing the tie of the Hawkes club.
The hon. Gentleman also omitted, although he made a passing reference to it, to understand as fully as he might the influence, so far as rugby union is concerned, of the intervention in the southern hemisphere of large-scale media interests. The reason why the South Africans, New Zealanders and Australians are able to pay their players at the proposed levels is the interest expressed by two of the greatest media organisations in the world, which have effectively been willing, in return for exclusivity of broadcasting rights, to put very substantial sums of money into rugby union. We have seen the same here in rugby league. There is a question that he might have asked, and which I certainly pose to myself from time to time, although I have not yet arrived at a satisfactory answer to it. What will be the effect on these sports of the extraordinary control and influence that the large media organisations now have? That may have much more to do with the ultimate shaping of the nature of those sports than the fact that people take them more seriously now than the hon. Gentleman might have preferred.
As the Minister rightly set out in his full opening speech, today's debate is designed to try to bring some focus on the Government's plans that were published in July this year. I give a cautious welcome to the plans, which are rich in good intentions. They are susceptible to some criticism: they are less obviously rich in the new financial provisions than they suggest.
The hon. Member for Stalybridge and Hyde (Mr. Pendry) was right to say that the absence of a comprehensive reference to the role of local authorities in the provision of facilities for sport is a defect in the document. However, on this occasion I will try to take a 1249 more positive view than he felt able to take. Criticisms can be made—to rely substantially on the support of private sponsors is a precarious base on which to build long-term security for the financial provision of sport.
I have some minor experience of that fact myself—not directly in sports, but in the arts. I was chairman of a repertory theatre company in Edinburgh, where for a time we enjoyed substantial sponsorship from one company. But the company's policy changed, the managing director changed and the interests of the new managing director were not so much in theatre as in some other form of the arts. Therefore, the sponsorship on which we had come to rely was no longer available. Private sponsorship, while entirely desirable, should always be regarded as—if I may borrow an expression from another debate that we have from time to time in the House—an issue of additionality. Economic conditions change and companies are no longer so willing to put up money by way of private sponsorship. There can be radical changes in company policy.
I approve of the notion of centres of excellence, some of which already exist in this country. Reference has already been made to Lilleshall, and we know of Plas-y-Brenin, Glenmore Lodge in Scotland and the outdoor sports centre at Inverclyde. I hope that as part of their approach to centres of excellence, the Government will consider the best way in which to enforce and enhance the contribution that existing centres make to the development of sport in this country.
A British academy of sport seems an entirely sensible idea, but we must recognise that not every athlete and not every sport will fit into whatever scheme finally emerges. I understood that the Sports Council was due to bring forward its proposals by the end of September 1995. That date appears to have slipped; I hope that the Minister will be assiduous in holding the Sports Council to its commitment and will ensure that it produces its proposals as soon as possible. If my recollection is correct, according to the terms of the document that we have been discussing, bids are expected by the end of March 1996. I hope that that time limit will be adhered to as far as possible.
The terms of the document are rather general in relation to precisely what the Government envisaged as an academy of sport. The Minister sought to fill in some of the gaps with his personal description, but he was careful to state that he was offering it in a personal capacity. The House would certainly want some opportunity, not to direct how the academy of sport should be developed, but to express a view on the nature of the proposals as they finally emerge through the process of, first, the Sports Council's publication of its ideas and, ultimately, the approval of the bids. I emphasise that we should not try to impose conformity on every sport and every sportsman and sportswoman. There will be sport-by-sport variations, regional and geographical variations and individual variations.
The document refers to the desirability of a network of facilities. As I said in an earlier intervention, I am concerned about the fact that we already have extensive facilities that are not always effectively used. I have in mind those facilities in schools, colleges and universities. Accepting that they are primarily provided for schoolchildren and students, and that during term time those for whom they are primarily provided have first 1250 right and entitlement to use them, it cannot be right that such extraordinary investment—almost certainly public investment—should be made in facilities that often lie vacant and unused for large portions of the year. That does not make sense. It is not quite that one sees children with their noses pressed against the window pane, but on occasion I have driven past sports facilities belonging to a university—not in my constituency—and seen children playing football in the street outside the facilities because they have been denied the opportunity to use them.
There is no doubt that there are problems of management and vandalism. I am reminded of something that I said in a debate in 1991. When I was first appointed to the British Sports Council by the now Lord Howe in 1965, my first meeting concerned dual community use of facilities. The great stumbling block was who would pay the janitor's wages if he had to stay on after 4 pm. About 10 or 12 years later I found myself on the Scottish Sports Council, and the first meeting that I attended involved a discussion on the community use of sports facilities. Once again, the stumbling block was who would pay the janitor's wages after 4 pm. I expect that that discussion is still being mirrored up and down the country in regional sports councils and elsewhere.
§ Mr. Harry Greenway
Does the hon. and learned Gentleman agree that there has been a movement forward in dual use? Under the system of the local management of schools, schools are now able to recoup hiring charges from letting out pitches, which is happening quite a lot in my constituency, much to everyone's benefit.
§ Mr. Campbell
I have some reservations about that. If, as a result of what the hon. Gentleman tells us, better and more economic use is being made of facilities that might otherwise lie fallow, clearly, as a matter of principle, that is obviously highly desirable.
Excellence comes about only as a consequence of mass participation. An analogy frequently used in sporting discussions is that of the pyramid. Sufficient numbers of people reach the top of the pyramid only if the pyramid's base is sufficiently broad. If we are genuinely anxious—as is the hon. Member for Stockton, South (Mr. Devlin)—to achieve medals, we can do so only when there is a substantial base of mass participation. It is right that we should achieve medals, not only because of the achievement of those who are able to win them, but because their achievement helps to create what is sometimes called the feel-good factor. As I think most people recognise, and as some of today's debate has certainly acknowledged, such success is best achieved through the educational system.
The hon. Member for Stalybridge and Hyde mentioned the national fitness study carried out by the Sports Council and the Health Education Authority. He mentioned that the number of physical education teachers had fallen from 41,800 in 1977 to 24,000 in 1992. There were just two other pieces of information from that study that I wish to mention. The first involves what is, in a sense, a value judgment. Young people have surprisingly low levels of physical activity, and boys are much more active than girls. A survey in 1993 by the European Physical Education Association found that we spend less time on physical education in England and Wales than any other European countries.
One cannot change that sort of emphasis by berating the Government. If there had been sufficient political will generally on such issues, many of the advances would 1251 have been achieved before now. It would be in the long-term interests of sport in this country—I shall say a little about structure later—if we could arrive at some consensus so that sports organisations, sports councils, the academy of sport and the centres of excellence know that they can plan over a long period and are not likely to find themselves subject to change for the sake of political change on the termination of one Government and the accession of another. There is certainly plenty of anecdotal evidence that teachers do not devote as much time to extra-curricular weekend activities as they once did, and the problem is how to arrest the decline in sport in schools. The document makes some sensible suggestions and I hope that the Government will put every ounce of political effort into trying to bring those to fruition.
In this general discussion on school sport I invite hon. Members to consider that many schoolteachers still put a quite remarkable amount of effort into not only their own schools but schools associations. I have the good fortune to be the honorary president of the Scottish Schools Athletic Association, a voluntary organisation that is run by a number of extremely dedicated schoolteachers. I think that I have said before that the secretary of that organisation must do about 20 to 25 hours of unpaid work a week in addition to his other commitments as a schoolteacher. I am sure that that is true of the rugby football associations and the swimming associations.
In discussing the provision of sport in schools one is inclined from time to time, because of anxiety about the reduction, to concentrate on what seem to be the adverse elements of sport in schools. We must recognise the tremendous amount of good and dedicated work that is still being carried out.
As I said informally to the Minister earlier in the week, I have a constituency case which illustrates some of the difficulties that are faced by individual athletes. I have already communicated with the Prime Minister about it. Quite by chance a constituent visited my surgery on the evening of 14 July and she has given me her permission to refer to her circumstances in detail. Her name is Caroline Innes. She is an outstanding competitor and in September 1994 in recognition of her sporting achievements she was invited, along with others, to a reception at 10 Downing street. She has just successfully completed her second year at university and therefore combines sporting and academic excellence.
Miss Innes is a highly motivated, confident young adult. She is a complete athlete who is a candidate for Atlanta next year and it is her burning ambition to go there. But the difference between Miss Innes and others is that she hopes to compete in the Paralympics, not the Olympics.
In the summer Miss Innes received a letter from the British Paralympic Association containing a request by the BPA itself. I shall read the terms of that request because they illustrate the kind of difficulties that are faced by British sportsmen and sportswomen. The letter states:We would like each athlete/staff to try to raise £1,000 each. This is not the cost of a place in the team or a guaranteed ticket to the games. This is an appeal to each sport, not individuals, to try and help BPA's cash flow situation when it comes to paying for flights and entry fees. As reinforcement of the integrity of this request, records will be kept in terms of each sport's collective contribution, so that should the funds not be required or only part required because of success in other areas, those.funds will be returned to 1252 that sport for their own elite development. Please accept that this is a difficult thing to ask but it is an essential fall-back situation at this stage. The BPA will take a dim view of any athlete who makes an appeal for funding on the basis that if they do not get it they will not be able to go to Atlanta. Rather if they make such an appeal in that way they may end up not being selected.The deadline to achieve this target per sport is the end of 1995 and should be based on the anticipated team size including staff. This appeal also includes the core management group, including myself, and the medical team: in the case of the core group the funds would stay within BPA.Miss Innes is an extremely talented young athlete. I look upon her as an athlete with a disability, not as a disabled person who is an athlete, and that is an important distinction. Her burning ambition is to go to Atlanta to compete in the Paralympics but she is being invited, not as a precondition but to ensure that the team can go, to try to raise £1,000 by the end of 1995. It cannot be right that she should be asked to do that and it certainly cannot be right that the British Paralympic Association has to ask her to do it. We must find a way to release lottery funds for top athletes—both those who are able-bodied and those who are disabled.
In preparation for the debate I consulted a number of sports officials, not all of whom were anxious to be quoted directly. A senior sports official whose anonymity I shall preserve told me that he believed that, on average, anyone who competes as a British internationalist in amateur sport needs to find about £10,000 per annum. I do not want to reopen the debate about the lottery because we had a debate about it this week. However, large sums are being generated and we must find a way to ensure not only that we build splendid stadiums and provide outstanding facilities but that we find the sportsmen and sportswomen who will take maximum advantage of those facilities. What better way to pursue the excellence that is central to the document than to ensure that our sportsmen and sportswomen at the highest level are properly catered for.
I should like to return to the point that I made earlier, which is that we must not assume conformity in these matters. For a variety of reasons, for some internationalists an academy of sport will simply not be an option. If for good reasons they choose not to take up what is offered there must be financial support from another source that will allow them the independence to achieve as much as they possibly can in their chosen sport.
§ Mr. Lord
I am sorry that I was not in the Chamber when the hon. and learned Gentleman spoke about me. Is he suggesting that these people should be full-time athletes and that they should be subsidised to train? Secondly, would they have alternative careers and if so how would they find the time to qualify for them?
§ Mr. Campbell
The hon. Gentleman raises an interesting point which, to some extent, he foreshadowed in his contribution. For those who want to compete at the same level as Linford Christie it is not possible to carry on in parallel a professional career. I said earlier and I am happy to repeat because the hon. Gentleman was not here, that although track and field athletics are essentially the same as they were 30 years ago when I was a competitor and although people still run and jump, it is now a different sport. The generation of which I was a member was almost all students. We were in a sense subsidised because the nature of student life allowed us—I suspect 1253 that the hon. Member for Suffolk, Central was in the same position when he was a distinguished rugby player for his university—to combine training with professional career development.
At the highest level, the nature of sport is such that it is virtually impossible to do that. Some distinguished people do so. I think of Mr. Jonathan Webb, who played full-back for England for some time and who combined being a doctor with playing at the highest level, and of Rory Underwood, who is a pilot officer in the Royal Air Force, although from time to time he finds it difficult to combine the exacting nature of that occupation with the requirements of full-time sport. If the hon. Gentleman wants more Linford Christies—and if he does not, some Conservative Members certainly do—he cannot expect such sportsmen to compete at the highest level and, at the same time, be concerned about how they will find the money for board and lodging.
I have no difficulty with accepting the fact that, at a certain stage in an athlete's development and achievement, full-time sport, supported by funds from the lottery, is an appropriate way to proceed.
§ Mr. Lord
I am grateful to the hon. and learned Gentleman for clarifying that point. He raises two important points. The first involves the question of subsidisation from somewhere for these people. Secondly and more important, in athletics and in my own sport of rugby union, if it goes the way that I fear it may, all children of parents who would formerly have had careers and studied during the years when they were perhaps at their athletic best, will now have to make that choice. Many will choose careers and so Roger Bannister and Chris Chataway will never happen again. The only people who will pursue athletics will be those who do not care whether they have a long-term career. That will cut many people out of it.
§ Mr. Campbell
It is a question of choice in the sense not of either-or, but of how much emphasis one puts on one as opposed to the other. It will still be possible for people to play rugby for recreational purposes, even if only for the beer, which the hon. Gentleman mentioned in his speech, and for people to use track and field athletics to keep fit, rather than to compete at the highest level, but they will have to make that choice.
The intensity of the sport is in some respects mirrored by the intensity of professional requirements. I do not think that it would be possible for me to do what I did when I was a student, not only because of the intensity of sporting competition, but because of the intensity of academic requirement. People will be forced to make that choice.
§ Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Janet Fookes)
How is it possible to turn an intervention into a speech? [HON. MEMBERS: "It is a speech."] I beg your pardon. I am so sorry. I offer grovelling apologies to the hon. and learned Gentleman.
§ Mr. Campbell
I hope that you will not take it amiss, Madam Deputy Speaker, if I say that I expect to dine out on that for some time.
One thing has certainly been demonstrated. As yet we cannot tell whether it is a direct consequence of the lottery, but there has been a fall in the income of the Foundation for Sport and the Arts and of the Football Trust, to which the hon. Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Ashton) made extensive reference. Those alterations in income must have consequences for the extent to which those worthwhile organisations are able to fulfil their original responsibilities. In due course, we shall have to reconsider whether it is as a direct consequence of the establishment of the lottery that those reductions have taken place.
Another thing is unclear: the extent to which local authorities' may reduce their discretionary expenditure on sport and recreation in reliance instead on lottery funding is not yet understood. There will therefore have to be careful analysis of the total amount of spending on sport and recreation that is carried out by those with responsibility for it.
Drugs is a topic in which I have taken a particular interest since I first entered the House. I have tried unsuccessfully to introduce private Members' Bills to make anabolic steroids controlled drugs under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971.
A series of Ministers of State at the Home Office—the right hon. and learned Members for Grantham (Mr. Hogg) and for Putney (Mr. Mellor) and the right hon. Member for Stirling (Mr. Forsyth)—all promised some legislation. The most recent position was that it was the stated intention of the Home Office that there should be legislation to provide that the supply of anabolic steroids should be a criminal offence under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971.
That legislation is yet to emerge. Perhaps it is too much to hope that it will be the centrepiece of the Queen's Speech, but I know the Minister is seized of its importance. Might I exhort and encourage him, if keeping up the pressure is the way in which the Home Office can be persuaded to accept that it ought to implement the obligations it has given on that matter, to continue to do so?
I do not suggest for a moment that making anabolic steroids controlled drugs, to the extent that the Government have suggested that they might be willing to consider, under the 1971 Act will remove the problem of drug taking in sport, as there is also an educational requirement. Someone mentioned ethics. It is a question of persuading and encouraging people to understand the ethical considerations involved. Legislation that had at its heart an effort to deal with the supply of anabolic steroids would be an important weapon in the fight against drug taking in sport.
§ Mr. Sproat
I well remember the powerful arguments that the hon. and learned Gentleman has directed at me, which I attempted to direct as powerfully to the Home Office. He will be extremely pleased to know that my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary hopes to table an order bringing anabolic steroids under the control of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 very shortly.
§ Mr. Campbell
I might be dining out on that as well, Madam Deputy Speaker. I take a great deal of pleasure in 1255 hearing that announcement. I must associate myself with my colleague in these matters, the hon. Member for Stalybridge and Hyde and with the hon. Member for Falmouth and Camborne (Mr. Coe). Together, the three of us have made a continuing effort in that regard and I think that we would all want to thank the Government for responding and to take pleasure from the Minister's announcement. I am extremely grateful.
There is no doubt that there are considerable financial pressures on local authorities over playing fields. Perhaps I should declare something of an interest, as I have acted on behalf of appellants at planning inquiries who sought to carry out housing developments on playing fields. One important consideration should be borne in mind. It is not merely the acreage of playing fields that is important, but the quality. We have all seen playing fields that, frankly, are a danger to anyone who plays sport on them and where the supporting facilities, such as dressing rooms, showers and so forth, are wholly inadequate.
There may, therefore, be some scope, if not for prohibiting the sale of playing fields in all circumstances, for saying that it should be a condition of any planning development—as an element of planning gain—that the developer must maintain part of the site and provide enhanced facilities, if the major part of the acreage is developed, thus ensuring that the opportunity of using the playing fields is not entirely removed.
It is worth pointing out that it is not merely a case of school playing fields, as many large institutions, such as those hospitals in which we used to incarcerate anyone with any kind of mental disability, have substantial playing fields. The preservation of those fields and the extent to which they can be made available to the public is another issue worth considering.
On structure, most people who have an interest in these matters welcome the rationalisation of the structure of the sports councils, which the Minister first announced and is about to implement. I hope that I will not embarrass him when I welcome him as a convert to the concept of federalism, because he has created a United Kingdom Sports Council, under which there are to be four councils with proper representation for all the home countries—England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales.
Often, these questions of structure are less important in theory than in practice. The benefit that might accrue from the implementation of the Minister's decision is that there might be a much clearer demarcation of responsibility.
There is no doubt that there was a considerable period of uncertainty in all the sports councils while the proposals and counter-proposals were being debated. The Minister has therefore brought an element of certainty to a situation that went very much against the interests of the proper management and development of sport in this country. He is to be congratulated on that. All of us who have an interest in the issue wish the new arrangements success not only in theory but in practice.
It would be too cynical to say that the announcement of a debate on sport is a signal that the general election cannot be far away. However, if one examines the history of these debates, it becomes apparent that they have a remarkable capacity of coming up in the period not long before a general election. I do not want to make that observation—it would be much too cynical—but I must say that the Minister displayed a great deal of enthusiasm and, on some occasions, passion in his account of what he was about. The House welcomes that, but will 1256 welcome with just as much enthusiasm the opportunity to keep a close eye on the development of the matters to which he referred. I take this opportunity to ask the Minister to confirm to what extent the Government have implemented the plans contained in the document that has been central to our discussion.
§ Mr. Anthony Coombs (Wyre Forest)
I congratulate the hon. and learned Member for Fife, North-East (Mr. Campbell) on what must be a world record intervention. I also congratulate him on the speed with which the Government reacted to his suggestion; that must also be something of a world record.
I agree with the hon. and learned Gentleman that it is slightly ironic that when something in the region of £300 million a year, potentially, is coming from the lottery for capital projects—we appreciate that facilities still have to be evened up across the country even though they have improved greatly over the past 20 years—people who have reached the top of their profession should still be living hand to mouth.
The current British doubles ice dance champion lives in my constituency. She told me that she had been living hand to mouth until she eventually got sponsorship. Would not it be better if part of the lottery funds were put into a trust fund to be used to cover the revenue costs of people who achieve such standards of excellence?
Having said that, I congratulate my hon. Friend the Minister of State on his promotion. It is not only well deserved personally but a proper reflection of the importance of the Department of National Heritage to our lives. I also congratulate him on the excellent initiatives contained in "Raising the Game". It may take 10 years, but I think that that document will have a revolutionary impact not only on participation in sport but on health, excellence and, I hope, social attitudes. I commend him for the enormously important work that he is doing.
I am sad that my hon. Friend the Member for Suffolk, Central (Mr. Lord) is no longer in his place because I should like to remonstrate with him. He talked in rather antediluvian terms about the great virtues of amateurism in rugby union and argued that the awful professional game of association football was played by the lower orders and was full of people who kick spectators and misbehave on the field. Frankly, the opposite is the case.
For too long, the Rugby Football Union, as we saw in the Select Committee on National Heritage, has been an organised hypocrisy that turned its back on people who wanted to play in another league and actively discriminated against them. Thank heavens it has seen sense in the past year and got its act together by coming to terms with the enormous and inevitable impact of the media on sport.
On the other hand, association football has sensibly and constructively taken advantage of the funds that have been made available to it by competing television companies—of which BSkyB is obviously the main one. It has got its act together and launched great initiatives.
Teams such as Arsenal, the Hammers, Aston Villa and Birmingham City—I have to say Birmingham City because it does the job so well and it is the premier team in the second city—have reached out to communities extremely constructively, exactly in tune with the "Raising the Game" philosophy.
1257 I wish to speak about the dichotomy, or past dichotomy, between the amateur side of sport—the participation side—and the professional side of sport, into which so much money is now coming.
There are some curious contrasts in sport. If we consider sport on one level, we find that it thrives as never before. The latest census figures show that 29 million people take part in active sport at least once a month, and no fewer than 6.5 million people belong to sporting clubs. There are 150,000 clubs. As I said, although they may not be evenly spread throughout the country, facilities have grown to be better than ever before. That is so in my constituency, where some sporting facilities are not only excellent but, sadly, at the moment underused. I understand that there are about 1,100 swimming pools, 1,600 sports halls, 500 athletics tracks and even 99 dry ski slopes. More and more of them are being professionally run.
The national lottery pumps £300 million a year into sport and private sponsorship puts in about £250 million a year. Local authorities spend about £450 million on sport. The Sports Council makes a relatively small contribution, but the sum that it has received from the Government in the past 20 years to put into sport has increased in real terms. It puts about £50 million a year into sport.
There is therefore an enormous amount of activity. The total economic impact of sport has been estimated to generate about 460,000 jobs in this country. When one considers that it is the sporting events that break records on television, whether it be 23 million people watching Torvill and Dean at the most recent winter Olympics or 14 million people watching Nigel Benn fight Chris Eubank, one becomes aware of the hold that sport has on people's imagination, and many people take part in sport as well.
On the other hand, the figures for participation by young people are disappointing. We know that they spend too long watching television. The Minister mentioned the words "couch potato" and I suppose that that would account for many of those who spend 25 or 26 hours a week watching television and only an hour and 10 minutes a week doing sport in their schools.
Undoubtedly, the teachers' pay dispute in the 1980s had the effect that many teachers who previously were involved in extra-curricular activities reduced their commitment. However, to be fair, many teachers spend an enormous amount of time, often at their own expense, on Saturdays and after school, looking after and promoting sport, although it must be admitted that, perhaps as a result of the demands of the national curriculum, the number of people choosing to specialise in physical education at teacher training colleges has decreased, which is one of the reasons why the number of suitably qualified physical education teachers has gradually decreased.
All that leads to potential health hazards. The university of Exeter and the Health Education Authority, with Allied Dunbar, found that a third of men and two thirds of women could not negotiate a 1 in 20 slope on a walk for 10 minutes without being significantly breathless. In the 16 to 24-year-old age group, they found that 70 per cent. of men and 91 per cent. of women did not do enough exercise to avoid future heart or cardiovascular problems.
1258 Even at school age—that is, under 16—it was found that 50 per cent. of girls and one third of boys did too little exercise to guard against heart problems.
The problem was not so much the amount of exercise that schools allowed for—although as we have heard, many do too little—but the type of exercise. A report called "Health-Related Fitness in Secondary School Physical Education—a descriptive analytic study" prepared by the Somerset county adviser for health-related and physical education and by Exeter university academics—although for some reason it was funded by the university of Alabama—involved studying the work of physical education teachers carefully and in depth. It says:Although the 20 teachers in this study were clearly hardworking and dedicated professionals, they provided their pupils with limited opportunities in which to participate in the type of physical activity associated with health benefits, allocated no time for pupils to engage in fitness activity or acquire health-related fitness knowledge, and did not promote or demonstrate fitness.What matters is not only the quantity but the quality of the physical education that takes place in schools. I hope that the Minister will take that fact on board when discussing such matters with the Teacher Training Agency. The high quality of physical education is as important as the amount of it.
However, although we have been saying that insufficient recruits for the British Army have the right upper body strength, that is not a new phenomenon. The Victorian age is often looked upon as a halcyon age when everyone was playing all sorts of team sports, but during the Boer war the country was so disappointed with the quality of its recruits that a committee on physical deterioration was set up to improve the situation. The problem is of long standing, and I congratulate the Minister on trying to tackle it.
§ Mr. Devlin
I am glad that my hon. Friend mentioned the worries about physical deterioration, because that led on to the eugenics movement, and a significant improvement was made in the health and abilities of young people between 1918 and 1938. There was a further boost between 1950 and 1960, but from about 1960 onwards the fitness of the nation went back into decline. I believe that that was due to materialism rather than to poverty.
§ Mr. Coombs
Yes, there may be a direct relation between electronic and computer sophistication, and people's physical activity levels and therefore their fitness.
As I said, there is a dichotomy between the large sums pushed into one part of sport and the relatively low levels of proper fitness activity in another. In the context of "Raising the Game", although more inspection of schools by Ofsted is important, as is extra teacher training and the idea that schools, especially in the grant-maintained sector, may be allowed to specialise in sport, the most important part of the initiative lies in bringing the voluntary and professional sectors together. The £2 million from the Sports Council, although a relatively small sum, will be immensely valuable in improving links between schools and clubs.
In my constituency there is Stourport hockey club, which has a close relationship with King Charles school in Kidderminster, and Stourport athletics club, which has close relationships with Stourport schools. We also have 1259 Kidderminster Harriers, which should have been a football league team but was robbed of that opportunity. That team too has a close relationship with several schools through its coaching clinics.
§ Mr. Lord
I am sorry that I missed my hon. Friend's remarks about me. I have popped out of the Chamber only a couple of times this morning, yet it seems that the moment I leave, people start saying things about me. I am being described as some sort of out-of-touch buffer. But I have received a letter from Ian Beer, the ex-president of the RFU, which says that he is entirely supportive of what I am doing. It might also be of interest to the House to know that—while it was not at the right university as far as I am concerned—Simon Halliday, who is a lot younger than I am and has a large number of England caps, spoke at Oxford university yesterday on professionalism in rugby union and said that he was entirely against it. The movement is growing.
§ Mr. Coombs
I hear what my hon. Friend has to say.
The relationship between clubs and schools is extremely important, and we must encourage it. We must get more active sportsmen and women into our schools as volunteers. I did that at schools and universities, and found it to be immensely valuable and rewarding. It can buttress the number of people who are available to take school sports.
It is equally important to give local companies an opportunity to sponsor school sports to a far greater extent than they do at present. Too often, companies regard school sports as forming a part of the public sector, and think that never the twain shall meet. We must make sure that some of the £250 million sponsorship money available every year gets to schools and clubs.
As my hon. Friend the Member for Stockton, South (Mr. Devlin) said, the type of initiative that has been embarked upon by people such as Sir John Hall in Newcastle is not a step on the slippery slope to professionalism, but a sign of ensuring that professional resources are made available to communities, so that we can strengthen sport within local communities and make sure that more people have access to it. That can involve the private and public sectors.
I am immensely proud that, in my constituency, we have got the money together for a regional sports centre for a relatively small set of three towns. The first work on the centre is to be done in the next few months. How did we do it? I pay tribute to the local authority—which is not Conservative-controlled—which has done a first-class job in bringing people, including the county council and local schools, together. We received a significant grant from the Foundation for Sport and the Arts, and local clubs such as Stourport hockey club and the Stourport squash and tennis clubs have all sold land to help us put money into the pot. That has now been topped by a magnificent grant from the lottery of £1.5 million. That is a classic example of the voluntary sector, the state sector, local councils and the private sector coming together to produce a facility that will be enormously used and will be extremely valuable for the people of my area.
I end on that note. I applaud the Government's intention, and I applaud "Raising the Game", which will be crucial if we are to make a success of sport in this country. It is vital to ensure that the interface of the professional side of the game and the voluntary, or in 1260 old-fashioned terms, amateur side of the game is not criticised when one side moves to another, as we have heard this morning. That should be seen as part of a continuing movement towards a shared goal—everybody doing all that they can to bring more sport to more people at a higher standard than ever before.
§ Miss Kate Hoey (Vauxhall)
I shall mention the hon. Member for Suffolk, Central (Mr. Lord) at the beginning, so he can feel free to leave the Chamber when he wishes. I do not know who is conveying to him that he is an "old buffer", but it must be realised that the hon. Gentleman speaks for a lot of people who are concerned about the way sport is going. I do not agree with what you said about rugby union, but I am glad that you made your views known.
§ Madam Deputy Speaker
Order. May I remind the hon. Lady that she is addressing me, rather than the hon. Gentleman?
§ Miss Hoey
I am sorry, Madam Deputy Speaker. This is the beginning of a new Session, or nearly the beginning of a new Session, and obviously I had forgotten that requirement.
I share the concern that this debate is being held on a Friday. Since I entered Parliament, there have been about three debates on sport at different times. But perhaps only two or three more hon. Members would have been present if this were not a Friday, and that reflects how let down sport has been by Parliament, even though hon. Members may have said many things in their own constituencies.
I welcome "Raising the Game" not necessarily for its content and detail but as a measure of the importance of sport and of the need for it to be central in social policy. The more that can be achieved without party political back-stabbing, the better. I agree with the hon. and learned Member for Fife, North-East (Mr. Campbell) that all political parties can share in the future of sport. We do not serve sportsmen and women or the millions of people who enjoy watching and following different sports by always trying to identify policy divisions. There is strong agreement, as has been shown this morning.
Fundamental to any policy must be the opportunity for people at all levels fully to participate in the sport of their choice to the limit of their abilities. I strongly support the consultation paper's emphasis on team sports. There is no doubt that sports taught properly in schools are beneficial to young people in channelling their energy, aggression and competitiveness. We have seen standards fall in team sports in schools. Some people may think it old-fashioned to talk about team sport, good sportsmanship, obeying rules and self-discipline. If it is, I am proud to be seen as old-fashioned. Team and individual sports are not mutually exclusive and should not be played off against each other, but if youngsters do not get the chance at school to play team sports, many of them will not get that chance elsewhere. I am pleased that the Minister has considered the time to be given to sport in the school curriculum, although two hours is still too little. There should be greater emphasis on sports activities before and after school. There needs to be much more flexibility in the school day, and that applies not just to sport.
I welcome the plan for schools to account for their sports activities in their prospectuses. If sport matters enough to be included in a school's prospectus and to be 1261 monitored, that will raise the status of staff in physical education and sports departments. I welcome also sports and PE inspections. When I intervened earlier, my concern was that Ofsted would not have enough resources—given all the extra things that it is already doing—to take on another commitment. I was not thinking in terms of money, but perhaps we can return to that matter later.
We must try also to get rid of the hang-up about compulsory competitive sports. There will always be youngsters who do not like participating in sport, as in any other type of lesson. I hated mathematics at school. I was hopeless at it, and probably still am, but I had to do maths because it was compulsory—and I probably got something out of those lessons. Of course teachers are sensitive these days to pupils' interests, so the idea of compulsion does not really alarm me. Any sensitive PE teacher or sports coach these days will not force a 14-year-old to do something against his or her will. But if there is no compulsion, and sport is not made central to the curriculum, its status will decline, as it has done in recent years. We should not therefore spend too much time in detailed argument about compulsion; it is the principle that matters.
The Minister did not fully deal with all the points in the document, some of which I should like to discuss now. I was delighted to hear him announce his drug education measures. The document itself does not contain much about substance abuse, but it is a growing problem from the top to the bottom of sport—it is no good pretending otherwise. There needs to be international agreement on how to tackle it. Fine words and resolutions agreed at European meetings are not enough.
The Sports Council runs a drug testing programme, but it does not publish the results of all who are tested. The drug testing programme needs much more transparency. The names of all who are tested and found not to have taken drugs should be published, as well as the names of those who have failed their tests. That would damp down speculation about the size of the problem. Those who pay good money to watch competitive sport should be in a position to know that an honest competition is taking place, untainted by drugs. The fear is that what we do now may be just the tip of an iceberg. That is why we need a highly organised campaign, run by sports organisations with the co-operation of the Government and schools, to educate young people about drugs. Ultimately it is the responsibility of the governing bodies to make sure that the sports that they govern are clean.
National vocational qualifications are not mentioned in the document, either. They allow many people to enter sports administration and coaching. The problems, however, lie with the bureaucracy and in-fighting which have delayed the availability of NVQs in many sports. But there is a great deal of demand for them, and I hope that the Minister will knock some sense into those concerned and sort out the difficulties between the Sports Council and the awarding bodies, so that NVQs become more widely available in sport.
There is general agreement that, without qualified coaches, sports development and talent spotting will for ever be handicapped, talent will be lost and participation stunted. I welcome the extra money going into coaching. We need to take action to promote training and the 1262 development of coaching in all sports at all levels, for without coaches and a national coaching scheme the work of the British sports academy will be put in jeopardy.
Sports coaches must also be given training in the ethics of sport, to enable them to proceed more sensitively when teaching vulnerable young people. Sport is not just about winning all the time, although that is exciting and wonderful; it is also about discipline and self-esteem. Role models are very important, and more and more of them are emerging from sport.
There has been a great deal of discussion recently of boxing and the martial arts. Perhaps the Minister would like to tell us about the current state of the law reform study considering the legal aspects of those activities. Did the Minister give evidence himself; may we be told what he said?
As for cricket, I declare my interest, having been lucky enough to be elected as the Member for Surrey county cricket club, as it were, and having now been elected on to the committee. The club has not been doing especially well on the cricket field but I can promise hon. Members on both sides of the House that that will change. Two of its fine cricketers, Alec Stewart and Graham Thorpe, are currently members of the England team. England is today playing its first match at the Oval in Soweto. I am sure we all wish the England team the very best of fortune in its tour of South Africa.
Much more could be done for cricket. Local authorities of all political colours throughout the country are having to increase the hiring charges that they levy on cricket teams. Pitches are becoming poor and dangerous. Cricket in schools is being discussed but much needs to be done.
Girls' cricket has been extremely successful at all levels up to the women's England team. There is, however, a lack of facilities, such as poor changing rooms. Costs are increasing and generally poor facilities are detrimental to women's cricket. Even where there is a will, there is often the problem of lack of resources. There is also difficulty in ensuring that resources are brought to where they are needed. Last night I was pleased to host at the House the Test and County Cricket Board test match ground committee's meeting.
There is a determination among all the county clubs to do more and work for schools. Some may be slower than others but there is a determination throughout for changes to be made. The clubs know that if they do not begin to get the kids coming through, the long-term aim of getting a better international cricket team will not be realised. Substantial sums from the national lottery will have to be used to increase the capacity of test grounds. The money that is generated by test matches on the few days when they are played can then be pushed down to the grass roots. I have an interest, of course, in ensuring that Surrey county cricket club receives extra money so that the capacity of its ground can be increased. As part of the deal the club is working closely with the local authority and the Sports Council to ensure that community facilities, in an extremely poor area, are improved and that everybody will benefit, not only those who like to watch cricket, including test matches.
I was concerned by the attack of my hon. Friend the Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Ashton) on London, as he would expect me to be. I hope that the Minister will say something about the national stadium. It is crucial that a decision is taken. I know that there are supporters of Birmingham on the Government Benches. Along with the 1263 hon. Member for Falmouth and Camborne (Mr. Coe), I worked extremely hard to have London accepted as the site for the Olympic games a few years ago. We felt that it was the only place in the United Kingdom that could realistically host them. It is pleasing that the British Olympic Association now agrees with us that London is the only place that will ever bring the Olympic games back to this country. The association takes the view that it will be London and nowhere else.
§ Mr. Ashton
My hon. Friend will agree that there is no local council representing London. There is no Greater London council. We all know that the Government abolished it. That is one of the great handicaps when it comes to bringing anything to London. After all, London has no governing body.
§ Miss Hoey
I am sure that my hon. Friend shares my confidence that the next Labour Government will introduce a Greater London authority. It will not be, I am sure, like the old GLC. I am confident, however, that it will be an authority that will bring London together. But there is already in London a great deal of co-operation and co-ordination. London First and many other organisations in the business community and the private sector are involved. We still have the City of London. There is unity in London. The BOA is backing London. It has decided not to continue its support for either Manchester or Birmingham.
We talk about what comes to London and what goes out of London but we must not forget that London is the capital. On the whole, tourists want to come to London. All the other bids in the past have included bits about London, for example, visits to Buckingham palace—all the nice bits about London—as a way of attracting people to come to Manchester and Sheffield. If we did win the Olympic bid for London, the benefits to the whole of the United Kingdom would be fantastic. Wembley is a brand name across the world. People know what Wembley is. One does not have to spend millions of pounds on marketing it, so we already have an advantage. I think that the combination of the new stadium at Wembley, with its very imaginative design—I am not an architect, but to me it looks very imaginative—allowing the athletics to continue, and the whole system that is already in place there means that it has to be the location for the national stadium, although I appreciate that hon. Members have views on their own areas. I remind hon. Members that Wembley is already building a new underground station.
I shall make a quick point about swimming, as it has been given only one mention in the document, and I do not think that any positive plans have been announced for the extension of swimming pool opening hours. Again, it is a local authority problem. It is very remiss that the document makes virtually no mention of local authorities. One cannot ignore them. The Minister may not like some of the things that they have done, but they cannot be ignored, and they have to be brought on board. We have to learn from the good things that they have done and be able to use that. Swimming is one of those areas where the local authority has to be central. For people of all ages, swimming is the greatest physical recreation. As a competitive sport, it is also exciting, and Britain has had a successful record. I would like the Minister to say something about where he sees recreational swimming, competitive swimming and diving fitting into the development of sport.
1264 We know about the wonderful role of volunteers, sports administrators and so on. I do not think that anyone can question the amount of voluntary effort that goes into sport. I am sure that the Minister will praise all those people who do so much at their own expense, but within "Raising the Game" there is nothing about the quality of administration. I wonder whether we need to look at bringing the quality of our administrators, who are so important in the governing bodies, up to a higher level.
Whatever happened to ice skating—I was going to say whatever happened to Torvill and Dean—and the plan for a stadium when Richmond closed? It was promised that Richmond ice rink would be replaced. I am sure that other boroughs would be interested in a new national ice centre. I could offer one area in my own borough, Streatham, that has great experience and is an obvious site.
I now deal with the national game—football. I do not share the optimism of my hon. Friend the Member for Bassetlaw about how wonderful everything is in football. Yes, attendances are up and there are lots of new all-seater stadiums, but if we are honest—I am not talking about some of the things that have happened off the field—we must recognise that football has changed. Perhaps that is what people want. Perhaps they want to see a different type of supporter, but there is absolutely no doubt that many football supporters have been driven out because of the cost. They cannot afford to go. They certainly cannot afford to go regularly. There is no doubt that many clubs have abused the loyalty of their fans in terms of what people have to pay.
I am pleased that the Football Supporters Association, which is one of the most progressive organisations in football, has been taken on board and been given funding to work with the football authorities for the European championships next year. The Football Supporters Association shares the concern that football has changed. It is all very well looking at things in the short term, but if the Football Association and the governing bodies of sport generally are prepared to forgo the long term for short-term financial gains, that is very sad. I think that there will be some serious problems over the way in which football has been treated in a short-term way, how the money is being used, and how it is not trickling down to the lower divisions as it used to. To return to the pyramid mentioned by the hon. and learned Member for Fife, North-East, if we do not have a broad football base at local park and school level, the Premier league will ultimately suffer.
Last January I called in the House for an independent inquiry into the state of our national game and, particularly, the allegations of corruption, bungs, alleged match fixing and greed. I think that the Minister responded then by expressing his complete confidence in the Premier league's own inquiry. I hope that he will return to that point. I wonder whether he still has complete confidence in the Premier league inquiry getting to the bottom of the matter.
It will be two years next week—4 November—since the Premier league commission was set up to inquire into allegations of undercover payments during transfer deals and into the role of agents in an attempt to restore the public's faith in the propriety of football. So far there has been one report on the transfer of John Jensen from the Danish club, Brondby, to Arsenal, which resulted in George Graham being banned from football for 12 months.
1265 There is now a system of licensing agents. The FA kindly sent me a list of agents who have been registered. Some 16 agents are registered and have all put up £100,000, which is a measure of their confidence that they will not break the rules. But some agents who have registered are already beginning to ask: what is the point of registering if other people who still deal with players in this country have not registered? It is important that the FA requires FIFA to strengthen that system, or it will be brought into disrepute. Many clubs are still involved in transfers using agents who are not registered. Although the penalties in the documents seem to be severe, I am not confident that the FA will carry out the penalties. I shall not mention some of the agents involved who are not registered, but one or two of them certainly need investigating.
The original reason for setting up the Premier league commission of inquiry was to investigate the allegations of wrongdoing and bribes involving the transfer of Teddy Sheringham from Nottingham Forest to Tottenham. As we all know, it involved the England team manager, Terry Venables, and the former Nottingham Forest manager, Brian Clough. Some two years later there has still been no report on the subject. Terry Venables has not been cleared and new evidence has recently come to light.
Those of us who read The Daily Telegraph—I read the sports pages in particular—will have seen that on 30 September its sports correspondent, Mihir Bose, produced new evidence about the controversial Teddy Sheringham transfer in 1992. In a long article which, for legal reasons, does not contain everything, it was made clear that The Daily Telegraph had seen documents suggesting that the original invoice involved in the transfer might not have been the only invoice. I have also seen those documents.
It seems that, for some reason, two days before the invoice relating to the £50,000 payment to First Wave Sports Management was presented to Tottenham, another invoice was drawn up by another company. That was three days before Sheringham was transferred from Nottingham Forest to Tottenham in August 1992. That company specialised in naughty knickers—that was the description in The Daily Telegraph, not The Sun. That invoice, which was presented to Tottenham, was for the same amount and used the same wording as the invoice from First Wave Sports Management. Frank McLintock, who was at that time a partner in First Wave, presented the invoice to Tottenham and was paid £50,000 plus VAT in cash. Tottenham did not pay on the invoice from the Naughty Nighties company and knew nothing about it until very recently. The Daily Telegraph published it, and the Silver Rose International Ltd. invoice states:For the assistance in arranging a distribution and merchandising network on behalf of THFC in the USA, to include travel and all consultancy work involved in the project—£50,000.No one denies that the First Wave one was paid. It states on that invoice:For the assistance in arranging a distribution and merchandising network on behalf of Tottenham Hotspur Football Club in the United States, to include travel and all consultancy work involved in the project.Obviously, someone somewhere was trying to launder money and, let us be blunt, launder it out of Tottenham. Because of the work by The Daily Telegraph 1266 and particularly Mr. Bose on this matter, Rick Parry, who is in charge of the Premier league commission, has stated:The evidence The Daily Telegraph has uncovered is interesting and very significant. It points the inquiry in a new direction and our lawyers are looking at it very closely. It is too early to say where it will lead to but we may have to recall some of the people we have already questioned.I am delighted that Rick Parry is saying that because this is a serious issue and all those who have been involved from day one know that there is much more to come.
It may be difficult for the Premier league commission to accept that it does not have the power to get to the bottom of this matter. It cannot subpoena witnesses and it took over a year for it to get Brian Clough to turn up. Nobody is on oath and that makes it difficult to elicit evidence. Much of the story came out afterwards when people in the media asked questions.
We may have to accept that this issue is too big and cosy for the football authorities to investigate. I do not think that there is any secret about the fact, although it may not yet be public knowledge, that the Department of Trade and Industry investigation division is currently looking into an allegation that Terry Venables may have committed an offence that is contrary to section 47 of the Financial Services Act 1986 in that he may have made a misleading, false or deceptive statement in an offer document. I understand that other matters are being investigated and that there may soon be some developments.
I do not want to go into the business side of these issues because I am interested only in what is happening in football. However, such- matters leave a big question mark over who is in charge of football, and who is our national coach. We are soon going into the European championships and we must get to the bottom of this. The Minister must waken up to the fact that large amounts of public money are going into football and that ultimately he and Parliament have a responsibility to make sure that such things do not happen.
As I said in January, the problems in our national game are far too close to home for the football authorities to cope with by themselves. Football culture has traditionally turned a blind eye to wrongdoing. Can we really expect those inside the game to do other than keep quiet and hope that all these problems will go away? They will not go away, and unless the Minister and Parliament take an active interest, such back-hander deals will continue, no matter what changes are suggested or how much the Premier league and the FA say that they are all being sorted out. They will not be sorted out unless someone is prepared to take an interest.
I started on a positive note because I appreciate that what the Minister has said is a great step which allows scope for all-party support. There is huge support for sport in Britain but I am sorry to say that if we cannot get our national game right and sort out the mess, it will not bode well for the future of football or any other sport.
§ Madam Deputy Speaker
Order. Before I call the next hon. Member, may I point out that unless the succeeding speeches are somewhat shorter there will be some disappointed Members?
§ Mr. Harry Greenway (Ealing, North)
I shall endeavour to be brief, Madam Deputy Speaker. With regard to the previous speech, I simply say that as a London Member of Parliament I support the hon. Member for Vauxhall (Miss Hoey) in her strong support for retaining Wembley as this country's central stadium. Its name is well established and, rebuilt, it will be a fine stadium. The Olympics can go nowhere but London. I supported the last bid for the Olympics to come here and I am supporting the next one.
Without disrespect to the hon. Member for Stalybridge and Hyde (Mr. Pendry), the Labour party's spokesman on sport, whom I regard highly, I must say that he did not give me anything like satisfaction when I invited him to support me in my endeavours to keep the important playing fields of Dormers Wells high school, which the Labour council in Ealing is determined and doing its damnedest to sell for housing development. It is no use talking about what a Labour Government would do; I should be more impressed with a commitment now to the effect that the council is behaving outrageously in its efforts to sell school playing fields. If Labour policy is as the hon. Gentleman suggests, why does the Labour party not come out and condemn that Labour-controlled council and support me in my strong efforts to save those playing fields for the children in that part of Ealing?
It is not just that I could do with support, if Members really believe in sport and in saving playing fields, but the same council rightly opposed an application by British Rail to develop housing on the Great Western Railway sports playing fields, which have been there for nearly 100 years. I worked up a public meeting of 400 to 500 people to oppose British Rail on that. Ealing council's chairman of planning came running in at the last minute, when I had got the meeting and the whole region 100 per cent. behind me, and said that the council would refuse planning permission. However, the council's action in refusing planning permission in relation to privately owned playing fields while pushing for the sale of its own publicly owned playing fields has given British Rail the right and the arguments with which to appeal for the destruction of those lovely playing fields in west Ealing.
In a double whammy of the nastiest kind, therefore, we could lose both Dormers Wells playing fields and the GWR playing fields, which are in a very built-up part of west Ealing. If those playing fields go as a result of the devious behaviour of Ealing Labour council, playing facilities will be taken from hundreds, perhaps thousands, of children and older people. I cannot understand how the Labour party can stand by and say, "We oppose the sale of playing fields—give us the credit and give us your votes," while behaving like that: it does not wash and we do not like it.
I have been to the GWR playing fields, which British Rail is trying to dispose of, a number of times recently and found all the tennis courts, rugger and soccer pitches, and bowling greens—all the facilities that one could imagine—packed with people of all ages. It was a thrilling sight to see every inch of those playing fields taken up and used, but for the reason that I have given they are in danger.
If the hon. Member for Stalybridge and Hyde would join me in writing to the Department of the Environment saying that those fields should not be developed, I would 1268 be grateful. It would be helpful and would add ballast to what so far have merely been pious sentiments. I do not say that in a mean spirit as I regard the hon. Gentleman as a friend, but I ask him to do that.
Ealing Labour council set out to privatise public facilities which have been running for many years and has laid down such severe criteria that developers are coming in with bids that will give that council lots of money. It already has £17 million in reserve and is not short of money. The criteria on which it is encouraging bids are so severe that my constituents will be priced out of using the facilities. The Ealing northern sports centre is to be privatised in such a severe fashion that my constituents will have to pay £50 when until now they have paid £10. What does that Labour council think that it is doing? At the same time, the Opposition say how keen they are on sport. The same will happen to Northolt Swimerama, which is in an area where it is much needed, and to the Gurnell pool in west Ealing. There again, the developers have been set such tight criteria that their bids will price many of my constituents out of using those facilities. Rich people will be drawn in from around and about, but I do not see the future in that. I do not know what the Labour party thinks it is doing.
Less controversially, or perhaps more controversially, but in a different field, I must say a word or two in support of boxing as that great sport has been so severely attacked. There is no one who does not regret damage to a boxer and there is no question but that the death of Jim Murray moved and hurt the nation. It was especially stirring when his father said on television two days after his tragic death that Jim would have wanted the sport to continue and that he himself would continue to support it.
I speak as vice-chairman of the all-party parliamentary friends of boxing group. I do not believe that any legal process could succeed in outlawing the sport of boxing. It would go underground and be pursued in rough forms in all sorts of undesirable places and money would change hands. Whether we like the sport or not, we have no alternative but to live with it and to try to enhance it.
Boxing is the noble art of self-defence, not of knocking your opponent's block off, damaging his brain and all the rest of it: that is not the object of the sport. While I warmly welcome the recently announced proposals of the British Boxing Board of Control to make the sport more supervised, both medically and while fights are in progress, I would go further and give the medical authorities the right to stop a fight, as they can in America. I hope that that right will be conceded.
I want the sport of boxing to be encouraged in schools—it is still practised in some, but far fewer than formerly—as a suitable sport for boys. If it is felt that there is far too much readiness on the part of those teaching it to young boys to encourage them to go for the head, I should like it to be made illegal for the head to be punched at schoolboy level. If boxers were simply attacking or defending their own bodies and the head were left out, one could continue with the sport, as it would be acceptable to parents and thus the practice would increase in schools.
Boxing is a useful sport in schools. I was a schoolmaster for 23 years. If there was an altercation between two boys and they could not settle their argument in any other way, I could say, "I don't want you fighting outside school or anywhere else, but you can get in the ring and be properly supervised—would you like to do 1269 that?" Sometimes they would say, "No, we've finished," and sometimes they said yes. It was a way of resolving nasty differences between boys in a properly supervised manner.
Due to pressure of time I shall not speak for much longer, but I must point out that some other sports are much more dangerous than boxing. Riding, for example, is one of my best loved sports. No one loves horses and riding more than I do. I have ridden the horse that Mark Davies, a famous event rider, used to ride and, indeed, trained. I saw Mark Davies die while event-riding. It was an accident that could have happened to anyone. I have tried to get this message across before, but more people died in the Cairngorms last winter than have died in 50 years of boxing. That should be remembered. Motor racing can also be lethal, but one cannot stop the adventurous spirit of men and women or their wish to compete in sometimes dangerous activities. We should seek to minimise the danger while maximising that adventurous spirit and giving it full reign.
I thoroughly agree with my hon. Friend the Minister that team games in school are crucial and that we should bring them back where they have been abandoned because they develop the character. I also know from my own experience that sixth formers in particular gain a great deal from competing in individual sports against themselves or against an environment, as happens in mountaineering. There is certainly a place for that approach and I commend it.
§ Ms Diane Abbott (Hackney, North and Stoke Newington)
One cannot underestimate the significance of sport and sports people in the lives of youngsters, especially those in the inner city. In my area of Hackney, sportsmen and women are considered far more important and heroic than mere Members of Parliament.
As the Minister said in his introductory address, one of the important things about sport is the values that it can teach. The document "Raising the Game" states early on:Sport can provide lessons for life which young people are unlikely to learn so well in any other way.One of the values that sport, the administration and practice of sport and the behaviour of spectators should demonstrate is a commitment to equality and anti-racism. My remarks deal with the experiences of some black sportsmen and women and with racism in sport.
In many ways, sport is multiracialism in action. Since the war, it has been noticeable that an ever-increasing number of black Britons have represented this country with dignity and a remarkable degree of success: 50 per cent. of Britain's athletics squad is black, 50 per cent. of current British boxing champions are black, and 25 per cent. of our professional footballers are black. There are rising ethnic minority stars in many sports.
At many levels, however, there is still evidence of racial discrimination, whether in the attitude of those at the top of the sport or in that of spectators. That is the experience of sportsmen and women. Despite the central role that sport plays in our life—the many hours devoted to sport in the media and the number of Members of Parliament who enthuse about it—there is almost a conspiracy of silence about racism in sport.
1270 Racism in sport can deter black spectators from attending sporting events. We have been talking about how to increase involvement and participation in sport, but the fact that some people still feel unable to attend a football match because of the atmosphere and some of the chanting does not help to make them more sports-minded. Racism can put great pressure on young black sportsmen and women and cut off their career opportunities. In some sports, it can deter inner-city young people from getting involved. For instance, although there may be a great many black participants in football, young black people and people from the ethnic minorities are noticeable by their absence from sports such as tennis, swimming and even some club rugby union and club cricket.
Racism operates at many levels. One of the problems is still the attitude at the very top. One of the most disgraceful recent incidents, which shocked many people, was the article in Wisden Cricket Monthly, which tried to make out that black people—simply because of their colour—could not play cricket for England with the same commitment, determination or passion as people with white skins. As recently as yesterday, Philip de Freitas was awarded damages for that article, as was Devon Malcolm. I want to say, on behalf of anyone who is a cricket lover, whatever the colour of their skin, that that article was a tremendous slur on black and Asian people who play for England at a national or county level and I am surprised that that publication ever considered it worth publishing.
Friends and colleagues who are more familiar with the world of football than me say that, in many ways, attitudes of managers have moved on in recent years. However, not so long ago, even in football, where black footballers have excelled, managers had some very prejudicial attitudes to black players.
I recall Jim Smith, who was then manager of Queen's Park Rangers, saying that black players use very little intelligence and get by on sheer natural ability. It used to be very common for football managers to say that black footballers may have had flair but that they did not have the work rate, did not want to work and did not like the cold. I do not hear that so often now, but it was not so long ago.
Sadly, racist chanting and the flinging of bananas on the pitch continue. When I hear, from people who are now friends of mine, what they had to put up with as young black professionals going on to the pitch, I wonder at their nerve, determination and courage. How many of us could go on to a sports pitch and stand thousands of people chanting abuse at us because of the colour of our skin? Thankfully, that has lessened in recent years, as many of the top teams have star black players. However, as recently as last season, Derby County was forced to take its two black players off the field during a match against Millwall as a result of the racist chanting of Millwall supporters.
Football spectators are not the only offenders. Martin Offiah, who is a rugby league star, has said:Black players still get taunts at nearly every game, and occasionally you can still get banana skins thrown at you.A recent survey found that every black and Asian player in professional rugby league has suffered racial abuse at some time.
Club cricket and club rugby were mentioned earlier. I have not played sport since I was at school, but I have friends and relatives who are enthusiastic players of 1271 cricket and rugby. When they were at school and occasionally went out into the home counties or the shire counties to compete against some of those clubs at rugby or cricket, they did not meet—at least in the club room afterwards—a positive attitude which would have encouraged them, as young men from inner-city Brixton or Hackney, to continue playing those games once they left school.
We must consider some of the social attitudes surrounding club rugby union and club cricket if we want to find the answer to the question why fewer young black people and fewer inner-city young people than we would like remain involved in sports once they leave school.
The issue in relation to race that is most controversial is the incidence of racism and fascism among supporters. Everyone in the House was ashamed by the display put on by supporters of England at the match in Dublin last year. We read regularly about the incidence of organised racism, about Combat 18 and—more frighteningly—about the extent to which small but organised fascist groups of supporters throughout Europe are linking up to abuse and attack players when our English national team goes abroad. I want, and I know that many black sportsmen want, the Football Association and many football clubs to take a strong position on that. It is difficult for black sportsmen and sportswomen to speak out about that issue because, if they do so, they are thought of as whingeing and not showing a British stiff upper lip. That is partly why I welcome the opportunity to raise the issue in the House.
In Italy, where there was especially bad racist abuse of two young Dutch players, there was a day of action, and a banner reading "No to racism" was worn by all the players. I and many people, including some of our sportsmen and sportswomen, want the clubs, organisations and officials to be much more vocal and more definite and to play much more of a leadership role in making it clear to spectators that racist abuse and racist chanting are unacceptable in football and other games. Specifically, I want the Football Association to support more strongly the Commission for Racial Equality campaign, "Let's Kick Racism out of Football." Some clubs have done a great deal. Sheffield Wednesday, of which my hon. Friend the Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Ashton) is director, has played a leading role but there is more to be done. The fact that individual black men and women in football and other sports cannot speak as openly about it as they would like does not mean that it is not still an issue.
One cannot play sport as a competitor for ever, so some thought should also be given to how possible it is for black sportsmen who leave active sport to move on to coaching and management. Strangely, there is not one black coach or manager in the football league at present. If we are good enough to play, why are we not good enough to manage or coach?
I have already said how significant sport and sportsmen are for our young people, especially the type of young people in Hackney whom I represent. On issues such as racism, sportsmen can play a leadership role and encourage values. It is time to end the conspiracy of silence, and time for people with influence in sport, such as the sports administrators and some of my colleagues in the House, to take a more positive lead. When apartheid was still in place in South Africa, it used to be fashionable among Tory Members of Parliament to say that we should 1272 not mix sport and politics. But sport has always played a role in society—setting standards, inculcating values and demonstrating what society believes in.
Not everyone in the House remembers the 1936 Olympics, but we all know what happened there, when Jesse Owens, the black American sprinter, won four gold medals and said more by his performance than anyone could have said in words about the shame and indignity of Nazism and about segregation in his own country, the United States of America. If sporting administrators and people of influence in sport—important people such as Members of Parliament—took racism and racist abuse more seriously and gave a lead, that would say more than mere words and speeches ever could about what we as a society think about equality and justice for all people, regardless of their colour.
§ Mr. Geoffrey Clifton-Brown (Cirencester and Tewkesbury)
I am sorry to have to follow the hon. Member for Hackney, North and Stoke Newington (Ms Abbott), because I profoundly disagree with what she said. The Minister of State picked up on an item this morning in the "Today" programme—I do not know whether the hon. Lady heard it—about Devon Malcolm in Soweto encouraging young black Africans to take part in sport. They are turning up in their thousands to see the English cricket team, and trying to emulate them.
Surely that is a classic example of how sport can start to break down the ethnic and social barriers. People who play team sports and other sports have to rub shoulders with each other. Sometimes they win, sometimes they lose. It seems to me that that breaks down ethnic and social barriers more quickly than almost anything else.
§ Ms Abbott
Time is short, but I cannot believe that the hon. Gentleman was listening to what I said. The question I asked about what happened to Devon Malcolm was: why should someone who plays with such courage for England, and who is doing good work in South Africa, have to read the sort of slur that he saw in Wisden Cricket Monthly, implying that simply because of the colour of his skin he was not playing his heart out for England? That was my point, and the hon. Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. Clifton-Brown) could not have been listening to it.
§ Mr. Clifton-Brown
I hear what the hon. Lady says. Nevertheless, probably 25 per cent. of our cricket team are now from ethnic backgrounds. I remember when Basil d'Oliveira was one of the first ethnic people to play in our cricket team, but now we are becoming a multi-ethnic sporting nation, and we are all the better for it. We should play up those advantages rather than always emphasising the divisions in our society.
I warmly welcome the policy and the document issued today. The Prime Minister wrote in the preamble:My ambition is simply stated. It is to put sport back at the heart of weekly life in every school.1273 He also said that he wantedto bring every child in every school within reach of adequate sporting facilities by the year 2000.That is an exemplary goal for which to aim.
Many hon. Members have said that throughout our history we have not been especially well equipped with sporting attributes. We have forgotten the lessons that the Greeks and Romans taught us about the necessity for physical fitness and sporting competition as part of a complete education. We forgot that during the 1960s and 1970s, when so many other ills affected our education system. The nation was deemed to be very unfit during recruitment for the second world war, and that is why the training and recreation legislation stated that sport should be given a greater priority.
My hon. Friend the Minister pointed out that television and other media aids have resulted in children today spending far too much time in a sedentary way of life, instead of a physical way of life in which sport is the primary activity. I have thought for a long time that the school day of 8.30 am to 3.30 pm is far too short, and I welcome the teachers who are good enough to give up their time off for free to teach extra-curricular sporting activities. That is to be welcomed, and teachers should where necessary be rewarded for doing that.
I realise that time is getting on, and I shall make my remarks very brief. I should like to bring to the attention of the Minister a problem with a school in my constituency. It is an excellent school, which caters for children aged from eight to 16 years, and it has built a lavish sports hall. The hall was built following a great community effort and with the assistance of grants from the Foundation for Sport and the Arts and the Sports Council.
The school, which is grant-maintained, has now run into a problem with VAT. It received a grant from the Department for Education and Employment to cover an increase in VAT, but a condition of the original grants from the two bodies was that the school had to use the hall for the local community. That is quite right, and everyone would expect that. But the school has run into the VAT trap. If more than 10 per cent. of the use of the hall is by the., community, the school will get clobbered for VAT on the entire capital value—including the grants—of the sports hall. In this case, the VAT would amount to some £40,000 or £50,000.
I have taken the matter up with the Department for Education and Employment and with Her Majesty's Customs and Excise, but I have not received satisfactory replies. I urge my hon. Friend the Minister—who knows about the problem as I have spoken to him about it privately—to make representations to the Treasury to see whether we can find a way round the problem. It would be unfortunate for all that community effort to be jeopardised.
I welcome a number of things in the paper, and I shall mention one or two in the time available. I particularly welcome the fact that the national lottery is to put £300 million into sport, of which £100 million will go to a new national academy. I wish to make one or two suggestions for that academy. The sports councils were required to submit a plan, as my hon. Friend said, by September, but it has not been mentioned whether that was adhered to.
1274 The tenders are to be let by mid-1996, and we hope that the national academy will be built fairly soon thereafter. I hope that that timetable does not slip too much.
The national academy should be built along the lines of the excellent academies that we have. We must look at them and see which sports are well represented, and we must make sure that other sports that are not so well represented at present are included in the national academy.
My hon. Friend the Minister has been to Adelaide to look at its national academy, and I hope that our academy will provide scholarships to allow our best and most talented sportsmen to go to foreign institutes of sporting excellence. By doing that, we can start to encourage exchange visits to our academy, so that our young sportsmen can mix with sportsmen from other countries. They will gain enormously from doing so.
The policy document encourages all schoolchildren to take a greater part in sport. It also mentions the further and higher education sector, where the greatest improvements could be made. There are 3 million students in further and higher education, yet only 20,000 of them regularly entered college competitions in 1993–94. We should encourage children not only to take part in school sports but voluntarily to continue their sporting activities into further and higher education and throughout their adult lives.
I commend my hon. Friend's actions in respect of the national lottery, which are an excellent way of starting to improve the nation's sporting abilities. The Chipping Campden swimming pool complex in my constituency has just been given a grant of £109,000 to improve its facilities for the benefit of not only that school but the whole community.
Like the hon. and learned Member for Fife, North-East (Mr. Campbell), I am keen that the excellent sporting facilities provided basically by public money through the lottery should be fully utilised. It is no use having a wonderful sports facility that is used only partly, during the day. It should be used during the day, in the evening and before breakfast as well. The lottery is beginning to involve local communities in that way. Deer Park school in Cirencester is an example of a way of encouraging children, adolescents and adults to participate in sport throughout their lives.
The whole nation feels better when we have a great sports triumph. We all remember England winning the World cup in 1966. We all feel joy when one of our football teams takes the European cup or when our sportsmen and women win Olympic gold medals. I hope that we shall win medals in profusion at next year's Olympics in Atlanta. I have no doubt that my hon. Friend's policy document will sow the seeds for the future, so that at successive Olympics—and I hope that we may look forward to the Olympic games being staged in London in 2004—sportsmen and women from all ethnic backgrounds representing the United Kingdom will be well up in the league table of gold, silver and bronze medals. That would be no small tribute to the work of my hon. Friend the Minister and of the Government in producing their policy statement.
§ 2.1 pm
§ Mr. Alan Keen (Feltham and Heston)
I am sorry that the hon. Member for Stockton, South (Mr. Devlin) has left the Chamber because his speech filled me with 1275 nostalgia, when he mentioned the disabled and Thornaby. I remember playing table tennis against The Teesside Deaf team on many occasions. We had some great battles. They made up for the disadvantage of not being able to hear the ball bounce and come off the bat by making a tremendous noise throughout the game. I send them my best wishes all these years later.
I do not have time fully to combat the remarks of the hon. Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Greenway), but I know that the Labour group on Ealing council would not be cutting back on sport and sports grounds were it not under such pressure from central Government. It is unfair to attack the council on that basis.
Sport is an integral part of the lives of many people, but many others have dropped it. We must encourage them to participate in sport again. For me as a youngster, sport was my one interest in life when there was little else to do. It is more necessary these days than for many years that people have the opportunity to involve themselves in sport—and not just youngsters. I was delighted to come out of cricket retirement last season, to be rewarded by a place on the Lords and Commons tour of South Africa. We enjoyed ourselves greatly and made some tremendous links. I was pleased to see the England team playing on the same Alexandra Township ground that we used, and at which the Prime Minister opened new facilities earlier this year. The England team opened the pavilion that was being built while we were there. Such links are well worth while.
I shall probably never reach the Opposition Front Bench, and even if I did it would be an anticlimax after sitting on the front bench so often at Premier league football grounds—frequently next to Jack Charlton in my previous life as a tactical scout for Middlesbrough. So I do not mind too much if I never reach the Front Bench here. I am happy to see the Premier league flourishing. Grounds are full, television gives the game great prominence, and the world's best players are coming to England for the first time in ages. All that is good.
We should also give some credit to the press. Good reporting has taken some of the heat and hatred out of games. It is useful to hear people such as Brian Glanville and Patrick Barclay discussing tactics before and after games, letting fans know that there is more to football than just bashing the ball from end to end. In the past, bad reporting gave the impression that a game played in September was the decider for the championship of London. That just gets fans agitated before the game even starts.
The good reporting that I have just mentioned contrasts starkly with the disgraceful—although tongue-in-cheek—article in the Evening Standard the other week criticising the transfer of Juninho to Middlesbrough. I welcome him and his family to Britain. He will bring flair, and more, to English football, strengthening our sporting links with other nations. I congratulate Middlesbrough club too.
Bill King, chair of the Vauxhall Conference, addressed those of us who serve on the Back-Bench football committee the other night. It was good to hear his attitude to maintaining the links between schools throughout the country, even in what are not always thought of as footballing areas. The conference provides the links to clubs through the process of relegation and promotion through to the football league. I agreed with the Minister about the need to involve teachers and to take some of 1276 the other pressures off them so that they can participate again as they used to when I was a youngster. That will help football to flourish.
I welcome the Minister's commitment to consultations on the centres of excellence. I am not completely comfortable with the whole idea. We do not want youngsters to be isolated from the rest of society. They need to be involved in normal school life and not start to think that they are special—that could harm them more than help them.
I am sorry that it took Mr. Murdoch and Sir John Hall to bring about the new thinking in rugby. I am also sorry that the hon. Member for Suffolk, Central (Mr. Lord) said what he said. I was going to use the words "bone-headed prejudice", but perhaps I will not after all. I understand his views; people have enjoyed the sport as it is for many years and change is always difficult.
As for boxing, I voted against banning it the last time a vote was held. I am finding it hard now to sustain my point of view. As the hon. Member for Ealing, North said, swift moves must be taken to improve the sport; otherwise public opinion against it will become so strong that it will be hard to resist.
No one should doubt the value of sport. The youngsters in the townships of South Africa are in the same position as I was as a young child: sport is the only thing there is. I do not say for a moment that sport is all that is necessary to make South Africa flourish. It needs inward investment as well, but sport is playing a huge part, and I am proud that Britain has played her part in helping the townships of South Africa. I am sure that sport will help South Africa to flourish, to the benefit, eventually, of the whole of Africa.
§ 2.9 pm
§ Mr. Piers Merchant (Beckenham)
As the general election reached its climax, I remember knocking on the door of one of my would-be constituents to introduce myself. I was greeted by a rather unhealthy-looking gentleman who said, "I don't have time to talk to you now because I am watching the election on television." That starkly brought home to me my personal lack of appeal and the grip that television has on people's lives. In many instances they seem to prefer to live in the fantasy world that is presented to them on the box than to experience reality. Anything that can be done to get people out of their chairs to engage in a healthy pursuit is a positive move. What can be better than sport?
I very much welcome the remarks of my hon. Friend the Minister and the paper that he published before the summer recess. The document sets out many major steps forward. It has been warmly welcomed in my constituency, which is especially well endowed with sporting facilities. For example, there is the national sports centre at Crystal Palace. It has been a centre of sporting activity for about 130 years. The original British Olympian Association was based there. W. G. Grace played there. Cup finals before the first world war were held there. It has been a national sports centre for just over 30 years. There are excellent facilities, including a large stadium, an Olympic-size swimming pool and a large sports hall. It manages to combine the staging of major international events alongside important community provision. It is so large that it is able to keep community provision running even when international 1277 events are taking place. The centre is an important facility for my constituents and the borough and for the surrounding parts of London. It is strategically situated at the boundary point of five different boroughs.
Secondly, there is tennis at Beckenham each year. The event has been running since the last century and it is one of the major tennis events in the country. Indeed, it is an international event. It is privately sponsored and attracts the leading world players.
Thirdly, there is a profusion of private clubs and private provision. Some of the most well-known clubs in the country are based at Beckenham. The Park Langley club, for example, recently won a national award. There are also three major sports grounds attached to three international British-based banks. They are all in the small area of my constituency. I have an interest in sport, therefore, as have the majority of my constituents.
Fourthly, there is the role of the local authority. Bromley has a reputation of being one of the leading local authorities for the provision of sport. It carries out best practice. I hope that in the implementation of the policies that flow from my hon. Friend's paper he will take into account best practice and examples of the good provision that already exists. That point was raised by the hon. Member for Vauxhall (Miss Hoey) most persuasively, along with other valid comments, including the importance of reinvigorating school sport teaching. It is clear that the role of local authorities is important.
Despite the national sports centre's great reputation and past, it has problems, and two specific ones have been identified. First, it is in desperate need of modernisation in parts. An examination of the facilities immediately demonstrates that. The second problem is that it is funded entirely by the Sports Council. It cannot have access to any national lottery money because the Sports Council is a distributor. The centre is missing out when other comparative facilities in the area can attract generous funding. I hope that my hon. Friend will be able to find some way of getting round that problem, of rearranging the structure or detaching the national sports centres from the Sports Council, in a way that will enable them to get their fair share of national lottery money. They are not asking for any more than their fair share, but they are in danger of being left behind by an unfortunate anomaly.
The national sports centre has another problem: access. That cannot be entirely solved. It happens, historically, to be in a place that was once very accessible, which is why the Crystal Palace was originally built there and why for many decades it attracted millions of Londoners every weekend, and, indeed, during the week as well. But the way in which transport has developed and the way in which the population has grown makes the area difficult to access now. I hope that means can be found to encourage the five London boroughs involved to work together more effectively to improve the road system that feeds Crystal Palace—it could feasibly be improved—and that the rail operators will consider ways of ensuring better services to the railway station there. I believe that, with co-ordination and encouragement, that could be developed to overcome the problem.
I now return to my comments about local authorities and will give a few examples of the way in which the London borough of Bromley has been so effective. Its own strategy document, "Building Partnerships through 1278 Sport", has provided a broad framework for encouraging sporting provision in Bromley and has stressed partnership opportunities. Bromley has a sports partnership fund, which is used to enable that to happen, and in particular an active lifestyles project, which is designed to encourage sport as a means of building health in the community. That has been praised by the Health Education Authority, which has described Bromley as a model borough. There are many examples of partnership with private operators to enable extra money to be put into sport in the borough. The result is that Bromley, which enters a full range of sporting events between boroughs, has succeeded in winning, for example, the swimming championship every year for the past nine years. It also plays an active role in the London youth games, which are held annually at the national sports centre at Crystal Palace.
For all those reasons, my hon. Friend's policies and his Department's policy document have been warmly welcomed in my borough. I hope that in implementing it he will take into account the points that I have made and the importance of the contribution that local authorities are making to sport, and that he will use the policies to encourage best practice to be followed even more, because I think that the entire population will be the beneficiaries from encouraging sport more readily, and my hon. Friend will get the credit that he deserves for giving the excellent lead that he has given in this area.
§ Mr. Pendry
With the leave of the House, I begin by saying that this has been a very good debate. I am pleased that everyone who has wished to speak has been able to do so. That means by definition that both myself and the Minister will not be able to reply as much as we would like to the many points that have been made.
I hope that I was not too destructive in my opening remarks. I did not intend to be. I really meant, of course, that there is much in the document that we embrace. I was merely making the point that I recognised some of the parts of it from yesteryear.
Will the Minister clarify the status of the document when he replies? He calls it a consultative document; the hon. Member for Stockton, South (Mr. Devlin) calls it a White Paper; the Prime Minister calls it a press conference document; and the paper calls itself a policy statement. It would be nice if we knew exactly what it was.
I must say to the hon. Member for Suffolk, Central (Mr. Lord) that I will not talk behind his back. I will not talk about what he said at all, only because of time—no discourtesy.
My hon. Friend the Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Ashton), of course, knows a great deal about soccer, being a director of Sheffield Wednesday, but I concurred much more with my hon. Friend the Member for Hackney, North and Stoke Newington (Ms Abbott) on football shirts for youngsters. I think that the pressure is on the families and on the mothers in particular, and that should be looked at.
The hon. Member for Beckenham (Mr. Merchant) raised the question of the national stadium and many hon. Members pitched in with a good deal of passion. My hon. Friend the Member for Vauxhall (Miss Hoey) was rightly concerned about London being the rightful place for the 1279 national stadium. The hon. Member for Wyre Forest (Mr. Coombs) was concerned that it should go to Birmingham, and the Sheffield case was made by my hon. Friend the Member for Bassetlaw. The bids that I have seen are all good and I should not like to be the person to have to make the decision.
The hon. and learned Member for Fife, North-East (Mr. Campbell) always makes a thoughtful contribution to such debates and I always enjoy them because he speaks with experience. I was pleased that he raised the plight of his constituent, an athlete with disabilities. He was right to make that distinction in the definition. The hon. and learned Gentleman, the hon. Member for Falmouth and Camborne (Mr. Coe) and I have written to a number of companies in an attempt to assist the Paralympics competitors to get to Atlanta. We have received some response, but not enough. When a review is made of the lottery, it should consider the hon. and learned Gentleman's case for a trust fund for athletes, not only for those with disabilities, but for young athletes who cannot make some of the meets that they need to attend in order to progress.
My hon. Friend the Member for Vauxhall, as well as making a passionate plea for London, made a number of other interesting points, including one about football and sleaze, with which she has been very much involved. She may not receive much satisfaction from the Minister of State, but the Labour party will shortly issue its football charter, which addresses the sort of issues that she has raised.
I think that I may have lost the friendship of the hon. Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Greenway) half way through the debate. The Labour-controlled authority in which his constituency resides faces some difficult choices. It is difficult to pinpoint any particular authority—Labour or Conservative—that makes those difficult choices. I urge him to join me in making representations to the Minister of State to have circular 909 repealed—that would be a much more satisfactory way forward.
The subject of boxing has been placed in context. I declare an interest as a steward of the British Boxing Board of Control and chairman of the safety committee which, only this week, issued new safety guidelines. I am sure that hon. Members will have read them and realised that they are a step forward. I hope that I do not lose my hon. Friend the Member for Feltham and Heston (Mr. Keen) in the Lobby—I do not want to ban boxing as that would drive it underground and it would be a far more dangerous sport.
My hon. Friend the Member for Hackney, North and Stoke Newington was right to raise the issue of racism in sport. I am pleased to have been associated with the campaign, "Let's Kick Racism out of Football." The FA, the Professional Footballers Association, the premiership and football supporters are all joining together on that issue. The Labour party's document on football clearly tackles that problem.
I knew that my hon. Friend the Member for Feltham and Heston used to be a scout for Middlesbrough, and I am pleased that that team is doing so well, but I did not know of his cricketing prowess. I must talk to him more about that. I know that he is a keen sportsman. I would not rule out the possibility of his finishing up on the Front Bench—he is far too modest.
1280 I have a great deal of affection for the Minister of State—it may not always have come through in the debate, but I think that he is a good Minister and cares about sport. He puts in effort and I wish him well in his endeavours. He will have a few battles ahead, not just with the Department for Education and Employment, but possibly with the Treasury as well. I wish him well; we all wish to see a much better deal for sport in this country. The document points the right way on many issues and when the Minister of State faces that battle he can rely on our support.
§ Mr. Sproat
With the leave of the House, Madam Deputy Speaker, perhaps I may say a few words in reply.
I should first thank the hon. Member for Stalybridge and Hyde (Mr. Pendry) for his kind words at the end of his speech. The hon. Member for Vauxhall (Miss Hoey) said that we tried to keep party politics out of this subject and today's debate shows that we succeed, more or less. Having made a long speech at the beginning of the debate, it is right that I have only a short time left in which to reply, and I will not be able to answer all the points raised. I have taken note of the issues relating to revenue funding and the need to support athletes.
I shall set at rest the mind of the hon. Member for Stalybridge and Hyde about what the paper is called—not that it matters a cuss what it is called because it is the biggest revolution in sport in 50 years. It is a policy statement and my wise officials tell me that it was not published as a White Paper because a price must be put on such a document and it must be distributed through Her Majesty's Stationery Office.
We wanted to send the document free to every school in the country, which is what we did. We originally printed about 70,000 copies but had to print another 15,000. If it had been a White Paper, not a word in it would have been different—except for the price on the front cover.
The hon. Member for Stalybridge and Hyde was a little grudging when he said that four months had elapsed since the publication of the document. It is actually 15 working days of the House, but whether it is four months or 15 days it is now with us. I want to make it clear that we did not mention the very important needs of the disabled in the paper for the same reason that we did not concentrate specifically on individual sports or matters of gender or race. The policy statement is for people of all abilities. Those are the words that we use in, I think, paragraph 3, although I do not make my defence on that. Of course we realise the importance of supporting the disabled and shall continue to do that. I have taken on board the remarks by the hon. and learned Member for Fife, North-East (Mr. Campbell) about Miss Caroline Innes. He had the courtesy to tell me about that case and if he will write to me about it, I shall do everything that I possibly can.
I became so concerned about your predecessor in the Chair, Madam Deputy Speaker, sitting on the edge of his seat after I had been speaking for a mere one hour and seven minutes that I cut my speech and did not say what I should have said about the regional councils for sport and recreation and the important role that I see for ministerial nominees. I want such nominees to continue, 1281 but as members of the sports councils in the regions. They will be rather like, although not absolutely the same as, non-executive directors of a subsidiary company. I or whoever makes the choice will choose five of those nominees from the 10 regions to sit on the English Sports Council so that there will always be a proper relationship between what people are thinking in the regions and what they are thinking at the centre.
I want the Sports Council and the regions to play an ever more important role and to concentrate on making certain that schools are doing all that they can for sport and that the links between clubs and schools become closer and more effective. That is why I have said that the Sports Council and the regions should step back from the old regional councils for sport and recreation. Local authorities will still be free to set up their own new forums, but I do not want to have national sports policy twisted and diverted—no doubt in many cases it would be well twisted—to the needs of local authorities.
The Sports Council has the precise aims that I have set out in the policy statement and I want it to concentrate on that and not get tied up in producing yet another strategy paper for sport and leisure in the next five years or for whatever period. I see important roles for the Sports Council, the regions and the ministerial nominees.
School playing fields have been mentioned yet again. I make it clear that the freedom given to schools to dispose in certain cases of their assets, subject to guidance from the Department for Education and Employment, was a good extension of their freedom. But that freedom, which was right in principle, operated badly and resulted in the selling of too many playing fields. We are currently consulting on the matter and I hope that in future the Sports Council will become a statutory consultee on whether a school playing field or any other playing field should be sold. It will be able to say no and its advice will have to be considered when decisions are made.
1282 As well as stopping, I hope, the gratuitous selling of school playing fields we are making national lottery money available to buy back ground—not the same ground, obviously, because if a supermarket has been built on a former playing field it cannot be bought back, but an equivalent amount elsewhere for school playing fields. That is roughly how it will work.
We have here new structures—the United Kingdom Sports Council and the English Sports Council—and the enhanced role of the Sports Council in the regions. We will have new money from the national lottery. I hope that it is not just capital and that we will find a way to give some revenue funding, pace the hon. and learned Member for Fife, North-East. The British academy of sport will be one way of helping top athletes.
We have the structure, the money and the vision, from schools right the way through to international excellence and gold medals. That is what the country has needed for a long time. I hope that the House will feel that it is getting that in this paper and I am extremely grateful—
§ It being half-past Two o'clock, the motion for the Adjournment of the House lapsed, without Question put.