HC Deb 07 June 1996 vol 278 cc821-97

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—[Mr. Knapman.]

9.34 am
The Minister of State, Department of National Heritage (Mr. Iain Sproat)

I greatly welcome the chance to debate sport again, although there is something ironic about discussing the subject on a day such as this—when we should all be outside in the sunshine either watching sport or playing it.

I hope that the debate will range widely. After all, we have an extraordinary summer of sport before us. The test match season started yesterday, with England doing well; the European football championship starts this weekend; and the Olympics, Wimbledon and rugby league—which is turning itself into a summer game—lie ahead. There is plenty to discuss.

I will deal in my winding-up speech with points raised by hon. Members in all parts of the House, but I shall start by taking up the subject from the point at which we left it in our last debate on 27 October, when we debated the Government policy paper "Sport: Raising the Game". I will also tell the House the great deal that we have done in continuing the momentum that we started and describe our initiatives in respect of schools, the British academy of sport and the regional network of sporting institutes.

"Raising The Game", which was published last July, contained the most important set of Government proposals ever produced to encourage and promote sport in this country. It affirmed a commitment to putting sport at the heart of weekly life in every school and to re-establishing sport as one of the great pillars of education alongside the academic, vocational and moral pillars. The policy also emphasised the importance of sporting opportunities continuing after school, and it included specific and funded proposals aimed at building links between schools and sports clubs. The document urged further and higher education institutions to promote sport among their students, and it presented specific and funded ideas on how to improve the way in which we support and nurture talented sportsmen and sportswomen. Finally, "Raising the Game" proposed the creation of the British academy of sport as a pinnacle of a network of centres of sporting excellence throughout the country, to bring out the best in our top athletes.

Mr. Harry Greenway (Ealing, North)

Can my hon. Friend give an idea of the timetable for establishing the academy of sport, to which we all look forward and which is needed at the earliest possible moment?

Mr. Sproat

I am happy to answer my hon. Friend, although I will deal with the academy in more detail as I work through the Government's proposals in the same chronology used for the policy statement. Within the next couple of weeks or so, we will produce the prospectus for the academy, and then allow three months for any consortium or group that wants to bid for it to do so. Subsequently, we will take two months to consider all the bids and will announce our decision in November.

Mr. Nick Hawkins (Blackpool, South)

Has my hon. Friend seen the astonishing document produced by the Labour party on its proposals for an academy of sport? That document appears to quote representatives from a number of sporting organisations, but it seems that all that Labour has done is hijack comments in praise of the Government's proposals. If Labour has completely misunderstood Government policy in suggesting that we believe in a single academy, whereas my hon. Friend may confirm that the Government are considering a number of academies, perhaps Labour is trying to make bricks without straw and Cunningham.

Mr. Sproat

I did see some of those comments and I was extremely surprised. It is a great pity that individual sportsmen and women are hijacked into being political pawns. As far as I am concerned, this is a non-party political issue. It is not right to take the comments of some people out of context. I know that many of the athletes were extremely surprised—even angered—to find that they had been quoted.

I hope that by the end of this debate, the Labour party will understand that there will be a flagship academy of sport, which will be linked to regional institutes of sport and other centres of excellence around the country. It was clearly spelt out in paragraphs 77, 79, 82, 83 and 85 of our document that there would be a flagship academy of sport with a supporting network in the regions. Indeed, individual sports will have their own academies.

I want to tell the House what we intend to do next. Fist, we will publish a follow-up document to "Sport: Raising the Game", which was published on 14 July last year. We will publish the new document on 15 July—the first day of that working week—setting out exactly what stage we have reached in the intervening year. I think that hon. Members on both sides of the House will be extremely pleased to know how much progress has been made and how much momentum has been maintained in raising the profile of and increasing the opportunities for sport, not just for the champions, the medal winners or the players in international teams, but for every young boy and girl who is capable of deriving benefit from sport—for them, not just for our country's teams in the Olympics or the Commonwealth games.

I want to trace the pathway from young girl or boy through school to the local sports clubs and on to the centres of excellence and all the way up to the pinnacle of championship achievement at the academy of sport. I shall start with highlighting a little of the contents of our new report. The House will have to wait—albeit not with bated breath—until 15 July for the full details. However, I felt that as we were having this sports debate today, it was only right that the House should be given some inkling of what the Government have done and of what we intend to do.

Some people might ask why we start with schools. Sport in schools is probably the single most important element of our sporting strategy. I believe—as strongly as I believe anything in politics—that sport is a fundamental part of education. We do not have sport in schools simply because it is healthy, although it is extremely healthy. We do not have it simply because it is enjoyable for most pupils, which it is. We have sport in schools because it is important that healthy habits are inculcated in young people at an early stage.

Health and enjoyment are important, but what is fundamental is that sport teaches young people lessons that are not so easily or so well taught in any other way. The behavioural lessons of discipline, especially self-discipline, courage, team spirit, learning to play with others and learning to live within the rules are all vital. If sport had been better taught in schools over recent years, I am sure that we would not have witnessed some of the recent outbreaks of ill-behaviour. That is why the Government start from the premise that sport in schools is important.

We are trying to combine a number of elements in schools to increase the quality of sport and the provision of sporting facilities and to improve the ability of teachers to train. I want to run through some of the mix of ideas that the Government proposed and are now carrying through. I shall try to give specific dates so that the House will realise that this is not just waffle about what we hope to do.

Starting with the coming school year, every school will have to state its sporting aims in its prospectus, which is published at the beginning of the school year; at the end of every year, when that school writes its annual report, it will have to set out clearly what it has actually done, what team games it plays—something that has declined recently—what other games are played, what other schools it plays at what games and with what results, what coaches it has, which teachers have coaching qualifications, what sporting facilities are available, what time the school devotes to sport, what links it has with local sports clubs and what links it has with local businesses to get sponsorship.

Lady Olga Maitland (Sutton and Cheam)

My hon. Friend's point about the time that schools devote to sport is very important. Has he studied the section of the national curriculum that deals with sport? Although it gives details of what children should be doing at each key stage, it does not clearly and specifically set down how many hours per week children should spend on playing sport. We could end up with wonderful statements but no definite results.

Mr. Sproat

That is an important point, which I had intended to raise a little later in my speech. My hon. Friend is aware that the new physical exercise curriculum, which was set in place at the beginning of this academic year, gives greater choice to schools to put more sport into the curriculum. Schools also now have greater choice to put other subjects into their curriculums. We have freed schools from some of the rather more restrictive elements of the national curriculum.

As I was saying, the school's prospectus and annual report will have to set out clearly what the school aims to do about sport and what it actually does about sport. Parents, governors, teachers and the wider community will be able to see exactly what a school is offering in sporting facilities and opportunities. Parents will then be able to make a choice. They will say, "Yes, we like this school's attitude to sport and we want to send our children there." That fulfils another virtue of giving people a choice and the necessary information to make that choice.

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State intends shortly to publish a policy paper on the arts. I hope that we will be able to achieve the same with that. We are not concentrating only on sport, vital as it is; we are going across the national curriculum to let people know what schools do so that parents can make informed choices about where to send their children.

My hon. Friend the Member for Sutton and Cheam (Lady Olga Maitland) referred to the time schools devote to sport. One of the seminal moments in our whole crusade to get sport back into schools was when I met a group of education experts a couple of years ago. I asked them to tell me how many hours a week an average 14-year-old in the state system would spend on sport. It took me some time to get an answer from that gathering of experts, but eventually one said, "Well, Minister, about one hour a week PE." I said, "An hour a week PE! When I was at school we used to play a couple of hours' sport every day." The expert said, "Oh, Minister, I didn't say sport, I said PE." I asked him what distinction he was drawing. He said, "Of course, Minister, PE includes aerobics, dancing, stepping on and off low benches and lessons in the history of diet." Those are all very worthy, but with only one hour a week they do not leave very much time for the sort of sports most real people want. That was the moment when I became determined that we would change sport in this country.

In direct answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Sutton and Cheam: we want to see schools aspire to two hours of sport a week within the national curriculum and within formal teaching time and four hours of sport a week outside the national curriculum and in extra-curricular time, whether that is during lunch times, after 3.30 pm—

Mr. Harry Greenway

Or on Saturday mornings.

Mr. Sproat

Yes. I remember visiting a comprehensive school in Berkshire in which the rowing coach and his crews came in at 7 am and were delighted to do so. I believe that that spirit is being revived among teachers in our schools. That is the answer to the very important point on time, which is one of the specific matters that we are changing from this academic year onwards. The school year starts in September, and that is what we want schools to aspire to.

One of the other provisions that we are introducing is an annual series of awards for schools to be called the sportsmark. Schools will apply to win a sportsmark, which they can display in the school. It will say that that school has achieved a high standard in sporting provision and sporting quality. It might be helpful if I read out one or two of the criteria on which the sportsmark will be awarded. My hon. Friend the Member for Sutton and Cheam will be glad to hear that the first criterion is to Provide a minimum of two hours a week of timetabled PE lesson". I know that that will be quite difficult for some schools because they have a timetable in which there is not the latitude and elasticity that they would like—but that is what they should aspire to. The next criteria are to Provide a minimum of four hours each week of organised sport outside timetabled lessons to all interested pupils. 3. Devote at least half the time spent on PE to both inside and outside timetabled lessons to games which should be played in a form judged appropriate for the year group by the relevant sports governing body"— I must say, that is the type of jargon one must fight one's way through to get to the reality. It means that more pupils will be playing more sensible games, which they actually want to play.

The fifth criterion is that Teachers and others involved in extra-curricular sport should continuously gain coaching qualifications or leadership awards". The sixth criterion covers the point that I mentioned earlier in another context, which is that schools should Have established links with local sports clubs and 7. Encourage pupils to take part in sports governing bodies' awards schemes. Sportsmark invitations will go out this October, and the first awards will be made next April. It is something to show to schools and say, "Here are the standards to which you should aspire." The award is not only for schools that are best at sport but for those that improve themselves from a very low base. It will be a very real encouragement to all schools, because we know that many schools, particularly those in inner cities, do not have the facilities that we should like them to have. We are not saying, "Just because you do not have all those sports facilities you cannot apply for a sportsmark." To a large degree, the sportsmark will be awarded for effort, to those schools that improve themselves, given their facilities.

To summarise: the prospectus will set out to parents, pupils, teachers and governors what the school aims to do in sport; the amount of time that is devoted to sport must be increased; and there will be awards—or prizes—for schools that do well, by means of the annual sportsmark awards.

I now come to the issue of teaching sport. I know that my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Greenway) was a headmaster, and I am sure that he would like to say something about this issue, Madam Deputy Speaker, should he catch your eye. We are concerned that too many teachers do not have the qualifications for coaching that would most benefit pupils. Therefore, from now on—under the pilot project that will start this autumn—all teachers in teacher training colleges will be encouraged strongly to take coaching qualifications so that they are able to coach to a standard that is not tremendously high but which enables them at least to take a game of netball, tennis or football.

To assist with that goal and to put in some money, I have said that those are specific proposals and that they should be specifically funded. The Sports Council will put aside an extra £1 million for the National Coaching Foundation—to add to the £4.5 million that it already provides—to encourage the development of new modules to enable teachers who are in training to gain new coaching qualifications. That will apply to teachers in teacher training and to INSET—in-service training—teachers, providing them with the opportunity to go out and refurbish their coaching qualifications. Such refurbishment is currently a real problem.

Again, I am very keen that this debate does not appear to be party political. I fully understand that there is a very serious problem if working teachers have to take time out of school, particularly out of primary school, to refurbish their coaching qualifications or to gain such qualifications for the first time. If a teacher leaves a primary school to do a course, who will take his or her place? There are problems, which we are determined to solve.

Lady Olga Maitland

I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Minister for giving way on such an important topic. I wonder whether he can clarify one point. In the past couple of years there has been a debate over the fact that teachers who might be willing to give extra help with sporting activities say that they will do so only if they are paid extra money. Will he tell the House exactly what point we have reached in that debate?

Mr. Sproat

Yes. It is quite true that teachers feel that, if they are to do work outside the curriculum, they should receive extra pay. Some teachers very willingly do the work outside the curriculum without the desire for extra pay. However, there are opportunities for head teachers to give extra pay to teachers in those circumstances. It is up to head teachers to decide the matter. That is an important point, and I shall find out from the Department for Education and Employment to what extent advantage has been taken of the current opportunities to pay teachers more for doing extra work.

Mr. Harry Greenway

Does my hon. Friend agree that relations are enormously improved between teachers and those taught when teachers take teams and coach sport? It is a very good addition to school discipline, and teachers who teach sport successfully become leaders in schools and are often valuable people for promotion. Does he agree that people who take the trouble to become qualified to coach a sport—they should be qualified to coach such sports as soccer, basketball, hockey or netball if they are to be respected by pupils at secondary level—deserve an addition to their pay? Perhaps those are also the type of people who should at least be considered for promotion.

Mr. Sproat

My hon. Friend makes an extremely good point. I certainly agree that often teachers who have taken the trouble to earn extra qualifications demonstrate—by the fact that they wanted to do so—their wish to get on, their ability and their general stance, which very often is reflected across all their school activities. Of course they deserve to be properly rewarded. As I told my hon. Friend the Member for Sutton and Cheam, head teachers already have the power to do so. It is of course up to each school to deal with the matter in the manner that it thinks best.

I mentioned the need to encourage strongly generalist teachers to obtain some subsidiary sport qualification. The need for secondary qualifications applies generally, but this is a debate on sport.

On the matter of specialist PE teachers, I remember one head teacher telling me some months ago about a very good PE teacher whose specialist qualifications—in an inner-city school—were in weightlifting and in canoeing. The number of girls—or boys—who wanted to do weightlifting was not substantial, and the only place where they could have a canoe was on the local duck pond. So although that man was a good PE teacher, in many ways his specialisms were not of the greatest use to the pupils.

Therefore, a change from the next academic year, starting in September, will be that all PE teachers will have to be able to teach one mainstream winter game and one mainstream summer game, so that the majority of pupils will benefit. Of course, teachers will want to maintain their interest in weightlifting and canoeing and should be allowed to do so, but pupils must come first and PE teacher training must be directed specifically to providing what is of greatest help to the pupils.

Thus, the amount of time spent on sport is to increase, teachers' qualifications will improve and we are setting up the sportsmark system so that schools can see how well they have done. In addition, we have to make certain that once we have set schools all these new standards, they are in fact met. The Office for Standards in Education has agreed to change its system of reporting. As of now, for the first time, Ofsted is going to report on sport within the national curriculum and on sport outside the national curriculum. Just as the academic side of a school has been monitored by Ofsted, so the sporting, or extra-curricular, side is to be monitored.

In January this year, Ofsted published an extremely valuable document on best sporting practice in schools. It set out details of what some schools are already doing, which other schools might like to copy to improve their sporting provision. In the forthcoming school year, Ofsted will also report on teacher training colleges to make sure that teachers are being trained correctly in a way that enables them to teach sport in school. There has been more than a suspicion that teacher training colleges have not all applied themselves as they should to ensuring that teachers whom they trained understood the importance of sport and were able to teach it.

Also from now on, the chief inspector of schools will every year issue a report on sport. That report will be laid before Parliament so that when we have debates such as this, as I hope we will continue to do once a year at least, we have before us the specific information that we need. In the past, some people have said that the teaching of sport is no worse now than it has ever been. It was extremely difficult to prove anything, but, clearly, standards have fallen, shockingly in my view. However, from now on we will be able to see how far they have fallen. I must pay particular tribute to Ofsted for agreeing to take on these new, extremely important and necessary tasks.

We must also ensure that the funds that we give to sport are targeted to the best benefit of schools. The report on how "Raising the Game" has been implemented, which is to be published next month, will also show how the sportsmatch scheme has taken them up. I have already mentioned how the Sports Council is devoting more money to sport, and new money is also being provided. Sportsmatch is a scheme half-funded by the Government whereby local sports groups—they might be schools—and local businesses get together to provide matching funding for valuable grass-roots schemes. It is one of our best managed schemes.

Mr. John Greenway (Ryedale)

I can give my hon. Friend a perfect example of how the sportsmatch scheme is helping the grass-roots of sport. We have a brilliant new clubhouse for Malton and Norton rugby union football club on a new pitch on a new site. Sportsmatch provided —9,000 for floodlights, which was matched by —9,000 from local businesses. It means that in the winter months youngsters can train at rugby as well as the first and second XV.

Mr. Sproat

That is an extremely good example, which could be paralleled around the country. Only last week I was at a sportsmatch reception where scores of groups of young people and the businesses supporting them came together. At the time of "Raising the Game", sportsmatch agreed to set aside about a third of its money for school sports projects. In fact, it has done even better and gave some £1.8 million to about 200 projects last year. Half of that is old money redirected and half is new money from sponsorship.

I do not want to go into great depth about the national lottery although I am happy to go into as much detail as the House wants. However, we know that one of the problems with lottery money for schools is that it is extremely difficult for schools to raise the matching money. The general assumption might be that half of any money must come from outside or local sources and half from the lottery, but it was difficult for schools to find their half for any particular project. That was especially so for some inner-city schools. The Sports Council has said that from this autumn onwards projects for sports in schools can be funded up to 80 per cent. from the lottery. We learn by experience and make adjustments to achieve what we want without tying ourselves down with idiotic, bureaucratic regulations that bear little relation to life as it is lived.

When the report is published, the House will see what we have done about the difficult and contentious issue of the sale of school sports fields. It is my belief that although the Government gave schools the freedom to sell land with the best of intentions—in many cases, those good intentions were fulfilled—one of the unforeseen consequences was that too many acres of school sports grounds were sold. I am not making a party political point, and I do not see the Opposition spokesman jumping to his feet—I hope that he would not. The Government acted with the best intentions and the scheme was taken up by Labour councils which sold as many playing fields as any other councils. We all sometimes do things without foreseeing the consequences, and this was the case with school playing fields.

We put the matter out to consultation, asking whether local authorities, schools and sports organisations would agree that it was sensible that if ever it was proposed to sell school playing fields—there may be occasions when it is the wise thing to do—the Sports Council should be made a statutory consultee so that no school playing field could be sold without the Sports Council being able to say no and, in fact, having a de facto veto on the sale.

Mr. Harry Greenway

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for giving way; I shall not intervene again. I am grateful to the Department of National Heritage and to the Department for Education and Employment for saving Elthorne school sports fields in Ealing from being sold by Ealing Labour council. I have to make a political point because I am also trying to save the Great Western Railway playing fields in west Ealing from development by British Rail or its successors. May I have my hon. Friend's help in this, too?

Mr. Sproat

My hon. Friend and every other hon. Member can have my help in protecting school playing fields when they deserve to be protected. I congratulate my hon. Friend on the campaigns that he has waged to make sure that school playing fields are retained.

I shall make a few final points about schools. I said earlier that one of the most important things is to ensure that boys and girls who have played sport, been good at it or benefited from it do not suddenly drop out of the sporting scene when they leave school. We are extremely keen to strengthen the links between schools and local sports clubs. The Sports Council has said that, from October onwards, it is setting up a challenge fund of some £2 million for which any school and local sports club can bid to fund any particular project to improve those links. Again, money is being retargeted to worthy aims.

"Raising the Game" said—I am paraphrasing, but I am paraphrasing accurately—that by the year 2000 every young person in this country should have good access to good sports facilities. That is a big and important promise, and it is meant to be; it is being carried out mainly through the lottery.

The Sports Council already has its sports fields register up and running. In September, it will begin a detailed audit of all sports facilities in this country, including inside facilities, outside facilities, synthetic pitches, swimming pools and leisure centres. Projects designed to fill gaps in provision will be funded by the lottery so that by 2000, we shall fulfil the promise that every pupil in every school will have access to good sports facilities.

Mr. Clive Betts (Sheffield, Attercliffe)

Will the Minister explain his proposals a little more, especially in terms of how they will help schools in underprivileged and deprived communities? Such schools will find it impossible to raise even 20 per cent. of matching funding for a project because they are raising what funds they can towards basic school provision. Again, schools in such areas simply cannot find the resources to run the schemes once they have been provided.

Mr. Sproat

The hon. Gentleman makes a good point. Again, I say quite openly that we learn as we go along. We set the target for the percentage of lottery funding for many projects too low in certain areas. The Sports Council has responded to that problem. I have mentioned that the percentage of lottery money for all schools projects is now 80 per cent. Even as we speak, however, the Sports Council has lowered the percentage to 10 per cent. for schools, especially for inner-city schools which do not have the money. The council can go further; there is no barrier on it and it can set whatever level of matching funding it wants. It will look at each individual case and see whether it should give more in a particular case.

The hon. Member for Sheffield, Attercliffe (Mr. Betts) also made an important point about running costs. We have loosened the rules so that if it is clear that a capital project will involve running costs, they can be built into the money for that project, whether it is the building of a sports centre or a leisure centre. The costs of lighting, paying a janitor or whatever can be built into the project. The Sports Council will take all those detailed and important matters fully into consideration. An indication of the truth of what I say is how far it is already moving towards fulfilling the need to change the balance between lottery money and outside money. I do not, however, claim that that is the answer in every case and many schools will continue to have difficulty in raising matching funding.

On Tuesday, we shall publish a report by a working group that we set up under the chairmanship of Sir Roger Bannister, the legendary runner. Sir Roger's committee looked at the whole question of sports scholarships at universities. I have described some of the things that we have done to schools because I consider schools the single most important aspect. Sir Roger has looked at best practice in universities, at how they deal with sports scholarships and at what has to be given to sportsmen and women when they come to university, such as special diets and special training facilities. The report goes into detailed points such as the need for accommodation for sports scholars to be relatively near to the sports facilities that they require. It says that they should have guides, advisers and mentors who will take them through their university life.

But—this is a very important point—we are not going down the American road whereby anybody who happens to be good at sport but who may be absolutely thick with an IQ of under 50 gets a sports scholarship. We believe that sports scholars must fulfil the academic side of university life as well as the sporting side. It is an interesting fact, which I cannot say that I realised before I got into all this, that our present sports scholars at university get higher academic degrees than those who are not sports scholars. The discipline that sport imposes works its way through into the academic side. I recommend that hon. Members look at Sir Roger's very detailed, excellent report, for which I thank him most sincerely, when it comes out on Tuesday.

As I said to my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, North, this month we shall publish the prospectus for the British academy of sport and we shall then invite bids for it. Many groups, ranging from the British Olympic Association to universities and local authorities, have already indicated their interest. Everybody wants to get into the act and I am very pleased about that. Even those who are not part of whatever grouping is eventually chosen for the British academy of sport will have the chance to set up one of the important regional institutes of sport.

We hope that we shall have a decision in November about the British academy of sport. I emphasise that it will be a flagship institution—the best of its kind in the world. It will have the best training facilities, the best coaching facilities, the best sports science, the best sports medicine and the best biomechanics. Residential facilities will be available for athletes who want to stay at the academy and there will be scholarships to keep them there. There will be funding for the coaches. We have looked at all the different institutions in the world that are involved in such work and we have taken the best from each of them. That is what we shall put in our prospectus.

We shall have a pathway all the way from schools, through local sports clubs and local centres of excellence, right up to the British academy of sport. People who believe that their child has a real athletic future will know exactly what the pathway is. It will be properly funded and will have proper provision. There will be better teacher training for the schools and a British academy of sport to give the highest possible standards of facilities, training and coaching. I hope and believe that all that will mean that this country, which invented so many of the sports that are now played around the world and which developed those that we did not invent, will bring sport back to its proper place in national life. I hope that this time next year, we shall have another debate. We shall then publish another report to show what we have done in the preceding 12 months.

10.16 am
Mr. Tom Pendry (Stalybridge and Hyde)

We rejoice whenever there is a debate on sport, and of course we do so today. However, the debate is once more on a Friday and we know of hon. Members with a keen interest in sport who are unable to be here because of other commitments. I refer particularly to the hon. and learned Member for Fife, North-East (Mr. Campbell), who kindly dropped me a note to say that he would not be attending. We all know that he loves sport and that he was a great participant. He has a long-standing engagement, but I am sure that his colleague, the hon. Member for Cheltenham (Mr. Jones), will be an able substitute and we look forward to hearing his speech.

My long-term adversary, the hon. Member for Luton, North (Mr. Carlisle), is also unable to attend. He can always be relied on to make a lively contribution. I generally leave the Chamber with a few daggers in my back; at least I shall be saved from that. My hon. Friend the Member for Vauxhall (Miss Hoey) cannot be here because she is away on parliamentary business, so we shall not be able to hear her usual contribution. There are others who cannot attend on a Friday, so it is a shame that the Minister has not been able to break the mould of holding sports debates on a Friday, despite our urging him to do so. Perhaps he will have another go at persuading the Leader of the House so that we can have a larger attendance and, perhaps, more informed speeches as a result.

When the debate was announced, I welcomed it, believing that surely this time the Minister would give us a nugget or two, a gem or two or an idea or two that was different. Alas, we have heard the same old ideas, most of which have emanated from bodies other than the Government. Listening to the Minister, one would have thought that some other party had been in power for the past 17 years. We cannot avoid party politics. It may be regrettable, but we cannot get away from it in a debate of this kind. The Minister used words such as "encourage" and "strongly urge" and we heard, "We shall find out what the Department for Education and Employment is saying." That is all pretty woolly and we expected something different from the Minister. Nothing changes and I will point out later why the Department of National Heritage misses its own targets.

The Minister must not take my remarks personally. We recognise that he at least recognises—he has said so in his speech this morning—that his Government have been pretty awful in this matter. There will have been much rejoicing in heaven as a result of the Minister's conversion on the road to Damascus. The Opposition certainly welcome it.

Today's debate gives us the perfect opportunity to assess the state of sport almost a year after the publication of the Government's document "Raising the Game". I make no apology for blaming the Government for the deficiencies that the Minister highlighted.

The Minister will recall that, when we debated the issue last October, I gave a guarded welcome to some of the measures contained in that document. As I pointed out then, it was a patchwork quilt of good ideas, but it lacked overall strategic direction. Nothing has changed since then, despite the Minister's speech. In any case, the good ideas contained in the document were stolen from various bodies apart from the Labour party—the Central Council of Physical Recreation, the British Olympic Association, the National Playing Fields Association and the Sports Council. At least it was a start. After 17 years in power, having blamed everybody but themselves for the state of British sport, the Government finally issued a paper and, to be fair to the Minister, he has outlined out some of the deficiencies.

Some might say that it is better late than never, but we were promised a White Paper. In last year's debate, the Minister gave a spurious reason why the document was not a White Paper—that a White Paper would be too expensive for many people to buy—but that did not fool anyone in the sports world. The Government clearly intended to send a glossy document free of charge to as many people as possible, in the hope that they would not rumble the fact that the ideas were not the Government's own. As I said in last year's debate, we do not mind the Government pinching other people's ideas—indeed, we welcome it—but they should at least acknowledge them.

Mr. Hawkins

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way. He might be interested in the reaction of one leading sports administrator to the Labour press release earlier this week. That very distinguished gentleman said: There is nothing new in Labour's proposals. They can't have read the Government document. They are trying to make political mileage out of nothing. The hon. Gentleman hijacks responses to Government documents because he has nothing new to say.

Mr. Pendry

We do not know who that distinguished gentleman is. I was coming to the point that the hon. Gentleman raised earlier and has now raised again. We were told that the Government would be following up the document next month with "Raising the Game 2". It will give details of the progress that has been made in the past year. If that is the case, it will be shortest document ever published by any Government—not that there has been any unwillingness to assist the Minister on the part of teachers, parents, the voluntary sector, sports governing bodies, local authorities or any of the myriad of other groups providing sporting opportunities for young people. What is missing is the Government's commitment to back up even the meagre promises that they made in "Raising the Game".

What has been done in the past year? In March, the Minister decided that it was a good idea to release a press statement giving details about the progress that has been made so far. Let us examine what he said. The Minister promised a survey of sporting provision in schools to be published in April. Now we are told that it will appear on 15 July. Of course, we are still waiting for that survey. Given the slippages that have occurred in the past, we would be surprised if it came out on 15 July.

The Minister promised, following consultation, to make the Sports Council a statutory consultee on playing field sales, but the town and country planning legislation has yet to be amended accordingly. In any case, is the Sports Council the right body to act on playing field sales? It is, after all, a Government quango; surely a more independent body, and one dedicated solely to promoting the use of recreational space, would be the National Playing Fields Association.

The Minister promised more emphasis on team games when he knows full well that three quarters of the responses to the Government's consultation paper on making competitive games compulsory at key stage 4 were opposed to the idea. Even The Daily Telegraph considered that proposal to be clearly wrong.

The Minister promised extra support for èlite athletes. That is a good idea, not least because it was proposed by my right hon. Friend the Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham), who, as long ago as October last year, urged the Secretary of State to set up talent funds. It can be found in the Official Report of 25 October at column 1032.

The Minister will also remember that I wrote to him last year asking for more support for our top athletes. Although it is warming to know that the Government are paying close attention to our speeches and letters, it is a pity that the Minister did not respond to our initiative more quickly. Had he done so, the talent fund could have been up and running in time to help our athletes who are flying the flag in Atlanta this summer. Because of the Government's delay, however, gifted athletes will not have access to the funds until next January. That is an absolute disgrace. It will be far to late to help competitors who are in need now. I have written to the Minister urging him to assist further, but I have yet to receive a response and it certainly was not forthcoming today.

The Minister also promised a national junior sports programme. I welcome the Sports Council initiative to encourage participation by youngsters; however, that will put extra demand on Sports Council finances at the same time as the Government have knocked £2.3 million off the Sports Council's budget. The Government have demonstrated their support for grass-roots support by cutting the funding to a much praised initiative to which the hon. Member for Ryedale (Mr. Greenway) referred—the sportsmatch scheme—by 15 per cent. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will make representations to the Minister about that. The Government's real agenda is to give with one hand and take away with the other.

Mr. Harry Greenway

Will the hon. Gentleman say where when he stands on team games? He seems to avoid commenting on team games while criticising what others have said. Where do he and his party stand?

Mr. Pendry

The hon. Gentleman generally takes a close interest in such matters; I am surprised, therefore, that he missed those gems from the Labour party. The Opposition have always been in favour of team games. However, we are not in favour of compulsory team games. We have always said that there should be a mix of games within schools. When certain Labour local authorities rejected the idea of team games, we made strong representations to them.

It is all right for the Minister to recognise the fundamental truth of the importance of sport in schools, but the Government's record fills me with dismay. As the Minister said, it is the most important part of the sport pyramid where children first learn about sport and develop their interest in physical activity, yet it is the weakest link in the Government's sport chain. That may well have something to do with the Department for Education and Employment.

Let us look at the facts. The latest annual report of Her Majesty's chief inspector of schools noted that in more 40 per cent. of primary schools, PE standards were not sound. That is backed up by the latest Office for Standards in Education report on physical education. Inspectors found: Many primary schools teachers lack subject knowledge in physical education and are not confident that they can meet the requirements of the National Curriculum…Very few schools have adequate changing facilities. The position does not improve by the time children reach secondary school where, according to the same report Many schools have dirty changing rooms in a poor state of repair with inadequate facilities for showering. What progress have the Government made over the past year to improve the conditions and standards in those schools? I suggest that it is very little. The Minister spoke about PE teachers. There are no free-standing physical education colleges left in Britain. According to the Health Education Authority and the Sports Council, the number of PE teachers has almost halved from 41,800 in 1977 to just 24,000 in 1992. What measures are the Government implementing to increase the number—the hon. Gentleman never mentioned numbers—of PE teachers back to the pre-1979 level? Surely that would be of major benefit to British sport.

The Secondary Heads Association reported that between 1987 and 1994 there was a decline of more than three quarters in extra-curricular sports fixtures mainly due to the increased work loads of teachers implementing the national curriculum. The Ofsted survey of good practice of PE in schools reports: Any failure to regain fully the position of the early 1980s resulted from the decision of many non-specialist teachers in secondary schools not to return to involvement in extra sporting activities. Since then, there has been yet another threat to extra-curricular school sports. I hope that the Minister is listening, because he must be aware of the statement made by the National Union of Teachers on 20 May threatening to boycott extra sporting activity. If he remembers, I brought it to his attention in Question Time on that very day and urged him to be proactive and bring together teachers and local education authorities to resolve the potentially damaging dispute.

Mr. Hawkins

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Pendry


The Minister did not reveal at that Question Time what his Department was doing about the problem, but he promised: We shall have a chance to return to that and other matters when we have a sports debate on Friday 7 June."—[Official Report, 20 May 1996; Vol. 278, c. 11.]

Mr. Hawkins

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Pendry

No, I have already given way to the hon. Gentleman.

Lady Olga Maitland


Mr. Pendry

Here we are in the sports debate to which the Minister referred. I would welcome news on what action—the Minister promised it—he has taken in the meantime. As far as I am aware, he has done nothing. He has left teachers to resolve or attempt to resolve what could be a very damaging dispute.

Lady Olga Maitland


Mr. Tony Banks (Newham, North-West)


Mr. Pendry

The hon. Gentleman is not the Speaker. Perhaps that is what he is aspiring to—[Interruption.]

Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Janet Fookes)

Order. The hon. Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks) has a very long way to go before he reaches the office of Speaker.

Mr. Pendry

I did not realise that it was one of my hon. Friends who was trying to intervene. I am sorry; my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, North-West (Mr Banks) could intervene any time.

Lady Olga Maitland


Mr. Pendry

I shall give way to the hon. Lady because so far she has been very promising in this debate. She has been very penetrating and asked the Minister intelligent questions. I hope that she is as unhappy about the answers as I am.

Lady Olga Maitland

Does the hon. Gentleman think that teachers should be paid extra for extra-curricular work, or should they regard such work as part of their professional duty, just as a doctor or a lawyer would do work outside the normal requirements? Does he believe that teachers should be regarded as professionals and not demand extra money, or would he like to give them more money and, if so, how much? I would appreciate it if the hon. Gentleman would give costings on how such payments would affect the overall teaching budget.

Mr. Banks

Another penetrating question.

Mr. Pendry

Yes, but not so helpful. If the hon. Member for Sutton and Cheam (Lady Olga Maitland) were to read some of the documents—as the hon. Member for Blackpool, South (Mr. Hawkins), who is soon to be a candidate somewhere else and has stopped making so many references to Blackpool in his speeches, obviously has—she would know that we have already said that we believe that teachers, who have gone through some damaging hoops as a result of the changes in Government education policy, should be recognised for that extra work. We would be rather more proactive than the Minister's Department in having talks with the Department for Education and Employment about resolving the problem. [Interruption.] Conservative Members are being particularly naive.

The Secondary Heads Association has also produced evidence of a sharp decline in the amount of PE played in schools. In 1987, 72 per cent. of 14 to 16-year-olds did at least two hours of PE a week. By 1994, the figure had fallen to 25 per cent. The Government have made a wishy-washy commitment that all schools should—not must—offer at least two hours of PE a week. How many schools are able to deliver that promise today? Perhaps the Minister could tell us. I should like to contrast that with our commitment. We have said clearly that there should be a minimum of two hours' sport a week in the national curriculum, which is far more than the wishy-washy talk of the Minister.

What about playing fields? The Minister was very brave and raised the subject in his speech. He said that I was not jumping up and down, and I was not because he knows my position full well. I have raised the subject, but the Minister has still not answered my point. We all know that the Government like to pretend that the Department of Education and Science circular 909 has protected playing fields. The reality, of course, is the exact opposite.

Since the circular was introduced way back in 1981, the statutory minimum size of playing fields has been reduced, and, consequently, 5,000 have been sold off. Admittedly, Labour-controlled authorities as well as Conservative-controlled authorities have been given the option as a priority. Some authorities consider social services and other things a higher priority than the opportunity to sell playing fields. We will not give that opportunity to any council, whatever its complexion. We are going to scrap circular 909 so that nobody will be tempted to sell playing fields.

The Government have induced more playing field sales this year. Under regulations that they introduced in April after "Raising the Game", grant-maintained schools have been allowed to keep the full proceeds of asset sales—a policy that the National Playing Fields Association described as having an inadvertent negative impact on school playing fields. It went on: The simple position is that the only assets that schools have available for disposal are buildings and land and for the major part most buildings will continue to be required. My research shows that a further 2,600 playing fields are under threat of development. That is some progress. A large number of playing fields that remain are being neglected because of a lack of resources in schools. According to Ofsted, a third are in poor condition, and poorly drained, badly maintained or distant pitches have a particularly adverse effect on certain sports in school. Many are a positive danger to our youngsters. One set of pitches where I took some former international footballers were in such a state of disrepair that they stated categorically that they would not allow their kids to play on them because it would ruin their careers before they had even begun.

I fully understand if such facts have escaped the attention of hon. Members because the information has not been made available. More than two years ago, on 12 January 1994, I was promised in a parliamentary answer that the national register of playing fields would be provided in the Library on disk. That would have made the information accessible to all Members. Unfortunately, it has yet to appear, and we have to go to the Sports Council to get the required information. When I have raised the matter with successive Ministers, I have been promised that the information would be made available in the Library in due course. I hope that, in his winding-up speech, the Minister will give a guarantee that the register will be made available to all in the Library without any further delay. Hon. Members on both sides of the House have a right to know what is happening in their constituencies. That is the real record of sport in Britain under the Government. We should judge the Government by their deeds and not by their words.

I should like to make another helpful suggestion to the Minister. If he wants to make the revised document more substantial and put meat on its bones, he should consult in the first place those from whom he hijacked ideas when he was formulating "Raising the Game" and, more important, talk to those whom he did not consult when drawing up the document.

Perhaps the Minister could make a start by having a word with local authorities. Despite being the largest providers of sport and leisure opportunities, spending more than £1.25 billion annually—25 times as much as the Sports Council—they received only a single fleeting reference in "Raising the Game". Local authorities could express their continuing concerns over the loss of the regional councils for sport and recreation and the two-way linkages that they provide between national, regional and local policy makers and providers. They could alert the Minister to the crucial role of local authority sports development officers, who act as a link between schools and clubs.

My council, Tameside, has been at the forefront of developing such initiatives by taking on a leisure education officer, employed by the education department but seconded to leisure services specifically to develop links between schools, communities and clubs. The Minister would do well to talk to officers and councillors on that council, and I would give him some contact numbers if he wanted them.

If the Minister does not want to head as far north as Tameside, he could follow my example and visit Haringey or Kent county councils' sports development units. Those excellent councils have set up schemes to increase sporting opportunities for their local communities.

Kent's unique project involves the county council working in partnership with local district councils, the Sports Council and the National Coaching Foundation, as well as voluntary, educational and commercial interests. Its aim is to promote sport throughout the county, focusing on facility development, enhanced coaching and higher levels of performance.

Those people would also urge the Minister to promote the dual use of facilities and open them up to wider community use, but that further development is being put in jeopardy, because of local management of schools and grant-maintained schools.

On a brighter note, I was pleased to see that in the Conservatives' local election publication, "Look", praise was heaped on some of the magnificent stadium facilities being developed around the country, such as the McAlpine stadium in Huddersfield, the New Den at Millwall and Middlesbrough's magnificent new Riverside stadium. I should add that all those benefited from local football clubs' being able to work in partnership with the private sector and, of course, with their Labour local authorities.

Could the Minister have a word with the disabled groups, which have produced some of our finest international sportsmen and sportswomen—

Mr. David Mellor (Putney)

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Pendry

On that point?

Mr. Mellor

Yes, as it happens, on that point.

I am stimulated to say that I am glad that at long last, one hour and 10 minutes after it began, the debate is arriving at football. So far, we might have been forgiven for not realising that we are on the eve of the biggest sporting event to be held in this country for 30 years.

However, it is in no spirit of animus that I intervene on the hon. Gentleman. By all means let him say, with reference to those three new stadiums, that the football clubs concerned benefited from consultations with their Labour councils; but if we are to make such points, can we please deal with the subject properly? What about the councils at Portsmouth and Southampton, where clubs with derelict grounds wish to rebuild them? And what about what happened at Southend? I am not making a party point, because I cannot remember which party controls Southend, where—

Madam Deputy Speaker

Order. I am afraid that the right hon. and learned Gentleman is now beginning to make a speech. He will have to contain himself until his turn comes.

Mr. Mellor

I shall, Madam Deputy Speaker.

The hon. Member for Stalybridge and Hyde (Mr. Pendry) knows the point that I am making—

Madam Deputy Speaker

Order. I am sorry, but the right hon. Gentleman must resume his seat now.

Mr. Pendry

I accept what you say, of course, Madam Deputy Speaker, but the right hon. and learned Gentleman was attempting to make a serious point, which I have covered before, and it concerns us. I must tell him that the councils that he mentioned are, of course, Conservative councils which have blocked the developments—but there is a bigger and much more important point than a party political point to be made on the subject.

Hon. Members

Southampton is Labour.

Mr. Joseph Ashton (Bassetlaw)

The development would be outside the city of Southampton.

Mr. Pendry

I do not wish to be diverted, although I would willingly engage in that conversation with the right hon. and learned Member for Putney (Mr. Mellor), a former Minister, who, I must say, was so important to football when he was in office. I gave way to the right hon. and learned Gentleman because I thought that he intended to refer to the disabled groups. That is why I asked whether he wanted to intervene on that point.

May I return to that most important subject—[Interruption.] I ask my hon. Friend the Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Ashton) to listen too. I know that he will attempt to catch your eye later, Madam Deputy Speaker. He knows his stuff, but I want to talk about the disabled groups now, because they are very important, and clearly they have not been included in the Minister's thinking.

As I was saying, those groups have produced some of our finest international sportsmen and sportswomen, whose achievements were not mentioned at all in "Raising the Game". Local government may have had one reference, but there was no mention at all of our disabled sports people. They are athletes of whom the nation should be proud, and I hope that they repeat their successes in this year's paralympic games. I shall certainly be cheering them on in Atlanta.

If the Minister were to ask those people, they would tell him of the need to appoint a representative on the United Kingdom Sports Council. He could assist in doing that, but he has chosen not to do so. There is also the British Sports Forum. I understand that the British Paralympic Association has written to the forum asking to be represented, but has been rejected. Perhaps the Minister could intervene to find out why it has been excluded. I understand that as yet he has failed to do so.

The two omissions that I have mentioned are the two clearest omissions from the original document. I would welcome assurances from the Minister this morning that he has fully involved both the disabled groups and the local authority associations in the revised edition of "Raising the Game" that we expect. In all likelihood, he will not be able to give those assurances, because so far as I am aware there have been no consultations whatever between him and either local authority associations or disabled groups. If that is so, it is disgraceful.

If someone had consulted the disabled groups, it would have saved the Government the embarrassment of producing the "Practical Guide for Disabled People", just published by the Department of Social Security, which contains totally incorrect information about the governing bodies of disabled sport.

The Minister will be aware that the Labour party has produced a blueprint showing how we envisage the new British academy of sport, which has already been mentioned by the hon. Member for Blackpool, South. Our blueprint was the result of a detailed consultation process with all the major organisations in British sport, and was launched last month to much acclaim from the world of sport.

We see a central academy providing generic services such as sports medicine and science, skill co-ordination, research and development, and so on. It would co-ordinate the activities of an enhanced network of services, focusing on the existing national centres of excellence.

Of course, as the Minister knows, the idea of a British academy was contained in the Labour Government's White Paper, so at least the principle is not a party issue. The Opposition recognise that there is no point in ignoring the achievements of what is already in place. We need to develop an integrated approach, and we can build on the strengths of the existing structure, and involve other areas of excellence.

The Minister could well join Steve Cram, the former world distance record holder, who does not apologise for putting his name to the idea, and Michael Whittingham, the British athletics coach, as well as the National Coaching Foundation, the Institute of Professional Sport, the Physical Education Association, the Central Council of Physical Recreation, the Association of Metropolitan Authorities, the British Paralympic Association, and many others. On the day of our launch, we heard that the Minister was in line with our proposals, and he would have us believe that he has supported a similar proposal all along. He said so again this morning.

I shall quote from the Minister's article in The Daily Telegraph of 5 December last year, in which he outlined his vision of a single-site academy: The Academy will be situated on, say, a 20–00 acre, greenfield site. It could be anywhere in the country but it would probably be best if it was reasonably central geographically and easily accessible. There would be accommodation for some 500 top athletes and their coaches. These athletes and their coaches could live full time at the Academy". I say to the Minister, out of thine own mouth will I judge thee.

There was no mention at all of an enhanced network of activities, but that is hardly surprising. A spanking brand new academy with high-tech facilities and all mod cons, built on a green-field site of up to 300 acres, with full-time accommodation for up to 1,000 athletes and coaches, would take all of the £1 00 million allocated.

The Minister was clearly setting out his own vision of the academy before the consultation. From our own wide consultation process we discovered that the main problem of the existing structure is the fact that the centres are disparate and their activities lack clear co-ordination.

Mr. Tony Banks

Surely the academy does not have to be on a green-field site. There are many institutions that could be adapted to accommodate the sports academy. I believe that there is an excellent site in Redbridge, for example, for which proposals are being put forward. Perhaps my hon. Friend thinks that that would be a good idea.

Mr. Pendry

My hon. Friend is right. The academy does not have to be on a green-field site, and we do not say that it should be. We are saying that other areas could be considered for the academy, which would be slimmed down compared with what the Minister set his heart on at the beginning.

We all want our teams and individual athletes to achieve Olympic gold and to win international tournaments, so the headquarters should co-ordinate the United Kingdom strategy for excellence. To my mind, the best way of achieving excellence is by producing a national strategy delivered locally.

The ball is firmly in the Minister's court. We know that he has received the responses to the consultation paper back from the Sports Council, but that up to now he has been reluctant to publish them. When they are published, we shall welcome that very much. As he knows, I have re-tabled some specific questions to him about the academy. Late last night he faxed me a letter, with which I shall not bore the House—but it is clearly a bit of a whitewash. We shall return to the subject in the near future.

Of course we must produce athletes to win—but not to win at all costs. I am pleased that Diane Modahl has now been cleared completely, but her case highlighted public concern about the use of drugs in sport. Unfortunately, that subject is likely to feature on the agenda at the Olympics this summer. I was concerned to read recently that the number of sportsmen and women failing drugs tests carried out by the Sports Council this year had risen by 15 per cent. over previous years.

Back in 1988, the then Home Office Minister—the right hon. and learned Member for Grantham (Mr. Hogg)—committed the Government to bringing anabolic steroids within the remit of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971, and the Minister gave the House an undertaking during the last sports debate that the Home Secretary would shortly bring that about. Shortly afterwards, I tabled a question to ask what had been done. The Minister again said that the Government would follow the advice of their advisory committee and would control steroids very soon. But nothing was done until April, when the Government announced that they were outlawing the supply—but not the use—of steroids. The House will want to know why the Government have done a U-turn, as that is extremely important.

The right hon. and learned Member for Putney said that he was surprised that the European championships had not been raised so far in the debate, but I now wish to refer to the tournament. We are on the brink of the greatest sporting event to be held in this country for 30 years. The excitement generated by Euro 96 is palpable, and it is a great tribute to the perseverance of the football authorities, fans, the Football Trust, the police and local authorities that we are able to stage it at all, and their continuing hard work throughout the tournament will make Euro 96 the success it deserves to be.

The contrast between the efforts of those organisations and the neglect of the Government could not be greater. It is worth taking a few minutes to recall the lack of interest shown by the Government in the event right from the beginning. The Minister may recall that the launch of the bid for Euro 96 was held here in the House of Commons, shortly before the last general election. Because of the Government's lack of interest, it was left to me as the then chairman of the all-party football group to assist the FA in arranging for the then leader of the Labour party, the right hon. Neil Kinnock, to launch the bid with Sir Bert Millichip, Tom Finney and other football luminaries.

That was followed by the Open Goal conference in Birmingham in September 1994, organised by the shadow National Heritage team. Opposition Members were concerned that, two years after the bid was made, the Government were still not providing a strategic direction for the promotion of the tournament. The conference brought together for the first time the eight local authorities where matches were to be held, supporters groups, politicians from all parties, the FA, the Football Trust and all the other main players in the game—apart from the Government.

The lack of Government involvement in the championships cannot bode well for any future attempt by this country to host major sporting events, such as the Olympic games or the World cup. The international community does not expect to see the host Government sitting on the sidelines doing nothing. As far as I am aware, the Secretary of State has met only once with representatives of the host cities to discuss their concerns about the championships. That was on 29 April this year—barely six weeks before the start of the tournament.

That reveals a lack of leadership and direction from the Government. The best word that I can think of to describe their approach is "muddled". I would like to have seen serious Government backing from the off. The Secretary of State or the Minister should have been proactive and formed a committee to co-ordinate the tournament. The Government should have used the championships as a showpiece to show the world that Britain can host major sporting events in style. The championships could also have highlighted Britain as a prominent tourist destination. The tournament will attract between 250,000 and 300,000 foreign visitors, and the Treasury is expected to benefit by £8 million in increased VAT receipts from ticket sales alone. That is before the extra revenue that will be generated from the additional £100 million that the visitors will spend here in England.

The impression with which some of these visitors will leave our shores disturbs me. I was shocked to discover, for example, that North East Regional Railways was advising people going to matches not to travel by train, and there was not a peep from the Government to dissuade the company. That is a direct result of privatisation and the break-up of the national railway system. Regional operating companies now have only a fixed number of carriages and these cannot be moved around the country to meet extra demand.

Mr. Andrew Robathan (Blaby)

indicated dissent.

Mr. Pendry

If the hon. Gentleman cannot see that, he should not be sitting where he is.

That is a terrible advertisement for Britain. I was equally concerned to learn that the operating companies have no plans to put on late trains to transport people between major cities after late-night matches. One of the most enticing fixtures in the first stage is the evening game between Italy and Germany at Old Trafford, which is already a 55,000 sell-out. But fans travelling to Manchester from London to watch the match would have to leave the ground as soon as they arrived to catch the last train home. I telephoned British Rail yesterday, and was told that the last train back to London would leave Manchester at 8 pm.

The Government have been begrudging in their financial support to promote the championships. They have guaranteed just £100,000 in direct grants to share among the eight cities, all of which are Labour controlled. Mathematics was not my strong point at school, but I can work out that that amounts to a paltry £12,500 for each city—barely enough to promote a local five-a-side competition, let alone the largest sporting event to be held on these shores for 30 years.

The Minister states that he has met the demands of the cities, but he has not. When representatives of the cities met the Secretary of State's predecessor, they requested £1.5 million, which would have produced a real festival to celebrate the championships. They were turned down, but came back with a more modest proposal for £400,000 with no strings attached, but they were given £100,000 in direct aid. It is true that other money has been made available, but it comes with strings attached, requiring host cities to jump through hoops backwards. Local authorities have had to be careful in their selection of sponsors so that they do not conflict with the FA's main sponsorship partners. The Government's stinginess contrasts with the last time we hosted a comparable major event—the 1966 World cup. At that time, Harold Wilson's Labour Government provided £500,000 for hospitality and other measures—the equivalent of £5 million at today's prices.

Despite the lack of central support, the cities have been getting on with it and involving the private sector to organise an exciting cultural and social programme for visiting supporters. The highlights include Newcastle's EuroFest, a specially constructed welcome village close to St. James's park, with bars, bistros and eateries with a European flavour. Liverpool's comedy festival will include some well-known comics from all over the country. Manchester's united clubs of Manchester scheme is based on the city's internationally renowned nightclub scene, and Leeds has the music, fire and masks festival. Some of my hon. Friends will talk about Sheffield and other cities if they catch your eye, Madam Deputy Speaker.

I am sure that the Minister would wish to join with me in congratulating the cities on their inventiveness, despite the inappropriate lead from the Department. The host cities have dug deep into their own pockets to fund this social extravaganza. It is estimated that the entire cultural and social programme put on by the cities will cost some £2.5 million. The Government have funded less than 2.5 per cent. of that directly.

As there are more hon. Members here than I had envisaged—bearing in mind attendance at some Friday debates in the past—I shall conclude by telling the Minister that we all realise that he has been active in trying to persuade some of his colleagues to have a more enlightened policy for sport. He knows that, when I criticise him, it is because he leads for the Government as a whole on sport. There is scope for improvement in the Government's approach, but the Opposition will assist constructively wherever we can.

I shall conclude on a happy note on which we can all agree. We hope that England and Scotland do well in the championships and that there is good behaviour both on and off the pitch from players and fans. We hope that one or other of the teams reaches the final and wins the cup. Having been critical of the Minister—but more critical of the Government—I wish to thank him for giving us the opportunity to have this debate on sport and I look forward to hearing the speeches in the debate.

10.58 am
Mr. David Mellor (Putney)

I, too, am glad to have the opportunity to contribute to the debate. It is timely that we have a debate on sport on the eve of the European championships, with the Olympic games coming up, and the day after we learn of television companies being willing to pay three quarters of a billion pounds for the rights to cover the premier league. It is also timely, because a number of key sports are in a state of flux— who can say what the future of rugby will be—and because of the crisis in one of our other national games, cricket, although some of those who run it do not seem to realise that.

There is a tremendous interest in sport nationwide—even the broadsheets are devoting many more pages to sport than they do to the coverage of other topics. Whether that is a good or bad thing, I leave others to decide, but it is clearly a testimony to the tremendous national interest in sport. Although this will be a good-quality debate because several of those present are committed to sport, it is regrettable that we cannot attract more than 20 Members to debate a subject that lots of people in the country regard as extremely important.

In relation to Euro 96, we should be proud of the fact that the championships are here, whether we love football or not. We should be ambitious for sport in Britain. We should want to host great championships. What is the point of thinking about having a great new national stadium, upgrading our facilities and having the vision if we do not want other people to come and share it with us?

We should be aware of the interest in the championships—400 million people were supposed to have tuned in merely to watch the draw for the event. It is a great shop window for Britain and a way of showing ourselves off. In some senses, we come to the championships quite strongly because as a result of legislation, money being available from the Football Trust, and a great sense of leadership from several key people in football, including a number of club chairmen who embraced the Taylor report and did not allow their fans to drive them from it, we now have some of the finest stadiums. In fact, the chairman of the UEFA grounds committee said that British stadiums are now the best in Europe. We can be proud of that.

I hope that we can be proud of a lot of the other arrangements for the championships. I do not want to get involved in partisanship, but I would like to have seen a bit more vision about some of the things that could have been done around the championships. I would like to have seen some effort made to bring local authorities, national Government and others together to try to give people a good time.

I am not seeking to make a party point, but if there is any element of embarrassment that the championships are going on, that is foolish. We should be proud of the fact that we are hosting them. That is not to say that there will not be some problems, but we must remember that although we think that we have exclusive ownership of football hooliganism, we do not. At one of the European club finals this year, 200 people were arrested and someone was severely injured. Many of the fans who are coming from other countries have never in their adult lives observed a game where there have not been cages between them and the pitch. There could be problems, but I hope not.

It is right that the police have taken pre-emptive action. One of the most impressive things about policing recently has been the way in which the police have worked together with the clubs. The use of closed circuit television, which takes shots of hooligans, means that no one can feel that he can get away with it any more. It is a fundamental proof of the basic rule of law and order that the greatest deterrent is the certainty of being caught. What the police did up in Northumbria was worth while.

I cannot pretend to be all that optimistic about what will happen on the pitch. We shall travel hopefully, whether we arrive or not. The key thing is that by the end of the championships, I want people to see Britain not as a country beset by mad cow disease and all manner of problems—a country that people can have a laugh at—but as one where people can see that we are capable of organising something. I want us to be seen as a warm, friendly and successful country, which can be trusted with handling other great sporting events. I hope in my lifetime to see an Olympic games back in this country. Everyone should have that ambition, because there is no point in being successful in world sport unless one has the ambition to play such a role.

My hon. Friend the Minister focused on two issues in his speech, and although it could be open to the criticism that there was a great deal more that he could have said, I understand why he focused on those two things. He has a deep, personal commitment to them, for which I commend him, and which I share.

How can we expect to be a major cricketing nation when all the evidence suggests that just a third of United Kingdom schoolboys can actually play cricket at school? It is devastating that that should be the case. I do not want to apportion blame for that, but it is self-evident that, if people are not introduced to the game, how can they be expected to play it well?

Sometimes an anecdote tells the story a great deal more effectively than a lot of statistics. I was speaking at one of the big football grounds in the north of England, and one of the managerial staff came to collect me from the airport. He was one of those people, and we produce them, who was equally as good at football as at cricket. It was a marginal call for him whether he went into professional football or professional cricket. He chose professional football because the pay and conditions were better. We talked about sport and he said, "You know, my kids are equally as good at football as at cricket, but they can play only football at school. I discovered that they were good at cricket only because I play it with them in our back garden."

We must do something about that, because we shall not win test matches on the playing fields of Eton; we shall win them on the playing fields of Brixton. There are not many playing fields in Brixton, but we must organise that and do something about it. My hon. Friend's determination to ride over objections from wherever they come, whether they are problems with the teaching unions or whatever, is welcome. We have a national interest in making sure that youngsters play sport at school.

That aim goes beyond producing those who will be world beaters, although we must aim to produce such people, because it is humiliating when we fail after we all get worked up for an event such as the cricket World cup. We sent down a team and they were the only group of men who ever went to India and did not get the runs. It is deeply depressing and disappointing when we do that. The whole country, even those who do not care about cricket, wants to share in successes. Perhaps the team is getting something back on that at the moment.

The question not only of producing world beaters but of giving youngsters the stimulus and inspiration to get involved in sport is so important because it has other social consequences. I am chairman of the Sports Aid Foundation, which grant-aids athletes from sports that do not pay them a living, even if they are highly successful. One of my governors, Jeff Thompson, from Manchester, is a formidable black athlete who became world karate champion. He said to me, "If I hadn't had sport, I could have ended up in prison like a lot of my classmates did." Jeff is a real role model and he got the MBE for the work that he is doing among youth in the cities of the north.

The key point is that if we do not offer people a positive outlet for their energies and enthusiasm, we get the youngsters we deserve. We have the resources and the commitment to be able to do that, so more power to my hon. Friend's elbow in relation to sport in schools and the creative use of money from the lottery.

We must remember that the Sports Council gets by with a grant of about £40 million, or whatever it has been locked at for many years. Each and every year, £300 million is now coming into sport. I have been critical of the way in which some of the distribution bodies have operated in relation to the lottery, but I doff my hat to the Sports Council, because I have not heard a word of criticism about the way in which it has distributed money. It should be congratulated on showing a safe pair of hands. That money could transform sport at every level, from the grass-roots up.

Mr. Tony Banks

That is an interesting point. At the beginning of his speech, the right hon. and learned Gentleman referred to the three quarters of a billion pounds that is coming into football through the BSkyB and BBC deal. To what extent can we ensure that a chunk of that money benefits all football, as opposed to just going into the hands of a smaller number of richer clubs?

Mr. Mellor

Football must show an interest in developing the game. I gather that the money that goes to the Football Association for the coverage of the cup final filters down to the county football associations. I do not know whether those associations should have influence over the modern professional game. I agree with the hon. Gentleman, who is also an honourable friend. The danger about money coming into football is that all it does is pay for hugely escalating transfer fees and ridiculous wages. We criticise the chap from Camelot who has run a successful lottery that brings in £1.5 billion for good causes. Even with his bonus, he earns £360,000, a third of what my club is paying either Mr. Gullit or Mr. Vialli. I do not object to that, because I am glad that they are playing for Chelsea, but we must get our values right.

The other danger is that football is pricing its grass-roots fans out of the game. I sit behind a microphone every Saturday afternoon during the football season doing a radio show, so I have learnt a thing or two that has been worth learning. For example, a lot of people for whom football is absolutely vital to their lives are feeling that they have been priced out of the game. They cannot afford to go or to take their kids.

Take Euro 96. How many ordinary fans will be able to buy tickets for that? I received tickets for the match between England and Scotland from Synchro Systems. It is even more complicated than applying for shares.

Mr. Banks

Multiple applications.

Mr. Mellor

Exactly. I made only one such application.

Some tickets came back. They were priced at £65 and bore the stamp "Severely Restricted View". Who the hell wants to pay £65 for a good view, let alone a severely restricted one? It seems that the football authorities are willing to price the ordinary fan out of the game. Some of the television money should be used to make sections of great stadiums available, relatively inexpensively. If football betrays its grass-root supporters in order to make money, it will not flourish. It should recognise that ordinary folk wish to be at the game. It is not good enough that they watch it on television, although it is helpful that we can all do so.

Mr. David Evans (Welwyn Hatfield)

Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that not one penny of the BSkyB money will filter through to the game? It will go to the premier league clubs full stop. When my right hon. and learned Friend refers to the FA giving the receipts for a cup final to the clubs at a lower level and through to the counties, we are talking about less than £1 million. Does my right hon. and learned Friend find it difficult to accept that the great television deal will not benefit clubs that are outside the premier league?

Mr. Mellor

Those clubs, of course, have done their own deal.

If premier league clubs receive television money, a good use of it would be not to charge the fans some of the ridiculous prices that have been charged of late. Sections of grounds could be made available to ordinary people through partnership schemes. I am talking of ordinary family people with limited wages, who want to experience live football.

I was involved in an advertisement for Reebok, which was prepared to make a substantial payment to charity. As a football product was being advertised, I thought that it would be sensible to make the money available to football.

When I was a kid growing up in Dorset, I could not go to league football because none was taking place in the area where I was living—at any rate, none worth watching. My constituency is only a couple of miles from great grounds such as Stamford Bridge. Many kids who live a mile or so from great grounds have never been to watch a football game there because they cannot afford a ticket.

With the proceeds from the Reebok advertisement, I was able to take 1,000 kids to their first football match. It happened to be the only occasion during the season when Chelsea scored five goals in a match. We won 5–0. I could not legislate for that. The kids had a fantastic day off. As I said, they live only a couple of miles from the ground, but they are priced out of the market. That must be taken on board when we look for an element of fairness.

I commended my hon. Friend the Minister on what he said about sport and sport education. I commend him also on what he said about a British academy of sport. Let the foot be kept on the accelerator. The concept must not be filtered through so many committees that we end up with a bastardised version of the proposal that does not reflect the clear lines that we have in mind.

The Australians have proved that the academy concept can work. On average, Britain has won five gold medals at all the modern Olympiads. Spain, for example, has put money into developing sportsmen. It did so in the run-up to the Barcelona games. It won more medals at those games than in all the modern Olympiads put together. That demonstrates that if we invest in sports people, we can have an effect on their performance.

The population of Australia is only 40 per cent. of that of the UK. The Australians are aiming for 60 medals—20 of them gold—at the Sydney games. They will win those medals because they have laid the necessary foundations. Let us do the same. It is not enough, however, merely to lay foundations, or to talk about doing so. We must get things up and running.

When I went to the last Olympic games, I met Chris Boardman, who won Britain's first gold medal at cycling for 70 years. Chris Boardman won his gold medal before he went out on the track. He had a bike that was the envy of all the other participants in the race. He also had a trainer and a sports psychologist. That boy was primed up. He believed in himself and he was ready to go. He managed to win a gold medal despite there being no velodrome in Britain of an Olympic standard. His victory was a tribute to the special things that had been done for him. If those things can be done for him, they can be done for others.

Sometimes we disgracefully neglect our sports people. For example, Steve Redgrave has won three rowing gold medals. He has won a gold at each of the last three Olympics. I think that he and Matthew Pinsent have been unbeaten for three seasons. There is every likelihood that they will win a fourth gold medal. Steve nearly packed in rowing after the Barcelona Olympics. He became fed up with having to sponge off his wife. He wanted to be sponsored and to receive proper money.

Steve Redgrave is as great an athlete as Linford Christie. We know, of course, that Linford is a great athlete who runs in blue riband events that attract a great deal of sponsorship. Those who make those sums available are not prepared similarly to make them available to rowing and many other events.

There are two worlds for Olympic athletes. In one world, there are those who can use their skills—jolly good luck to them—to make an extremely good living, apart from enjoying prestige. There are others whose gold medals have been equally hard won but who live in a sporting world that does not attract any form of commercial backing.

Wearing my hat as chairman of the Sports Aid Foundation, I say that we are the only country in the world where the costs of sustaining the training efforts of athletes fall on private individuals and organisations and are not met by the public purse. I pay tribute to the Foundation for Sport and the Arts. Before taking that further, I should say that before I became chairman of the Sports Aid Foundation, the largest grant that it had ever been able to give to any UK athlete of whatever talent was £5,000 a year. It is now possible to pay èlite athletes £15,000 to £20,000 a year in training expenses. That is being done on the back of the Foundation for Sport and the Arts.

The Sports Aid Foundation spends just over £2 million a year. Even if the job that needs to be done is subject to a budget, we need to spend about £9 million or £10 million a year. I believe that the foundation will get its way, but what is the point of having a national lottery that brings in £300 million a year if everything is spent on buildings, while nothing is spent on preparing the athletes who we want to perform with distinction? Like all other major sporting countries, we should take on the burden of making payments and grants available to promising sportsmen.

I take up the theme of my hon. Friend the Minister of teenagers in sport. The best evidence available to us shows that 80 per cent. of the most highly talented teenage athletes drop out of sport during their teenage years. They do so for various reasons. Some will drop out in any event because we cannot force people to continue, to sweat and to endure various privations. Some teenage athletes, however, drop out because they think that there is not much point in going on. They feel detached from the main-stream of teenage life. They do not think that it is worth while continuing with sport.

It is not only the losers who move away from sport. A short while ago, I had a riveting evening sitting next to one of our most prominent Olympic gold medallists. He told me that the year before he went to university, he nearly gave up sport. He thought, "Why the hell should I be doing this while everyone else is having fun? No one seems to care." He told me that he had no money and that it was a hell of a flog to get to where he wanted to train. We must take those feelings on board.

There are some things over which we as Members have no control. In other words, we do not have a role. A basic willingness, however, on the part of the House to take an interest in sport is fundamental and best serves the interests of our constituents. We should willingly do the things that we can do. We should use lottery money properly. We should create a British academy of sport. We should ensure that the Sports Council and other bodies are staffed with good people. Let us ensure that where we have political influence, it is exercised in favour of the principles in sport in which we believe.

I have the highest regard for the hon. Member for Stalybridge and Hyde (Mr. Pendry), as he knows. No one is more tireless in keeping in touch with major sporting people and sporting events. He knows, however, that there is another side to every success. The Alfred McAlpine stadium at Huddersfield is, of course, fantastic. It won a Royal Institute of British Architects award. It is clearly an exceptional building. I quite often visit the New Den at Millwall. Before it was built, the last major football ground to be built in London was Selhurst Park. It was built a year after Wembley stadium had been constructed. Anyone who has been to Selhurst Park will know that the ground is not exactly the last word in luxury.

We should be aware of the role of local authorities. In this context, I care not about their politics but about their attitudes. Some local authorities call on football to run itself properly. They then frustrate football in trying to do so by raising NIMBY-type objections to the creation of new stadiums. That is having a devastating effect on the fortunes of several clubs. Brighton can be quoted in that context.

Mr. Pendry

Briefly, does the right hon. and learned Gentleman recognise that there must be better liaison between the Department of National Heritage and the Department of the Environment because, often, the Department of National Heritage wishes to do what he did when he was there—to get on with it and to have stadiums built? It is frustrated by the Department of the Environment calling in plans when perhaps it should try to resolve matters in other ways.

Mr. Mellor

I agree entirely. Exactly that is happening at Fulham, and I think that a Department of the Environment inspector finally cold-boxed the Southampton scheme, so I accept that point.

Many sports are having huge difficulties coming to terms with the modern world. In many, their own way of running things is not exactly the way that one would devise if one were setting them up today. It is ludicrous that the Football Association should be dominated by people from the amateur game. That is no criticism of the amateur game, but it is not especially relevant to some of the big things that we are talking about. I am a great admirer of Bert Millichip, who is the exception and has given good leadership, but in any other game or walk of life, many other people on the FA council would have been pensioned off. All the people on the FA vice-presidents bench are over 80—it is known as death row.

Rugby will have terrible problems as professionalism comes in. The other day, I had the opportunity to interview Mark MacCormack, who in 1960 met a golfer called Arnold Palmer and then a golfer called Gary Player. Mr. MacCormack built up a business that totally transformed the world of golf and then of tennis. Suddenly, little provincial sports changed. Mark MacCormack had to twist the arms of the Wimbledon authorities to persuade them that they should have hospitality tents and such things. The first reaction of the senior president at Wimbledon was, "Would people be interested in coming?"

In 30 years, sport has been transformed. It is now a huge business. Hundreds of millions of people will watch it around the world. We all tune in. The question is, however: are the people who are running sport able to keep up with that? Do we not have a role in the House to assist in that process? Above all, are the interests of the ordinary sports fan being missed out on in this great global battle, where all that seems to matter is the television rights for distant countries, not what is happening on the spot? That is why—and I am sorry if I have spoken too long, Madam Deputy Speaker—it is important that we should debate sport and that we should take it seriously. Other people do. We in the House should.

11.21 am
Mr. Joseph Ashton (Bassetlaw)

I shall confine my remarks to one specific matter because quite a few hon. Members want to speak: policing and hooliganism at the European championships.

I am to be chairman of the all-party Association Football Committee thanks to my hon. Friends. At one of our regularly attended meetings, many of them will have noted that, last week, we met two chief inspectors from Scotland Yard's football intelligence unit. We were impressed by the report given to us by—and I hope that they will not mind me naming them—Chief Inspectors Peter Chapman and Brian Drew of the football section of the special crimes squad. They did a marvellous job in explaining the background to the security and organisation. They came under severe questioning.

The football intelligence unit is not especially new. It has been there for some time. It keeps quiet because, obviously, it does not want to reveal too much of what it knows, but the committee will visit the unit a week on Tuesday. Any Members are welcome to come along if they wish. They will find that it is possible to press a button and hooligans from every club—photographs, details and names—will be revealed on a screen. The unit has acquired a marvellous amount of information and knowledge. It can tell when hooligans will be going to a specific point, what time they will arrive and what pub they will meet at.

It is sad that such information cannot be revealed because of the Data Protection Act 1988. Although it is available to the police, it is not available to clubs. I remember meeting the Home Secretary about this on behalf of the committee following the Lansdowne road incident in Dublin, when thugs from Britain threw chairs off the stand on to the crowd below. To be fair, he conducted a full investigation into it, but still said that the Act means that the identities of potential hooligans cannot be revealed to clubs. The clubs cannot, therefore, check and decide not to give a certain person a ticket or a season ticket or to put stewards on at certain points.

If it is to prevent a crime, the Home Office should examine how this mass of information can be disseminated to clubs and even to area police forces in great detail so that much of the hooliganism—the 1 per cent. of people who create problems, which attract so much publicity—can be curtailed.

Today's Yorkshire Post headline reads: Police face £1m soccer bill", and that is just in Leeds and Sheffield, where they are not expecting much trouble. But 7,500 officers have had their leave cancelled. An enormous cost is falling on cities and the Government are offering no extra cash. Millions of pounds will be flooding into the country and there is a chance to put Britain's image in Europe into a far better perspective than the continual squabbles about beef and such stuff, yet we are missing out on it. As my hon. Friend the Member for Stalybridge and Hyde (Mr. Pendry) said, the Government seem to have a non-interventionist policy. They might intervene in football, but in relation to tourism and to putting on a show, they could have done far more.

The football intelligence unit is liaising with several other countries, so not only the British police, but Europe's top cops will be handling things. They know their own hooligans. They will be able to mingle with the crowd and pick them out. Television will be zooming in on and looking for them.

We will not have the position, which has occurred so often, where hooligans are simply put on the next ferry and sent back to their country, knowing that they have got away with it and that they can return even the following week and do it again. Now there will be instant prosecutions. I hope that newspapers will give publicity to such prosecutions.

There is a Europewide network of potential thugs. The vast majority of people who commit such offences are not football fans, but National Front supporters and fascists who have used football to set up a network in Paris, Madrid, Barcelona, Hamburg, Berlin and throughout Europe. They want to jump on the football bandwagon and to fight world war 3 and world war 4 and they will use any chance that they get. Let us not over-exaggerate it. There are probably no more than a dozen from each country, but they love the publicity and the cameras that zoom in on them, as they did at Lansdowne road in Dublin. They love waving their national flag and abusing it. That is one of the things that could spoil the games.

I tabled a question to the Home Secretary asking him to consider moving the Trooping the Colour ceremony, which, unfortunately—I think that we should have noticed this six months ago—falls on the date of England-Scotland game. Obviously, 20,000 people may come down from Scotland, travelling overnight. I am not saying that they will be exuberant because one or two might have a hangover, but seeing some horses in a parade down the street and the opportunity for mischief and a bit of fun can be tempting.

Mr. Tony Banks

The horsemen will all have swords though.

Mr. Ashton

My hon. Friend keeps interrupting, but I cannot hear what he is saying. It needs only two or three such supporters to think that they can stampede the horses. The television cameras will be there. To those people, it will be great fun, but to the rest of us and for the European championship tournament, it will be a great disaster.

The police are confident that they can handle both events on the same day and I am sure that they can, but it is one thing policing in grounds, which is now a fine art. There has been hardly any trouble in any ground in Britain for many years because of all-seater stadiums, television cameras and segregation. I said this to a director of Sheffield Wednesday football club. We and everyone else have put time and money and gone to great lengths in relation to crowd safety, but on the streets, it can be different. Football is a game of great grief or great joy and if matches finish at half-past nine or half-past 10, supporters go to a pub and someone says a wrong word, trouble can happen.

In these championships, we have a new position. The penalty shoot-out will not necessarily take place. Teams will play extra time until a goal is scored. With the old penalty shoot-out system, the police could get ready at the end of the half hour, with everyone standing up and looking in case of trouble, but now the end of the game can come at any time during the half hour.

Mr. Tony Banks

I am sorry for interrupting my hon. Friend. I was suggesting that if the Scottish supporters decided to make some trouble for Trooping the Colour, they should remember that the troops all have swords. It could be Culloden all over again.

My hon. Friend is right to draw attention to incidents outside football grounds. It is a matter not just of accidental trouble but of pre-arranged violence. How do we deal with that?

Mr. Ashton

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. I am old enough to remember the 1966 World cup, when I was serving on Sheffield city council and many things took us by surprise. Supporters adopt a pub, so one will be known as the German pub and another as the Danish pub—and one cannot stop them going to those pubs with their mates. When it comes to closing time, two or three hooligans say, "Let's go and sort out the German pub." We hope that that will not happen, but it can.

Another problem acknowledged by the police is tented cities. In 1966, Sheffield was caught unawares when armies of youngsters arrived—some of them on push bikes—with tents. They did not have tickets for the game or money to buy them, but they could watch the game in a pub. We let those youngsters pitch their tents in the park. Six hundred people allowed tents in their back gardens. Sheffield and other cities even asked householders to offer supporters bed and breakfast for £12 a night. It is difficult to guard tented cities from hooligans who go looking for a bit of fun, to steal and to cause vandalism. The police are already stretched, and football gets the blame.

Last night, I went to the new football embassy near Piccadilly. Fans get a lot of stick but only a tiny minority cause trouble. The Football Supporters Association received a grant of £50,000 from the Football Trust to establish a football embassy in every town. The embassy at 17 Shaftesbury avenue occupies two floors and is manned by student football supporters who can speak different languages. They can give help with accommodation, and can give advice if one has lost one's money or ticket. The embassy is even publishing handbooks identifying safe pubs and good places to eat.

That scheme will work marvellously well, but it will not grab the headlines. There were hardly any members of the media present last night. If there had been a punch-up, there would have been. Next week, our committee will be meeting the Football Supporters Association to learn more about its plans. The Government should have done something, but they have not. They opted out. One expects the Minister responsible for sport and the Department to take the initiative in welcoming visitors to our country.

The press in this country have their problems. Thousands of people who trained as journalists cannot get a job, or perhaps they had a job and were made redundant. Technology has put them on to the streets. An army of freelance journalists, photographers and cameramen are out of work and get paid only if they can sell a story. That is how they scratch a living. That is why 500 journalists and photographers will turn up to watch the England squad training—hoping that a player will spit or swear.

My fear is that Euro 96 will go wrong because freelance journalists are desperately trying to earn a living in any way they can. Younger freelancers tack on to a bunch of fans and look for a fight—they may even incite a fight. They have a camera handy in their back pockets, to get an exclusive photograph of a window being smashed or a car being turned over which will make the front page—especially if the match is boring. Plain clothes police officers in discos, nightclubs and pubs at the lower end of the scale will be looking for agents provocateur.

The House must remind the newspaper industry that it has a responsibility to project that which is good about Britain, not that which is bad. The media constantly place emphasis on what is bad about politics, football or anything else. If one talks to people in the business about the incident on the flight back from Hong Kong which was said to involve England players, they say that the damage was negligible.

Lady Olga Maitland

Is £5,000 of damage negligible?

Mr. Ashton

It was not £5,000 of damage. I am sure that the hon. Lady has flown club class on long-haul flights, so she will be familiar with the small video televisions that are fitted into the back of the seat. I doubt that they cost 200 quid each. I even doubt that two televisions suffered severe damage.

Lady Olga Maitland

I am astonished. Is the hon. Gentleman suggesting that appalling behaviour is totally excusable? Is he suggesting that £200 of damage is more acceptable than £5,000 of damage? The fact remains that the men in question behaved appallingly. They were a disgrace to Britain and should have been disciplined. It is outrageous that the hon. Gentleman should try to defend them.

Mr. Ashton

The hon. Lady knows only what she has read in the newspapers, but she condemns and convicts everybody on that basis. Neither the stewards nor stewardesses reported anything to the pilot during the flight in question, and nothing was said for nine hours after the aircraft landed. Then, two cleaners who had entered the aircraft ran to the press to say that there had been some damage. I will not give too many details because libel actions are pending. Some players intend to sue some newspapers for libel, which is why Mr. Venables could not offer a proper explanation. The hon. Lady read the newspaper stories and, like many other people, has jumped on the bandwagon. I hope that there will be an inquiry and libel actions.

Lady Olga Maitland

They did not even apologise.

Madam Deputy Speaker

Order. The hon. Lady knows my views about sedentary interventions.

Mr. Ashton

The hon. Lady asks the players to apologise when they may not have even—

Lady Olga Maitland

They should have made one.

Madam Deputy Speaker

Order. We will start with discipline here, in the House.

Mr. Ashton

The hon. Lady is more gullible than I would expect from a Member of Parliament, and she does not know a lot about football and reporters. Media hype will destroy the games. If that happens, the newspapers will be destroying this country. If the press persist in publishing front-page stories about two idiots having a punch-up or breaking a window, that image will go around the world. Football is not to blame but the people who publicise such incidents out of all proportion.

Mr. Pendry

I have just returned from Hong Kong, where I met the chief of Cathay Pacific. He confirms my hon. Friend's comment that the damage was highly exaggerated, and said that Cathay Pacific's main problem was the British press harassing the airline's girls and putting words into their mouths.

Mr. Ashton

We must not forget the amount of money that has been invested, the organisation, or the wonderful feeling of having the biggest street party in Europe where everybody can have a marvellous time. Young people coming to this country should have that as their first impression of Britain. I remember 1966—it was marvellous, even though it rained for three weeks. It was not just a matter of England winning the cup; it was the marvellous party atmosphere, just like there was at the coronation and on VE day. It could be like that again.

We must get rid of the over-emphasis—and I am sorry that the hon. Member for Sutton and Cheam (Lady Olga Maitland) fell for it—in the press on tiny incidents that are blown up out of all proportion and destroy everything that sportsmen, politicians and the football movement are trying to do. I appeal to the press not to damage Britain with nonsense stories. Instead, let us all support our country and our team.

11.40 am
Mr. John Greenway (Ryedale)

I could not agree more with the hon. Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Ashton). Like him, I am a vice-chairman of the all-party football committee, which is in no doubt that the police have done sterling work and I pay tribute to them for their efforts.

I begin my speech in my capacity as chairman of the all-party racing committee. When my hon. Friend the Minister opened the debate, he listed the great sporting events that we are going to enjoy in the weeks and months ahead—but I was disappointed to note that he did not mention that it is the Derby tomorrow. There will be a great deal of interest in what is happening at both Wembley and Epsom. We have brought forward the time of the race to 2.25 pm so that people can watch the Derby on television, having, we hope, placed their bets in the betting shops in the morning, and then watch the football afterwards. Large screens at Epsom will show the opening game at Wembley.

Despite the number of welcome initiatives in racing, many of them due to Government help, there is continuing cause for concern about the long-term health of the sport. Racing is both a sport and an industry and the Government have a clear interest in it. For example, they take £350 million a year in general betting duty and there are at least 100,000 jobs in the racing industry, which is inextricably linked with the betting industry. At the other extreme, the breeding and training of horses is a vital part of the rural economy, as those of us with a constituency interest know. In my constituency, the first recorded race was in 1692, when a plate race was run on the wolds just outside Norton. Racing is an important industry that embraces both sport and the economy. The breeding of horses is a £100 million a year industry. Owners pay some £200 million a year in training and veterinary fees and other costs.

The House should be alerted to the fact that racing finances remain in a parlous state. That is despite the help given by the Government with VAT on the cost of bloodstock, the two cuts in general betting duty and the deregulation of some of the betting legislation so that there can be Sunday racing and evening opening of betting shops. In addition, following the recommendation of the Home Affairs Select Committee, the British Horseracing Board was created. It has done everything possible to improve racing's commercial interests.

You, Madam Deputy Speaker—as a member of the committee—will no doubt remember the work that we did for racing. I pay tribute to the Marquess of Hartington—Stoker, as he is affectionately known in the industry—for the work that he has done with the board. He will retire shortly and will be replaced by my noble Friend Lord Wakeham. The Tote and the Levy Board has been as generous to racing as it can, but betting turnover remains weak. We had looked forward to an increase in the levy, but that has not materialised in the way we envisaged.

I mentioned earlier that training costs amount to some £200 million a year, yet net prize money to owners totals only £38.25 million—barely 20 per cent. of the training costs are recovered in prize money. I am the first to say—as would be many of the owners—that owners are in the business for fun and for sport. In the same way as someone who owns a yacht, they expect to pay for things out of their pockets. However, compared with the prize money in other countries, including just across the channel in France, prize money in Britain is very low and needs to be increased. The Government have recognised that on many occasions.

The Racehorse Owners Association gave a presentation to our committee on Tuesday. It calculates that the deficit between prize money and training costs means that every time an owner has a horse in a race, it costs him £3,000—net of any prize money he may win. That puts the matter into perspective.

In the Budget last year—now enacted in the Finance Act—the Government agreed to make a 1 per cent. reduction in general betting duty. However, that must be seen as a very welcome first step; we need further substantial reductions in this year's Budget. Those in the House who follow the interests of racing will recognise how important that is.

One issue of particular concern is that many small betting shops are closing, often because they are bankrupt. If we allow such shops to close in small market towns there may be a resurgence of illegal betting, which would not be in anyone's interest, especially the Government's. There will be arguments about how any future reduction should be split, but that is a matter for another day.

I come now to football and declare my interest as president of York City football club. It is my personal view that the premier league has been a great success. As has already been said, the premier league and, increasingly, the first division have the finest stadiums in Europe. The tribute for that must go to the Football Trust, one of whose ties I am wearing for the debate. It has given tremendous support. The Government helped to fund the trust's activities, of course, with cuts in pool betting duty.

There is also no doubt that the money that has come into the premier league from the sale of sports rights to BSkyB has enabled clubs to make massive investments in their grounds and to bring in overseas players such as the Bergkamps, Gullits and Cantonas of this world—who also have created great interest in the league. It has provided a tremendous eye-opener for what we will see in Euro 96.

Mr. David Evans

Does my hon. Friend believe that the great success of the premier league has brought about a situation in which probably only six clubs out of all those in this country are now capable of winning the league or any other domestic trophy? Does he agree with that?

Mr. Greenway

My hon. Friend is right, and he has anticipated the "but" in my speech that I was coming to. I suspect that it is more likely that the big six is the big 10 or the big 12.

Madam Deputy Speaker, I had hoped to catch your eye after the speech of the hon. Member for Stalybridge and Hyde (Mr. Pendry), because I wanted to congratulate him on the restraint that he showed in his speech by not mentioning the fact that Derby County—his beloved Derby—is now part of that èlite. One hopes to goodness that Derby, Sunderland up in the north-east, and—which is the other team that has just been promoted? [HON. MEMBERS: "Leicester City."]—fare rather better than Leicester did last time it was promoted, and Bolton Wanderers did last year.

Mr. Evans

It is going to be tough.

Mr. Greenway

I hear what my hon. Friend says; it will be tough. There is no doubt that the "them and us" between the premier league and the rest of the football league is growing.

Yesterday we heard the announcement about the tremendous expenditure by BSkyB and the BBC on the deal, which is worth approximately £750 million, to screen live matches and highlights. That is another huge input of money into the premier league. My hon. Friend the Member for Welwyn Hatfield (Mr. Evans) might have been right in his earlier intervention on the speech of my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Putney (Mr. Mellor), when he said that not a penny of that will go to the rest of the football league.

Mr. Evans

He is right.

Mr. Greenway

He may be right. My point is that, if that is the case, it is an absolute scandal. We must impress on the Football Association and on the premier league the importance of ensuring that more of that money goes down to the lower leagues. I think that we can be reasonably assured that, because of the work of the Football Trust and the continuation of the pool betting duty reductions, we will see ground improvements in the lower league.

We now have a big job in ensuring that grounds in the second and third divisions, the Vauxhall Conference and the rugby league clubs are brought up to the same standard as in the premier league and the first division. I think that we can more or less take that as read, although some clubs struggle to find contributions, which the trust recognises.

The real point is that the structure that we have had in this country—there used to be a four-division league—has ensured that we have a bottom-up approach to finding talent rather than a top-down approach. If anyone thinks that we will win Euro 96—I hope to goodness that we do, or that we do well—or that we will win the World cup in two, six or 10 years' time while starving the grass-roots of cash, they are very stupid. I am speaking now only about soccer, but the same applies in many other sports.

One has only to consider that, tomorrow afternoon, David Platt will lead out the England team as captain. He came from Crewe Alexandra. Derby County has a young player—perhaps he is not so young now—Marco Gabbiadini, who started at York City as a junior. There is an argument about transfer fees. The problem in the Bosman case will increasingly affect the value of some of the players.

The thrust of what my hon. Friend the Minister said today about the need to encourage more youngsters is good. However, I stress that I should like more youngsters to be encouraged, and that they should have the determination to play professional soccer for local teams, whether it is York City, Swansea, Fulham or Torquay—four teams that have not done so well—or Luton Town, which we will play next year. We stayed up and, sadly, Luton went down. I shall look forward to it. We will play Watford and Milwall. Those clubs have struggled.

If they are good enough, I should like to see youngsters encouraged and enthused to have a professional career. If we are to improve the facilities and training available to them at the grass-roots, we must give them the opportunity of having a professional career, and then to move up into the premier league. It would be an act of great folly if those clubs were allowed to drift into part-time soccer because of a lack of resources, at a time when there is so much money coming into football because of the premier league deal.

Mr. Ashton

The simple solution would be for smaller clubs to agree to become nursery clubs. There is a strong feeling in the premier league that that system could work—for example, York City could be a nursery club for Newcastle United and Luton for Arsenal. The clubs could help each other and the money would travel downwards. The smaller clubs would provide somewhere for young players to train on their way up and the whole scheme would be of benefit to all concerned, but no one is pushing it.

Mr. Greenway

I know that the hon. Gentleman has advanced that theory before and there is some merit in it. In north Yorkshire, we have York City, Scarborough, Hartlepool, Darlington, Lincoln City, Scunthorpe United and Doncaster Rovers and then Middlesbrough and Leeds United. Not all the smaller clubs can be dormitory or nursery clubs for other teams.

It is marvellous that the three north-east teams will all be in the premier league next year. That has not happened for a long time. The success of Newcastle United means that there is great interest in football in the north-east, and Middlesbrough has a new stadium.

I have made the point as forcefully as I can that two things are needed at the grass-roots of the game: the development of facilities for youngsters—I shall comment on that matter in a moment—and ensuring that the game also thrives in the lower leagues. People will watch Euro 96 on television and I hope that they will be sufficiently enthused to go and watch their local teams come August. That happened in 1966 when we won the World cup—it provided a tremendous boost for attendances at matches all over the country.

I am sorry that my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Putney is no longer in his place. He made the telling point that kids who live two miles from Chelsea football club cannot get or cannot afford tickets to watch Chelsea but that they would be welcomed with open arms at Fulham, which is not far away. In the same way, if people cannot get tickets to see Leeds United or Middlesbrough, if they cannot travel the distance involved or if parents are unhappy about letting their children go there, we would welcome them with open arms at York City. We are expanding our facilities to build a new family stand so that people can enjoy their football. However, we cannot do it all unless we are a proper professional club and have financial support from the top.

Mr. David Evans

Is my hon. Friend aware that the previous two champions of the Vauxhall league have been refused admission to the football league because of bureaucracy? It was alleged that their grounds were not up to standard at Christmas but the ground at Stevenage, which won the league this year, is up to scratch. Does he not think that it is completely wrong that a club should play for a whole season and win the Vauxhall league but, because of a closed shop, a club such as Torquay, which has struggled for 20 years, is not relegated?

Mr. Greenway

I cannot justify it, but I remember that when Maidstone United won promotion it did not have its own ground and had to play at Dartford. That caused a great deal of bitterness in what was then the fourth division. That was why the rule to which my hon. Friend refers was introduced. Clubs could spend all their money on players and nothing on their ground but, when they were promoted, people had to go to watch them at a pit of a place. Poor Bristol Rovers is still playing at Bath and its plans for a new ground are still not completely developed. My hon. Friend makes a valid point. It is important that there is a flow of teams being relegated and promoted, including via the Vauxhall Conference. The matter that he highlights leaves a nasty taste in the mouth and must seem very unfair to Stevenage supporters.

I mentioned the development of facilities. I greatly welcome my hon. Friend the Minister's comments about facilities in schools and access to national lottery money. Only the other day, he received a presentation from a company called All Four Sports. It intends to create indoor facilities at grass-roots level for the four sports of cricket, soccer, hockey and rugby. The project has the support of a number of sports associations and a number of leading sportsmen.

I have referred to the project because I believe that there can be no real criticism of the way in which the Sports Council has dealt with its responsibility as a funding body for lottery money. However, it is becoming increasingly clear that we need people to have commitment, to show initiative and to show enterprise, whether in the public sector, the voluntary sector or private businesses. They must act as the catalyst to get access to the money so that we can create a range of facilities.

My hon. Friend the Minister has set the target of good access to sports facilities for all youngsters, not just in inner cities but in rural areas, by the end of the century. That is an ambitious target, but we must achieve it. We can achieve it because we have access to funds as a result of the lottery. That is different from having a special, one-off Government grant and having to get an application in by Christmas or else the money is gone. The money is there month after month after month. It is a tremendous opportunity for us to produce and harness the talent that we need, whether to win competitions like Euro 96 or to have more champions and gold medallists in the Olympics and better rugby teams. We can do it and I greatly welcome what my hon. Friend the Minister has said today about excellence.

12 noon

Mr. Nigel Jones (Cheltenham)

I am delighted to take part in this debate on sport; this is the first time I have contributed to a sport debate. In normal circumstances, my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Fife, North-East (Mr. Campbell) speaks for the Liberal Democrats on sport. He is, of course, well qualified to do so, having been captain of the British team at the Olympic games in Tokyo. He held the Scottish 100 m record of 10.2 seconds on a cinder track for seven years and he still shows a remarkable turn of speed running up the stairs to the office we share in one of the turrets in this building. Unfortunately, he has duties elsewhere today and I have an uphill task attempting to match the quality of the speech he would have made.

I am delighted to follow the hon. Member for Ryedale (Mr. Greenway)—first, because of his position as chairman of the all-party racing group. I hope to see him at Cheltenham race course for the Gold cup next year. Secondly, although he claims to be president of York City, in a magnificent book called "Football and the Commons People", for which he and I both wrote chapters, he admits to being an Arsenal fanatic. We may both have attended the league cup final at Wembley in 1969, because I have to admit to being a Swindon Town supporter. The hon. Gentleman may remember that full time finished at 1–1 and that Swindon scored two goals in extra time with the flying winger Don Rogers. Fortunately for Arsenal supporters, two years later the club won the double, which may have been some compensation. That proved that the team had learnt something from Swindon on that occasion.

I shall concentrate on three points: first, the purpose of sport; secondly, the value and the economic good sense of investing in sport; and, thirdly, if time allows, what Britain could be like when sport is available to all. The Liberal Democrats' top priority is to raise the overall quality of life of all Britain's citizens, and we see sport as having a significant role in achieving that objective. It improves the health and fitness of participants.

I compliment the Health Education Authority on its current "Active for Life" campaign. I have a leaflet promoting the campaign here with me, which sums up the proposals in 10 simple points. It says: Just in case you still need convincing, here are 10 ways in which regular and moderate physical activity can improve your life.

  1. 1. You'll look better and feel great.
  2. 2. It will help control your weight and keep you in good shape.
  3. 3. It's a great stress-beater and an important weapon for surviving the stresses and strains of modern life.
  4. 4. It's a good way to meet new friends and develop new interests.
  5. 5. It helps control blood pressure.
  6. 6. It reduces the risk of Coronary Heart Disease … a major killer for men and women in this country. Active and fit people have up to half the risk of CHD.
  7. 861
  8. 7. It may help prevent osteoporosis in later life which can affect one in five women aged 50 and over.
  9. 8. It decreases the risk of certain cancers, eg. cancer of the colon.
  10. 9. It can help to keep you mobile and independent particularly in later years.
  11. 10. Regular, moderate physical activity keeps you strong, flexible and full of energy!"
We all need some of that. Above all, sport is good fun, whether it is a family walk or a charity fun run. It allows individuals to set their own goals—whether they are swimming their first width or competing for Olympic gold medals. Some hon. Members have competed for Olympic gold medals, but I can remember swimming my first width. The joy on the faces of children when they achieve that is something to behold.

Britain has produced and continues to produce many outstanding world-class performers in many different sports. This year we shall see competitors competing—and, we hope, winning medals—in the Olympic games in Atlanta. As I come from Gloucestershire, I should mention our latest home-grown world record holder, the England wicket keeper Jack Russell, who took 11 catches in the second test match against South Africa earlier this year. It was the first series that England played in that country since the ending of apartheid. South Africa has made a remarkable breakthrough in the sporting world since those days.

If I may share one of my favourite sporting memories with the House, I was fortunate enough to be in Jamaica when England achieved its first test match victory for 30 years. I saw Jack Russell, the Gloucestershire wicket keeper, cut his Gloucestershire team mate, Courtney Walsh, just backward of square in front of the large scoreboard at Sabina Park. That memory will live with me for a long time. I am not alone in wondering what on earth the selectors thought they were doing when they dropped Jack Russell for a season or two, and perhaps they will hear this message while they are watching him perform heroics at today's match in Edgbaston.

As we have already heard, sport is big business. It creates wealth and jobs and is a net contributor to the public purse. It accounts for almost 500,000 jobs, generating nearly £9 billion in consumer expenditure. For every £1 that central Government spend on sport, £7 is received by the Treasury from sport-related tax and other revenue. It is a good investment for the Government. The Liberal Democrats believe that the income generated by sport alone makes it worthy of Government financial support and the provision of high-quality sports facilities for both casual use and competition should be central to any Government's health promotion programme.

It is impossible to quantify the value of sport in keeping Britain's citizens fit and healthy and reducing the amount that we spend on the health service. Sport also acts as a focal point for communities, creating a sense of identity and commitment for participants, spectators, voluntary officials and others. The regeneration of Newcastle with its football team under Kevin Keegan's management is one such example.

Sport has a vital role to play in tackling the alienation from society that is keenly felt by many young people. There is significant evidence that juvenile crime rates are lower where there are good community sports facilities.

When facilities are available, they should be open for use. There is absolutely no point in leaving them unused and unoccupied. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Fife, North-East recalled that, when he was first appointed to the British Sports Council by Lord Howe back in 1965, his first meeting concerned dual community use of facilities, and the great stumbling block was who would pay the janitor's wages if he had to stay after 4 pm. Some 10 or 12 years later, my hon. and learned Friend was appointed to the Scottish Sports Council and his first meeting involved a discussion of the community use of sports facilities. Once again, the stumbling block was who would pay the janitor's wages after 4 pm. That discussion is still continuing in regional sports councils, school governors' meetings and elsewhere.

How often have hon. Members seen playing fields locked up while youngsters roam the streets, sometimes kicking a ball and dodging traffic at the same time, and sometimes becoming involved in acts of vandalism and worse? I cannot understand why school sports facilities are not used more widely, especially at weekends and in school holidays. If it takes a small amount of money to pay sports coaches to teach youngsters out of school hours, we should find it.

Some initiatives are going on. I am delighted that the Cheltenham and Gloucester college of higher education and Cheltenham Town football club—the Robins—are co-ordinating a training session in the summer holidays to try to keep some of the Cheltenham youngsters concentrating on their football rather than anything else. Finding that small amount of money may not lead to many Olympic champions, but it would help young people to develop their skills and self-confidence, and channel their energy into something positive, rather than leaving them with nothing to do.

With unemployment still relatively high and free time likely to increase, sport and leisure provision will become increasingly important. Already, almost half of Britain's citizens take part in sport or physical recreation at least once a month, and many millions more are regular spectators and follow the fortunes of their local team. Sport can promote and enhance Britain's standing in the world; it can break barriers and build bridges between communities and nations. We hope to see some of that over the next three weeks in Euro 96. The very significant contribution made to sport by Britain's Afro-Caribbean community has brought many other benefits to race relations.

As has been already been said, competition has its part to play, but it is not the sole justification for playing sport. Most people play sport for fun and fitness—be it golf, swimming, sailing or walking—but, for some, competition heightens enjoyment. Sport is not only valuable to those taking part such as athletes, coaches and officials, but hugely entertaining to people of all ages. It is impossible to estimate the entertainment value of sport to many people who cannot participate for whatever reason. Sport on television, radio, in newspapers and in magazines brings immense pleasure.

In The House Magazine on 27 May, my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Fife, North-East placed responsibility on the press and the public to be more positive. He said: The press and the public must be more positive. It does nothing for a team's or an individual player's confidence if they are denounced as failures. How many times have we read in some newspapers immediate calls for a change of manager and a British team being labelled turnips or useless on returning from some narrow defeat?

I commend local newspapers that cover sport in their areas, such as the Gloucestershire Echo, which faithfully reports local sport day after day and week after week. Its sports pages, especially the sometimes wacky Derek Goddard column, are well read in our household. The media have an enormous part to play. I well remember my dear father, who was not a well man at the time and subsequently died, enjoying from his armchair the exploits of I. T. Botham in the test series against Australia in 1981.

The idea of an academy of sport has already been mentioned in this debate. It seems entirely sensible. The experience in Australia suggests that such an academy could produce world stars. I want any such organisation to take account of existing centres of excellence such as Lilleshall, Plas-y-Brenin in Wales, Glenmore lodge and the outdoor sports centre in Inverclyde. A regional organisation is a good option—perhaps with a central administration function. While I am on the subject, would it be possible to rename the Department of National Heritage the Department of National Heritage, Arts and Sport to give sport that additional boost?

Mr. John Greenway

And tourism.

Mr. Jones

And tourism.

Sports clubs are also enormously important. In my area, they include the Young Men's Christian Association, the Old Patesians and a club that organises horse riding for disabled people. There is nothing more wonderful than seeing the look of delight in the eyes of a young person at the end of a horse ride. Such activities must be supported.

The Minister might like to consider that the Central Council of Physical Recreation is mounting a campaign to enable voluntary sports clubs to become eligible for automatic rate relief in return for youth sport development. That is a very worthwhile aim. It has done a survey and estimates that the current costs of relief to central Government would be £14 million.

I listened carefully to the Minister's speech, and he mentioned a figure of £1 million for additional spending on coaching. I wonder whether he would go to see his colleagues in the Treasury, who are always telling us that the economy is in good shape, and find out whether he can do something about rate relief to help non-profit-distributing sports clubs.

We must remove the barriers to sport. I worked for some years in Sweden, and the Swedes have a positive approach to sport. Most small communities have invested in their own facilities, and the costs to families of using them are much lower than in Britain. Sport is an investment. There is a cost, an outlay, in providing facilities and coaches to run the sports centres, but there is a payback in reduced health care costs and less crime.

I have something to say about the funding of èlite sports people—the people who will be the champions, the gold medal winners, of the future. I have permission to mention a young man from my constituency—18-year-old Leon Taylor. Leon attends Cheltenham sixth form centre, of which I am a governor, and in February he won the title of British men's high board diving champion. He trains almost every day after school, and is a bright, likeable, sensible young man.

Leon takes part in competitions all over Britain and Europe. His great ambition is to take part in the Olympic games, but although he is British champion, because of his age and his limited competition experience he was told earlier this year that in order even to be considered for Olympic selection he needed to take part in competitions in America, Canada and Mexico. There was little or no funding available.

I had a long discussion with Leon's family, who have had no holiday for seven years because of the support that they give Leon with his diving. The cost of sending Leon and his coach, Ian Barr, to north America for those competitions was to be more than £2,000. If Leon had not had the good fortune of having parents who care—they are not a rich family, but they put all their spare cash into his training—friends who cough up a bit, and one or two local bodies, such as the local trusts that have generously contributed towards his costs, and the local Round Table, which is also considering giving him a grant, he would not have been able to compete in those events. Without having done so, he would not have been eligible for selection for the Olympic games in Atlanta.

I wonder how many talented young people miss the opportunity of representing their county or their country in important competitions because of lack of money; yet in terms of overall Government expenditure, the expenses of those potential stars while they are climbing the ladder are a flea-bite.

The world-famous ice skaters, Torvill and Dean, were financially assisted by their local council when they were up-and-coming competitors, and without that support they would not have achieved what they did. In these days of capped local authorities, they probably would not have been so fortunate. The Torvills and Deans of tomorrow may never achieve their dreams, and may not give the enormous pleasure to their audiences which could span the globe.

As a nation, we must encourage people to take up sport, but we should also be prepared to back them financially if they show the promise which could lead to national and international prominence.

Hon. Members will know that contacts built up through sport can last a lifetime. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Fife, North-East told me during a recent famous trial that he once beat 0. J. Simpson in a sprint—not in a court of law but on the track. He still regards 0. J. as a friend, although they rarely meet these days. Facilities for spectators are improving all the time. The information super-highway will increase opportunities for people to follow their team apart from just going to the match. No matter where one is in the world, one can follow the progress of one's team by subscribing to the appropriate channel. I suspect that most, if not all, football league and county cricket matches will be televised in the near future. Sports grounds ought to become family entertainment centres, and some clubs are beginning to work towards that. While the football fan watches the match, other members of his family can be taking part in their own sporting interest. Parents must take part in sport, and even hon. Members play from time to time. I have been selected to play cricket in my constituency on 21 June in a match between two teams of local residents. No doubt one or two of them will give me the benefit of their point of view on the issues of the day.

Euro 96 will dominate Britain's sports pages for the next three weeks, although Wimbledon starts soon and I hope that that also receives coverage. I hope that the idiots who sometimes disrupt our football stay away, as we do not want them. They are of no use to anyone and they should find something else to do—preferably digging their gardens. I hope that Euro 96 is full of fun and enjoyment. It is an opportunity to forget for a moment the problems with beef, the arguments about a single currency and our problems with our European partners. We should just sit back and enjoy—particularly the final between England and Scotland.

Terry Venables and his squad have my best wishes, but I would like to refer to his successor, Glenn Hoddle. As a Swindon Town supporter, I have experience of Glenn Hoddle's management skills in partnership with his assistant John Gorman. They performed miracles at Swindon, taking a demoralised team from the lower reaches of division 1 into the premiership. Sadly, Glenn Hoddle then left, and we found ourselves quickly back in division 2. This season, however, we have gained promotion back to division 1 under the new, and rather tougher, leadership of Steve McMahon. Glenn Hoddle and John Gorman will need time to bring the wonders that they showed at Swindon to the national team, but they have the right approach. They are both young enough and, given sufficient time, I can see them possibly producing a team capable of winning the World cup in the future.

Sport is fun and produces enormous camaraderie, but it is also important. When asked whether he thought football was a matter of life and death, the late great Bill Shankly is reported to have said, "No, it is far more important than that."

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Geoffrey Lofthouse)

Before I call the next speaker, I should point out that there are two hours remaining in the debate for Back Benchers. Eight Back-Bench Members are hoping to catch my eye and, with some co-operation, they all should be successful.

12.22 pm
Dr. Charles Goodson—Wickes (Wimbledon)

Hon. Members will be aware that long-standing engagements in the House may make it impossible for me to be here for the winding-up speeches, for which I apologise to the House.

One of the great advantages of representing Wimbledon is that wherever one goes in the world, people have heard of it and there is an instant basis for conversation. One of the disadvantages—particularly at this time of year—is that colleagues from all parties in the House approach me in the belief that my pockets are bulging with tickets for the centre court. I regret to disillusion them, but that is not the case.

I have no doubt that some future Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards will embarrass me—and not, incidentally, my host—by asking the value of two tickets to the royal box, plus lunch for me and my wife. I am sorry that the hon. Member for Stalybridge and Hyde (Mr. Pendry) is not here at the moment. He and I have both been in the royal box and I hope that, for many years, he will continue to accompany me there as the Opposition spokesman. If we have problems with the commissioner, I hope that he and I will put our heads together and decide whether we must declare that interest.

Other than the All England club, Wimbledon featured in national sport when Wimbledon football club climbed up the divisions, and against all expectations, won the FA cup. I hesitate to remind my hon. Friend the Member for Welwyn Hatfield (Mr. Evans) of that, because Luton did its utmost to prevent Wimbledon's progress—knowing the man he is, he took it gallantly. I am sure that he took some pleasure in seeing Wimbledon ultimately beat Liverpool.

Wimbledon football club is, sadly, currently playing outside the borough, which is absolutely ridiculous, and quite as ridiculous as Crystal Palace playing at Wimbledon. I hope that the current exploratory talks will yet produce a satisfactory outcome for the club's return to the borough, given the enlightened attitude of the management of the club, Merton council and, possibly, the owners of Wimbledon stadium. The proposal is in the melting pot at the moment, but I shall need to be reassured that my residents will not be put to great inconvenience if such a move comes about.

Wimbledon is extremely fortunate in having a relatively large area of open spaces for a London borough. It is one of my major public aims to keep it that way in the face of the predatory desires of property developers. Time after time, threats have been fought off. The extension of the designation of metropolitan open land has been helpful.

At the moment, the future disposal of land surrounding Atkinson Morley hospital, which is used for recreational and sporting purposes, is causing much concern. I shall be working with the Wimbledon Society and local residents to oppose any development beyond the current building limits. I am well aware that health authorities have an obligation to get the maximum price for the site, but I believe that it is a sensitive matter. In this day and age, we must achieve a proper balance between obtaining that maximum price and retaining sporting and recreational facilities for our constituents.

In that connection, I commend the London Playing Fields Society, which is an admirable body, although short of funds, and runs important sites used by my constituents. It owns the Prince George's playing fields, which cover 46 acres. The society has a long lease on Morden park sports centre, which covers 53 acres. The objective of the society, which was founded more than 100 years ago, and has Field Marshal Lord Bramall as its president, is to enable all members of the community to have the opportunity to play games and to fulfil their sporting potential with enjoyment. I am glad to tell the House that many tens of thousands of my constituents and others have been able to do just that because of the society's amenities.

One would think that Merton council, which I remind the House is Labour controlled, would have been broad-minded enough to give discretionary relief on rates on the Prince George's fields. It should have followed the example set by Waltham Forest and Hounslow, which also own or manage land run by the society. I am sorry to report that Merton council has been singularly unenlightened in that respect, as it has been in processing the planning application for Morden park, which would provide a new clubhouse pavilion, floodlit all-weather pitches and new playing surfaces throughout the centre. One would have thought that the local council, which is the landlord and the planning authority, could have given such an application a fair wind, but, once again, I fear that Merton council is playing to the gallery. It says that it supports sport, but when it comes to the crunch, it does nothing about it. After all, there cannot be many leaseholders in Merton willing to inject £2 million capital into improvements to council property.

The better news is that the Peter May memorial appeal, of which I am proud to be a vice-patron, is to be launched this summer. It would be premature to say much about it now, but it involves the expenditure of £7.5 million, which will help the Morden park application to which I referred. It will also provide funds to upgrade the changing facilities and pitches at the Prince George's playing fields.

The appeal has the backing of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, whose endorsement of and commitment to sport for all is well known. I hope that there will be a successful outcome of the appeal in memory of such a famous, distinguished cricketer.

Merton's open spaces are of great assistance in allowing the local education authority to achieve reasonable compliance with physical education requirements in schools. I have a national concern, however, which I want to bring before the House. I gather from the director of Army recruiting that the standard of fitness of young men attending recruit selection committees is appalling, and deteriorating.

The House might think it rather odd that I am invoking an Army issue in the debate. I do so in the context that nowadays very few people entering a workplace go through a pre-employment medical. That being so, there is not a substantial cohort of people to set against the Army's experience. Those who apply to join the armed services are probably the best scientific evidence that we have of the fitness of young people.

Earlier this week, I had a meeting at the Adjutant-General's headquarters. I learnt that during the current year 1995–96, of 20,750 applicants to join the Army, only 12,000 were accepted. That is a pass rate of 58 per cent.

The figures can be approached in more than one way. From the Army's point of view, they represent a success because they are a tribute to its efficiency in weeding out those who would not be able to fulfil a future role. Therefore, the Army is doing a good job. On the other side of the coin, the figures tell us that 42 per cent. of applicants are failing. Of that 42 per cent., 25 per cent. are medically unfit. I shall put that percentage to one side, because there are many factors to be taken into account in areas other than those that we are discussing today.

Of the 42 per cent. of applicants who do not meet the Army's requirements, 17 per cent. are physically unfit. We are talking about well-motivated, self-selecting young men who want to join the Army. We are not talking about the days of national service, when young men would do anything to come up with a trivial complaint that would rule them out as being physically unfit. The fact that 17 per cent. of applicants fail through physical unfitness, having been subjected to a basic fitness test, is a most dreadful indictment.

The percentage is misleading because a young man can attend a recruitment centre and be found to be unable to fulfil basic requirements, and then be sent off with the advice, "Go and get yourself fit. Put yourself on a diet and do some weight training or whatever. Come back in a month's time." In other words, 17 per cent. is an artificially low figure.

As a physician who has spent many years advising people on their life style in relation to their occupation, which includes, obviously, maintaining a sensible level of physical fitness, I was horrified by the figures to which I have referred. They provide the best possible index of the standard that we are turning out of our schools.

I am delighted to learn that the Army is engaging the services of an occupational physician, to test the anecdotal impression that the fitness of young people has deteriorated over the past 10 and even five years. The main causes of Army failures are muscular skeletal in origin. Surely that must have a relationship, and probably a causal one, with inadequate sport in schools.

I urge my hon. Friend the Minister to liaise with his counterpart in the Ministry of Defence to monitor the results of the investigation that the Army has now started, I believe, to analyse an alarming state of affairs. There seems to be no doubt, however, according to the Adjutant-General's staff, that no less than 75 per cent. of schools fail to meet the desired two hours of physical education per week standard. If they are correct, that is most alarming in itself and in relation to the existing health and well-being of young people, which is extended into their later life because, basically, if they have a healthy life style when young, they are more likely to be free of life-threatening illnesses later.

I welcome the initiatives announced today by my hon. Friend the Minister to promote sport in schools. The House and the nation neglect that subject at their peril. I congratulate him on all that he is doing to raise awareness in that sector.

12.34 pm
Mr. Alan Keen (Feltham and Heston)

I was extremely happy earlier, sitting between two supporters of Sheffield Wednesday, which my team Middlesbrough beat twice last season, both games being shown live on television. The right hon. and learned Member for Putney (Mr. Mellor) was too much of a gentleman to say who his team beat, but he did mention that Chelsea scored five goals only once last season. I can hear my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks) laughing, as I tried to avoid him at half-time, but was unable to do so. I feel happy that those two Sheffield Wednesday supporters have left, as I do not feel so guilty now.

In relation to sport for all, one of my themes, it is worth mentioning the Oval on Wednesday—not Surrey, but the Lords versus Commons match, where a full range of talent was on display, from none to at least halfway up. Ages certainly ranged from the highest to almost youth. My hon. Friend the Member for Wallasey (Ms Eagle) contributed not just near youth, but a woman playing the great game of cricket.

That was a great day. I do not know whether it was a bad omen for old Labour, but Lord Desai and Lord Donoughue came in with 10 overs to go and 50 runs to get and took the usual delaying tactics of the place. They scored no runs in the last 10 overs, but lasted until the end, so it was ancient Labour striking back against the Commons.

I support my party's charter for football in principle because it does not take the attitude that so many articles that I have read and so many television pundits take. They start off by saying, "How are we going to make England, Scotland or the United Kingdom world champions?" Our charter starts at the other end. The aim is not to make British world champions, but to involve all youngsters in sport.

I am not opposed to the British academy of sport—in fact, I support it—but we are not going to get world champions by sending half a dozen people at a young age to Bisham Abbey or somewhere else and by cutting them off from society, especially if they make up only 5 per cent. of people who participate in sport. We shall win gold medals and make our nations world champions only if we ensure that all children and young people have a chance to participate in sport.

This has nothing to do with the wonderful athletes whom the Gateshead club turns out, but I remember Brendan Foster saying, when he was at his peak, that he was not the best middle-distance runner in Gateshead. His point was that few youngsters had the opportunity to become involved in athletics, so although Brendan was the world record holder at that time, had everyone in Gateshead had his opportunity, he might have been in second place. We must remember that.

Sport is like music and drama. We need to give young people encouragement and education. Sometimes, inspiration can come from a good teacher and coach or, many times, from the example of a sporting hero. To reach the levels that we want children and young people to reach, we need the facilities, equipment, sport halls and playing fields. Youngsters need the choice and, to have a firm foundation, they need a community around them. We must consider that we have lost the community that was built around single industries in towns. We must consider where such communities can come from, around which we can build the environment that youngsters need.

I spent my childhood in a small town named Grangetown, between Middlesbrough and Redcar, where all the children did was play sport. In the summer, we played tennis from early morning until we could no longer run about, then we played bowls. In the winter, we played football all the time. We built our lives around sport and had no energy left for anything else. Grangetown was shown on BBC breakfast news one morning in early 1993. The film almost brought me to tears. I even recognised the street where I lived, but where the youngsters were now setting fire to cars and houses. I wonder whether the lack of opportunity for children to play sport is a crucial cause of the breakdown of community spirit.

Perhaps we should look to the premier league clubs for opportunities for young people. Other hon. Members have complained that the fantastic amount of money that those clubs will receive in future will not be passed down. The Bosman ruling is stopping transfer fees going from large clubs down through the leagues. Perhaps we can build around the premier league and other clubs. We must avoid the drawbridge being pulled up by the premiership, especially when club directors see the money that is available.

There is a growing trend for premier league clubs to become public limited companies, when the duties of the directors change from the community to the shareholders. We are in danger of a tremendous amount of money being lost to the game. At present that money is going not to the directors but to players, in wages and signing fees. We must worry about that money going straight out of the clubs to investors, which has not happened before.

We all agree on the damage done through lack of investment in research and development and in manufacturing industry, and we cannot afford to let the same happen to sport. I was astonished to hear on television this morning the amount of money that the premier league is to receive. I am delighted, but we must try to keep that money within the game. I hope that the massive income from television deals will enable clubs to attract more world-class players from all over the globe. I hope that that wealth will not stay in Europe. The public pay excessively high entrance fees and buy expensive team shirts from premier league clubs.

I trust that some of that wealth will go not only to top players but to the countries from which they come in growing numbers, such as Brazil and Africa. I hope that some of the money will go to children in countries around the world, so that they will have the facilities to participate in sport, which will give them something to live for. I hope that the children will not merely be television spectators through the railings of the stately homes of the Bundesliega and premier league in Britain.

I am sure that my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, North-West will be pleased to hear me say that we must look at the alternatives to building on green-field sites. When a wonderful new stadium is built on such a site, it gets headlines, but that is not necessarily good news. The last act of Cleveland county council was to criticise the inadequate car parking facilities at the new Riverside stadium in Middlesbrough. What it forgot was that it was closer to the town centre than Ayresome park. People could park their cars in the multi-storey car park and walk to the game. We want to be sure that people can come into the town from outlying places, using public transport.

We should not build any more grounds on green-field sites. Thank goodness there are not that many areas with derelict industrial land, but where there is, we should consider those areas carefully. If we do build new grounds on out-of-town sites, it should be where there are already multi-screen cinemas and superstores. If facilities are concentrated in one area, we might be able to persuade public transport to service them.

We must listen to the supporters of the game of football. Indeed, there are signs of that happening on both sides of the House. Perhaps we should pay attention to the fanzines. We read them for their humour. They often attack football directors, but they do so with great humour. They have an insight into the psychology of football fans. It would be a good idea to get hold of a selection of fanzines and read them not just for their humour, but for the other information that we can get from them.

While driving here this morning, I was disturbed by the number of people ringing in to the radio programme to complain bitterly about the state of the stations around Wembley. They felt very guilty and ashamed that visitors from abroad would have to travel through those stations. More preparation should have been done and the place spruced up a little. Some hon. Members have referred to the entertainments planned for some of the cities, but perhaps we should have been better prepared in other areas.

I support what the Minister said about a school's prospectus having to state its sporting aims. It is one way to get into people's minds a subject that has mostly been forgotten.

Although I have had a little dig at the academy of sport, I actually support it. Close to the most deprived area in Feltham is a stadium that, at first glance, looks excellent. However, in reality the running track is unusable and Hounslow athletic club—one of the top clubs in the country—can no longer train there. The all-weather football pitch needs repair. I am not saying that we must put those facilities before the academy of sport, but we need to find some balance to ensure that there are facilities for all, rather than just taking the most promising people and giving them specialist training and coaching.

I was pleased to hear the Minister pay tribute to local authorities. Some people criticise them, others praise them. My local authority in Hounslow has been under tremendous pressure in recent years and has had to make cuts of £6 million each year as the revenue support grant has, in effect, been cut back. It has resisted the temptation to chop leisure services, which might have been the easiest course to take. It has had to pare away at social services and other areas. It understands that investing in sport is investing for the medium and the long term. It is vital to keep the services intact. The council deserves praise and support for that, rather than criticism. It would have been so easy to say, "Right, we shall sell off the leisure centres." If it had done that, all the children in that area who cannot afford private clubs would not even have been able to go to the swimming baths.

I conclude by saying—with humour—that I was excited at one point in the Minister's speech, when he spoke at length about jumping on and off benches in PE. At first, I thought that he was talking about a new sport that he will propose for the next Olympics. I have been told many times that fishing is the most popular participatory sport, but I think that bench jumping might just beat it. Some of those who are not too far from where I stand seem to be quite expert at it—they have certainly been jumping on and off the Treasury Bench.

12.59 pm
Mr. David Evans (Welwyn Hatfield)

I welcome the opportunity to speak in this very important debate on sport. I believe that the mood of the country is reflected in our achievements on the sports field. Examples include the nation's pride when we won the world cup in 1966, which was a long time ago; in 1936, when Fred Perry—the last Brit to do so—won the Wimbledon tennis championship; and in 1976, when Virginia Wade won the ladies' title.

It seems a million years ago since our cricket team won a series against the West Indies or the Australians. Yes, we have won world titles—with Nigel Mansell and Linford Christie—and I think that we all wanted to believe that Frank Bruno was world boxing champion, although one wonders what sort of authority is running the professional boxing business. The public were asked to watch a series of fights pitting Bruno against joke boxers, only to allow him to embarrass himself in a real fight with Mike Tyson. Who was to blame? Bruno is not to blame; I suggest that it was greed.

The best golfer in the world is English, and I am proud to say that he is from my constituency. Who could ever forget our retaining the Ryder cup last year, or his winning his third green jacket as he overhauled Greg Norman in the Masters a few weeks ago? Why is he the best? Not because he is the most gifted player, but because of his dedication, discipline and determination to win. Practice makes perfect, and he will not accept second best in any preparations before a tournament, or during it. He is an example of excellence, and we in Welwyn Hatfield are proud of him.

The Government have shown a great interest in sport in terms of providing money and new ideas. Sport in schools is paramount to our future, but sport and its progress is not entirely down to the Government or to schools. Other authorities have the real responsibility. I suppose that that brings me to ask what has gone wrong with three of our most popular sports: cricket, tennis and football. It is impossible to cover all the shortcomings in other sports in a short debate but, sooner or later, the problems will have to be faced.

There was a time when we produced great cricketers as if they were coming off an assembly line: Grace, Barnes, Larwood, Hobbs, Sutcliffe, Verity, Hammond, Hutton, Compton, Edrich, May, Trueman, Laker, Bedser, Tyson, Cowdrey, Botham and Gower. So what happened? Where are the great players today? There is none. Why? There are many reasons, but the first concerns the competition, which has not moved with the times. There should be three divisions, promotion and relegation.

It seems unreal that, in the past 70 years, only two counties—Glamorgan and Durham—have joined the current league championship. The authority—the Test and County Cricket Board, although it was the Marylebone Cricket Club until fairly recently—has a vested interest in keeping the competition in-house, because the bulk of county revenue comes from test matches and sponsorship. The so-called first-class counties keep 90 per cent. of their revenue for themselves, and only 10 per cent. goes to the minor counties and minor leagues. It is little wonder that there is little or no desire to encourage more counties into the first-class game. Indeed, the reverse is the case.

About 30 years ago, it was decided that too many county games were drawn, so the authority decided to prepare wickets to produce a result in three days, which was the maximum duration of a match. The result was a wicket on which a fast bowler did not have to bowl fast. The idea was that he should wait for the third day, bowl medium pace on a length and let the wicket do the rest. It was not necessary to learn how to swing a ball or get movement off the wicket. A badly produced wicket did it all for the bowler. The batsmen could not hit through the ball, the ball would not come on to the bat or through at a regular height, and shot-making became impossible. At the same time, other countries were learning on perfect, hard surfaces. Their batsmen and bowlers had to learn their trade—and they did.

The crowds disappeared from county grounds. People go to cricket to watch batsmen hitting the ball all over the ground—which they cannot do on bad wickets. A few years ago, the penny dropped, and there is now a desperate bid to produce good surfaces, but it is too late for an immediate improvement. It will take 20 years for us to rediscover our form on decent wickets.

Another unfortunate development involving our test team in the past few years is the lack of discipline. Players playing for their country are not prepared to play with clean pads or clean boots. They wear watches and sunglasses on the field of play, not to tell the time or keep out of the sun, but to line their pockets with money from sponsors. Captains have press meetings in flip-flops; they appear unshaven and without a jacket.

The fiasco surrounding successive management regimes of the test team continues unabated. There should be a chairman of selection and six selectors to pick the team, and the captain should have full authority. A cricket team does not need a manager in a home series; touring sides should have a tour manager and an assistant to look after the administration and well-being of the team. Members of the administration are all ex-players or the gin-and-tonic brigade. They are all out of touch and flapping around not knowing how to arrest the decline in our cricket. I hope that my comments will give them something to think about.

What about tennis, where we are probably in the most ludicrous situation of all? We do not have one lady player in the top 100 in the world and we have only one man—Tim Henman—in the top 100 men. I do not include the Canadian player we bought to play for us because we have been relegated to a Davis cup-status of a non-event. The last time a British male player won Wimbledon was 60 years ago and, in the women's game, our last winner was 20 years ago. Why?

It all starts at club level. Only recently, a well-known club in Hertfordshire interviewed the parents before allowing a young player to join the club. Another club will not play any under-18-year-olds in the ladies' team, and yet another will not let an under-16 play at weekends. That is not uncommon.

Clubs and county associations are affiliated to the Lawn Tennis Association. The LTA has the game in its grip, and the game cannot escape. The LTA gets its money from the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club in a nice cosy arrangement that has lasted for 100 years. "You play your tournament at our club," says the All England club "and, after expenses, we'll give you what is left over." That arrangement means that, however much money the All England club makes in the Wimbledon fortnight—approximately £20 million after expenses—it all goes to the sole benefactor, the LTA.

The LTA has been totally disastrous at producing facilities and opportunities for our budding youngsters, which is proved by our appalling record in the Davis cup and our complete lack of champions in the men's and ladies' game. How do we change that?

First, the All England club has to let private or public companies bid through presentations for its money on, say, a three-year contract to develop alternatives. Young players would then accept that, although a club was not signed up to the LTA, it would be possible for them to compete not only in all local competitions, but for their county and their country. At the moment, without LTA affiliation, that is not possible.

The LTA runs all competitions. Why? When a private organisation wins a contract from the All England club, the LTA must not be able to undermine it by being given all the best tickets, the royal box and the marquees during the Wimbledon fortnight. Sponsors must not be wooed away by the LTA, which has the perks at its disposal to do so, in liaison with the All England club.

The LTA should have to compete. It could not, because it is run and dominated by losers—people who have never won anything on or off the field, not just recently, but in living memory. The LTA terrifies parents and intimidates players, both young and not so young, with its dreadful sub-standard coaches who, in many instances, have never competed at the top. The LTA is a curse on the game and will continue to be so unless the All England club is brave enough to say, "Enough is enough."

With Euro 96 approaching, football is in turmoil, even though attendances continue to increase, which is probably the only good thing we can say. Yes, we did win the World cup in 1966, but we have won nothing since. Yes, millions of pounds are being poured into the game from television, but that money is being spent irresponsibly on transfer fees and players' salaries while very little is spent on improving stadiums.

I hope that the premier league clubs will look at the rest of the league when they get the £8 million. I doubt that they will. Stevenage, which is not in my constituency, won the Vauxhall Conference league, but it is being barred from the football league because the Football Association, with its closed-shop attitude, is protecting Torquay United in a bid to keep the league a closed shop. That is scandalous.

Developments, especially those at the bigger clubs, are financed mainly by the Football Trust. In the rat race to win, the league is fragmented, as we all know. That is true even of the premier league, where only six clubs have a realistic chance of winning the title or of winning one of the other domestic trophies. Such is the skill factor of our game that there is no chance of our winning any competition in Europe.

Hooliganism is still rife. In the season just gone, a match at Brighton was abandoned. The season was littered with incidents. Cantona, the footballer of the year, leapt into the crowd and kung fu-kicked a spectator, yet he is on £30,000 a year—

Mr. Peter Luff (Worcester)

A week.

Mr. Evans

He is on £30,000 a week, and he is a Frenchman at that. He should have been banned from our game, but he was not. He was forgiven, and we then wonder why fans break goalposts at Brighton.

The FA is a bunch of amateurs running a professional game. The chief executive, who has presided over the demise of discipline required on and off the field, has clearly been incompetent for a long time. I could spend the rest of the day giving examples of hooliganism over the past 10 years. The most vivid example, which says it all, involves the behaviour of the FA, particularly its chief executive and chairman, the manager of the English football team and, indeed, the players. I refer to the inexplicable decision to go to China and back as preparation for the most important tournament in this country for 30 years.

Football is a violent game. It is more accurately described as a collision than as a contact sport. Nobody expects the gladiators who play at the highest level to be statesmen or saints, or even the mythical Corinthians of the legendary old school for whom playing up and playing the game was more important than winning. That is not what they are paid millions for, but the latest bad behaviour by the supposedly grown men of the England squad confirms the depressing image of English football after its age of innocence. That impression is not so much one of lions led by donkeys as of hippopotami managed by hypocrites.

The extravagantly boozy, shirt-stripping 29th birthday party for Paul Gascoigne in a Hong Kong nightclub was worse than outrageous. It was idiotic, because it was in public, so it was photographed and sold to the newspapers, thus signalling a humiliating message to the millions for whom Gazza and his team mates are heroes. It does not inspire confidence in England's discipline or fitness on the field a fortnight later in the most important football championship to be held in Britain for 30 years.

The drunken damage caused to the aircraft bringing the team home was criminal and dangerous, as well as appalling publicity for the England game, but the timorous reaction by England's football authorities was far worse. This week's statements were made too reluctantly, too late and were too secretive in their bad-boy network.

The refusal by Terry Venables to name the four players chiefly responsible for damaging the aeroplane was an example not of collective team responsibility but of managerial cowardice. Who can doubt that the affair would have been trodden into the mud had Cathay Pacific not claimed £5,000 in compensation for the damage to its 747? If the offenders had been yobbish fans rather than yobbish megastars, they would have been taken to police cells at Heathrow without their studs touching the turf, but as the ball bounced, Terry Venables acted late—and with apparent reluctance—by ruling out in advance the expulsion of anyone from the squad.

A publicity agent's description of the team's behaviour as "mild high jinks" was an insult to youthful high spirits as well as a monstrous euphemism in a sport where euphemism is usually offside. Any player who misbehaved so wildly when Sir Alf Ramsey was manager would have been sent straight home. In those days, nobody would have dared or wanted to misbehave when wearing a England blazer.

Gazza and the rest should not have had a chance of starting on Saturday to redeem their professional reputations in the historic national arenas if the squad was collectively responsible for its behaviour in Hong Kong and on the Cathay Pacific aeroplane. The manager should have resigned and the squad should have been dismissed. Unless the authority was prepared to allow another squad to be named, we should have withdrawn from the tournament. There is no chance of winning such a tournament. At that level it is simply impossible without discipline.

If the squad had been dismissed as I have just suggested, those who wore the England shirt in future would be aware of their responsibilities and they would wear it with pride. Let us hope that, when Glenn Hoddle takes over as manager, new standards will be set and that, thereafter, English players will behave in a way that is conducive to pride and integrity, that he himself will dress and behave in a manner that befits the manager of our national team—with the top button of his shirt done up so as not to give the impression of a Sunday morning, jack-the-lad manager—and perhaps the young men who make up the England team will rediscover the important old English virtues of discipline, modesty and common sense.

As I said at the beginning of my speech, a nation's mood is set by its sporting heroes and achievements. Let us hope that this summer will be a triumph in sporting success in cricket, tennis and football—but I doubt it.

1.9 pm

Ms Diane Abbott (Hackney, North and Stoke Newington)

I listened with great interest to the hon. Member for Welwyn Hatfield (Mr. Evans). If I were a member of the England squad, I might argue that Members of Parliament were no people to lecture footballers on drunkenness, yobbishness and bad behaviour.

The eve of Euro 96 is an appropriate time for this debate. I am glad to have the opportunity to speak in what has until now been something of a "Boy's Own" debate to raise issues of wider significance. It is impossible to exaggerate sport's significance in inner-city areas such as Hackney. My hon. Friend the Member for Feltham and Heston (Mr. Keen) said how important sport was to him as a schoolboy in a very poor town in the north.

As we approach the millennium, sportsmen are the only authentic heroes for young people in inner cities such as those whom I represent in Hackney. The days when people saw politicians, soldiers, explorers and even business men as heroes are long gone. Sportsmen are the heroes for the young boys and girls in my constituency's schools and it is one of the reasons why sport is so important and of a wider significance to society.

For young people in inner-city areas such as Hackney, especially young males who seem to be systematically underachieving educationally, sport offers an arena where achievement and the ability to excel seem possible. Sadly, despite the bravado, bluster and even violence, such young men—black and white—often have deep feelings of inferiority in education and even their ability to hold a job. Sport for them is an arena in which they can imagine themselves achieving. That is such a positive factor to build on in education and society. Sport helps people in inner cities to build a sense of community and offers wider horizons, which, in terms of turning them into citizens and helping to build a society, is very significant.

A few days ago my hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw) was talking about his ideas on curfews for young children. While I agree that it is sad and inappropriate for young children under the age of 10 to be on the streets until all hours, I do not believe that curfews are the answer. A proper policy on sport in schools to provide sporting facilities for young people is the positive and constructive way in which to ensure that children under the age of 10 are occupied and not hanging around on the streets where, as we know, the devil finds work for idle hands.

I particularly wish to mark the contribution of black and—to use the word much favoured by the hon. Member for Welwyn Hatfield—immigrant sports people. Whenever race and immigration issues are raised in the House, they tend to be in a negative context such as immigration controls, refugees and crime. I want to speak about the excellence, dedication and hard work that so many black people and people of immigrant descent display in the sporting arena which makes them heroes for black and white young people.

We will all have marvelled in the past few weeks at the truly stupendous performance of Linford Christie on the athletics field. At a point in his career when many people might be thinking of leaving athletics, Linford Christie is still a world beater. For most young people, certainly in my part of London, he is much more of a hero than any hon. Member.

Mr. David Evans

Is the hon. Lady aware that my hon. Friend the Member for Falmouth and Camborne (Mr. Coe) is the president of the Haringey athletics club?

Ms Abbott

I am well aware not only of the hon. Gentleman's contribution to sport but of his very strong personal stand on racial discrimination. None the less, since we have had so many negative debates in recent months about immigration, refugees and race, I thought that it was important to take the opportunity to mark the achievements of British citizens such as Linford Christie who are excelling and doing this country proud.

I want to say a little about racism in sport, and I shall start with football.

I was interested to read a recent newspaper article by Cyrille Regis, one of the first black players to play for England in the early 1980s, in which he said how much hate mail he received when he first put on the England strip. He remembers getting a letter with a bullet in, saying that the minute he went on to the pitch at Wembley, the bullet would find him.

Cyrille Regis continued: But, sadly, racism is still there and I don't know if it can ever be eradicated … We've got plenty of black players now but hardly any black fans and that's terrible. In black people's minds they're still frightened to go to matches because they know that there will be people there who are racists and they might get beaten up". It is remarkable that although about one quarter of our professional footballers are black, a tiny proportion of regular attenders at football matches are black. I am afraid that that shows the continuing prevalence of racism among sporting crowds.

Another sad fact, despite the number of black footballers who excel on the field, is the very small number of black people who get into football management. I can think of Viv Anderson, who was brought in by Bryan Robson as an assistant at Middlesbrough, and more recently, Luther Blissett has been made Watford's first team coach.

If black footballers are good enough to go out there and play and work their hearts out, if they have the talent and ability to play on the field, I wonder why they are not coming through into management.

Mr. Tony Banks

There is another exception to add to my hon. Friend's excellent and thoughtful speech. That is, of course, Ruud Gullit, who has just been appointed manager and coach of Chelsea. But he is Dutch.

Ms Abbott


Mr. Ashton

May I also point out to my hon. Friend the fact that Brendon Batson is the deputy at the Professional Footballers Association?

Ms Abbott

I am grateful to my hon. Friends, whose knowledge of football far exceeds mine, but I hope that they will accept that the general point stands: we have many black footballers on the field, but they are not coming through into management.

I also want to say a word on behalf of Britain's Asian communities. There are at least 1.8 million Asians in this country, 60 per cent. of Bengalis play soccer, compared with 47 per cent. of whites, and there are 300 Asian teams in Britain, with a nationwide network of Asian leagues. Yet to the best of my knowledge there is not one Asian professional footballer.

I know from my own constituency, where the North London Muslim Association has a very successful soccer team, how enthusiastic young Asians are about soccer, so I hope that it will not be too long before we start seeing Asian footballers taking their place on the pitch with those of other races and colours.

If we are talking about sport for all, and the importance of excelling, that can be genuine only if we pick our sportsmen from society as a whole, and if no group in society is excluded, for reasons beyond its control, from being able to show what it can do in representing its town and its country on the sports field.

Before I leave soccer I shall remark on a matter that has already been raised—the loophole in the Football (Offences) Act 1991, whereby if a whole group of people chant racist abuse, they can be prosecuted, but if a single person is calling out racist abuse, that person cannot be prosecuted. I hope that it will not be too long before the Act is tightened.

I do not know how black professional footballers tolerate week in and week out the hideous abuse, the bananas and the catcalls that many have to face when they go on to the pitch. I believe that there is less of that now than there was years ago, because there are so many more black professionals playing for different clubs. But it is still a sad thing, especially in a sport where so many young people go as spectators. It cannot be the right example for young children to go to football matches and hear their elders and "betters" chanting abuse at black footballers. I hope that the 1991 Act will be tightened to prevent that.

This is not an issue for Britain alone. Hon. Members will have read about the experiences of Paul Ince in Italy, playing for Milan, and the vicious and fascist abuse, banners and catcalls. It is one thing to make heroes of individual black sportsmen, but if we take their achievements seriously, those of us who are interested in sport, and those of us who serve in a voluntary or political capacity, must ensure that sport is a safe and constructive environment for people at every level, whether they are sportsmen or spectators, both in this country and internationally.

When people talk about black sportsmen, whether they are footballers or athletes, there is sometimes a temptation to say, or even to hint, "Well, of course, they are good because there is some innate physiological difference."

Sir Roger Bannister was quoted recently on the subject of black athletes. He said: It is obvious that there must be something special about their anatomy or physiology which produces these outstanding successes". I am sure that Sir Roger Bannister did not mean any harm by that, but black sportsmen resent the notion that there is some anatomical difference. At the turn of the century, many of the top boxers in this country were of Jewish origin, and we had a world champion in Kid Berg. There was no physiological reason why young Jews in between the wars excelled in boxing—it was because they wanted to succeed and because they worked hard to be better. Black sportsmen want some respect for their capacity to work and to achieve success, and they do not want their achievements written off as some kind of physiological or anatomical quirk.

We have read in the newspapers recently about the dispute between Devon Malcolm and Ray Illingworth. That clearly is a clash of personalities and, as a member of the parliamentary Labour party, I know what it is to be on the rough end of the tongue of a blunt-speaking northerner. None the less, it is a shame that a cricketer as dignified, modest and hard-working as Devon Malcolm should feel for a minute that he is being picked out for abuse and treated in a derogatory way because of his ethnic origin. I hope that that matter will be cleared up.

It is an honour to play for England—whether at cricket, football or any other sport—and people take it seriously, whatever their colour. The idea that anyone should be treated in a certain way because of their ethnic origin is very sad. I hope that the dispute between Devon Malcolm and Ray Illingworth does not continue, and that any black man playing cricket for England will feel that he is being treated in exactly the same way—for good or ill—as his white colleagues.

My final point falls outside the remit of the Minister—sports broadcasting. It is all very well to talk about the money that is going into sport from this deal and that deal, but it would be a great shame if the young working-class boys and girls about whom I talked were denied the widest possible access to sport because of short-term profits made through deals with satellite or other broadcasters. In the end, sport is not the property of the premier league or of the management of satellite broadcasters—it is the property of the people. This House should stand up for a broadcasting regulatory regime that ensures that as many people as possible have access to our great national sports.

I am grateful to have had the opportunity to speak in the debate, and I hope that I have brought a different perspective to it. It is important to mark the achievements of our black sportsmen, who sometimes feel that they do not receive the credit they should. As a Member of Parliament, I can raise issues that individual black sportsmen and women cannot raise, but I can assure the House that these issues are deeply felt. I hope that in forming sports policy, the House will bear them in mind.

1.22 pm
Mr. John Whittingdale (Colchester, South and Maldon)

I am faintly astonished to find myself participating in a debate on sport. I do not claim to be an avid follower although, like many of my constituents, I had a brief frisson of excitement when Colchester United made it to the play-offs for promotion to the second division. Sadly, its hopes were dashed by Plymouth.

I am an even less enthusiastic participant in sport. I am sorry that my hon. Friend the Minister is temporarily absent, as he is one of the few in the House who will understand when I say that, at school, I was forced to play a weekly game of fives, as well as a peculiarly brutal game known as Winchester college football, which normally resulted in substantial injuries to the participants. I was also required to fill in a daily record of the amount of exercise that I had taken. A consequence was that I became an expert in forgery and other means of avoiding recording physical effort. But I accept, in retrospect, that it was a sensible way of trying to ensure that pupils undertake daily sport. I am sure that it was as a result of my hon. Friend's similar experience of that regime that he has now attached such importance to trying to get pupils to participate in sport. That is something which I strongly support.

One of the biggest changes that we have seen in sport in the past few years is the amount of money available to it. Almost every sport would be able to make the case as to why it should receive more money, but we should recognise that the funding of sport has been transformed for two principal reasons. The first is the advent of the national lottery. Almost everyone now accepts that the lottery has been a great success—£1.7 billion has been raised for good causes, £200 million of which has gone into sport. It is particularly welcome that the majority of that money has gone into small local sporting bodies, and allowed them to undertake projects which, often, they would otherwise have found to be impossible. In the past few weeks, I have had an excellent example of that in my constituency with the grant of almost £16,000 to Great Totham cricket club. That will allow it to build a new pavilion, which will be ready at the start of next season. That is extremely good news and exactly the type of project that the lottery should be used to finance.

The other principal cause of the extra money going into sport is, as the hon. Member for Hackney, North and Stoke Newington (Ms Abbott) said, the sale of rights for the broadcasting of sporting events on television. That is an issue which, even now, we are debating in Committee on the Broadcasting Bill. It is important that we place on record in today's debate the benefits that sporting bodies have enjoyed as a result of the money they have received from the sale of transmission rights. That has largely happened as a result of the advent of subscription sports channels, and in particular BSkyB.

A recent letter to The Times was signed by the chief executive of the Rugby Football League, the secretary of the Royal and Ancient golf club, the secretary of the Rugby Football Union, the chief executive of the Football Association, the executive director of the Lawn Tennis Association and the chief executive of the Test and County Cricket Board. They represent almost all the major sporting bodies and they wrote: In the past five years the cosy terrestrial duopoly has been broken and a true market established for sporting rights. The financial benefits flowing from this have enabled us to provide better stadia and better training facilities, more help for the stars of tomorrow and, crucially, a better prospect of higher standards of achievement on the field. I understand the concern of those who believe that the major sporting events should continue to be available free to air on the terrestrial channels. The right way to address that issue is by seeking a voluntary agreement and a code of conduct. I welcome the efforts that have already been made to achieve that. The Government have decided to go further and to reinforce the code through the existing list of national events that cannot be shown exclusively live on subscription channels. I have to say that I feel somewhat uncomfortable at any statutory measure, first on a matter of principle, because I believe that sporting bodies should be free to sell their rights when and how they wish. I also feel some misgivings on the matter of practice, because the existence of such restrictions is bound to diminish the amount of money that will be available to sport as a result of those sales. I am glad therefore that the Government have decided to resist those who have called for the list to be extended and kept it to the small number of events that were originally drawn up following the passage of the Broadcasting Act 1990.

Even that decision carries with it some dangers, because although in most cases the events on the list are specific, single sporting events, the inclusion of all cricket matches involving England will obviously have a significant impact on the amount of money available to cricket. I know that that is of some concern to the Test and County Cricket Board. It is noticeable, for instance, that the same does not apply in football, where the only category involving football matches played by England on that list of major sporting events is the World cup finals. It may be rather optimistic to assume that that will involve England, but one lives in hope.

Several hon. Members have already mentioned the deal between BSkyB and the premier league which was announced last night. That offers a further demonstration of the benefits that football, and obviously the premier league, will enjoy as a result of the sale of broadcast rights.

The other proposal in the Bill covering the transmission of sporting events that is causing some concern is that of separating unused rights so that the broadcaster with the right to live transmissions must make available highlights to other broadcasters. It is a complicated area. The highlights, for example, of a horse race, which may last for about four minutes, are likely to be very different from the highlights of a one-day cricket match or, even more so, from the highlights of a tennis tournament, which could last for two weeks. I consider the best approach to be by way of voluntary agreements, which could be individually tailored to each sport. The attempt by means of the Bill to set rigid rules covering all sport will, I suspect, lead to considerable difficulties. It could result in serious losses to sports. I have no doubt that we shall discuss the issues further in Committee.

For the remainder of my remarks I shall concentrate on a sport that I believe is being treated extremely unfairly. The matter was originally brought to my attention by one of my constituents, Mr. Patrick Chaplin of Maldon, who is an historian of the game of darts.

Thousands of people in this country play darts. Probably half, if not more, of our pubs have darts teams. More than 25,000 players are members of the British Darts Organisation, which is a founder member of the World Darts Federation, which in turn represents about 500,000 players in over 50 countries worldwide.

The game of darts was invented in the United Kingdom. It requires good sportsmanship, skill, team spirit, long hours of practice and strict adherence to the rules of the game. Yet according to the Sports Council, darts is not a sport. That is a cause of considerable resentment among those who are keen players.

When I raised the matter with my hon. Friend the Minister, he wrote as follows: The Sports Council has developed its own system of recognition, based on a number of principles, to decide which activities and organisations should be eligible for support. Predominant amongst the criteria against which the Sports Council assess suitability for recognition is a requirement for physical effort. My hon. Friend understands that it was mainly on that count that the Sports Council decided that darts did not warrant priority for formal recognition of the activity.

Many darts players would dispute such claims. They would testify that it requires a high degree of physical fitness, mental agility and stamina to play darts. The argument breaks down entirely, however, when we consider other sporting activities that the Sports Council recognises as sports, including snooker, pool, ballroom dancing, ballooning, arm wrestling and baton twirling. Until recently, camping and caravaning were classified as sports. I see no reason why the council should continue to claim that darts is different from the activities to which I have referred and should not be classified as a sport.

England leads the world in darts. At the recent World Darts Federation World cup in Switzerland, English players won every gold medal. In doing so they beat players from 40 other countries. The teams over which they triumphed included those from Australia, the Netherlands, Germany and Denmark. In every instance the Governments of the other countries support darts and recognise darts as a sport.

On Sunday, one of my constituents, Mr. Kevin Painter of Tiptree, will be defending his title as winner of the England open championship. The women's world No. 2 player, Deta Hedman, lives just outside my constituency in Witham. Possibly the best-known darts referee in the world, Mr. Martin Fitzmaurice, lives in Colchester, as does Bobby George, who is one of our most successful players and probably the best-known darts personality in the world. My hon. Friend will understand, therefore, why this issue provokes extremely strong feelings in my constituency.

Each year, BBC Sport televises the Embassy world professional darts championship, which is watched by perhaps 5 million people. Clearly, the BBC recognises darts as a sport. The greatest darts player of all time, Mr. Eric Bristow, was awarded an MBE for services to sport, so even Her Majesty the Queen recognises that darts is a sport. The only organisation in the world that appears to take a contrary view is the Sports Council. It is high time that that was changed. I ask my hon. Friend the Minister to intervene and to tell the Sports Council to think again.

1.34 pm
Mr. Tony Banks (Newham, North-West)

Unlike the hon. Member for Colchester, South and Maldon (Mr. Whittingdale), I am very much involved in sport. In my mind, I have represented my country in every sport other than synchronised swimming. That was for some time, although not for a long period, recognised as an Olympic sport, but display sports are no longer part of the Olympic games.

Archery has been in the Olympic games and I agree with the hon. Gentleman that darts is a recognised sport and should be included in them. As he rightly said, given the amount of expertise that we have, we will achieve a clean sweep of gold medals. If we get around to staging the Olympic games in this country, I hope that we will put in darts as one of the preferred Olympic games sports, which we would welcome. The hon. Gentleman makes a serious point and I take it seriously.

Like others, I welcome this debate. I thought that it was finely chosen to coincide with the eve of Euro 96, but when I heard the Minister speak, I realised that that was not the case, although hon. Members on both sides of the House have taken the opportunity to remind the House that we are looking forward to the championships, which start tomorrow.

I am also slightly saddened by the small attendance in the House. Sporting issues and sport generally are such an important subject to the people whom we represent. I am not alone—far from it—in reading my newspaper starting from the back page and working through to less serious matters on the front page. Sport is a significant social-cementing element in this country. Like the weather, it is a subject that everyone has an opinion on and wants to talk about. Hon. Members should recognise its significance.

My very good hon. Friend the Member for Hackney, North and Stoke Newington (Ms Abbott) made by far and away the best speech of the day. She raised some crucial issues. I was especially taken—when I heard her say it, I thought, "Yes, of course"—by her comment that 25 per cent. of all premier league players are of Afro-Caribbean origin, yet only 1 or 2 per cent. of premier league crowds are of Afro-Caribbean origin. The number increases as we go down the leagues because the amount of racism declines as we go down the leagues, but she is right to draw attention to that fact and to the question of physiological differences.

Sir Roger Bannister was talking clumsily about black athletes. At one time, people thought that black athletes were good only in explosive events such as the 100 or 200 m. Then the Kenyans and Ethiopians suddenly had all these long-distance runners and people had to readjust their peculiar theories. It is all about opportunity, training facilities and coaching. It has nothing to do with skin colour. I love that advertisement with the different brain sizes, where the black and white brains are the same size and the only small brain is that of the racist. My hon. Friend raised some exceedingly good points.

Being Minister for sport is not so much a job as a sending to heaven without having to die first, although the hon. Member for Surbiton (Mr. Tracey) proved that it was possible to become the Minister for sport and die a death subsequently.

I want to raise a few points about Euro 96. We are looking forward to, I hope, a great festival of football in this country, but the Government have failed to rise to the occasion. The £100,000 that the Government have provided to help the eight cities celebrate that great event is insignificant compared with the income that the Government will receive in taxation. Euro 96 remains a great opportunity to promote different parts of this country throughout the tournament. It is typical of the Government that they have failed to respond imaginatively. I will inject party politics into the debate: it is typical of the Government also that the millennium has crept up and caught them by surprise. There have been 996 years to think about the millennium. Here we are four years away and suddenly someone says, "My God! It's the millennium in four years. Someone should have told us." Pathetic, but typical of the Government's approach to visionary politics. They do not have any vision.

I have heard some disturbing stories about the opening ceremony for Euro 96. It is sounding a bit like a second-rate pantomime. I hope that I am wrong. If not, that will be another lost opportunity to celebrate the great game of soccer. Of course Euro 96 is a competitive tournament, but it is also a festival of European football. The opening ceremony should emphasise not division but the commonality and mutuality that come through the great sport of football in Europe.

I am dreading an extension of the farcical Euro-beef war to the football pitch. Hooliganism is a sad feature of the modern game, but as someone who goes to a football match nearly every Saturday, I know that it is a minority activity. Unfortunately, it tends to poison the entire game. The police in England—rather than in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland—have become the best in the world at dealing with soccer hooliganism. It is regrettable that they have found it necessary to accumulate such expertise. I believe that I was the first to suggest in the House a national intelligence system in football. The then Home Secretary rejected that idea out of hand, but some years later it was found opportune to introduce such a system. The only way of dealing with the hooligan minority is to eliminate their activities at the source. That can be done only by having all possible information about them and their plans.

I believe that the police will be able to handle any likely problems at Euro 96, and there will be some. The police have not been helped by the chaotic ticket sales. It will be extraordinary difficult for the police to segregate fans from different countries. Last week's Sunday Mirror had a story about a couple of convicted Italian terrorists who were selling tickets in London, having been approved by the Italian national ticket agency. That sort of incident is an enormous loophole in the ticket allocation system.

It has been estimated that the extra cost of policing Euro 96 will be £5 million. When I asked the Home Secretary yesterday whether he intended to make more resources available so that the cost did not fall on council tax payers in London and other parts of the country, he went thermo-nuclear on me. I do not understand why he went completely berserk. I thought that the Home Secretary had flipped, and I was waiting for the men in white coats to come in and drag him off. It seems that the right hon. and learned Gentleman was not prepared to answer a quiet and rational question in a quiet and rational way. Perhaps the Home Secretary was not expecting such a question from me. He certainly will not get one in future, if that is the way he behaves when I ask about additional resources so that council tax payers do not have an extra burden to bear, given that the Government are getting enough in receipts to make extra resources available.

It was a pity that, at the same time as the police were arresting suspected football hooligans throughout the country, some members of the England team were rearranging the fixtures and fittings on an aircraft returning from Hong Kong. I do not know to what extent the lurid stories in the newspapers are true, but I take the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Ashton). The Football Association, by failing to deal immediately with the issue, managed to turn an incident into a drama.

The behaviour of some of our footballers, especially the English ones, is absolutely pathetic. It is almost as though nature perversely put the talent in the feet, but removed the brain. The way that some of the players behave is most regrettable. I cannot imagine players like Matthews, Finney, Moore or Charlton conducting themselves in the way that Gazza does.

We all know that there is an awful lot of money floating around in the game at the moment. Some of the players do not seem able to handle all that money. They think that normal human behaviour patterns should not apply to them and that they can behave like drunken pop stars. It is not good enough. I do not want to be as rigorous as the hon. Member for Welwyn Hatfield (Mr. Evans), but I agree that the FA must demand and require a higher standard of conduct from players.

My hon. Friend the Member for Hackney, North and Stoke Newington referred to black role models. Footballers are role models for white and black communities. They should bear that in mind. We do not expect them to behave like saints—after all, no one could say that we do—but we expect a reasonable amount of intelligent behaviour.

I am glad that money is now coming into the game. For too long, it was short-changed by its own authorities, in their deals with the broadcasters, and by those making a large amount of money from merchandising. Now, the money is rightfully coming into the game, but unfortunately a great deal of it is being concentrated in the hands of too few players and clubs. An enormous deal has been done between the Football Association, BSkyB and the BBC—£730 million for the next four years. We should contrast that with the £2.5 million a year being paid just a few years ago. All that money should not go to just a few clubs. Essentially, it will go to the premier league clubs, and only a minority of those.

We do not want the money to be handled in that way. It should be used to nourish the grass-roots of football and to provide more facilities for spectators. The right hon. and learned Member for Putney (Mr. Mellor) was absolutely right to say that many, many ordinary people are being priced out of the game. Season tickets are very expensive. I am lucky I can afford one for Chelsea, but it cost me £630 to renew it. Admission charges exclude the unemployed, people on social security and young people who are not earning. Football cannot continue to ignore the generations of fans yet to come. Some of the money coming into the game should be used to provide concessionary tickets so that the next generation of football fans can gain admission to matches.

Of course, I accept that we need better facilities—in particular, a much better national soccer stadium. Quite frankly, Wembley is not where that stadium should be. Wembley is a disgrace. Having seen some of the stadiums around the world, I am ashamed that that is where the finals will be played. It and its facilities are an absolute and utter disgrace, as are the transport services to get people there. Wembley keeps being tarted up, but its age and crumbling nature cannot be disguised. I have been thinking about what it reminds me of—it is Barbara Cartland. It has had an interesting, romantic past, but all the paint in the world cannot camouflage its decrepitude.

Lady Olga Maitland

That is horrid.

Mr. Banks

Yes, but so is the person to whom I referred and so is the national stadium.

We need a new national soccer stadium, but it certainly should not be at Wembley. If it does end up at Wembley, the people who have run Wembley into the ground should not be allowed to operate the new stadium. I think that it should be built in London. After all, it is the capital city. People from abroad want to come to London. It is the capital city, and that is where the new soccer stadium should be located—I think that it should be in docklands.

It is great that we were able to attract Euro 96. It is a pity that we have not been able to secure the Olympic games. The International Olympic Committee would award the games only to London—so Manchester and Birmingham can forget it—but they will not be awarded to London until we have a local authority for London. That statement is not mine—me being prejudiced in my desire for a strategic local authority for London—but it is what the IOC said. The IOC will not do a deal with the Government, with the City of London or with an amalgamation of boroughs. It will do a deal only with a strategic authority for London. Until we have one, even London can forget about hosting the Olympic games.

We do not need to have Wembley—tired, clapped-out or even revamped Wembley—as a stadium. We need a new, purpose-built athletics and swimming complex, in London, to attract the Olympic games in 2008, for example. I have the site; it is Stratford. We could construct a complex over the new international station which is being built, and that will enable us to put in a successful bid for the year 2008.

I should like to mention an interesting report from the Council of Europe which I was involved in discussing recently. The report was on discrimination against women in the Olympics. We heard evidence from an organisation called Atlanta Plus, which is campaigning on the issue of discrimination against women. At the Barcelona Olympics, 35 countries had no female representation. In certain cases, that was because the countries were too small to have women athletes of Olympic standard. But that begs the question: why did they not have such women athletes? It was because training and coaching facilities were denied to women in those countries.

Some countries deliberately exclude women from participating in sports. I must name Iran, which has explicitly banned women from most sports. It banned women from attending soccer matches and has advised women that the only sports in which they can participate are those that they can play while wearing a veil. That is a pretty tricky thing to have to do in sports—except perhaps in darts. So far as I am aware, however, that is not a particularly popular sport in Iran.

Iran even refused to allow a female athlete to lead the national delegation at the Barcelona Olympics. Whatever we call it, that is sexism, and it conflicts entirely with the Olympic charter. I am not making an anti-Islamic point, although that is often how such points are misconstrued. The Olympic charter is quite specific about the matter and states: any form of discrimination with regard to a country or a person on grounds of race, religion, politics, sex or otherwise is incompatible with belonging to the Olympic Movement. It is a fact that certain Islamic countries are defying the international Olympic charter. If they are doing that, they should be asked to leave. It is a free association, and if they do not like the rules, they can leave the Olympic movement.

I believe that the IOC should stop ducking this issue. I should be very interested to hear whether the Minister has had thoughts on this matter and whether he has discussed the issue of discrimination against women with the British Olympic Committee.

Those are the points that I wanted to raise. It has been an interesting and a varied debate. I am most grateful to have been allowed to take part in it.

1.53 pm
Mr. Peter Luff (Worcester)

It is always a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks). I find myself sharing rather more of his passions than I expected I would. I certainly agree with him about Chelsea—although, sadly, my expression of enthusiasm for that team is more passive than I would like. However, I must part company with him on his comments about Barbara Cartland. I must also remind him that there is a world outside London. The national stadium should be built in the midlands.

I had intended to cede my opportunity to speak in this debate to the real experts, but the promotion of my hon. Friend the Member for Falmouth and Camborne (Mr. Coe)—who is, no doubt, the greatest expert in the House on sport—which has given a new meaning to the phrase "running Whip", has denied us the opportunity of hearing his remarks.

I am concerned about the situation facing cricket in my county, and that is the matter that I should like to draw to the attention of the House today.

I suppose that sport is about fitness, loyalty and competition. Rather like my hon. Friend the Member for Colchester, South and Maldon (Mr. Whittingdale), I cannot pretend that fitness is my strong suit, but I hope that my ministerial colleagues will feel that loyalty and competition are. I was once selected for my local swimming club, but the postcard arrived two days late and I missed the event. I made it to first boat cox at university, which may surprise some hon. Members, and I achieved a classic wash-off as a second boat cox—I shall explain the technique afterwards to anyone who is interested. I found myself surf bathing with the hon. Member for Streatham (Mr. Hill) on a remote Cornish beach last week, but I was not wearing a wetsuit—so that is one up to the Tories—and I look forward to a game of skittles in Evesham this evening.

That is about the extent of my sporting credentials, but I am an enthusiastic member of Worcestershire county cricket club. I should also add that if any of the organisations that I list in the Register of Members' Interests advise any of the interests that I will mention, I was not aware of it and I certainly do not advise them myself.

I had hoped to speak at some length about the Government's very welcome policy developments for sport in schools, but I believe that my hon. Friend the Member for Sutton and Cheam (Lady Olga Maitland) hopes to catch your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker, after I have spoken and to speak on that topic. In any event, I have nothing of substance to add to my hon. Friend the Minister's most welcome comments on the matter. I therefore deal mainly with sport after school.

It is important that we encourage people to be observers and participants, but I take the view that the best kind of observer is the live spectator, not the passive television viewer. Armchair supporters have their place—sadly, that is my role with Chelsea—but we need crowds. As the hon. Member for Newham, North-West said, we need crowds who can afford to get to games for the atmosphere, to provide money for clubs and to encourage new participants. My concern is that sport should be an enjoyable live experience for the spectator and the participant and that more money should be made available for investment in sport. It is common ground among the parties that money is needed to achieve excellence, which leads me to some specific observations about the lottery and broadcasting.

On broadcasting, I understand the view of those, including several constituents who have written to me, who prefer the status quo and like as many sports as possible on BBC 1, BBC 2 and the ITV channels. The question that we have to ask ourselves in all honesty is whether we can turn back the tide. King Canute sought to show his courtiers that he could not do that; I am rather worried that the House is still in danger of misinterpreting King Canute and is seeking to hold back a tide that is in fact irresistible.

What has television done for sport? Sport has entered a free and highly competitive broadcasting market. Until recently many, if not most, of the country's sports suffered from chronic underexposure and a lack of funds. They were constrained by the relatively small sums on offer from the terrestrial broadcasters and the lack of available channels on which to appear. It is important to remember that the satellite and cable channels are offering expanded opportunities for people to enjoy sport and are not just adding money to the games.

Many sporting authorities have made it absolutely clear—my hon. Friend the Member for Colchester, South and Maldon cited a letter in yesterday's edition of The Times in this respect—that the new competition for broadcasting rights from BSkyB and others has resulted in millions of pounds of additional funding going to sport. We all know what happened to football yesterday.

The revolution is not limited to BSkyB, satellite or cable broadcasting, nor to Britain. It is a global revolution involving worldwide technological advances. Subscription-funded thematic channels and on-demand viewing are international developments on which we must not turn our back.

The consultation paper that the Government issued in, I think, February this year sought to set out the dilemmas. The Government recognised that the crown jewels of British sport could quickly become devalued if sport did not have the money to reinvest in the superstars of tomorrow and the necessary facilities.

I am worried, however, that the way in which the Broadcasting Bill is developing means that we are putting listed events into too tight a legislative straitjacket. We are penalising the most successful and popular events, causing serious distortions in the market and a serious loss of earnings. I know that the Test and County Cricket Board has particularly acute concerns in that connection.

Like my hon. Friend the Member for Colchester, South and Maldon, 1 believe that the voluntary code is the right way to proceed. I believe that, because I know that the sports bodies themselves understand that they have a duty not only to maximise income to ensure that their sports succeed, but to seek the widest possible coverage for those sports. There is always a conflict between those two objectives, but it is better to leave it to the sports themselves to resolve rather than trying to do it by statute.

Turning to more local concerns, my constituency of Worcester is lucky in that we are developing three centres of excellence for specific sports: rowing, rugby and cricket. Rowing has been a huge beneficiary of the Foundation for Sport and the Arts, an organisation that we have not heard enough about in the debate. I am deeply grateful to the foundation for all that it is doing both for sport and for the arts in my constituency. As a result, we are building up in the west midlands a real centre of excellence for rowing and for related water-borne activities such as dragon boating. Sportsmatch has been an invaluable component in enabling that sport to develop locally. The Government's money to match private sponsorship is making an important contribution.

Another Government initiative has probably made the biggest and most dramatic impact on sport in my constituency; I refer to rugby. Worcester rugby football club is the recipient of £1.3 million of lottery money. I know how much the club welcomes that huge sum. In 1992, before the lottery, the club wanted to construct a training shed—it was little more than that—to provide facilities for young rugby players in the youth and mini category. I am glad to say that the immediate past chairman of Worcester rugby football club, David Hallmark, in consultation with the North Midlands Rugby Football Union, managed to get Worcester identified as a club suitable to establish a centre of excellence for youth rugby. There has been a tremendous commitment to that process under successive chairmen of the club, including individuals such as Brian Wilkes, Colin Major and David Arr.

As a result, the idea has been taken forward to a triumphant conclusion. The application for a much more sophisticated facility was made to the Sports Council in June 1995. The application was successful and Worcester received what I believe is the largest single award made to a sports club—£1.3 million. Worcester rugby football club was delighted with that result.

If time permitted, I would draw my hon. Friend the Minister's attention to a number of detailed concerns relating to the expense involved in making an application and the retentions during the construction period, which have posed certain difficulties for the club. However, I must not mar its overall delight at what has been achieved.

The lottery has produced huge sums for activities other than rugby, which is a huge tribute to the success of Camelot. To be partisan for a moment, we need to worry a great deal about the Opposition's threat that they would nationalise the management of the lottery, to put it on a non-profit basis. That might satisfy a few Opposition Members' consciences—old Labour consciences—but it would lead to a dramatic reduction in funds for the good causes that the lottery was set up to benefit. We should remember that clearly. The ideas emerging from the Opposition could lead to a halving of the money available for good causes.

Cricket has not received a huge sum from the national lottery. About £7 million has been received to date for the recreational game—for local teams rather than for the county sides. The national lottery has so far provided no money for a county project. The counties fear that the managers of the funds at the Sports Council are worried that they might be criticised if they gave money to so-called fat cats and that that is why they are concentrating on the smaller, more local teams. That is damaging and wrong.

I have already talked about the problems that the TCCB faces in relation to broadcasting. The total income of all 18 counties of the TCCB is less than that of Manchester United, which is just one football club. I understand that there is an application before the Sports Council from Hampshire, but that it has been deferred. That application is for additional playing and coaching facilities, so it is as much about participation as about spectating.

Many other counties want to submit schemes that contain participatory components, such as cricket centres, cricket schools and playing areas for junior cricket. The signs are that the Sports Council is reluctant to fund county arenas. It does not recognise that the additional income generated would help the counties to achieve their participatory objectives.

Worcester has a tremendous record of development. We have employed a cricket development officer, Mark Scott, for four years. He spends the autumn and spring going round the 200 schools in Hereford and Worcester and helping them to develop cricketing skills. In the winter months, two of the professionals, Gavin Haynes and Stuart Lampitt, are employed as cricket development coaches. We shall take on one more in the coming year and another one the year after that. That is a tremendous achievement and shows my club's commitment to developing participation. I hope that national lottery money can help it build on that process more rapidly.

Cricket broadcasting is in a terrible position. To list just the domestic test matches—180 hours—is the equivalent of listing just the 180 minutes of the FA cup final and the World cup final in football. Worcester is suffering a bit of a double whammy at present with the inadequate resources from broadcasting—in contrast to what football enjoys—and being unable to get its hands on lottery money.

Worcester has a big scheme for a new school—the Basil D'Oliveira cricket centre scheme. It is a multi-million pound development and it will revolutionise cricket in my county. I sincerely hope that national lottery money will be forthcoming to fund it.

2.5 pm

Lady Olga Maitland (Sutton and Cheam)

I should like to offer you a word of advice, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and suggest that you begin your day by turning to the back of the newspaper and reading the sports pages, because the sports pages always have the good news. Let me draw attention to some of the headlines in The Daily Telegraph today, such as, "England already set fair for victory", or "Gooch sets the pace in plunder", or "Openers in punishing form". They are all stories of victory, success and achievement. However, there are concerns behind that achievement.

I am particularly concerned about the fact that we seem to have become a nation of couch potatoes—hugely unfit. An analysis by the Health Education Authority makes sobering reading. It shows that obesity has more than doubled in the past 10 years, and that the proportion of men who are seriously overweight has nearly doubled. In addition, one third of the population lead almost completely sedentary lives.

As we are already very much aware, children are extremely unfit. Instead of going out on the sports field, they spend an average of 25 hours a week watching television, in short about two and a half hours per day sitting in front of the television or their computers—longer than they spend per week on sport.

I warmly welcome the crusade—and I put it that way—that my hon. Friend the Minister began two years ago to bring sport back into schools. I also welcome the document "Sport: Raising the Game", but it included the following comment: Sport no longer commands the place it once did in school life". My hon. Friend therefore deserves three cheers for making an enormous effort to upgrade sport in schools.

I am concerned, however, that my hon. Friend's endeavours could be undermined by the national curriculum. Wittingly or unwittingly, there seem to be serious omissions. My hon. Friend's stated aspiration is two hours' formal, timetabled sport a week, with four hours' extra-curricular sport. However, I note that the national curriculum document on sport produced by the Department for Education and Employment does not make that a statutory obligation. Indeed, it does not say exactly how many hours should be spent on sport. Unless we pin schools down and make it statutory, schools that are lethargic and lack enthusiasm for sport will wriggle out of it. The only way round the problem is not only to encourage the establishment of sportsmark criteria to measure a school's progress in sport, but to go much further and pin the schools down and find out exactly what they are doing and how it is being timetabled.

A press release put out by the National Association of Head Teachers supports the idea of sport, but then starts wriggling off the hook, expressing concerns about timetabling and other activities. We then discover the real reason why sport has slipped off the agenda. It has become a victim of political correctness and socialism. Sadly, I am bringing a political aspect into the debate, but socialist dogma is to keep everyone on an even keel and not to push anyone to do anything. The hon. Member for Stalybridge and Hyde (Mr. Pendry) said that he did not believe in compulsory team sport, and that is really where we go wrong.

If they could get away with it, every child would far rather stay in the classroom by the radiator than go out on the sports field in the middle of winter. We must get them out of that classroom and on to the sports field, because it is of enormous benefit. Children who are not achieving in school will find that they can do very well on the sports field. They will feel that they have got somewhere and get a sense of pride. When they return to the classroom, they will go to their work with a will and energy that they did not have before. Their self-esteem will go up. The relationship between the children and the teachers who coach the children out of hours will be enhanced when the discipline that they have managed to pull together on the field is transposed to the classroom. The children will get on much more in their school careers.

Time is against me, but I should like to stress how important it is that my hon. Friend the Minister has devoted his efforts to raising the profile of sports in schools. It is vital to improve our children's health and makes them fit citizens—fit for life. That is the essence of my hon. Friend's drive. It will enable us to be proud of our young people as they go out into the world—whether they join the Army, go into commerce or become successful athletes. Wherever they go, they can hold their heads high and say, "I won a cup at school. What an achievement!"

2.11 pm
Mr. Clive Betts (Sheffield, Attercliffe)

I should like to place on record how proud I am to come from Britain's first national city of sport, Sheffield, with our magnificent array of facilities. I know that members of the Select Committee on National Heritage looked very closely at those facilities while they were compiling their report on facilities and sport. They certainly congratulated not only the city council but the wider Sheffield community, including the private sector, on their effort in developing the facilities and the successful part that they played in the regeneration of our city.

Last year, the city's facilities were used by more than 2 million people and they have hosted successful teams such as the Sheffield Eagles, the Sheffield Sharks and the Sheffield Steelers. More important, the facilities are regularly used by the local community and, indeed, the wider community. Although the èlite, such as the national diving team, use the facilities, they are also used regularly by disabled people. Only last Saturday, I saw the national disabled swimming championships. Indeed, the city hosted the special Olympics a couple of years ago. It is right that the whole community should be able to enjoy sport.

I am delighted by the lottery grant that Sheffield United cricket club has received to develop in my constituency an indoor cricket school. It will be used by the local community and by local schools, and it will be designed specifically for use by disabled people. That is positive, but I am cautious. Owing to problems of running costs, it will be difficult for many projects in inner-city and deprived communities to get off the ground. They will simply be unable to find either the matching funding or the running costs funding. I listened carefully to what the Minister said earlier, and I hope that there will be flexibility in those areas.

The bulk of what I want to say concerns the European football championships. I say to the Government, "Why don't you join in as well?" It is almost as if they are saying that the championships are for everybody else—the Football Association, UEFA, football clubs and local authorities—and that they will simply be spectators. The Government should be taking a lead, and ensuring that the event is a celebration of football in this country, during which we can welcome guests from abroad and put on a magnificent display for them of the best of British life.

According to figures that I obtained from the local authority yesterday, Sheffield expects the cost of staging an excellent cultural and sports festival, extra litter clearing, the provision of a camp site, road closures and all the other things associated with such events to come to about £250,000. The cost of policing, to which my hon. Friend the Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Ashton) drew attention, has also to be found by the local community.

By way of response, the Government have offered only £12,000 of direct funding—£12,000 against a total cost of £250,000. Even when matching funding for sponsorship is included, the total Government provision is still only £50,000. A local supermarket firm in the area, Morrison's, has contributed £40,000, which is only £10,000 less than the Government are providing.

It is nonsense for the Government to stand on one side and say that the people of Sheffield, Newcastle, Nottingham, Manchester and the other cities that are hosting events should be responsible for providing the funds, when the Government are receiving £7 million in extra VAT receipts from ticket sales alone. That is wrong. It is time the Government put their hand in their pocket and said that local communities should not suffer.

In particular, the Government should consider the policing costs. Policing will not involve a simple matter of extra costs for communities. Given that police authorities, like every other local authority, are capped—certainly South Yorkshire is—the result will be not extra costs, but less policing for the community during the rest of the year. There will be fewer police services and less attention to law and order, simply because the Government will not cover the extra costs.

That is not right, and it is not how we should be approaching the championships. The Government have a responsibility to help, and to realise that Euro 96 is a national event. The nation is putting it on, and responsibility does not lie just with football authorities and local authorities. I hope that the Minister will respond positively, because at this stage the Government should not be standing on one side and saying, "It's not our responsibility."

2.15 pm
Mr. Pendry

With the leave of the House, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

This has been an interesting debate, and I think that everyone who wanted to speak has done so. The Minister has asked to be given a few minutes to reply to it, and I concur with that idea. I hope that he has taken note of some of the important points that have been made in the debate and that, although he will not be able to reply to them all verbally, he will be able to respond later to the hon. Members who made them.

The right hon. and learned Member for Putney (Mr. Mellor) was right to highlight the importance of Euro 96, and equally right to say that the state-of-the-art stadiums in our country will be less effective than they might be if we do not use them to attract the Olympics and other international sporting events.

Last month, the Government said that lottery money could be made available for major sporting events—but, again, not this year, and not for the major sporting event of Euro 96. The right hon. and learned Member for Putney also talked about tickets being marked "Restricted View". I must tell him that UEFA organised the advertising round the ground at Wembley, so the Football Association cannot be held responsible for that problem.

I thank the hon. Member for Ryedale (Mr. Greenway) for pointing out that I am a moderate and restrained man in that I did not mention the fact that my team, Derby County. got into the premiership. The hon. Gentleman was right; I am both of those things, but I restricted the length of my speech so that more hon. Members could speak, and I had intended to mention Derby County at the end. None the less, I shall pass on the hon. Gentleman's congratulations to Derby County in time for next season.

The hon. Gentleman and my hon. Friend the Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Ashton) praised the police for their efforts during the build-up to the tournament—a subject also touched on by my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Attercliffe (Mr. Betts). The Association of Chief Police Officers estimates that it will cost about £10 million to police the tournament, but the Home Office has allocated only £100,000. As my hon. Friend the Member for Attercliffe said, that could lead to inadequate policing in some areas during the rest of the year.

The hon. Member for Cheltenham (Mr. Jones) did not let down his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Fife, North-East (Mr. Campbell)—at least, he did not in the little that I heard of his speech as, for unavoidable reasons, I had to leave the Chamber for a time. So far as I know, he did not mention the very sporting South African tie that he is wearing, although he did mention apartheid and the importance of what is happening in South Africa.

My hon. Friend the Member for Feltham and Heston (Mr. Keen) is a brave man to say that he is a Middlesbrough supporter these days. It is not generally known that he was a scout for that football club. My hon. Friend was generous in his praise for the charter for football. Within that framework, we shall introduce legislative measures to tackle hooliganism—increasing restriction orders and punishment levels, and tightening the laws on racial abuse—to broaden the appeal of the game.

I am pleased to report that 20 per cent. of the people who have bought tickets for Euro 96 are women, compared with only 13 per cent. of those who go to premiership matches.

The hon. Member for Welwyn and Hatfield (Mr. Evans), in a temperate and moderate speech—[Laughter.] Certainly the first part of it was. He should concentrate on sporting matters rather than make his usual utterances. It is perhaps not generally known that he played football for Aston Villa and cricket for Warwickshire, and I hope that he will stick to sporting matters in the future.

My hon. Friend the Member for Hackney, North and Stoke Newington (Ms Abbott) was right to emphasise the importance of black sportsmen and women in this country and the fact that they do not receive the recognition that they richly deserve. She talked about the continuing racism in sport, and she will know that Labour's football charter makes a specific pledge to tighten the section of the Football (Offences) Act 1991 to which she referred.

My hon. Friend the Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks) welcomed the money that is coming into football, but said that it was not reaching the right quarters. He said that ticket prices ought to be reduced, and that some of the money should go to the smaller clubs. Labour's charter says that a percentage of money should go to the Football Trust to reinvest in the lower divisions of the football league.

Finally, I concur with those who described the debate as stimulating and interesting. Although I was critical of him earlier, we should all thank the Minister for giving us the opportunity to have the debate. Although there are differences between the parties, we are here because we all love sport and we recognise its importance in society. Long may we have such debates, but I ask him to use his influence to ensure that we have such debates at a proper time in future to enable more hon. Members to take part.

2.20 pm
Mr. Sproat

I agree with the hon. Member for Stalybridge and Hyde (Mr. Pendry) that it is extremely important to have sports debates. I should like to have them on a day other than Friday so that we can command a wider audience. However, the quality of the debate has been high, and it has helped to continue the momentum of raising the profile of sport.

When opening the debate this morning, I said that I would try to pick up on the points made in it during my winding-up speech. I shall try to do so in the short time available, but I can assure the House that I will read Hansard and reply by letter to hon. Members who raised matters that I do not have time to deal with verbally.

We have had a varied debate. One of the varieties was raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Worcester (Mr. Luff)—the issue of television sports rights. Other hon. Members referred to the matter in the context of the premier league deal that has just been announced. The whole question of television sports rights, the listed events and people's ability to watch sport on television is extremely difficult.

On the one hand, many sports rely more and more on the money that comes from television sports rights. My hon. Friend the Member for Worcester mentioned cricket; I believe that more than 40 per cent. of the income of English cricket now comes from television rights. On the other hand, we must remember the grass-roots of sport and those who cannot get to sports grounds and depend on television if they want to watch sport. If events are not broadcast on free-to-air television, but on a subscription or pay-to-view channel, many people will be prevented from watching their favourite sport. This is a genuine dilemma with which we are dealing in the Broadcasting Bill, and I expect that we will come back to the matter on Report.

In the meantime, I should like to pay particular tribute to the work of the Central Council of Physical Recreation and its major sports division for working out what would appear to be a working compromise. We will discuss it, but the House may not accept it—it is a voluntary agreement in any case. The idea that an event should be shown live on free-to-air television and the highlights broadcast on a subscription or pay-to-view channel, or the other way around, shows that the sports bodies understand the importance of ensuring that the bulk of our sport ought to be available on television. At the same time, we must not withdraw from sport the huge amount of money that television rights have generated.

As for the premier league, I was extremely pleased that Mr. Rick Parry said that he hopes that a substantial amount of the money will be ploughed back into youth sport. That is extremely important. It is also extremely important, however, to remember that the rights are the assets of the sports governing bodies, and Parliament should be wary about taking away from them those things that belong to them. We must try to find a way through so that the sports bodies can keep the money to plough into their sport, but at the same time ensure that the bulk of the population can continue to watch that sport on television.

The European championships, which start tomorrow, were naturally mentioned frequently. They are a wonderful opportunity for this country to show its sporting prowess, hospitality and tourist attractions. That is why the Government decided in negotiations with the Association of Metropolitan Authorities and others to put many hundreds of thousands of pounds into the championships. Some £400,000 has been put into them, of which £100,000 came from Government grant, £150,000 from sportsmatch, which should be matched by others, and £150,000 from the Association of Business Sponsorship of the Arts. Money was also put in by the Football Trust and the Football Association. The Government have reached a reasonable compromise on something that is, after all, football's own occasion. The provision of additional money is a matter for those towns and cities that will benefit in many ways. They got the Government help for which they asked, although we know that they would like more.

The championships should be an occasion on which—let us hope—British football shows itself to better effect than it has done recently. The hon. Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Ashton) made an extremely important point when he said that the press too often pick on just the bad news, whether about football or something else. I hope that some self-restraint, balance and a sense of perspective will be shown by the press about Euro 96 and many another matter. Our marvellous stadiums and the friendly welcome that I hope foreign tourists will receive should be shown to their best advantage.

One of the things that struck me during the debate was the number of hon. Members on both sides of the House who pointed out how well the Sports Council had done in distributing lottery funds. We all know that a number of the distributing bodies have come in for fairly ferocious criticism, but the Sports Council has managed to tread an extremely difficult and delicate line extremely well. I should like to pay particular tribute to Mr. Rodney Walker, its chairman, and Mr. Derek Casey, who have done a marvellous job.

Mr. Pendry

And David Carpenter.

Mr. Sproat

Yes, indeed. It is a difficult task, and the Sports Council is doing it extremely well with the experience gained in just one year.

It is also worth noting that the Sports Council has shown flexibility. The hon. Member for Sheffield, Attercliffe (Mr. Betts) asked about the matching funds for lottery money. I do not pretend that we have solved that problem, but the Sports Council has shown that it is prepared to learn from experience. It has accepted that schools are probably less able than many other bodies to raise matching funds. In inner-city areas, it has upped the lottery's funding contribution to 90 per cent., and for all projects involving schools the lottery will provide 80 per cent. of the funding.

When our policy document, "Raising the Game", said that we wanted to improve links between schools and local clubs, the Sports Council immediately responded and said that it would find an extra £2 million—a challenge fund—so that schools and local clubs that got together to develop a project could go to the council to bid for the money. I pay a great tribute to the work of the Sports Council in that respect.

I began the debate by saying that I wanted to concentrate, first, on what the Government could do particularly about sport. I believe that sport in schools has declined far too much. I believe that sport is an absolutely central part of education because of all the things that it can teach young people, girls and boys, which they cannot learn either at all or so well from other aspects of school life.

I seek to secure the agreement of the House that the one most important thing that the Government can do about sport is to ensure that every child in the country has access to good sports facilities. As I have said, we hope that the lottery will make that possible. Our children should have a proper chance in schools. There should be a pathway from schools to local sports clubs, to local centres of excellence and on to a British academy of sport, so that would-be champions or international players have their chance and no boy or girl is denied the great benefits that sport can bring, however good or otherwise they are, for their health, enjoyment—

It being half-past Two o'clock, the motion for the Adjournment of the House lapsed, without Question put.

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